I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.
As was reported in TechCrunch today, we've just signed a deal to sell our startup Socialize to ShareThis. Although having a successful exit is a dream for many entrepreneurs, I find myself feeling a wide range of emotions and thoughts. I'd like to share some of them in this blog to provide an honest assessment of what it's like to work tirelessly on a startup and then sell it.
The first thing I want to say is that often upon a sale, you'll hear everyone involved talk about how "pumped" or "excited" they are. The truth of the matter is that it's much more complex than that. There is absolutely a sense of excitement. But I've asked for, and gotten, permission from ShareThis to speak honestly about the wide range of feelings and to speak to the complexity of it all so I can provide a more thoughtful and honest assessment than one typically sees in these situations. Think of it as a peek under the covers of an acquisition.
I've broken this blog up into several parts:
I'll start with the really positive aspects: We're selling Socialize to the absolute best buyer I can imagine. ShareThis is a very fast-growing company with a strong team. As Forbes recently reported, ShareThis is #35 on its America’s Most Promising Companies list. Forbes pegged 2012 revenue at $30MM, and it’s on a rocketship-like growth trajectory. ShareThis didn't just buy us for our talent, but also because its beliefs around the value of social are closely aligned with our own, and because mobile is becoming a big part of its business (see this related blog post with my warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs about the sudden growth of mobile). ShareThis wanted to gain an immediate leadership position in social via the mobile channel, and with Socialize it's achieved that. And Socialize has gotten an incredible platform from which to further develop our social infrastructure for mobile devices. The fit just couldn't be better. Often when I would describe Socialize to people, they would say "so it's like ShareThis, but for mobile, right?" Exactly. So I'm very confident that together, the value of the two companies will be greater than their respective parts, and I'm very pleased that ShareThis saw the same benefits (dare I say, "synergies"). A lot of the credit here goes to Nanda, ShareThis' CTO, who called me out of the blue one day and said "we should do this deal; I know it'll be perfect," and to the ShareThis team for backing Nanda's vision.
When someone gets an idea, what determines whether that idea gets put into practice or not? There are a lot of factors, but one of the largest is whether or not he believes that the idea can actually be executed. The problem is that while our mental models for things we have experience with can be quite good, our mental models for the unknown are often poor.
A big part of the problem is that we give a lot of weight to the "other people factor". If someone else has done it, then obviously it's possible to do. The converse is not true, though-- just because no one has done it doesn't mean that it's impossible or even difficult. It just means that no one else has ever done it. We can know that logically, but our brains don't subconsciously think that way.
I fell into this trap recently. I've always wanted to be able to plug a microphone into my camera, but it doesn't have a microphone port. I did a few searches, but no one had figured out how to get a microphone jack on the Sony NEX. For about a year I did nothing, until one night as I was falling asleep, it occurred to me that it might not be that hard, and that the only reason I thought it was impossible was because no one else had done it. The next morning I figured it out.
When designing SETT, I really wanted it to be possible to log in without the page refreshing. To the best of my knowledge, no content-heavy sites have ever done anything like that. I almost gave up on the idea before even trying it, just because no one else had done it before. But then I realized that for SETT to be successful, I would have to do a LOT of things that no one else had done before. I took a crack at it, and again it turns out that it wasn't all that tough.
Does a normal post get through the firewall?
Hopefully this finally works
This doesn't work still probably
This should work