Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet in Conversation with Chris Eigeland
In this EdTechX Stories episode, Chris Eigeland, Co-Founder at Go1 talks to Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet about the somewhat unconventional journey that led him to create a business in the professional education space. He shares the raison d'être of his global, Australia based corporate training company, as well as the nuts and bolts behind delivering an effective online learning experience. Now, after 7 years operating in the professional training industry, Chris talks about the immense opportunity he sees to help individuals on their career pathways, while making it more affordable and more accessible to reach their professional goals. Learn about different funding models that support professional training, and gain an insight into the leadership style that drives Go1 - Australia’s first EdTech Unicorn.
Watch their conversation below and stay tuned for future EdTechX Stories to be released very soon!
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Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet in Conversation with Chris Eigeland
Chris Eigeland Hi. My name is Chris Eigeland, and I was born in 1990 in Brisbane, Australia. I currently live in Brisbane, Australia, but have lived in a variety of different places - Hong Kong, the US, South Africa - throughout my personal and professional history. I'm the co-founder and chief operating officer of Go1, and I'm here today and excited to talk about why sometimes lifelong learning is actually really difficult when content is all around us, everywhere, every day.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Chris. Welcome to EdTechX Stories. Before we talk about Go1, let me start with a personal question. How did you end up in that position? Is there a defining moment in your life, a defining someone that inspired you to create and lead an education technology business?
Chris Eigeland Yeah, absolutely. Great question. And in a bit of a roundabout way, actually. So my background is actually not in formal education, training or study. Actually, I was a theme park designer and then decided to change and study law. And then by various roundabout ways, we ended up in Haiti after the earthquake in 2011, working for a couple of different UN agencies. That was when I was still at law school and became really interested there because I was part of an organization that was helping to sort of rebuild physical supply chains for training materials for teachers and students in remote areas that have been hit by the earthquake and where infrastructure had been destroyed. And through that process became really interested with the challenges in the education space in terms of physical training, but also the opportunity in terms of the systems and processes that I think are now available to people all around the world as a result of the changing education landscape. So did not expect to be here seven years later at Go1. Had a very different career path in mind, but became incredibly interested in the sector through that experience.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet That's a great story. So you started by doing good and now doing well. Why Go1? I know it started in a garage in Australia, not in Silicon Valley. Can you describe the journey so far and what makes the platform unique? And why the name Go1, by the way?
Chris Eigeland I'll happily share all of that. So this origin has to do with the four Co-founders, and we're very different experience bases. I just sort of articulated mine, but Vu is a medical doctor. Andrew is an economist, and he actually has formal training and master's education. And the other Chris is a technologist, and he's our CTO. And we have very different backgrounds, but very frustrating experiences in our professional education journey. Vu completing training in multiple hospitals and not transferring across. Me looking at the accessibility piece of training where it's needed most. Andrew thinking about the actual opportunity from a market dynamics perspective. And so we decided that we're really interested in the professional education space due to a number of different shifting dynamics - digitization, the discovery problem - it's really hard for people to work out what they want to do. And so we decided to try and solve the problem in an aggregation style in a marketplace. How do you become the best provider and the best trusted partner to match a piece of training to someone when they need it most? And so what they need most irrelevant of who creates the training.
So that's sort of the origin of it. We really believe that lifelong learning is a complicated journey. Figuring out what you need to do at any stage is actually quite difficult, and then finding it is also really hard. And so how do we facilitate that process in a model that makes it incredibly simple for a business or an individual to find what they need at any point in time?
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet If I'm an organization focused on lifelong learning, do I start thinking about upskilling or reskilling? What's the difference between the two and how can they positively impact an organization?
Chris Eigeland Yeah, so we find the spectrum of learning covers many things. The compliance piece - I'm an organization and I need to make sure that my staff are trained in these particular topics for their safety or for the organization's compliance. And then as you move down the spectrum, you get professional learning, regulated training. And then you also move into the upskilling and reskilling piece which you were describing. We think both are related but quite different and both are becoming incredibly important. Although reskilling in the current environment and the pace of change, we are more and more focusing on the reskilling piece as well. So the difference between upskilling and reskilling being upskilling - I might be average at Excel or my knowledge of GAAP accounting or something like that. And I'd like to progress through a specific learning journey to become more sophisticated in my understanding. And reskilling being - I might be from a completely different industry. In my case, as a theme park designer going into law, a very different skill set in a very different industry and a very different role. And how do you transform and find the transferable skills in that journey to make it as seamless as possible for someone?
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet And how do you make the digital experience better than the physical one when it comes to training or lifelong learning?
Chris Eigeland Yeah, and not an easy one to solve. That is, I think, a really important challenge. So we start with a couple of principles. So one is that we believe in being wherever the learner is. So we're somewhat platform agnostic in that our strength is our content ecosystem and also our data layer - our recommendation engine - how we connect people to the right training. So we start with the fact that we should be wherever the learner is. We shouldn't force them to log into our system to do the training. And then it's also about format and that's a really important piece of the puzzle as well. So, historically, a lot of online training has been face to camera like we're doing today. That has now moved into more interactive formats, but we're seeing the emergence of a lot more short form content - book, summaries, audio - those pieces and then also then moving into the Immersive training, now into VR and AR. They'll be the key, I think, to mass adoption of some of these new pieces.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet So Chris, what's the next ten year trajectory for you and Go1 and how will it change learning and the knowledge economy? What's the plan?
