Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Russia has already Won

Paul Chen

In the last 48 hours satellite images has shown that Russian military vehicles are slowly making their way over the Ukrainian border violating Ukrainian sovereign space.  There has been no official statement from the West or any international government as of yet.  

The fact is Russia has already won.  There is little that the West can do, short of bombing Russia to Kingdom come, to stop Putin from doing what he wants.   All the the West or the EU specifically, can do is to blame itself for not addressing the problem during the window.
The Ukraine can be see as the pain that the EU didn't really pay much attention to until it got too late.  There was a window that Ukraine could have provided a wonderful vast buffer zone between itself and Russia had the rest of Europe went in and done something.   Ukraine was suffering from an identity crisis and was crying out for help.  Is it Russia or is it Europe? It also suffered from the highest cases of HIV this side of the Urals.  When push came to shoves, the respect that the EU showed Ukraine was so low that the offer that the EU put on the table was so low that Putin had no problems to top that offer immediately.    

From a historical point of view, think 1956 Hungary, 1968 Czechloslovakia, and 1981 Poland.  1956 and 1968, the Soviet Union made an physical military intervention to pull Hungary and Czechloslovakia from being too liberal.  In 1981, the Soviets did it mentally to the Poles.   Jaruzelski high on the afrodisiac that is power used the Poles' fear of a Soviet invasion to proclaim martial law.  Most of the the Soviet officials later denied that an invasion was even in the works for fears of Western sanctions.  

In recent history, Russia and Poland still have a very uneasy relationship.  It came to a peak in the months after the 2010 crash that killed President Lech Kaczinski which led to the showing of Katyn on a Russian network.  The relationship soured again after some deals with gas and the handling of the crash investigation.  And the relationship has never again reached that level since.

Today most of the Polish public still have negative opinions of its government and country.   People ask me, 'what are you doing in Poland?'  Nobody cares about public infrastructure.  Whenever a building is freshly painted, it is tagged by hooligan grafiti within 24 hours.  Kids and adults with their shoes on seats of public transportation, even new trams and buses.  They is why we can't have anything nice.  The Stalin brainwash is still going strong. 

 What can we do?  We can't do much.  One has to remember that Russia, like the US, holds one of the sacred five seats of the UN Security Council.  So does China.  That means as much as people might gripe about human rights and other shennigans, there is nothing short of rewriting the original UN charters, that anyone can do to forcibly remove them from it  or force them to do anything.  And guess what, any changes to the charter requires their agreement.   None of the other four countries (USA, GB, China, and France)  wishes to start another war.   

Can we hit them with energy? No, they have gas, nuclear, and coal.  Can we hit them with food.  No, they can get food albeit more expensively from other suppliers.  And the recent embargo of European produce hurts European farmers more than Russian stomachs.  Can we hit them with economic sanctions?  Yes, but they make deals with big utility companies privately anyway.  Germany can do something but they probably won't do too much.  Given it's dubious past, the last thing Germany wants to do is to get into another conflict with Russia.  Anyway, Russia is a major supplier of gas to Germany.  

What about internally?  We can't really do much internally in Russia because the Russian state runs the media.  Remember Anna Politkovskaya?  The Russian people are happy to feel secure under a strong leadership even if they have to give up some personal rights and have to live in semi squalor.  As can be seen by some internet videos and pictures, in Russia anything goes.    

Basically, who you are dealing with is a mafia boss with the police and the mayor in his pockets.  He has an empire whose inhabitants are so used to absurdities that they can accept anything.   His syndicate has a hand in many of the functions of the city?  What do to?  The key remaining bargaining chips that we can use is to setup a situation to give Putin a graceful exit, or find another dealer.  Otherwise, Russia has already won.   

