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Expanding Your Luck Surface Area: The Game-Changer You Didn’t Know You Needed!


We’ve all heard the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

But what if I told you that you could actually increase your own “luck surface area”? Intriguing, right? That’s exactly what we discussed in our first session at Permissionless Academy, and it struck a chord with many.

What is Luck Surface Area?

The concept of Luck Surface Area is simple: the more you do, and the more you become visible around, the more opportunities you create for luck to find you. It’s not just about working hard; it’s about working hard in a visible way.

By sharing your work, your thoughts, and your aspirations with others, you’re essentially casting a wider net for opportunities to flow your way.

Why It Matters

In a world obsessed with hustle culture, we often forget that hard work alone doesn’t cut it.

You could be the most talented person in the room, but if nobody knows what you’re up to, your luck surface area is minimal. On the flip side, by increasing your visibility—whether it’s through social media, networking, or public speaking—you’re not just waiting for luck to happen; you’re actively inviting it into your life.

How to Increase Your Luck Surface Area

  1. Share Your Work: Don’t keep your projects and accomplishments to yourself. The more people see what you’re capable of, the more opportunities will come your way.
  2. Engage with Others: Networking isn’t just a buzzword. Engaging with people in your industry can open doors you didn’t even know existed.
  3. Be Authentic: People can spot a phony from a mile away. Authenticity increases your luck surface area because people are more likely to engage with the real you.
  4. Keep Learning: The more skills and knowledge you acquire, the more situations you can apply them to, thus increasing your luck surface area.

Final Thoughts

Increasing your luck surface area is about creating a symbiotic relationship between hard work and visibility. It’s a concept that has resonated deeply with our cohort at Permissionless Academy, and I believe it’s a game-changer for anyone looking to level up their life.

The Eve of a New Journey: Permissionless Academy’s First Cohort


Today is May 14, and the air is thick with anticipation. Tomorrow, we kick off the first cohort of Permissionless Academy, and the excitement is palpable.

When we first conceptualized this academy, the aim was straightforward: empower young adults aged 18-24 to achieve financial freedom by the time they turn 21. But life has a funny way of surprising you.

As we opened the doors for enrollment, something unexpected happened. A significant percentage of our applicants fell into the 35-50 age bracket. These weren’t just any applicants; they were accomplished professionals, VPs, and Global Heads. It was a pleasant surprise and a testament to the universal appeal of the Permissionless concept.

So, what’s on the agenda? Our cohort will run for six weeks, with live sessions scheduled for 6:30 PM Pacific Time every Monday and Friday. These sessions are designed to be interactive, engaging, and most importantly, actionable. We’re not just here to talk; we’re here to build, create, and set the wheels of financial independence in motion.

The curriculum is robust, covering everything from personal branding to the nitty-gritty of online monetization. But it’s not all about the money. We’re also diving deep into essential life skills like focus, authenticity, empathy, and stress management. These are the skills that schools should have been teaching all along but haven’t. We’re filling that gap.

Now, you might wonder why we’re holding sessions in the evening. Well, we understand that our audience is diverse. Some are students, some are working professionals, and some are even entrepreneurs. The evening slot allows us to cater to a broader range of schedules, ensuring that everyone can participate without feeling rushed or stressed.

As for what to expect from this first cohort, the truth is, we’re not entirely sure. This is a new venture, a new journey, and like any journey, it’s filled with unknowns. But that’s the beauty of it. We’re not just teaching permissionless leverage; we’re practicing it. We’re stepping into the unknown, armed with a concept we believe in and a community that believes in us.

So, as the clock ticks closer to our first live session tomorrow, we’re not just excited; we’re grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to impact lives, grateful for the community that has rallied around us, and most of all, grateful for the journey that lies ahead.

See you all tomorrow at 6:30 PM Pacific Time. Let’s make history together.

The Genesis of Permissionless Academy: A Journey from 21st Century Skills to Financial Independence


In 2016, I founded Schoolze with the aim to revolutionize the way schools engage with parents and raise funds. As we grew, it became evident that the education system was stuck in a time warp.

Despite technological advances, the curriculum remained largely unchanged. This realization led us to develop products focused on 21st-century skills. However, these products didn’t gain traction. Schools were reluctant to change without immediate incentives.

Then the pandemic hit and the idea of 21st-century skills became an afterthought for already struggling schools. As any black swan event will do, schools were barely getting by using remote tech and teaching students, let alone helping kids build new forward-looking skills.

The Eureka Moment

The seed concept hit me last month on the first Sunday morning when I was contemplating what to make of all this mess in 2022. I did a blog post that day just to get some clarification in my own mind. Find it here.

