Victor Saad, the experiential learning leader

Victor Saad, the experiential learning leader

As part of my creativity tour, about disruptive doers in education, I was able to have a conversation with David Kelley at the Design School of Stanford. He introduced me to Victor Saad. After a few emails, Victor shared a Skype call with me. Below are a few notes I took from our time together.

In 2012, Victor Saad created his own MBA through 12 experiences in 12 months, "The Leap Year Project", centered around design, business and social change. It sparked a community that he developed into a life project, the Experience Institute. He is listed among Forbes 30 under 30 in Education for 2015.

What are 3 experiences/steps that are you are proud of having thought about ?

After trying to research for the best college as everyone does, I began wondering if I could simply work for companies or organizations and learn with them. I realized that if I really wanted to learn about design and business, I should contribute to what currently exists. It is the process of doing that would lead me to work on it.

The second important thing I have done is to bring together people who know me really well so that they would help me to design my own project. People close to you sometimes know you better than yourself.

How did you came up with such an innovative project ?

For me my personal education, I selected 12 projects in 12 months and called it the Leap Project. I wrote the book and presented a TEDx talk.


It raised a lot of interest, so I thought : why not starting helping people to do what I did ? We designed the program and opened the application. Thirty-four people applied and we chose just five to be part of the first class. Rather than 12 experiences, they would do 3 experiences – Fall, Spring, Summer – and having classes every quarter focused on Human-centered Design, Community Building, Self-Awareness, Business Operations & Storytelling. The more we tried, the more we learned. Now we have 14 students in our third class and new, shorter programming starting this summer.

How do we create better relationships with students ?

We are creating a school with the students. They design their year and we provide anchors and curriculum to support them.

What is your business model ?

There is a small 12,000 student tuitions fee. We also lead a studio that does consulting work for companies, and is creating products such as Leap Kit – tools to help anyone design their own education. I also do public speaking and writing.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in building an education company ?

I faced personal challenges : I was 26 years old, I had 5 years of work experience, it was fine for me to design my personal education. I could choose to take a job or build a school to help students design their own education. That was a tough crosswords was very hard for me. But, I’m glad I chose to try this.

Education is a tough industry. There are lots of politics, tradition and age-old perceptions and expectations. It is not like building a physical product and selling it.
How do I build a flourishing business while respecting the idea that people could design it for free.
How do I multiply my time while making an impact ? What is the value that people need the most ? Who writes the bill for education ?

How do people react to your project ?

I did have a couple people telling me that this idea was completely foolish. That will always happen, though. When I send an email to thousands of people, there are three categories :

  • The first who don't care at all
  • The second who will get interested but won't take action
  • A small group who are say they love the project
  • And the last tiny part who is gonna take action.

How would you help someone to find and express their inner talents ?

I'd tell them to travel to a place where they don't know the language and try to live there for a few months.

How do you see your life mission? What obsesses you ? What drives you ? What is the message you want people to remember before you die ?

According to me, relationships are the most powerful engines for change. I love connecting people who are doing good. Education is a place where people connect to others and their world… and learn how to make an impact. If we can help people see that education isn’t about a brand or a place, we can make it more accessible to anyone at any season of life. And, those who designed their education,will design their future.

Start with the life you want to live and end up with finding a way to earn a living.

To follow him :
Twitter : @victorsaad
Website :
Pre-order the Leap Kit

Credits : Grant Legan took this photo of Victor Saad in 2013. His website is:

Interview lead by Diane Lenne, on 09/07/2014