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear readers,

Thank you for your support over the past year and change. When I started this blog, I didn't have any expectations.  It just made sense to start such a venture because there weren't any English language communications channels between the startups and entrepreneurs in Krakow and Poland and the world.  And I felt the information that was available was quite limited and didn't paint a full picture.  Additionally, most of the material was in Polish.  I am honored that my blog has helped bridge Krakow and Poland to the West and the rest of the world.  

Over the past year, we were updated by the progress of Estimote.  We met one of the Co-founders of TechCrunch.  There was a bridge building event at AGH in cooperations with the American Consulate.  We've been to Prague, Budapest, and Warsaw.  And we saw the opening of Hubraum in Krakow. 

However, this has been a very one way conversation.  I can count the amount of comments that was posted with my fingers and toes.  Some of them were adverts.  You can now get to the blog by simply typing KSUP.CO ! How about that for making things easier.  No more trying to remember long complicated url's!

Startups contact me!

I would like to invite Polish startups to contact me at   Please include the following info in your email:

1. Names of Startup
2. Names of founders
3. Location of Startup
4. Are you part of any accelerator or incubator? If so which one?
5. Funding history
6. Type of startups (Fintec, IoT, Health and etc.)
7. A brief explaination of your product or service.  If you don't have one yet, at least your concept.
8. What are you seeking? (Co-founders, funding, developers and etc)
9. What is your goal for next couple of years?

I will try my best to cover all of the ones that I find interesting.  I am pretty open to anything, give it a try.  Who knows, I might even be able to connect you to people.

Let's start conversations

I would like to get a conversation started.  If you had some opinion of something that I wrote and would like to express it, please do.  If you are curious about something here in Krakow or Poland, please let me know and I will try to cover those topics on future posts.  It has been and always will be a pleasure to provide you with great and thoughtful original content as well as external articles that I felt you should be aware of.  In some posts, I will address some of the comments that you have made.   PLEASE NO TROLLING!  Like they say in America, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  However, constructive suggestions and comments are welcomes. Anything that will move the conversation forward. 

Again, a sincere thank you for your readership and support, please check out other KSUP posts.  If you like what you saw, please share my posts with your friends and colleagues.

Sincerely yours,


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Talking Fund raising and Growth Hacking with

Paul Chen

From nowhere, Krakow has become one of the hubs of the burgeoning "Internet of Things" sector of the tech industry.  In Krakow, we have two major beacon providers with Estimote and  We have a personalized cloud provider in box.  We have a sensor provider that will help you manage your car in Cloud your Car.  And recently, we have a team who have developed a sensor which will monitor your home electronics and provide data on it like Ecoisme.  Students in the various technical universities like AGH are involved in some makers' projects.  However, all will be for naught if it wasn't for customers.

One of the firms doing very well in the client acquisition game is  Recently, I had a chance to visit their office in the Kazimerz district of Krakow.    I had a chat with Szymon Niemczura, the CEO and one of the co-founders.   We had a chat about fund raising and customer acquisition.

Startup and VC fit

As a startup with a good idea or product, you are going to be approached by many VC's hoping to give you funding in exchange for your equity.  It is quite OK to reject some of them.  Never worry that there will not be "a next".  If you build it and it's good, they will come.  Szymon observed that the satisfaction of many startups who have received funding from Polish VC's feel that they are being under-served.  These startups feel that the Polish VC's can be a bit unprofessional and shortsighted.  

It is understandable that VC's here like to put their bet on the favorite rather than the long shot due to the fact that some of their funding comes from the EU or there aren't enough money to play with.  Some of them will not go for the Hail Mary.  Instead they will play the short high percentage game.  The danger in this method is that you keep the status quo and you will not have the disruption that they talk about so much of.    As a result, many of them could suffer from a lack of a Global ambition.  Sometimes, you need to make the difficult and unpopular decision.  

Sunstone Capital from Denmark courted and the two parties quickly developed a bond.  They had a common understanding and respect as well as similar values in thinking big and quality over quantity.  Szymon liked the fact that the firm spent a lot of time to cultivate the relationship and that through the firm, he had access to some of the top experts in the industry.       There were always someone to play the devil's advocate in idea developments.

