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Teaching Kids Software Entrepreneurship
Hello! I’m Aaron Kardell. In my Sunday newsletter, I pick one random topic to go deep on and have some disparate quick hits at the end.
I’ve founded numerous software businesses over nearly 30 years now. If I’m counting right, HomeSpotter’s first product in the market was also the seventh software product I created and would go on to commercialize. And that’s skipping over some things I built for fun with no intent to commercialize, some things I made for others while employed, and some things I thought were great ideas and started that I still couldn’t get to the finish line.
And along the journey, I’ve had nearly every advantage possible to put me on a path to success:
My Mom gave me access to a computer and some coding books, and I started coding in BASIC at the age of 6.
My parents were successful entrepreneurs and frequently talked about what was going on in their businesses at the dinner table.
I started my first software business selling Windows shareware, which I wrote when I was a sophomore in high school.
As I got further along in my career, multiple people were willing to take a bet on me and invest. Others gave helpful advice along the way.
And yet, I think it wasn’t until just the last ~7 years (after starting HomeSpotter) that I realized some key things I wish I had learned earlier:
For prolonged success, it helps if the problem your product is solving resonates with you deeply.
Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.
It is imperative to have a north star and a current plan for where you’re going.
Even with ~15 years prior experience to starting HomeSpotter, my standard playbook had always been:
Hey… I wonder if I could build this?
Now, I’m making this thing just to see if I can build it.
I have a very vague picture of where I’m heading.
Wait… I guess I should think about who would buy this now!?
Why did I build this in the first place?
I started reflecting on this in part as I’ve been thinking through this process of writing a game app with my son that we hope to monetize.
There is no shortage of courses that teach adults and kids alike to code. But I wish more courses introduced kids to the idea of software entrepreneurship holistically. Such a course might assume that kids would learn about coding elsewhere. It would instead focus on critical things like:
How to identify promising ideas to build.
How to validate an idea before making it.
How to break down a product into manageable parts to be built.
How to market and sell a product after it is created.
Fortunately, better resources now exist for first-time technical founders. Y Combinator has made many resources available at large through Startup School. And online forums like Hacker News now exist where technical startup founders can congregate online and share ideas.
While those are great resources, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something that could be just a little more approachable for the 8 to 18 year-old crowd.
Mark Rober, an engineer well known for making creative gadgets and walking through the process on YouTube, has a fun course called Creative Engineering: Bring Your Creative Ideas to Life with Science & Engineering. It was impressive how it goes into parts of #1-#3 in my last list above. It doesn’t just prescribe a thing to build and then show how to do that. It forces you to come up with your own idea of what to make after thinking about why to do it in the first place.
Now, if there were just something like that for software entrepreneurship! Had such courses existed when I was a kid, I suspect I would have launched different ventures and gone even further with some of them. This isn’t meant to diminish my successes or minimize my failures. I’m grateful for every experience and live without regrets. However, I am a little curious about how things might have been different if I learned more about product management or simple business concepts like TAM or if I had focused on pre-selling ideas before building them at a much earlier age.
For those of you in and around software, product management, and entrepreneurship … do you know of any good resources for kids? It doesn’t have to be a complete end-to-end course like what Mark Rober has for engineering… It could just be smaller things – like a resource focused on turning an idea into digestible user stories, for example.
Or… if any of you know of someone pursuing this idea further, I’d love to find a way to support it in some fashion. An intro would be appreciated.
This Week’s Quick Hits
Speaking of kids and entrepreneurship, I love the hustle of my daughter. Last Sunday, she knew she wanted a lemonade stand in the afternoon. And she knew Kate & I would be hesitant, given the extra effort. So, she preemptively created a dozen flyers to hand out around the neighborhood about her lemonade stand. (She’s already got the assumptive close figured out!) It worked… I told her if she could recruit at least one friend to do it with her, that I would help her get the lemonade stand going. She had three friends signed up within a couple minutes. And... her flyers drove sales, too.
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