In 2004 I started at Columbia Business School as a J-Term student. I had recently worked for one of the more famous dot-com companies that had raised a large round of venture capital, had the biggest first-day IPO pop in history, and subsequently largely fell apart during the crash.
Columbia was a great place to reach traditional business school outcomes in finance and consulting. But in the J-Term program and the Lang Center, it also had a community of people who helped those of us who wanted an entrepreneurial future to find our own paths. While it was definitely a "get out what you put in" type of environment, it was also surprisingly accepting of entrepreneurs like myself, whose primary determinant of success wasn't multiples returned to investors or fame.
When I started Wikispaces on graduation, with the help of the Lang Fund, my cofounder James and I had no clear vision for what Wikispaces would ultimately be. But we did know we wanted to build a human company that delivered real value to people we thought were worth serving. By being patient, eschewing capital-raising, working hard, and, of course, getting lucky, we found ourselves with a successful fast-growing product that served teachers. It turned out that teachers were in desperate need of ways to collaborate online and manage their day-to-day work with students, parents, and each other. We eventually wrote an article that was widely read among the education technology community called "How to Succeed in Education Technology" that encapsulated what we had learned.
By 2013 we had built one of the top 100 internet websites by traffic and had served over 10 million teachers and students. When we met the team at TSL Education—the largest network of teachers in the world who themselves have an unusual history and a focus on teachers—we found we had an opportunity to remain true to ourselves but also take another big swing and see how much good we could do, while also doing well.
Our acquisition closed in February 2014. We're now working hard on growing our team and on building products that we think are going to be revolutionary. And we're still doing things the way we think they should be done and having fun while doing them.