We spoke to Hristian Daskalov, Co-Founder & Project Lead of OS.University to find out how the way in which qualifications and academic achievements are recorded can be reimagined through blockchain technology.
Hristian is an award-winning doctoral researcher in the field of management and innovations, author of the books Stakeholder Management in Higher Education, Research & Innovation (2015) and Academia 4.0 – University on the Blockchain (2018).
He is affiliated with the Center for Open Science and the Brain Workshop Institute (Sofia) and has experience as a consultant with the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, having worked on the development of the National Strategy for Smart Specialization and having served on the committee behind the Operational Program for Education & Science – a 500 million euro financial instrument.
At OS.university he works to bridge the gap between fintech and edtech innovations. “OS.UNIVERSITY” is an award-winning decentralized platform, aiming to provide self-sovereign educational & career identity through blockchain.
Describe the company: what would be your elevator pitch?
OS.University is the first of its kind education and career development ledger. The decentralized platform serves as a smart ledger for authentication of achievements, using blockchain to verify academic credentials and connect students with academic and professional development opportunities.
On the platform, learners create a digital wallet featuring verified education and work credentials. From here, they connect with educators and businesses to find global academic and career development opportunities. schools and universities are offered a faster, transparent and more cost-effective means of sharing and checking credentials, while businesses are provided with instant access to a global pool of talent with traceable credentials for smarter recruitment. OS.University is currently part of the University of College London’s edtech incubator.
How are you different?
OS.University is revolutionizing the way 7 billion people develop academically and grow professionally. This is the first of its kind global higher education and professional development platform, based on the Ethereum blockchain. It serves two functions that really haven’t been possible before:
- As a distributed database that enables academia, learners, and businesses to record and verify educational and professional development credentials. This, in turn, will enable businesses to locate suitably qualified learners.
- As a global marketplace upon which high quality academic and L&D offerings will be made available, bought and sold with our EDU Token that will enable transactions and will be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges.
Why will you do well?
The OS.University project team has the potential to bridge the gap between academia, business and learners (it is in our R&D roadmap). We have a team that is well versed and has proven experience in the fields of education and blockchain (see team section below).
Where are you based?
The legal entity behind OS.University, i.e. ReChained Ltd., is incorporated in Republic of Bulgaria (European Union) where our blockchain development team is based. There is a broader consortium of partners working on the Open Source University project that includes private companies such as Cobden Partners (UK), a renowned provider of financial consultancy services based in London. Our team extends to include experts from around the world including China, Pakistan, Singapore, and India.
When was the company launched?
The company was launched in 2015.
What have been your biggest wins to date?
We’re proud of how far our platform has come, from the ideation phase in 2015 to the launch of our token and successful prototyping. Some more specific achievements include:
- From a corporate and social perspective, our R&D project has been recognized by Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s global community as one of world’s top 10 social innovation ideas and was awarded by AIESEC and their partners from Ernst & Young as an innovative solution to enable better information coordination relationships between academia and businesses.
- From an academic perspective, our project has been peer-reviewed by the European scientific community and featured in journals in Bulgaria, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. In addition, Sony Global Education and Open University are working on smaller-scale blockchain-based edtech solutions of experimental and commercial character to assist in addressing the challenges that we have successfully identified and that we’re systematically resolving with the global launch of the OS.University platform.
- OS.University was the first project to introduce ”blockchain for education” to the academic world by publishing ”Academia 4.0 – University on the blockchain”.
- OS.University is the first blockchain project to join the edtech incubator of University College London (UCL) called ”Educate London”. The key organizations behind the incubator are the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), which represents the best UK edtech businesses worldwide.
- OS.University was just awarded as runner-up at the ”The Blocks” global awards ceremony in the ”Blockchain for Social Good” category.
Who are you trying to attract to your product?
As our tech bridges the gap between businesses and education through blockchain, OS.University is relevant to a number of core audiences.
- Universities & MOOCs
- Recruitment & HR (instant access to a global pool of talent with traceable credentials, enabling smart recruitment)
- Students & Employees (customized educational opportunities, validified accomplishments)
What tips would you give to others looking to build their business?
