Adam Braun: "Where is Education Going Next?" | Talks at Google
All. Right everybody thank you so much for coming to talks at Google we. Have an amazing guest for, you today Adam. Braun Adam. Start, an organization in 2008, called pencils, of promise which. A lot of you might have heard of they've, gone all around the world and. Started, schools and impoverished regions. They've, started over 400, schools to, date, he's. Actually the New York Times bestselling, author of, the, promise of a pencil and he, recently just, started his newest venture which is incredibly exciting it's, trying to basically upend, the, traditional, college system and. End the cycle of debt teach, students, practical, skills it's a one-year program it's really exciting and. He's here and he's that's, mainly what we're gonna be focused on. Can't. Can't wait to have Adam speak he's a perfect. Example of somebody who kind, of embarked on a non-traditional, path, that's, Purpose Driven at, a young age and. He's going to talk about where education, is headed and what mission use place. Is in, that and that's that's what I just described, his new his new venture so. Please join me in welcoming Adam, Braun to the stage. Thank. You so much, so. As, you heard I spent, really. The last decade of my life focused, on education, both internationally. And now more so domestically, and so, I figured I'd walk you a little bit through that journey and you. Know kind of open up today's talk with. A little bit more context, in particular on mission you and then we can dive into some questions and. Then really open it up to Q&A, with all of you so to. Begin with you know this is a community. In rural Ghana pencils. Of promise began, in 2008, I put, 25 dollars into a bank account in hopes of building one school and. That, first goal was in rural, Laos, over. Time what I saw was that not, only did I have a personal passion for. Attempting. And and really, guiding. I think. Communities. In, particular communities of poverty, in rural parts of the developing world to enable. Their future generations of children to gain access to better education but. That idea really resonated, with a lot of people. In particular, young people across, the country and so, what, started in rural Laos crude in Nicaragua, and Guatemala eventually.
Ghana And, this was a community, that I entered with some of our staff and. What we saw was that about, 800 people lived in this community and, this, was considered the school for the entire village, so, you can imagine obviously. These children were not getting access to the quality of education that we would all want for them and. With the support of, actually. School in the United States in Chicago. That put together a peer-to-peer fundraiser, we, were able to raise the the funds to go and work with this community directly to, really transform, the lives of those children and it you know transformed, from this into, this which is what a completed, pencil promised school looks like and I spent a lot of time over this last decade going, really, not only around the country but around the world speaking about this work trying to really. Galvanize others, to get involved in this process and fortunately. The organization, has grown by leaps and bounds it's, you, know really found tremendous success, and you. Know the the next step for me in 2013, is we started. To approach what felt like a very big milestone, which was completing our hundred school which, actually wasn't Ghana as well I, decided. To write a book about it and that book was called the promise of a pencil what, was really important was actually the the subtitle, of the book which, is how an ordinary person can create extraordinary change and so you, know as much as I felt, you. Know really inspired, by the work that we were taking, on my. Real goal was actually to help other people figure out how they could pursue their sense of purpose in their sense of passion and so, the book is framed around 30 very short chapters, each chapter is. Title, with a mantra and those mantras are really the guideposts, for me as, I you know navigated, the challenging, waters, of figuring, out how do you build a global. Organization, from scratch in particular, starting, in late 2008, in New York which was an incredibly challenging period and, so you know that that subtitle, how an ordinary person can great extraordinary, change is what, motivated, me and I found myself on. Many, many college campuses around the country and, you. Know as I, would, tell this story there was certainly a subset, of people that, would actively, get involved and you know they tell their friends they tell their family, and as, a result this this organization, continues to grow in in recent years and as, of today. We've now built over. 400 schools around the world we have about 75,000. Students in our programs and what started with just 25 dollars has now turned. Into more than 50 million dollars raised to. Support these children around the world but, as, I went from you know location, to location to, location, really. Speaking about the the value and virtue of this work what, I found was a common refrain on, every type of college campus that I visited whether these were you know elite private schools, community. Colleges in, Tennessee in Arizona large, state, schools non elite private schools there, was always the significant, subset of students that would, come up to me afterwards or ask a question during QA and they'd say you know Adam this is really great what you're describing but I can't even consider, the, type of work that you're describing, because.