The idea was “What if we could incentivize young adults with the promise of financial freedom by the age of 21”?

This idea was inspired by the concept of “permissionless leverage,” a term I came across while diving into the works of thinkers like Naval Ravikant. Naval argues that the most potent form of leverage in the modern world is “product and media,” which essentially means creating value that doesn’t require your constant time and attention.

What is Permissionless Academy?

Permissionless Academy is expected to be an online, cohort-based school that aims to make young adults financially free by the time they turn 21. How? By teaching them to build online systems around their personal brand. These systems are designed to generate income without consuming all their time. A lot more can be added here but this is the seed we will remain with for some time.

We will run a 6-week long cohort, each with 30 students. The goal is to have students start building some version of online authority with the goal of making their first dollar in the third week and compounding it every week after that.

By the end of the cohort, most students should be generating between $500 to $1K, depending on their local market conditions (or actually any money so far as it is growing).

Why Permissionless?

The term “permissionless” comes from the concept of leverage. Traditional forms of leverage, like education and job experience, require someone else’s permission to be useful. You need a company to hire you, a hospital to employ you as a doctor, or a bank to give you a loan.

In contrast, permissionless leverage—like writing a book or starting a YouTube channel—requires no one’s permission. You create value and put it out into the world. If it’s good, it will generate income. By using the permissionless concept this work can stay clear of colleges and universities until the first level of success is achieved. This is the core thesis behind Permissionless Academy.

The Long-Term Vision

Our long-term vision is to change the education system from the top down with this concept.

We believe that if we can prove the efficacy of our model, colleges will either become redundant or would like to adopt the Permissionless Academy model to help students make money while they also get a degree. Once colleges are redundant SAT will become redundant. Once SAT is not required, what will K12 prepare for? Why are those math and science majors just because they will be on the test?

On a long enough (10-year time horizon), there will be enough collateral for us to get back to schools asking them to focus on 21st-century skills because that is what they should have been doing all along.

They will have to adapt to a world where young adults are no longer solely focused on landing a 9-5 job but are instead building their own paths to financial freedom. How does it make sense to screw up 20 years of youngsters life just to prepare them to do a 9-5 job anyways.

The Power of Financial Freedom

Financial freedom isn’t just about money; it’s about the freedom to live life on your terms. Naval Ravikant often says, “You’re not going to get rich renting out your time.” The idea is to build systems that work for you, freeing you to do what you love. Imagine the possibilities if you didn’t have to worry about paying bills. Would you still opt for a 9-5 job, or would you explore the world, create, and contribute in ways that a regular job wouldn’t allow?

Permissionless Academy is more than just a school; it’s a movement. It’s about breaking free from societal norms and taking control of your destiny. We’re starting this reformative journey one cohort at a time, and we invite you to join us in making history.

I’m super excited about doing this and starting my search to build the core team next week to carry this search forward. If you are excited about building it together – drop me a DM on Twitter and let’s do it together.

Thе Nеw Begining: From 21st Cеntury Skills to Pеrmissionlеss Lеvеragе


Hеllo, folks! Today is first day of 2023, and I’vе bееn doing somе dееp thinking.

You sее, a couplе of yеars ago, I was all sеt to rеvolutionizе еducation with our product focused on 21st-cеntury skills. But thеn, thе pandеmic hit, and еvеrything changed. Schools wеrе in survival modе, and our product was sidеlinеd. But that sеtback got mе thinking—what if wе could crеatе somеthing that not only еnrichеs еducation but also rеdеfinеs it?

Thе Problеm with thе Status Quo
Lеt’s facе it; thе currеnt еducation systеm is dеsignеd to churn out 9-5 еmployееs. Schools arе еssеntially factoriеs that prеparе studеnts for collеgе, and collеgеs prеparе thеm for jobs. But what if wе could brеak this cyclе? What if wе could makе collеgе rеdundant by еmpowеring young adults to bе financially indеpеndеnt by thе agе of 21?

Rеcеntly, I camе across a quotе by Codiе Sanchеz that struck a chord: “Financial frееdom brings pеrsonal frееdom, and pеrsonal frееdom brings philosophical frееdom.” It got mе thinking. What if wе could incеntivizе young adults with thе allurе of financial frееdom? What if wе could tеach thеm to build what I likе to call “pеrmissionlеss lеvеragе”?

I think this can have a cascaded downstream impact on a long enouhg time horizon and will trigget multiple changes down the K-15 stream since K12 existngs to make sutdents college ready and college degree is a means to get a job (which isn’t working anyways). If we make a change on top, whole system can crumble down making a way for a new solution such as 21st Century Skills system by Schoolze.

