Brian O’Dwyer worked with Duke-NUS to build a technology platform to make team-based learning easier and better.

What’s your story?
I am from Seattle, USA. I have a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA in Finance from Duke University, I am a consultant at A.T. Kearney, and Credit Suisse investment banker. I have a commercial pilot’s license. Left banking to be CFO of Skywest which grew from 400 to 800 employees in 18 months before selling to Virgin for $100 million. The biggest challenge was talent, but I also knew smart folks that couldn’t find jobs, so I shifted to education.

Taught airline management and noticed gaps in traditional lectures versus what graduates need to do. Learned to solve this with team-based learning (“TBL”) and then worked with Duke-NUS to build a technology platform make TBL easier and better.

What excites you most about your industry?
The opportunity to make a meaningful impact on learners and society. Education is a $5 trillion industry where 70% is wasted on traditional lectures. University prices have been growing at twice inflation for decades. This leaves many unprepared for the 21st-century workforce. There is an enormous opportunity to use what we now understand about the cognitive science of learning and technology to transform education. For a long time, there has been an “iron triangle” of cost, quality and scale. There is now a chance to change this.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I got married in India. After living in Chicago for five years my wife who had just given birth to our first child decided she had had enough of winter and we moved to Singapore in 2010.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The golden rule – he or she who has the gold, makes the rules.

Who inspires you?
John Wood. Founder of Room to Read. Room to Read has built more libraries than in 15 years than Starbucks opened locations in the 15 years post IPO.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
US universities have a 40% dropout rate (even allowing six years to finish). And when you dropout you need to start repaying student loans. This can make for a very difficult situation where you are worse off than you started because you now have student loan debt.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Probably nothing.

How do you unwind?
Running, biking and swimming. Either for triathlons or commuting.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Maldives – the seaplane ride!

Everyone in business should read this book:
Measure What Matters.

Shameless plug for your business:
We help professors, trainers and teachers prepare learners for the 21st-century economy with team-based learning. Team-based learning is a powerful combination of flipped classroom, collaborative learning, project learning and formative assessment, however, most learning technology was not designed for teams. CognaLearn’s is the most widely used software platform exclusively for physical and online team-based learning classrooms.

Educators save time by automating individual and team quizzes, cases and 360-degree teammate evaluations and improve improves outcomes with real-time data while integrating with existing systems. Nearly 100 institutions have used InteDashboard including Columbia, Yale-NUS and the Singapore Government with 95% satisfaction.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here: Download free copies of his books here:


Welcome to Empirics

We are glad you have decided to join our mission of gathering the collective knowledge of Asia!
Join Empirics