Paul Graham’s essay – The Future of Web Startups – has become pretty viral in the VC and Nerd Community. Rightly so…it’s awesome. Not so much for the thoughts, but for the organization of them and the structure.
I have spent the last few years thinking and trying to prove that it does not matter where you call home to a web start-up. I still believe that the management and investor group make the difference, but Paul has a different point of view and a great one:
The question of whether to be in a startup hub is like the question of whether to take outside investment. The question is not whether you need it, but whether it brings any advantage at all. Because anything that brings an advantage will give your competitors an advantage over you if they do it and you don’t. So if you hear someone saying “we don’t need to be in Silicon Valley,” that use of the word “need” is a sign they’re not even thinking about the question right.
I have long thought that college for my kids will not be very important. We have lost the education race to China and India. Sorry…over! It’s just not important to our leadership. We try and encourage creativity in our house. We believe strongly in EQ not just IQ in our home.
I love Paul’s take on the subject. For the most part, connectivity, communication and social skills will rule the day for our children in the U.S. We better have them, because selling our culture (a post from May 2006, pre Google/YouTube) is our last great resource . Here’s the excerpt from Paul’s essay:
8. College Will Change
If the best hackers all start their own companies after college instead of getting jobs, that will change what happens in college. Most of these changes will be for the better. I think the experience of college is warped in a bad way by the expectation that afterward you’ll be judged by potential employers.
One of the most obvious changes will be in the meaning of “after college,” which will change from when one graduates from college to when one leaves it. If you’re starting your own company, why do you need a degree? We don’t encourage people to start startups during college, among other things because it gives them a socially acceptable excuse for quitting, but the best founders are certainly capable of it. Some of the most successful companies we’ve funded were started by undergrads.
I grew up in a time where college degrees seemed really important, so I’m alarmed to be saying things like this, but there’s nothing magical about a degree. There’s nothing that magically changes after you take that last exam. The importance of degrees is due solely to the administrative needs of large organizations. These can certainly affect your life—it’s hard to get into grad school, or to get a work visa in the US, without an undergraduate degree—but tests like this will matter less and less.
As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you’re judged by users, and they don’t care where you went to college. So in a world of startups, elite universities will play less of a role as gatekeepers. In the US it’s a national scandal how easily children of rich parents game college admissions. But the way this problem ultimately gets solved may not be by reforming the universities but by going around them. We in the technology world are used to that sort of solution: you don’t beat the incumbents; you redefine the problem to make them irrelevant.
The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the other students you meet there. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, people may start consciously trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships with companies they want to work for, students may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.
What students do in their classes will change too. Instead of trying to get good grades to impress future employers, students will try to learn things. We’re talking about some pretty dramatic changes here.
The whole section brings back memories of one of my fave Rodney Dangerfield movies.. ‘Back to school’ where in his keynote to graduating schools his advice is to “GO BACK”.