Our tips include:
- Pay close attention to the legal structure that surrounds your project.
- Raise your own understanding of the surrounding environment and embedded problems and opportunities. This could include conducting preliminary research and coalition-building efforts as a foundation for the sustainability of the project.
- Value-oriented communication and collaboration are essential. Understand what is driving participation in the project from both a personal and broad social perspective. This involves two-way communication with stakeholders.
- Setting up your project requires a strategy or consistent execution and ongoing planning. This strategic setup requires the application of proven management practices and a comprehensive network strategy.
- Community is key! Take the time to write about your project/business, make videos, or engage on social media – whatever it takes to make sure that your community can access detailed information about your project.
Tell us about your team?
Our team consists of renowned academics, senior corporate executives, experienced public sector leaders, blockchain evangelists and social game-changers united by the common drive to revolutionize the world of learning and professional development.
Project Lead, Hristian Daskalov
Hristian specializes in researching the collaboration around open source blockchain technology projects at the Technical Universities of Sofia, Riga, and Brno. Recently on a European Commission-funded project in London, he worked on bridging the gap between fintech and edtech innovations, together with Cobden Partners, our UK-based partner. Leading an international team of 20+ renowned academics, technologists, business and NGO leaders, Hristian has previously been part of the operational management team behind a multi-billion dollar growth-oriented program at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and has participated in the governance and execution of a wide range of transformation-related programs.
Tech Lead, Jordan Jambazov
Jordan has over ten years of experience within the software development field and is the co-founder of IO Era, an IT consultancy firm. He’s an expert in organizing and leading academic courses and initiatives, including hackathons.
In addition, we have a great team of advisors who are experts in their fields as well as strong partnerships with international universities, and the top recruitment company in Bulgaria. Advisors include the former minister of education and science for the Republic of Bulgaria, the head of the Bulgarian HR Association, and head of industrial management at the Technical University of Sofia. To see a full team and advisory roster and detailed bios, please visit the team section of our website.
What are your plans for the future?
After launching in 2015, we started with solid academic research, followed by a proof-of-concept stage and relationship building with corporate partners from the Bulgarian industry and software development sectors. Today there is a dedicated research center at TU Sofia, turning OS.University into world’s first academia-powered crypto project. Our ultimate goal, culminating in 2020, is a truly global ecosystem of educators, learners, and business expanding on the distributed blockchains beyond European Ethereum.
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
Our team uses daily “scrums” and regular meetings to improve company operations. We love using project management tools like Open Project and Trello to facilitate our workflow.
What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
As a global team, we rely on collaboration software for long-distance remote work to make sure we’re productive. As such, we’re excited to see the advancement of VR and AR technologies to create richer immersive experiences that can help our distributed global team act and feel like we’re in the same room together.
Anything else you’d like to add?
People sometimes ask “How do you prove impact?”. In other words, how do we show the positive impact of our business on our user base and society as a whole? People rarely speak about this, because it’s not an easy thing to answer.
We at OS.University work on the subject with UCL and we are actively trying to utilize and promote the concept of applying “theory of change” in the blockchain and edtech industries. The ”theory of change” is essentially a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. Many teams and projects promise disruption, reinvention of how things are done for centuries, how industries operate, but do they actually know how to prove or measure change, impact? The general answer is: no. Even if they know the theory, they do not really provide too much data to back the bold claims. As a result, there is a lot of blockchain and technology skepticism among the general audience, investors, policy makers, etc. Hopefully, as a result of our pioneering work in the field, we will lower the levels of skepticism and bring actual change with our technology.
The development team is working on a test-driven way and the OS.University project is open. You can install and run it yourself if you want to take part in the platform development (access our GitHub repo – https://github.com/OpenSourceUniversity/platform ). The dev team merges some of the pull requests from the community, therefore, we had a fully open source project.
How do people get in touch with you?
We’re active on social media and love to connect with people who want to learn more about our platform or just chat! All our social links are on our website, but a few key ones are:
Or, reach out to us over email at [email protected]