The Brandon Zhang Show

#036 "Erik Torenberg - Unbundling Higher Education and Building Personal Moats"

December 11, 2020 Brandon Zhang Season 1 Episode 36
The Brandon Zhang Show
#036 "Erik Torenberg - Unbundling Higher Education and Building Personal Moats"
Chapters
The Brandon Zhang Show
#036 "Erik Torenberg - Unbundling Higher Education and Building Personal Moats"
Dec 11, 2020 Season 1 Episode 36
Brandon Zhang

Today, Erik Torenberg joins the show to talk about unbundling higher education through On Deck, the best way to build career moats, and his favorite frameworks for hiring. Erik is the co-founder of both On Deck and Village Global. On Deck is an education company for the future and I greatly admire On Deck’s vision and prolific production, as they seem to be launching new fellowships each week, expanding into verticals such as writing, podcasting, no-code, angel investing, and even Chief of Staff. Village Global is a network focused venture capital firm which is backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Diane Greene. Erik also hosts his own podcast, venture stories, which takes you into the world of venture capital and technology, diving into new fields each episode. 

Links:
On Deck
Village Global
Erik's Twitter
Erik's Post on Podcasting
Erik's Post on Building Personal Moats
Erik's Post on Frameworks for Hiring

Contact Me:
My Twitter
My Website

5 Key Takeaways: 

1. I learned about personal moats the hard way, which is not having one. And just, you know, feeling like I was always pushing this boulder up a hill and if I stopped it would roll back down and reading Cal Newport's book "Get So Good They Can't Ignore You" at the same time just reinforced the idea. 

So in order in terms of the most powerful moats, I would say, at least in technology, starting a successful company, building an angel portfolio, build an investment portfolio, and then I put newsletter or podcast, probably newsletter above podcasts, but they're both fantastic. 

2. COVID is really a land grab opportunity for us in the sense that people's, the opportunity cost of people's time is lower. And these new sort of cohort-based courses are so hard to get off the ground, but once you get them off the ground, and once you're a couple of cohorts in, there's really defensible and they just have a lot of momentum to it.

3. When I look at unbundling university, I think of the sort of three core things. There's the education itself, which has largely been unbundled, because of MOOCs and the internet. Then there's the network and then the credentials. On Deck is probably starting with unbundling the network. And the crudest way of describing is like, what Y Combinator did for founders, you know, it created a better signal than Stanford or Harvard. But that should not only exist for startup founders that should exist for writers or podcast hosts or, or engineers or designers or whoever. And that's what On Deck is building. 

4. One thing I would recommend doing, even if you're not yet starting a company is having a list of people that you would dream of working with. Who if you start a company, or you join a company, would be the 20 people that you'd love to bring on. And just continuing to add to that list, and getting to know them, and checking in with them every few months. One thing I did is I had a retreat, where I invited all of them to the retreat, and I would do this every quarter every six months or so. 

5. I've really been inspired by peer to peer credentials. I'm inspired because I want more people to have great opportunities. And right now universities have monopolies over credentials. That's really what's keeping it alive. I mean, why are people paying quarter-million-dollars for zoom University when if there was no credential, they would just be doing other stuff. 

Show Notes

Today, Erik Torenberg joins the show to talk about unbundling higher education through On Deck, the best way to build career moats, and his favorite frameworks for hiring. Erik is the co-founder of both On Deck and Village Global. On Deck is an education company for the future and I greatly admire On Deck’s vision and prolific production, as they seem to be launching new fellowships each week, expanding into verticals such as writing, podcasting, no-code, angel investing, and even Chief of Staff. Village Global is a network focused venture capital firm which is backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Diane Greene. Erik also hosts his own podcast, venture stories, which takes you into the world of venture capital and technology, diving into new fields each episode. 

Links:
On Deck
Village Global
Erik's Twitter
Erik's Post on Podcasting
Erik's Post on Building Personal Moats
Erik's Post on Frameworks for Hiring

Contact Me:
My Twitter
My Website

5 Key Takeaways: 

1. I learned about personal moats the hard way, which is not having one. And just, you know, feeling like I was always pushing this boulder up a hill and if I stopped it would roll back down and reading Cal Newport's book "Get So Good They Can't Ignore You" at the same time just reinforced the idea. 

So in order in terms of the most powerful moats, I would say, at least in technology, starting a successful company, building an angel portfolio, build an investment portfolio, and then I put newsletter or podcast, probably newsletter above podcasts, but they're both fantastic. 

2. COVID is really a land grab opportunity for us in the sense that people's, the opportunity cost of people's time is lower. And these new sort of cohort-based courses are so hard to get off the ground, but once you get them off the ground, and once you're a couple of cohorts in, there's really defensible and they just have a lot of momentum to it.

3. When I look at unbundling university, I think of the sort of three core things. There's the education itself, which has largely been unbundled, because of MOOCs and the internet. Then there's the network and then the credentials. On Deck is probably starting with unbundling the network. And the crudest way of describing is like, what Y Combinator did for founders, you know, it created a better signal than Stanford or Harvard. But that should not only exist for startup founders that should exist for writers or podcast hosts or, or engineers or designers or whoever. And that's what On Deck is building. 

4. One thing I would recommend doing, even if you're not yet starting a company is having a list of people that you would dream of working with. Who if you start a company, or you join a company, would be the 20 people that you'd love to bring on. And just continuing to add to that list, and getting to know them, and checking in with them every few months. One thing I did is I had a retreat, where I invited all of them to the retreat, and I would do this every quarter every six months or so. 

5. I've really been inspired by peer to peer credentials. I'm inspired because I want more people to have great opportunities. And right now universities have monopolies over credentials. That's really what's keeping it alive. I mean, why are people paying quarter-million-dollars for zoom University when if there was no credential, they would just be doing other stuff.