We are creating a free, boutique, 5-year-long, life experience for the ultra talented 18 to 22 year old who is determined to found a company. In return for providing this experience, we get equity in their future ventures.
We have very few restrictions on what the fellow must do during their 5 year experience, but they must always have a goal they are working towards. They are provided a coach who follows the
and whose goal is to help the fellow learn to learn. The coach can kick the fellow out of the program at any time if they deem that the fellow is not making meaningful progress on their current goal(s).
Like Venture Capital, the key to making this profitable is attracting and selecting the talent that is most likely to produce a valuable startup.
To attract the most talented, young, internally motivated builders, we are creating an experience that is more desirable than all of their other options (see
Selecting the right candidates is key. In the first year we will be very hands on with selecting individuals. We will prioritize individuals who have already built something and have demonstrated interest in founding a company. Additionally we will select for some individuals who may not want to found a company, but who are super talented at one thing (such as software development) and could serve as a great cofounder or employee for other fellows.
Without even searching we have already stumbled upon one 16 year old who seems very capable and who got excited about Venture Years after we briefly pitched it to him over Twitter DMs.
A Potential Fellow
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Nima on Twitter
In this first yearwe will look online and attend hackathons IRL to hand select the talented network of individuals who will make up our first cohort. We may use referrals so that Nima, for instance, could invite up to 2 of his friends to also join Venture Years. The rational is that Nima and his friends might start shipping faster since they already have a connection with one another.
We do not want every year to be this manual in selecting candidates. Once we have the initial cohort of talented founders (24 individuals), we have a larger set of individuals that can help us spread the word of Venture Years. With 14 retweets from their previous cohort, Edify (a co-living startup), was able to get 600+ individuals in less than a monthto apply to a summer of co-living in NY and SF, co-living which was not free. With 24 retweets from our first year of talented fellows, I’m sure we can reach a similar number of applicants as Edify did.
Sifting through 600 or more applications takes time. We want to make this process simple for us. Ideally in the future we will have AI determine who we should accept. To see most of our current thinking on how we can reduce our burden in the selection process, check out
, a researcher on talent selection, has stated, universities should select at random from the pool of applicants that meet a minimum set of requirements because they will achieve similar results and save wasted effort. We have no plans of taking this random approach in the near future but it is inspiring to think that most people have the potential to be great if they are placed in the right environment.
The “right” environment for each individual is slightly different. It is based on many factors such as their personality type, their preferred work environment, and their goals in life. By collecting extensive data about our fellows, we hope to find out how to get people into their ideal environment as quickly as possible after high school so that they can start compounding ASAP. See our
for more information on how we may iterate on our program design in order to create ideal environments for our fellows.
We are raising $1 million so that after 1 year we have a founding team who is ready to run full force with this idea, a set of advisors, 24 exceptional fellows committed to the 5 year experience, and everything in place to execute on the amazing 5 year experience we have planned for our fellows.
If you are interested in investing, please contact
Currently it is just me, Nick Linck, working full time on this project. I am actively recruiting a friend to join who makes up for my lack of story telling and persuasion abilities. To see other roles and who I am looking to fill them with, look here →
I have a lot of ideas that I want to work on and not enough time or resources to actually do it. I see creating venture years as the most efficient way to bring these ideas to life. At Venture Years we will have a “new company ideas” list for fellows to view for inspiration. I’m populating this list with my favorite ideas, and with ideas from anyone else involved in this project if the ideas are well thought out. I think our fellows will assemble teams to bring, at least some of these ideas, to life.
I think Venture Years will be the number one life path choice for a large percentage of high school graduates. We will have the power to shape the way a large percentage of society grows! I am personally excited to shape people to becoming more openminded, curious, and patient. This would be a mark that I’d be super happy to leave on the world.
I have thought about and worked on a lot of ideas over the years. This is the first time I am ready to fully commit to an idea, because this is the first idea that I know will help a lot of people, I know will be super profitable, and I know will put me in a position to accomplish my future goals. Plus, I am so confident that this company will be successful, bringing me wealth and influence, which I both strongly desire for the following reasons.
