Mike a serial social entrepreneur, Ashoka Fellow, and Harvard MBA who has previously created successful internet-based companies in telecoms and finance as well as online education, has had the challenges of accessing education imprinted on him from an early age. The first of his family to attend college, and engaged in entrepreneurial ventures since childhood, Mike was accepted to Harvard Business School at age 23. The school suggested he spend a year gaining experience before enrolling as he was much younger than the rest of the students. Faced with a year of waiting, Mike wrote a letter to a well-known businessman in Ireland, and talked his way into an extended apprenticeship. Mike offered him a deal—he would shadow him and learn the tricks of business success, in order to one day move back to the west of Ireland and contribute to building the community there.
An entrepreneur within both the social and business sectors and an accomplished musician, Mike moved from the U.S. where he created and sold a successful telecom business called Yac. Mike’s insights with ALISON, a free online certification program, draws from his extensive experience working in e-learning, primarily through a company he founded called Advance Learning, which offered per diem online curriculum. On a gamble, he took the US$1M worth of Advance Learning content and made it free online. He notes “The day I learned about the Internet was the day I knew what would allow me to move back to the west of Ireland.”
Today ALISON's unique model has earned the company many accolades and awards including a UNESCO Award for Innovation in ICT for Education along with recognition from national governments, NGO’s and international media, among these The Economist, BBC, and NY Times. The company was recently ranked as one of Europe’s top 20 e-learning companies in the EdTech rankings. This week the social enterprise gains one more accolade as World Innovation Summit for Education Awardee.
Welcoming the announcement, Mike said: “Winning this prestigious award is a terrific achievement for all involved with ALISON. There is a lot of hype about free learning worldwide but clearly the sustained strength, growth and popularity of ALISON is what is earning us the recognition as one of the true leaders for the future of global education. We are very grateful to our millions of learners worldwide who have made this possible”.