1. How was 2U created? Where did your inspiration come from?
2U was founded by a team of entrepreneurs, including John Katzman and Chip Paucek, who had been founding and running successful education startups for years. A few years ago, high quality online education didn’t exist, in fact, online education was generally only within the territory of for-profits universities, and known as generally low quality. John Katzman wondered why that was the case, and if we could create high quality online programs that challenged that status quo.
2. Where did the name 2U come from?
We were founded as 2tor in 2008, but changed our name last year to 2U. The fact of the matter was that some people thought that we “tutored” when that’s actually not what we do at all. We partner with elite universities to help them deliver groundbreaking online programs and it’s the universities that have sole ownership of teaching, and all areas related to the academics and admissions processes.
3. Tell us about the first company you founded when you were only 15 years old?
I founded an online marketplace for virtual currency. It was during the wild west of the online payments industry and I created a way for people to exchange digital currency with added security, by allowing them to trade real currency with digital currency.
4. Do you think it is possible for EVERYONE to be able to own and start their own business or company? Does everyone have the potential to gain that particular skill set?
Everyone could start their own business, but that doesn’t mean everyone should. Starting a business is really hard and it’s not the right path for everyone, but it’s a good and exciting path if you’re ambitious and you can turn something you’re passionate about into your work.
5. How were you able to balance your entrepreneurial endeavors, school, and your other extra-curricular activities while being 21 at Princeton University?
Not easily! Not all my professors loved me. The reality is that there are 24 hours in a day and everyone has different requirements and priorities in their lives. I want a rich life and try to pack as a much as I can into a day. I may have to pass on an event or trip from time to time, but it works for me.
6. What advice can you give students in college who are interested in starting their own business?
I’d suggest they give it a try and to not worry about having the best idea in the world, but make sure they’re solving a problem and creating a solution that people are willing to pay for. The best way to do it is just by trying, failing and learning. The best strategy is to stop aiming for perfect the first time, but making steps towards it and just going for it!
7. What is your NEXT big plan? You are only 29 years old….do you have another challenge in mind for the near or later future?
If you ask my mother, I’m actually getting up there! But the reality is that I couldn’t be more excited about what we’re building at 2U – it will fundamentally impact education and it’s something I’m passion about. If you look at my career, you’ll see I’ve always aspired to advance education. My goal right now is to continue realize that dream.
Jeremy Johnson is our NSCS keynote speaker at National Leadership Summit this summer. To hear Jeremy speak in person, register for Summit here: http://www.nscs.org/summit