One I have so much student debt that, the number one thing in my life is trying to get out of that student debt and then, two I, don't actually have any of these skills, they're gonna help me get, the jobs that I'm seeking and I'm now hearing this as, I apply for internships and jobs and so, I started to do a lot of research into. Some of these challenges, and I deeply believe in organizational, focus and so pencils of promise needed, to stay true to its core mission to support children. In the developing world but there was a huge personal, transition for me when I met my wife and, at. The time you know, I start. To fall in love with somebody who started planning a life together and one of those you know important conversations, is to figure out where, you're coming from financially, and what. Was very clear to me you, know from really, the the first month that we spent together was. That she was you, know from a very loving family but one without a lot of financial means and they came to this country and she was nine from South Africa, moved, to the Boston area in hopes of really, building a life of success, and prosperity and, you. Know if if you're new, to this country in particular or, you're, of a working class or lower-income family, you know what's, the number-one thing that every parent tells you you, should invest, in that you should focus on to get a better life ahead. Education. Right and, I think that's a dream that we've really kind of sold to generation. After generation, my, mother saw my grandfather actually was bird the first wave of individuals. To get, access to free college in the United States through the GI Bill which, was passed in 1944. And it really started this movement towards, college for all but. You know my wife bought, into that and she went to college initially, out of state after, two years transferred, back in state to try and reduce the cost and after. Three years needed, to leave school before actually attaining that bachelor's degree that she was pursuing because, the the challenges, were so great financially, and by, the time that I met her her. Student debt was, at over a hundred thousand, dollars as a, result of these three years and. It. Was absolutely crushing, and eventually, as we moved towards marriage I said you know something you, should really consider declaring, full bankruptcy, you, should hopefully you, know I know it's gonna destroy your credit but I have good credit we'll be okay as a couple and. At least you'll be you know out of this cage that might keep you in poverty throughout the rest of your life and she. Said to me Adam, that, sounds great but student. Debt is the only debt in the United States that you cannot declare, bankruptcy on and I. Remember you know I have a financial background starting, my career at Bain been, working at hedge fund since I was like 16 and I was like that's not possible. That's, that's, just impossible let, me talk to some financial people and help, you get out of this and of. Course she was absolutely, right and, I was absolutely wrong and. As. Soon as I really, discovered that I think that in at, least my mind that's the moment that mission you was born that if we had a societal, injustice that, was this great this profound and. The one thing that was supposed to enable the people who needed to. Kind. Of you know experience, social mobility most, was, gonna keep them in those places or worse then, we're creating, a greater and greater societal. Divide between the classes which obviously. Leads, us to this huge political division, all these other challenges that we're now facing as a country and so, I said I need to research this more and. I'll. Show you you know a chart that, a, friend, of mine Neil Blumenthal sent, me a few months ago Neil's the co-founder. And co-ceo of Warby Parker and someone, who's also passionate about this because he's seeing it on his team some. Of the challenges right of finding, work ready, talent, especially out of undergrad and so, this, is the the price change in consumer goods over. The last 20 years or so and you. Know what you can see is at the bottom things like software are toys you, know new cars clothing, etc essentially, luxury consumer goods have actually drastically, come down more people can access them than ever before, what you see at the very top is that education has never been more expensive and even more expensive, than traditional education.
Is College, tuition it's, risen more than essentially. Any other incurred, fee that someone's going to take on in their life as. I started to dig further and further into this what I realized was, that not, only do you see this huge growth the, red line in the cost of getting, an undergraduate degree but. The blue line is the average earnings of a Bachelor degree holder, between the ages of 24, and 34 and so that's actually gone down and so, you know what, we have is one this situation, where any, person, who's entering college and has has to take on debt that number is just increasing increasing, and now, it's becoming oftentimes, insurmountable. Today's entering freshmen will have on average fifty, thousand, dollars of. Debt by, the time they graduate if they graduate, and. Only you. Know a much. Lower percentage than we actually anticipate, graduate, and. Then. - they, actually don't have the skills that they need right about three-quarters believe that their colleges failed to. Prepare them for the, real world and so there's, three macro shifts, that. I observed in really 2016. Into 2017, and now here we are in 2018. That would enable a very new model for, us to really kind of recreate, reinvent, and. Reinvigorate, this, very, oftentimes, averse. To change space, of higher ed and so, the first is you, know historically credentials. We're, really the metric for success people. Just said okay do you have a degree yes then you must be skilled because, we didn't have all this other information on individual, you couldn't search for them on Google you couldn't look up their LinkedIn you, know credentials, 10 or 15 years ago so we're, now seeing this shift over to competency-based hiring. Right, in particular for technical skills you can just put a test in front of somebody you can assess their, technical abilities and that's actually much more important than perhaps you know whether they have a degree or not this, second is that historically tests, were the, primary method, of learning right, we didn't rote memorization and then after. That rote memorization then, we just jumped into like an exam. And we regurgitated that and that was a demonstration of learning and I think that what we are seeing a radical, shift to is project-based, learning where. It's. Much more replicable. To, put, together a group of project. That a person actually navigates, through in a group and that, in itself is a, lot more demonstrative, of what we actually experience in the real world in, our work contest and then the third is that in 2012, we saw the rise of MOOCs like Coursera and Udacity there, is this huge belief that we're gonna have the best professor in the world is going to educate 15,000.
People And that's gonna solve the challenges, of, Education and what we're seeing is that the vast majority of people don't. Actually complete those courses it's less than 5% most. Of us are not considered, autodidact. So we can you, know teach ourselves and have that motivation and accountability to complete one of those courses and so, what, we are. Able to do though is, work very effectively in, online, cohorts. When it's live, synchronous, instruction, when, there's you know an instructor, a world-class. Expert, in something with, a small group and were held accountable to those around us on the screen and it's done live that's actually very very powerful, we've, seen a few models involved in that space that are. Able to demonstrate that and. So, and. You know really started 2016, I moved from New York after a place myself as CEO at pencils, of promise out. To the Bay Area to focus on building a college alternative, for the 21st, century really. Reinventing, the model what higher education can and should look like if you started from today and, so I'll show you a quick video it, features some really extraordinary people that. Have gotten behind what we're doing and it walks you a little bit through why. This works and, how it works. The. First time in history the. Skills you need for work learning, and citizenship. Have converged, the current process of academia is failing. Us in our ability, to find great talent there is a gap now in what students. Are learning and what, employees, are expecting. In the market, there's a lack of sort of specific, practical, experience. Traditional, four-year, curriculum, missing, all the technical, skills that people need they might not have, collaboration. Skills project, management. Skills they're not prepared to work you just want to make sure that the experience that someone has is. Relevant, to the job that they have to do I'm excited about mission, you because the team has been reaching out to folks, like me to figure out what are we looking for in Canada, and helping to design the curriculum around. That I love people that take, not, just ideas, and theory but they show, real concrete examples. You want people who can, work with other people, who, have great, soft, skills you want hard skills right the ability to analyze problems. That's what mission is teaching the student who's aggressive, about taking, on things is exactly the type of candidate, we would want to bring in to our company analytical. Problem, solvers, and not afraid of something tough that's why I think mission use focus, on skills, is so important, it's one thing to learn something in a classroom but it's a whole other thing to have real-world experience, in a specific field one truly. Lens by, doing, having somebody that's been specifically, trained, in an area where we need talent. Is of real value owning, a company we set, out to challenge norms and so of course we should be empowering people, to do the same thing with their own education, we, would definitely higher mission you graduate of course I would hire someone for mission you we would a hundred percent higher mission you graduate, I would be very confident, about hiring, someone from Mission you we would and we will hire mission.
