Mike Feerick

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Mike Feerick
MGF - July 2013 (High Res).gif
Mike Feerick
Born New York[1]
Education MBA
Alma mater Harvard University[2]
University of Limerick
  • Founder & CEO, ALISON[3]
  • Founder & Former CEO, Yac.com[4]
  • Chairman of Ireland Reaching Out Project[5]

Mike Feerick is an Irish social entrepreneur, and CEO and founder of ALISON, an Ireland–based educational technology (also called e-learning) company which has delivered 60 million online lessons with some 250,000 graduates of its 500+ courses as of January 2013.[6][7] He is an Ashoka Fellow and cited as a pioneer in the modern online education industry. Paul Glader noted that Feerick is 'a key figure in the open-source learning world and a rival of sorts to Salman Khan.'[2] ALISON has been identified by some as the first MOOC platform to be established, beginning in 2007, a year before the now popular phrase was even coined.[2][6] Feerick is also the founder of Ireland Reaching Out, a "reverse" genealogy project based in Ireland that seeks to establish and reconnect the Irish diaspora with their unknown ancestral roots in rural Ireland.[1][8]


Born in New York but raised in Galway, Ireland, Mike Feerick's entrepreneurial efforts began young with the organising of student discos through high school and selling T-shirts in college. On graduation he sought a Harvard MBA but first gained an internship with philanthropist and early mentor Chuck Feeney. Feerick credits Feeney with helping to foster his particular interest in social entrepreneurship. "Working with Chuck, definitely gets you thinking money wasn't the most important thing. There's a social responsibility – if you feel able to do it."[9] Feerick subsequently successfully gained his MBA from Harvard.

Feerick has served as the Acting managing director of Interactive Investor International and has also held positions with Bertelsmann Music Group. He previously owned the franchise rights to JFAX Ireland which sold to Esat Telecom in 1999, a leading Irish telecommunications player.[10] He is also founder and former CEO of Yac.com Limited, a web–based unified messaging telecoms provider.[4] Feerick sold Yac to Nasdaq-listed J2 Global Communications in 2007.[9]


Feerick launched ALISON in 2007, a MOOC-based educational technology platform.[3][6][11] ALISON became a noted global provider in the educational technology community,[3] receiving an Honorable Mention Award in information and communications technology at the UNESCO King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize in Paris in 2010.[12] Feerick's work has been recognised by Ashoka in 2010 and his Fellow status marks his global impact as ALISON founder and influential social entrepreneur. In outlining the basis of ALISON's operation, he explained to David Bornstein of the New York Times that 'education underpins all social progress. If we can improve the general education level worldwide, global poverty can be dealt with profoundly and a general standard of living can be vastly improved.'[3] Feerick highlights the 'sustainable' manner of ALISON's operating model as the unique and critical tenet behind the success of his venture to date. The Economist noted in 2013 that through this means, ALISON generates 'plenty of revenue' on its website through the use of a freemium model with hosted banner advertising while still providing its learning materials of 'mostly vocational education' for free.[13]

WISE awards[edit]

On 8 September 2013, ALISON was announced as one of six winners at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) awards, an initiative of the Qatar Foundation. Feerick noted in a press release that the win was a 'terrific achievement' for ALISON. He suggested that 'there is a lot of hype about free learning worldwide but clearly the sustained strength, growth and popularity of ALISON' was what had yielded such recognition of the enterprise as a 'true leader' in the development of the future of education.[14] Feerick will collect the award at the summit, entitled 'Reinventing Education for Life', taking place in Doha, Qatar, at the end of October 2013. In September 2013, Feerick also spoke at the Youth Economic Opportunities conference presented by Making Cents International in Washington DC.[15] As part of their 'tech talks' and 'positive disruptors' series, Feerick spoke about MOOCs and the future of online education, noting the importance of fostering self-paced learning, improving completion rates for online education, the remarkable record of ALISON with female users and the need to fund free education with a freemium model. He suggested that an intrinsic part of ALISON's success was the use of advertising to drive the business model, enabling education to be provided free of charge globally.

Social and community initiatives[edit]

Ireland Reaching Out[edit]

Feerick founded Ireland Reaching Out in 2009 with the stated goal of connecting people of Irish descent to their ancestral roots in Ireland.[16] Feerick and Irish economist David McWilliams successfully pitched the idea to the Irish government,[1] Ireland Reaching Out subsequently received an Arthur Guinness Fund award for Social Entrepreneurship for the work undertaken with the Irish diaspora.[17] He has noted how the movement to reconnect the Irish diaspora to their ancestral origins can function in a tripartite revival for Ireland: social, cultural and economic.[8] In April 2013, Ireland XO had 2,000 volunteers active volunteers representing 1,000 parishes across Ireland north and south.[18]

University of Limerick[edit]

A graduate of the University of Limerick, Feerick was the founding chairman of the International Advisory Board of Kemmy Business School, Ireland's largest undergraduate business school at the University and is a director of the University of Limerick Foundation.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Ní Chonchúir, Sharon. "Bring Them All Back Home". Irish Central. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Glader, Paul. "Khan Academy Competitor? Mike Feerick of Alison.com Talks About The Future of Online Educations". Wired Academic. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Bornstein, David (11 July 2012). "Open Education for a Global Economy". New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Grose, Thomas K. (28 September 2001). "Connect The Dots – YAC's personal online call service has got your number". TIME. 
  5. ^ Muldoon, Molly. "Obama's Irish Cousin Henry Healy Lands New Job As Tourism Ambassador". Irish Central. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Booker, Ellis. "Early MOOC Takes A Different Path". Information Week – Education. UBM Tech. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Harrington, Conor. "Ireland Teaching Out". Galway Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Reaching Out Can Raise Us Up". Eolas Magazine: Public Affairs. Eolas Magazine. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  9. ^ a b McNamara, Denise (11 June 2013). "The Galwayman with the Midas Touch – and a social conscience". Connacht Tribune. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "Mike Feerick Businessweek Executive Profile". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Projects in Ireland and the Philippines receive honourable mentions in ICT in Education prize.". UNESCO: ICT in Education. UNESCO. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Economist". The Economist. 20 July 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  13. ^ ALISON. "ALISON news". ALISON wins top global education innovation award. ALISON. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  14. ^ Youth Economic Opportunities conference. ""Tech Talks" Positive Disruptors: Leaders of Technology Companies Talk About How They are Changing the Way Youth Learn and Earn". Youth Economic Opportunities. Making Cents International. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  15. ^ Nicholson, Chris V. (18 July 2011). "In Tough Times, Irish Call Their Diaspora". New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Doyle, Carmel. "10 social entrepreneurs get €700K from Arthur Guinness Fund". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Advertiser.ie

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