Why Every Founder Needs an Apprentice
“Men (and women) wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” —Sir Ernest Shackleton
Apprenticeship is defined as “a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill. Apprentices build their careers from apprenticeships.” In an ecosystem where college recruiting sessions are dominated by corporations, young aspiring entrepreneurs need more opportunities to learn directly from startup founders.
I spent this summer as a “Founder Apprentice” at Skillshare, which taught me everything from developing products (I launched extracred.it!) to reading through hiring legal documents. This type of education can only be learned from getting your hands dirty, hustling and getting shit done.
After my experience at Skillshare, I’m convinced that startups need to adopt a modern-day guild system, where the entrepreneurial pioneers train, mentor, and equip young entrepreneurs to own and leverage these new methods of idea creation and execution.
Michael Karnjanaprakorn, CEO of Skillshare, talks a lot about entrepreneurs finding and making their own luck. This happened to me twice at Skillshare. Not only did I find an amazing startup who mission is to democratize education and turn our cities into campuses; I also worked alongside an entrepreneur that believes in mentoring an up-and-coming entrepreneur.
The first two weeks working at Skillshare was un-learning everything that I learned in college. I learned (and am still learning) the Action Method, made famous by Behance, where Michael himself had worked, and sifted through dozens of articles from the 99% & Harvard Business Review on ways to work efficiently and productively in a creative environment.
Moving the ball forward, accomplishing 2-3 small but meaningful tasks each day, breaking down goals into action-steps, learning that time is the lifeblood for any startup with only 5 employees: these are the lessons I got to learn in the trenches of a startup looking to break out.
As Founder Apprentice I made copies, sat-in on investor meetings, and everything in between. I helped develop strategies for launching Skillshare in cities across the nation, and I also helped set up projectors and chairs for Skillshare teachers like Chris Dixon and David Tisch. Hugo Van Vuuren, a close friend of mine, described it as being “Michael’s jackknife,” a multi-purpose solution to handle anything, and this description always comes to mind. Helping scan hiring documents meant learning what those documents, and taking notes at meetings turned into 15-minute “Introduction to VC” lessons: I helped free up time for our CEO to run the business, and in turn I learned the process of founding and growing a startup. Win-Win.
Am I better prepared to found a company given the time I spent learning from Mike and the team? Absolutely. Do I have that earth-shattering, game-changing idea in mind that I’m willing to drop out of school for? Not yet, but when I do, I’ll be able to avert many of the obstacles early startups face (can someone say 83b election?) and implement many of the successful decisions and strategies that I saw Michael implement at Skillshare.
And lucky you: Skillshare is hiring again for the Founder Apprentice position again. You can find the application here: http://bit.ly/r1JOG1.
Help us make this job description standard for amazing startups in NYC, San Francisco, Boston, and across the nation by creating more opportunities for founder apprenticeships. And all of the job descriptions should start with the Sir Ernest Shackleton quote.Tweet
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