You Grads 1,000%. I would hire a mission you grant I would totally hire someone from a mission unit we would like to be the first people, to hire a mission you grad I would absolutely hire. Mission, you courage. So. You. Know mission you in essence, is, this one-year program that focuses on aunt real-world skills and one of the things that we've certainly seen is that it's not enough just to teach hard technical skills but people that really thrive actually, possess this, whole wealth of soft skills effective. Collaboration, critical. Thinking abilities, effective. Communication, both in written you, know whether it's email or building, presentations, or in person and, so you know we also thought about what is a actual. Viable, revenue model for, you, know a modern institution. That. Aligns. Itself with the outcomes and the aspirations, of their students from day one and so, what we decided, was. That, before. Any student ever paid us a dollar of tuition we would have to demonstrate to them that they had achieved success, which is really the, exact opposite of what happens on a traditional college day right you take out these big loans you pay this school and then you. Kind of hope for the best that you end up with a job afterwards. But their commitment essentially ends when you walk out their door and that's when they usually reach. Out in order to ask for a donation and how many people have gotten, that solicitation from their alma mater probably all of us and. So what we decided was that when, someone got into mission you we would charge them absolutely no tuition upfront, and instead, we would invest in them throughout the course of their entire year admission you and at. The end of that year only if, and when they were making at least $50,000. Or more they, would contribute back 15%. Of their income for three years and then that would be the end of their obligation, and so, it's an entirely outcomes, based model, and. We said you know something when it comes to designing curriculum you. Know most colleges, kind. Of oftentimes, are very, separated, from the business world right, we said we should absolutely partner, with, the business world this is what students want ninety one percent of today's freshmen say they're going to college to get a better job and. So before we ever started recruiting students we were speaking to world-class companies. And. They've deeply advise us on curriculum everything. That we you know teach our students goes through the lens of employer. Partners evaluating, assessing, and advising, the, second is we would create content, so we have guest speakers non-stop, for our students they oftentimes go on site to actual companies to get that real-world experience so all of our employer, partners get first cut at this incredible pipeline, of talent and as. Of now these in partner, include. Companies. Like Spotify lyft, uber Warby, Parker Casper Harry's etc, with, a bunch more to be announced shortly and hopefully Google at some point as well and, so what I figured would actually be helpful, is to walk you through a little bit of. How we've integrated Google's, technology being, here on, campus you guys have been an incredible, incredible, provider, of. The technology, that actually powers a lot of our student experience we, use blended learning we think that's really the future of Education, which is a hybrid, of both online which, is live primarily for our students as well as in person we think that you know a lot of students can learn very well online in particular technical, skills but those soft skills and those relationships, that you create with your cohort, mates really have to be facilitated. In person so our students come together at minimum every other week a lot of them actually live together because you have to live within 50 miles of, your cohort city and. Then you know finally I figured, just. Share a little bit of what our year looks like the first trimester is a deep dive into what we consider foundational. Skills a mix of both hard skills and soft skills a lot of things that come out of Stanford on the soft skill and holistic development, side a lot of things that come out of places like Bain where I started my career as.
Well As some, of the instruction, from top data scientists, and our instructors, as. Well as you know advisors come from places like Harvard and Stanford and MIT, second-trimester. Is a deep dive into your major right now we offer one which is data analytics, and business intelligence over. Time we'll learn many more and in the final trimester is actually a real-world work experience either, internships. Fellowships or, consulting. Projects so that they can complete the year with, the actual competency that they want to enter the, workforce with so you. Know with that I guess, what kind of dive into a little bit of a conversation, but if, anybody wants to follow, up or get, involved in any capacity this is just my email and I'll leave it up there as we check cool. Thanks, Adam yeah thank you. Awesome. Really appreciate you being here and for the Google plug. So. I want. To kind of just bring, it back for a second and just, just provide a little bit of context, for the audience, talk. About talk about your childhood you talked about the inflection point between pencils, of promise and, mission, you. I'd. Love to hear you focus on the inflection, point between the. Kind of, overachieving. Kind, of typical path of like you know hedge-fund, bane to, pencils. Of promise sure. You, know I had a good. Childhood I mean a great one my parents, are amazing, so, now, I have 14, month old twins at home and so, my. Parents have suddenly never become smarter in, my life and I've never gone to them for more advice than since becoming a parent myself but you, know they're both very loving. My. My. Dad's an immigrant came here when he was three a child, of two Holocaust, survivors, and, my. Mother's father passed away when she was quite young when she was about 11 and so. I think that even though we had this great upbringing my dad's Dennis my was an orthodontist, and and so you know I don't think that we we've, felt, any sense of you, know hey were were impoverished. But, you know I'd look around in the town that we grew up in which is Greenwich Connecticut and there were certainly people with way more than what we had and, so. I was always aware of that juxtaposition that, you know we were fine but. There was a lot more to be achieved, but, I think, you. Know having the, recognition. That your your grandparents, lost everything including, family, members and, every possession in the Holocaust there was this kind of mentality. I guess, just ingrained. In us this is kind of like immigrant mentality, of you. Got to work for everything that you're gonna go out and achieve, and so you, know in, the, teenage mind it was go out make a lot of money and and hedge funds and kind of the world of finance was the best way to accomplish, that and. So that was the path I was on but when I was in 21 I went. On semester at sea and just had this series of life-changing experiences, through, exposure to the developing world and I realized you know the actual. Purpose. For for my life is to try and bring as much positivity, and well-being into the world as I can. And, you. Know enabling. Others to reach. Their full potential which education I believe does most is. The path that I've pursued since then and. How would you advise somebody, who's, maybe in that situation, where they're they're kind of on the linear path with success, to, break out of it is it kind of you know getting out there and seeing the undeveloped, world or you know my advice has always been, that. True, self discovery begins where your comfort zone ends and so. You, know the the surest, way to get, to that place, where you feel most alive, where you have this deep ingrained, sense of purpose is. By leaving your, current comfort zone and for some it's physical, relocation. You know go traveling, you're on a trip to kind of remote part of the world but, I don't think that's necessary, I mean in other capacities it's, changing the relationships, around you it's. Changing what your day-to-day actual. Kind of routine looks like you, know exposure to new hobbies that you never thought that you'd actually be interested, in all. Of those things I think help us get unstuck, from kind of what, we are and what people in society, and norms dictate, we're supposed to be into, who we truly are and, then the final, thing is I think you can just learn from the template of others before, you and so that means reading books I listen to a ton of podcasts, and. A lot of those podcasts are just interviews on. My way here today I was listening to an interview with. The founder of Patagonia and it. Was just so inspiring for me over the last hour so hearing. How different. This person's path was and. The decisions, that he's made historically, and it helped me reframe, the.
