tl;dr version — we’re doing well, growing and developing, boosted by a big move.
If you’re new to the story, BAC is a consulting firm specializing in the future of higher education. We’re a small shop, featuring two full-timers plus whomever else we can wrangle for individual functions and services. Most of our infrastructure is digital and distributed. We offer a range of services and also make a lot of stuff: books, articles, interviews, video conversations, and more. We’ve served more than 100 clients, including universities, governments, companies, and nonprofits (here’s a partial list).
Over 2018–2019 BAC was hard at work. Some operations carried over from previous years, such as consulting in various forms, giving keynote addresses, blogging, non-blog writing, and running the Future Trends Forum weekly videoconference. My new book, Academia Next, went from outline to chapters to indexing, and is due out in a couple of months.
Other services started for the first time, or changed significantly. I began teaching in Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program, partly online, partly in person. This delights me deeply. I started offering more presentations wholly online — i.e., via video or telepresence robot. The FTTE report transitioned from free to a subscription model.
Some of those changes are due to the biggest change by far. We upped stakes and moved from Vermont to northern Virginia, near Washington, DC. This was an epic struggle, including a 500-mile trip starting from a blizzard, but we made it (with some blogging). I owe you all some reflections on the many differences; for now I’ll just say that there have been many improvements for BAC. We’re within commuting distance of Georgetown, so I teach in person. Digital infrastructure is far better than Vermont’s, so I can actually conduct video work from home, while uploading and downloading massive files. Travel infrastructure is also much better, with two major airports within an hour’s drive and a train station five minutes away. And so, so much is going on in DC, from many educational organizations being based there to national events and new technologies in play. BAC-DC is certainly a big step forward for the firm.
How’s the business doing financially? Overall, pretty well. Demand has risen since the move, and we do speculate on the reasons. (Do people see the DC area as a kind of promotion? How much depends on the Georgetown affiliation? Is it just easier to connect with me?) The move was much more costly than we anticipated in terms of money and time, so we spend a good chunk of the past six months addressing that.
Let me offer a breakdown of BAC’s revenue streams:
Speaking: these are keynote addresses to large audiences, such as associations, governments, business meetings, or large university settings.
Consulting: this is actually a very diverse set of offerings. It includes facilitating meetings, designing and leading workshops, conducting research on spec, teaching university classes, advising officials on technologies and education, and more.
Virtual events: video-based presentations or consultations. Lower price tag.
FTTE: this represents subscription fees, either from institutions or individuals.
Patreon: support from 127 supporters.
Unsurprisingly consulting is the largest revenue stream, almost exactly 1/2 of BAC’s income. Speaking gigs are a close second.
The rest are much smaller, relatively, but will hopefully grow, especially as my new book comes out and people become more accustomed to virtual presentations.
This tells me that people value most highly my in-person work, which is, of course, enormously flattering, and objective confirmation that BAC provides a certain value. However, it does pose questions of scale, since I’m just one person, with limits on my time — limits which will rise as I keep aging (turning 53 in February). Accordingly BAC fees will rise a bit in 2020 (an overdue increase, in fact), and I will allocate more resources to more scaleable efforts — i.e., media.
Speaking of media, there are a bunch of items on our punch list for the next few months:
- Refreshing the BAC website
- ” ” FTTE “
- Moving the Future Trends Forum page and setting up a more serious site
- Finishing podcast planning and production, so the damn thing can actually launch
In non-media terms, I’d like to explore holding face-to-face meetings about the future of education. I’ve done this before with the NERCOMP group, organizing workshops and groups on the future of multiple topics (2015, 2016), on 3d printing in academia (2015), on VR/AR/MR in education (2018), and more. We could offer a program like this as a standalone event in an accessible location, or attach it to another one.
Stepping back, what are the values BAC embodies and tries to express?
- The value of human connection. We believe in people learning together, be it through video conversation, in-person meeting, or via social media. We think we can be smarter together, even in an age of trolls. I bring information to clients, and they bring me a lot of their own. It’s a virtuous cycle.
- The value of openness. Ever since the start we’ve shared BAC’s adventure in ways that very few others have done. There are some things we can’t share for reasons of privacy (ours or clients’), non-disclosure agreements, and so on. Otherwise we are quite transparent about what we do, what we learn, and where we’d like to go. That’s a better way for us to learn and to contribute. Hence this very post.
- The value of giving back. The supermajority of BAC work is paid, but we also try to participate in the world without remuneration as much as we can. So I’ll go to one or two events each year, unpaid, because the cause is worthwhile. I make a lot of digital content, nearly all for free, and the benefits are manifold. This is part of our sense of human connection and openness.
I think these all intertwine. By sharing my thoughts socially I get to learn from how other people respond, which improves my thinking. Sharing what folks say in my workshops and presentations in my writing enriches the latter. BAC is all about networks, in other words.
What else would you all like to know? What do you think of our work? Anything you would like us to do?