In 2011, Sebastian Thrun, Professor at Stanford University and Vice President at Google, introduced his course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” to the Internet. The computer scientist and robotics specialist had a utopia: that of democratising education through the Internet: That’s why he and two other robotics researchers founded Udacity – an online university – which today is visited by more than ten million people. While companies such as Facebook, Apple, Cisco, SAP and Microsoft are discovering education as a business field for themselves, universities in Germany are just starting to develop learning software and portals and often struggle with headwinds from their own ranks: Digital learning has no place in the mindset of many professors, and is sometimes even regarded as unscientific. Germany is lagging behind – as is often the case – when it comes to digitisation. Even the renowned distance learning university in Hagen, where one would expect the most suitable e-learning concepts, sends documents twice a year by truck fleet through Germany. More than 70,000 students receive their study material printed on paper at the beginning of the semester. While Udacity was founded in the USA, two young men in Germany – economist Leo Marose and IT systems architect Stefan Berntheisel – built their first company: The online magazine BOXROX, with which they not only generated several million page impressions per month, but also won international advertising customers such as Adidas, Reebok or Nike and – collected a lot of data.
The oil of our time: data!
Data, as they both know, is an absolute growth market. The Big Data market is estimated to be over 61 billion dollars in 2020 – with an annual growth rate of 30 percent. Companies know this too and want to remain competitive. Through their own experience, but also through reports from other entrepreneurs, the two founders became aware that although companies have collected a lot of this data – often referred to as “big data” – they often do not know what to do with it. In addition, it is becoming more and more difficult to find the talents in the market who really know their stuff. “The most beautiful record is irrelevant if you can’t read in it.” explains Marose. “That’s why the demand for data experts for big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence is growing rapidly,” adds Berntheisel. The two bloggers therefore had the idea to dedicate themselves to the training of data scientists and data analysts. With Professor Dr. Hannes Rothe – who teaches business informatics at Freie Universität Berlin – and the incubator ProFund at FU Berlin, the duo found several supporters from the academic world.
Their vision became reality – the former publishers developed the learning platform dataX Academy, from which the start-up – Stackfuel – emerged. Their platform was a complete success: After Marose and Berntheisel also won first place in the Berlin-Brandenburg business plan competition, they also won the special prize for digital education from the Federal Ministry of Economics in 2017. In the following years, the company was also awarded the title “Most Innovative Training Provider / HR Innovation Award” at Zukunft Personal and received an award from the innovation initiative “Land of Ideas” of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Stackfuel gives answers to questions like: How to turn large data into smart data? How do you use Big Data? How do I visualize data so that decision makers understand it?
Cross-border fields of application
In their courses, students will work on questions from the fields of marketing, geography, human resources, customer data from various industries, financial and stock markets, IoT data, product evaluations, automotive and logistics, among others.
Theory and learning by digital doing – what universities could learn
The teaching at educational institutions is considered authoritarian, outdated and not very creative. This analogous, outdated form of teaching is now known as “frontal teaching” and means that one person speaks at the front while many are bored at the back.
Joy of learning
The idea of the entrepreneur duo was also a new form of teaching: The handling of raw data should not only be taught in theory, but also tested in complex data sets by means of exciting exercises. In your tool the work with large amounts of data – using the programming language Python – is practically worked out. The concept is a model for success: large companies such as Telefónica and Daimler are already using the B2B offer to train their staff. But even small and medium-sized companies from the most diverse regions of Germany are now relying on StackFuel training.
Stackfuel trains the data experts of tomorrow
In the online trainings the participants receive real data sets and their own programming environments. Realistic exercises are given, for example questions like: Where in New York can you expect the highest demand for taxis? Stackfuel provides more than 1.1 billion real data points for the answer, which are used to work with. Whether beginner or already an expert who wants to deepen his knowledge – there are appropriate trainings for everyone. Stackfuel always provides the entire technical infrastructure for the learning environment – in addition to the large data sets, it also provides the necessary computing power: each participant has his own computing capacity and environment, just like data sets.
Interactive, digital and full of realistic scenarios
In contrast to the outdated frontal teaching, Stackfuel teaching consists of 10% theoretical instruction and 90% practical exercises. Boredom does not arise during the digital lessons, in which videos are shown, puzzles solved and further texts are handed out. In the weekly live webinar, questions are discussed together and the acquired knowledge is deepened. The StartUp’s offer picks up everyone where they are with their knowledge: There is a beginner’s program, which creates a basic awareness of the new data-driven thinking and clarifies how problems with data can be solved, up to expert courses, which want to refresh or deepen their knowledge in the interactive Data Labs. A teaching concept which could serve as a model for state educational institutions.