Boston Startup School
Associate @ TechStars Boston
Hustling for Startups
Entrepreneur in Residence
Johns Hopkins University
Information Systems & Leadership Development
Computer Science & Sociology
Interests- Early-Stage Companies
- Venture Capital
- Changing the World
Everywhere I Am~ shaunjohnson.me
What I Come Across in Life, Learning, and Tech...
Reflecting on the recent presidential debates, employment has become an easily identifiable topic. A clear weathervane for and consequence of the economy, the solution is quite complex and cannot be exhaustively distilled in the time allotted to either presidential candidate. At the same time, the solution or solutions are worthy of articulation and action. From my vantage point, one solution sits at the nexus of education, entrepreneurial activity, and the innovation economy: Training highly skilled individuals that are prepared to work in areas of job growth.
President Obama has stated that “making an investment in education is critical to not only you (the individual), but the entire nation.” Although this is true, the standard path of education vis a vis a four-year university has faltered under during these tough economic times, not always delivering on the promise of employment. Additionally, President Obama has highlighted how important it would be for him to make sure that the best education is available. So what then, can be done to keep education in line with employment?
“What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?” —Jeremy Epstein (20), Junior at Adelphi University
America knows well the issues we are facing with unemployment across all fronts, with workers losing jobs and others taking positions for which they are overqualified just to stay afloat. But how are the youngest of this demographic handling the absence of opportunities as new entrants into the workforce? Where are all the openings in marketing, creative writing, and general business — areas they’ve studied at undergraduate and grad schools? Unfortunately, the current state of the labor market is not prepared to accept them easily, let alone train them to be at the top of their craft.
While the average unemployment rate is certainly daunting, it is even higher for Generation Y, at 13.5 percent for people aged 20-24. So what is a newly minted bachelors or masters to do, with few options to earn a living and repayments for education loans looming?
During my time as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown University, I’ve had the great honor to play a part in many an aspiring entrepreneur’s thought process. From product sessions to the much frequented “technical co-founder” discussion, students and alumni have thought enough of my opinion to include it in their journey as founders, most of them being first-time founders. Doing anything for the first time without direction can be hard. But endeavoring to launch a startup, for which there is no blueprint for success, can be particularly daunting. My advice, even for a single founder company, is do not do it alone.
There is a litany of options out there to bolster support and chance for success, from mentors, accelerators, and
At Boston Startup School, we wholeheartedly appreciate the fact that Veterans are supreme risk-takers and leaders, most agile in the face of change. What we do in our early-stage ecosystem can never be compared to what they perform daily for our nation. That said, it’s incredibly apropos when someone transitions from a life of military service to the world of startups. Last week, I had the honor of representing Boston Startup School at the TechStars Patriot Bootcamp, mentoring over 75 entrepreneurs who share the common bond of military service.
Hosted at Georgetown University, in the heart of DC’s tech scene, the TechStars Patriot Boot Camp is a three-day program providing intense education and mentorship exposure to service men and women in their respective entrepreneurial endeavors. Over these few days, Service Members and Vets have all come together to advance their respective companies. One specific Marine, Terry Roberts, chose to use the exposure to launch his startup, Picsure.
Throughout the weekend, I’ve come to help these founders through refining product and addressing their market.
You’ve done a great job up until this point! You’ve raised your baby into an adult, through school and out of university. But what’s next?
If your child is still exploring themselves or their career options, expose them to opportunities that will allow them to make the right decision for themselves. In addition to the normal resume drop and career fairs, there are three worthwhile options that can provide your son or daughter with a solid foundation for their career and great trajectory through their 20’s, 30’s and beyond:
-Boston Startup School: A free, six-week program that provides the knowledge and access it takes to break into the top startups in Boston. Participants gain in-demand skills through direct interaction with startup companies looking to hire them immediately as newly trained impact players. Encourage your recent grad to apply today! http://bostonstartupschool.com
- Hungry Academy: Hosted by JumpStartLab & LivingSocial, this five-month learning experience prepares you to join LivingSocial’s internal engineering team, building software development skills along with relationships with the industry’s best programmers. Follow their inaugural class updates to find out when their next class is in session! http://hungryacademy.com/
-Apprentice.io: With ThoughtBot as the master teacher, apprentices work alongside designers and developers on real projects and can take any additional workshops at no charge. They also work on special projects designed to give them additional time and training in the areas they most need. To enter into an apprenticeship, have your child apply at https://www.apprentice.io/
Boston Startup School is a six-week, intensive program that prepares young professionals to be highly productive startup employees. Each student will learn organizational and cultural fundamentals, as well as select one of four curriculum tracks to specialize in: software development, product and design, sales/business development, and marketing. Our mission is to provide local companies with a well trained and vetted pool of driven young employees who are prepared to be immediately productive upon employment.
