The stereotype of venture capitalists (VCs) is that they are all about money, all the time. Of course, they only make money if their portfolio companies do well, so that stereotype is not a surprise. But if that is the case, why would a VC recommend that you encourage your child to focus on personal fulfillment rather than money or success?
Danielle Lynn Strachman is a co-founder of the 1517 Fund, a VC fund that invests in young entrepreneurs (typically teen and early 20s). One of their portfolio companies, whose founder, Austin Russell, was only 17 when he launched the company, is now nearly a "unicorn," a startup valued at a billion dollars (after last summer's $100 million raise it was valued at $900 million). Prior to founding the 1517 Fund, she had been co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship, which gives young people $100,000 to pursue entrepreneurial projects rather than go to school. While there she had awarded Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, a Thiel Fellowship when he was just 20. Ethereum now has an $18 billion market cap. Given the extraordinary wealth she has helped to nurture, why would she encourage parents to focus on personal fulfillment rather than success?
Over the past weekend Danielle posted, "We Need More ‘Puddle Parents’ To Let Kids Choose Their Own Paths." The article states,
"First, let’s get a working definition of “puddle parent.” Puddle parents encourage their children to veer off the path typically prescribed for them, who promote creativity and thinking outside the box, and who value things like kindness and authenticity and experiences more than academic and worldly success.
Puddle parents aren’t worried about where their kids will go to college; they worry about whether or not their kid will choose a career that will lead to personal fulfillment, be it bricklaying or academic research. They don’t tend to shuttle their kids to after school activities, unless the kids ask for it. If they do, they give their kids a range of choices based on what they seem to enjoy — not what’s popular or what they think will lead to a scholarship. They give their kids a lot of free time and probably tend more towards the free range parenting end of the spectrum. They worry more about whether or not their kids are nice to the new kid than if they earn an A on the geometry test."
Danielle commented on the article,
"This is a large part of why I do what I do with 1517 and what started as the Thiel Fellowship. I think K - 12 will change only when the incentives at the top do."
After meeting literally thousands of extraordinary teens, Danielle knows from first-hand experience that extraordinary achievement comes from "creativity and thinking outside the box" along with parents who "worry whether or not their kid will choose a career that will lead to personal fulfillment." Danielle knows that as is K-12 is creating a toxic, stressful environment that is ineffective as well.
In December of 2019 I sat down for an hour-long conversation with Danielle for an episode of my podcast, "Thinking and Doing: The Future of Education." I highly encourage you to listen to an amazing person with an amazing mind thinking about how education should be designed to ensure both personal fulfillment and achievement. You'll see various ways in which ATI is very much aligned with her thinking.