In this episode, we cover what has gone wrong with our universities, how she thinks about empowering young people, and a whole lot more. Danielle co-founded 1517 Fund.
Will Jarvis 0:04
Hey folks, I’m William Jarvis, along with my dad, Dr. David Jarvis. I host the podcast narratives. narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been the ways it is worse in the past or making a better, more definite future. I hope you enjoy it.
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Well, Danielle, how are you doing today? I’m doing really good today. How are you? doing? Great. Danielle, can you go ahead and get started and just give us a brief bio and some big things you’re interested in?
Danielle Strachman 1:01
Sure, absolutely. Well, we got one of my main interest back here cats. That’s my love it cat. littles also known as tulip Willow, Ginger bear. Oh, my hand was long names. But that’s her intro. I guess I should intro myself. Yeah, I’m Danielle strassman. I am a founder and general partner of 1517 fund, we are a fund that works the pre seed stage. So very early backers. And we have this sort of novel thesis of backing people who do not have a college degree, I’d say 90% of our founders don’t have a BA or BS. And we really consider ourselves almost like a anti establishment educational institution over a VC fund. You know, so our, our founders are scholars and residents, and they’re learning by doing by building their companies. And before this, I was at the teal Foundation, I was on the founding team, the teal fellowship and worked with a great team there. And we worked with Peter to pick out teal fellows. And some of those people have become household names that that we worked with. And and when we were working with them, they weren’t known. You know, we’re not like Forbes 30. Under 30. We’re, we’re mentoring people after they’ve done something great. It’s more Hey, we think this person has potential let’s give them two years and 100,000 in grant funding to see what they can do. You know, one person who’s been in the news more recently is Austin rustle of luminar technologies, that’s actually a company of ours that has recently gone public. You know, this, this makes Austin one of the youngest people to IPO in history. And so it’s it’s pretty exciting. And we also worked with people like vitalik booter, and of aetherium, Dylan field, a figma. Paul guru of upstart, Laura Deming of the longevity fund, like I can just keep going here. But we saw that we were we have access to this community of young people. And we seem to be really good at picking people who have like potential, and being able to move them forward with something I like to say we often work with a team with a name and help them grow into a company. And and we said we wanted to expand that six years ago. And so we left the foundation to start 1517 it’s actually funny, I’ve been, you know, talking about how we’re six years old at this point, and it still feels like we’re only about three years old, I don’t know what the good thing going. And then lastly, I’ll just close out with that. I’ve been very passionate for a long time about educational options for young people, I have a personal mission to bring freedom and autonomy, you know, to, to what I would call young people someday when I’m 60. I’ll think you know, 40 year olds or the young people but but but right now, it’s really about education and giving people choices and options instead of saying that one path is for all and in that vein, I also have a charter school I started about 14 years ago in San Diego called innovations Academy. I just had a great experience visiting there about two weeks ago, I’m on the board and we moved into a building that’s our home of our own. And we get to stay there forever. And it’s, it’s just so nice. It’s a really beautiful building. And we’re going to be able to put art on the walls and do what we want. And you know, I remember when we first started and all the furniture was used, and we were basically this scrappy startup school and, you know, calling parents and saying, Hey, can you can you all bring paper towel today, we don’t have budget for this, and this and I walked the building the other day, and we’ve got, you know, beautiful screens that dropped down and technology all over the place. I’m like, wow, we’ve come a long way. So it’s, uh, it was just wonderful to see.
Will Jarvis 4:40
That’s excellent. That’s excellent. I’ve got a couple of questions for you about that a little bit later. But first, I wanted to ask, you know, you’ve done a really incredible job of, you know, picking successful young people and, and there may be there’s also an effect where you know, you’re giving them some slack to work on what they’re interested in. So you’re definitely helping that process. So it’s tough to untangle you know, things. But But what did you look for? What do you look for? When you see a young person and you think this person has a ton of potential? Is there like a formula? Or is it more just like, it’s, I’m assuming it’s like a unique case each time. But But how do you think through that? And how did you come to that process?
Unknown Speaker 5:17
Yeah, you know, there are certain things that we’ve started to come up with. There’s a term that we use that we’ve kind of invented, we call it hyper fluency. And it’s when someone can talk backwards and forwards about a space. You know, it’s like, if someone can just geek out about the technology sector they’re in. And you can just tell like, it’s something it’s so it’s such an in person experience of you’re talking to someone and they’re so jazzed about what they’re doing. It’s like nearly infectious one of the questions we ask ourselves when we’re evaluating making an investment. And we asked this question, too, at the teal fellowship, we asked, do we have more or less energy after talking to this person. And oftentimes, if a person is really into something, it’s like, they zap you with it, you’re like, I had no idea I was into quantum computing. But I’m so I’m so interested in now, because this person is infected me. And it’s being able to not just talk about the technology, but about the business cases about how they build the team, they can just kind of go all over the place with it. But there’s another quality that we look forward to because some people are very good at sounding very smart about things. But what they’re not good at is communicating to maybe the general public about something. And so we’ll meet founders who will call it that they’re up in like this fog of abstractions, and they’re talking about their technology. And we’re like, cool, talk to me, like, like, well, what Michael, my colleagues honestly says, and I hate that he says it, but I’ll, I’ll say it, here’s, he says, talk to me, like I’m the dumbest golden retriever you’ve ever encountered. Now, tell me about what you’re building. And, and what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of people who can’t do that, who can’t just simplify. And we think that ability to not only talk backwards and forwards, but also at different levels is really important. Because you’re bringing on team members, you’re bringing on investors, you’re selling the customers, you have to be able to communicate really, really well about something across this very multi dimensional space. And very few people can do that. So that’s one of the qualities we look for most, we also look for curiosity as a quality. On calls, I’m kind of notorious for being like, tell them about your hobbies, tell them about your aspirational hobbies, like, I want to know what people are into. Because it kind of just shows us to how dimensional is this person? And if what they’re working on doesn’t work out, could they be similarly passionate about something else. So that’s also important. And then lastly, I will say that there’s this intersection of the person has to be somewhat technical, to start building what they’re doing. But they also have to have the social intelligence to work with other people. And so all these things are really important to us and end up kind of coming up with like, okay, there’s like, small, small bits of people who fit all these things in a in a really strong way. So when I meet someone who especially matches all three of those areas boldly, I get super excited. I’m like, Oh, I found one of our tribe. Like, I found a weirdo in the wild. There are like, we just got to bring them in.
