He Who Must Be Humbled

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 15 2000 - 23:33:38 PST

Even if I have to do it myself...


PS, Hey, Adam, Rajiv Gupta's on the cover of SiliconIndia, too. Nice
day to be alive, eh?

March 16, 2000
Billionaire Plans Online University
$100 Million Gift for Free Courses


35-year-old software billionaire said yesterday that he would spend
$100 million to realize his vision of 21st century higher education:
a giant free Web site that would provide access to what he calls the
"10,000 greatest minds of our time," in lectures and interviews
recorded especially for the venture.

Michael Saylor, the chief executive of MicroStrategy, a technology
company in northern Virginia, said in an interview that his goal was
"free education for everyone on earth, forever." And he envisions his
institution will eventually grant degrees in countless disciplines,
based on final exams that would be administered once a month in
convention halls around the world, with grading done by computer
whenever possible.

Mr. Saylor is an unabashed self-promoter who rented the Washington
Redskins' stadium in January for a Super Bowl party for his employees
and friends. Yet, he is worth enough money on paper -- $11.7 billion
at the close of stock trading yesterday -- that his idea, however
grandiose, cannot be immediately dismissed.
Mr. Saylor's donation, which he intends to make in the form of cash
and stock to his foundation, comes at a time when almost every
American university is developing online offerings of its courses --
each one chipping away at the notion that a university must have
bricks and mortar and a physically present student body to be

But with students at Saylor U. -- he actually has not come up with a
formal name, but says it will have "Dot-com" in it -- requiring
nothing more than a computer to enroll, his effort would take online
education a step further, undermining a university's very franchise
in charging admission for access to knowledge and expertise.

Mr. Saylor's spending plans would rank near the top of other online efforts.

A group of investors, including Michael R. Milken, the dethroned
junk-bond financier, also says it will spend as much as $100 million
to start an online, for-profit university called Unext, which would
feature course content from professors at the University of Chicago
and elsewhere.

At his online university, Mr. Saylor imagines Bill Clinton teaching
politics, Warren Buffett lecturing on investing and Steven Spielberg
demonstrating filmmaking -- all in 30-hour video packages, with
questions anticipated, and answered, in advance. So far, he has not
recruited a single instructor, but he does not intend to pay them a
dime. He says they will be drawn to his television studio by the
opportunity to make their thoughts available to the world for

"It's a work in progress," a spokesman said yesterday. "It's
impossible to say in certitude what the details are."

Mr. Saylor, whose plan was first described yesterday in an article in
The Washington Post, planned to announce his effort formally at a
business conference today in Washington. But his scheme was already
reverberating through the halls of higher education yesterday.

Stanley Ikenberry, the former president of the University of
Illinois, said he applauded Mr. Saylor's idealism, but was concerned
that the lectures at Mr. Saylor's university would be, in effect,

"If you believe that higher education is simply content mastery, then
you can put that in a can," said Mr. Ikenberry, the president of the
American Council on Education, a nonprofit organization representing
1,800 colleges and universities. "But higher education is so much
more than that. It involves judgment, analysis, synthesis,
communication, creativity and innovation, which are the things that
human beings do best."

Mr. Saylor embarked on his road to wealth while working at DuPont
soon after his graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in the late 1980's. It was then that he and several
friends started MicroStrategy, a company that, before long, had
created software that McDonald's, Victoria's Secret and Kmart, among
others, were using to tabulate detailed analyses of sales and

The company's sales last year were $200 million and, in a decade, it
has grown to nearly 2,000 employees from 4.

Mr. Saylor imagines that his company's future lies in a world where
the Jetsons would feel at home: personally-tailored information --
like a disembodied voice reporting that a doctor's appointment or
flight has been canceled -- that would be broadcast directly to
people through their car radios and cellular phones, which would then
offer them an instant opportunity to respond.

Wall Street, at least, thinks it is hardly science fiction:
MicroStrategy's stock has rocketed in less than a year from $7 a
share to nearly $268.625 at the market's close yesterday.
Asked if his announcement was intended to draw as much attention to
himself as to his intentions, Mr. Saylor said he did not think the
question was relevant, suggesting that Michelangelo's greatness was
not compromised because he signed his paintings.
"It's a great way to combine self-interest and charitable
humanitarian activities," he said. "Everyone wins."

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Mar 15 2000 - 23:35:17 PST