I dropped out of Penn and I’m glad I did

The Wharton curriculum bored my brains out

It was spring break of my freshman year and all my friends were posting pictures from boats in the Dominican Republic with their stomachs sucked in.

Meanwhile, I was stuck in Philadelphia, grading MBA papers from my room in Hill College House.

(Yes, you read that correctly. A freshman was grading the papers of MBA students in MGMT-801, the entrepreneurship course for graduate students).

Hill House

I am the obnoxious dude in the red shirt in the bottom left

Around the same time, I was unhappily preparing for my BEPP-250 midterm.  I was attending about half of my classes at this point in the semester, did not belong to any clubs and rarely entered Van Pelt.

It wasn’t that I hated Penn, or was not “succeeding” in class. On the contrary, I loved Penn. I just felt like I wasn’t learning.

Too frequently we forget that education and college are not mutually exclusive and getting a degree is just one path to “success.”

The Wharton curriculum began to bore my brains out, and meanwhile I was taking phone calls with my lawyers, engineers, and business partners for Touch Tiles, the company I ran on the side.  I launched Touch Tiles in the Fall of my freshman year out of a frustration with the consumer tech industry and the lack of diversity and customization offered to consumers.

During the ten days of complete silence over break, I worked with my professor, dealt with some intellectual property issues and read up on profitability maximization of markets. When I realized it was the work for my classes I enjoyed the least, I decided to drop out of school.

What I often say is this: too many people who drop out should not, while too many people who do not dropout, should. Dropping out may not be something to aspire towards, but it is also not something to fear. It is simply an option.

Many dropouts don’t plan it, but rather find themselves in a situation where it becomes a reasonable option. Personally, I reached a point where I could not balance school and Touch Tiles, so I chose the one I felt would make me happier and more successful in my own eyes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.21.14 AMDropping out didn’t mean I was giving up on hard work, though. For the next nine months, I worked my ass off. I spoke with investors and hired and fired employees, interns and consultants. I was continuously pitching and pivoting, and learning everything I needed to know on the fly.

We can study entrepreneurship at school, but it isn’t until we are drowning in pressure, laying on the floor of our parents’ house crying because we do not know what the next move is that we realize how little we learned in the classroom. Entrepreneurship is not a question of intelligence, but rather of understanding.

At one point, I was asked to speak at a college in California about what it is like to drop out and build something from idea to product. The speakers after me were the team from Everipedia, the new Wikipedia where anyone and anything can have a page (check out mine). One of the speakers was Mahbod Moghadam, an entrepreneur who founded RapGenius, now known as Genius.

I personally knew of Mahbod and his reputation as an entrepreneur who kept it real, admitted to his weed and Adderall use, and was a part of an exclusive entrepreneur program responsible for companies like Reddit, AirBnB, Dropbox, 9GAG, and Codecademy.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.17.19 AM

Mahbod Moghadam

As someone who had looked up to Mahbod for a while, I couldn’t resist staying after my talk to hear his. Ultimately, I was able to understand the vision of the site and began discussing it with the founders after the talk. (Pro tip: Networking is not a game of meeting people and adding them on LinkedIn, but rather befriending them and making them want to help you).

Eventually, when Touch Tiles closed, my relationship with Mahbod and the Everipedia team was so strong they recruited me to join their founding team and work with them on content curation, marketing, press, and anything else I could do to advance the site.

Our headquarters is not what you would call traditional. We live and work out of a penthouse in LA, where our kitchen is stocked with premium liquor. None of our bedrooms have beds, and both bathrooms are equipped with Squatty Potties and wet wipes. The crew wakes up at around noon and works on-and-off until 4:00 am. Our daily diet consists of rice cakes, avocados, kale, salsa, orange juice and Red Bull.

Sam (the CEO), me, Christian (the iOS developer), Travis (the code wizard)

Sam (the CEO), me, Christian (the iOS developer), Travis (the code wizard)

From here, I am not sure where life will take me.  I plan to stay a part of the Everipedia team, but may or may not stay in the penthouse full time or go back to Penn and take minimal classes (Mama Beall is bullish on degrees).  Furthermore, at the time of publishing I am toying with the idea of starting a Venture Capital fund which may or may not be realized. Yolo though, am I right?

If I can leave people with some parting wisdom it would be this: life goes on.

There are so many times when I could have lost my shit and thrown in my cards, but ultimately we all die at some point and most of our decisions will not be the cause of that, so why do we all stress out so much?

Everything has a beautiful way of working out. We really just have to keep moving forward and believe that.
me in my prime
Me in my prime

This article also appears on thetab.com and is published here with the permission of the author