Will Jarvis 8:18
Just relevant that that’s great. That does remind me of a question I have. We talked to Tommy Collison a couple weeks ago, and he’s a Patrick’s, you know, yeah, brother. And, yeah, yeah. He’s a really, really great guy. He’s really passionate about the great books. Yeah, we had a great conversation. And we were comparing, like, our childhood and his childhood in Ireland. It was interesting. And I thought they had a great model where, you know, he could kind of pursue, you know, as long as it’s like, something he was interested in, he could go and do it. And his parents helped enable that. Whereas in the US, there’s intense pressure and competition for like college prep. In fact, we talked about, you know, a college prep kindergarten or pre K or something recently. Do you think there’s some sense in which the American educational system has zapped out a lot of like that curiosity in that, like, you know, I kind of what you were looking for, and trying to select, you know, good founders. It’s like, people that really passionate about this one thing and you talk to them, it’s like, Wow, now I’m passionate about what they’re talking about.
Unknown Speaker 9:23
Yeah, you know, I think we’ve got big problems on our hands. And one of the areas that my school focuses on is being able to offer students the ability to contribute to what they’re learning and be part of that process. So instead of the teacher coming in saying we’re gonna learn about x is the teacher’s job to be sort of more like a scientist and observe. Here’s what the students in this class are interested in. Let me try throwing out a couple project ideas and see what they want to do. You know, last year over the pandemic, I got really excited because a lot of people got to sort of experience independent learning or homeschooling or pod learning. And I know A lot of families is I have a housemate Allison. And she was talking to a friend over zoom, who’s a six year old. And, you know, I’m like this big homeschooling proponent and her friend over zoom said, like, Yeah, no, you know, we’ve been educating our son at home, he’s six, he’s doing really great with it. Like, I don’t think we’re gonna send him back to school like, this is just working really well for us. And I’m in the background, like, yeah, like, it’s not even someone I’m talking to being excited about homeschooling. And so people got a taste for it. And another piece that I also saw was, a lot of people were tweeting things out, or putting things on social is like, Oh, my kid is so bored that they’ve decided to take up guitar playing or, or they’re reading one of the great books, or they’re doing a thing. And I’m, like, I’m really adamant about this. That’s not boredom. That’s motivation. That is what it looks like when someone’s truly motivated is that they go forward and and they create something. And it’s funny, you asked me this question, because I, you know, I did not purposely do this. But I have this book, right here that it’s backwards on your screen, but it’s the teenage liberation handbook. I haven’t read this myself yet. But this is a book that is about helping teenagers to learn about how they can educate themselves in a more sort of freedom informed way. And actually don’t i don’t even know, I’m like, What year was this book written? It was written in. I’m like, that’s the edited one. For some reason, I thought this book was from the 70s. But I think it’s actually from the 90s. But I’m super excited to read it and see like, Huh, like what things still hold up to you. Okay, yeah, first edition 1991. So I’m super excited to read this and see, like, you know, does does this still fully hold up today? I’ve skimmed it a tiny bit. And so far, like, the first chapter is like, Yeah, why is freedom important? And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. This is so great. So I’m excited to read this and maybe do like a club house book club about it or something. Because I think that I think giving young people and teenagers the opportunity to like discover for themselves and learn and educate themselves in a more nuanced fashion is really important to your point. You know about learning from the call centers experienced growing up that they had more of that experience. And one last thing I’m going to throw out there is I wish schools would kill homework. School has a no homework policy, and at least a No, no, like, wrote homework policy. You know, if you have to talk to your parents at something at home about something that we need for class, maybe that goes home, but we just fully believe that, you know, after work, I wouldn’t say like, you know, if I have an employee, I wouldn’t say to, you know, Nick, on my team, hey, by the way, here’s more work for you to do after your work hours. And we really believe that young people should be able to use that free time to be motivated about other things instead of like, you know, funneling more schoolwork down their throats?
Unknown Speaker 12:57
Danielle, it seems like what you’re what I hear you saying is that you believe you can teach people to be hyper fluent, and then you can teach communication skills, and you can teach curiosity, and a passion for what you do.
