12 year old school founders?

My friend runs a non-profit in the Midwest which tries to help create new charter school models, not just new schools.

“Gee,” he said. “I do want the KIPP type of schools. But I want other models too, not just those which are 90% like KIPP. And yet: it’s really hard to find social entrepreneurs who come up with breakthrough ideas.”

I’ve noticed the same thing in China.

There is a wave of entrepreneurs starting new private schools.

But these schools are quite similar. Too many eggs in the same basket?

Got me thinking:

1. Experts often start early.

Bill Gates was programming at age 13.

Ray Dalio started picking stocks at age 12.

Maybe: We should be helping 12 year olds start small schools.

2. What the heck?

I began writing the Match charter at age 28. It was a quite poor proposal, in hindsight, but that’s another story.

Mid twenties to mid thirties is an age where lots of “conceptual innovators” hit their peak. Picasso types versus Cezanne types.



Painters who have produced experimental innovations have been motivated by aesthetic criteria: they have aimed at presenting visual perceptions. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.

In contrast, painters who have made conceptual innovations have intended to communicate specific ideas or emotions. Their goals for a particular work can be stated precisely in advance. They often make detailed preparatory plans for their paintings, and execute their final works systematically.


Okay, enough about painting. Let’s just borrow the idea.

Start-ups tend to be conceptual innovations.

And people who create conceptual innovations those skew young.

True, they may then ride their key idea for decades, but a key breakthrough tends to happen early.

Gates started Microsoft at 32.

Dalio was 26 when he launched Bridgewater.

And again: they started tinkering with their life’s work at age 12 and 13.

3. My point is: I wonder if we could get better breakthrough schools models from the 26-32 crowd of school founders if some of them had already been doing it from an early age.

Like age 12.

Both in China and in USA.

I know it sounds weird.

2 thoughts on “12 year old school founders?

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