How Turning Down Obama Led to One Founder’s Success

Last week, we had our Appy Hour speaker series at Grind coworking space. We featured three founders who pitched their businesses to the audience before our special guest, Mike McGhee, the Co-Founder of The Starter League, took the stage.

After graduating from Northwestern University, Mike threw himself into his idea. He taught himself how to code and brainstormed with his co-founder how they could teach others. Meeting with VCs about the idea first seemed promising, but after months they still had not received a check to launch their coding school. Mike shared “VCs are rich people and rich people have time. When you are broke and trying to solve a problem, you don’t have time.” And broke, he was. Mike shared with the audience how at that time he only had $81 in his bank account and wondered how rent was getting paid.

Shortly after this, Mike received a phone call for a job offer. This wasn’t just any job offer… it was an offer from a top official within the Obama reelection campaign. Many do not know that Mike was heavily involved with Northwestern’s Student Government on campus. He was known for dedicating himself to making the campus a better place for all students, frequently meeting with administrators and students alike. This work led him to this offer to help reelect President Obama for his second term.

Mike was at a crossroads. He did not know if he should pursue his dream of starting this coding school or if he should go and help make history a second time and join Obama’s campaign team. Although Mike and his co-founder were broke and VCs weren’t sending them any checks, he took a risk, turned down the offer and started brainstorming. How can we start this school with no money? Mike fully took this challenge on, “entrepreneurship… is solving complex problems. When you are an entrepreneur, there are hundreds of problems you can solve.”

Mike and his co-founder created a plan and determined how much they needed to keep the lights on and get their idea off the ground. They set the tuition price for their school and started recruiting. They needed a few people to jump on board to make their dream a reality. Good news is they found those people and even more signed up then their original goal.

The Starter League taught thousands how to code and the team sold that venture and are on to the next thing now.

Mike’s Life Lesson: “It’s not just about getting a job. It’s really about loving to learn. Learning is our super power.” You’ve got to believe that you can.

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