What AI Practitioners Could Learn From A 1989 MIT Dissertation

Child at laptop

More than thirty years ago, Fred Davis developed the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as part of his dissertation at MIT. It’s one of the most widely cited papers in the field of technology acceptance (a.k.a. adoption). Since 1989, it’s spawned an entire field of research that extends and adds to it. What does TAM convey and how might today’s AI benefit from it?

TAM is an intuitive framework. It feels obvious yet powerful and has withstood the test of time. Davis started with a premise so simple that it’s easy to take it for granted: A person will only try, use and ultimately adopt technology if they are willing to exert some effort. And what could motivate users to expend this effort?

He outlined several variables that could motivate users, and many researchers have added to his list over the years, but these two variables are the ones that were most important: 1. Does it look easy to use? 2. Will it be useful? If the learning curve doesn’t look too steep and there’s something in it for them, a user will be inclined to adopt. Many researchers have added to this foundation over the years. For example, we’ve learned that a user’s intention can also be influenced by subjective norms.

We’re motivated to adopt new tech at work when senior leadership thinks it’s important. Perceived usefulness can also be influenced by image, as in, “Does adopting this tech make me look good?” And lastly, usefulness is high if relevance to the job is high.

TAM can be a powerful concept for an AI practitioner. It should be front-of-mind when embedding AI in an existing tool or process and when developing an AI-first product, as in, one that’s been designed with AI at the center of its functionality from the start. (Think Netflix.) Furthermore, AI can be used to drive adoption by levering TAM principles that increase user motivation.

Making AI more adoptable

With the proliferation of AI in sales organizations, AI algorithms are increasingly embedded in tools and processes leveraged by sales representatives and sales managers. Adding decision engines to assist sales representatives is becoming increasingly common. A sales organization may embed models that help determine a customer’s propensity to buy or churn, recommend next best actions or communications and more. The problem is, many of these initiatives don’t work because of a lack of adoption.

TAM can help us design these initiatives more carefully, so that we maximize the chances of acceptance. For example, if these models surface recommendations and results that fit seamlessly into reps’ tools and processes, they would perceive them as easy to use.

And if the models make recommendations that help a sales person land a new customer, prevent one from leaving and help them upsell or cross-sell when appropriate, reps would perceive them as useful. In other words, if the AI meets employees where they are and offers timely, beneficial support, adoption becomes a no-brainer.

We also see many new products and services that are AI first. For these solutions, if perceived ease of use or perceived usefulness are not high, there would be no adoption. Consider a bank implementing a tech-enabled solution like mobile check deposits. This service depends on customers having a trouble-free experience.

The Newark airport’s global entry system uses facial recognition to scan international flyers’ faces. It’s voluntary, and the experience is fantastic. The kiosk recognizes my face, and a ticket is printed for me to take to the immigration officer. Personally, I find this AI-first process a better experience than the previous system that depended on fingerprints, and now I will always opt for the new one.

Using AI to drive adoption

And perhaps counter intuitively, what if AI was used to drive elements of TAM within existing technology? Can AI impact perceived usefulness? Can AI impact perceived ease of use? Consider CRM. It has been improved and refined over the years and is in use within most sales organizations, yet the level of dissatisfaction with CRM is high and adoption remains a challenge.

How can AI help? A machine learning algorithm that uses location services can recommend that a rep visit a nearby customer, increasing the perceived usefulness of their CRM solution. Intelligent process automation can also help reps see relevant information from a contracting database as information on renewals are being entered. Bots can engage customers on behalf of the representatives to serve up more qualified leads. The possibilities are numerous. All these AI features are designed to ensure that CRM lives up to its promise as a source of value to the sales representative.

Outside of sales, consider patients. In the past few years, many new technologies have been introduced to help diabetics. Adoption of this technology is critical to self-management, and self-management is critical to treating the disease. For any new technology in this space, patients need to see that it’s useful to them.

AI can play a role in gathering information such as glucose levels, activity and food intake and make recommendations on insulin dosing or caloric intake. Such information gathering could go a long way toward reducing the fatigue that diabetics feel while they make countless health and nutrition decisions throughout the day.