The surprising simple way to Growth Hack and acquire clients

One of the first customers of was Siemens, the German electronics giant.  What made an impression on them is the way was able to deliver whenever they requested support or hardware.  What Szymon value above all else is the trust of the customer.  And it is earned through being open, transparent, being reliable and responding quickly to inquiries, a sort of order today-ship tomorrow way of doing things.   There were some rather unusual orders such as 5,000 beacons orders and needed to be delivered in 3 days; and sending a package of beacons to a conference in New Zealand in less than a week.  Szymon recounts these nonchalantly.   They started to be known as the "yes" guys.

To a westerner or a business man from a place like Taiwan, this type of customer service is taken for granted, but here in the CEE region, good customer-oriented service still has to be taught.    From their wonderful customer experience, Siemens and others started to spread the word about  Pretty soon, they started to have customers like MIT, Vodafone, JP Morgan and Nike.  Like in social media, all you need sometimes, is one big name to be your advocate.  

Along with their customer service, all of their beacons comes ready to use, secure and already operable in a cloud environment.  They will ask you prior to shipment to send them some specs so they can pre-configure the  beacons for you.  

On the Horizon

There are beacons then there are beacons.  The second ones are known to as cloud beacons.  (More information here).  At the moment, they are working hard to build more and more of them to be released soon.  In the future, they are working on having wearable beacons that can be used in industry as well as for medical purposes.  

Some people might say that what did was some sort of Growth Hacking, I call it good customer service and having a bigger vision than your competition.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why Krakow should stop trying to be the next Silicon anything : An Open letter

Panie i Panowie,

Silicon Valley is a once in a millenium type of occurance.  It started with being one of the original nodes of Arpanet (grandfather of the internet).  Then it was the place where much of defense research as well was high tech research was done.  It is the place of Stanford and Berkley, the educational anchor from where many wonderful tech companies' founders graduated.  One of the great thing about the area is wonderful year-round weather and the healthy Pacific breeze filling your lungs with hope and inspiration.  It is one of those examples where success breeds more success.  Such patterns of development are not likely to occure in other places.  So why bother?

Recently, there have been a lot of chest thumping and screaming about 'hello world, Poland has a startup scene too!'  I was also guilty of this.  However, at some point it can be seen as the annoying kid in the back of the classroom screaming at the top of his lungs, 'me, me, me!'
The truth is, people out there already know about the startup community in Poland and Krakow.  They don't know the specifics.  I will continue to promote the community and inform others about things that is happening here.  But, guys, rest assured that they know that we exist due to works by myself, Bitspiration, John Biggs from TechCrunch and others.  

The only question that I get from reading all this chest thumping is:

"What the fuck do you want?"

Do you want recognition, a pat on the back, or a cookie for having a couple of startups that have done well?  Intelcilinc, Estimote, Duckie Deck,, Get Base, and UXPin are indeed some wonderful examples of what Poland is capable of.  And we in the community should be happy about their contribution and the example that they are serving to the younger up and comer.

A good advert has a call to action clause.  What is ours?  We want people to notice us? DONE! We want them to visit us? DONE! We want them to teach us things? DONE! What else do we want?  What do we have to offer them?
And it doesn't matter where your news comes from.  Things happening in Warsaw is applicable to Krakow.  Things happening in Poznan is appicable to people in Gdansk.  In a startup ecosystem as small as Poland's, everyone counts.  You cannot afford to have this village mentality.  Divided we fall.  So OMGKRK = TECHWAWA = NEWWROCLAW.   

We have problems in the community that needs to be addressed.  No one is starting this conversation.   We need more young talented students to take a chance and work for startups or initiating startups.  We cannot allow our talent to bleed away to other countries or the soul sucking international BPO's.   We need more people to come in from the outside to liven things up and inject fresh new ideas into the community.  The community has gotten stale.  We need some governmental support because as a community we cannot do it alone.  No body is starting these types of conversation.  

