Skipping School to become Tech Giants

Go Lean Commentary

How can we mold young minds for career success?

Apparently, there is more than one way; (notwithstanding starting early). Yes, there is college, but there is another way too: entrepreneurship. Think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. These ones are notorious for their billionaire success, despite not finishing college.

CU Blog - Skipping School to become Tech Giants - Photo 1Some people think that a 4-year college degree may NOT be entirely essential for career success; these ones say: “there is an alternate path” for success for an individual career and for their community; (some even claim that a 4-year degree may be a bad investments for students).

So there are parallel paths. Let’s consider: education -vs- entrepreneurship …

Many claim that the underlying goal for molding young minds should not be education, but rather competition … with the rest of the world. The question could therefore be codified as: “Is a 4-year college degree necessary for our community to better compete with the world?”

This is a tough one (question), in which there are no easy answers.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean embarks on the quest to elevate the Caribbean societal engines (economics, security and governance); it presents options with education and with entrepreneurship. The book immediately rails against the education status quo; it stakes the claim that Caribbean tertiary education eco-system needs to be reformed and transformed, asserting that the status quo has not served the region as well as expected. Truth is, traditional college education paths may be considered disastrous for the Caribbean region in whole, and for each specific country in particular. Why?

Students leave to study …

… and do not necessarily return. They are “gone and forgotten”*; they run-off with their community investments with little chance for any “return”. (* = Many Caribbean graduates only return for family visits and festivals).

Normally, college education is great for the individual. The Go Lean book relates how economists have established that every additional year of schooling increases a student’s earning potential by about 10% (Page 258). Yet for our Caribbean communities as a whole, the end-result has been different – bad – ending in our incontrovertible brain drain.

How bad?

Previous blogs on this same subject matter have detailed the dysfunction; one example is the report that 70 percent of the tertiary-educated population in the Caribbean has fled. What’s worst in these reports, is the fact that these emigrants have taken their Caribbean-funded education and skill-sets with them; even taking any hope for collecting student loans, thereby imperiling future generations of scholars from their own benefits of a college education.

So education is not the champion – for nation-building – that we would expect. There is room for a challenger-contender. Consider this VIDEO here (and transcript in the Appendix), of young ones quitting college or never enrolling, to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors in the technology space. These ones are being fostered, prodded and nurtured; as related here:

VIDEO – Skipping School to become Tech Giants –

(VIDEO plays best in Internet Explorer).

The Go Lean movement – book and blogs – asserts that change must come to the region in response to the debilitating status quo in Caribbean life. The book refers to these change factors as Agents of Change, including technology and globalization. The best strategy for contending with both technology and globalization change is to not only consume; communities must develop, innovate and produce as well. The Go Lean book posits therefore that Caribbean regional shepherds should invest in (better) higher education and entrepreneurial options. The bottom-line motive should be the Greater Good.

This book Go Lean book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This represents change for the region. The CU/Go Lean roadmap has 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines – including educational empowerments and entrepreneurial incubators – in order to grow the regional economy and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The book relates that forging technology genius is a direct product of perspiration and inspiration. Perspiration as in the training and education needed to excel in this field; and inspiration as in the spark of innovation that is required to conceive, compose and construct competitive products pertaining to hardware, software and communication systems.

The Go Lean roadmap provides turn-by-turn directions on how to foster genius and how to reform the Caribbean tertiary education eco-systems. As a planning tool, the roadmap commences with a Declaration of Interdependence, pronouncing the approach of regional integration (Page 12 & 14) as a viable solution to elevate the opportunities in the region:

xix.  Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores

xxi.  Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

xxvii.  Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

xxx.   Whereas the effects of globalization can be felt in every aspect of Caribbean life, from the acquisition of food and clothing, to the ubiquity of ICT, the region cannot only consume, it is imperative that our lands also produce and add to the international community, even if doing so requires some sacrifice and subsidy.