AI’s algorithmic nature makes it easy to forget that it’s another technology and that it can aid technology. Its novelty can convince us that everything about it is new. TAM holds up because it’s intuitive, straightforward and proven. While we boldly innovate a path forward in the world of AI, shed convention and think like a disruptor, let’s keep an eye on our history too. There’s some useful stuff in there.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Arun provides strategy and advisory services, helping clients build their analytics capabilities and leverage their data and analytics for greater commercial effectiveness. He currently works with clients on a broad range of analytics needs that span multiple industries, including technology, telecommunications, financial services, travel and transportation and healthcare. His areas of focus are AI adoption and ethics, as well as analytics organization design, capability building, AI explainability and process optimization.

Source: What AI Practitioners Could Learn From A 1989 MIT Dissertation

.

.

The AI Practitioners Guide for Beginners is a series that will provide you with a high-level overview of business and data strategy that a machine learning practitioner needs to know, followed by a detailed walkthrough of how to install and validate one of the popular artificial intelligence frameworks: TensorFlow on the Intel® Xeon® Scalable platform. Read the AI Practitioners Guide for Beginners article:
https://intel.ly/2WQaiE8 Subscribe to the Intel Software YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2iZTCsz About Intel Software: The Intel® Developer Zone encourages and supports software developers that are developing applications for Intel hardware and software products. The Intel Software YouTube channel is a place to learn tips and tricks, get the latest news, watch product demos from both Intel, and our many partners across multiple fields.
You’ll find videos covering the topics listed below, and to learn more, you can follow the links provided! Connect with Intel Software: Visit INTEL SOFTWARE WEBSITE: https://intel.ly/2KeP1hD Like INTEL SOFTWARE on FACEBOOK: http://bit.ly/2z8MPFF Follow INTEL SOFTWARE on TWITTER: http://bit.ly/2zahGSn INTEL SOFTWARE GITHUB: http://bit.ly/2zaih6z INTEL DEVELOPER ZONE LINKEDIN: http://bit.ly/2z979qs INTEL DEVELOPER ZONE INSTAGRAM: http://bit.ly/2z9Xsby INTEL GAME DEV TWITCH: http://bit.ly/2BkNshu See also Intel Optimization Notice: https://intel.ly/2HVXVo5 Introduction | AI Practitioners Guide for Beginners | Episode 1 | Intel Software https://www.youtube.com/intelsoftware
.
More Contents:
AI Access: Applied Analytics from End-to-End Tickets, Tue, Mar 9, 2021 at 12:00 PM
[…] AI trends, learn about best practices, and deep dive into a real-world use case with current AI practitioners […]
N/A
Why machine learning strategies fail – TECHOSMO
techosmo.com – February 26
[…] “As AI practitioners can demonstrate practical examples of how AI can benefit their specific company — leadership wil […]
N/A
Why machine understanding techniques fail
http://www.thespuzz.com – February 26
[…] “As AI practitioners can demonstrate practical examples of how AI can benefit their specific company — leadership wil […]
1
Why machine learning strategies fail
venturebeat.com – February 26
[…] “As AI practitioners can demonstrate practical examples of how AI can benefit their specific company — leadership wil […]
N/A
Why machine learning strategies fail
venturebeat.com – February 26
[…] “As AI practitioners can demonstrate practical examples of how AI can benefit their specific company — leadership wil […]
1
The Batch: Face Datasets Under Fire, Baking With AI, Human Disabilities Baffle Algorithms, Ginormous Transformers
info.deeplearning.ai – February 26
[…] Our practices have evolved — and continue to do so — as both society and AI practitioners have come to recognize the importance of privacy […]
N/A
What AI Practitioners Could Learn From A 1989 MIT Dissertation
http://www.forbes.com – February 26
We can use legacy adoption principals to drive user behavior for cutting edge AI. We can also use AI to drive adoption in legacy technologies….
N/A
GCHQ | Pioneering a New National Security: The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
http://www.gchq.gov.uk – February 25
[…] GCHQ has a growing community of data science and AI practitioners and researchers, including an industry-facing AI Lab dedicated to prototyping projects whic […]
N/A
Shingai Manjengwa on LinkedIn: It’s been an incredible week in the ‘Bias in AI’ course at Vector
http://www.linkedin.com – February 25
[…] week in the ‘Bias in AI’ course at Vector Institute – Elliot Creager took the group of SME AI practitioners through codifying bias mathematically and mitigation calculations […]