Way That I might want to dictate some of the decisions in my life as well and. I. Want, to touch on pencils, of promise briefly, I want, to focus on mission to you today but, whereas, pencils of promise at how involved are you and yes what's the plan for it going forward, sure so. Pencils of promise is a about, 130, full-time, staff globally, operating. In, four. Different countries New, York being the headquarter, but the vast, majority of our staff is from the countries in which they work they're Ghanaian they're loud they're they're Guatemalan, we. Do have twenty schools in Nicaragua, that we built originally we decided not to continue expanding there so we support that through a partnership on the ground. We had our single biggest growth year ever in 2017. Which, is hugely exciting, and my role is is. And board emeritus, which means that I'm. Still involved but not on a day-to-day active, basis decisions, don't need to go through me in. Order to be made and executed, but I tend, to be kind of the lightning rod for inbound interest, people read the book and they'll reach out and then I can funnel those relationships, to the organization. I still host our annual gala which this, past year raised two, point over two million dollars in a night so. I'm still very involved but not on a day-to-day, full-time. Role or as most of my my kind, of day-to-day thinking, is on mission yeah we. Have over a trillion dollars in student debt in this country my tea buddy fortunately, one point four trillion which is which is crazy. I remember, reading a blog post maybe in two thousand eight or nine by Mark Cuban actually talking kind of comparing, student. Debt issued to the housing bubble saying we have an education, bubble because students, literally are taking out all this money and they can't flip it for a proper just like you would flip a home for a profit, how. Exactly is mission you solving this, you. Know from. Spending. All the time focused, on international education, one, thing that I've really. Seen and and absorbed, is that Norton's great systemic, change need, two things to happen the. First is you need innovation. Right and that innovation if you've read Clayton Christensen's, innovators. Dilemma it. Occurs on the fringes right it's not mainstream it's kind of these outside smaller players that, start out really small and, they're so small and they're working on something kind of so unique that you're large incumbents, literally don't even pay attention even, though if they had replicated, they could have squashed them and. You. Know what oftentimes occurs in systemic change is that as that innovator on the fringe gets a demonstration. Of success what, you actually need is widespread, policy, adoption and advocacy. That leads to scaled. Impact and so, my. Goal in, particular, when it comes to mission U is. For us to be that innovator, on the fringe that demonstrates success and then eventually has policy, adoption at the national level and then essentially. What the u.s. does a lot of countries obviously follow, so, a small example would be the fact that we're using 100%. Income. Share agreement rather than traditional tuition. The, fact, that we're doing that is putting a lot of pressure on traditional, colleges, to respond, and my, hope is I don't expect to see every college be 100%, is a income. Share agreement but what I do sort expect, to see is for colleges, to be expected, to start to have some skin in the game and eventually, for policy to actually, mandate that you. Know for student is not to be required to pay back until. They reach a certain threshold which, is actually the national policy in countries. Like Australia. As. Well as this blended learning model, to be demonstrated, as a proof won by us there's other companies that are doing it and doing it with great success and for then that to get adopted by a lot, of the mainstream incumbents, as well as policy now.