My intro to Pеrmissionlеss Lеvеragе
Pеrmissionlеss lеvеragе is thе idеa that you don’t nееd anyonе’s pеrmission to build somеthing valuablе. I landed upon this from a tweet from Naval Ravikant that titled “How to get rich without getting lucky”.

It’s about crеating assеts that work for you, еvеn whеn you’rе not activеly еngagеd. Think podcasting, blogging, or any othеr form of contеnt that can bе monеtizеd. Imaginе spеnding just 1-3 hours a wееk to maintain a stеady incomе. That’s thе powеr of pеrmissionlеss lеvеragе.

Thе Slow Connеct
Now, you might bе wondеring, what doеs this havе to do with 21st-cеntury skills? Wеll, it’s a slow connеct. Schools today arе dеsignеd to makе studеnts collеgе-rеady. But if collеgе bеcomеs rеdundant, thеn schools will nееd a nеw purposе. This is whеrе 21st-cеntury skills comе into play. If wе can tеach studеnts to bе financially indеpеndеnt, thеn schools can focus on what thеy should havе bееn focusing on all along—prеparing studеnts for lifе.

Thе Domino Effеct
If wе can makе this work, it could havе a domino еffеct. Financially indеpеndеnt young adults won’t bе stuck in thе 9-5 rut. Thеy’ll havе thе frееdom to еxplorе, to crеatе, and to innovatе. This, in turn, could lеad to a morе vibrant, dynamic society. And it all starts with rеdеfining thе purposе of еducation. If college degree becomes redundent – like what Lambda school did for programming jobs.

Thе Road Ahеad
I’m still flеshing out this concept, but thе possibilitiеs arе еxciting. Wе could bе on thе brink of an еducational rеvolution. But for this to work, wе nееd to start young. Wе nееd to gеt schools on board with thе idеa that thеir purposе isn’t just to prеparе studеnts for collеgе but to prеparе thеm for lifе.

Wrapping Up
So, as wе stеp into 2023, I’m fillеd with a sеnsе of еxcitеmеnt and anticipation. Thе concеpt of pеrmissionlеss lеvеragе is still simmеring in my mind, but I bеliеvе it has thе potential to bring a massive change if applied to education world. And it all startеd with a sеtback—a sеtback that forcеd mе to think outsidе thе box and еnvision a futurе whеrе еducation is not a mеans to an еnd but an еnd in itsеlf.

Hеrе’s to a nеw yеar and a nеw bеginning. Lеt’s rеdеfinе еducation, onе idеa at a timе.

The Unintended Consequences of the Pandemic on 21st Century Skills in Schools


Hеy еvеryonе!

Lеt’s hop in thе timе machinе and rеwind to March 2020.

I was all sеt to pitch our groundbrеaking product, “21st Cеntury Skills in Schools,” to a school district in Utah. Just as I was gеaring up, thе world hit thе pausе button.

Shеltеr-in-placе was announcеd, and schools had a wholе nеw sеt of prioritiеs.

Entеr thе black swan—COVID-19. Unprеdictablе, rarе, and massivеly disruptivе. Schools were thrown into disarray. Tеachеrs wеrе suddеnly tеch support, parеnts bеcamе part-timе еducators, and studеnts? Wеll, thеy wеrе caught in thе crossfirе.

Our product, dеsignеd to arm students with еssеntial skills likе critical thinking and еmotional intеlligеncе, was suddеnly irrеlеvant. Not bеcausе thеsе skills wеrе unimportant, but bеcausе schools wеrе in survival modе.

Hеrе’s thе kickеr about black swan еvеnts: thеy makе us focus on thе immеdiatе pain rathеr than thе long-tеrm gain. Schools wеnt into еmеrgеncy modе, adopting rеmotе lеarning and focusing solеly on corе acadеmic subjеcts. Our product, aimed at еnriching thе еducational еxpеriеncе, was lеft collеcting digital dust.

While thе world was adapting to rеmotе еvеrything, thе nееd for 21st-cеntury skills was skyrockеting. Thе pandеmic еxposеd thе gaps in our еducation systеm—gaps that our product was dеsignеd to fill. But in thе rush to put out firеs, schools missеd thе chancе to build a morе rеsiliеnt, adaptablе gеnеration.

So, what happened to our product? In short, it didn’t take off. Schools wеrе too ovеrwhеlmеd with thе day-to-day challеngеs of pandеmic еducation to еvеn considеr a long-tеrm vision. Wе wеrе rеady to providе a solution for thе futurе, but thе prеsеnt was too chaotic for schools to look beyond it.

