Mike Feerick - Founder of Alison - free courses to 11+ million learners worldwide via Online.

CEO & Founder, Alison, Alison is one of the world's largest free learning platforms for workplace skills and education. It provides free access to 1k+ free courses to 11+ million learners worldwide, with 1.5 million graduates, covering a range of categories including IT, Business, Languages, to Science and Health at Certificate, Diploma and Learning Path level. Widely recognized as the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), Alison has received multiple international awards for innovation in education including UNESCO (2010) and WISE (2013). For further info, please visit alison.com

Special Interview with Mike Feerick for spark Icon

1. What was the triggering incident that made you start “Alison”?

Seeing the opportunity to create a business model that could someday educate the world for free. The Alison business model, online advertising supported by premium “Paid” content has enabled us to grow to 11 million learners and 1.5 million graduates worldwide – but we have a long way to go. When we have a billion people online, I’ll feel we made a serious impact.

2. Can you describe your Journey from being an Employee to becoming an Employer? What were your observations?

A very short one: I was an employee for just a few years of work after graduation and have been an employer since then. Since I was in my teenage years I wanted to be entrepreneurial so that bridge to self-employment was always going to be brief.

3. You have been the Founder and CEO of over 6 companies. What are the lessons that you would share from Management perspective, to run an Organisation profitably?

There is no more important factor that the business you chose to compete in, and the opportunity you pursue. The size of the addressable market must be large, and these days, for scale, the opportunity must be international. The strategic stuff is the hardest to predict, so minimize the risks you can control – good accounting, cash-flow management, hiring, and operational management.

4. Change of career is a nightmare for many. Especially when people want to quit their Job and start their business, they Just Keep THINKING and don't Do it. What will be your advice for them?

Goethe once said “Be Bold and Great Forces come to your Aid”. Just go for it – however – if you find a really great Company – don’t leave unless you really have something special to go to. Great Companies and opportunities are very hard to find – and starting a business is a risky bet – more than 3 of 4 businesses fail.

5. Do you think individuals need corporate Experience and a University degree to be a successful entrepreneur?

Not necessarily, but they need something to take the place of that experience – or the learning that college can teach you. With free online resources like Alison providing more and more free education every day, you can certainly learn a lot in this way – but learning is not doing – and often doing – and making mistakes at someone else’s expense is the best way to learn and go forward to start your own business.

6. What is your thought on college guys starting their company even before graduation?

On the whole, I would advise against it. People are living a long time these days. Consider your 20’s and gift time – go travel – see interesting places and do interesting things. In your thirties, you’ll be much more mature and settled – and have better judgement because of it. It takes a lot to make a business successful – don’t underestimate the challenge – and be fully prepared for it when you take it on. What you should do though – from college and earlier – is to stay sharp by learning online. Learn new things weekly – and keep fresh by staying curious.

End of Interview

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