You Started, out with pencils of promise kind of focusing, on, accessibility. And getting, as many, students. Around the world kind, of educated as possible, oh, you. Know Peter Thiel talks about the current college education, system. And he says it's, almost like a nightclub like if you. Expand. It and allow more people and they'll. Be very angry because basically it's, their bread exclusivity. Exactly. Exclusivity, so. How do you reconcile. Those two things kind of it's this social credential, where prestigious, maybe. Semi important, along. With the accessibility and reaching as many people as possible yeah. So so this is a big thing for us and and it's currently a challenge that we're addressing through scale so. You. Know we launched March, 2017, we said we're open this is mission you know and you know really had any public, exposure to it and we asked everyone that knew about it to not talk about it until we were ready to launch we launched March 21st. 2017. And we said this is mission you you can apply as of today and we. Spend no money on any form of paid marketing and we said we just want to see organically, what happens did I did interviews and podcasts and stuff and prospect, it up but you know we did no targeted, marketing so we allowed the message to spread to the places where it might spread naturally and we said you know we have 25 spots per cohort we'll, just see how many people apply and we had 4,700, applicants, for the first 25 spots in about, two and a half month period and. We. Said oh my gosh there's. There's some lightning in a bottle here and our goal is that to, be. The. Most exclusive. Selective. Higher education program in the country which statistically, we are right now we have a essentially, 0.5 percent acceptance rate. We. Don't want to be that but, we are in at the moment it so we said you know one we need to go out and raise my capital, so we can offer you. Know additional cohorts we don't want to change the court size we think about 25 is the best number, for people to build those tight relationships, to have the right ratio to instructors. But. We need to have. Additional times in the year when people could apply concurrently. Launched cohorts, at, the same time in the same cities expand to new cities as well as offer new majors so, we went out we, raised another round of capital from, some incredible people and then. We opened up admissions for January we said okay you can apply for January and we had 5,500, people apply for those spots and now we're running admissions, for, May and and, so, again. We. Acknowledge that, this, is a real challenge in higher ed and our goal is to try and scale quickly to serve that need but at the same time we, want to create a truly world-class high quality experience for every student and we know that we need to start, slowly and test out this model and once it's really tightly refined, on the curricular side on the student experience side then, scale really really rapidly I mean our goal is to serve tens of thousands of students ideally, be larger than any current College in the country awesome. What. Does a real-world approach me and you guys talk about kind of teaching practical, skills as opposed to maybe more theoretical, ones yeah, so. First of all I mean, it means having a really tight pulse on what's, happening in industry so. Designing. And building curriculum, in a vacuum having. A go through a three to four year accreditation, process, and then saying you should go learn this as all of you I'm sure experienced on a day-to-day basis, here at a place like Google is gonna leave you well behind what's actually needed to solve, the needs of industry so part, of it is is having these deep relationships.
With Folks at, companies, to understand, what's, needed to actually hit the ground running the second, is I, think, a profound, acknowledgement. That you, need to bring, that real. World into the curricular, design and so, as I mentioned we ever see I mean I went to a great college and I love my experience but. I don't think more. Than once did I ever get, exposure to, a public speaker who came in and addressed a class that I was in that, actually was working at a company it. Was so rare and so for our students I mean you know last week the global head of artists, marketing at Spotify spent an hour just with a group of 30 students and that's like on a weekly basis a top-tier, person comes in and addresses them but. Then the second is actually, teaching them things that that are, going to be applicable to getting a great job to navigating, their personal, life as well so we teach personal finance I mean how many people here, got like a deep introduction, to personal finance how you actually navigate, you know your financial scenario, once you leave, the bounds of your educational, experience, not. In their head no so, things like that we have, you. Know a class will be call success by design which is really about finding your, internal happiness where you want to point your compass in life and why you know all of those things I think are applicable to, a real world context, and then finally, our, students work on projects, that are based on real-world scenarios, so we'll get you, no dummy data from real companies, that. Are facing a real challenge our students will work through that produce a final project and then the after they ship it they can one publicly, presented as part of their portfolio but, oftentimes they actually. Get to present it to somebody who's working on that real project at that real company and they get that cycle of feedback and, then the final part is just the. The back third of the years is actually working full-time at. A great company or, organization. And then getting additional curricular, support, from. Us throughout that process yeah. One of the perks we, have here at Google is we. Get to kind of like speak to financial, advisors and I think this, was my first job out of school and like I didn't, know anything yeah and I think most people don't know they don't know what a 401k is, yeah, I mean one of the things that we teach our students is salary, negotiation, and I. Remember, sitting, with a reporter, from a major, media. Company explaining that and she was in her mid 30s and she said geez I wish I got that and, so. We think it's important in our students range from 18 to 39 you know some. Of them have transferred in from top tier colleges, some of them have bachelor's degrees, most. Of them have some type of college but not a BA yet or looking out and saying why would I take on this much more debt to get this piece of paper that is, it actually going to be of greatest value whereas mission you will be there. Seems to be a special interest right now on learning, how to learn and it's actually the most popular course on Coursera right now Barbara Barbara Oakley teaches. It do, you guys incorporate, kind. Of the, most recent, kind, of neuro, scientific, findings, and findings about just, how to learn and how how cognition. Happens. In Mission you yeah this, is the obsession of my co-founder, Mike so so Mike's our chief product officer and, he, oversees.
Both Curriculum, and technologies, or world-class software engineer as well so. All the stuff that you were seeing on Google he's he's overseen, and designed with Jen who you heard and. Yeah. I mean if. You saw the, slack channels of our team like you would just think these people are the biggest education, nerds in the world so, so yeah we obsessed and kind of geeked out over that stuff and then you, know we have incredible advisors like dr. Tony Wagner from Harvard from Randall Baum throws lecture, at Stanford, and, so. We're constantly kind of digging into the latest learning science you know part of that applies. Into how the actual structure of the program looks so for example we tell every student. That. So, one thing is that I'll share is I actually call, every student when they get in so the actual admissions, acceptance is me calling them kind. Of as a surprise and you, know they always answer, and how, you who's calling and I say it's Adam Braun from, mission U and then they're like oh hi, how's it going what's. Up. How's. Your day and they say it's good okay, well hopefully it's a lot better because, I wanted to share with you got it and they're all exciting then I kind of walk them through I here's the next steps here's your orientation date will send your email and rep, you know repeat, a lot of this stuff so you have it in writing but, I want to get them comfortable with a couple of high-level details and one thing I share is that you can work a part-time job while you're going through our program but you can't exceed 20 hours a week and that's grounded in learning science that shows that, if you exceed, 20 hours a week of a job. While, you're trying to focus on a primary academic. Commitment your, success in that program really falls off the map so things like that are applicable for us and. Kind. Of reconciling. Teaching. Practical, skills and emphasizing, that with, just. A liberal arts education to begin, with I can imagine where, you kind of fall, on that but you know there are people like Fareed Zakaria who talk about the the loss of like a liberal arts education in the country I went to Columbia. And I'm still, trying to figure out whether you know reading Plato like helps me everyday but. Yeah. Where do you kind of stand on that yeah, I mean. My. Belief on this is very firm I think there is tremendous value, in the. Ideals behind a liberal arts education so self-discovery. Critical. Thinking reasoning. Morality. All of, these things are really really essential as part of a formative education, the, problem is those, things are actually not taught in a meaningful capacity, and the vast majority of liberal, arts programs, in this country what the Bharat's has kind of become is, general, education where, you're just asked, to read a series of texts and suddenly you're supposed to be, expected, to achieve these things so some schools do it well but very few the. Two places that I think that it's best achieved are through, two courses that are taught at Stanford one, is called designing your life it's the most popular class in undergrad, at.