0
Why most machine learning strategies fail –
bdtechtalks.com – February 25
[…] “As AI practitioners can demonstrate practical examples of how AI can benefit their specific company—leadership wil […]
1
AI For Everyone
http://www.coursera.org – February 25
[…] AIs expert-led educational experiences provide AI practitioners and non-technical professionals with the necessary tools to go all the way from foundational basics […]
1
Why ‘containment rate’ is NOT the best way to measure your chatbot or voicebot •
vux.world – February 25
[…] inbox every week, as well as invites to our weekly live podcast where we interview conversational AI practitioners about the details of how to implement conversational automation and industry trends […]
N/A
Issue 80
[…] Our practices have evolved — and continue to do so — as both society and AI practitioners have come to recognize the importance of privacy […]
N/A
AI: Decoded: Africa calling — Google’s AI HR troubles continue — Facebook’s foray into academia –
http://www.politico.eu – February 24
[…] called on AI conferences to drop Google sponsorship and deny their recruiters access, and for AI practitioners to draft an open letter refusing to work for Google, among other things […]
0
A framework for consistently measuring the usability of voice and conversational interfaces •
vux.world – February 23
[…] Don’t forget real users It’s easy for conversational AI practitioners and conversation designers to assume that everyone know how to use voice assistants and chatbots […]
N/A
Events —
http://www.acukltd.com – February 23
[…] LONDON This event offers a great opportunity to meet like minded professionals, MAPP graduates and AI practitioners, researcher Dr Caroly Yousef-Morgan will be providing an update on the newest findings in the field […]
N/A
Artificial Intelligence: Week #7 | 2021
sixgill.com – February 22
[…]   Connect with AI practitioners of all levels Stay connected with artificial intelligence and machine learning practitioners around […]
2
Can We Engineer Ethical AI?
montrealethics.ai – February 22
[…] our next big theme of the discussion appeared, the polemic topic of pushing for licensing for AI practitioners. Licensing AI practitioners Currently, there is no requirement for AI practitioners to be licensed […] observed a lack of understanding within the AI ethics debate on actually being able to tell if AI practitioners are actually complying with the ethical measures established in their place of work (n […]
N/A
Natural Language Processing in TensorFlow
http://www.coursera.org – February 20
[…] AIs expert-led educational experiences provide AI practitioners and non-technical professionals with the necessary tools to go all the way from foundational basics […]
3
すべての人のためのAI【日本語版】
ja.coursera.org – February 20
[…] AIs expert-led educational experiences provide AI practitioners and non-technical professionals with the necessary tools to go all the way from foundational basics […]
1
Deep Learning
http://www.coursera.org – February 20
[…] AIs expert-led educational experiences provide AI practitioners and non-technical professionals with the necessary tools to go all the way from foundational basics […]
1.5K
TensorFlow: Advanced Techniques
http://www.coursera.org – February 19
[…] AIs expert-led educational experiences provide AI practitioners and non-technical professionals with the necessary tools to go all the way from foundational basics […]
N/A
GeoWeaver: Improving Workflows for AI and Machine Learning
http://www.uidaho.edu – February 19
[…] GeoWeaver is the open-source workflow management solution that many AI practitioners urgently need […]
N/A
AI in Finance | Online Course by Industry Experts
my.cfte.education – February 18
[…] knowledge on AI PARTICIPANTS WILL ACCESS HIGH QUALITY KNOWLEDGE AND GAIN FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE FROM AI PRACTITIONERS THEMSELVES 01 Welcome to AI in Finance About the course Format of the course and Tips Certificat […]
N/A
Building A Responsible AI Eco-system
analyticsindiamag.com – February 18
[…] ”  This calls for a serious question on Auditing like financial auditing by qualified AI practitioners […] AI or IBM’S Explainable AI  Google’s Model Cards for documentation Deploy diversified team of AI practitioners while developing the models […]
1
ODSC Team Training
odsc.com – February 18
[…] Join the fastest growing network of AI practitioners, sharing knowledge, projects, failures… Team bonding through learning together, interacting wit […]
0
Big data analytics in the cloud with free public datasets
cloud.google.com – February 18
