By Ryan Delk
Where some people measure progress in answers-right per test or tests-passed per year, we are more interested in Sistine-Chapel-Ceilings per Lifetime.
— Alan Kay, A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages
Today, we're announcing Primer.
Our goal is simple: free the next generation of kids to be more ambitious, more creative, and think for themselves — starting with homeschoolers.
Thriving in a complex world requires creativity and original thinking, but our education system is designed for mass production — not unlocking imagination and individuality. We won’t be able to solve 2050s challenges with an educational supply chain built for the 1950s.
Kids are remarkable, and our current system is underestimating them. We need a new system. One where we value what kids learn both outside and inside the classroom. Where they learn how to solve real problems, not pass tests. Where they learn how to think, not what to think.
If we’re going to push humanity forward, we need to recognize and serve the 'weirdos' (by society's standards) — kids that blaze their own trails, follow their passions, and think differently. We need more kids pursuing new, non-standard paths. For many families, homeschooling is all of this and more; but it’s still far too hard to get started and thrive as a new homeschooling family.
Maksim and I were both fortunate to have non-traditional educations. I was homeschooled from Kindergarten through 8th grade, and my parents had a single goal: for their kids to love learning. We studied the American Revolution by driving to historic locations in the original 13 colonies and crawled through cardboard tubes to learn how the digestive system works. My parents always opted for real-world experiences over textbooks. My mom was a former public school teacher, and even for her, it required thousands of hours of research, pedagogical skills, free time, and community building over many years to create this homeschooling experience.
Maksim's high school principal saw his passion for physics and encouraged him to participate in science Olympiads by allowing him to skip other classes to study physics full-time. Over the next three years, Maksim won multiple medals for Kyrgyzstan at the International Physics Olympiads. Because his principal saw a unique ability, was willing to think outside the box, and empowered Maksim to pursue world-class mastery of a subject while still in high school, his education transformed into an experience he loved.
Every kid deserves access to learning environments like the ones we experienced and those we have yet to dream up, but these opportunities aren’t evenly distributed. Homeschooling can be a powerful vehicle for unlocking these environments, but it requires enormous effort from parents.
There are 2.4 million homeschoolers in the U.S., and in-home education has grown consistently for three decades — despite the challenges of getting started, navigating curriculums, and finding the right peer communities. This market is tragically underserved by technology, making homeschooling less accessible and forcing each family to reinvent the wheel. Collectively, we are not accumulating any of the insights families learn through their experience. This is the challenge we’re solving at Primer.
We’ve been hard at work on our first product since late 2019: a series of interest-based communities designed for students, with built-in homeschooling compliance for parents. Kids can join communities tied to their interests (think: Chess, Baking, Rockets, Physics), and collaborate on Primer-designed projects with other students. They’ll learn from other kids and experts — like learning about building rockets from a SpaceX Engineer. Parents will have peace of mind knowing they are compliant with local homeschooling regulations as Primer seamlessly navigates filing notices, guidance on documentation, and surfacing tax rebates and other benefits.
While not meant as a replacement for a traditional curriculum (yet!), we believe doing things is the best way to learn things. An investigation into the Maillard reaction is best launched in the pursuit of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, not a chapter in a chemistry textbook. Discovering that air pressure can beat gravity is best learned in trying to win a rocket building competition, not in a physics classroom. This is the learning experience we want for our children and the one we’re building for the world.
We’ll begin rolling out invites in August 2020, and you can join the waitlist here. Primer is designed for students of all ages (though students who can’t yet read will need to team up with a parent). Later next year, we’ll roll out several more products that deliver everything parents need to give their children an exceptional homeschooling experience.
We’re on a mission to build the education experience our kids deserve and deliver it to every kid. Offering an accessible, world-class education to millions of kids is one of the highest leverage things technology can do — and by doing so, we can empower future generations to bend the arc of history.
We’re a small team of five, working in a sunny office in the Mission District in San Francisco. We previously helped build companies like SpaceX, Square, Gumroad, Lyft, and Coinbase. We're working on Primer because we believe helping kids achieve their full potential will be the most important work of our lives. If this mission resonates with you, we’re looking for a few more great folks to join our founding team.
Lastly, we’re thankful to have the support of a fantastic group of investors. We’ve raised $3.7m, led by Keith Rabois at Founders Fund alongside: Lachy Groom, Naval Ravikant, Jed York, Cyan Bannister, John Danner, Jonathan Swanson, Linda Xie, Kevin Kwok, Jake Zeller, Eugene Wei, Julia DeWahl, Erik Torenberg, Village Global, JD Ross, Jack Altman, Dan Romero, Scott Belsky, Balaji Srinivasan, Emilie Choi, Fred Ehrsam, Harry Stebbings, David Perell, Tyler Willis, Patrick McKenzie, and more.
Thanks for reading a bit about our journey so far and where we’re headed. We'll share occasional updates and roll out invites based on priority on the email list, so if our vision resonates with you, that’s the best place to stay in touch.
Back to building!