Unknown Speaker 13:11
You know, I guess one of the things that, I would say, I think that would be I wish I could, like I and I think I have some ability in this arena. But I wouldn’t be so bold to say like that I can bottle it and be like, here’s how you do it. But I think that humans innately have these things. And it’s not that we have to teach them if that we have to get out of the way and stop putting other things on top that encumber people from doing what I think humans are naturally pretty damn good at. You know, I’ve spent a lot of time with really small children too. And you watch a four year old who’s like, super into something and they’ll stay there for a really, really long time and be really into it. And and I think there’s just a lot that whether it’s parenting or school that we lay on top of, of the human experience that kind of stifles people, and they then move away from it, or they’re told, oh, that thing you’re really interested in, you really can’t spend that much time on it, because you have to do these other things instead. So I think we’re all there. I think we just need to, like, bust out the I know the oppressive half twos.
Unknown Speaker 14:19
So maybe we need we need to remove impediments is
Unknown Speaker 14:22
Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s more about that. And I do think there are things that help. You know, I think, dialoguing with children about their interests helps them build that hyper fluency. I think getting them to say, Hey, you know, go talk to Aunt Sheila about, you know, what you’re really interested in, oh, you’re really interested in AI and she’ll doesn’t understand AI. Okay, well try to explain it to her. So she will understand it. I mean, so that happens, I think within families and can be fostered and some parents are definitely better at you know, that kind of interactive style than others. So I do think there are places where You know, families and educational groups can sort of step in to help that facilitation, but it should be facilitation. You know, and not just a bunch of to dues.
Will Jarvis 15:10
Right? That That makes a lot of sense reminds me, we talked to Marc Prensky, he invented the term digital native. He had this idea that a lot of times when we ask kids what they want to be, they’ll say, you know, we’ll be like, Timmy, what do you want to be? And he’ll say, I want to be an NBA star. And, you know, and then we’ll go, Well, you know, Timmy, it doesn’t look like you’re going to be seven feet tall. So maybe that’s not the best choice. And the truth is, is Timmy, you know, maybe he just wants to be, you know, wealthy, or he wants to be famous, or there’s like, you know, he’s just interested in basketball analytics or something, but he doesn’t have a word to put behind it. And do you think this is a real effect? Like, should we be asking the next question? It’s like, Well, why?
Unknown Speaker 15:53
I think that’s a super interesting question. And I read a great book on it called peak, I can’t remember the author’s name right now from its peak, it’s the, it’s the researcher, who basically came up with the sort of somewhat bastardize, 10,000 hours of practice thing that that Malcolm clock, gotcha, bandwidth. And he wrote this great book, it’s a really long book, I think he felt like he needed to write this really big book, because he was like, Oh, no, this, this like, sort of pop science guy took my thing and ran with it. And now he’s famous, and I’m not. But I really love this book. And he, towards the end of the book, he said, The premise is really about that, you know, natural ability might help get you interested in something, but it’s the practice that makes you really good at it. And one of the things that I thought was so fascinating is towards the end of the book, if you make it that far, because it’s a long one, is he talks about children who learn. I think he was talking about chess players. And what he talks about is that the students who are naturally very good to start, don’t turn out to be the best chess players. It’s the second tier students, because they have some natural ability, but they have to work hard. And the ones that work hard end up being the ones later who are like the super competition, chess players. And so the point that he’s making there is he thinks it’s just a shame that we take young people and you know, and third grade and say, Oh, well, you don’t have a natural ability at math. So we’re gonna put you in the standard group, and oh, you have a natural ability. So we’re gonna put you in the accelerated group. And he sort of positing that we have lost out on a whole class of very high performers, because we’ve just boxed them into the wrong place way too early. So I’m very interested in in these types of things, and even ideas of like, you know, exposing children to different types of ideas, different areas. To your point, it’s not just about doing the sport, it might be that, you know, someone is a savant about memorizing baseball stats, we have a young man who worked on our team years ago, who was that and I was like, Wow, that is one hell of a brain, you have a new like, You don’t look like the type of person who would play but Wow, man, do you just have it down pat. And it’s just really interesting. So I think your point is a really good one that we need not discourage people, when they’re younger. We should be doing sort of more exposure to more subjects. Or, you know, I think educators and parents could be more inquisitive of like, Oh, interesting. You’re interested in basketball? Like what makes you interested in basketball? Is it playing it? Is it you like watching this sport? Oh, what about the sport? Do you like watching? A friend of mine is Michael strong, who is a great Socratic edge. And he has wonderful videos where he goes through and uses the Socratic method with younger children. And I, you know, I just, I wish more people understood that methodology because you help young people develop their thinking and their interest by doing it.
Will Jarvis 19:03
That’s excellent. I love that. And I remember I actually got to meet Michael strong, and I had lunch sitting right beside him in college. That’s funny. That’s a very formal. Yeah, that’s, that’s cool. That’s cool. Danielle, so there’s 1517 fun. When I look at your thesis, and this is like, I don’t know if this is explicit, but I see it as kind of like, you guys found this $20 bill on the sidewalk, which people are missing, which is that, you know, you can start at any age and tackle different problems. It’s not you’re not gated, except for you know, maybe politics is gated. I don’t know. They all seem to be in there. Exactly. But do you think people just fundamentally miss that fact is that and is that kind of like a truth? Yes, fine. be important.
