"I'm learning the necessary skills to create a business. It's no longer enough to have a cursory understanding of technology; to be successful in this day-and-age, you need to understand all of the moving parts behind the technology we interact with, and that's what Starter School gives you."
- What Problem He's Solving: Helping businesses accept Bitcoin payments.
- First job: Professional landscaper, to save up for an iBook
- One thing he can't live without: His MacBook Pro
- Jon in three words: Passionate, inquisitive, hard-working
Learn how Jonathan is changing the Bitcoin industry.
Why are you at Starter School?
I'm at Starter School because I wanted to have the practical coding, design, and business experience necessary to attack meaningful problems in the real world. I came to Chicago to do something meaningful with technology and Starter School has provided me with the focus and skills to accomplish this task.
What's one thing that you have been surprised by at Starter School?
How certain things that I've seen on the web – that once seemed like magic – can actually be broken down into logical steps that aren't really that hard to replicate if you have the right tools. Starter School tells you what those right tools are.
Is there one experience that stands out for you at Starter School?
Ryan Singer came to lecture our class about product management. He mocked up an entire idea in raw HTML as effortlessly as if he was putting a pen to paper. It made me realize the importance of all of the components that go into a successful product, not just the front-end or back-end, but all of the moving parts that make something truly functional.
What was the first day of Starter School like?
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or that I would learn this much about the business of start-ups.
How do you explain Starter School to your friends, family, and/or significant others?
I'm learning the necessary skills to create a business. It's no longer enough to have a cursory understanding of technology; to be successful in this day-and-age, you need to understand all of the moving parts behind the technology we interact with, and that's what Starter School gives you.
Were you intimidated to learn anything that ended up coming easy to you?
Sure, there was a lot that seemed intimidating up-front. When I was soaking up my first few bits of Ruby, I knew from the course curriculum that we we're soon going to be putting this whole "Rails framework" on top of it. That sounded overwhelming! But then I realized how everything we learn sets up a solid foundation for the next topic, and that whole overwhelmed feeling soon passed. That whole experience has made it a whole lot less intimidating for me to dive-in and learn new technologies. It taught me how to transition from being a "newbie" to "comfortable" in any scenario – not that hard of a transition when you approach it correctly.
What makes Starter School different than other classes/schools you've been to?
The focus on "go use this now." Everyone is encouraged to work on something that is real to them, and that has some value to each individual as a person. Everything we learn can be put to work for us towards our own goals and ambitions. Around here, it's not enough to just make something pretty and let it sit on your computer, there is an emphasis on "deploy it so the world can see," which is really something special.
What are you building right now?
I'm developing an application that makes it easy for merchants to accept Bitcoin at their businesses, while taking care of the volatility issue. I recently tested my product out in the wild (see: http://www.coindesk.com/chicago-ready-flourishing-bitcoin-economy), and I'm using what I learned from that experience to improve the next iteration.
Who or what inspires you and why?
I have always found Steve Jobs to be very inspiring. As a child of the 90's, I grew up with the Think Different TV ads ("Here's to the crazy ones...") and became interested in his point-of-view.
What's something you've done in your life that you're most proud of?
In the Summer of 2005, at my very first "real" internship at a big company, I came across Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech in an email, where he says: "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work." This message – not to settle for doing something that you aren't truly passionate about – has resonated with me and influenced my decisions. I volunteered for a Summer in Haiti, after the earthquake, to help to fix the water system in the city of Léogâne. The strength and resolve of a people who had lost so much was truly awe-inspiring. It forced me to think about what would happen if everything in my own life was suddenly wiped away. Every moment in this life is precious and should be spent doing something truly meaningful.
What would you say to someone interested in joining Starter School?
Have an open mind. Be ready to work hard. Follow to your intuition.