The Go Lean book focuses primarily on economic issues, and it recognizes that computer hardware, software and communications systems are the future direction for consumer, corporate and industrial developments. This is where the new jobs are to be found. If we want to arrest societal abandonment occurring in our communities, we must create jobs. The Go Lean roadmap describes the heavy-lifting for people, organizations and governments to foster genius and forge technological innovations here at home in the Caribbean; (i.e. start early).

This commentary is not advocating a practice of “skipping school to rush to try and become tech giants”. But rather, it is advocating education reform, abandoning failed practices, like study abroad and adopting new ones, like e-Learning solutions. After which there should be an effort to provide entrepreneurial incubators to foster more business start-ups.

The Go Lean book posits that education and entrepreneurism are vital advocacies for Caribbean economic empowerment. But there have been flawed decision-making in the past, both individually and community-wise, and so we are now playing catch-up with the rest of the world. Whether we want it or not, there is a competition; globalization features trade wars; wars feature battles; battles feature champions. The vision of the CU is a confederation of the 30 member-states of the Caribbean to do the heavy-lifting of championing better educational and entrepreneurial policies.

The book details those policies; and other ethos to adopt, plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to impact the Greater Good for the region:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments – ROI Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Strategy – Agent of Change – Technology Page 57
Strategy – Agent of Change – Globalization Page 57
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Education Department Page 85
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Labor Department Page 89
Implementation – Ways to Impact Social Media Page 111
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 169
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 171
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Libraries Page 187
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Foster e-Commerce Page 198
Appendix – Education and Economic Growth Page 258

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and governing institutions, to lean-in for the changes described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. We welcome entrepreneurism and we welcome education; these two activities can be concurrent and complementary. But we need to break from the old-bad practices (i.e. study abroad) and engage new-better practices (i.e. incubators).

So we encourage all young people to get advanced education, but to do it at home. And we encourage all with entrepreneurial dreams to pursue them … here at home.

The new jobs that our region need must come from these initiatives. Let’s get started!  🙂

Download the book Go Lean…Caribbean now!


APPENDIX – Story Transcript: Skipping School to become Tech Giants

A select group of whiz kids seems to be thriving despite having dropped out of college. All any of them seems to need is a high-tech idea, a sofa to sleep on … plus a $100,000 grant. John Blackstone explains:

When brothers Kieran and Rory O’Reilly were both accepted to Harvard, their parents marked the accomplishment with new license plates: One read “2 N HRVD”; the other, “HARVRD 2.”

“They might change it to ‘2 DROPOUTS,'” said Rory.

They both quit Harvard as undergrads two years ago. They were just 18 and 19 when they moved to San Francisco with big hopes, and almost nothing else.

“Three bags of clothes — every day we would take it, move from hotel to hotel,” said Rory.

“I remember our bank account was always negative $66, because that’s the overdraft fee,” said Kieran.

They’re now living IN their office. “Every single day our mom tries to call us or send food,” Rory said.

They’ve created a website,, a tool for re-editing online videos. Seventeen million people in the past month have used it.

The O’Reillys are on a path made famous by some of the tech industry’s biggest names: Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg.

“People that drop out of Harvard, maybe the Bill Gateses of the world, the Zuckerbergs, they’re the people that are really changing the entire world, in my opinion,” said Rory. “And yeah, I’m glad to be a part of that.”

The O’Reillys are “part of that” partly because Peter Thiel, one of the billionaire founders of PayPal, gave them $100,000 each.

Thiel started his surprising giveaway five years ago, offering $100,000 to kids who quit college to “build new things.”

Jack Abraham is executive director of the Thiel Fellowship, which distributes the money to 20 new dropouts each year. And what is he encouraging? “If you have a great idea, the time to pursue it is now,” Abraham said. “We also hope to show society that this is an alternate path that people can and should consider and take.”

Abraham says the 105 current and former Thiel Fellows have created more than 1,000 jobs and raised $330 million from investors.