Unknown Speaker 19:51
We say we say our contrary and truth is that child labor is good. So And I only mean that in the most positive way, of course, I know that it’s like, it’s like super tongue in cheek to say that. Because of course, we don’t want young people working in poor working conditions. But what we do believe is that, yeah, there’s a narrative, that’s, hey, you can do these things that you want to do. But after you finish high school, after you finish college, after you get your PhD, after you’re married, after you buy a house, like there’s this whole escalator of stuff that you’re supposed to do in a particular order. And so what we say is that that’s just not true. And in fact, you know, we want to help encourage people to do things now. And it doesn’t mean that every person we work with has to take the dropout path and build a company and you know, sort of be a renegade person, it means crafting your own life. And so for some people going to college is the right place for them to be and that is the right decision. And that is as beautiful a crafting as if you’re going off on a totally different path. So we totally respect people are going to make individual choices and this. For us, we also try to encourage people to work on things in the moment, instead of being told to do it later. And one way we do this is through a grant program that we run through 1517. We will offer people $1,000, usually high school or college student to work on something of their choosing, and will often meet people at office hours or hackathon someone will come up to our table and say, Hey, you know, I’m really interested in building, you know, X, Y, or Z, actually are one of our companies that is doing really well started as a grantee with us. They’re called presso. And they, they are a robotics company. And they make basically like a new type of dry cleaning machine is the way that I would pay it. And they started at a hackathon with a bunch of hangers, like a lamp with the lights hanging down on stuff, and they had hair dryers hanging off the clothes, like it’s super scrappy, super scrappy, and my colleague Nick met them at a hackathon, we give them $1,000 as a Venmo payment, we make it super simple, there’s no work, there’s nothing. And there’s a lot of trust, we’re just like, we don’t we don’t need reports from you later about how you spent the 1000 bucks, you know, just we want you to have a learning experience with this 1000 bucks. And we do want to hear from you if it you know is working well or not working well. Because for us, you know, we want to know we want to learn alongside these people, these makers. And this particular team kept going on what they’re doing, they got into the hacks accelerator, which is one of the premier hardware accelerators. And now they’re in business, they sell their dry cleaning robot actually in the film industry, because what you always find out these interesting things, they eventually want to sell into other verticals. But what they found out was that the people who do wardrobe for actors and you know, people in film, they are responsible for the clothes. And if if that costume goes missing off site, dry cleaning and never comes back, somebody is getting fired. And so they love having these machines on site so they can be accountable for everything. And that started as 1000 bucks. We were just like, hey, go play like, like, let us know what you learned. And now they’re building a full fledged company. I think they’ve got almost 15 people on their team. And, and they’re they’re shipping out robots.
Will Jarvis 23:39
That’s awesome. Yeah. It seems like slack is a really important thing. Like, some amount. This is a kind of this is a theme I’ve heard in our conversation. Have you ever heard of Don Braden, and his concept of scientific freedom?
Unknown Speaker 23:53
Will Jarvis 23:53
You should check him out. He’s He’s really cool. He’s like, he’s like 85. Now he’s still really sharp. But he ran, they just republished his book through stripe press. And so he got some attention from that. But he has this concept of venture research. And in the 90s, at BP, he gave, you know, scientists, like no strings attached money to go follow their curiosities. And, and, you know, he got like a Nobel Prize out of it. And they spent like, this tiny amount of money. And he’s got this thought that, you know, there’s just too much bureaucracy now, in the grant making agencies you can’t find and follow. So do you think like Slack, is that really an important ingredient in that? Is that something just kind of missed here on the 20th 21st century?
Unknown Speaker 24:36
Yeah, you know, it’s very interesting. One of the things with the fellowship was that we had we had this incorrect thought that you had to give someone a lot of money to get them to, like really move forward with something. And it was probably about five years into the fellowship that we said, hey, what if we gave people 1000 bucks like, sure, we’re not going to you know, the person who gets the 100,000 is going to be at a different level than the person who gets the 1000 bucks. But, uh, why don’t we try that out. And we found amazing success with the $1,000 grant program. And in terms of like, both, I think giving people slack to do something. But I think for our particular cohort, I call it more than nudge. It’s like, it just kind of puts them over the edge to actually starting to work on the thing. And I think part of it is, you know, when, when a teenager or someone in their early 20s is pitching us at a table, and they’re like, oh, wow, like, Okay, I’m getting to talk to, you know, seeming adults who run a venture capital fund. And they say that this thing could have legs. Okay, cool. Like, I’m gonna go find out about that. And I guess the way that we approach things, too, is that we don’t say to people like, Oh, yeah, we think this is gonna work out, we just say, this is really interesting. And yeah, what would you do with $1,000? And, oh, I’d buy this, or I do that. You know, and then I’d start building and, and then they, you know, they move forward on it. And I there, there’s what we’ve heard feedback from founders a lot on that grant is that it wasn’t even the money so much as it was more like, okay, two people told me I could I had permission, like, I could go do like, for some, I don’t know, I don’t really need a lot of permission to do things. So am I surprised when other people do, but other people need permission? And we’re like, oh, yeah, we’ll totally give you permission to go build what you want to build and make what you want to make. And there’s something there is something powerful about that. And so I’m very much looking forward to looking more into the, the person that you mentioned, yeah, Don?
Will Jarvis 26:37
Yeah, pretty. Yeah, it’s really fascinating. And that is it. That’s a really interesting point that, you know, telling people that they can go do big things. And you know, here’s a little bit of money, like we believe in you, you can make do something cool. Like a try it. That’s super interesting.