I want to be wealthy because I have two sisters and money is their number one problem. I dream of the day of being able to buy both of them the house of their dreams and setting aside enough money for their retirement.
I want to have influence because I have two loving parents whose biggest complaints in life are always about politics, they can’t change it to their liking. I do not want to experience this same pain. If I believe in something that I think should change, I want the people who can change it to hear it without me needing to put in any more effort than sending out a tweet.
My overarching life goal is to make people happy. Our target market experiences depression 4-6 times more frequently than the average person!! I know our program will create a less stressful path for anyone to achieve their dreams so I cannot wait to bring it to so many of them.
I love entrepreneurship:
And have for a long time: I remember being in 4th grade, sitting at the dinning room table with my dad and asking “did you want to be a billionaire when you were little?”. I was shocked when he responded no. How could anyone not want to be like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates?
In college I started off freshman year helping teach entrepreneurs how to do customer discovery effectively. For all 4 years I was active in an entrepreneurship club and took several entrepreneurship classes.
I cofounded a company during college and worked part time at a startup after college.
I am friends with at least one VC in San Francisco, New York, Miami, and LA which I can leverage to give our fellows intros to investors.
In college, starting a company was never the focus for me, I wish it had been though. Giving others the ability to focus on starting a company during the years they would normally spend sitting in lectures is part of what motivates me to create Venture Years.
I love machines: I studied computer science in college so that I would have the skills required to build a web app for whatever company I’d one day start. Rather than building web apps in school, I fell in love with machine learning. Machine learning made me realize that AGI will exist one day, which fascinates me for 2 reasons. 1) Understanding why we humans do what we do has always captured so much of my attention. Now whenever I think of how to create AGI, I have interesting revelations about human thought and behavior which brings me joy. 2) I believe AGI will make the world so much better in so many ways so I cannot wait till it exists. This love for machines has given me the technical know-how to build every piece of software required for this project. More interestingly, it has given me the mindset to design a framework that will automate away most of the work required to run Venture Years and that will allow our fellow’s to automate away most of the work required to run their future businesses.
I know coaching: I took a several month program on “how to coach” where I took classes, read a book, watched coaching sessions, and actually coached individuals. The coaching mentality sticks with me when helping friends work through issues because I know how powerful it can be to get individuals to solve their own problems. Understanding this method of “teaching” is essential in order to provide our fellows with a learning experience that is arguably a better than the learning experience in college.
I love to travel and co-live: Adventure and new things have always excited me. I have been to over 20 countries, have participated in a study abroad experience through my college, a “Remote Year” work experience with 30+ strangers, and for the last two years I have been living as a digital nomad. I know how to avoid bad travel experiences and make great one. Creating an amazing travel experience that our fellows will tell everyone they know about, is second nature for me. I have co-lived many times and I know what needs to go right to make it and enjoyable experience for all, and yes, a weekly maid is ESSENTIAL to happy housemates!
I know this will be useful: I lived with 7 of my closest friends in college. We could have built an amazing company in college if that was a priority for all of us, but it wasn’t, getting a degree was. I feel like my years of studying in college could have been much more efficiently used to get me to “better spot” in my career. I know that we can make the “college years” a much more efficient time in life to get people to where they want to go.
We can pay motivated individuals, give them very few restrictions on what they have to do, and enough of them will go on to build super valuable companies.
What is the market size?
2.4 - 4 million a year
2.4 million a year:60% of high school students in the US want to be entrepreneurs. This translates to over 9 million students annually in the US who would be interested in our program. Ultimately, only 16% of US adults will ever become entrepreneurs [
]. This could be because they tried and failed, or it could just be that college and a stable job took priority. At the very least this means that about 16% of high schoolers (2.4 million) each year would be interested in our program and possess the potential to become a founder.
4 million a year: In 2020, 16.2 million students were enrolled in an undergraduate program (~4.05 million per class), and just over 55,000 students earned a PhD [
]. We think that a future version of our program that is less founder oriented will be more desirable than college for those not pursing a PhD. Thus we think 4 million a year is a fair estimate for our potential market.
