Startup That Puts Diplomas On the Blockchain Raises $3 Million

MIT-linked startup Learning Machine has secured $3 million in seed funding to put digital diplomas on the blockchain.

AccessTimeIconMay 7, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:54 a.m. UTC
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Learning Machine, the blockchain startup co-developed a system for putting digital diplomas on the blockchain with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has raised $3 million.

The seed funding round was led by PTB Ventures with additional involvement from Omidyar Network and Learn Capital. The funding comes months after MIT unveiled that it had partnered with Learning Machine on the digital diploma initiative, which is based on the open-source Blockcerts standard.

Last fall saw other academic institutions and organizations launch their own Blockcerts-based pilots, including the University of Melbourne and Malta's government. That software tool, according to Learning Machine vice president of business development Natalie Smolenski, can be used to link academic certifications to different blockchains – including bitcoin and ethereum – with the goal of eliminating degree forgery.

The startup hopes to allow clients to use any blockchain they want she said, noting that some customers might prefer a public chain versus a private one.

"Right now in part I think because blockchain technology is still relatively new, there are a lot of high or strong emotions about which blockchain is better than another and blockchain has kind of engendered these fierce loyalties," she said, adding:

"We don’t want to pick winners with blockchain. We do generally recommend users pick blockchains with a proven record but ultimately you don’t want to prescribe to customers which blockchain they should use. If they have strong feelings about ethereum, they should use ethereum; if they have strong feelings on bitcoin, they should use bitcoin; if they have strong feelings on a private blockchain they should use a private blockchain."

Smolenski went on to predict that educational institutions will increase their use of the technology – adding that she hopes they will learn toward tapping open-source projects.

"This is the future," she told CoinDesk. "By 2020 most institutions will be using blockchains in some way, shape or form and the question we have to answer right now is are the solutions going to be open-standard or are they going to be proprietary?"

Graduation caps image via Shutterstock


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