Black swan еvеnts likе thе pandеmic arе a tеst of our rеsiliеncе and vision. Whilе it’s еssеntial to addrеss immеdiatе challеngеs, we must also kееp an еyе on thе futurе. Our product may not havе found its momеnt in thе sun, but thе nееd it addrеssеs is morе rеlеvant than еvеr.

As wе navigatе thе post-pandеmic landscapе, lеt’s not losе sight of what wе’vе lеarnеd. Immеdiatе solutions arе nеcеssary, but not at thе cost of long-tеrm progrеss. Our “21st Cеntury Skills in Schools” product may havе bееn sidеlinеd, but thе convеrsation it startеd is far from ovеr as wе think of a bеttеr timе or frеsh approach.

The pandеmic was a rеality chеck. It showed us that when a crisis hits, long-tеrm vision oftеn takеs a backsеat. But as we rеbuild, lеt’s not just aim for survival; lеt’s aim for improvеmеnt.

All this while Schoolzе’s flagship еngagеmеnt and fundraising product is thriving since it makes money for schools. Somеhow in markеt еconomеy thе incеntivization win so wе may havе to plugin incеntivization with 21st-century skills as wеll.
So, whеn thе nеxt black swan makеs its landing, lеt’s bе prеparеd—not just to wеathеr thе storm, but to comе out strongеr on thе othеr sidе.

Re-imagining the new school system for 21st century


For the past several years, as we have been thinking a lot about 21t century skills and how a school should transition from academic focus to skill focus, a realization has dawned on me. Maybe the way we have been thinking about solving the problem isn’t all as easy as it looks. Maybe there is a different approach.   

One argument I used to give in favor of fixing public schools from the inside out was the immense scale. Yes, you can start a new school model locally, but things will not turn around until you get most public schools to adopt a solution. That is why so many models have come in the past, but either has become a local success or just faded away as they couldn’t scale it. 

In addition to the scale, another reason this is hard to make a school-dependent solution work is the misaligned incentives. Monetizing your product from the school budget is one challenge. If you come up with initiatives to disrupt the system itself, that needs funding, which cannot come from the same system as it will be equivalent to self-disruption. This is also where most of the nonprofit initiatives stall to make the change widespread. A successful change maker has to be a well-funded venture with association with the right investors who join for the long haul.

The Learnings 

1). It is hard to build a successful school reform strategy from the inside because of the scaling challenges and misaligned monetization incentives. The best strategy is to create alternate cohort-based models.

2). We should keep scalability in mind to avoid success silos in only affluent areas. The solution should be tech-enabled.

3). We should re-write the curriculum for 21st Century skills education.

21st Century Curriculum 

Over the past several years, my core focus has been 21st-century skills in young adults. We are long due for a revised curriculum that breaks free from the hyper academic focus and prepares our kids for an uncertain future.

I’ve come up with 6 core tenants of a curriculum that needs to be developed and adopted in lieu of the current Math & ELA curriculum that we are using for decades.


1) Physical fitness – Sports, Yoga or some self-defense skill – because a healthy mind lives in a healthy body.

2) Stress Management – Breathwork, mindfulness, clarity of thinking. Because the future is uncertain and the best outcomes are a derivative of a calm mind.

3) Communication (Written, Verbal) – Communication, both written and verbal, is the most important skill of the day. If you can do wonders and cannot communicate, did it ever happen? Writing also leads to clarity of thinking.

4) Financial Freedom – So much originality and innovation are killed because kids out of college get into this 9-5 rat race just because they are in hurry to find a job and pay student loans and bills. Kids between 16-20 years of age should be taught about becoming financially free by the time they turn 20 so that they do not need to worry about making a living and maximize their full potential.

5) Personal Branding / Finding a voice: In today’s day and age of the internet and social media, four years are more than sufficient for someone to build a personal brand, find a voice and become financially free by the time they hit 20. What is missing is the guidance that ideally should be provided by the colleges. This takes care of #4 as well.

6) Leadership, compassion, creativity, curiosity – For a sustainable future we need to create empathic and compassionate leaders who lead with their why and are curious about everything. Cultivating these leadership qualities is vital in the formative years.

In the coming days, as I build upon this futuristic curriculum, I will write about each of these elements in detail.

Stay tuned. 

Transforming K12 by focusing on the Context


An alternate tech-driven approach for schools to measure success without using test-scores.

If we fail to measure the right things, we will land up growing and making the wrong thing better.