[…] Explore Looker’s blocks here and request a demo to learn more See how a cross-industry team of AI practitioners ramped up data use to fight COVID […]
N/A
Building Ethics Into the Machine Learning Pipeline Tickets, Wed, Feb 17, 2021 at 3:00 PM
[…] about AI ethics education, and has designed original courses, workshops, and frameworks to help AI practitioners learn how to think critically about the ethics of their work […]
N/A
Data Engineering Weekly #29 – Data Engineering Weekly
[…] Google research published a report on data practices in high-stakes AI from interviews with 53 AI practitioners in India, East and West African countries, and the USA […] One of the disrupting read to know 92% of AI practitioners reported experiencing one or more, and 45 […]
N/A
Online AI Course For Business Leaders | AI For Managers Program
[…] combining conceptual understanding with use cases and demos Mentored learning sessions with AI practitioners, focusing on doubt-resolution and case-study based practice Industry case sessions by experts a […] What are “Industry Case Sessions”? Industry case sessions are led by AI practitioners working at a variety of partner companies […]
N/A
Karachi AI – Community of Applied AI Practitioners Public Group | Facebook
http://www.facebook.com – February 14
As I discussed from last couple of weeks? … There a lot of spaces where Semantic Searching Capabilities can help. This wonderful system is made by…
N/A
Unfortunately, Commercial AI is Failing. Here’s Why.
[…] As a practice, AI practitioners must “clean” the data […]
2
News Feature: What are the limits of deep learning?
[…] ” That’s a widely shared sentiment among AI practitioners, any of whom can easily rattle off a long list of deep learning’s drawbacks […]
N/A
Artificial Intelligence: Week #6 | 2021
sixgill.com – February 13
[…] Notable Research Papers: Connect with AI practitioners of all levels Stay connected with artificial intelligence and machine learning practitioners around […]
N/A
Ethics as a service: a pragmatic operationalisation of AI Ethics by Jessica Morley, Anat Elhalal, Francesca Garcia, Libby Kinsey, Jakob Mokander, Luciano Floridi :: SSRN
papers.ssrn.com – February 12
[…] pro-ethical design endeavour rendered futile? And, if no, then how can AI ethics be made useful for AI practitioners? This is the question we seek to address here by exploring why principles and technica […]
N/A
Managing Complex AI Projects | PMI Blog
community.pmi.org – February 11
[…] Capability-building for existing DS/AI practitioners, focusing on the basic work-flow of DS/AI projects […]
N/A
Artificial Intelligence for Ethical Integrity? Questions and Challenges for AI in Times of a Pandemic  –
globaldigitalcultures.org – February 11
[…] can contribute to the imagination of realities and matters of public concern (Milan, 2020) by AI practitioners and policymakers that exist outside their own imaginative faculty […]
N/A
How Andy Jassy Will Lead Amazon’s AI Strategy?
analyticsindiamag.com – February 10
[…] Jassy said all ML experts and AI practitioners get hired in big tech companies, and the low-key enterprises and startups tend to miss out on th […]
1
[2102.02437v1] EUCA: A Practical Prototyping Framework towards End-User-Centered Explainable Artificial Intelligence
arxiv.org – February 10
[…] It serves as a practical prototyping toolkit for HCI/AI practitioners and researchers to build end-user-centered explainable AI […]
N/A
DIU
http://www.diu.mil – February 9
[…] xBD is currently the largest and most diverse annotated building damage dataset, allowing ML/AI practitioners to generate and test models to help automate building damage assessment […]
1
Workshops List (AAAI-21) | AAAI 2021 Conference
aaai.org – February 9
[…] (AAAI-21) builds on the success of last year’s AAAI PPAI to provide a platform for researchers, AI practitioners, and policymakers to discuss technical and societal issues and present solutions related to privacy […]
1
What is Responsible AI?. “It’s not artificial intelligence I’m… | by Yash Lara | Analytics Vidhya | Jan, 2021
medium.com – February 8
[…] But there is something called as ‘Ethical AI Practitioners’ […]
1
Playing games, gamification, and the gulf between them
[…] Today, AI practitioners have a rich inventory of hundreds of games, with a myriad of variations […]
N/A
What I Learned From Attending TWIMLcon 2021 —
jameskle.com – February 8
[…] There was a wide range of both technical and case-study sessions curated for ML/AI practitioners […]
0
A Startup’s Journey Towards Artificial Intelligence With AI101 | by Jojo Anonuevo | The Startup | Jan, 2021
medium.com – February 7
[…] I highly recommend these for those who want to be AI practitioners and those tasked to build a team to help them understand the skills needed to recruit and interview […]
