Working from home while the weather is so beautiful (the weather’s been amazing the past few days here in London — feels like God is taunting the British population) has reminded me of that one summer when I was 15 or 16.
Dante and I had started our company Scholica a few weeks prior, and we had just signed a contract with our high school’s board to start providing them with our E-learning platform sometime towards the end of autumn. We had been working on it for a few months by that time, and it was finally starting to take shape.
About a week or so before summer break, we had a meeting with the headmaster, in which he explained that they had ended their contract with the company that had previously been providing them with those online learning tools, and he asked us if it was possible to start using our system right at the start of the new school year. We obviously said yes straight away, because we couldn’t wait for our classmates and teachers to start using our tools.
That meant we had to not just finish our system sooner than we were planning to, but it also meant that we had to create teacher’s manuals and documentation for the school’s staff before the end of that 6-week break.
It also meant that we got to send the school an invoice for a full year of usage of our platform for its 1500+ students and faculty members. Up to that point the only money either of us had ever earned ourselves was from some freelance work (and I think Dante was working at the local chip shop around that time), so it was an unbelievably big deal to both of us to send a 5-digit invoice, and an even bigger deal when that money arrived in our company’s bank account a few weeks later.
During those 6 weeks, Dante and I were in contact every single day, and since didn’t know about Slack back then, our main means of communication was Facebook Messenger. Both of us would spend many late nights hammering away at designs and code, discussing what features to prioritise and how to make the user interface as intuitive as possible. What started as a fun side project by two friends was slowly turning into a real product and a real company, and it was super exciting to be working on something that all of our school friends would be using soon.
We didn’t have an office yet, so we spent most of the time working from our bedrooms, or Dante’s living room, or sometimes from a cafe in the city centre. I remember being in Italy with my family for a week, and being that boring kid that sat next to the pool, typing away on his laptop. At the end of the summer, during the last week before the start of the new school year, we showed off our finished system to the school board, and nervously sent out invitations for the new platform to the all the students and staff.
That summer was the catalyst for so many things to come.
During the next year we would be asked to give a TED talk, we appeared on national TV, and traveled through much of The Netherlands to sell our product to other schools (but barely ever did — turns out that 16-year-olds generally don’t make the best sales people).
Moreover, the platform that we built for Scholica became the foundation for many other things we’ve built since then, like Street Art Cities and the very first prototype of NearSt. Some of lines of code written by 16-year-old me can still be found in Hoy and Schoolwiki, communication tools that are now used by dozens of schools and thousands of students and parents.
That was one hell of a summer.