I had a sort of anti-tiger mom. I was a “high-achieving” student in the conventional sense, but my parents didn’t believe in optimization of their kids’ abilities, which is their way of saying that they didn’t have the money to fund tutors or send me to math camp.
Their circumstances made me more proactive about finding and pursuing my interests, but I was trying to do this at a time when online resources weren’t as readily available. In the absence of Google and Wikipedia and MOOCs, I was relegated to whatever I could find in the library. The library is not the best place to find out that you like solving hard math problems, or programming computers. I was a motivated kid and did the best I could, but my sense of justice was wounded when my neighborhood friends got to go to schools with better teachers and more challenging textbooks. It was frustrating not to have access to resources to find out where I topped out at something I was good at, and then push myself higher.
So I was “ready” for the idea of Brilliant by the time my co-founder Silas and I met Chamath Palihapitiya in Palo Alto last year. We talked at length about how to build a company that is able to identify and develop human capital, and the impact that such a company could have. Silas and I had spent the past 2 years of our lives growing our previous company, Alltuition, which helps students and their families manage the college financial aid process, and levels the playing field for families that don’t have access to good guidance counselors. It was important to both of us to work on companies that generate economic value and have positive social impact. We were excited by the prospect of helping to create a world in which smart, driven people could be found and nurtured on a more meritocratic basis, irrespective of their geography or socioeconomic background, and we were willing to devote our lives to this vision. We wanted to create a company to help these people reach their full potential, and accelerate their ability to work on the hardest problems in STEM.