Experiments in Edtech – Interview with Saku Tuominen, CEO of Scool

The Redefining School program, which covered the challenges of education, was featured at Slush 2015. Among the speakers was Saku Tuominen, CEO and Co-Founder of Scool. Scool aims to find the best practices in education and share all the insights and know-how with the world, for free.

As Tuominen said in his speech at Slush, the challenges of future education are huge. The world outside of school is changing so fast that it is difficult for schools to keep up with the pace of development. What are the skills needed in the future that schools should be teaching? What kind of people should be facilitating teaching process? What are the best spaces for education like?

Furthermore, globalization brings important matters like growing inequalities, global warming and digitalization on the table, and if education is to contribute to today’s world, teachers’ expertise plays an important role.

Saku Tuominen talks about his journey founding Scool and the need for disruption in education.

Saku Tuominen, Scool was founded in early 2015, backed by $1M. How hard was it to find funding, and what advice would you give to people who are trying to raise it?

Getting funding is always hard work, as it should be. People complain about this way too much. We should always remember that if someone is backing you with a big sum of money, they are the ones who are willing to take the risk and you should highly respect their position. My advice is simple. Create something that you passionately love and believe in it. Invest all your available money, time and passion in it and look for funding only when you have run out of your own resources. If you are not willing to invest everything you have in your venture, why would anyone else do it? For me it’s all about the basics – be humble, ambitious, trustworthy and really hardworking.

Before Scool you have set up other enterprises as well. How did you get interested in education and come up with the idea of Scool?

I have been an entrepreneur all my life. I am an idealist, I want to the change the world, and there aren’t many things as meaningful and as interesting as the future of education.

The mission of Scool is to develop learning formats for teachers that help bridge the gap between schools and the outside world. What do you see as the biggest challenge for the development of education?

Our mission is to help schools change. We want to do it by creating ambitious and scalable learning formats. Almost everyone in the field of education agrees that there is a big need for this change but the key question is, how to do it in practice? The biggest challenge is that the global education market is full of silos and gatekeepers. We believe that one of the best and the fastest ways is via simple and scalable innovations that have been validated in a competitive market like Finland.

The emphasis of Scool is to bring real-world relevance and learning skills such as curiosity and critical thinking into classrooms all around the world. What skills do you see as most crucial for better learning and why?

Again, this is a very complicated and broad question. There are many things that schools are doing extremely well at the moment. It’s not about changing everything, it’s all about the balance. Let’s keep something what works but at the same time add something bold and new. In general, I think schools should teach not only academic skills but also a growth mindset and educate kids who can manage in an ever-changing world, no matter what happens.

You have IDEO and education expert Sir Ken Robinson on board. How did you accomplish this?

Finland is one of the world leaders in education. If you have an ambitious, bold and credible concept, you can get almost everyone on board. But these people are also world-class thinkers and doers. In order to impress them, you have to do things that they genuinely respect. So again, be ambitious, humble and hardworking.

What has been the most challenging step in building Scool?

The biggest challenge is inside our own heads: how to think really big daily? All the decisions we make can be either cautious and small or bold and ambitious. For us, the biggest challenge is how to be truly world-class every single day, in every single detail.

What are your plans for the next years, and where do you see Scool in 2020?

We have really clear goals for every quarter of 2016 and 2017, but overall our goal is to be one of the leading experts on the revolution of education by 2020 globally. It takes a huge amount of work to make it happen, but I have no doubts. We will be there.

 

Slush is the biggest startup and investor event in Northern Europe, organized in November in Helsinki, Finland.  This article was originally posted at slush.org.

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