Coffee with Wes (#2)
What I've been up to: navigating the idea maze, joining On Deck, Roaming around, and starting Align.
It’s been just over two months since my first “Coffee with Wes” newsletter.
In this update, I’ll summarize what I’ve been working on since I left Microverse in mid-February.
Here’s a quick overview…
Navigating the idea maze: exploring the future of education and work, social capital, transaction costs, and the theory of human progress.
Joining On Deck: a fellowship for founders.
Getting into the habit of using Roam: the best tool I’ve found to augment my thinking.
Starting Align: my contribution to democratizing access to opportunity.
Navigating the idea maze
When I left Microverse, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do next.
However, based on my past experiences of learning in the opening leading to amazing opportunities, I planned to just explore my curiosities. These related to the future of education and work, social capital, transaction costs, and the theory of human progress.
My end goal was to start a company. Some call this process navigating the idea maze.
Future of education and work
I tweeted a lot about the future of education and work over the last two months.
This thread summarizes many of them by tying them to a series of blog posts I wrote ~2 years ago.
Wes Wagner ☕️ @caffeinatedwesThis morning, I revisited some of my writing from ~2 years ago. And...I realized I never published the last post in a series that provided an overview of (how I viewed) the changing nature of education and work. 🤦♂️ Better late than never. 👇 https://t.co/KnmFrqs5KL
However, perhaps the most interesting ideas come from a mixture of thoughts on education platforms, social capital, and guilds.
Together, many of these ideas influence a theory I hold about how we’ll see platforms rise in this decade that dwarf Uber and Airbnb. The platforms won’t optimize on transportation transactions (Uber) or lodging transactions (Airbnb), but rather, career accelerating transactions related to helping someone learn and increase their income.
This is a theory I started developing while working at Microverse. I saw students from all around the world learn new skills and land life-changing jobs where they 2x-10x their income—all through structured peer-to-peer dynamics.
The above are just two threads, but you can read more about some of my ideas in this space by searching through when I’ve mentioned social capital.
Transaction costs and social capital
If you’re interested in entertaining the above theory more, or you’re an entrepreneur building a career accelerator, it’s worth understanding transaction costs and social capital a bit more.
A quick lesson in transaction costs 👇
I have a draft of a thread about outlining how exactly I think about social capital and I’ll post that in the next substack.
In the meantime, this thread highlights some thoughts on how I see transaction costs relating to theories of human progress and social capital formation.
The TL;DR for entrepreneurs creating career accelerators is asking yourself the question “how do I decrease transaction costs in creating social capital around X?” where X is your niche.
Patrick Collison @patrickc"Unlike the “vanishing secrets” theory of stagnation, our incentive-based theory of stagnation suggests that continued stagnation need not be inevitable." https://t.co/yrZZbkkLAb
Joining On Deck
I was invited to participate in the third On Deck Fellowship in late February.
On Deck is described as “where top tech talent goes to explore what's next.” In the 9 months since their first fellowship, fellows have started more than 160+ companies and raised more than $80 million from some of the world’s top-tier venture capitalists.
Safe to say—I was incredibly lucky to join.
Erik Torenberg @eriktorenbergOn Deck for founders. On Deck founders have raised $80M+ in 8 months from world-class investors. Why pay $200K+ for an MBA at Stanford when you can get a better startup network, education, and credential (for raising money & recruiting) at a fraction of the cost with @beondeck? https://t.co/fSFrhOaI9a
The program was supposed to take place mostly in person in San Francisco, but because of #COVID, it moved completely online. I ended up flying back from Medellin to Indianapolis during the craziness and participating in Indy.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being in On Deck. It’s not over yet, but this has been my favorite moment so far. 👇
Which brings me to my next point—Roam.
In the last two months, I got into a habit of religiously using Roam.
Roam is a note-taking tool to help you think better. Instead of traditional note-taking tools that organize in a hierarchical structure, Roam’s default organization uses bi-directional references. It’s a structure that mimicks how you actually think.
That means your thoughts (your “knowledge graph”) end up looking less like a digital file cabinet and more like a neuro network.
Here’s what mine looks like 👇
The tool has developed a cult-like following. I’d say I’m a #roamcult follower myself.
Click into this thread to read more about Roam.
When I left Microverse, my goal was to start a company.
I’m happy to say I finally hit on a problem I’m incredibly passionate about and where my skills fit, too: it’s too hard for education startups to start and scale deferred payment programs around the world.
This friction in starting a deferred payment program means that millions of people around the world are underserved by online education options that require upfront payments, and hundreds of entrepreneurs that might want to start online education businesses are underserved because they see structuring a deferred payment program as too complicated and risky.
To solve this problem, I’m working on Align. If my grandma asked (hi grandma!), Align is a software tool to help online schools issue education loans in any country in the world. If a venture capitalist asked, I’d say I’m working on Stripe for income share agreements.
I’m focused on building the product for early users (across a few different continents!), so I don’t have a lot of public information to share, but I’m hoping to have some exciting news by my next update.
Before finishing this edition of Coffee with Wes, I want to give a shoutout to my quarantine squad for making the pandemic easier to bear. Jake, Regan, Mia, Alyssa, mom, and dad—thank you.
To everyone reading this, I hope you’re healthy, happy, and productive during these crazy times.
PS - If you’ve been following along, you might have signed up for a side-project I was working on to help you become more intentional in your relationships. I’m no longer pursuing that idea, but reply to this and I’ll connect you with someone who is if you’re interested in being a beta user.