$4M online school inspired by Elon Musk

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If you’ve been a long-time listener you might have heard me complain about my education. So much so that a guest at one time told me to stop. But I still think there should be a better way.

Another person who feels that way is Elon Musk. He hired someone to create a whole new curriculum for his kids.

Well, today’s guest got to see inside that program and he was so blown away by it that he created a company that kids outside of SpaceX can get access to.

Chrisman Frank is the founder of Synthesis, a weekly, 1-hour enrichment program for students who
want to learn how to build the future.

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Chrisman Frank

Chrisman Frank

Synthesis

Chrisman Frank is the founder of Synthesis, a weekly, 1-hour enrichment program for students who
want to learn how to build the future. Ages 8-14.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I occasionally complain about, um, uh, my schooling. I’ve done that for so long that you might’ve heard that there was a teacher who came on here years ago, who said, Andrew, stop complaining.

And I was, I was very sympathetic to her point of view that I shouldn’t just be knocking it down. I should appreciate that the teachers are trying really hard, but truthfully, I don’t think I took the right approach there. I think the right approach is to say, I empathize with what you’re going through. I know that you’re working hard, most teachers, but there still needs to be a better way.

And you know, who decided that he was actually going to do a better way is Elon Musk. He, for his students hired a teacher that he admired, redid the whole curriculum, the whole structure, the whole approach. And he had a great school for his kids and today’s guests. Chrisman Frank went into, see, one of these classes was, I guess, so blown away by it that he partnered up with the teacher who Elon Musk hired to teach his kids and his, some of his employees, kids.

He was so blown away by it that Chrisman joined with the guy with Josh. That’s his name? I right, Kristen.

Chrisman: That’s right.

Andrew: He joined with Josh created this online school for anyone’s kid to learn using the same, the same structure, the same methodology that Elon Musk had for his kids and for his, some of his employees, kids.

Anyway, I invited Chrisman Frank on to talk about how he built up the school, how big it is already, what his vision is for it. And we can, um, and I should introduce thesis synthesis as the school that teaches kids, the art of solving complex problems through team games and simulations. All right. Uh, and this interview is sponsored by HostGator and memorable, but I’ll talk about them later.

Christmas. Good to have you here.

Chrisman: Thanks for having me.

Andrew: So this is not a replacement for school. It’s an online addition to the school. The kids are already going to them, right?

Chrisman: Yeah, that’s right. Um, as you mentioned, like I said, I went down to the, the school that Ilan and my co-founder Josh created and, and, you know, it was, it was a great school in a lot of ways, but kind of the most innovative thing, the thing I saw that you couldn’t get anywhere else. And the thing that kind of blew me away was this piece of it.

That is a synthesis and synthesis was like the kid’s favorite class. And it’s basically, as you mentioned, you’re learning through, um, games and simulations. You’re competing with other kids and you’re working together with, uh, with the kids on your team. And, uh, I just thought when I saw that, I was like, ah, I need to get my son, you know, this experience.

I think this is the ideal sort of, sort of training that kids need. Um, you.

know, in the, in the information age, right, as, as the economy changes and the world is changing So fast, uh, this is like the best thing. And so, yeah, we’re starting as a. You know, I, I think of it like, uh, like martial arts, like, like jiu-jitsu, or like learning to play a musical instrument except, uh, you’re, you’re, learning this discipline of how to think and how to solve problems with the team, which is the world’s most valuable skill.

Right?

Andrew: you’re saying this is not a replacement for school. It might be the kind of addition that a parent would think of as it’s a type of addition that they think of when they send their kids to jujitsu or to dance class or something like that. Right. Except you’re teaching them to think not how to karate chop.

Chrisman: exactly.

Andrew: All right. How much revenue you guys doing?

Chrisman: You know, we we’ve just, uh, we just, uh, we just switched systems. So I don’t, I don’t know exactly what it is at the, at the beginning of the month. It was, uh, it was for a little over 4 million annualized. And so yeah, we launched in, we launched in November, we launched a subscription service in November.

Andrew: like seven, eight months in

Chrisman: Yep.

And it’s, we grew 33% in

uh, in may and probably about the same in June.

Andrew: All right. You’re someone who’s been in online education for a long time. Um, I, you were in tutor, cloud class dojo class dojo is from what I understand, it’s incredibly popular it’s software that teachers bring into their classrooms to help, to help them teach. Right.

Chrisman: Yep. Yeah.

it was the, when the founders, uh, were starting out, they kind of had this attitude, like we don’t want to help teachers. We don’t really know anything, you know, they they’d been teachers like briefly, but they wanted to kind of focus on what is the top problem teachers have. And that was, uh, you know, that, that was like classroom management.

So it’s this weird thing in school where the teacher, you get the, you get these like 25 or 30 new kids every year and you you’re always having to reinstruct them and like the norms of the classroom, like what, what is the, what is behavior that is like rewarded? And so class dojo initially started as something that would, you could give kids points for like, uh, you know, doing good things is putting your backpack away or lining up properly. you know, the things I think we don’t, um, we don’t think are not like the best parts of school, but in the system as it is now, it’s, it’s extremely helpful for teachers. And from that group, Really really quickly. Um, that’s when I came on the team and then after I joined, we pivoted into sort of like a communication product.

So teachers can communicate with parents, they can share photos, they share text messages and helps, uh, kind of like bring the families into the classroom. And so that, that was like a new growth inflection point. It was like a couple of thousand users when I joined it’s like 51 million today, like about eight years later.

So yeah, it’s, it’s crazy, crazy

Andrew: you did growth. for them. You did product and growth from what I saw on your LinkedIn.

Chrisman: I did product growth and well, I started off as an engineer. I was, I was the first, uh, first engineer and then I just kinda moved on to whatever was the, uh, the most. You know, the, the most sort of like unsolved problem at the time. So, uh, did did recruiting, um, the thing I’m probably most proud of there is the recruiting and the, um, I built it.

I made this video series to teach kids the idea of growth mindset. Let’s say idea, your brain is like a muscle. It’s one of the most important ideas you can get into kids early. And there’s research that’s been done on that idea at the, since the seventies that shows, if you teach kids that your brain is like a muscle, you know, the harder you work, the smarter you get it, you just get, teach them like a 15 minute lesson on that.

And then it changes their math scores like a year later, Right.

Just that one little intervention. And so I was like with dojo’s network, all these millions of kids, like if we can make some videos to help teachers talk about this with kids and get these ideas, and then that’s going to have a huge impact.

And so the, that was, that was the thing I worked on there that I was most excited about and kind of using that network to get ideas, you know, not having to go through a principal or like a district administrator, but just go right to the people with skin in the game, right. The

Andrew: Meaning you just add it to the platform and teachers and parents can say, we want to include this. And once they included it, got it. They had it ready to go. When, when you did growth, what did you do to help, to help it grow? Was it adding the parent interaction? So now the parents are finding out about it and asking more teachers to include it.

Chrisman: Yeah. I can’t really take credit for that. That was sort of like I remember at the time it was like, uh, we were starting, people were asking for messaging and so we’d started to build that. And then around that time was the WhatsApp acquisition, uh, by Facebook for like $20 billion. And so w you know, it was me and another product guy, there were like, oh, Hey, maybe we should, maybe we’re like a messaging product.

