An old friend recently messaged me to tell me that he overheard his coworker telling another employee about youshoulddate.me. It’s pretty stunning because they’re in DC and we haven’t advertised or launched yet. I definitely needed that since it’s been an “oh my goodness, there’s so much pressure and I have no idea what we’re doing and we’re out of money” kind of week.
I just got the term sheet from our angel investor. He really shocked me because he ended up doubling the valuation we initially agreed on. It brings us to a pre-product, pre-money valuation that’s comparable to what some say are the inflated valuations that come with Silicon Valley.
And then when I read further down the sheet, it also calls for me to commit to full-time for two years.
Funny how he forgot to mention that during our conversation about the being a student-entrepreneur.
After struggling for three weeks, which feels like years in startup time, to come up with an answer to the age-old question (actually it was just proposed to me by our new advisor): Should I drop out of graduate school and move out to Silicon Valley to work on this full-time? I realized that I’m not ready to handle that. I don’t think I can take on student loans with so little in the bank. While it may be awesome that I have friends willing to offer me a free place to stay and free office space, it’s still overwhelming to pack up my things and move across the country with so much uncertain.
So I applied (and possibly accepted) a spot at an incubator and planned on getting a full-tuition scholarship plus stipend for a graduate assistantship that would let me coordinate mentorship for the incubator program and plan out the startup courses.
And now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have hesitated.
But if I have to drop out anyway, my friends and advisor will still be there (hopefully).
So do I sign on the dotted line? Or stick it out in school and minimize the risk?
Despite my increasing commitments to learning and writing about education, I have found myself spending less and less time participating in education. At first I thought it was just because I was spending so much time learning to code, starting up my company, keeping up with classes, and writing about tech for Infospace, but then I realized this new schedule really isn’t keeping me from participating fully. The real problem is that education is estranging me, and there was entrepreneurship with open arms. It’s not to say that I’m jumping ship, or abandoning education, quite the opposite. Now I’m just taking the lessons that I’ve learned from entrepreneurship to change my outlook on education and vice versa. I think that there are a lot of things that they could learn from one another.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned? Attitude is everything.
To put it bluntly, education is depressing. The entire sector is filled with people who are tired, do thankless work, battle red tape and apathy, and incessantly bicker. There’s an economy of schadenfreude and an incessant cynicism for those who do well. Don’t believe me? Just look at Diane Ravitch.
There’s also (in tech terms) a disparity between the consumers and the customers of education. I’m not interested in appealing to the customers. They’re too invested in passing state tests and keeping their tenure and unions. In my time in Silicon Valley and working on my startup, I’ve learned that passion and an idea can take people far places. This concept has pushed me to keep learning new things and keep working, despite the difficulty. Sadly, that’s not the case with education right now, not on a system wide level. Right now, I don’t have the idea to help the consumers, especially on a grander scale.
I’m not abandoning education by any means. I can’t dedicate my life to something that doesn’t have a grander vision. Entrepreneurs lack the same kind of cohesion that education has. There’s a collective vision that happens in education because, at the end of the day, it is (or at least should be) about kids’ education and changing their lives for the better. With entrepreneurs, it can be about making money, changing norms, building value, becoming a better designer/developer/entrepreneur, just doing your own thing, or some combination of all of the above. Their vision can become a collective vision for their company, but what it is exactly that entrepreneurs are supposed to accomplish is designed to be a question mark. I’m creating an online dating site because I care about changing the way that people interact with one another for the better, and if I can help a few people fall in love that would be pretty cool, too. But it doesn’t quite compare to changing a broken system.
So when it comes to dealing with the status quo, dealing with red tape, and fighting off the cynics, I’m going to go in the direction that is encouraging, appreciates experimentation, and doesn’t called failed attempts failures. For now that means that I’ll be spending more time in tech and working on my non-edtech startup (youshoulddate.me). It’s giving me a chance to become non-jaded again, look at things from a new perspective, and learn a few lessons about change that can be applied to education. I’d rather be the continual newcomer with fresh input than a jaded pundit with the same input. So for the moment, I’ll be mostly removing myself from the education space. I need to not burn out on something that I care about.
I’ll still be posting on here from time to time whenever I read something of interest or have some new thoughts, but I won’t be as prolific a writer as before.
After talking to lots of guys (especially guys in tech) about what they would like to see in a dating site, we came to one conclusion. The site needs to be all about socialization- letting people recommend matches to one another, and choosing how many networks and how many degrees of separation users would like to have for viewing potential matches. The core concept remains the same- using people you already know to find matches and only having communication open when both parties say they are interested in the other. Now we’re working on the logistics of building it and how the features would work.
And for all of you visual people… here’s the slideshow I used when discussing the ideas from above.
It’s come pretty far since the last iteration I wrote about here.