Former Xythos and DataHero CEO Ed Miller knows a thing or two about online collaboration and the business behind education technology, which is why we wanted to get a few words as he embarks on his new role as CEO of NovoEd, an online social learning platform that specializes in free and exclusive courseware. In our latest “New Gig Hotseat,” the Blackboard alum opens up about about education access, kegerators and what it means to put the “Ed” in NovoEd. Here’s what he had to say:
EdSurge: Let’s talk about your “ed-cred.” What’s been your involvement in education in the past?
Miller: For the past 15 years, I’ve gained a broad spectrum of experience in educational technology. I first became involved in edtech as CEO of Xythos, a content repository system that was one of the first solutions that allowed universities and K-12 systems to have cloud based file sharing and storage. Xythos was used for collaboration and allowed students and faculty the ability to access files even before Dropbox and Google Drive. It was also licensed as the core of Blackboard’s content management system.
After our acquisition by Blackboard, I continued to be involved in a variety of educational technologies. As the President of several product lines I was responsible for guiding product development, marketing, sales and operations for a significant piece of the overall business. In addition to the Xythos content repository I had the opportunity to lead product lines ranging from educational data analytics to solutions that impacted student life, including BbConnect for outreach and emergency communications and BbTransact for security and cashless payment solutions on campus.
I’m also passionate about closing the skills gap and improving educational access beyond the classroom, particularly in low-income communities. Currently, as a Foundation Board Member at the San Francisco non-profit HealthRight 360, I help support a broad range of programs that include providing the community with education and employment services to help those with limited resources re-enter the workforce.
What did you love about your last job? What don’t you miss?
At Blackboard, whether we were helping students learn or increasing their awareness of urgent situations on campus, I truly enjoyed the visible impact we made on people’s lives. At DataHero, my most recent company, I liked being in a startup environment where I had the opportunity to help build a company from a very early stage. NovoEd fuels my passion both for building a company and impacting the world through education. It allows me to put the ‘Ed’ in NovoEd.
What I won’t miss about working at very large company is the bureaucracy that can creep into any business that size. I’m just hooked on the excitement of something that moves and changes as quickly as a startup. It’s probably why I’m so passionate about sailing and skiing too.
If people at your last gig gave you a nickname, what would it be and why?
I’m not quite sure, but at Blackboard I was often called ConnectEd. Not just because of the product by the same name, but because I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with so many talented people.
What got you interested in NovoEd? Why did you decide to take on this role?
I was interested in NovoEd because of its product, people and passion. When I first saw the NovoEd platform, I was blown away by its ability to deliver an incredible learning experience online. Having been in the educational technology sector for over 15 years, I know that the platform will make a significant impact on how we deliver and scale quality learning experiences. Plus, behind the platform is an incredible team. I was drawn to the enthusiasm with which the team creates the product and enables customers to deliver truly innovative learning programs online. And lastly, the team’s passion for education and improving lives creates a vision for the company that I’m excited to be a part of.
What’s the most important thing for a new CEO to do in the first 100 days?
I think the most important thing a new CEO could do in the first 100 days is to listen to employees, customers and the market. Only through listening can a CEO assess and build a plan that will set the course for the next 1,000 days. It also helps to show up with a foosball table and kegerator.
If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the US education system, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the U.S. education system, I would want to address the limitations around providing broader access to great learning experiences across a broad spectrum of community.
NovoEd is all about online social interactions and collaborations. What's your go-to icebreaker, online or off?
Whenever I have the opportunity to share a conversation about online education, my first question is, tell me about your best learning experience? When you think about your best learning experience, was it in a lecture hall or with other people discussing what you were learning?