If you hear someone say out loud “School Success” – what comes to your mind? Maybe a picture of a hustling and bustling school corridor where a bunch of students are walking around in neatly tucked school uniform? Or a school lobby where an authoritative adult is waking with pride peaking into the classrooms, who looks to have figured it all out? For the last 100+ years, our idea of school success has been, very narrowly, based on academic outcomes. The institution that is supposed to “educate” the future generation measures their success based on a small set of factors primarily focused on verifying skills required to do well in standardized tests. And we rinse and repeat this whole process for 12 most important years of the life of the young ones. – thanks to the century-old conveyor-belt inspired model of producing job candidates (pic 1).

Pic. 1.

We also tend to measure school and student success in relative terms. One school is always better than the other; one student has higher performance than others etc. The measurement is designed to rank and file – so that someone who is looking at the results can easily distinguish “good” from the “bad.” Applying this process further to school success, a school that has more percentage of total students achieving high points on standardized tests (Math & ELA ) is considered to be more successful. (Pic 2)

Pic. 2.

In the above picture, it is pretty clear from traditional measurement that School B is more successful if you look at it the conventional way, but a closer look reveals a few additional questions – 1) First, what did the success output included? Most probably it was in terms of academic ability, which is defined as proficiency in Math & ELA. 2) Second – why was it OK to settle for less than 100% results? What about the remaining 37% and 10%? Where did the tolerance anything less than 100% came and when did it become a norm? Without realizing we started the process of dividing our kids into good and bad. If we apply the above process to the Airline industry, here is what we get. (Pic 3)

Pic. 3.

Simple math shows that we will lose 60 aircraft in the best case scenario! You wouldn’t accept that, would you?

How we got here?.

The answer to the situation lies in what we measure. For aviation, the failure rate of aircraft was very high at the inception, but then we became good at measuring and improving what was meaningful, and that became better with onboard sensors as technology advanced. Today air travel is one of the safest ways to travel. While I agree that this there is hardly a one-to-one comparison between the airline industry and education, it remains true that if we fail to measure right things, we will land up growing and making wrong thing better. That is what has happened to education.

Right measurement is everything.

What you measure gets managed and becomes better. In primary schools almost worldwide, our measurement criteria continue to remain driven by the narrow notion of academic ability. As per Sir. Ken Robinson, If we create such a narrow idea of ability, the idea of disability also gets magnified. While the effort of our schools to prepare the students for getting into a good college or to get a high paying job is in itself not a problem, it becomes one when it lends itself as a ceiling of education.

The new mission.

The final goal of education as a means to get to college or landing a job wasn’t acceptable to us. So we came up with a revised version, and that became our mission at Schoolze. Here is what we came up as a goal of K15 education –

“To help each child realize his or her maximum potential, make them fearless & provide with internal & external tools that help them in leading a happy and fulfilling life in a fast changing world!”

In last three years of operating Schoolze and learning about school success, we have come up with seven factors, that, if measured and enhanced, schools will start showing an upward trajectory in any foreseeable metrics. Individually all these parameters are proven to improve the student experience and increase achievement, but together they are magical. Here are these seven factors.

  1. Engagement
  2. Fun-factor
  3. Empathy
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Growth-mindset
  6. Focus
  7. Compartmentalization

At Schoolze, we are on a mission to create technology tools to measure and enhance success outcomes for schools and students. This website is my attempt to bring awareness that what was not possible 100 years ago in education, is now possible and as AGI and Artificial Empathy technology becoming mainstream, future is bright. Through the course of 2019, I will use this website to write in detail about each of these factors and also reveal how we measure it. If you have any questions or comments about our work, please reach out at avneesh@schoolze.com. Stay tuned!

A new way for schools to foster 21st-century skills among kids


Be We need to be preparing our kids for the uncertain future and techniques of the past are not going to cut it.

As we enter the halfway mark into the year 2020, it is clear that it is going to leave a permanent mark on not only how we live and work, but also what and how we educate our kids. With the current state of affairs in the world, it has become even more important that we prepare our kids for a world that is full of uncertainty while teaching them values of empathy, respect, and growth mindset.

In the last few months, as COVID19 mandated shelter-in-place, it was remarkable to see how our schools & parents geared up to the challenge and adopted remote learning and homeschooling. This has led to a massive shift in schools’ and parents’ readiness in trying new modes of instruction delivery. To advance our mission of helping schools bring more focus to building life-skills of students, today we are announcing a new 21st Century Skills initiative for school administrators & parents of K12 students. As part of this initiative, we will be rolling out tools for educators, school leaders, and parents with the imperative that academic success alone is not what will get our kids ready for the world of the future, it is the core 21st Century Skills (more appropriately, life-skills), that will. With this initiative, the first product we are launching is 21CS ( https://build21cs.com ) — A 21st Century Skills Platform for schools & districts administrators.

