Better Learning = Better Founder

Perpetual student. That is probably every parent’s least favorite phrase; it’s what keeps them up at night. Images of tuition checks circle in their minds. Aren’t kids supposed to start paying their own bills after they graduate from college? Twenty-two years of financial support is long enough! Sure, parents want their children to succeed, to become educated, to make something of their lives, but when it comes to learning, they want to duck out as soon as those college tuition bills start rolling in the door. And who could blame them!? The phrase “perpetual student” conjures up such terrifying images because of the implication that the student will never become productive in the workplace, celebrating their thirtieth birthday before ever collecting their first paycheck. The horror!

Well everyone, brace yourselves for the terror and cower in fear because if the stereotype of the perpetual student is true, then I, Kailey Raymond, am your worst nightmare.

I am a total nerd. I love to learn. I strive to be challenged. I like it when my brain hurts. I am, what some may call, a perpetual student. It’s true. But I am not here to uphold the stereotype of the perpetual student, rather, I am here to shatter it. I want to take the fear out of the phrase and make the “perpetual learner” a sex symbol. I truly believe that without constant learning, there is no progress. It is almost impossible to become better if you aren’t striving to learn something new every single day. I am twenty-two years old, greener than green. I don’t know what I don’t know and my goal is simple: I want to become better.

In order to fulfill that goal, I joined a lean startup team. Well, actually, I did something even crazier than that; I joined the Startup Institute while simultaneously acting as Co-Founder and CMO at my own company, inLieu. Why would I do something so insane? Nine out of ten startups fail! You make half the money and work twice the hours (the rumors are true)! To that, I answer: optimizing for learning now will make me a better founder later. I choose to work two demanding jobs and get paid in hugs and high-fives because I strive to become better.

As a young Co-Founder, I have found some success, having won two pitch competitions, enough money to sustain us through the cold winter, and the support of a core community of people. I have stood in front of angel groups, investors, and developers to tell inLieu’s story and I have learned more than I could have ever imagined from what was once a school project. But here’s the punch line: I have so much more to learn.

This marks my second week with the Startup Institute and I have already learned more than I could have ever imagined. Sales, marketing, operations, development, you name it, if I want to experience it, all I have to do is ask. And what better way to learn than through doing? The answer to that question may seem obvious, but it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. For a long time, I was unconvinced, even uncomfortable with the idea that I could possibly benefit my own business by taking a full-time job with another company. How was it possible? In order to grow as a founder, I knew that I needed to hone in on some skills- relationship management, data-driven marketing, sales operations- but I didn’t know how. Having seen inLieu grow from a crazy idea into a revenue-generating company is one of the most amazing experiences I will ever have and there was no way that I could call it quits and abandon my baby. After all, this is only the beginning! Instead, I chose to take a leap; I chose to learn. By joining an early-stage company and developing skills with an experienced team, I want to leverage my learnings and apply these lessons across my roles. I aim to become a better founder, first, by being a better learner.

So, after reading me ramble, it is my hope that you no longer fear the perpetual student. Rather, I hope that now, you can embrace your inner nerd, undertake a challenge and strain your brain a little. Not to be feared, but rather to be celebrated, learning is what makes us better versions of ourselves. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you can get a paycheck by doing what you love and learning all at the same time (all the better when supplemented with hugs and high-fives, trust me).