Recruiting top talent to your startup can be a treacherous and ongoing activity. You are a believer of “Always Be Hiring”, “Only Recruit ‘A’ Players” , “Hire for Passion”, and other maxims of talent acquisition. The truth is the majority of “passionate” applicants haven’t a clue what your company does, what they can do for your company, or even how to act within a startup. While you are out in the wild chasing down positive signal and panning for gold, be wary of all that glitters. Here’s just three types of fool’s gold to be avoided in the job market:
-Bait & Switch: These applicants talk a good game, may even provide decent demonstrations of what that can do (code review, case interview, personality fit). However, what you end up with is a well-rehearsed charade, a farce that leaves you buying a Lamborghini yet driving home in a lemon, rusting and leaking oil in the garage of your company.
-Lack of direction: The primary reason a company decides to hire is because there is stuff to be done…today. Most new hires require a modicum of handholding, incrementing their responsibility & autonomy until it reaches the level of output desired. In the best cases this is days, but more often, months. The line is blurred between training costs and salary expense.
-Poacher’s Premium: Clearly applicable skills, proven track record, what’s not to love? Lateral hires from industry seem de-risked, however, the pot is usually sweeter when coaxing a top-performer away from their success and toward your endeavor. The tax is not only monetary, via precious points of equity or outpaced salary tiers. In some cases catering and preference is felt throughout the life of the hire.
[Shaun is co-founder of Boston Startup School. You can follow him or find out more on Twitter, @idealexit.]
Be selfishly selfless: In the community, good guys finish first. These are the people you know will help, because they’ve been helpful time and time again. Consequently, being top of mind as a helper, builder or connecter, also makes you top of mind when there are favors to repay. From free concert tickets to a recommendation for dream job, selfless people get served first.
Now, that’s not to say closed mouths get fed, which brings me to my next point…
Communicate like your life depends on it: Because it does. Communicate your needs, your successes, your overall state/status. No one knows what’s happening until to convey that information. And the less information you convey, the more we all become isolated from you, from each other.
You’ve got to be in it to win it: At the very least this means not letting too much time pass without letting your presence be felt. Show up to an event, post content, or be an active absorber. I think it’s really peculiar how people decide not to attend a function because no one is there, but if everyone is there, it’s must-attend. Understand that you are both no one and everyone. Community can be scored and attendance is a huge part of the grade.
Photos by Jingni Wei
This post was a Quora response to the question “Boston Startup School: How selective is Boston Startup School’s Program Class of 2012?” You can read the orignal here.
As of 5/9/12 now, our running acceptance rate is at 16.2%. This happens to be the same rate as Cornell (http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/30/…). For those that value exclusivity at the cost of another’s rejection, we are competitive with Ivy League standards.
However, I think what’s most important is who Boston Startup School attracts (not rejects), which is top talent from the Great Boston Area, states as far as Florida and California, and international candidates from Germany, India, and Iran, and Turkey. This I believe, puts Boston Startup School in a postion where it can only accept the best of the best to fill out its program.
Our pool of talent extends across four tracks:
- Software Development
- Product & Design
- Sales & Business Development
Starting with incredibly bright young professionals, we provide them general startup know-how as well as track-specific knowledge and skills so that they are immediately effective in the startups they join after the program.
All that said…stay tuned to see how the selected class shapes out once everything is final. And students, instructors, hiring companies — get in touch if you want to participate!!!
Remember when you were a kid? Best years of your life, but you can still remember all of those “tough” moments when you had chores, curfew and other requirements on your childhood. Have you wondered why your guardian did not adhere to all of their imposing rules? At this point, I am too!
Why is it that children are expected to meet a certain standard of care, but as adults we don’t self-apply this standard?