Polish companies gripe about why aren't they growing like their western counterparts.  Well, RTV Euro AGD is one great example.  The prices aren't competitive, customer service sucks, policies are not customer-oriented (mostly to protect the stores' margins and ass) and they will not go the extra mile.  And we gotta pay for the bags.  The same goes for others like Play and Netia.  And they will chase you out of the store if you linger just after closing hours.  In the US, we stay open until the last customer leaves willingly.  We need to treat customers better.  And as customers, how much more bending do you want to do?  You need to speak up. 

If we want people to notice us, we need to grow as a community.  We need to welcome others, rich and poor, white and colored.    Never underestimate people without a techincal background.  Jack Ma of Alibaba has no idea how the internet works, but he had a vision and ended up owning the world's biggest e-commerce websites.  This place has potential, but it has no place for the status quo.     Maybe one day, some community might say, we want to be the next Krakow.

Z poważaniem, 

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Brainly - an Edtech phenomenon straight from Krakow

Marcin Gnat

In a pretty short period of time Brainly has become one of the most successful startup-ups not only from Krakow, but Poland in general. This crowd learning platform has grown up to reach over 25 million unique users monthly and has expanded from native Poland to countries like Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, India, France, Spain, The United States and more.

Brainly was created in 2009 by Michał Borkowski, Tomasz Kraus and Łukasz Haluch, while they were still university students. They saw that studying and learning is severely compromised when students’ only resources consist of the textbooks and teachers’ lectures. The co-founders are young entrepreneurs and privately good friends, who earlier founded SEO, educational and programming companies but not just another group of geeks starting up in the region. Only this story goes more exciting.

“Homework struggles are a universal problem, and social learning is just emerging as a universal solution. Every student has different needs and a one-size-fits-all approach is simply never 100% effective. We’ve learned that the types of problems students are faced with vary from one country to another, but students are all faced with the same after-school issue of getting through their toughest problems alone”. - wrote Michał Borkowski CEO of at

So what is the concept of Brainly all about? This social network attracts tons of students, tutors and other lovers of wisdom, who can improve their total amount of knowledge working on it together. Basically, crowdsourcing the knowledge and skills. It’s all about the valuable content being thrown into an active community and made available to all for free. All that based on a simple Q&A (Questions and Answers) system with a tinge of gamification. More is in plans.

Of course, there is a lot of Q&A sites across the web, where students look for help from their peers, but as always, in the quickly-developing world of internet, this idea went one step further. helps students to learn and understand and share their talents in specific branches of knowledge, which they are the best in. The word “understand” is the key factor there as Brainly tries to emphasize the quality and the reliability of the answer. All  thanks to over 400 qualified moderators, who are frequently teachers and professors. 

What is more, users earn points for sharing the correct and creative answers, which help them to be ranked high in the website's „Hall Of Fame” and gives the whole platform an attractive aspect of gamification.

Naturally, this idea of collaborative learning has raised some controversy among the teacher staff. Many adults have concerns about the lack of control over the content shared by the students. This is one of the reasons why Brainly has put a lot of pressure on ensuring strong and thorough moderation.

After five years online, Brainly has become the unquestionable leader of the social studying websites in Poland (, and in Russia ( and is expanding rapidly on huge markets like Indonesia, Turkey or Brazil, managed by native administrators from those parts of the world.

One of the biggest upcoming challenges for Brainly for the next couple of months is to become an important and useful tool for people at the most challenging market so far, the United States. Up until now, this Polish platform has gained over 100k users there.

The company is also constantly growing their team of specialists to work with them. If you feel you are the right person to work at Brainly, don’t hesitate to visit this “Job offers” website and find out more information.

Marcin is a Media specialist at Brainly

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another Brick in the Wall.....

