Learning Machine Acquired by Hyland: A Milestone for Privacy-Tech

By Subhashish Bhadra, Principal, Omidyar Network

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Nearly two years ago, we were fortunate to embark on a journey alongside Chris Jagers, Dan Hughes, Natalie Smolenski and their team, to provide self-owned, privacy-protecting digital credentials to individuals. The company they founded, Learning Machine, partners with governments, companies, and school systems to deploy secure credentialing systems that leverage the blockchain as a secure anchor of trust. These digital records are recipient owned, tamper proof, and instantly verifiable anywhere in the world.

This past week, that journey entered its next phase of growth when Hyland, a leading content services provider, acquired Learning Machine. The acquisition will enable Hyland’s existing and prospective clients, across different sectors and geographies, to use this privacy-protecting, document authentication product. Therefore, the vision and technological innovation of Learning Machine’s team is now going to play out on a much wider canvas.

We couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for the Learning Machine team! When we first invested in the company in April 2018, people were still discussing whether self-sovereign identity could ever become a reality. Many others were skeptical about whether a good business could be built using privacy as a core thesis. It would be safe to say that Learning Machine’s success has begun to answer those questions.

Over the past two years, Learning Machine has had solid revenue growth, having significantly expanded its presence among universities across the globe. At the same time, the company has shown how individuals can be put in control of their data. Its trailblazing journey in privacy-tech has also provided valuable lessons for other innovations.

The sheer geographic diversity of Learning Machine’s clients shows that demand for privacy-tech is coming in from across the globe. Today, reputed universities like the Maltese Ministry for Education and Employment(Malta), MIT, Lehigh University, Union Public Schools (USA), University of Bahrain (Bahrain), ECPI, Vasant Valley School (India), KAUST (Saudi Arabia) and Govt. of Canada’s Talent Cloud (Canada) use the Learning Machine platform to issue degrees and other certifications to their students. The Learning Machine team has been able to understand local cultural contexts and channelize that demand into a growing business.

To further unlock this market, an organization needs to be technologically nimble and responsive to market needs. The Learning Machine team supported clients through every stage of the journey, patiently listening to their inputs and understanding how the product could be made more useful to them. For example, the company expanded its product to support different kinds of blockchain infrastructure and support formats developed by other stakeholders. User interface improvements like better visual design and multiple languages made the product far more accessible.

Driving the adopting of a new technology is fraught with challenges, especially for the first-mover. The Learning Machine team displayed exemplary thought leadership, evangelizing the product and approach at various global events and on social media. It was also duly recognized as a game-changing innovation, securing the third position in the World Bank’s Mission Billion challenge. Along the way, the team heavily contributed to the entire sector. Learning Machine is an ongoing contributer to Blockcerts, the open standard for anchoring records to any blockchain, and remains aligned with other standards communities the W3C, Rebooting Web of Trust, and IMS Global.

Shifting the way the world issues, holds, and authenticates documents was never going to be easy. However, it was precisely this vision of creating a brave new world that excited the Learning Machine team and its clients.

We congratulate Hyland and Learning Machine on this acquisition. We were fortunate to have played a role in the initial stages of this journey as an investor and board observer. We will now be cheering from the sides as the company takes its next bold steps.

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