MEP 051 John Danner Zeal Meet Education Project EDUKWEST

MEP #051 with John Danner, Co-Founder and CEO of Zeal

In this episode of MEP, John Danner, co-founder and CEO of, joins us to talk about his story, going from the software industry, and becoming a teacher and making a positive impact in the education space.

Guest Bio

John is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Zeal, a software startup pioneering the next generation of online social learning. John’s first partner in this venture is Rocketship Education, where John was co-Founder and CEO for the previous eight years. Rocketship is the highest performing school system for low-income students in California and the first blended school system in the country, currently serving 3700 students.

John was a fifth and second grade public school teacher before starting Rocketship. John’s first startup was NetGravity, the first Internet ad server company, where he was co-Founder and CEO. John took NetGravity public in 1998 and sold the company in 1999.

John has a BS and MS Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a M.Ed. in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University and is an Ashoka Fellow. John is a 1999Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He was the 2010 winner of the John P. McNulty Prize.

Show Notes

(01:35) John’s background

(11:50) That process going through the Department of Education. Tell me about that process for you in getting the first 1,2,3 schools of Rocketship through the California state system.

(14:58) What do you think is the future of public education? What can public schooling look like in the next 5, 10, 20 years?

(15:41) Public education has to come to grips with the fact that all children are online.

(17:52) Learning what you need to learn individually at the right time for you is much, much more effective than learning what you kind of approximately should at your age.

(21:17) With Zeal, for some reason I just started to think about the potential of Zeal and what internationally what Sugata Mitra was talking about The Hole in the Wall and self-organized learning environment. Do you see potential in what you’re doing now with Zeal in moving that sort of student-centric approach forward?

(23:34) What’s the number one book that you usually give as a gift to people you care about- friends, family?

Talent is Overrated

(25:15) So when did you feel that you found your passion? At what age?

(25:51) What’s your favorite documentary?

Waiting For Superman

26:52 If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

A great, great, great grandfather who was one of the pioneers of Wyoming


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Nick DiNardo is the founder and host of the Meet Education Project, a podcast series featuring entrepreneurs, VCs and thought leaders taking action on the future of learning. Nick has worked in education for 10 years, working for some of the big players (Pearson & McGraw-Hill), as VP of Marketing for a seed stage ed tech startup, and an independent consultant. He also serves on the board of directors for Argosy Collegiate Charter School in Fall River, MA. When he's not chatting about the future of learning, Nick is reading, traveling, golfing, or drinking a glass of whisky (sometimes, all of the above).