Haas Alumnus Alexandre Scialom, MBA 06, won $50,000 in an education case competition last month for his idea to connect lifelong learners to online and offline learning resources.
Scialom took the $25,000 first prize and the $25,000 Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources in the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. There were about 200 submissions to the competition, which aims to stimulate entrepreneurship in education and connect social entrepreneurs to venture capitalists and other funders interested in improving education.
Scialom's winning business, called theCourseBook, allows users to easily search for and find third-party learning resources online and offers guidance to support their professional and personal development, based on interests, peers, and location. The idea behind the business was inspired by Anna Belak, BS 06, a friend and Berkeley-Haas alumna. Belak tries to take a class outside of work every semester either for professional or personal development but has found the research process tedious, time consuming, and sometimes unfruitful.
"People have to go to each school's website, so it's really hard to compare," says Scialom. "We want to make it really easy for them to find the right information."
TheCourseBook website, envisioned to ultimately work similar to Yelp with student reviews, is currently in its beta stage, with more than 2,000 courses from 13 Bay Area organizations. Scialom plans to generate revenue by taking a percentage of course fees generated through his site.
"The next big step for me is to raise money to build a team to work on the project," he says.
Scialom was one of 23 members of the 2011 inaugural class of the Kauffman Labs Education Venture Program, an incubator that helped him develop his business. He trained as an engineer in France, researched space robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, and was a consultant at Accenture in Paris for three years. Fascinated by the stories he was hearing about Silicon Valley, he moved to the Bay Area in 2004.
After earning his Berkeley MBA, Scialom joined Box.net, an online file storage service, as the company's fifth employee and first "businessperson." He spearheaded Box.net's transition from the consumer to the enterprise market and worked on the company's overall strategy, product roadmap, and marketing activities.