Maybe that’s what this is. And it, it didn’t, I don’t remember if we, I don’t think there was much persuasion of the founders or anything like that. Like that, that was like an obvious, uh, obvious direction. Um,

Andrew: One of the big reasons for growth, is that the biggest?

Chrisman: Yeah.

I would say so, because we went from, it was like a single player product, Even though the teachers would use it with the, with the kids in the classroom.

That was really great. Cause you had this brand, the kids really loved, like the kids were represented by monsters. They got points. Like they love that like positive feedback and the monster element was like a pretty big deal. Um, but once we, once you made it a communication product, it was very sticky.

Right? So once, once you get the parents on, you know, the, their, their messaging, the teachers and the teacher, like really can’t leave at that point. And the parents are just gonna adopt whatever the teacher, you know, imagine there’s some app where you can get pictures of your kid from the classroom. It’s like, w you know, when you go back in time, you’re like, you couldn’t, it was just like a black box.

Right. Um, so that was like really, really sticky.

Andrew: are. Teaching is helpful for a parent.

Chrisman: Yeah.

And there’s yeah, once you, that was like, just not a communication channel or what happened through email. And so, you know, the teachers are coming into class with their, with their phones when the company started in like 2011. So it was just like iPhone adoption was getting to be kind of everywhere.

Everyone had a smartphone. And so that opened up this new communication channel and, you know, thanks makes it feel, make the classroom feel a little bit more like a community.

Andrew: But then was the communication element, is that what allowed parents to then say to the next teacher? I want this. So if they have two kids in one school, one teacher is using this. The other is not using class dojo. The parents says, please use class dojo at hub.

Chrisman: Yeah.

Once you, once you make that adoption, uh, if you can’t go back, like what we had cases where the district would, would pick something. So one of the big problems in schools is, is the, uh, uh, the top-down nature of things, right? Like say you have a better idea for how to teach math and you just know it’s better.

It doesn’t really matter. You have to go sell it district by district or school by school. And you’re often selling to people who don’t have skin in the game. They’re not the people who use the product. Right. And so class dojo did this, the sneaky kind of thing, which is you just get in the classrooms and teachers and parents would love it.

It’s a consumer product, even though it’s used in school, it’s like that level of quality. So we, we would have situations where. The district would someone would go sell the disc. They’d be like, Hey, they showed them a feature list. They’d be like, we have all these features, class dojo doesn’t have these features and the administrators who aren’t using it would go, yeah, those features sound pretty good. Okay.

Everybody class dojo’s band you’re using this. And the parents would just like riot. Like they’re like showing up to the principal’s office. Like this is garbage. I can’t use this thing. It’s confusing. You need to bring class dojo back. So it’s like once you open that Pandora’s box is hard to rip it out.

Parents get used to, you know, getting updates from the teacher, being able to ask the teacher questions and that sort of thing. Uh, So, yeah.

Andrew: so why did you end up going to see the class that Elon Musk had at space X?

Chrisman: We made that series of videos about growth mindset, which are featuring our, our monsters. You can get them on YouTube class dojo, growth mindset, videos, um, which I recommend showing to your kids if you have elementary aged kids. Um, and that was kind of, that was my, my big thesis at the company was like, you’ve built this network now and you, you should have content flow through the network.

You can get better ideas into classrooms. So we went to meet Josh at a, at space X to see if there were any ideas that we could scale up from the school. Um, and yeah, that, that, that, that was the, that was the idea. W you know, there were things that you can’t scale like their, their science teachers, uh, is a, is a bio tech PhD from Caltech.

And,

Andrew: did she start her own biotech company?

Chrisman: uh, I, I think she’s, she was involved with a couple, yeah, she was either a founder, like really early on at one, one that sold. So she, she’s pretty, pretty incredible

Andrew: So you can’t have that necessarily for

Chrisman: She sees a unicorn is also incredibly like warm and welcoming and has the, just like brilliant scientific background.

Andrew: but you were going there.

Chrisman: her.

Andrew: You were going there from class dojo to try to see what’s working for them and then bring it back to class dojo. And then you were blown away.

Chrisman: Yeah.

honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because I, through that job, I’d just been to all manner of schools and, and, uh, you know, from, from public schools to, um, you know, charter schools to really fancy, expensive private schools. And it seemed like the only difference was the. Sort of selection and like class size where the only, I didn’t really see anything innovative.

And it all went to all these schools that were supposed to be innovative and hadn’t seen anything. And So even when I went to that school, I’m like, is this just some billionaires vanity project? Like, as you know, is there going to be anything innovative there? And, uh, you have to migrate surprise and delight.

That’s that’s where we discovered synthesis. And I thought that was, to me, that was just like saying, well, this is the future. This is the way school should be a half to get my kids, this kind of training.

Andrew: So why did he land must put this school together? Was it just for his kids?

Chrisman: Um, it was, I mean, there were more students there, but my, my understanding of Elan’s motivations is he, he, he, he just wanted a better education for his kids. This regular schools were, uh, not working for his kids. And, you know, he, he was not as famous then as he is now, but he was still, he was pretty famous and he was a billionaire.

And so you can imagine he could go to whatever school.

Andrew: Yep.

Chrisman: I can send his kids to whatever school. So you sent them to a very expensive, you know, very highly regarded school. And he was like, this is not working. This is not what I want for my

Andrew: So he said, I want a school for my kids. And by the way, since I’m doing it for my kids, I’ll open it up to some people on space X.

Chrisman: Yeah, My, my kind of understanding there is that he, you know, you have to have other kids there they’re going to help your kids learn. And so that’s why the other, other kids were there. It was primarily the project for him to figure out how to educate his kids. Um, yeah, it was never, never the intent to like build a new education model for, for the world.

You know, he’s pretty busy and I think he feels like he’s doing, doing good things for the world already. Um, so

Andrew: isn’t like we work that suddenly when from office space to homes to then buying a school or creating a school, this is, this is not an extent extension of space X he’s focused on space X, but he wants to do something for his kids. And from what I, I heard you say in the past, one of the things that he was battling against was tool focused classes.

Chrisman: That’s

Andrew: What is a tool focus class?

Chrisman: And school everything’s designed, you know, everything’s laid out in subjects, right? So the way his analogy was, you know, school would teach you a course on screwdrivers and then a course on wrenches and the way he thought you should do it is to teach a problem. So here’s an engine, let’s take it apart.

Okay. Now you’re going to have to learn how to use a screwdriver and how to use a wrench. And when you frame it in terms of problems, that way it’s much more meaningful. And in reality, there’s very few opportunities to apply a tool in isolation and real life problems. Everything’s all bound up together.

And so that was like his, his sort of first principles approach to doing the school. And that’s what Josh took that idea of learning through.

Andrew: me, let me pause before we go with it. I want to still understand the problem. When I think about problems with school, it’s not so much that there are schools that teach tools. It’s more like they’re teaching kids, things that they won’t need until 10 years later. And so they forget it by the time they need it.

It’s like me saying to you, go start a company, but first let me teach you for the next five years, what to do by the time you go to start your company, a lot of it will be out of date or you’ll feel a forgotten. And some, for me, it’s more like, how do you measure the size of the side of a triangle? It’s interesting, but I’ll, if you tell it to me when I’m an elementary school and I don’t need to use it, I’m not going to remember it.

