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Hacking Startups, A Declaration of Institutional Independence

06 Jun 2009

The Declaration of Institutional Independence

It has become necessary to lay the foundation for an additional type of higher education. While modern universities have concentrated on the underlying vision of increasing their prestige, an emerging alternative education is motivated purely by the success of the startups/individuals it supports. Colleges historically boosted their brand by having alumnus go on to become well known leaders, executives, and elite employees. Graduate degrees have been a key qualification for many professions.  But these degrees are quickly losing their luster in a global economy where skilled workers often learn during internships and their first years on the job. Add to this the evidential conclusion that degree programs are lacking for those wishing to found companies.

Entrepreneurs have repeatedly shown us they don't require four or more years to get a certificate of entry. It is time we collectively recognize the evidence of their toils.  Will, endurance, and unshakable vision are the traits we find in common with successful corporate founders.  But if we look deeper, we observe the truth that powerful networks and guides continue to lend a strong hand in the rise of our most legendary startup founders.

Our society shift shall further incentivize skilled entrepreneurial guides (VCs, Experienced Entrepreneurs, Vetted business coaches) along with their associated networks (other start-ups, other investors, legal groups) to empower the new business incubators.  Existing new business initiatives (both government funded and university linked) will be judged by the same criteria as independent financial ventures, so as not to promote stagnation.  The Independent Institution will exist as an extended network of local ventures modeled off of YCombinator (or Seth Godin's Alternative MBA) but with styles and methods compatible with local fare.  A foundation with this direction and collaborative backing is akin to putting on the afterburners for a national (and global) economic stimulus.  In point of fact it's already taking place.  There are a number of initiatives like YCombinator happening nearly everywhere, not just in cities.  Local folks with the will to endure, and a few ideas that they're passionate about, can connect with seed funding and even more valuable support from experienced business juggernauts.

(Please comment below on this draft if you're interested, we can setup a stronger collaborative social tool (wiki?).  Appreciate any input on that tool as well.)

For those interested, the not so quick history:

The Declaration of Educational Independence is a result of a short chain of blog posts and comments.  Ultimately commenter Shana instigated my drafting out the first take at a system framework to support startups with a level of funding commensurate with modern costs and guidance/networking in the vein of YCombinator/Seth Godin's Alternative MBA.

  1. Steven Johnson wrote a masterstroke article for the TIME magazine cover story
  2. Fred Wilson's Open Platforms and Innovation from AVC.com planted the creative hook for my post from a couple days back (number 3)
    • In his post, Fred made some spot on comments about Steven Johnson's TIME magazine cover story.  Here's an essential quote: "That's the thing that gets me so excited to get up and get going every day. Technology has reached a point where anyone can get involved with innovation. Patents and degrees matter a lot less. Imagining something and then coding it up is what its all about these days."
  3. I cobbled some quick thoughts together The Future is Open
  4. Back at AVC I shared the following comment (here's the thread)

Mark Essel 1 day ago

Bullseye from Steve, once we recognize as a society that great innovation isn't correlated with graduate degrees, we can move forward in several directions.
Education, requires our attention. We should also continue to empower the individual inventor, they are our greatest asset and product of our culture. While we're at it, we can refine how we perceive social development of large scale projects. Once we can connect individual developers with a network of skilled supporting players, we may discover layers of untapped invention, only held back by self doubt.
Of course we will also be responsible for refining a framework for continual feedback from working and learning. I'll take some more time and write something a little more cogent at home
Shana 1 day ago
Education is Hard.Creating vision is hard. Teaching others how to do so, harder.

Finding people who want to be part of systems to teach and be taught- the hardest. We seem to be transitioning into something different than before- a really big extension of man, to use the famous quote. And it is painful.

Finding out the best ways to connect others is going to be a process. If I told you right now the number one thing I wanted to do in the next year is start an art project on Twitter based off the idea of pinging for my bachelors.

How would you help people develop systems to maximally benefit what is out there- and even explore what this all means. We've barely touched that subject, so rapid the change.

I'll start with your last question/comment and connect it to your first one Shana (support systems and education).
I will propose a base framework (in a blog post) and if mine is not good enough someone better fit could propose a better wire frame. Next big step is inspiring the social contribution of motivated, intelligent and creative folks who care to fill out the backbone infrastructure for a support system. As a resource I'd say VCs know best what entrepreneurs need most help with to hit the ground running. Let's collectively reinvent a form of education that will serve as a supporting structure to innovation, not by formulaic memorization, but by serving as mentors much like experienced VCs for energetic startups. Ideally this setup will provide for a much larger portion of entrepreneurs than our nation has ever had before.I agree with your second point, I don't believe vision is even manufactured, it's discovered by individuals and then shared. I do believe there is an unknown amount of untapped creative power in our collective minds though. It's always there cooking but most of the time we're tuned out.

Your third point is one of my favorite ongoing thought experiments, what's the best way to connect minds? I suspect we'll discover many answers over the next few years as we learn more about our minds, and experience customized technology to allow for collaborative creations. Thanks again Shana for prompting me to continue while at home.

Look, being the one in the current system- I feel very stuck. And feel like I have to re-learn, or start learning, at the grand old age of 23 ;-). (I'm not old, and I have plenty of time, and I know it.)And, being the one having to force myself to reach out- and being very confused what is the best way to do so- it is a pleasure.
One up:

In an odd coincidence:

http://www.meetup.com/Learn-Foucault-Learn-to-C...

Because:
1)I've been told by a good source that if I needed to learn a first coding language, it should be Ruby. (thought I have heard around that Scala and Python are also good choices for a variety of reasons: Scala for scalibility, and Python because it is widely used and it is easier than Java, which I had major trouble with trying to learn in under 6 weeks flat...don't do that.)
2) I also realized that I need to read more. especially to develop a well grounded Bachelors. But not exclusively because of that. Just to feel better and happier.
3) Lots of people probably want to be cross learning. The world has an impact what they do has an impact. Understanding why is a priority for some people out there and creating groups that cater seemed like a good idea at the time.
4) Although I've read some of these texts, I've never read them for the sake of media.
5) I think it is strange that we have moved so far away from the basic classics. Or that we can't decide what the new classics should be. And I think it is strange that these classics are not as influential as they should be, because we are not reading them, we are reading things about them.
6) I wonder if I read and learn to code at the time- will it make for better code in the long term? A more well thought out plan? Because I thought about the human consequences.

I hope this helps. If you know of anyone who is interested....(Since right now this is my summer break plans...Along with BA work)

This looks like a great collaborative learning project, although I couldn't make it twice a week I'm sure I could make the trip a couple of times. I had some interest in scala, not sure about media books (my free time is eaten up reading blogs, commenting, and then gathering my thoughts into a post), my non-free time is eaten up by a wonderful companion/fiance, work, puppies, and an addiction to being outdoors the next few months.

Live text chat could be a good start, and then elevate it to video chat, why not bypass location restrictions. I'd suggest aiming REALLY high to see how far you can push it within a couple of months, like not just learning the syntax of a new programming language, but coding a twitter app with scala (or another language) that extracts purchase information of specific brands from public tweets. (here's what I got out of friendfeed with a simple search:  http://bit.ly/i4SQU) Something like that would be really valuable to existing companies (could have a website interface after you get a standalone framework). I would be interested in assisting remotely with such a coding project and could probably convince one other capable friend of lending a hand (although we'd also be learning the language).

Also, this may seem out of place, but might I suggest creating a simple organization for such casual meetups/open learning conferences if your initial meetup takes off. I'd definitely make more time to help scale such a concept.