AltSchool Hub

School as a "Long Now" Project

Posted by Max Ventilla

Jun 23, 2014 4:15:00 PM

ExploreCloseUpLately, I’ve been fascinated by Long Now projects -- innovations that are designed with a 10,000 year timeframe in mind. As someone who came from tech, founding and exiting my last two startups in less than five years, I am now tackling a system that has been around for centuries. In other words, my innovation timeline has shifted.

The truth is, my career has been building up to this big “long now” swing for more than a decade – as have the careers of those who have joined me on this path. We approach AltSchool as what will be our life’s work, and we have the vision and resources to build toward that plan. We are starting with hundreds of students, but we are building the broader school system that we aspire to become, impacting students on a scale that is orders of magnitude beyond where we are today.

For this team, there is no quick exit strategy. In contrast to most other valley startups, all executives at AltSchool have signed up to an unusually long 6 year vesting period; I myself have a 10 year vest on my equity. More importantly, I plan to send my own children to AltSchool - from kindergarten all the way to middle school. Even our structures tell a long-term story, as we primarily lease school buildings that will accommodate the lifecycle of students and families who can start in kindergarten and stay in one place for a decade or more.

Our plan for a long future at AltSchool should not be confused with the rate at which we innovate and adapt to that future. All of us here – from our designers and engineers to our educators – are fixated on shortening the traditional cycles of improvement for students and families. For example, every time a playlist activity is completed, the student and teacher are asked to reflect on that activity. Their thoughts impact the playlist a student has the very next week. Our organization is measuring, analyzing and improving continuously so that we can adapt the learning experience on a day-to-day and even hour-to-hour timeframe.

This is most clear to me when I realize that AltSchool didn’t even exist a year ago. It is humbling to all of us here when we remember how recently we started, and how quickly we found families willing to take a chance on us. That’s why we hold ourselves to the same standards as our students; working on constant improvement amidst expanding horizons -- driving toward the Long Now of education.

Topics: AltSchool Innovation, Thoughts from Our Founder