What are some of the specific things that you see that are problematic that you call it?

Chrisman: I th I think that’s right. I think, I mean, the, the triangle example is, uh, is a great one. I think every everything in school is kind of like that. And, you know, they, they do, they try to like give you problems, but they’re contrived. Problems. They’re like toy versions of a problem, um, to try and make it seem real.

But to me, like in school, it just, it?

never, never felt real.

Andrew: I’ll go for a math problem. So a contrived example is if Johnny is on a bus, that’s driving 50 miles an hour, going to a place that’s 40 miles away. And Steve is coming from 40 miles away on a bus, right? If these

problems

Chrisman: theory, that’s a problem, but in reality, like that’s not a problem that you care about. And I think this is to just, uh, to, to, you know, show, show this reflects in synthesis, the kids care about the problems and that they’re only their games and simulations, but the kids care. So if you make it, you know, if you make it so that you have to learn how to solve for right triangle, As a consequence of like winning the game, then the kids will care about it.

They’ll actually learn it. It will, it will stick because there’s some emotional resonance there. Like, I bet you forget most of the problems you solved in school, but you probably remember problems even if they’re 20 years ago that you solved in your, in your actual life. And, and the reason is, you know, your brain is this network structure, right?

So if you, if you teach this thing in isolation, it kind of, it kind of falls away because there’s no connection to things that really matter to you. Elan’s described it as like a youth should think of learning like a tree, right. Where there’s the trunk. And then there are.

thicker branches and then there’s the leaves.

So the trunk is like these first principles, like core concepts and the leaves are just like little, you know, factual, uh, things. The leaves will fall away. If you don’t have. The co the trunk and like the thicker branches and, and the structure. So that I think is a really big problem with school is when you separate things by subject like that, they’re all isolated from one another.

And so that’s a big reason why you forget everything you learned in school.

Andrew: All right. Let me give you another issue that I understood that he wanted to sob. He didn’t want kids of different ages separated into different classes by their age. He didn’t want, um, kids working on things by themselves. Okay.

Chrisman: there’s two, there’s a, there’s a YouTube video and interview that he does with Chinese television where he just it’s right when the school was getting started and he describes his two main principles. So the first one is, do not do the sort of factory thing, which includes. Isolating kids by age and then having everybody learn the same thing at the same time.

And then the second one is the, is the do problems instead of tools. Um, so yeah, that, that first one is just, you know, I think he’s, I it’s really funny cause I don’t know how much he actually thought about education, but I’ve thought about it. And it seems to me like he really nailed like the two, two core problems with the system.

I think this age segregation, that’s probably the worst thing we do because everything else flows from that. Um, if you have kids and once you put them into school, it becomes. Obvious how terrible that situation is. Like, for example, my, my, I have a seven year old and he was out of school because of, because of COVID he was kind of like homeschooled, um, for, for quite a while.

And he always just, we spoke to him like an adult and he spoke like an adult and he, you know, he obviously doesn’t know as much, but, uh, he’s very like grown up and kind of mature. We put them in school because we moved during COVID and it was sort of the only way to make friends and all of a sudden he’s acting childish.

And I just I’m like, I can’t understand what’s going on here. This is this age segregation thing, right? When you put only first graders together, well, they don’t have any responsibility. Right.

Whereas at home he has responsibility. He needs to look after his younger brother and sister, he needs to grow up and become a mentor and he has real responsibilities and he also doesn’t have anyone to look up to.

There’s no one who’s like in third grade, a little bit ahead of him who he gets to spend a lot of time. And so these kids are kind of like isolated in time and everything’s, you were just not meant to do that as humans. Everything feels

Andrew: I’ll give you another problem. Here’s another issue with that. Imagine you have a kid who reads, who reads slower than other kids, his age, but does math faster than other kids, his age in a regular school, they wouldn’t slow down and speed up based on him. You’re in first grade, you’re in second grade. You need the first or second grade material.

And so you’re bored one place and you feel slow and, uh, and stupid in another. And that’s one of the issues.

Chrisman: that’s one of the issues.

There’s a bigger one there, which is actually these, these things they tend to correlate. So, so, so mostly like people who are, who are ahead in one field tend, tend to be kind of ahead in the others. That that’s like the worst problem. Right? If you are, if you’re a little bit slower at learning these things, when you’re at age eight, Or whatever you’re at the you’re at the bottom.

You’re just, you’re just like the dumbest one in the class. If you have mixed age, you’re going to be ahead of the, of the five and six year olds. So you’ll get a chance to like, be a mentor and feel like you’re making progress on your own terms, but the way we do it, you can, you it’s, it’s actually, it’s, it’s pretty bad either way.

If you’re like one of the smartest kids, uh, then, then you, you just, you end up thinking you’re a genius and that you’re infallible. Right. Cause you’re always at the top. And if you’re one of the slower kids, then, then that, that kind of view just permeate, that that becomes like your view of yourself and you place yourself in a box. Right.

It’s the mountain that I think is like the worst problem. And that affects pretty much every kid.

Andrew: Okay. So I see now how you’re blown away after seeing a lot of different approaches, this one looked great. This one looked right to you. I want to understand how that excitement translated into starting the company with Josh who started that class first. Let me say it, everyone listening. If you need a website hosted and go to hostgator.com/mixergy, I usually go longer with these messages, but you already know why.

So I’m just going to say low price, great service. Go get it already. hostgator.com/mixergy. All right. How did, how did you then decide to start this business together? Synthesis.

Chrisman: Yeah. So we met actually things about five years ago. It was five years ago. Cause I remember my son being two at the time. And uh, I, you know, I’m just thinking to me, like the I’m seeing the kids. I was the way I came across since, as I was touring the school and it was like lunchtime and some of the kids were playing Dodge ball and then some of them are inside and they’re standing around a table.

They’re shouting these complex sounding arguments at each other. And you know, I was kind of like, what, what is this? Did the teacher eating lunch next to me? And she was like, oh, it’s synthesis. Like the kids get kind of obsessed with it. And I was like, this is a school. Like, this is incredible. This kind of engagement on a, on a school project.

Like I’d never, I’d never seen before. It reminded me of like, Ender’s game. Right. If you’ve read that, have you read it.

Andrew: No, I’ve heard you describe it. This is a science fiction book. What is it?

Chrisman: It’s a science fiction book where you have a society that’s, that’s facing you kind of a slow moving alien invasion. So the aliens are on their way, but they won’t get there for a while. And they realize their only hope is to train kids because kids’ brains are more and more plastic, more flexible, right.

And the way they train them in something called battle school. So you’re on a team, you compete in these simulations against the other teams. And when you start winning, they just bump up the level of complexity of the simulations and bump up the level of competition. And that creates this kind of spiral, right?

It’s like, if you think about how we do team sports and our society, like it’s all based on competition because the competition gives you a chance to test yourself. Right. And there is, you know, there are, there are very few ways you can do that in the realm of, of sort of thinking in complex problem solving.

And so what I thought was genius was that Josh had figured out a way to do this. He created these. These games for, for thinking, or he calls like unique experiences designed to provoke thinking and I’d thought like, I want my kid to be trained like this, that through the competition and through the teamwork, like he’s going to become a much better thinker And I could see it with the kids who’d been trained that way.