How does this scale?
What is most likely to slow us down at scale is hiring talented coaches to support our fellows and finding nice properties to house our fellows.
We don’t see finding nice properties stopping us for 2 reasons. 1) Airbnb makes it easy to find great properties for long stays in other countries. 2) Almost every college campus has apartments that students can rent so we could just rent out these apartments.
We don’t see hiring talented coaches stopping us since the
A concern about our profits not scaling is that “will the talent diminish and we stop making huge returns?”
Our business model is to take a % of the fellow’s future value. We only mentioned taking equity in startups so far because of simplicity and since that is where we expect to make most of our returns. However, taking a percentage of the fellow’s future value also means that if a fellow works at a company, we take a percentage of their income. The assumption is that as the talent diminishes, more students will be working for companies rather than starting their own ventures. So as the talent diminishes, we will still be able to cover costs since we are still making some amount of money from the less talented. Most importantly though, the average talent will diminish, but top 1% of talent will remain, meaning we will still have the all-stars who go on to build billion dollar companies where we make most of our returns.
Where will we go from here?
We will create a method to credential our fellows so that they can more easily prove their skills to collaborators and potential employers. Credentialing fellows expands our market to serve users who do not want to pursue entrepreneurship and makes our program more desirable to the risk adverse.
We are excited about new forms of education such as online apprenticeships which allow anyone in the world to cheaply learn what the best in the world are working on in real time.
We hope to learn how to best identify top talent which could be sold to enterprise HR teams.
Why 5-15% equity per company?
Our business model is to take 5% of our fellow’s future worth since we are investing ~500k over 5 years into them. Additionally we invest 1 million a year for 10% equity into our top performers. This is why we have a range of equity. After some user research, even 15% is okay with users. We want to be on the low end for equity so that we are the most desirable option to aspiring founders.
How do we know our fellows will build hugely successful companies?
We don’t. But we share with all students our list of “new company ideas” which is currently curated by us. Once we have investors and advisors, they too can add ideas to the list that they want to bring to life but do not currently have the time for. The list will be ranked by highest potential valuation and lowest risk during execution. We also think that including the next 3-10 steps on what should be done next in order to execute on that idea would be useful to helping the fellows get started testing the biggest assumptions and figuring out the hardest problems of the startup first. This would also likely result in a lower chance of failure.
The “new company ideas” list motivates us to work on Venture Years because we have a lot of ideas and not enough time to bring them all to life.
We will collect their productivity data so that we can better identify habits and working styles that lead to more productive individuals.
We provide them with a coach who brings experience and who’s goal is to teach the students how to learn and overcome anything.
Will students be given credentials?
Not with the normal university accreditation. However, during their 5 years, they will be getting real world work experience by building their own company, or working for one of the open companies we match them with. After 5 years of this they will have a portfolio of prior experience that they can show future employers. Who would you hire, someone with 5 years of software development work experience or someone with a bachelors degree in computer science?
Why travel the world?
Because the most ambitious high school graduates that we have talked to want to travel the world. We think that offering travel gives us a competitive advantage in attracting the best talent.
By only attracting individuals that are excited about travel, we are excluding those who are fearful of something that has a low percentage of risk, for those who have no desire to experience something beyond their current culture, and for those who have an ideal life already and probably would not be internally motivated enough to create a significant impact on changing the world.
We think living in other cultures makes you a better communicator, and it widens your perspective making you more creative and empathetic. All great skills for anyone to develop. Plus international travel has proven health benefits [
We want to give our students enough time to start a successful company while they are with us. Most startups fail between years 2-5, so they may have the chance to start two companies with us if their first fails [
]. And 5 years is a comparable time commitment to college which we think will psychologically make it easier for candidates to commit to.
What is our moat?
The community that we develop. That includes alumni, the real estate that we buy, the community members that we introduce our founders to when they move to a new city, our coaches, our advisors, and our investors. We need to get the best talent and properties first so that any other competitor seems of low quality compared to us.
Our brand. Instead of people asking “Where did you go to college?” the question will become “Where did you spend your venture years?”