Interview with Raffaela Rein, Founder of CareerFoundry
Raffaela is founder and CEO of CareerFoundry, Europe's leading CPD (continued professional development) platform for the tech industry. Before CF, Raffaela helped found three e-commerce companies for Rocket Internet in South East Asia (in China, Australia, Taiwan) and has consulted companies such as Etsy and Axel Springer as a Partner at Satorion Partners. I spoke to her about CareerFoundy and its attempts to revolutionise education and employment.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became an entrepreneur
After graduating with a Bachelor in Business Finance from the University of Durham, I joined BlackRock in London as an Investment Strategist. It was here that I first felt the calling to entrepreneurship, so I decided to join Rocket Internet to gain entrepreneurial experience first-hand. At Rocket Internet I built ventures in China, Australia and Taiwan which not only enabled me to travel the world whilst gaining startup experience, I've also learned the dos and don'ts of doing business in emerging countries - experience that comes in handy now at CF. Upon returning to Germany I worked as a digital consultant before founding CareerFoundry.
Where did your inspiration come from for CareerFoundry?
During my time at Rocket Internet and as a consultant, I experienced the IT skills gap first hand: it became clear to me how hard it is to find great tech talent.
The irony is, that despite the one million job vacancies in the IT sector in Europe alone, the continent as a whole is experiencing unprecedented levels of youth unemployment. I realized that there is a huge market gap: our education institutions are failing to educate people with the skills they need to build great careers for the digital economy.
With CareerFoundry I want to bridge this gap with an immersive, time-efficient and high quality education program that helps people to build the tech skills they need to progress professionally. This value proposition is important for our clients - whether they are a company that wants to train its workforce, schools looking to educate teachers so they are able to teach relevant skills or unemployed people looking for new careers - all of them want the best learning results in a fairly short period of time.
How is CareerFoundry disrupting traditional forms of education?
We are leading a trend in education that is personalization. Currently, large lecture halls, exams that return graded but without feedback and massive open online courses (MOOCS) fail to engage, motivate or challenge the learner - which leads to poor results and high dropout rates.
Technology offers a tremendous chance to finally individualize learning; to anticipate when engagement falls and help students over their individual hurdles in order to collectively converge towards better outcomes and a large-scale economic impact (higher levels of education tend to correlate with an increase in productivity/GDP).
At CareerFoundry we not only personalize the learning experiences of our students through our custom built LMS (learning management system) that tracks individual progress, reminds and motivates students individually; we also pair students with a mentor who can individualize the experience even further with one-to-one meetings, feedback on assignments and career advice.
The global market for tutoring is worth $123bn. It´s this large because it works. Nobody has used technology to bring this simple yet effective concept to the market of technology skills for adult learners and CPD (continued professional development.
How do you see the ed tech industry changing in the next 5 years?
First of all, I anticipate a significant increase in investment in the sector. The global $4.1 trillion education market is ripe for disruption, consumers are ready and demanding solutions . There have been big exits such as Crossknowlege´s sale to Wylies for $175m and U2's $400m IPO later this year. Even though investment in the sector is meager, with only $45m raised by EU edtech companies and $430m by US edtech firms in 2013, I think Investors are starting to realize the fact that there is a wealth of opportunity and talent in edtech and that valuations are still comparably low.
Increasingly I expect governments to start collaborating more closely with edtech startups, after all education is always a policy question and edtech solutions offer governments an opportunity to save costs while improving their educational output. In 5 years, new technologies that don't exist today will be contributing to the breakthrough into the mainstream of online learning/edtech. Interactive video, WebRTC and wearables for instance are technologies l am watching closely.
What is the entrepreneurial/startup scene like in Berlin?
Berlin is like a startup itself, so it really caters for tech startups. It is vibrant, cheap, creative and attracts the right kinds of people - people who are looking for opportunities and aren't afraid to take risks.
What has been CareerFoundry's biggest achievement?
From very early on we have attracted an astonishing mix of clients - from traditional, government-owned companies such as Deutsche Post (the german postal service) to Axel Springer (Europe's publishing giant) to startups such as SumUp. We've trained early stage entrepreneurs who received funding based on prototypes they created during their time with us as well as unemployed people who went on to find jobs.
We have made a huge impact on each of these clients' careers as well as their levels of productivity and competitiveness - this I would say has been our biggest achievement.
How do you think cloud technology is going to affect the education space?
Good question. I think education will move into the cloud completely. There is no reason why study materials shouldn't be hosted using cloud technology. The cloud will bring significant opportunities for teachers to share best practices and learn from each other. In addition, I do hope for an (anonymized) big data revolution in education that will help improve the learning outcomes for students like never before through recognizing where their hurdles are and thus building mechanisms to overcome these.
Finally, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
Get some senior people into your team early. At CareerFoundry, we´ve hired the former head of Apple education in EMEA & Asia, which has brought channel distribution partnerships that were previously not accessible to us.
Additionally, don't just build a great team, focus on building a great culture. At our first offsite, the biggest surprise to me was to learn that for all of my employees to feel satisfied at work, culture was the single most important factor. Not pay, not responsibility: culture.