You know, they, they they’d been doing it for four years. They had just kind of unbelievable abilities for like 12 and 13 year olds. Yeah,

Andrew: so you’re saying, I want this from my kids. Elan’s not letting me in here with my kids. How do you and John start having a conversation where you, where you say you’re going to start a business together.

Chrisman: Yeah.

We just, we kind of just became friends first. Like I, I was just blown away by what he was doing. had so many conversations with it was like, oh, look, if there’s any way to help scale this, these things up, just to get your ideas out there. I just want to help, however I can, I don’t, it doesn’t have to be a business.

Whatever is like the best way to get these ideas to more people. Like, that’s what I want to do. And so we, we talked on the phone for years. I remember his, his, uh, his son was born, um, you know, two years ago and just chatting with them like, uh, shortly after that, about being a father and like just, you know, how we want to raise our own kids together.

And, uh, and yeah, we always just kind of, I always was trying to get better, more about synthesis. I didn’t really understand it as well as I do at the time. I’d just kind of seen what it was and, and thought like more kids should do this. And you know, around the time of the, the, the pandemic started, you know, shutting The schools down in March last year, 2020, and, um, That also happened to coincide with, with Elan’s kids graduating the school in this, in the spring that year.

So, uh, if, if you’re familiar with Elon, you can’t really Moonlight when you’re working to Ilan and reporting, reporting to him. Right. So there was really no chance we were going to be able to do anything, like start a company when Josh was working for Elon. So when Elan’s kids graduated, uh, that kind of made, made Josh like a, a free agent.

And so we started thinking, um, you know, it was the last semester, of that school at Astra. And I went to observe, they were running everything online for the first time. So I went to observe synthesis class and I

Andrew: The last semester, the last part of their school was online because of COVID.

Chrisman: yeah, they shut down in, in March. And, uh, you know, Elan kind of famously, like, didn’t want to shut anything down for, for COVID. But, uh, but, but the parents at the school didn’t didn’t want to send their kids. So so the school ended

Andrew: all remote and you got to see what it’s like to have this school remote and how was it to transition to remote?

Chrisman: I remember this moment where one of the, one of the girls in classes like there, their kids are all having fun and like talking to each other and competing. And she’s like, I, I was just jumping from zoom, breakout room to breakout room, kind of observing. And I jumped in this room and she’s like, we’re so into this right now.

And I was like, cool. Like they are into this right now. Like this, this will work online. It’s like, because I’d seen it in person and I’d seen it online. And I was like, this is it. It translates. Right. At least part of it translates. So that was kind of the first step. Um, then we, then we wanted to see, you know, if, if Josh was doing this with.

Pen and paper, or like spreadsheets to like record, record the moves of the games. Right. It’s like very, very low tech. And I was like, what if we put some software behind this, we can make it more dynamic, more interesting. Um, we can vary the rules of the games faster. We can reduce kind of like the administrative overhead and make it more engaging, give the kids more opportunities to think.

And so we, we tried that over that summer. I think we started, oh gosh, I think it was like June. We actually, you know, just kind of my, my brother was helping us as an engineer, like hacking on nights and weekends. We got a prototype out. We tried that with?

some kids from, from ad Astro again, that was like an immediate hit.

Like they, they love that. They were like, this is, this is definitely an improvement. Um, But still we’re with, uh, kids of rocket engineers exclusively. Right. So we’re like, what are, what are like normal? And they you know, just to put some color on that, Obviously Elan’s kids were at the school. They they’re extremely bright.

Um, everybody at space X, as you imagine, wants to send their kids to this school. And I think it was like one in between one and 25 or like one in 50. It was like how many they could accept. So you can imagine just like what the, what the levels of these kids are like at that school. I was just unsure, how’s this going to translate to, uh, you know, to, to kind of like, you know, normal people.

And, uh, so we tried that, I think like July, August, and, and again, like, just like resounding success, like the kids loved it

Andrew: Who did you try it with?

Chrisman: uh, we tried it with people who had applied to at Astro, but, but didn’t get in for one reason or another.

Andrew: were also kids of rocket scientists essentially.

Chrisman: Well, you can apply, you didn’t have to be at ad Astra or you needed to not have to be at space X to, to apply. So yeah, the, the, uh, yeah, there were people from, from all over, uh, Los Angeles and then they were, they were friends, friends of theirs that they told about it. There was a, Josh is kind of like a cult hero for like, uh, like homeschooling or unschooling parents worldwide.

There’s a whole, uh, network of like a discord server of parents who just kind of talk about like Josh’s ideas about education and try to bring those to their own kids. So that that’s where the, these are kind of like passionate, you know, early fans that were the first people to try it.

Andrew: All right. And let me just be clear about a couple of terms you’re at Astro was the name of the school that Elon Musk created synthesis was one of the programs at the school. When you looked at the kids and you saw their enthusiasm, it was for synthesis that they were so enthusiastic that even after the program was done, they kept talking about it.

And synthesis is the one section of that Astro the school that Elon Musk created that you sliced out and said, we’re going to make this into a program that anyone can join online.

Right.

Okay. And so Elon Musk had regular classes too, beyond this, uh, game-like program. He also had, I’m assuming math and reading, et cetera.

Chrisman: Yep. And that, that stuff, you know, to Joshua’s point is it Was just an accelerated version of, of, uh, when I adjust an accelerated version. But, but primarily, you know, you’re, you’re learning science and you’re just going faster than like the kids there that were 12, they’re doing, you know, differential calculus,

Andrew: there anything unique about it,

Chrisman: anything unique,

Andrew: unique about the way that he was teaching those classes.

Chrisman: uh, nothing apart from just, you know, you had like a biotech, uh, PhD, you know, genius sort of teaching the science class. But other than that, you know, it’s, uh, you know, they’re, they’re really great teachers, but, uh, you know, not nothing like, uh, innovative, I guess you would say.

Andrew: All right. You asked me not to talk about it. I’m not going to mention the name of the school, but there was a school that, um, Goggin, Biani the founder of eudaimonia. Now Maven introduced me to, when I said we’re moving to Austin where they were. They are guests are associated now with Elon Musk, they’re helping space X, his students get into a program.

I’m not gonna mention the name I promised you that I wouldn’t say I won’t. Um, but I had my kids, um, apply to it and I freaking love their philosophy because they were taking regular classes, but they said we are going to find the right online program for each of these classes for each kid. And so they were basically customizing the lessons based on the kids’ interests.

And based on how far they’ve come in the topic. Um, was that going on at ad Astra?

Chrisman: that, that kind of Customization

Andrew: Customization

Chrisman: they not with, not with the software side of things, um, that they did. They definitely, they did more, more independent work. I mean, There were a lot of, uh, a lot of, kind of like project based work. And you would, you’d go through, I know, think, you know, as far as I was there, I don’t know a ton about this, but from what I could tell the kids to kind of progress through, let me take like a more linear subject, like math? They’d be, they’d be at wildly different levels on that

Andrew: what I’ve found out about that one school. One thing that my wife didn’t like about it was, it was a lot of indoors and she wants the kids to have more outdoor kid time. And so we didn’t end up

Chrisman: How old are your kids?

Andrew: mine are a seven now and four and a half, almost five.

Chrisman: Oh, so you just get the seven year old in synthesis. Mine. My oldest is seven and he’s, he’s just started since this, like in the last two months.

