Credly Raises $2.5 Million to Expand Digital Credentials

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Digital credential platform Credly earned a badge of its own. Today the New York-based company said it has raised a $2.5 million seed financing round from a diverse group of investors including University Ventures, New Markets Venture Partners, Lumina Foundation Venture Fund, City & Guild Group, and Lion Brothers Company.

Credly says its platform recognizes lifelong learning by letting users verify, share and manage digital badges and credentials. “In a market that values competency, knowledge and skills, digital credentials are the currency of choice,” Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly tells EdSurge.

Credly works with a range of credit providers including K12 and higher-ed institutions, companies and professional associations. Any individual or organization can award digital credentials on the platform. Earners use Credly to manage their accomplishments, choosing to display badges on social media profiles or uploading achievements to a digital resume, for instance.

Conventional credentials often live in isolation—they’re difficult to compare across institutions and translate from one experience to another. Boy Scouts earn badges; physicians get MD degrees; coding bootcamp grads receive certificates. In any case, earners keep track of their disparate accomplishments and self-report their achievements. “We’re providing a place to manage skillsets and have those skills be owned by the person who earned them,” Finkelstein says.

Digital and alternative credentials were a hot topic last week at SXSWedu. Adrian Sannier, chief academic technology officer for Arizona State University Online, called credentials the “coin of the realm” and explained how ASU is disaggregating credentials through efforts like its Global Freshman Academy. “Transferable credentials that allow people to add credentials throughout their life is something new,” Sannier said on a panel at the conference.

Other higher-ed institutions are already experimenting with Credly: The University of Central Florida uses the platform to provide credentials for information-literacy skills; the University of Notre Dame awards digital badges for co-curricular activities that are absent from traditional transcripts.

Credly's latest funding brings a mixed bag of investors to the digital-credential table. Baltimore-based Lion Brothers Company produces physical badges for organizations from the NFL to the Girl Scouts. The investment from Lumina Foundation, which is committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025, is the foundation’s first-ever direct investment. 

Although digital badge systems exist in many contexts, they’re still not widely valued by admissions offices or hiring managers. Finkelstein says the latest investment will help Credly grow relationships with diverse credit-issuers and earners to help people connect their abilities and put them in context.

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