Unknown Speaker 26:52
Well, one thing I’ll add to this, actually, I had a very powerful meeting with the founder, today, we have a founder who is working on an incurable disease. And I’m gonna leave it at that. But he’s making some amazing progress in my studies on like, potentially carrying this thing that is, is Wow, really destructive to, you know, large numbers of the population. And at one point, you towards the end of our conversation, he says, you know, sometimes I just can’t believe that, like, I’m worthy enough to be the person working on this. And he actually got tears in his eyes, like, and I was really struck. I was like, wow, I was like, yeah, and it was over zoom, of course, and I’m like, foreign person, that’d be like, let’s go in for a hug. Over zoom, and I was like, Hey, you seem really, like touched right now by what you’re doing? He’s like, Yeah, no, I really am. And some days, I just can’t believe that this is the work that I get to do. And I have you guys supporting me. And like, he’s like an even if what I’m doing doesn’t work out. It’s still worth doing. And I was like, Yes, that’s it like, and when I call this as a calling, like, This guy has found his calling. And whether it works out or not, doesn’t matter. He’s going in the right direction. And he’s going to figure something out one way or the other. And we love working with people like that, and being able to say, like, yeah, it’s okay to work on your calling, like, you know, and this person dropped out of school. Their parents weren’t happy about it, they’ve been a drop out for a couple of years now. You know, he definitely has some of the mad scientist thing going on. Because you know, you don’t get to be a dropout and want to cure an incurable disease without people thinking you’re nuts. So it’s just been really exciting to be able to help people to do the things that they’re meant to do, then y’all,
Unknown Speaker 28:49
it really sounds more to me, like rather than permission, what you’re giving people is validation, which to me seems much more important.
Unknown Speaker 28:57
Absolutely. That’s good. I’m gonna use that word from now often, I like that. Yeah, it is validation. It’s one, it’s this funny thing where I think a lot of people know in their hearts, like I really want to do this thing. But they just kind of need a little extra to finally like, move themselves forward with it. That’s great. That’s great.
Will Jarvis 29:18
I wanted to move a little bit now and talk about 1517 fine, the Reformation. You know, what do you think is gone so wrong with the universities? And and I do think, you know, you guys have a good approach and maybe why it’s not even the right question. And maybe it’s just we need more reflection for each individual person on on what the right path is. What do you think about that?
Unknown Speaker 29:41
Gosh, yeah, I think there’s a lot to say there. Yeah, you know, gosh, there’s so much. I mean, I think part of it is societal. One of the things that I’ll sometimes say is that, you know, I think until We reach sort of more radical life extension of like people living 1000 years or something like that we have this problem where we think that our experience is the experience that has always come before. And so, you know, most of our parents went to school. So they’re like, Oh, I went to school, it was good for me. And so my kids should go to school, but what they’re not factoring in is like the current day economics of school, the opportunity cost, that there are other options out there. One way that I like to talk about higher ed is that it really, like if you think about learning, more like transportation, there’s an analogy I’m gonna like, kind of weave in here. But you know, at one point, we had the horse and buggy. And then at one point, we had the car. And, you know, I’m sure some people would have said, Oh, no, we shouldn’t drive cars, like they’re dangerous, they have this, they have that do the horse and buggy. Well, eventually, the car became adopted, and the horse and buggy is out. And now we have airplanes. And so like, we can keep accelerating things. I think the same is true. in higher ed, where at one point, it was an accelerated path to something. But now it kind of feels like the horse and buggy to me, where, when I went to school, four years didn’t feel that long, because the opportunity cost was different. I couldn’t, you know, I got my first laptop in college. It’s not like they were just these ubiquitous things that everybody had, you know, I couldn’t start a startup from my dorm room, at least not nearly as easily. There weren’t as many resources, there wasn’t as much that you could learn online. And so for years, for me, I think viscerally felt very different than what it would feel like for a young person today, because the opportunity is just so different. It’s like, Oh, I can crack open a laptop, I can start, you know, a project right now I can put something out on Twitter that goes viral, I can make something and people are using it by tomorrow. And it’s not always that fast. But it’s a lot faster than four years of, of school time. And so I think that is a place where higher ed just keeps thinking of themselves. Like, I think the time piece is really, really critical. And the cost is really critical as well. And, of course, a lot of it is also predicated on, you know, some, some like to say on our team that schools are really just glorified hedge funds. And, and that’s what they’re really about is the endowment, not about the learning and education. And I think actually, to like really put a bow on all this, like the, the last year and quarantine, and, you know, the Coronavirus has really taught us but like the high end schools know that they’re selling a handbag, because they didn’t even reduce their prices when everything was online, like, faster, me to my core, I was like really, Hartford, really, you’re gonna have the same amount, your students are never gonna set foot on campus. And you’re still gonna say it’s about the quality of the experience, like there are some mighty fine words, I want to say that I’m gonna keep to myself. It makes me so mad. And, and it just really shows their colors. And then lastly, the thing that we always like to say is that if educational institutions were really into educating people, they would do more, they could scale the degrees, they could scale the classes. But it’s not about that. It’s about having a small handful of people that you can stamp with a logo and say these ones are ours. And those people going out there and saying, Hey, I got this thing. So it means that I’m better than other people. And it’s just toxic.
Will Jarvis 33:44
Yes, it seems very toxic. And I want to talk about the handbag. So this is funny. This is a funny way to get to this. But so I went to UNC Chapel Hill that went to UNC Chapel Hill. And you know, it’s a quite, it’s a good state. They’ve school, but it’s a state school. And it’s now it’s an acceptance rate is now the same as Stanford was 20 years ago. And it’s just like, What is going on? Yeah, to me, like the access like this is severe access problems, more people that want to go, and and there aren’t enough spots. Can you talk about you, you mentioned that a Harvard’s, like a handbag like a Harvard degree is like a handbag? So just to break this down? It seems like a lot of what you know, an elite institution is it’s just like a status signal. And it’s not it’s much less like a it’s not that you get a better education, per se. It’s more that you’re it’s something to show off. Do you think that’s true?