Chris Eigeland Big question. We're just at the start, hopefully, of our journey and pathway. It's been seven years, which seems a long time and a short time. I think there's a really interesting topic in the education landscape that we focus and think about a lot, which is that the investment in someone's education from any sort of government or corporate institution drops off dramatically after about 23, which of course corresponds to the tertiary university spend and secondary school spend. And yet in the current changing workforce environment and labor market, to your earlier question, there are increasing pressures on people to reskill, upskill, adapt faster than ever before. And so we see that being a really big opportunity for players to emerge that are trusted sources and trusted partners for people on their professional journey. So, if you're a lawyer in California or if you're an accountant in London or if you're in construction in Australia, very different requirements. At the moment, it's still very hard for you to find the right piece of training for you and then sort of procure and go through that process. And so we really believe that there is so much opportunity for an organization to help individuals on that pathway, which will make the learning process easier because there's not so much time spent needing to research, but also make it more accessible because it should be more affordable.
We believe it should be more affordable and more accessible for people to reskill if they want to find a new job in a new industry or if they're under pressure to do that because of changing labor market dynamics. There's a really big social challenge, there's a really big funding gap and policy challenge around the funding profile of professional education. And we think there is a real opportunity for a player to fill that gap. And we're really focused on seeing if we can be the most trusted and most value additive player and partner for someone in their career and in their professional learning.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Speaking about policy and funding, you have a pretty global perspective on professional learning. Where are the governments or the countries that are the most proactive, in your view?
Chris Eigeland Yeah, it's a really great question, and we see a diversity of models. So, on the one hand, you have Governments like Singapore and the Singaporean government has their training fund that all companies are required to contribute, similar to a payroll tax or something like that, and then an individual can then claim back against that for their own professional learning. Malaysia has a somewhat similar scheme - the HRDF/HRDC scheme. So that's one model which is quite progressive, where you place an obligation on companies to contribute, but you give the learner autonomy over determining that. Australia at the moment is exploring a tax refund process for small to medium sized businesses who invest in the training of their staff. And that's kind of the other model we see, which is quite progressive, where the business gets incentives, but the organization has more of the autonomy and the control than the individual. It depends a little bit where you put the focus. But we found both those models, in our experience, to be quite effective when deployed properly.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet I'm guessing you're a lifelong learner. What are you learning right now?
Chris Eigeland So, personally, I'm trying to learn how to be a great parent. I have a six month old son, but I think that's more of like on the job training. It's certainly been a long journey. I'm only six months in, so I think that's a lot of on the job training, but I'm loving it. Professionally, Go1 has grown quickly. We've doubled in size year on year for the past few years. And as a founder, your role changes so dramatically from being in every deal and trying to solve every problem to then trying to do your best to run a global organization. And so I'm at the moment trying to continue my journey in leadership, and currently reading Amp It Up by the Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman, who actually thinks about leadership quite differently to me, but trying to get a different perspective to help shape my own journey. So hopefully in the next ten years we do sort of achieve that goal.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet That's a broad question, but what's your view on leadership, then. If it's different, then?
Chris Eigeland Well, yeah, maybe my leadership style focus has also been forged in, I think, the journey of Go1. It's impossible to separate the two where our ambitions are so large, our growth has been so fast that the key, I think, to our organization. Its growth has been two principles. One is the people you bring into the organization. So are they aligned with your values because you just don't have the processes and structures in place all the time to be able to inform every decision. So you have to trust a lot of people all around the organization that they will make some great decisions without you there and without the processes in place. And then the second is how you empower those people to do their best work in an environment that's often changing and moving at that pace. So different leaders have focused on ... Some are very metrics focused and very in the detail of the metrics. Some are around the empowerment of teams and values alignment. Given the journey we've been on, I'm very much focused on how do you create an environment where you can bring amazing people in and then get out of their way and let them work their magic.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Very cool. We're getting now to the rapid fire session of the interview so are you ready? You have to answer by A or B. You can't say both.
Chris Eigeland I'll try my best. Yeah.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Okay, so an easy one for you. Upskilling or reskilling?
Chris Eigeland I can't say both? I think reskilling is going to be increasingly important in the current environment.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet OK degree or skills?
Chris Eigeland Skills any day. And I say that having a law degree.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Yeah. Tech or creativity?
Chris Eigeland Creativity, actually. I believe that's key to the learning journey that we're all on and helping people actually love learning, not just tolerate it.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Remote work or every day in the office?
Chris Eigeland Remote work, definitely, yeah. It opens up a whole new section of possibilities for how we engage with each other and how we learn as well.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet State school or private school?
Chris Eigeland So we're very lucky in Australia, I'm going to go state school. Our state school system in Australia is exceptional. I went to state school and it was fantastic so I'm going to go state school and invest in the infrastructure of our society.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Okay. Profit or impact?
Chris Eigeland Impact any day.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Learners or shareholders?
Chris Eigeland [Pause] Learners. Yeah, that's an easy one.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet [Laughter] It's an easy one, but you had to think about it!
Chris Eigeland Yeah.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Teacher or technology?
Chris Eigeland Teacher, actually, because I think the teacher is the critical part. Technology can amplify and distribute but you need to have the core teacher to begin with.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet I agree. So you're off the hook now for this. Finally, who would you like to nominate to be part of our next EdTechX Stories? If you had someone to keep in mind and tell us why.
Chris Eigeland Yeah, absolutely. So I've been impressed by this organization and this founder as well. So Pasha Rayan, who's the co founder of Forage. They are focusing on an education experience piece between university and college and your first job and how do you prepare people for that first job. As a law student, what you're studying in law school is actually quite different to your experience as a lawyer and a lot of people struggle with that, so they're really focused on how do you provide interactive immersive learning experiences to help match people to the right job but also prepare them for that experience.
Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet Okay, Chris, well, that's the end of this interview. Thank you very much. That was Chris Eigeland, Co-Founder of Go1. Thank you very much.
Chris Eigeland My pleasure. Thanks for having me.