In the 2001 recession, my parents lost everything, marriage included.

My dreams felt like they were slipping away; I was depressed, angry and had nowhere to turn.

This is a story about how I turned crisis into opportunity by fusing education and entrepreneurship.

**Read On**
I was in a tough spot. We didn’t grow up wealthy, but I certainly had enough. I went to good schools, traveled internationally, and had all the tech and books I needed.

The crisis threw a wrench in everything.

Like many people today, I started to question the status quo.
Slowly, I started to get pissed off. The world felt like it was out to get me. I questioned if the “adults” in the room knew as much as they purported.

My grades slipped and my rebellious nature came out.

It's so easy to devolve into anger when times are tough.
My now-single mom was strong as hell. She held firm on a clear goal: get into a top-tier university or bust. She wouldn’t settle for anything less.

With my grades slipping, I knew I had to bolster my college applications with some extracurriculars to make this happen.
I was one nerdy-ass Indian boy 😅

I was too small to play sports, so I took up Speech and Debate and the school newspaper.

Debate was the #1 extracurricular for getting into college and my ticket out of my family’s financial challenges.
I had a big problem: Money.

To succeed at debate, you need to travel to tournaments—and my mother couldn’t simply couldn’t afford it.

My friend proposed we raise the money thru a Speech and Debate camp. We’d charge $300 per student. It was my first ever “business.”

I was 13.
We were extremely naïve, but we had “product-market fit.”

Suburban parents want their kids to go to college too, and were willing to pay anything for their kids to have productive summers.

The camp grew, and soon we could no longer host it at my mom’s home.
Sounds like the dream? Ambitious young kids start a business that teaches other children in the neighborhood.

I went to my high school thinking: they’d be thrilled to host this camp. It is a win-win-win!

Except, that isn’t how our school saw it.
In fact, the school was extremely obstinate.

They did everything to shut down the camp. I was in the Principal’s office on a quarterly basis.


Our school system is a massive bureaucracy with many constituents. The kids are not #1 - there are dozens of competing interests.
They knew we'd learn more if we were doing valuable extracurriculars. But they didn’t care.

Having kids running businesses, managing money and hosting kids at the school was a liability.

Risk aversion kills entrepreneurship.

And schools teach risk aversion.
We were not to be deterred. The camp grew into a smashing success.

By my Senior year, we had 150+ students attending 4 different programs.

At least a dozen fellow students were working as tutors at the camp, and we were learning valuable skills that schools don’t teach.
I poured my heart into the camp for 5 years. When I graduated, the incoming class took over the camp.

Boom. Soon as I left, our school canceled the debate program.


It boggles my mind they did this. HOW can you run a school and kill programs that help students learn?!
Why am I telling you this?

My school, Mission San Jose High School, was a top 100 public school in the country.…

Most of the students were smart, driven with hard-working parents. We were privileged.
If at a school like that, the administration ignores student outcomes for bureaucratic reasons - what do you think happens at our inner city schools? What about our rural schools?

Our school system is a mess that has stopped focusing on student achievement.
This way of thinking doesn’t just affect a promising Indian boy’s dreams of entrepreneurship.

I don’t care about that.

I care about how it affects what textbooks we buy, what subjects we teach, the values we teach our kids and what teachers we promote and fire.
I don’t have all of the answers.

What I know is that recent events present a new opportunity.

Our education system is in chaos: universities are running out of money and public schools are forced to rethink every part of the student experience.
I also know that not all of the change will come from the inside. The system needs out-of-the-box thinkers. Entrepreneurs, dreamers, builders.

It’s time to build. It’s time to build a new education system that cares about students and encourages them to succeed.
I hope this inspires some of you.

There are amazing orgs building a world where our education system actually works, and doesn't leave student success to chance but takes it on fully.

Join them or start your own. Take the anger of the moment and let it fuel change!
Thanks to @sasyrae and @EllenRhymes for their help in crafting this.

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More from @gaganbiyani

18 Jun
8 years ago, I got fired as President and co-founder of @udemy, a now-$2B unicorn

This is a tough story to share, and I’ll try my best to be honest

Fortunately this story ends on a positive note & I hope it’ll be useful to anyone who’s been laid off or fired.

**Read on**
I was just 21 when I met @erenbali + @caglaroktay.

I was a nobody, my family was broke, and I had never run a startup.

They, too, weren’t hot shots. Fresh off the boat from Turkey and still proving themselves.

They took a chance on me, and I on them.
Lucky for us, it worked out. @erenbali’s vision was spot on and slowly we raised some money and built out a team.

Nearly 2 million of you read this story already. It is posted here:
Read 24 tweets
27 May
Nobody talks about failure in Silicon Valley, yet 90% of startups fail.


3 yrs ago, @neerajberry and I shut down @Sprig, which raised $60M from @GreylockVC + @socialcapital & grew to $20m revenue.

Then, it all fell apart.

For an honest story about failure,

**Read on**
In 2013, I was @lyft, envious of how fast it was growing!

What about @lyft for food?

We looked @Postmates + thought:
- the food arrived sloppy / restaurants don't care about delivery
- it took forever (1hr)
- too expensive
We struggled through product iterations until we found "magic":

3 taps and $15 for a healthy meal delivered in 15 min

To make it possible, we had to run the restaurant ourselves; it would be expensive but worth it

We recruited @n8keller, Morgan Springer + @mattkent as founders
Read 20 tweets
3 Apr
A new online education revolution is happening.

I've been taking dozens of online courses recently that are 10x better than what was possible in 2008 when we started @udemy.

Educators, Influencers, Bootstrappers and Startups:
A thread about the future:

*Read On*
Some background:
In 2008, everyone thought "live education" was the future. We @udemy did too, but eventually pivoted into recorded content.

For 10 years most online courses were:
A) Recorded (watch when you want, like Netflix)
B) Low cost
C) Low engagement or completion rate
I worked @udemy for <4 years and took 6 years off from the sector.

In 2019, I started looking at it again.

WOW the changes are incredible. Now the best courses are:
1) Live (mostly on @zoom_us)
2) Varied costs ($1 to $15,000)
3) Community driven (consumers comfort online 📈)
Read 9 tweets
20 Feb
I’m biased but @udemy is a true underdog story + thought I’d share details we’ve never shared before.

ICYMI, we announced a $50M raise at $2B valuation.

Udemy almost died at least 5x. We got rejected by everyone in the Valley. Startups are never a straight line.

*Read on*
@udemy In 2009 @ 21yo, I met @erenbali and @caglaroktay at incubator @founding with 40+ business co-founders looking for technical leads.

Eren + Oktay were clearly the smartest engineers in the whole group, but few knew who they were. They were brainy, less social with thick accents.
@udemy @erenbali @caglaroktay @founding I almost didn’t meet them; @adeoressi threatened to kick me out if I didn't. We bonded over our immigrant backgrounds. I worked for free for 6 months. It became obvious that @erenbali was one of the smartest people I'd ever met, though few others saw it. We became cofounders.
Read 15 tweets

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