Unknown Speaker 34:41
Yeah, absolutely. And I you know, I think we’re things like this will eventually fall apart and we’ve seen it start falling apart some is that you know, I think a lot of hiring institutions use higher ed as their assessment criteria. It’s their way of saying, Oh, we know this person is smart. We know this person. is willing to follow the rules because they didn’t get kicked out. You know, we know this person is willing to put in the time to do something, and so on. You know, and we are starting to see places even like Google that don’t require having college degree anymore on, you know, applying for jobs and things like that. So I do think, I think actually, it really starts at the top of hiring institutions of when those groups start doing their own assessment, I think some of them are going to find, and I think some of them did find even over COVID, especially with remote work, wow, there’s really talented people all over the place, and we just have to go find them. And again, it is a really hard problem assessment is very, very difficult. But I think that is, I think there’s a fear that a lot of higher ed sells to other people of like, oh, you’re not going to be able to make it unless you have this piece of paper. And especially if you don’t have our piece of paper, ours is going to get you into the door to the life that you know, you really want in the future, even though maybe the degree you’re getting actually has no jobs in it. You don’t know that, but we’re not going to tell you that part. Right. So I think, you know, I think one thing that’s interesting is that Gen Z is really savvy, like really, really, really, really savvy, I think, I don’t know, where they got their bullshit meters from way high. They’re just, it’s just way high. They they get it? They’re like, Oh, yeah, this is bullshit. Like, all these things I’ve been told are bullshit. Like, and I’m not, I’m just not doing it. And it’s pretty interesting to me. So I’m very curious to see how universities are going to be responding, you know, to Gen Z. And then my understanding is we have Gen. Alpha after that. Well, I wonder, I’m wonder where this is all going?
Will Jarvis 36:51
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It’s a good trend. It’s good to see and more knowledge about like, just how that student loan debt is, Hey, can you talk about, you know, student loan debt? You know, obviously, I think it’s a very, very, very concerning thing. It’s ballooned, even in the last 510 years. Yeah. You know, is it worse than people think it is? Is it not as bad? And do you have any potential ideas? You know, change the bankruptcy laws? I don’t know.
Unknown Speaker 37:20
Sure. Yeah. You know, I don’t know all the current stats, like right off the top of my head right here. But, but what I think I mean, it sort of, it definitely smells quite a bit like, you know, the housing crash in 2008, when it’s like banks were were loaning out money to families to buy homes that they could not service, and then the whole thing crushed under its own weight. And it feels the same way of saying to a 17 or 18 year old, hey, you’re gonna sign this piece of paper. You know, this says that after you’re done with school, you’re going to start paying off this loan at this percentage rate. I’m guessing it’s not even that clear, actually, I mean, I remember myself signing off on student loans and just been like, Yeah, I just put my name here, right. Like, no one walked me through the math. I was lucky in that, you know, I have something like, less than 2% interest rate. And it was like 10,000 bucks. So I paid it off. And it was not a big deal. You know, but I’ve heard lots of stories from young people of Oh, I got this degree. And it turns out one that wasn’t even the thing I wanted to study, I haven’t been able to get a job. I’m paying off 80,000 in debt, but I’m not even touching the principal, because the interest rate is so high. So sometimes it’s not even the the school expense itself, although I think that’s highway robbery. It’s the loan companies that really are just killing people. And I was even talking to a surgeon a couple of years ago, actually. And I said, It’s funny, I didn’t bring it I she didn’t know who I was, she didn’t know what I do. Or like what I stand for. And I said, What do you think is like a common misnomer about becoming a surgeon, she goes, Oh, people think that you’re like floating in cash, and you’re making all this money. And she goes, it does pay well, but what no one understands is that to get there, you have to take out so much and loans shoes, like I’m just happy that my husband works at Google, because that’s what’s been able to afford us to be able to, you know, you know, have the apartment that we have be so that she can service her debt. And I just thought like, Wow, so even if you get a really good job, it comes at this very, very high cost. And it’s something that people need to think about a lot of like, does it make sense for someone to take out those loans? For some people it does for some people? It doesn’t. You know, there are innovative structures coming into play, that I’m still developing opinions on, you know, there are the income sharing agreement models that a lot of the boot camps are doing, and I think it’s interesting. I don’t know where that’s going to land. But what I think is right is that the incentive of a lot of boot camp programs is to get you a job, like they only do well when you do well in the market. And schools aren’t like that. And I do think that it would be nice if they would move in that direction. But they don’t have very much of an incentive to, like there are, you know, there aren’t people rallying outside of Stanford, to lower tuition or to, you know, haven’t is a agreement or something like that. Like, they’re just kind of getting to do it, how they do it. But I do think there are some interesting models that are coming into play. Definitely, yeah,
Will Jarvis 40:29
I think I really like the is a model at our little, little startup in the last two years. All the engineers we’ve hired have been from lambda school. Oh, cool. And they’re all like, it’s so funny, you know, like, one of them was a cinematographer before, and he’s just incredible data scientists you’ve ever met as a bartender, and, you know, nice, incredible web developer. And the best thing about it was, you know, I, I inquired, I was like, you know, we need to hire this, like we’re trying to get done. And, you know, the, the, the, I guess, sales lady, reverse recruiter, whatever you like to call this person, but you know, from land, but she beat down the door, and she’s calling me, she’s texting me. She’s emailing me, like, man, I couldn’t get UNC Chapel Hill to get off their butts to call anybody. Oh, I have a half, you know, and it’s just like, this is like the aligning incentives. It was it was really, I felt much better about the future after that
Unknown Speaker 41:21
experience here, and those and those employees are still happy with is a agreement. They’re like, Okay, good. Like, I know, it tops out at a certain point. And I think I remember when I first came out, I think people were thinking like, Oh, they can just like keep, keep going and right. Like, I don’t think that’s gonna work out. Yeah. But it seems like they’re happy with the model.