CU Blog - Skipping School to become Tech Giants - Photo 2

Only eight have returned to college.

The selection committee is now sorting through 5,000 applications for this year’s 20 fellowships. Most of the applicants would have much better odds getting into the Ivy League.

“It breaks my heart when some of the most promising students don’t fulfill their potential because they’re chasing rainbows,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at StanfordUniversity, who has been a critic of the Thiel Fellowship from the beginning.”

“It’s like what happens in Hollywood: You have tens of thousands of young people flocking to Hollywood thinking that they’re gonna become a Brad Pitt or an Angelina Jolie; they don’t,” said Wadhwa.

“They don’t become billionaires. There haven’t been many Mark Zuckerbergs after Mark Zuckerberg achieved success.”

And Wadhwa says there is little evidence the Thiel dropouts are doing much that isn’t already being done in Silicon Valley.”Everyone does the same thing: It’s social media, it’s photo sharing apps. Today it’s sharing economy,” Wadhwa said. “It’s ‘Me, too,’ ‘More of the same.'”

But 19-year-old Conrad Kramer and 21-year-old Ari Weinstein were convinced they had a new idea, so when they were awarded Thiel Fellowships in 2014, they both walked away from MIT to work full-time on their app, called Workflow.

“There are some opportunities that come up that you would regret turning down,” Kramer said. “Workflow was definitely one of those.”

“It’s kind of like making your own apps that save you time,” Weinstein said.

When Workflow launched, it was the number one bestseller on Apple’s App Store — and has since won several awards.

They’ve just hired their newest employee, Tim Hsia, a graduate of Stanford’s business and law schools and an Army vet. He’s 33-years-old and says he doesn’t mind taking orders from a teenage boss.

“I’m learning so much because they have such a wealth of experience despite their age,” Hsia said. “In Silicon Valley it’s about meritocracy of ideas. And so if you have a good idea, everyone’s always receptive to listen to it.”

Zach Latta found many people were willing to listen — leaving high school to move to San Francisco on his own, to start a non-profit called Hack Club.

He recalled that when he moved to the city at age 16, “I’d showed up at a gym one day with some friends, and they turned me away at the door because I had to be 18.”

Now he is 18 and works full-time helping high school students learn to code.

“I feel challenged in every single day,” Latta said. “And I think I’m learning as much as I’ve ever been while being happy.”

For now these wannabe tech titans live modestly in homes they share with several others, or in offices that also provide a place to sleep. Instead of meals, some drink Soylent — Silicon Valley’s version of fast food. It apparently contains all the nutrients necessary to stay alive, in a bottle.

“Yeah — breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner,” said Latta.

They are building their companies with money from investors who seem to care little whether they graduated from college.

“It’s actually kind of a badge of honor here, dropping out,” said 23-year-old Stacey Ferreira. She’s dropped out of NYU — twice! The first time she saw a tweet from Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, offering to meet anyone who gave $2,000 to his charity.

She borrowed the money and met him. She was 18 and starting her first business.

“And make a long story short, he and two of his buddies ended up investing $1.2 million in our business that summer,” Ferreira told Blackstone.

Two years later, she sold that company, MySocialCloud, for a hefty profit, and returned to NYU. But then she had another big idea that couldn’t wait.

“If you can create your own job, why wouldn’t you just do that and not get stuck paying student loans for the rest of your life?” Ferreira said.

Instead of student loans, she has $100,000 from Peter Thiel. She’s working on an app called Forrge that aims to create an on-demand marketplace for hourly workers.

She’s hoping that dropping out of NYU again will pay off again.

Blackstone asked, “Is there a lesson in your story for other young people?”

“Yeah, I think the biggest lesson to learn is just take risks,” Ferreira said.

“What’s the worst that can happen to you when you take the risk?”

“For me, the worst that can happen is I move home and sleep on my parent’s couch for a couple months, until I figure it out,” Ferreira replied.

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