Andrew: I don’t know if you know this, but I was basically like pounding at the door of synthesis before we met, just so I can, um, I could

see if I could get my kid in B. And you were at the time from what I heard you weren’t ready to let kids in. He was six years old. You were having your kid go through a beta.

And the issue for me was our kid’s school was closing, um, at one o’clock and sometimes even at 12. And so I do some homeschooling with them while I was working and I wanted a little bit more structure so that it wasn’t just me picking out random things. Um, but now it seems like he’s old enough to be in the program.

And the program also is open

Chrisman: Yeah. And that’s that school that you’re talking about? We, uh, we’re, we’re working on partnering with them. They’re, they’re really eager to make synthesis like part of the curriculum

Andrew: I could imagine.

Chrisman: kids competing with the, with the synthesis network. Right. Because we’re, we’re kind of grabbing all the, all the brightest kids from all around the world, so it’s good.

Uh it’s it’s it’s good. Good humility. I think for kids.

who are in, in like the, the gifted programs to get into synthesis, I think it’s one of the biggest benefits of it actually.

Andrew: All right. And I want to understand how you got, how you got so many students so far, but let me just continue with this story. So you saw that it was working online. You, uh, you created software to manage this. The two of you partnered up and you said we’re going to launch this. This was during COVID in November.

When you launched, how did you get students to join? I did the math. It looks like you got like 1500. No, maybe 2,500 students go through the program.

Chrisman: Yeah. Something, something that’s that’s about. Right. Um,

Andrew: many students to trust you?

Chrisman: well, you know, initially, like I mentioned, Josh had this kind of like cult following, so that was the first, like, I don’t know, 50 or a hundred just came from that. Um, and then they started inviting their friends. So we were like, okay, we probably, you know, we’re, we’re always use this. This analogy like Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld, you know, had the hit TV show and now he’s still doing stand-up comedy and he’s like, other comedians will ask me, you know, How uh, is it?

Is it just like really easy now? Cause you’re famous to people just laugh at whatever you say. And he’s like, no, you get one joke. I get, I get a laugh on the first one. Even if it’s bad, after that you’re on your own. You’re just like a beginner. And so I always use that analogy with the, with the Elon kind of backstory, it gets people’s attention and you’ll, you’ll get them to like, look at the website and maybe like give you?

a shot.

And then after that it’s gotta be, it’s gotta be great. Just like anything else. And so what I started to see was people were referring their friends and that’s how I thought like, okay, it’s not, it’s not just the backstory. Like there’s actually something that’s like really great here. And people were just like really passionate about it.

So we, um, after that we invited on a  on a Lorraina Fabregas, Twitter. Uh, she writes about education on, on Twitter and I

Andrew: teacher known by little ones as Ms. Fab. She’s an entrepreneur and now chief evangelist at synthesis school.

Chrisman: That’s uh, that’s right. That’s right. So we had met, I’d contacted her when I was at class dojo, when she had like 300 followers, she’d written a couple of essays. I really liked. And so we chatted like way back then. And so then when I reached out, I was like, Hey, you should check out synthesis, like, come, come check out a class.

She was like, oh my God, this is amazing. This is like, uh, everything. I’ve kind of been wanting to find in education. And so she wrote a thread about us. Uh, you know, initially it wasn’t, we weren’t hiring her. We didn’t pay her for anything, but she was like, yeah, I think my audience is gonna want to know about this.

And so she joined some sessions, soak with Josh and I wrote up a thread publish that. And that was. We got a huge jump after that from people on Twitter and from her email list that attracted other investors, Anthony Pompe Liano, um, who wrote about it and got invested a little bit. And then he wrote about it and got even more traffic that attracted more investors.

So it’s been like a lot of, uh, basically like Twitter and like people with email lists, as far as the initial bringing people in and then friend referrals are, you know, about another, another, like half of it?

Andrew: So Anthony pump, Liano just found you on Twitter.

Chrisman: No, sorry. He Ana and, um, Ana and his wife Paulina are, uh, are buds and they said they moved to Miami during the pandemic and they were, they were hanging out a lot socially. Um, so yeah, they became friends and then pump pump was like, I just want to invest in whatever let’s do it.

Andrew: Gotcha. If Ana is excited about this online education, I want to invest, he invested, and then he did that video, which was nicely produced. It was just bless you by the way.

Um, yeah, I haven’t intentionally, you know, while he’s doing that, I’m going to tell everyone out there. If you’ve got an idea for some kind of program where you want to sell access, maybe online education, online classes.

will allow you to do it. What they do is they help you turn your site into a membership site. So if you have an audience, if you’ve been writing and it’s time for you to start creating content that you sell, or a community that you sell access to, um, online education and everything that has to do with membership is exploding.

The beauty of using member full is you’ll own your relationship with your customers. It’s a tool it’s software. You can put it on your site and you can manage things like selling access to your email list, selling access to your community, selling access to your content, selling actually your video, your podcasts, even they do it.

All. All you have to do is go to  dot com slash Mixergy to get started, and you can start for free and their Patrion company. So, you know, they’ll take great care of you.  dot com slash Mixergy art. So you’re saying he then asked you, he said, Hey, can I invest? He comes in personally and makes an invest.

Chrisman: Yeah. And at the time we were. You know, I, I had gotten some, I I’d gotten some cash from my previous job and, uh, I just been self-funding it. I really had no idea how many people would be interested in alternative ways of education. Like just, just no idea. So I didn’t want to raise venture money cause I just, just had no clue.

And also I thought if it did grow, um, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s the, the mission is like really meaningful and important to us. So we didn’t didn’t want to get in the position where VCs controlled a lot of the company and could, you know, I didn’t want to have to ever sacrifice the focus on students in order to make more profits.

And I think that kind of pressure creeps in and like, you know, subtle, but, but insidious ways. And so I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. Um, so when, so pomp kept kind of asking Ana like, can I invest, can I invest, can invest? And she’d be like, oh, you know, no, the founders, like not really looking for money eventually he was just like, just, just put us in touch.

We’ll just chat. Like I will figure it out. And so yeah, I spoke with him and I was like, look, we don’t need money. We can use help, you know, promoting or, you know, just telling people about it, letting people know that this is out here and he had a big audience, he was like, my audience is gonna love this.

Is there, you know, kind of, uh, Bitcoin people are, uh, you know, sort of, sort of mistrustful of the system. I think if you distrust the financial system, then, then you probably don’t totally trust the education system. And so he put in a small check and a very, really like a tiny check. And then he, he told his audience about us and he was just extremely helpful right away.

So we were like, Okay.

you’re, you’re great. Why don’t you want it? You put some more in you’re like you should have more skin in the game. Like, this is, this is what I, this is what we’re looking for in an investor.

Andrew: And that’s how you ended up getting customers just from that kind of person tweeting out. I met you through Julian Shapiro. Who’s known for doing growth for a lot of, um, uh, like I said, the first time we met you, you reminded me was when I was. These interviews live years ago,

Chrisman: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right

Andrew: you said, I, he said, I didn’t have a guest for the day and you jumped on and we talked and, uh, you basically interviewed me, but then we reconnected through Julian Shapiro who does growth for a lot of, uh, a lot of Silicon valley companies.

Did he become an investor? Is he somebody who’s helping you with growth?