Will Jarvis 41:40
I think they’ve been happy. Yeah. And I and we’d have to ask them, you know, on that specific point, but I think it was it, you know, a lot better than going and, you know, taking out the 120k, it was much more compressed, you know, the time period was much less it was it was still much cheaper. So, at that one,
Unknown Speaker 41:58
I left that sort of transformative model there of like, a person who doesn’t think there may be cut out for a certain role. And then they go through boot camp, and it’s like, oh, I went from being missed to being this and that now I see myself as a different person. And I think that’s something that people are going to think about over the long haul, is it? You know, it’s considered like, like, like, your, like old hat. If you’re at a role for more than two years at this point. It’s like, oh, like, you know, you always have to be sort of learning and growing and taking on something new. And I think boot camps that really help facilitate that.
Will Jarvis 42:34
There’s good point, you know, you can pivot a lot more and change things. Right. It makes it more possible. A venture capital 1517 fund, we’ve talked to Zach and Michael already. And you guys, you’ve got a great culture. I mean, they both spoke very highly of you. I wanted to mention that. What do you think people most miss about venture capital? And do you think your background in education gave you kind of a unique ability to you know, what’s the meat like to actually be helpful? Perhaps?
Unknown Speaker 43:04
Right? Yeah, absolutely. Gotcha. These are good questions. I’m trying to think I’m gonna let the like, what do people miss percolate in the rain? while I go with the educator piece? I do think that being an educator has really served me very well, in terms of my role with 1517. You know, a lot of what we do since we’re at the pre seed stage is a lot of coaching and mentoring of founders. And, you know, that’s what you do a lot as a teacher as well. And so I love being with people. I love using the Socratic method to sort of get information out like Michael strong does. We also like in a lot of what we do to being switchboard operators, you know, like the old style, like a cool, plug in pull this one, it’s like, I meet a person, I say, Oh, you have talked to this person. And I make that intro. And then you know, they’re on their way or, you know, a founder that we just on boarded was asking us if we had any best practices for family leave plans for for him. And I said, Well, let me message My founders and find out. So I messaged all my series and about founders and said, Hey, if you have a family leave plan would love to see it, you know, see your best practices are and I got about 10 emails back from people Oh, here, look like, you know, collect a lot of stuff, sent it over to the founder and said, I don’t have time to like, triangulate and make it into a nice packet for you. But here’s the information. So So I do think that my background is an educator, plays really nicely. And I definitely do have a drive to actually be helpful and do things like make connections and offer feedback on things. So So I do think, yeah, it just plays in nicely. And then as far as like, what do people miss about venture? The thing that is mostly coming to mind right now is maybe that it’s like, each stage of venture is very different. It’s like Funds seed funds series A funds beyond funds, we all have very different incentives. And we work with very different types of groups. It’s like the people that I’m kind of beholden to are my investors, my limited partners in the fund. And all venture capital funds have limited partners, but they have different types. So for example, mine tend to be individuals and family offices. So I’m working at the very human level with people. Whereas if we were a larger fund, or a series, a fund or something like that, we’d be working with institutional investors, and the things that different types of investors we work with want, and the patience that they have are different at different levels. And so what I’d say to founders is really No, really, like think about when you’re pitching a fund, what does your company have to be to that fund for you to be a great investment for them? Because it’s going to be really individual for each fund. And I think, too often go into a pitch meeting thinking like these are all one in the same the way I would pitch it series A is the same as I you know, pitch it seed, and it’s not.
Will Jarvis 46:11
Gotcha, that makes sense. Like, it seems like it’s, it’s very different from, you know, you’re serving California state pension. And you’re trying to, like, you know, save that entire pension fund from, you know, going under in 20 years, that’s a lot of pressure versus like, family offices and smaller. So,
Unknown Speaker 46:28
you know, I love our investors that are really great to work with, sometimes I’ll get nervous when we have like a report call with them. And then they get on the call. And some of them have funny zoom backgrounds and like, humans, like, you know, they’re goofballs, like me, like, that’s great.
Will Jarvis 46:44
That’s cool. That’s I love that. There’s this perception of VC, like a lot of VCs being like hard charging, etc. Like, perhaps unkind, like, kind of super arrogant. And everyone we’ve talked to a 1517 fund in your culture is, like, really good. You’re all very nice people. You think that’s been like a competitive advantage as some assets like just not being terrible?