- Nightly routines: Say your prayers, brush your teeth, floss, wash behind your ears, get in your PJs, stay in bed until morning, bedtime, no more TV/distractions
- Daily routines: breakfast, lay out your clothes, don’t miss the bus, take your vitamins, bundle up, say thank you, call your uncle, tell your family you love them
- After-school: Do your homework then play, earn your allowance, do chores, eat your veggies, home by the street lights, go out and play, what did you learn today
Try to hit all of these at an extended length. See what happens. Raise yourself right!
Springtime is upon us! What that means, from the perspective of the academic calendar, is school is almost out. If this is your senior year in undergrad, second year in B-school, or last year in any other capacity, the time has come for you to take that education and make an impact on the world.
Just like Spring, your career is in transition from budding to blooming, and the beauty of it comes down to where you lay roots. So where do you go, or better yet, what can you land this close to graduation? All of the investment banks and consultancies have come and left in the Fall, leaving only a trail of campus swag behind. Most of the conglomerate corporations have made their Winter harvest and selected two grads per cubicle. Is this season the most barren of them all for jobs? Not in the slightest!
Cycles are all a part of life’s ups and downs. Exiting your twenties, you gain enough knowledge of self to grow with purpose, only to reproduce in your 30s, being responsible for a new life with which you haven’t a clue what to do. As faded youth robs you of your impish good looks, your coffers are replenished with a debonair and distinguished beauty that comes with age. Such is the uncontrollable ebb and flow of fate, yeah?
But what of the things you can control, or even worse, things you once had dominion over but laxly waned back into a state of reaction? The diet that helped you lose 25 lbs that you need to get back on. The all-nighter schedule it takes to get caught up on work. Whatever it is, the pattern remains rather consistent.
- Oscillate and waffle between frustration, preparation and hesitation until one’s own mettle thrusts action upon her.
- Provided with enough momentum and deftness to avoid obstacles, she meets her (immediate) goal, celebrating and enjoying the fruit of her labor.
- Overindulging in this win, victory becomes forgetful and another battle has emerged in this nigh unending war. The cycle continues where it began.
Why do we mistake ‘winning’ for ‘won’? Are we too busy leveling ourselves to this new height that we forget how we are suspended insecurely? Is our endurance and ambition so fleeting that we would rather abandon the dogged fight and the spoils that could be gained, in order to rest in our own stagnation and self-aggrandizement?
What got you here will not keep you here.
For the many people who were born anywhere in or around the 90s, your world has been influenced by tech. And the creators of tech, and largely innovation, have been startups. Startups are fast-paced, super cool, world-changing, and if you play your cards right, extremely lucrative. But how does one get on the right side of the cool kids club?
Here are 3 things you can do to facilitate your entry into the hottest part of startup scene and increase your chances of having a mega-successful splash and tenure:
- Build an All-Star Network - Who you know matters. Better yet, who knows you matters. Having a reputation of a an awesome person that gets things done will make you desirable. And word travels fast. So meet people in encounters where you can showcase your direct value. Try a hackathon or a Startup Weekend. Come to coffee meetings bearing gifts (contacts, ideas, and unsolicited hustle). Thus begins your brand.
- Develop an In-Demand Toolbox - Everybody is looking for a Ruby on Rails engineer or user experience/interface designer. Just as necessary are marketers that understand brand and online media. And of course, no startup makes money without skilled hustlers who craft deals and understand the art of the close. No matter where you fit in these four areas, own it! Become masterful and your name will rise to the top of conversation, not to mention the stack of resumes.
- Start Fast and Don’t Stop - Put yourself in the best starting position…and then run like hell! Is your current internship or job relevant to what you want in startups? If not, change. If so, keep advancing through any challenge in your path. Discover and rediscover your steepest trajectory.
This post was a Quora response to the question “Who are the nicest, most helpful TechStars founders?” You can read the orignal here.
One of the biggest benefits of journaling is the power to look back. Sometimes you can look back and be motivated by the progress you’ve made. Other times, it helps you to recenter on and recommit yourself to the promises you made to your then future self. Mostly though, it’s to see how much of a fool you were.*
When I graduated from college with a degree in computer science, I did not want to be a developer.