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Since the company started in 2018, my primary goal has been to never charge the end user.

I’ve always wanted to build an education system that is free and open to all. I believe it is possible to do that, and also be a massive company in line with the Apples, Nikes, and Disneys of the world.

But, it wouldn’t be easy and take some digging.

In 2023, we explored several options for monetization — mainly sponsorships, venture, and government partnerships.

Sponsorships we had pursued in 2022 for Projects -- things like affiliate deals and product placements (ex. Adobe paying us if we sent them users). We explored this in 2023 Nights & Weekends but felt like we could push it to a $2-3M a year business at max. Imagine it like Nights & Weekends is a live TV show — you can only sell so many placements. It caps out. So, we moved on from this idea pretty fast.

Venture is the other angle we explored, and also the most obvious one.

Every week it feels like I see one of our users tells us they raised money, got into YC, or something like that. And, everyone around us was telling us the same thing — “Why don’t you guys raise a fund do that?”. We explored it.

Our conclusion:

Venture is an interesting model. But, we felt if we made venture our primary business today we’d naturally begin optimizing for larger outcomes — all of sudden, perhaps we don’t care as much as that random 14-year old making funny YT videos in his room because he isn’t building a billion dollar co.

We wouldn't be much different from every other invetsor at that point.

We also explored things like a new SAFE with built-in profit-sharing and even an idea where you could be “signed” to buildspace in exchange for future profits of your idea but it all felt wrong to us — we simply didn’t have a breakthrough, 10X idea and it constantly felt like we would just turn into a “budget YC” or a “walmart a16z” if we went down that route.

I think we’ll one day we’ll raise a small fund and invest in some people up and coming at buildspace, but, it won’t be our primary business model.

Government partnerships was actually our primary monetization focus in 2023.

We had built our Campus in 2023, but we had been planning it since mid-2022.

In 2022 so we thought, “Hey, would government around the world pay to have more of these campuses in their country to promote entrepreneurship? Users from around the world start at Nights & Weekends, find the ones down to go all-in, and funnel them into these campuses around the world”.

It didn’t feel that crazy because thousands of these exist around the world as “innovation centers” — even my old college had one. And once the first campus was built, we felt even more confident.

So we got to work. We hustled our way into government offices around the world, started conversations, and around 6-mo later we had a $2M deal on the table with the government of a country in Asia. We ourselves would profit $1M off the deal after our own costs.

Even had multiple other countries who were very warm.

It was really cool, but two problems.

  1. The government of this country didn’t want exactly what we were selling — they wanted more of a “local upskilling location” while we wanted to build a campus for anyone to go all-in on any idea.

  2. We were talking to many other countries. But, It felt like every country we spoke to wanted something different from what we were selling. They saw us as more as “we can hire buildspace to build what we want” vs “i want buildspace to just put what they got here”.

Focus is everything at a small company, and we just didn’t want to become “innovation consultants” for governments where we worked on these various physical projects.

So, we said no to the $2M deal and moved on.

So we ended 2023 with a lot of new learnings, but nothing we were ready to all in on from a monetization point of view.

One thing became clear to me here: This company wouldn’t die because of a lack of monetization, after all there were multiple paths to $4-5M a year on Nights & Weekends via sponsorships. No. This company would die because it just stayed a niche thing for a couple thousands people.

And, while that's extremely cool -- I think if we stayed that, we'd never reach the Nikes, Apples, Disneys of the world. And we'd never solve the larger problems with education.

The future of buildspace as a business is actually hyper clear to me – the number of monetization opportunities it has will grow as the user base grows. So that’s what we’re going to focus on. Scaling buildspace in a really authentic way to the masses.

And hey that’s a bet.

But, the world of consumer is where rules are meant to be broken.

Plus, we’ve never been afraid of some risk.

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Sounds like something worth joining. Can I join? 🙃

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