Unknown Speaker 47:08
Yeah, no, it’s a huge advantage. It’s sad. It’s a really, there’s that that becomes a huge competitive advantage for us. But you know, what’s funny is we had a retreat with the team just a few months ago. And my colleague, Nick is very insightful. And he said, he said, you know, we got to double down on who we are, and just like, be our weird selves. And so like now, for example, I’m like, my cats in the thing. I don’t care. Like I am, I’m a crazy, I got my, I’m like, Oh, this is terrible. So we just sort of doubled down on who we are. And it seems to work. And it also works in some really interesting ways for us where I think we also attract founders who are often you know, underrepresented, because we don’t have that stuffing. The door is shut, you have to get the warm intro. I had so much fun yesterday, I had two people who wrote into our contact form, and we asked for a fun fact from people. And we don’t mean that section to be like the humblebrag of like, will fun. No, but someone wrote in this, like, I don’t remember exactly how they said it. But this one woman wrote in and she she talked about being a chicken rescuer, and like rescuing someone’s chicken. And like, I wrote her back and I was like, You had me a chicken rescuer. And then this other guy wrote and said that accompany he had before this, that was kind of just the side hustle was he had these coffee mugs, and he would fill them with dirt. And he would take succulent clippings and just put them in the dirt. Because you can do this with seconds. You don’t need to, yeah, read them. And he would sell them for 3x markup on the mug. And he’s like, I just had so much fun doing this. And it was so good for me. body like stuffing these things with dirt. And I was like I wrote him back. Because like you had me at succulent markup, I was like, we have to talk. No, so we just have a really good time with people and I it does make us stand out. And I think our founders really trust us over time, even for our founders where they’re really off to the races and you know, their series A and above, you know, those founders, you know, still want to talk on a regular basis and say, Hey, here’s the problem I’m having with my board or here’s the issue I’m having with an investor because we become the super trusted and also like easy casual group to go to like we get to know people on a very personal level. Some of our founders we’ve taken out for their first beer like not because we asked you because they asked us to. And I’m always so pleased by that one. I’m like, really? up here personally don’t beer. That’s.
Will Jarvis 49:45
I love that. I love that. Danielle, thank you so much for coming on. I’ve got two final questions. Yeah. One is, what advice do you have for someone you know, that’s younger early in their career and Thinking about all these issues like career wise, you know, where do I fit in the world? etc? That’s a huge question. How about it’s also general? Right? So let’s, let’s kind of, I guess,
Unknown Speaker 50:09
one thing that I’d say is that every few years is going to be really different. I think, I think Long gone are the days where someone worked in the same place for, you know, like, even when I tell people, I was at the foundation for five years, they’re like, oh, wow, five years. And like, to me, I’m like, that doesn’t seem that that long, but, but apparently, that’s like, that’s like, I don’t know, the Ice Age of work. But, uh, but one thing to think about is that Yeah, like every few years has the potential to be markedly different. And so that means you do want to keep educating yourself and learning things. And, you know, that means like, reading books, you know, maybe taking some online classes, I don’t mean, like enrolling back in school again, I think that is something to think about with one’s career, I think it’s really important, you know, as much as one can do so to be motivated by what they’re doing. I was talking to a young man this morning, who is starting a startup, but he was telling me about his job. He’s a contractor for Google, and he’s like, it’s fine, it pays the bills. But you know, it’s just kind of the same thing every day, and I don’t really like it. And, and he’s probably about 22 years old. And I said, you know, this is good, you’re getting that internal barometer for yourself, of what works for you, and what isn’t. And a lot of people stay in things that don’t work for them, whether that’s work, whether that’s relationships, like family stuff, like people just kind of tough it out for a really long time. Because you think, Oh, this is just the way it is. You know, but, you know, he’s sort of learning that when he puts his feet on the ground in the morning, and he goes, Oh, I don’t really want to do this thing day after day, that that’s a sign like, That’s his intuition, telling him like, maybe this isn’t the thing that that we should be spending time on. And we’re not all fortunate enough to be able to always have a job that we love or anything like that, but it’s something that I think people can pay attention to. And lastly, I would say, I think, you know, there are the golden handcuff jobs, people who go to the Fang companies, and they say, I’m gonna be here for a year, I wouldn’t be here for two years, I’m gonna get to this thing. And then leave and then they never leave because they get used to a certain lifestyle. And that’s very real, it’s very hard to move backwards, it’s hard to say, Oh, I’m gonna do this other thing that I love that pays less, or I’m gonna do a startup and, you know, not have much of a salary for a while. So, you know, if you’re at a big company, you know, think about how long you want to be there. You know, think about what affected it’s, you know, maybe having on you overall and if you do have an exit date, like, you know, really, really try to keep I think,
Will Jarvis 52:58
I think Daniel I think that’s an incredible advice. It’s like you’ve got to be very wary about getting stuck at like these local minima that aren’t aren’t part of like their that aren’t and you never like look elsewhere and try and like golden handcuffs like, that’s really, that’s great advice. Great advice to think about. Well, Danielle, where can people find you your work? 1517 fun. Where should we send them?
Unknown Speaker 53:20
Yeah, absolutely. People are welcome to email me Danielle at 1517 fun calm they can find me on Twitter de Strachman. They can find me on LinkedIn. Although I usually only add people on LinkedIn when I either know them or someone writes write a really good personal LinkedIn message like those are those get my attention way more tell me that you like cutting up succulents and selling them to people. Apparently, that’s the way to my heart is like humans. But yeah, I always say, you know, especially if you’re a young person, a maker, a founder. Maybe you’re in high school, and you’re just thinking about your future and you want to reach out feel free. It’s never too early. I always tell people that you know, if you think oh, maybe I should message Danielle. Just do it. Like there’s no right time.
Will Jarvis 54:08
Excellent. Well, thank you, Danielle. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Thanks, Danielle.
Well, that’s our show for today. I’m William Jarvis. And I’m will join us next week for more narratives.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai