[quote]From my parents: it’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how hard you work.[/quote]
Aaron Harris was born and raised in New Jersey, went to Harvard for a degree in history and literature, spent 4 years in finance after college and then realized he really wanted to be building things to solve problems that impact real people.
What are you working on right now?
For the last year, I’ve been building Tutorspree, a marketplace for tutoring with my co-founders Josh Abrams and Ryan Bednar. We’re trying to solve a series of massive inefficiencies in a market that’s worth $100B worldwide. It’s a system in which students and parents are unhappy with the methods through which they find and work with tutors and in which tutors are unhappy with the ways they find new students. With all that unhappiness, we figure there is a lot that can and should be done.
Where did the idea for Tutorspree come from?
The experiences Josh and I had with tutoring. For instance, in high school, I really needed an SAT tutor. I found my best friend’s aunt. In college, people in my hometown would pay me $125 an hour to tutor algebra and geometry just because I had a Harvard degree. That simply doesn’t make sense and we knew we could fix it with Tutorspree.
What does your typical day look like?
My days are generally a mix of conversations with our product team and customer service (I like to maintain consistent contact with our users), building and monitoring marketing strategies and tactics with Josh and running daily operations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Pixie dust? The really great thing about technology in this day and age is that we’re essentially in an age where if you will it, it is no dream (to quote Herzl). There are really 2 ways that happens. The first is when an idea comes from a user. We take the feedback given and evaluate it against what else we know about that topic from other users. If it makes sense as a feature, we put it up for review within the team. Similarly, if one of us has an idea, we toss it around in a brainstorming meeting. Once we’ve decided what to build, we figure out when/with whom to build it based on available resources and the rest of our roadmap. We design wireframes, write out requirements, code it up and release it. Broadly speaking, that’s how everything we want to do actually gets built.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love the democratization of education being made possible by advances in technology. There have been a number of false starts, but incredibly bright people have begun to team up with the right partners to bring better education to more people. At Tutorspree, we help that process by making high quality tutors available to whomever needs them. At the other end of the spectrum, Stanford has started opening up really incredible courses to the public at large. Over time, I think what we’re seeing will become a fundamental shift in the way people learn for the better.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I spent a summer volunteering at my local hospital. The parts where I worked with patients was incredible, but the time I spent in the records room was not pleasant. On the one hand, I learned that I’m terrible at alphabetizing. On the other hand, I learned the core importance of accurate records, how critically important “boring” tasks can be and about how much benefit you can derive by streamlining those tasks and systemizing their execution.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would have spent those 4 years working in finance. I enjoyed a lot of those years and learned a ton, but I think I would have been better off having spent time at a technology company earlier on.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask for advice. I spend a whole lot of time identifying people who are smarter than I am and who know more about what I’m doing than I do and asking them for advice on how to be better. There are always things you have to learn on your own, but taking shortcuts with someone else’s expertise can have a huge impact on your company.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Plastics – still huge.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. It’s inspiring and humbling all at once.
What’s on your playlist?
If you weren’t working on Tutorspree, what would you be doing?
I really have no idea what I’d be doing if I wasn’t working on Tutorspree. Kinda hard to think about that possibility considering how invested I am in it.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
You mean other than me (@harris)?
- @timoreilly always has great stuff
- @garrytan has great insight on early stage tech
- @kn0thing (Alexis Ohanian) gives an awesomely wide view on the Internet as a whole
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Sunday. The Muppets movie. Many many many times.
Who is your hero?
Easy: my dad. He’s a pediatric hematologist and oncologist. I talk about making products that solve real problems for real people. He’s devoted his life to saving the lives of children.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
From my parents: it’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how hard you work.
What makes you happy?
I’m happiest when I know that what I’m making is actually working to help people. I want to solve actual problems and with Tutorspree, I’m convinced that I am doing that.