Lithuania-based startup BitDegree has an education platform that it hopes will change the face of technology training and skills.
Its idea is that companies looking for certain skills will put up financial incentives to developers and other would-be techies willing to participate in relevant training courses.
In return for studying, students receive tokens based on their results and can spend them to develop their skills further. The company has created its own token, the BitDegree (BDG), with BDG10,000 currently valued at one ethereum.
The BitDegree platform is based on blockchain. The company received ETH32,500 ($31m) from contributors during a token crowdsale in December.
It aims to open up technology courses to everyone, regardless of their income, to address skills shortages, Andrius Putna, co-founder and CEO, tells ZDNet.
Electronic Arts co-founder Jeff Burton and former Coursera senior manager Roberto Santana are on the BitDegree advisory board.
Tokens act as an incentive for people to continue their education, Putna says: "Students can also earn them by mentoring others. Or they can pay for mentorship using the tokens they have."
Companies interested in hiring techies can design courses and award scholarships. The platform already lists seminars on Solidity, a programming language used for writing smart contracts on the ethereum blockchain.
This year, it plans to host various other courses, including bitcoin and cryptocurrency, Python, data structures and algorithms, robotics, building Android apps, as well as cybersecurity.
BitDegree hopes to appeal to low-income students and to people living in countries with insufficient access to high-quality education in technology, who could be hired by companies as remote workers. "Education should be available to anyone," Putna says.
There are several reasons why the team decided to use blockchain technology. First, they wanted to test if their startup could draw money from potential customers interested in buying BitDegree tokens through an initial coin offering.
Then, handing out tokens to students as smart incentives should work as a gamification tool. Third, blockchain is transparent, and the startup wants to issue reliable certificates of achievements.
The team is now focusing on building the community. "Anyone who joins the BitDegree platform as a student, instructor, mentor or employer will use tokens as a mean of exchange," Putna says.
"The more participants there are, the bigger chance of a project becoming a success. We're hoping to become the largest education community online."
Danielius Stasiulis, co-founder of BitDegree, tells ZDNet that the blockchain technology is giving Eastern European startups a fighting chance on the global market.
"There's lack of money in the region; there's no VC culture. Blockchain allows startups to raise money through initial coin offerings, thus crowdfunding their projects," he says.
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