Chrisman: Yeah. Yeah. He’s becoming an investor as well. He’s been, he’s been incredibly helpful on, on the sort of growth?

And like branding side and as well as introducing us to other other investors, um, you know, part of the, part of the strategy was like, you can, you can sort of. Is it just getting people who know what they’re doing on your side.

And typically that’s like bundled in a venture capital firm, but they also have, you know, the firms have these huge pools of capital. They need to put a lot of money to work, to make it worth their time. And we thought like, well, let’s try like unbundling this, right? Like we’ll, we’ll get the logo straight to the individuals.

So you don’t have these big pools of like pension fund capital. And so we, we get to give up less of the company and we get people who are actually helpful. And, and most importantly, I believe in the mission. I think everybody w we have every investor, they’re either like, I’ve got my kids in this, or this is what I want for my kids.

So I want to help you guys build it so that when I do have kids and they’re the right age that this is what we can do,

Andrew: And so who else, who else helped you grow it? Who are some of the other investors who are helpful in promotion?

Chrisman: Oh, gosh, I’m not, I’m going to feel a need to feel bad, leaving people out. Um, Shane Parrish, who we, we wanted, we were really interested in working with, because of his work on mental models. This is part of like what we, what we aim to teach the kids right. By playing the games, you get these, these kind of principles and mental models come up.

And so his, his work on that has been, uh, you know, inspiring to us. And so he’s on he’s. He just tweeted the other day. His kids are in it and they, and they love it. So he he’s, he’s told us newsletter about it. He’s been very helpful. Um, Sean Pirie who’s runs, uh, my first million podcasts and his partner, Sam, Sam Parr.

They, they both, uh, do. you know those guys as

Andrew: I do. Yeah. Yeah.

Chrisman: Cool. Yeah.

Uh, yeah, they’re in Sahil bloom. Who’s um, he was an investor and, uh, writes these great business, like Twitter threads and just, you know, done. Done really well.

Andrew: So the hill bloom start promoting you to his Twitter followers too.

Chrisman: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think he’s, I don’t know if you’d say like promotes us, but he’s, he’s, he’s been like kind of, he kind of, yeah, he like talks about us and he writes, he comments on like honest threads and like that kind of thing. And he’s been mostly helping us out with this strategy of like, how do you, how do you.

put content on Twitter that people are going to want to engage with and, and not just be like Schilling the company, but like giving people useful information.

Cause that’s what he’s done. And he’s, he’s sort of, I think like one of the best in class at that he’s gone from nothing to like 220,000 followers in a year just by writing threads.

Andrew: I’ve seen that. And so now what you’ve got is people who are great at, at what they do a largely promotion and education who are investors. And as a result, they’re basically like consultants who are helping you build a business.

Chrisman: Yep. And it’s not just like the social, like in kind of like media people. I mean, we’ve got people with deep expertise and, and education. Um, uh, John Danner, who’s on the board of, uh, of Lambda school and is just like one of the deepest investors in education and kind of the mix of like education and business.

Um, so yeah, we’ve got, we sort of like did like a syndicate, we just, anyone who had this kind of, any kind of expertise that might be useful where, you know, a VC firm would kind of bundle all that together and be a one-stop shop. We were like, let’s put that together ourselves. And part of the strategy was, you know, people who know media, um, because that’s, that’s really helpful when you don’t have to pay for customers, right?

Like all we have, we haven’t spent any money on marketing. We’ve brought on investors that helped us with marketing, but we haven’t spent any money on directly, you know, reaching, reaching people in that way.

Andrew: What else has helped you get new students in?

Chrisman: It’s really honestly, it’s, it’s just that, I mean, it’s like, it’s kind of a funny thing. We’re pretty unoptimized at this point, like everything that we do works, like we’ll hire a facilitator and they will change their LinkedIn bio. And then their friends will be like, what is this? And they’ll sign their kids up.

Um, so basically in any way that people find out about it, um, everything works, YouTube, Instagram, Tik, TOK, all there’s people coming from all these sources, but it’s still cause we focused on this. Uh, Twitter is the, Twitter’s the primary driver Twitter and then personal like friend referrals.

Andrew: Okay. And you, the other thing that you’ve got going for you as parents are willing to spend money on their kids’ education. If you look at Skillshare Skillshare sales, for what like 10, 12 bucks, I dunno, somewhere between 10 and 20, I think a month I’m paying for it. And I still don’t know it’s kind of invisible, but still, I don’t know that I would pay 150 for my own education, but for my kid 150 a month, not, not a big issue.

Right. Because you compare it to school, that’s a big benefit. What’s the expense side look like. What does it take to put one of these programs together?

Chrisman: Yeah. The most expensive thing is the, is the well there’s the facilitator. So there’s a, you know, there’s a live facilitator there with the kids whose role is primarily, uh, adjusting the level, the level of challenge where you want to make sure we’re always kind of like keeping you operating at the edge of, of order and chaos.

It should, it’s always be, there’s a phrase in education, like the zone of proximal development. So where things are almost overwhelming, but not, not quite, you can still kind of like make sense of things. And then they’re also pushing the kids to reflect on their, on their own thinking. They’re kind of doing like Socratic method.

And, uh, we tried it. We tried to find people who are. You know, who have accomplishments outside of education? They’re not, they’re not, uh, a lot of them are teachers, but there’s a lot of like medical doctors, professors, um, And professional engineers, people who have experience outside of school, who can draw on that to, uh, connect with your

Andrew: And it’s largely on the, so that’s an expense. Sorry, go on. What else?

Chrisman: uh, that one, and then, and then it’s our, our, you know, our full-time team, which is a, so the facilitators of the big variable costs. And then there’s the fixed cost, which is, uh, just developing the software, developing the games, like, uh, you know, the, the customer service side of things, like all those sort of things that, uh, that scale a little bit better.

Andrew: I looked at the video that was on the site. It’s basically a zoom class with a request for the kids to go online and Google, right. To look for the, the things they need in order to solve the problem. Am I right?

Chrisman: Actually right?

now, it’s primarily there’s, you’re, you’re on zoom. And instead of like the teacher doing a lecture, like showing you a video or something, there’s a problem to solve that’s in the form of a game or simulation. So the kids will join. There’ll be like in a cohort, maybe 15 to 20 kids in a cohort.

And then they’ll split up into teams and every team has kind of their own view of the game screen. And

Andrew: And when they split up into teams, they’re using that breakout room section of zoom.

Chrisman: they’re using the breakout

Andrew: Okay. And then they’re asked to do what to share their screen and go look online for stuff.

Chrisman: There’s everything is contained within the game. So you’re just given a problem to solve And the problems in the form of a game. And so.

Andrew: say a game, is it a game day that can actually play on a webpage?

Chrisman: Now they’re Yeah.

they’re actually playing. It’s like all the games are web apps. I mean, it’s like they’re games slash simulations, so there’s no fancy graphics. The graphics are really basic and there’s not like sound design all the like bells and whistles that are games designed to provoke thinking.

So basically you can think of it, like team chess in a way, except where chess. They’re kind of, you, you learn the rules first, so you know the rules and then you, you continuously apply the same roles. These are a little bit more, more dynamic. The rules always change. The nature of the problem is always changing and we’re always pushing to give you.