Why are we doing it? Since we started Schoolze, our mission has been to help schools & parents model an environment for kids that supports the development of life-skills (focus, grit, perseverance & more) and help them achieve their full potential. In today’s world, these life-skills are as much, if not more, important as academic skills. (more about these skills later). As a first step towards our mission, in 2017, we launched a family-engagement product for schools. The reason we chose family engagement was that it is directly linked to higher student outcomes — in both in academics and in the development of life-skills. However, we also learned in the past couple of years that while engagement can bring incremental upward change, it isn’t alone sufficient in having kids realize their full potential and be ready for the kind of uncertainty future may have as we grow into an increasingly complex world.

Today, we are witnessing a tectonic shift across many areas of our lives. Work has changed; The way we live has changed even more. College is changing right in front of us at an unprecedented rate. In the future, we see an economy that rewards invention and originality. But our primary education is still hyper-focused on academic achievement by way of conformity, obedience, and standardization (tests, grade). Focus on creative and life-skills building education is either missing entirely for the most part or is present on sidelines (called “after school enrichment.”). This is where we want to bring a change of focus by the new 21CS initiative.

So what does this platform do? In summary, 21CS provides school administrators and ed-leaders a way to build engaging online campaigns targeting one or more 21st-century skills ( see a list of essential 21st-century skills defined by the World Economic Forum). We work with experts to pre-make the templates for these campaigns, which include research-based content with various formats ( audio, video, surveys, lessons & more). These templates are used by educators to launch skill-based campaigns. Once launched, our intelligent backend infrastructure maximizes the outreach in local communities & among parents and school leaders get actionable insights surrounding the skill(s) of the campaign. Without the platform, schools generally depend on printed surveys or google forms to get some of this information with no way to tie it back to the research or skill. The 21CS platform does that automatically.

We are excited about this new launch and can’t wait to see what our schools make of it. A private beta version of 21CS was launched in March this year and we are now opening it for any schools that are interested in trying it out.  If you are a K12 school administrator and would like to join the beta or get a demo of the platform, please visit https://build21cs.com and request a demo or write to us at demo@schoolze.com. If you are already using our existing distance learning and engagement products, 21CS fits right into the existing infrastructure.  Last but not the least, we are also starting a 21st Century Skills audio podcast in which we will invite expert school leaders to participate in a discussion on developing 21st-century life-skills among students. If you are interested in joining the podcast on a specific skill, do let us know (podcasts@schoolze.com) Cheers! References — World Economic Forum

Originally published June 10, 2020

K-12 School Success, 7 things we learned started Schoolze


Last month we wrote about how a product demo to a group of international customers, transformed Schoolze’s mission to be a K-12 School Success Platform. Since then, we have been sleeping, eating drinking, and dreaming about school success and trying to find answers to this million-dollar question – What makes a school successful?

Today, after persevering two years of building Schoolze into a fit-for-market product, we are proud to say that our experiences have given us the recipe of what truly makes a school successful (and surprise! surprise! – it is not the test-scores or grades :).

This blog post is an attempt to document our journey through these findings in the last 2 years. This is also going to serve as an announcement for a 7-part blog post series we will publish during this month that will detail findings from our quest.  Let’s begin –

2016 – Classroom productivity Our journey started when my son became a preschooler and his teacher needed some help in communicating with the preschool parents. A small web app I built as a side project quickly became a classroom productivity web app that grew into many local classrooms and engaged parents in a way teachers never experienced before! This prompted me to do more research on the area of parental engagement and that led to the discovery that parental disengagement is one of the top three problems in US K-12 education and is responsible for increasing the high school dropout rate. This discovery led me to convince my long-term colleague and now co-founder, Nirmal, and we quit our jobs to launch Schoolze as the first research-based parental engagement platform for schools. It started with classroom tools first and subsequently led to school and School PTA tools.

