Alumni Spotlight

Claudio Sassaki, MA/MBA ’03

 ‘I wanted to do something to democratize education...’

Having lost everything by the end of World War I, my grandparents left Japan to rebuild their lives in Brazil. For them, education and hard work were the best way to achieve a better life, and their values and work ethic inspired me. 

I graduated from the University of São Paulo. Unlike most Brazilians, I was fortunate to receive a high-quality education and to experience the impact that education plays in transforming a life. I wanted to help other Brazilians improve their lives through education. To prepare myself to do this, I applied to Stanford, where I was incredibly blessed to pursue a joint master’s degree in business and education. 

While at Stanford, I met extraordinary people doing extraordinary things for humankind, but one of my most memorable experiences happened off campus. I visited an East Palo Alto school as part of a pro bono consulting project. I was shocked to see the disparity between Stanford and a low-income school just a few miles down the road. The contrast between the two worlds, separated by a single avenue, struck me hard and inspired me. 

I wanted to do something to democratize education, so I decided to apply my Stanford degrees to improve education in Brazil, where the high school dropout rate is approximately 50 percent and, among those who graduate, only 7 percent learn the minimum expected in Portuguese and mathematics. I resolved to use my knowledge and essential frameworks, references and managerial strategies to make high-quality education accessible to every Brazilian high school student. 

In 2011, I co-founded Geekie, an adaptive learning company whose mission is to democratize high-quality, personalized education and reach every Brazilian student. Geekie developed an adaptive learning engine that constantly analyzes data in order to customize content to students based on their learning patterns. We can also optimize inefficient classroom time and give teachers more time to focus on what really matters—their students' learning experience and outcomes. 

In 2016, Geekie solutions reached over five million Brazilian students and the test scores of students who used Geekie’s personalized study plan were five times higher than those who used a standardized, pre-determined study plan. 

This is just the beginning, and there is still a lot to be done. Despite all the challenges of being a social entrepreneur, I wake up every day smiling. And I am sure my grandparents, wherever they are, are smiling too.