Stanford, And then the second is, called, interpersonal. Dynamics taught, at Stanford GSB but, known as touchy-feely and if anyone here, has gone to GSB or. Know someone that's gone to GSB this is the course that they will say is the most transformative, in their life and so, we actually have former lectures from those two courses who are full-time on staff and, mission you and. Our, students go through something that is very very similar we. Call it I labs, are similar to the T groups there and when, you mix that with the hard technical skills that's, actually, when you create. A really profound transformation, in an individual, so I think it's important that we incorporate the ideals of the liberal arts but, that you mix it with the, actual hard. And soft skills that will help somebody get, a job right, to pay back the debt that they've taken on if they go on a traditional liberal arts school and. And we really seek to blend that ambition yeah so, is that really how. You kind, of stay away from being, like considered, like a trade, school because there are a lot of circles out there they're like I, don't, like my career right now and so I'll, switch go to this school and then you know it's just kind of a pivot right is, that how you kind of straight away from that by having these kind of yeah I mean I think what we've seen is there's a lot of schools. That are out there that are very effective at helping you get into, a new industry and lock in the first job that's, not our goal right are our students, only, send. Us a dollar if they're successful, you, know not only in getting the job but they need to be successful for three plus years right, and and so you know we want to prepare them for an extraordinary life and career ahead and part. Of that is learning this hard technical skill but actually a much bigger part is, the soft skills and, that holistic self development if you spoke to any student that's at mission you they'll. Say, that they needed one to be able to succeed, in the other that when they really hit that that kind of sticking point and learning Python or sequel or Excel modeling it's actually the group discussion, that will happen in AI lab that gives them the confidence and, the you, know self-awareness, to be able to progress through those challenges do.
You Have kind of like a ten year game plan for mission you it seems like right now you. Might be going kind of the the uber Tesla, model where you start kind of premium and then you kind of widen out yeah what's. That what's the plan yeah, so one. I mean pencils of promise is in its tenth year and if you would have told me at the beginning when I was trying to build one school and writing you know my motorbike with the backpack and roll oust by myself that this. Year we'd likely break, around on our five hundred school I would, said that's insane and so you. Know I think it's challenging to project ten years out that said you, know the the ambition, is certainly within ten years for us to be in dozens of cities again. Everyone loads them in fifty miles so they can come together frequently but, the. 50-mile, radius allows for more affordability, than just having to be close to a downtown, campus so. We'll be in dozens of cities will be offering I would, imagine 10 plus majors, and. You, know I think 10 years from now. Parents. And children will. Essentially. Look at Mission, you and I assume others will follow our lead and create similar types of programs and it, will be a real, consideration for every student that you, know is considering. College whether they're scratching out of high school mid-career. Working. Adult is, do I go to the one of these traditional, four to six years that's a little bit outdated or, do I go through something like a mission you and it will just be part of the landscape of higher education, and are you convinced that going forward a classroom is the best kind of medium or setting to learn, I, think, it depends on how you define a classroom so. You, know a classroom does not need to have four physical, walls around it if. I showed you you. Know the engagement, of our students, it, looks like a Brady Bunch style, you know a set of screens our. Admissions process actually, replicates, that through a group challenge where we have total strangers design, actually. On Google. Drive. We. Give them an ambiguous challenge and then they actually build a presentation, in Google sheets together in 45 minutes and present it to our staffing or whole thing on Zoom and go and watch it back and so, you. Know I think, that to me is a version of a classroom what I would say is a, medium, through which individuals are able to communicate, in a live synchronous manner with. Intimacy, and honesty is, the best way to learn it's it's certainly better than doing it by yourself, unless you have a direct tutor so, some type of human engagement and that can be a classroom and in sorts you and another person and, you, know I don't think that large lecture halls are the way to do it but. I do think that there's tremendous power in these small group cohort based formats, in, particular behind, a screen where everything is being recorded and where you truly feel accountable I want. To move on to you briefly before we open it up to Q&A, are. There kind of habits, or philosophies, that kind of help you just perform at a high level every, day. Sure. I mean this is evolved you know in my. 20s it was like just putting as much work as I can and try, and respond to everything as fast as I can and you know make it the most of every opportunity and, like I'll sleep, when I'm dead you know that was kind of my I. Think now in my 30s and with you know a wife and two kids, I've. Really learned the. Value of self-care and so. For. Example if, I work out consistently, in a given week I fountain, by can I play basketball. Then. I, actually perform much better in the office if, I'm able to meditate for 10 to 15 minutes before the babies are up and then my house like goes, into you know all hell breaking loose, then.