You know, novel problems. So you, instead of like chess, you might just play that your whole life and get really deep on it. And you’ll learn a lot about chess. What we want to build is this, this, the meta game, right? That, that the idea is you play a bunch of different games, then you kind of abstract out the principles and you learn how to master new games, which is what life is all about.

Like, I doubt you thought you’d be, you know, doing a podcast. Uh, you know, when you, when you’re a kid in high school, so it would’ve done no good to train you on something specific, but if you’re good at solving problems and kind of, you know, making sense of, of, of new problems and kind of figuring out the rules for yourself and, and, and learning through doing, and through feedback from the environment, that’s like the core skill that the kids need.

Andrew: Okay. I get that. What I, what I’m trying to understand though, is it’s a web app that they’re all going on their computers too, and they’re interacting with it. And then they have a view of everyone else’s experience on it, on their and their webpage experience. Am I right?

Chrisman: Yeah, they don’t have a view. You, you, you can. Yeah. They’re, they’re mostly right now. They’re all sharing, like the same view of the game board. Um, but you know, you’re in your breakout rooms, so you can form your strategy in there. And the other team can’t hear you, but you’re all sharing a view of like the same game board.

Andrew: So basically what you’ve got is something like an out school program, right? Except it’s, you’ve developed software for it, and you’re able to, you’re, you’re able to charge more because you’re teaching. You teaching a skill that others don’t teach in a, in an interesting way? Well, I guess I’m trying to break down the business part

Chrisman: Sure. Sure, sure. Well, there, there’s an element of we’re teaching. We’re focused on this particular skill and the, in this particular discipline of like thinking and solving complex problems. But you know what I always thought with as education moves online, I mean, you can do it by, you can do it,

by replicating what goes on in the classroom.

But when you, when you start doing everything on computers, you have the opportunity to make more dynamic environments. Like it’s much easier for kids to play around with things when you, when you can put these things into software. right?

And so I think that is the, that’s the thing that we’re doing.

That’s unique. We’re not just saying like, come on and like take classes online. There’s nothing wrong with that. And my kids do do out school as well. But if you, I think there’s something interesting way. You can use software is kind of like the core of the experience. So instead of your kids going and like listening, you know, listening to a lecture, it’s much, much more fun.

And when, when you can, you can kind of play, like, we don’t do a lot of instruction and there’s research on this. We actually just let you play first. So you, you just, you try to figure things out, you’ll fail. And then we come back and, and we talk about it, but we’re taught when we’re talking about it. It’s more interesting to you now because you actually tried something.

Andrew: I think the way that I understand it is when I wanted to understand air table, I didn’t go and watch the videos first to understand it. I went in and see, what is this, to see if I can make sense of it. Then I said, what can I do with it? I’d like to keep track of all the notes that I have in my books, tag them properly, and then have each author linked to the yeah.

And then I try to do that. And when I ran into a problem, I looked for a solution online and I look for a video and then I looked to hire somebody, but I understand things better by trying to do something with them, running into problems, and then looking for the solutions. And that’s, it seems like what you’re doing

Chrisman: Everybody does. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

There’s a lot of research on this. Like you let people try and get, get the wrong answer. Now. Now it’s something it’s triggering something in your mind. I had the same experience with air table. Actually I went and tried to like read and like under I’m watching their videos.

I’m like what? I didn’t get it for like years. And then we had, we actually used air table to build the business. We had this kind of Rube Goldberg machine of no-code tools to get to our first like 2 million in revenue. And uh, Yeah.

Then, then, then it made sense, right. Then, then I’ve got like, I’ve got my head around the problem and I can start trying to shore up my understanding.

And so that that’s a good analogy for what we’re, what we’re doing here.

Andrew: Yeah. And then when notion comes out with a version of a table, I have some background that I could bring in to understand how, how notion works and when the next software comes out, I have some understanding of how tables work and I use that. Did I just lose your connection? I think I did there. You’re back.

You’re fine. All

right. I see, I see what you’re doing here. Let me just think through the future. What do you see as the future of education? If it feels like what you’re thinking is you’re thinking if I could, if I, well, what do you see as the future of education right now? Ideally?

Chrisman: I think all the, any kind of cognitive skill, any kind of cognitive skill building is going to move to the internet, starting with, you know, people who are wealthier, more educated. Those are the people who are going to value education the most. And they’re going to see they’re there. They’re not going to be comfortable.

Delegating their child’s education to the people who just happen to live within like a 20 mile radius of their home. So the cognitive skills that are going to move online and local schools are going to be more about community hands-on projects. Maybe like, I hope, you know, this is what I’m doing for my kids.

At least like bring back childhood, right? Like we’ve we, we have this idea. I gotta lock kids up and they need to study for eight hours a day. I don’t think that’s optimal. I mean, it’s not what I’m doing for my kids. I want them to be kind of intensely studying for two hours a day. The school you mentioned in Texas, that they have a similar kind of a viewpoint on this.

And then, you know, do doing things that, that sort of must be done in person. Right. But all the cognitive skill development I think is going to go online. The best schools are going to be kind of hybrid, right? The best schools are going to be like, we’re going to do what we can uniquely do in person. And we’re going to delegate the cognitive skills to, to the internet.

Andrew: Ah, all right. That’s interesting. So your ideal school is a school where kids go in there, brought the best internet experience for them. And then the stuff that can’t be done online, like machine shop, like molding with clay, like playing in a playground. That’s what the school will do. You’re almost imagining a school.

That’s like we work in some way where it’s the place where you go to meet your friends, but your work gets done online.

Chrisman: Yeah.

And I think it’s also important to note the kids, the, this generation of kids are they’re going to have their local friends and they’re going to have their online friends. And they’re probably going to be two different personalities with those groups of, of friends. And that’s going to be totally normal.

It’s already totally normal with our students. They, you know, they get together and they play Minecraft or the kids that they’ve met on synthesis and they have this separate group of friends. And I think you’re going to see more and more of that. And it’s, it’s our ambition to build, you know, the network that, that you you’re really gonna want your kids to be a part of.

Right? Because these are going to be the kids who are gonna make a ding in the universe. They’re going to be your kids’ future. Co-founders they’re going to be really good influences. You know, we’re trying to preserve that culture so that this is, this is a culture that you want your kids to be a part of.

Andrew: Okay. And your kid, what are you doing with your seven year old?

Chrisman: So I, I posted a Twitter thread about this. Um, but, but Josh and I are both doing the same thing, which is like forest slash beach school. Uh, as we, we live, we both live on the coast in California, So and my minor 7, 7, 5, and then two. So for the set for the seven and five year old, we have like a forest school, which basically they just go, out and explore the woods.

They’ll go to the beach. And, uh, just, just kind of, you know, observe things and like, learn about ecology. And, but mainly it’s just about being a kid and being with other kids. Um, and then we have, we have them do synthesis and other, other apps. Like they learn math through an app. They’ll learn reading, they’ll read a lot of

Andrew: they go to school to just mess around with the forest and the beach and

to explore, And then they come home for learning.

Chrisman: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: I like that. I like that approach.

Chrisman: Yeah. I think I am less, I’m less excited about it. The kind of like project, like hands-on like project based learning than, than a lot of other people I think. Um, I mean, I think I’m, I hope my kids like plant gardens and like, like do something hands on stuff, because I think there’s value in being grounded in like physical reality, for sure.