0
“Everyone wants to do the model work, not the data work”: Data Cascades in High-Stakes AI –
research.google – February 6
[…] In this paper, we report on data practices in high-stakes AI, from interviews with 53 AI practitioners in India, East and West African countries, and USA […]
4
AI is Only Going to Get Smarter. How people are already “cyborgs”… | by Michel Kana, Ph.D | Feb, 2021
michel-kana.medium.com – February 5
[…] a critical mass of AI practitioners […]
N/A
Home
mesumrazahemani.wixsite.com – February 5
Karachi.AI is a premier community of Applied AI practitioners. Founded in 2017, the community has staggering 4000+ members from wide variety of domains.   The unique diversity embodies our vision to educate masses towards Artificial Intelligence and upcoming Machine First era, where Jobs of the future will change drastically. ​ Our vision carries around three pillars of execution: 1. Awareness 2. Engagement 3. Empowerment
N/A
2021 will be the year of MLOps
[…] The implementation of MLOps and closer collaboration of software developers and AI practitioners will bring a maturity to the market in 2021 […]
N/A
What’s with the “Cambrian-AI” theme?
cambrian-ai.com – February 4
[…] Hence, I created Cambrian AI Research, where investors, media, and AI practitioners can keep up with the latest AI innovations, and communicate their plans and innovations, with 100’s […]
0
HPE data science experts help customers navigate the new AI accelerator landscape
community.hpe.com – February 3
[…] AI practitioners want competitive alternatives to CPUs and GPUs […]
N/A
Hands-on Guide to AI Habitat: A Platform For Embodied AI Research –
analyticsindiamag.com – February 3
[…] Unlike the strictly algorithm-led approach of such traditional AI practices, embodied AI practitioners try to first understand the working of biological systems, then develop general principles o […]
1
Projects To Know – Issue #67
eepurl.com – February 3
[…] that occur due to data quality issues arising from technical debt) through interviews with 53 AI practitioners across the world. They find that AI practitioners are not properly incentivized to address data quality problems – instead, they are motivated t […]
N/A
AI Strategies and Roadmap: Systems Engineering Approach to AI Development and Deployment | Professional Education
professional.mit.edu – February 3
[…] Communicate your value proposition to stakeholders Receive practical experience from the “voice of AI practitioners” across various industries Formulate a strategic vision and development plan focused on AI products […]
N/A
Designing Ethics Frameworks for AI with Dr. Willie Costello Tickets, Thu, Feb 11, 2021 at 4:00 PM
[…] about AI ethics education, and has designed original courses, workshops, and frameworks to help AI practitioners learn how to think critically about the ethics of their work […]
N/A
Artificial Intelligence: Week #4 | 2021
sixgill.com – February 1
[…] Notable Research Papers: Connect with AI practitioners of all levels Stay connected with artificial intelligence and machine learning practitioners around […]
1
RCV at CVPR 2021
sites.google.com – February 1
[…] policy implications to Consider while constructing representative datasets and training models by AI practitioners […]
N/A
Project Manager — Village Data Analytics (VIDA) | by Nabin Raj Gaihre | Work with TFE Energy | Feb, 2021
medium.com – February 1
[…] The team includes both top-notch AI practitioners, as well as frontier market entrepreneurs with backgrounds in engineering, renewable energy, an […]
N/A
Software engineering intern / Working student / Master thesis | by Nabin Raj Gaihre | Work with TFE Energy | Feb, 2021
medium.com – February 1
[…] The team includes both top-notch AI practitioners, as well as frontier market entrepreneurs with backgrounds in engineering, renewable energy, an […]
N/A
[Proposal] Ocean Academy: Project Oyster �� – Round 2
port.oceanprotocol.com – February 1
[…] series targets business people and organizations dealing with data, data architects, scientists and AI practitioners […]
0
Environmental data justice
http://www.thelancet.com – February 1
[…] there is growing pressure from a community of researchers, activists, and artificial intelligence (AI) practitioners to make Environmental Data Justice (EDJ) a top priority […] One overarching and fundamental concern in the data justice field is the ability of data and AI practitioners to decide what and whose knowledge and data is counted as valid, and what goes ignored an […] As industry and governments increasingly look to AI practitioners and researchers for the solutions to important societal issues, understanding the systemic an […]