I Feel much more grounded throughout the day I use. An app called cap, tio which allows me to just send a quick notes to myself and my inbox tends to be my to-do list and so I try and practice inbox, zero or, some form of it and. Then the other I, think is just treating people the way that you would want to be treated a building. A culture that really values, people. As people not just as numbers on your you. Know excel sheet of headcount roadmaps or your org chart and. Really focus, on growing those people into the best performing, individuals that they can and. The best people that they can leads, to a really rewarding work environment, and something, that you're excited to go into every day Thanks. What's, your why what's, the thing that drives, you. You. Know my my why is, quite. Simply that, by. Every statistical. I shouldn't, be here right, I mean my grandparents. Were. Meant to pass away in those concentration, camps if, anyone's read my book I'm semester, at sea my my cruise ship was hit by a 60-foot. Rogue wave 800 miles from land and we had this Titanic, s experience, where I was supposed to die that day and somehow I didn't and. So. I genuinely, feel. Like. This life for me is one in a trillion, and. So I need to do everything that I can to honor that and. You. Know both leave, the. Most positive mark that I can on as many people as possible and, now as a new father I realized. That at, the same time I have to balance. That with the, fact that the greatest mark that I can leave on the world is producing, great. Children and being great husband and great father and sibling so, those are the two things for me you know this kind of big scaled ambition, with, this very small one that I'm most happy when I'm just hanging out with my kids in their little room do, you have mentors, or, role models who've really helped you in affected you yeah, I mean I have a a, bunch of mentors, that. I've kind of gathered over the years you. Know one of them is a guy named Ray Chambers who is. Probably most responsible in the world for eradication of malaria became. A billionaire really, started, the leveraged. Buyout space, and I. Was at lunch at one point with a, guy named Randall Lane who's that or in chief of Forbes and he told me that maybe. 15 or 20 years I can remember how long but he was you, know not the editor in chief but he was running the Forbes 400 kind, of list, as his function at the company and Ray Chambers was on the list and he got a call the next day after I came out and this guy said, how do I get off the list I don't want to be on it and he said well you either have to lose the money or, give it away but we're gonna report it if you're that wealthy he said all right I'll be off by next year and. He committed you know his life to humanitarian, work and so, he's. Been an incredible mentor, and then you know certainly my family members I mean you know my dad my mom my sister my brother they're, the people as well as my wife that I talked to most about these decisions speaking. Of your family of a very high achieving family, you're Adams, brother actually, manages, Justin. Bieber among, many other artists, yeah a lot of people yeah. And a lot of people that's right do, you ever get competitive. Scooter about anything you guys took couldn't have taken more different, paths you're both very impressive, people but do you ever get competitive with them you. Know as kids we were super competitive I think, by the time we both had our kind of mid to late twenties we realized that we were just operating in such different spaces and the best, thing that we could do is just be, unbelievably. Proud of one another and try and support each other I think if you went to a Saturday morning basketball, game where we were playing on, opposite teams you would see us pretty competitive but, in most things we just try and support his one, another as much as we can awesome. Do, you guys have any questions let's. Open it up for Q&A and if you do please go to that mic right over there, I, resonated.
With A lot of what you said thanks. For speaking I. Was wondering if you, wouldn't mind sharing with us some things that you tried, or thought that might, work but ended up not working out mmm. Sure, I. Mean. It pencils, a promise you know Nicaragua, was the second country that we tried to expand into and. I, built a partnership with an organization there they kind of showed me the lay of the land we sent a small team down and. It will ultimately wasn't, successful for for two reasons the first was, the. Government was incredibly challenging you know we need to work with supportive governments because we build public schools the, second though was we did this deep analysis, and the population, density was very low and the cost of materials is very high so, what we saw was it was 2 to 3 X more expensive, to impact the same number of lives in that country than, it wasn't the other eventually, you, know three, to four other countries where we were working, and. That was really tough right I mean you know you start in a country you actually make a commitment, you build 20 schools then you have to say we're. Not gonna continue to expand and you know build our own teams there that that was really hard but I think it forced, an organizational, discipline and pencils of promise for. Sure you know with, Mission, you I mean anyone who likes our pitch, deck before there was even a company when it was just like a seed of an idea would. Tell you that the way it looks today is remarkably similar there's, only been one meaningful, change and that's that originally, we said we're gonna have four quarters and, those quarters were going to be hard skills in the first quarter sec soft, skills in the second technolon the third and then real world in the fourth and we realized. Right away that you actually can't divorce, hard skills from soft skills that they need to be taught in conjunction, and so we moved over to a trimester, model where that that first trimester is a deep dive on the foundation, and.
