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by Jacob O'Bryant

What I wish I could've done instead of college

This is my career so far:

  • undergrad
  • 1 year as a software engineer
  • 2 years as a startup founder (ongoing)

Some people enjoy entrepreneurship; to me it's just a means to an end. I care a lot more about hacking and making my ideas come to life, and I think doing a startup is currently the best option I have for pursuing that.

Perhaps because of that, it's taken me a long time as a founder to explore, to find an idea that's both interesting to me and viable as a business. My exploration has converged on what is now Findka, and this is the first of my ideas that's had a bit of traction (we're currently at about 60 daily active users).

The timing is fortunate: I've recently become a dad, and obviously I can't just futz around forever. I feel like I found the right idea to follow in the nick of time. Having a child is a worthwhile investment for me, but there is a cost. I'll never again have as much time to work on my ideas as I've had for the past two years.

In light of that, it's somewhat painful to reflect on how little the years I spent in college have helped me in my (admittedly short) career. That was valuable time, and I wasted it on coursework. My real education was largely postponed until I became a founder.

I wish instead there had been some kind of community I could've joined where autodidacts build open-source software together. Instead of a degree, you'd end up with a network. Those who want to could co-found startups afterwards, or they could take more traditional career paths.

I expect that this will become more common naturally. I can envision a generation of programmers who cut their teeth on, go through Lambda School right after high school, work for a couple years, then start a multi-year sabbatical at the age of 21, using their savings to city-hop and hack in person with the friends they made online over the previous five years.

That lifestyle isn't for everyone, but for the right person, it would be magical.

Published 27 Jan 2021

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