- 1517 Fund | Grant, pre-seed, and seed investing
- Twitter – @dstrachman | 3000 followers
- Medium Blog | 1517 Fund
- Personal Medium Blog | Danielle Strachman
- “A real education is a liberation.” – Nietzsche
Sometimes there are things about a person that just really excites you, and Danielle Strachman has a lot of those things. I was immediately impressed at the amount of time Danielle had spent really considering what type of market and founders she wanted to serve. From the website to her blogs, she has taken considerable time to really hone in on the thesis of her fund and executing on it diligently. Who is she serving you ask? Those that are college dropouts or those who have chosen not to take the traditional education route. She and her partner Michael believe that “extraordinary careers are possible outside tracked institutions” and that “A real education is a liberation.” – Nietzsche
So what was it about October 31, 1517 that made such an impression on Danielle? It was Martin Luther and his nailing of the 95 Thesis to the church door saying that you don’t have to have a piece of paper (sins forgiven/diploma) to enter the kingdom of heaven (success and purpose in life). There are OTHER options worth exploring, and this idea of other routes to success was solidified during Danielle’s time helping build the Thiel Fellowship program, as well as the fact that 1517 was written all over the wall by Michael one day:
“One path is not for all. When starting something, you have to do it now. You can’t wait until you finish school, your first job, second job, or after 10 years in the industry. There is an institution, higher education, where you get a very expensive piece of paper saying you’re an educated person. We like to say that was bullsh*t then, and it’s bullsh*t now.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
What I really appreciate is the amount of conviction that Danielle has about her thesis and focus, and as she said, she wears her name “loud and proud.” As a previous tutor as well as director of her own charter school, Danielle understands the education world very well. Previously she believed that you could change education from the inside out, however, as she matured, she realized that she needed to take a top-down approach, addressing universities first:
“Something I learned from working with Peter Thiel was that incentives really matter, incentives are everything. We have to change things at the top. I believe that K-12 changes when college changes and when employers don’t need to look at where did you go to school for your degree. Our view isn’t that school isn’t inherently bad, one type does not fit for all and we want more choice to allow people to make good decisions around education.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
So what type of founders does 1517 Fund back?
“We back people in who have no business doing business, like ourselves! We back people who have either dropped out of college or even stepped foot in a university, we break that thesis rarely, and break it once in a while in the name of science fiction. What we want to do is uphold what they are doing to really showcase for the world that this is a possibility for young people.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
If you thought the focus of 1517 Fund was on Ed-Tech, you’d be forgiven. While not specifically focusing on technology entrepreneurs in the education space, she believes that her work is impacting the greater educational system:
“I believe that the future of work and the concept of the future of work is going to change things a lot. You’re going to see people going to more boot camps or take courses, it’s not going to be 4 solid years of something and then you’re done learning. Work is going to be about life-long learning, to be great in the workforce we have to be on the top of our game and on the edge of what is new. And that doesn’t mean just sitting being stagnent and thinking the thing we learned about when we were in undergrad is going to be the thing we need in 10 years.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
While I’ve thought for years that there are major dysfunctions in our educational system, and even put together a video series on 50 Things You Don’t Learn in School, I appreciate Danielle’s thoughts on how small changes in education curriculum can help, such as doing internships or co-ops through college (I did 3)!
Danielle thought she was going to be a clinical psychologist after university, turns out that pushing NIH paperwork was not her thing. This type of realization is one that I would say 99% of all college graduates experience: the fact that what they studied does not actually translate to business preparedness:
“An education should liberate you, it should offer up more opportunities and open doors that previously weren’t there. It shouldn’t saddle you with something, whether it’s a path, or debt, or a notion of who you are as a human being, it really should be something that is freeing and opening rather than oppressive.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
Danielle wrote a great blog post on being entrepreneurial over being a founder. I wanted her to unpack this idea a bit and her answer was great:
“You can be entrepreneurial and work for someone else, it means you take initiative, you’re inventive, it means you bring ideas to the table, it means you execute. Entrepreneurship has become popular, with the prestige and the money… that comes when you’ve done something successful and you’ve worked your ass off and you’ve had these dark nights of the soul and you didn’t know if you were going to make it. So when people are like, oh I want to be a founder, I say, for what? You haven’t made it yet.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
I absolutely love the direction that 1517 Fund is headed and I’m going to be a big cheerleader for their success. As someone who has been on the extreme side of education with multiple graduate degrees, I’m excited to add Danielle Strachman to my list of favorite people supporting those who have decided to build their life and career outside of the normal education-track. It’s an underserved populace, and it’s awesome to know people like Michael and Danielle are leading the charge.
“I want to reshape what it means to be an educated human.”Danielle Strachman – VC Hunting S3E1
Enjoy my retrospective!
Danielle Strachman Social Media
It’s a fine day for a hunt.