Accrediting as a service and the future of alternative degrees

Woolf's multimillion-dollar fundraise is a reminder of the importance of effectiveness

Joshua Broggi believes that three new colleges need to be created every single day, for the next decade, in order to adequately meet demand from students. So, he is building Woolf, what he claims is the first software platform that can launch and manage an accredited digital college.

Woolf wants to take off “the sophisticated burden” of accreditation, or recognition that an institution fits certain criteria and standards, from younger institutions or programs — ranging from tech bootcamps to an entirely virtual business school. Similar to how the University of California (UC) system brings together a group of prestigious universities under one brand, Woolf wants to be the “UC” for lesser-known institutions that want to level up their curricula and offer credits at the same time. So far, Woolf is working with seven pilot customers across seven countries.

Broggi’s vision of accreditation as a service, and this early traction, helped the startup land a $7.5 million seed round led by Todd Jackson at First Round Capital, with participation from investors such as Connect Ventures’ Sitar Teli, IOVC’s Shuonan Chen, All Access Fund’s Shaan Puri and Tribe Capital’s Jonathan Hsu.

The debate around accreditation often focuses on two extremes: the people who don’t believe in the power of a four-year degree and the people who think accreditation is the only way to succeed. I think that is an oversimplification; there is more of an overlap that you’d imagine when it comes to how entrepreneurs are viewing the future of education.

Case in point: Woolf University isn’t competing with the cadre of startups offering non-accredited alternatives to education. Instead, Woolf wants to make them future customers.

When it comes to fundraising or types of capital, optionality has been the term du jour in the current tech environment. And the same goes when we’re talking about the types of education pathways that a student should have access to. Broggi’s key argument here is that many tech bootcamps, or newer colleges, will eventually need to provide an accredited option in order to continue attracting customers.

Ethos-wise, it seems like both camps agree that it’s important to offer students a variety of resources because traditional, one-size-fits-all learning isn’t effective. Strive School, led by Tobia De Angelis, was launched in response to the outdated STEM course material taught in European industries. Even though a majority of universities in Europe are low cost or free to attend, he argued that accessibility doesn’t equate to effectiveness. He raised millions of dollars to prove why more options are needed.