This has been my favorite project of my career so far. In the end, we made the tough decision to shut it down, but I still look back on this experience with fondness. To tell you this story, let me explain our original mission...
It's no secret that our education system is in bad shape, and one of the biggest problems is the issue of credentialing: unless your credentials come from a recognizable brand, they are effectively useless. As a result, millions of people are excluded from accessing useful credentials.
This is a problem of trust.
Because there's no globally trusted system for earning and issuing credentials, we have to rely on trusted intermediaries to establish trust... we have to rely on silly things like brand recognition instead of educational merit.
Not only does this massively skew the priorities of our educational institutions, but it also creates a system where a small set of schools can dominate the market and charge insane prices. The majority of the top 20 US colleges cost over $60,000 per year to attend.
This is the issue we sought to tackle when we set out to build 101.
We called our solution "on-chain learning": a platform for building and taking online courses that issue non-transferrable blockchain credentials.
When you learned something on 101, the course content and the evidence that you passed would both be permanently stored on-chain and shareable with anyone in the world.
Instead of having to trust educational institutions, we can just look directly at the blockchain to see what was learned. It's all transparent.
On-chain learning allows anyone to build a reputation as a student or educator, regardless of how well-known they are. With this method, everyone can have access to useful credentials.
As soon as we launched our product, we knew we had something special. It was March 2021 and although it was barely functional, we were slammed with interest from web3 communities interested to try it out.
Over the next two years we would grow to become a team of six people, with 2.2 million dollars of fundraising, serving over half a million users and two hundred different communities.
Here's what the product looked like: (please excuse my dweeby introduction) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF0UdW9iD_w
We were really proud of what we built and the impact we made, but unfortunately it wasn't enough. In the end, our original bet didn't play out.
Here's the message I shared with our community:
We built a web3 education platform believing the industry would mature in time for us to have a sizable market. It's been two years now, and although the space has made strides forward, it does not offer a meaningful market for our product.
We considered a pivot, ditching the web3 elements and embracing AI-generated tutorials, but we decided that such a product was so different from what we'd built that it would require completely different insights, expertise, and enthusiasm.
We are not building for the sake of building. We are building to change the world in the ways that excite and inspire us. And with that constraint in mind, there was no clear path ahead. So instead of wasting resources, we've decided to refund our investors and shut things down.
The past two years have been an incredible journey for myself and the rest of the team. It's always sad to shut things down, but I'll always look back on this time with fondness. We learned so much and met so many incredible people. To everyone who's been a part of our journey: thank you.