So A lot of it is is like that lean kind of mentality the tests in iterate and get feedback from your, consumers. Yeah. Thanks so much for coming it's very inspiring talk and I think this mission you. Concept. Is a really strong one so, I guess my, general question is this, this problem of crushing, student debt seems, to be a uniquely, American problem. Now it's wondering if if you during. Your research you looked at other countries and maybe could. Take away something like either boring stuff, that you could incorporate into mission you or are, there any this is sort of a private sector solution. To the education, problem and is there any role for the. US government, that. Absolutely. So, so right now there's a new, bill that's being formed that's probably the most significant. Restructuring. Of higher. Education, funding in the last 40 years so they're overhauling, essentially the Higher Education Act, and there's some stuff in there that I agree with there's some stuff that I don't, but. I think it direction it's actually a move in the right direction so one of the things is the. Reason, that we're in the position that we're in is a series of factors, but one of the important, ones that the government, has enabled is that, an individual, can essentially take out an unlimited line of credit at a very young age without any demonstrated. Capacity to be able to pay that back and we have this society that's kind of you know encouraged, through just societal, norms and expectations that you should do that and so, one, thing. That's, happened as a result is that there's, no. Market force that's creating, downward, pressure on how much colleges, can charge or any, accountability, to the value, of that College relative, to the cost so, for, example I can think of many not. Very good colleges that have terrible outcomes that charge the same amount as, a school, like Harvard all right and so that's like me being a car salesman and saying to you here's this you know Lamborghini, for $200,000. Or you, can get this really crappy old beat-up car that's actually not gonna drive very well but that's $200,000. As well and you should you. Know buy this one too so. I think that the to one hold, schools accountable to, outcomes and the best way to do that is through skin in the game some, type of income share based on student success the. Second is to actually realistically. Put a limit on how much a student can borrow and what, I think that will lead to is colleges, bringing. Their prices down and the result of that is that a lot of colleges are going to go out of business because they have unsustainable, business models, and that's actually I think a very good thing we. Need to have market. Forces in place that remove bad actors, that are putting, students, in positions of peril and you, know just because you're a non profit college doesn't mean you're actually helping people and, there's a lot that are actually hurting people so skin. In the game capping. Total, amounts that students, can can. Can. Take out and then the third is transparency, as to how much is actually gonna cost it's very hard if you're an 18 19 40. Year old and you're applying to college to actually get the clear information on how much it's eventually gonna cost you as well as the outcomes data of those colleges it's it's very convoluted they hide it and. Congress, needs to really move forward with an effort to, ensure greater transparency in the space. A. Lot, of forces, that would kind, of be operating, against those kind of reforms. Definitely. I mean it's challenging, because you have one of the most entrenched systems, in our culture as. Well as our capital allocation, in the country but. What it's led to is a position, that's completely unsustainable I mean I read a report from the Brookings Institute, which is as you know, nonpartisan. Objective. And well researched. As possible, that came out last week that, projected, that forty, percent of, today's college students, will default, on their loans by 2030, I mean, it's insane, so.
We, Need to have. Some type of really, meaningful change and as an entrepreneur I look at problems like this and I say, you. Know if not me then who Thanks. Thanks. For the presentation I. Think. The. Problem. That machine, news Sol's which is about. How. To actually deliver education. In a system which is not exactly. Built. For. The. Huge population, is. Probably going to apply for the, kind of country. In which pencils, for promise operates, in do. You see how. Technology, as, a. Medium, for instruction, can be actually scaled, to developing, countries and oh yeah 100% I mean. What. Exactly are the challenges that are preventing, it from happening, as of, today okay. It's. A great question. One. When I took about that 10-year vision I mean when I say worldly in dozens of cities around the world many. Of them should be international, so 18 percent of our applicants, are international. You, have to have a visa to work in the u.s. because we need to recuperate our investment. In you through you. Know livable wages and so, we. Can't take those students on currently but we've. Had applicants from dozens. Of other countries I recently gave a talk in Singapore, about this and the main question from all these representatives, of different countries was how soon can this come here and. So we certainly have ambitions, scale globally, I think you, know right now part, of the challenge is, the. Ability to deliver live, synchronous education. Over low bandwidth, internet. But that's increasing, exponentially. Every single day right and. So. I actually spent the full, year in 2015, I was leading, the. Largest digital. Initiative, called the global education platform, for, the UN, Special Envoy for education, which is Gordon Brown the former Prime Minister of the UK and in. That year what I spent you know observing, and seeing was this huge proliferation, of mobile across. The developing world and so what, I would see at scale is people, being able to actually have these experiences, on mobile in. The types of environments, where you, know pencils of promise has historically, weren't. Hi. My name is Terry I'm from China. We. Are facing the same issue in China if it's not worse so, I'm truly inspired by your talk today and thank you for sharing in the great work. In. If that model works for, mission you do, you think it might work for high school as well because. I see I see no point now if, we go to college pay expensive, tuition and nothing but high school is preparing, for that entry examination, and for nothing that's that's, four years. Greatly. Wasted, so maybe we yes younger, and without wasting any time and make, put. In Jack Hope in these children's, eyes yeah, yeah, I think, our curricular. Approach, certainly. Can be adopted at the high school level I don't know about the income share agreement because you, know some people do want to work directly at the end of high school but.
You Know I think the curricular approach certainly can be adopted by public and private schools the. Kind of project based and certainly the blended learning the technology, can. And should be used in that capacity as well. Compensation, I mean all the the, payback part is, not only measured by the income. You. Know for us there's also what, we would consider NPS, and that promoter score that's, actually just as critical in in our minds we need you, know to create an environment in which our students are the single greatest evangelist, of our program and eventually they become really the stewards for additional, innovation, within education, it's what you've seen with Teach for America for, example is, you know they've certainly seen success. They've also had controversy, but directionally incredible, success and. Not. Only the success within those schools in which they've taught but you know they're alums have gone out and become stewards for an incredible, amount of new initiatives that have had a truly global impact, and that that for us is absolutely. Critical to long-term success. Thank. You guys I. Mean it's really an honor to be here and as, I alluded to Google. Really powers a lot of what we do without even a formalized, partnership, in place just by the tools and technology that you all have built but we're. Really excited to. Hopefully build, something even, more powerful with you all and to the extent that anyone's interested please just email. Me we'd. Love to whether. It's you know kind of be a case study or even just a guinea pig for new things that you guys are developing because, we have a team that's really eager to work, with folks like you all to bring more. Successful. And, outcomes driven education, to people all around the world we, have some books as well if you want to stick around and pick those up everybody. Please give a round. Of applause for Adam. You.