Interview: Chip Paucek and 2U’s Launch

After the 2U IPO, Startup Grind Hosts Founder Chip Paucek

It’s been a big summer for the DC community with the arrival of the much anticipated 2U IPO. Startup Grind DC was lucky to host one of the company’s founders, Chip Paucek just after the IPO and hear his experience in taking a technology start-up from a few guys with an idea, to a publicly traded company.

Like many DCites, Chip arrived in DC as a student at George Washington University. Born and raised in South Florida, he was the first person in his family to go to college, and consequently supported himself through his undergrad. Of education he says, “GWU fundamentally changed my life in every way. I wouldn’t be here without [my education].”

Bleeding Entrepreneurship

His first entrepreneurial experience was at 12, selling comic books he earned working in a store to neighborhood kids. In 1993 he founded Cerebellum Corporation, an educational tv production company, which he ran in between doing political work. He went on to be the CEO of Hooked on Phonics, while founding and running the Sylvan Learning Center.

Surprisingly, he says of 2U, “Of all my entrepreneurial experiences, 2U is the only one that’s worked.” He remembers harder lessons with Cerebellum, where he had the unfortunate experience of laying off 80% of his workforce when the company wasn’t meeting valuation expectations on its 14 million dollars of venture capital. “It was like trying to get blood from a stone.”

Stay Focused, and Treasure Good Ideas

“I look back on my Standard Deviants (Cerebellum) and Hooked on Phonics experiences as real lessons in focus,” he said to the Startup Grind audience. “Entrepreneurs, you’re bred to constantly look for the new angle. Any bright shiny new object is super attractive to entreprenuers. You can easily convince yourself any idea is one you should pursue.”

While he humbly shares 2U’s success with two cofounders and the company’s 700 hardworking employees, he “will take credit for the company’s focus”. “We put the world’s best university programs online. Period. That is it. That is what we do.”

To entrepreneurs he says, “Once you find a business you have some traction in, treasure it. They are difficult, they are hard to find.”

2U, Inc. trades on the NASDAQ as TWOU. As of this writing it is trading at $15 a share, $2 over the estimated offering price. Startup Grind does not offer investment advice….just awesome entrepreneurs.

Content originally published in October 2014 for Startup Grind.

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