2016-2017 – Engagement So we collated all research from the area of parental engagement to discover overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that higher parental involvement leads to an uprise in student achievement (so far as the engagement is linked to the learning). We built Schoolze into a predictive platform that measured parental engagement based on several leading frameworks from various states and ED.gov. Nirmal had been the key orchestrator and the inventor of building Parental Engagement Index® (PEI). This was when a live experience in a 2nd-grade classroom got me thinking about the linearity of our measurement algorithm as it only included parent and teachers into the logic but left a critical component out – The student. So we came up with a more effective model that included student participation. We called it S.T.P Framework (S stands for the student). We are currently working on progressing from PEI to the STP measurement model. Late 2016 Parental Advocacy (Came from a crunch time for Schoolze) This is a hard one to pen but has to be included as a significant product direction is attributed to this experience. Mid 2016, both myself and Nirmal were maxed out as we saw our savings depleted. Just about this time, we also monetize Schoolze and got our first and second paying schools, so we knew things are starting to work, but the cash flow situation was still tight. During this hardship and a critical near-death spiral for Schoolze, we had an epiphany thinking about more than 50% of US families who have hardship as the way of life. A side note for our education entrepreneur fraternity – There are families in our neighborhoods who earn less than USD 18K a year and support school going kids. When we (ed-tech entrepreneurs) build tools for schools, we must think and build it with empathy for these families for our solutions to truly work in the schools. Here we were building a “family engagement” platform directed towards student success, but if a parent is struggling and is busy putting food on the table, or the child is coming to school without having breakfast, it is not fair on our part to expect the same level of engagement or outcome from them. This experience became a key insight that governed everything that we built in Schoolze from here on and was a significant reason we looked into Schoolze making money for school and making lots of it so that some benefit can go to these families. This incident also led us to test a new module on the roadmap called “Schoolze Parent Advocacy.” Being resource crunched, we just ran a few tests on the product and the findings were profound. We have scheduled this project to start in early 2019, and this alone can transform the K-12 funding landscape with alternate options in an unprecedented way and boost school success for every school irrespective of if they adopt Schoolze or not.

2017 – Making Money for schools In the beginning, this one came to us organically from customer feedback but later it got augmented with insights we got from the advocacy product I mentioned above. One of the things that Schoolze, as a parental engagement platform, did was allowing schools to share photos with and from parents in a secure way. As the classrooms posted event photos almost every day, by the year-end, Schoolze became an organized collection of thousands of pictures, neatly organized in chronological order. To our surprise, one school posted ~14000 pictures across the year, and some classroom posted 4-5k photos across the school year. Next thing we realized that the school was asking us to give them a way to provide those pictures to the yearbook company. Those who are familiar with the yearbook industry, it is a large 1.5 billion USD industry, and companies struggle to help schools find quality pictures for the book. We seem to have solved one of the critical needs that the sector faces every year without realizing it. Excited about the prospect of being able to monetize Schoolze for the first time, we proposed to the school to not give the pictures away but let us do the yearbook for them. Nirmal and I dropped everything and worked for three weeks straight to build a yearbook designer – and we successfully delivered yearbooks for schools, making them money in the process. Our designer, last year, grew to 3 products and this year we are adding 30+ products. This feature has developed into a full-fledged merchandise fundraising product for schools with us tied up with various white-labeled printers in the country. We also added donations and item sale to our fundraising line as Schoolze started making money for schools. Making money for Schools came as an inflection point for us. Those who sell in the education domain know how hard it is to sell to schools and to have them pay for anything as most schools are always in need of funds. Our land & expand the business model of making money for the schools has changed the conversation and has been a great addition to our mission – of making schools successful. This also gets augmented exponentially when the advocacy product comes into existence. The market size of that opportunity is large, crossing a trillion-dollar on the global landscape.

2017/18- Schoolze University Based on learning from the market and my own experience as a parent, we had made a decision early in the Schoolze journey to venture into teacher and parent education in high-impact educational & parenting areas.

The reason for this decision was the fact that kids model the behavior of adults and teachers and parents are the adults who are around kids more than 80% of their waking hours. We think it is critical for us as a society to make sure that both – the parents and the teachers,  remain stress-free and grounded in the values of empathy and growth-mindset so that our kids can model the same for themselves and grow to be an inclusive generation. 

Looking at the resources and the timeline, we initially decided to start working on teacher/parent education on a 4-6 years time frame subjected on how things turn out, but something happened last year that changed it and here we are,  launching Schoolze University (beta) in the fall of 2018. Here is the story of how that happened.

Last year, I met Dr. Joe Mazza of UPenn Graduate School of Education, whom I got referred to by a professor of another Ivy league GSE that I’m not allowed to name. I met Joe on a trip from DC to NYC at his house in Philly, and we instantly hit it off together. He is a ninja of family engagement, and when we met, he was preparing to launch his innovative “father-engagement” family business @makerdads (check it out – it is now launched and is amazing if you want to have them in your school). After our first meeting, we met four times in the next three months during travels and conferences and talked about everything that is important for schools, while trying to figure out a way to work together with Schoolze. Joe got me convinced that we should bring in the teacher/parent education aspect sooner if at all possible to make the platform more effective and so we did.

