Join us for Teach the 1K, a free one-day workshop for entrepreneurship educators and activators on February 8th, 2019 in New York City.

Over the past 5+ years, Christina Xu and I have taught Entrepreneurial Design at School of Visual Arts MFA in Interaction Design Program.

Drawing from our collective experience working with a range of entrepreneurs — from independent creators to venture-backed startup founders — our course takes a first principles approach to entrepreneurship education, focusing on teaching two distinct abilities:

  1. The ability to confront and navigate uncertainty: How do you learn to sail into uncharted territory, to make decisions with incomplete data, to be open to the options that have yet to reveal themselves?
  2. The ability to sustain and grow relevant networks: How do you cultivate the groups of people relevant to your pursuit, from which you will access support, collaborators, resources and opportunities?

These abilities are best developed through an experiential—rather than instructional—teaching approach. Blog posts, lectures and case studies will only get you so far. At some point, you need to “do” in order to learn.

However, teaching experientially can be both unpredictable and unwieldy, so over the years, we developed and refined a simple tool to aid us, the $1K Challenge:

“Design, launch and complete a crowdfunding campaign that benefits a community you’ve worked with over the course of the semester.
The campaign should raise at least $1,000 from 50 different backers.”

Over 100 students have taken the challenge, raising over $300K from thousands of backers all out in the real world.That said, the magic of the challenge isn’t in the amount of money raised—it’s in the lessons learned along the way:

“It’s about there being no right answers. About fighting the tendency to ask for approval or permission. About getting out of your head and engaging with the world.”
—Nikki Sylianteng, 2012

What We’ve Learned

Making this work in practice has been a multi-year, iterative, entrepreneurial process unto itself. Some of the challenges we’ve encountered include:

  1. Networks are an abstract concept, and are hard to teach instructionally. It has taken us years of experimentation to come up with effective mental models, vocabulary, and exercises to help students effectively connect theory to practice.
  2. Networked fluency is something that needs to be deliberately and actively taught. We thought that knowing how to parse, access, and leverage networks would have become more intrinsic and obvious with the rise of social networks, but our experience so far has proven otherwise
  3. Engaging in public requires students to be courageous. Working in public requires being open to judgment at scale, and missteps can lead to real and lasting consequences, especially as large-scale public social networks have reached maturation.
  4. Students are systemically unprepared to deal with ambiguity. In our class, there is often no “right answer,” which can be incredibly unnerving for students trained in an achievement-oriented mindset.
  5. Personalized transformative experiences don’t scale. In our model, students show up with different aspirations and skill-sets, then go on very individualized journeys. This means that what they need from us as instructors is eclectic and unpredictable, which requires a lot of emotional energy to manage.

Join us for Teach the 1K

Through all of this, we’ve come to believe two things:

  1. That the abilities we teach are universally valuable for any creator or entrepreneur—whether your goal is build a venture-scale business, a fanbase, a social movement, or something in-between.
  2. That the best way to scale our work is to share our tools and frameworks with other educators, rather than to scale the number of people we attempt to directly teach ourselves.

As a result, we’ve launched Teach the 1K, a free one-day workshop for entrepreneurship educators and activators to be held in New York City on February 8th, 2019.

The workshop will focus on the mechanics behind the $1K Challenge—how and why it works—as well as how to adapt it for different contexts and communities. And, we’ll share how we’ve addressed each of the teaching challenges mentioned above.

Our workshop is ideal for teachers and administrators in higher education as well as staff and directors of community-based incubators and entrepreneurship centers. However, we understand that the work of fostering and activating new creators is an emergent practice and so there are likely others for whom this workshop will be relevant.

Applications are due by Thursday, November 8th. More details and a link to apply can be found at our website:

If you’re unable to travel to us, we’d still love to hear from you. If there’s sufficient interest, perhaps we can travel to your city at a future date.

Apply by Thursday, November 8th. Details at