Paul Chen

Startup Community leaders in Poland keep asking when is the next Polish great success story going to happen?  I have covered some of the possible solutions.  I proposed that in order to have a world class startup, you need world class customer service, not only in the startups but across the board.  I have also proposed that you need to diversify your startup community in order to get different ideas and viewpoints to mix.   In this post I would like to make another proposal in getting our entrepreneurial community to the next level.  It comes from the root of entrepreneurship, EDUCATION.

Education is a tough subject to tackle due to the large amount of stakeholders.  I will try to do it in a logical progression.   One might assume that the education system be it here in Poland or there wherever you are, do a good job in training students to become part of the corporate machine, not a self determining critical thinking sentient being.

Demographic shift

Before tackling education, one must understand one thing.  The US is not in danger of a fall in population because of immigration and the up-coming Latin explosion.  However, here in Europe, the native population is falling.  People are not getting married as early or if at all.  Women are focusing more on career than family.  Couples are not having the 2.5 kids needed to replace the previous generations.  As in the US, the boomers are getting old.  As a result, there aren't as many students out there.  This trend means teachers are losing jobs and schools are competing for students.  Consequently, schools need to lower their standards just to stay in business.   Another way schools are trying to stay in business is to go to China to get students.  I think it is a great idea!  Native people might not like it, but this is a good reason for immigration.  

Student Accountability

In the Polish educational system, students are not taught to be responsible for what they are learning and doing.  A lot of it is institutional.  In order to get into a college, students have to pass a number of Maturity exams.   However, unlike in the US where the student's work in high school and overall personal progress is part of the college admission process, in Poland, a student could be mucking about during the whole primary and secondary schooling and learn absolutely nothing and just have a lucky week at the exams and get into a prestigious university like Jagiellonian.   I believe that a student's school work in secondary school should be part of the college admission process in order to get the student and the teachers to care about the learning of the student.   I also think that they should get rid of Religion in the school systems.  Given that the Catholic church is losing customers and the amount of instruction time in a student's timetable is quite limited, I believe that the time could be used in a more constructive manner.

On the university level, there aren't too much attention paid on accountability either.  Students are given almost unlimited tries in order to pass the exam of a given subject where as in the US, you are given maximum two tries or you would have to repeat the course.   the students can even try to pass a subject at a later date.  This leniency promotes apathy and laziness.   On a given weekday afternoon on a Polish campus, you will see students hanging out in the quads drinking beers rather than doing something constructive.   In a study of 3375 American and 1408 Polish university students was accomplished to test the hypotheses that cultural differences influence drinking patterns and beverage preferences between countries. Using the same questionnaire in both samples, the results revealed that significantly (P < 0.001) more drinks per week were consumed by both Polish male (24.9) and female (15.2) students compared to American male (15.0) and female (7.6) students.   It's almost a good thing that the drinking age in the US is 21.   There is also a lack of self initiative.  AGH had two great programs in the past school year.  

PAMI was something where top lecturers from Stanford and other top schools as well as business leaders from the US were invited to AGH by the US consulate to give lecturs and inspire the students to entrepreneurship.  Nest was a program where Innovation Nest, a local incubator/acclerator, and Lukasz Kostka, co-founder of Estimote went to give very practical lecturs on how to go from student to entrepreneur.  The turn out in both events was not as great as the quality of the product.   In the US and western Europe, people pay top dollars to attend such events.  However, in AGH despite the free food and free entrance the turn out sucked.     Some might argue that it was the marketing.  However, I will argue that the student's priorities are in the wrong place.

Tests Tests Tests

These days, there has been an unhealthy obsession with testing.  Standardised tests have become a high stakes game.  The school system has a stake because it demonstrates their effectiveness and can mean bonuses for principals and other admin personnel.  The testing agency has a stake because it is big business.  The government has a stake due to bragging rights and to be able to say that they are doing something well.  Testing is great if given the right way.  However, most of the time standardised testing fail in assessing how much is learned.  Some people might point out that inner city kids will never know how it is to raise pigs when it comes up on reading comprehension.   As a result, there are lots of cheating in Polish education.  The great Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson once said,"When students cheat on exams, it is because the school system value grades more than student value learning."