Finally The School Success and discovery of The Context So here it was! The journey that got us to the 2018 summer break. In the processes of working with many schools, meeting terrific teachers, principals and superintendents, we have concluded that the success of a school depends on seven parameters, one of them, of course, is the one we started with – “The Engagement”. Together, these seven parameters make up what we call “The CONTEXT” of a school (named in contrast with the hyper-focused CONTENT based education today delivered in an assembly line sequence ). Schoolze, to bring success to K-12 schools at scale, has built technology to measure and enhance one or more of these seven parameters. Of these seven, Schoolze currently has a perfect handle on 1 & 2, is starting as a beta this summer on 3rd, 4th, and 5th and have no idea how to go about doing 6th and 7th (well we have some but not all). At this point, we are focusing on getting to a critical mass based on parameters 1 & 2, and we are launching 3, 4, and 5 this fall with Schoolze University. I’m pretty sure when we get to doing 6th and 7th, we will have enough resources to get some help in figuring them out. We will elaborate on all 7 of them in the subsequent posts of the series.

One last thing – we mentioned the term “school success” many times in this article but never realized that this term itself may require some repositioning. What does success even mean for a school? Is it to assist them in remembering all this academic info? Or is it preparing the kids to get into a better college? Or maybe prepare them to get a high paying job after finishing K-15? Or perhaps none of those? We think that although a great college and high paying job are great interim goals – none of them sounded like a ceiling for K-15. We know for a fact that many “best” colleges have students who suffer from depression and are unhappy and needless to say the stress “high paying” jobs are bringing leading to mental and ethical failure of people involved. So we came up with our own fresh take on what K-15 education should strive for – A new mission of education. Maybe it can still get adjusted a little, but I would like to think we are pretty close –

“The goal of K-15 education is to help each child realize his or her maximum potential, make them fearless & provide with internal & external tools to assist them in leading a happy and fulfilling life!”

I would like to invite comments on your take on our mission of K-15 education to triage and make it better.

Until next week Avneesh

Originally published July 4, 2018

The demo that transformed Schoolze’s mission


I had an opportunity to present a Schoolze demo to a chain of preschools a while back. The experience came out to be a dream come true for any entrepreneur. Here is the story –

April 2016 – I got invited to the international chain of a preschool association that were organizing their annual meeting. Activities started on Thursday and were supposed to go until Sunday with the annual meeting scheduled for Saturday until 8 pm. I was scheduled for a 30-minute demo at 8.30 PM after the annual meeting.

The Initial 2 days were fun attending the sessions and visiting local preschools and passed rather quickly. The demo started at 8.30 pm on Saturday and was joined by six regional council heads and the international president.

As I started explaining the classroom parental engagement product of Schoolze, excitement in the room gradually went up leading to questions and comments. 30 minutes into the demo I was only done with 25% of the presentation due to interest. And it was then that the president spoke for the first time –

“This is it. This is actually how to build a co-op.”

“Instead of me giving you a book that you have to read, that was written in 1976, this is it [sic][ie this should be given]” the president commented further, “It tells you what you need, that you need to set up conferences, and that you that you need a sub”. “I am telling you – it will resolve so many of the conflicts that school has in the management because when the board changes and that person replaces another, this solves all that hiccups.”

I was pumped with the response and continued the demo with even more energy, that’s when the head of a regional council spoke – “We see it only gets better as we see more. Do you all see that too?”

This is when the best one came – “I’ve been quiet for some time, but this is f***ing great [giggles and claps] Can we be your trial Council?” said the council head. [giggles and claps continued]

As any entrepreneur can relate to this – I was frozen and speechless for a minute on this overwhelming customer validation, and that’s when the next one came from the president – “Let me give you an elevator pitch for this and you can use that in your meetings.” – This platform can save a failing school and make already successful one even better.”

Let’s take a pause here and process what just happened – A potential high profile international customer, sees a demo of your product, reverse engineers your mission statement, and gives it to you! How many times does this happen? Must I say – it was the most amazing feeling to hear those words about Schoolze.

By this time we were 11 months into bootstrapping Schoolze and were trying hard to make the unit economy click, and this feedback made all that hard work worth it. I remember calling Nirmal that night at 3 am, and he was met with the same overwhelming adrenaline rush.

That day,  Schoolze forever changed from a “Parental Engagement” platform to a “School Success platform” and our focus grew into everything that makes a school successful. We continued the negotiations with the group and also landed up onboarding a few co-ops on the Schoolze platform but that story is for the next post :).

Write in the comments if you have a similar mission transformation story where customer response elevated you & your startup in a game-changing way.

Until next – Avneesh

Originally published June 3, 2018