This 31-Year-Old’s Company Rocketed To A $1 Billion Valuation Helping Workers Get Degrees

Its 9 a.m. two days before Thanksgiving, and Walmart executives are dragging their suitcases around a windowless Arkansas office building in search of a large conference room. They settle on an interior lunchroom with dull gray carpet, claiming one side of a long table in the corner and gesturing for their guests to sit opposite them.

Ellie Bertani, Walmart’s director of workforce strategy, says she’s struggling to find qualified people to staff the company’s expanding network of 5,000 pharmacies and 3,400 vision centers. Her fellow Walmart execs are silent, but Rachel Romer Carlson, 31, cofounder and CEO of Guild Education, sees her opening. Without hesitation she says her team can work with Walmart and find a solution fast. “You guys and us,” she says, “let’s do it!”

Carlson flew to Bentonville from Guild’s Denver headquarters the day before. Dressed in a sensible navy blazer and black slacks, she’s hardly bothered with makeup. Since 7:30 that morning she’s been huddling with teams of Walmart brass, going over options to train workers for those new jobs. They range from a one-year pharmacy technician certificate program offered by a for-profit online outfit called Penn Foster to an online bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration at nonprofit Southern New Hampshire University.

Carlson’s groundbreaking idea when she launched Guild four years ago: help companies offer education benefits that employees will actually use. Many big employers will pay for their workers to go to school (it’s a tax break), but hardly any workers take advantage of the opportunity. Applying and signing up for courses can be cumbersome, and in most instances employees have to front the tuition and wait to be reimbursed.

Meanwhile, many colleges are desperate for students because they have small—or nonexistent—endowments and are financially dependent on tuition. Many nonselective online programs spend more than $3,000 to attract each new student. Carlson charges schools a finder’s fee (she won’t say how much) for the students she delivers from her corporate partners.

So far Guild has signed up more than 20 companies, including Disney and Taco Bell. Guild gets paid only if students complete their coursework, so a full 150 of the company’s 415 staffers serve as coaches who help employees apply to degree programs and plan how to balance their studies with work and family.

When a company like Walmart requests a customized training course, Guild solicits proposals from as many as 100 education providers (nearly all of them online) and recommends the programs it deems best. It also negotiates tuition discounts and facilitates direct payments between employers and schools, a big plus for workers who would otherwise have to wait months to be reimbursed.

Carlson, an alumna of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and a judge on the 2020 list, says she has already channeled more than $100 million in tuition benefits to workers this year alone. Forbes estimates 2019 revenue will top $50 million, and Guild investor Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners predicts 2020 revenue of more than $100 million.

In mid-November Carlson closed her fifth round of financing, led by General Catalyst, bringing her total money raised to $228 million at a $1 billion valuation. In the sleepy, well-intentioned world of edtech, Guild is one of only a few startups whose values have soared, says Daniel Pianko, a New York-based edtech investor with no stake in the company.

“I can see a path for Guild to be a $100 billion company,” says Paul Freedman, CEO of San Francisco venture firm Entangled Group, who has known Carlson since she was in business school and was one of Guild’s earliest ­investors.