You might think that I am anti-Maturity test.  I think it is a good idea when combined with other metrics.  Most of the tests given in Poland only covers the first two tiers of Bloom's Taxonomy, remembering and understanding.  The same can be said for people taking the FCE and the CAE Cambridge English language exams.  There are people who have passed the FCE and CAE with good grades but cannot have a serious conversation in English.  In Poland, so much attention is focused on grammar, that the content of the conversation is irrevalent.  the Polish language is so grammar heavy that your intelligence can be measured by how good your grammar is.  It is true to some extent in English but the language is flexible and there are a variety of English spoken that grammar mistakes can be forgiven.  As an technical English language facilitator in university, it is my job to make sure that the students are able to converse with correct grammar and have a good range of vocabulary. However, it is also my job as a startup envanglist to taech the students to think critically and creatively as well.  

Critical thinking, being curious, and other top tier thinking on Bloom's is something that is not taught in the Polish education system.  They can tell you obscure facts in different topics.  However, to ask them to apply them to solve problems or to create something from nothing from that knowledge is hard.  That is something that I try to do in my classes.  I believe that the critical thinking skills will serve them better in a practical way than the English language skills that I am helping them achieve.     

At the moment, the education system is not meeting the needs of the entrepreneurial community and the business community.   One of the way that the community is improving the situation is to offer students some opportunities to work before they graduate.  May forward thinking students have taken this opportunity to gain some valuable on the job experience.  Students report that this experience is more useful than most of the theoretical knowledge they learned in school.  I believe that the education system needs to get students to be more accountable to what they are learning.  More critical thinking, independent, and practical problem solving need to be taught at all levels.   We need to get the students ready to face the problems and create solutions for the rest of this century and beyond.

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

Stanford and Its Startups


Stanford University is a wealthy school. Its seventeen-billion-dollar endowment exceeds the G.D.P. of Jamaica. But the university, which is constantly under construction, is surrounded by even greater wealth: Facebook is to the north, Apple to the south, Google to the east, Sand Hill Road to the west. Stanford is like a man sailing a beautiful new boat who looks around and sees his friends in yachts.
Stanford’s board of trustees began, in the mid-aughts, to gaze at the masts around the Bay, according to Randy Livingston, the university’s chief financial officer. Every major American tech company has some deep connection to the university, and the trustees began to ask questions, Livingston told me. “Why aren’t we investing directly in these ventures? Why are we creating all these opportunities and seeing the venture capitalists disproportionally profit?”

Last week, partly as a result of those inquiries, Stanford announced that, in partnership with its hospital, the university will begin investing in companies founded by its own students. Scholar-entrepreneurs can now apply to a start-up incubator called StartX, which was itself created by students in 2009. Until now, StartX has mainly offered training and opportunities for networking, and office space just off campus. Now, accepted companies will also be offered university money. StartX accepts eight to ten per cent of applicants. If they’re good enough to get accepted, and good enough to raise at least half a million dollars with support from serious outside investors, they’re good enough for Stanford’s endowment. The university intends to fund about ten per cent of each investment round. The initial numbers will be small—think Ashton Kutcherwith palm trees—but Livingston expects that, in five years, the university will distribute between fifty and a hundred million dollars. In return, the school gets equity and, maybe one day, cash. This past spring, I joked that the university resembles “a giant tech incubator with a football team.” The football team is ranked fifth in the country; the incubator is surely ranked first.

Stanford has always played the role of Silicon Valley’s queen mother—and, sometimes, its handmaiden. The university likes to boast that its alumni and faculty have founded close to forty thousand companies. Stanford has given ussearch engines, synthesizers, and glowing mice. Its best students invent products, while the best students from so many other places go on to developnew methods of financial engineering. Last year, Stanford changed its logo because the old one didn’t look good on an iPhone. (A disclosure and a tiny data point: I’m an alumnus and the co-founder of a Silicon-Valley backed company.)
But Stanford’s partnership with Silicon Valley has also raised ethical issues. Stanford professors, for example, often invest in companies founded by their students. This past spring, a company called Clinkle made news for this reason—it was funded in part by professors, and the university’s president had been an adviser to Clinkle’s C.E.O. when he was an undergraduate. As I wrote then,Clinkle raised complicated questions about values and conflicts: Do students get good grades if they start a company that their professors invest in? What happens to a student who wants to create a competitor to a company the chair of his department has already helped fund? Professors have coercive power, which isn’t the best thing to pair with financial opportunity.
StartX seems less problematic. For one, the incubator has been structured to limit such murky conflicts, according to Clifford Nass, a professor of communication and an advisor to the project. Some professors do invest in StartX companies, but they may not invest in ones to which they are official mentors. Other potential conflicts seem small. Will Stanford’s admissions department feel some slight additional pressure to admit kids who could bring gold to the endowment? Perhaps. Will there eventually be so much pressure to start companies on campus that students create preposterous ones? That’s probably already happening. I spoke with Charles Guo, a student who founded a StartX company two years ago. Since then, he’s seen a shift in the motivations of company founders. “It’s not, ‘I’m going to solve Problem X,’ ” he told me. “It’s ‘I want to start a company.’ ”
But here’s the most serious question raised by the investment: Is Stanford starting to agree with Peter Thiel’s vision for universities? Two years ago, Thiel, a Stanford alum and billionaire investor, decided that university education was one of the last remaining bubbles in America. Students pay a lot, accumulate debt, and graduate with little to show. Going to work is often better than going to class. Thiel offered to give a hundred thousand dollars each to a select group of promising students who drop out of college. Last year, a hundred Stanford students applied.
Stanford’s new investments seem, on the one hand, to be a challenge to Thiel. Students will now have an easier time starting businesses while they’re enrolled or on leave. “Giving kids an option is always good,” said Nass. But the partnership with StartX also feels like an officially sanctioned version of the Thiel Fellowship. Drop out and make money—as long as we get a cut. Livingston said that Thiel didn’t come up during discussions about the program, and he noted that many people create start-ups and go back to the classroom; his own son, a student at Stanford’s business school, is one of them. But the point of the partnership with StartX is to make Stanford wealthier, and the founders who contribute to that end often don’t come back. Tellingly, the chief product officer of StartX describes herself on the company’s bio sheet as “Stanford, Human Biology (dropped out).” When Livingston was asked on Bloomberg about students dropping out, he said, “We like students to get their degrees, but we’re very proud of students whether they get their degrees or not.”

Stanford’s computer-science department may become like the Kentucky basketball team: a way station for the country’s finest talent. The Wildcats have been good for the N.B.A. And maybe what Stanford is doing will be good for the country. There are students who should be writing code and raising money instead of reading Swift or playing cello. In fact, there may be students who stay for more time than they should. Nass told me that, for too long, the incentives in computer science have worked in reverse, noting that professors with brilliant students are often motivated to “keep them around forever, being paid virtually nothing.” It’s also the case that universities have to evolve. Stanford’s founding grant declared that it must maintain “a farm for instruction in agriculture in all its branches,” a requirement that sounds antiquated today. And there’s nothing wrong with Stanford getting richer: endowments can be spent on scholarships, microscopes, and books.
But at some point, the blurring of lines between the university and the tech industry comes at a cost. If the university is a farm, do the students become the cows? One of the Valley’s great maxims is Facebook’s invitation to “move fast and break things.” For now, at least, Stanford is moving fast. It’s unclear whether undergraduate education is one of the things it will break.
Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!
This is a repost of an article that appeared on on September 11, 2013

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship