The more startup and entrepreneurship meetups I attend, the more I get asked what the deal is with focusing my startup on education. For me the answer is simple, but requires a little backstory…
The small Village
In 2001 I was asked to go on a trip to India to document a mission trip for a local church. The timing was perfect because I had recently graduated high school and was working at a bookstore with no clue of what I wanted to do with my life. Traveling to the other side of the world seemed like a good way to shake things up.
I packed my bags, jumped on a plane, and traveled to Southeast India. A short time after we arrived there was a huge celebration for the new ambulance that was recently purchased. It was a pretty nice ride, but I didn’t quite understand what the fuss was all about. I soon found out the nearest hospital was over 3 hours away. Having reliable/dedicated transportation like this literally made the difference between life and death.
It was very eye opening.
The BIG City
Having spent a few days in the country, we made the trek out to the city. When we got there, it was so different from what I had expected. There were cars filling the streets, people filling the sidewalks, nice storefront shops, tall buildings, a hospital and a large university. It was exciting.
After exploring and taking it all in, I realized that the real difference from the big city and the small village wasn’t the number of cars they had, the lack of dirt all over their clothes, or how tall the buildings were. It was education.
Most people in the city had a higher level of education that gave them the ability to have a larger impact on their community. There were medical doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers and just about everything else that an education could produce.
As soon as I got back to the states, I enrolled at the nearest community college. I worked hard and graduated with honors. I then transferred to the University of Washington Bothell and got my bachelor’s degree. After working at some local tech companies in the Seattle area, I ended up as an independent designer/developer, known as THE MOLITOR, making ready-made website templates sold world-wide.
I’ve had some great success over the years creating sites that were used for large-scale presidential campaigns, high-profile charity organizations and even some Hollywood films. During this time I also got married and had two kids. I can identify lots of factors that contributed to where I ended up, but I sincerely feel the core contributor was getting an education.
While I enjoyed my work and loved seeing my kids on a regular basis, I still felt there was something more that I could do. Something that tried to solve a real problem and not just make “pretty pictures”.
During this time of self-reflection, the U.S. Presidential race was a daily news topic and I started paying attention to the issues that were being talked about. With two children entering into the school system within the next couple years, the cost of education in the United States was a topic that really stuck out to me.
The latest statistic says the average cost for a four-year degree in the U.S. is well over $100,000. Even with student loans, the average graduate is almost $40,000 in debt. Seeing first-hand the impact education has had on my own life, I’m convinced that it benefits everyone to help those in financial need get an education.
Using all that I learned over the past 10 years designing and building web experiences, I decided to build a system that provides students a means to get help paying for school. The result of this undertaking is fullride.me.
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