Um, but as far as developing your ability to think and to solve problems, uh, I, I just think that there’s no match for the internet, for the dynamic environments of software. And I, I. That experience is informed by. I bought an old Jeep a couple of years ago, 1995 Jeep. And I started working on it. I’ve been a software engineer for like eight years and it, it, it translates like really well.

Like I could solve problems like a diagnose problems in the Jeep. I could get it running, you know, better. And in a lot of cases than people who had a lot more experience than me. And the reason I think is just the feedback loops are so much faster. So it wasn’t, I didn’t know about cars. I had to learn about cars in specific still, but the discipline of like learning to think, learning to check your own thinking, learning how to be uncertain and to test your hypothesis.

It was all developed through software. And so I, I think, you know, that that kind of like the ability to solve problems as best going to be developed in software. And it’s fairly easy to translate that into specific real world examples.

Andrew: your seven year old is learning on his own after forest school at home.

Chrisman: Yup. Yup. He

Andrew: And do you have to be, uh, do you have to be a guide?

Chrisman: Um, yeah. Yeah. We have to, we have to, yeah, we have to make sure they, they, uh, you know, have access to the, to the right materials and that kind of thing.

Andrew: That’s what I do. And it’s kind of a pain to

have to go and look and see what do I need to do?

Chrisman: well, but that school you mentioned in Texas is actually there. They’re allowing, uh, at least my son to, um, to join in so he can compete with those kids.

He’s really competitive. So he’ll, he’ll want to move up the leaderboard by shoring up his math skills and that sort of thing. So we’re, we’re getting him, I hope that they’ll take, I haven’t started this yet, but I hope they’ll take some of that effort off, off my plate where I can just set aside the time every day and have him have him at least build those kinds of like the basics,

Andrew: You know, that school has a guide. They don’t have teachers. They have a guide. The teaching has done by apps. I think that somebody should create an online guide, meaning somebody who is your kid’s personal coach, who checks. If you’re going to do homeschooling, who just says, let’s check, where are you right now?

How are you feeling about this out school class that I put you up in? It’s not a good class or it’s not working for you. Let’s adjust the teacher’s not listening. Let me go and let me go and do it. And here’s the curriculum they’re going to go for. And I see that you’re competitive. So I’m going to give you points or I see you’re not competitive.

You like more social

Chrisman: yeah, totally.

Andrew: I’ll get, that’s the thing we need

Chrisman: That’s definitely something I agree. I mean, this is, we think about this a lot, um, at synthesis and we’re probably going to go more, more in that direction. Um, but just cause that’s what I want for my son. And we’ve got a lot of parents that are interested in that sort of thing. Uh, so the program he’s in with synthesis now we plan to develop out and to get it to right now, it’s only think it’s two hours a week, but we want to get it to like two hours a day.

And that will include some of what you’re, what you’re talking about. I mean, this is not like a product anyone can go sign up for yet. It’s like, it’s pretty early, but I, I completely agree with your sentiment there. Like that, that is the way it should work. You should have someone who knows your kid. Right.

And they know what they’re like, and they’re going to stick with them for years and they feel like that responsibility And they care and yeah, that,

Andrew: And they know because I care and I know my kid, but I don’t exactly know what do they need to know at the end of, uh, at the end of first grade. And I’ve done some research, I’ve got some understanding the bottom line. Here’s what I’m saying.

Chrisman: yeah.

Andrew: There are huge opportunities in education. There’s huge money, money in it, right?

There’s a lot of places in the world where you can say I’d like the world to be better in this way or that way, but there isn’t that much money and willingness to invest. The money is huge. And frankly, if you compare it to all the other expenses it’s insignificant. So again, your program is what I think is $139 for since, since it’s synthesis a month, somewhere

Chrisman: a it’s 1 8, 180.

Andrew: eighty.

Okay. The, the fact that I don’t know the exact number tells you that it’s not, it’s, it’s a big expense, but it’s not huge. I know what my kid’s school costs. That’s a huge expense, right? For each kid. So there’s enough money to make it worthwhile to solve it. There’s enough meaning for it. Yeah. To ha for it to happen.

And there are enough parents right now who grew up with a new approach and a willingness to try a new approach. And it’s weird to go send their kids to the old way. So there’s a willingness now to try something different. And that combination is what’s exciting.

Chrisman: Yeah, I think that’s Right.

I mean, they really interesting shift with parents is, you know, COVID kind of opened a lot of parents’ ideas because they’re, you know, open their minds because they saw that you could go just peek in on the zoom class. And a lot of parents are horrified by, by the way that normal school schools run.

Um, again, no, it’s no slight on the teachers they’re trapped in the system, you know, almost as much as the kids are a lot of them. And so, uh, Yeah.

that opened up parents eyes, uh, people like me and you are having kids now and we grew up with the internet or, you know, we we’ve, we’ve had the internet for 20 years and we’re used to solving our problems.

Andrew: for ourselves, try something different, you know, where we didn’t grow up with the factory environment in a factory job where we’ve been trained to think the same way we’d been trained. You’re supposed to think differently. And that’s where the answer is.

Chrisman: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And so, so there’s a third part of this was helps things like synthesis get bootstrapped, which is, there’s a huge, there’s a worldwide community of entrepreneurs. Right. And, and that, those are like our, our customers, right. As an entrepreneur, like it’s on his definition of like, you’re thinking about things a little bit differently and you want something different for your kids.

And so it’s those three, like COVID opening people’s eyes up. People being used to solving their problems on the internet. And then the critical mass of, you know, where you can, you can start with like a small community of people who see things the same way. Do

Andrew: All right. People can go and sign up right now. It’s synthesis dot. Is, is the website, am I right?

Chrisman: yep. Yep.

Andrew: And it’s $180 a month for kids. What age? And then is there a commitment?

Chrisman: Yeah. It’s so it there’s open enrollment for eight to 14 and you can, you should apply if you have a six And seven year old, because there’s a big waiting list and we’re going to be opening up that, uh, that, that, that those programs very soon. Um, and then what was it? is there a commitment?

there’s, there’s no commitment.

It’s a monthly subscription. Um, I’d recommend, you know, planning on doing it for like eight weeks. Um, but you know, it’s, it’s, there’s no, you don’t have to commit. You can, you can cancel anytime. Um, I think you get three weeks to cancel for a full refund, so, um, Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Thanks so much for being on here. I’m fricking excited about, um, I’ll be honest. I’m excited about synthesis. I’m excited even more about the fact that there’s a new approach for, for kids. I couldn’t stand that. I was sending my kids into an environment that I hated just because I don’t know what else is out there.

And there wasn’t much out there now, at least there are options and, uh, and, and, and it feels good. It feels. It feels good to be able to do it. And it feels also good for me to say I’m giving into my wife’s approach for education, but just because my kids are going into forest school, I kind of like you actually don’t farm school doesn’t mean that we’re locking me out of the experience that I can augment with, uh, with synthesis.

Chrisman: Kids have a lot of time. If you can free them from the factory mentality of, of like sitting in a desk for six to eight hours a day, there’s incredible amount of time. You can do it.

Andrew: I would have loved it. I would have done it. Thank you so much for being on here, man.

Chrisman: Thanks for having.

Andrew: Right. Thank you all for listening. And remember my two sponsors, hostgator.com/mixergy and member fool.com/mixergy. Bye everyone.

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