When asked to detail Guild’s inner workings, like its strategy for soliciting custom courses, Carlson eschews specifics and delivers what sounds like a political stump speech: “The economy’s moving so fast,” she says. “We can’t let higher education dictate the skills and competencies that we need five to ten years from now.”

There’s a reason she talks this way. Her grandfather Roy Romer was a three-term (1987–1999) Democratic governor of Colorado before spending six years as superintendent of Los Angeles’ public schools. Carlson started riding along on his campaign bus when she was 6 years old; occasionally she would even speak at his rallies. When her father, Chris Romer, a former Colorado state senator, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Denver in 2011, she served as his finance director. (“The loss was devastating,” she says.)

                            

Along with politics, the Romers were committed to increasing access to education, especially for working adults. Roy Romer helped start Salt Lake City-based Western Governors University, a pioneer in online adult education. In the wake of Chris Romer’s mayoral bid, in 2011, he cofounded American Honors, a for-profit company that offered honors courses at community colleges (the company struggled, and the brand is now owned by Wellspring International, a student recruitment firm).

After graduating from Stanford undergrad and working briefly in the Obama White House, Carlson launched her first venture, Student Blueprint, while getting her M.B.A. (also at Stanford) in 2014. Student Blueprint sought to use technology to match community college students with jobs.

It was a noble idea, but she decided to finish school and sold the software she had developed to Paul Freedman’s Entangled Group in 2014 for a negligible sum. In 2015, after she wrapped up her M.B.A., she pitched the idea for Guild to one of her professors, Michael Dearing, and to seed investor Aileen Lee, of Cowboy Ventures, raising $2 million.

                          

After relocating to her home turf in Denver, she landed her first major corporate partner in the summer of 2016 when she sent a LinkedIn message to a Chipotle benefits manager that played up the fast-food chain’s “strong Denver roots and social mission.”

With help from Guild, Chipotle’s $12-an-hour burrito rollers are now pursuing online bachelor’s degrees from Bellevue University in Nebraska or taking computer security courses at Wilmington University in Delaware. In October 2019, Carlson persuaded Chipotle to lift its cap on tuition benefits above the $5,250 the IRS allows companies to write off.

Guild’s biggest competitor is a division of ­Watertown, Massachusetts-based ­publicly traded daycare provider Bright Horizons, which has offered tuition benefit services since 2009. It works with 210 companies including Home Depot and Goldman Sachs. Under Bright Horizons’ system, the companies—not the colleges—pay. Much of the genius of Guild’s business model is that it correctly aligns incentives: The colleges are the most ­financially motivated party, so they foot the bill. ­Another ­competitor, Los Angeles-based InStride, launched in 2019 with funding from Arizona State University, and like Bright Horizons it charges the corporations.

“I see our competition as the status quo,” Carlson says. “Classically, employers have offered tuition-reimbursement programs, but no one is using those programs.”

The nonprofit Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has done five case studies showing returns on investment as high as 140% for companies that offer tuition-reimbursement programs. “We saw powerful impacts on retention,” says Lumina’s strategy director, Haley Glover.

“Walmart and Amazon are in a death struggle,” proclaims Joseph Fuller, a professor at Harvard Business School. “If a Walmart worker can say, ‘I got an education that allowed me to get promoted,’ they’re going to be someone who speaks generously about Walmart and they are more likely be a Walmart shopper.”

Like a good politician, Carlson is working to please everyone. “We found a win-win,” she says, “where we can help companies align their objectives with helping their employees achieve their goals.”

Get Forbes’ daily top headlines straight to your inbox for news on the world’s most important entrepreneurs and superstars, expert career advice and success secrets.

As an associate editor at Forbes, I cover young entrepreneurs and edit the 30 Under 30 lists. I’m particularly interested in companies finding unique ways to make our world more sustainable. I previously wrote for The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town, South Africa. I graduated from Northwestern University where I studied Journalism, Environmental Policy and Political Science. Follow me on Twitter @AlexandraNWil.

Source: Class Act: This 31-Year-Old’s Company Rocketed To A $1 Billion Valuation Helping Workers Get Degrees

93.6K subscribers
Bertani says Walmart is using technology to increase productivity and help workers focus on customer service.
%d bloggers like this: