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Bootstrapping with $120k Credit Card Debt to $7m Revenue: Scott Skinger, CEO of TrainSignal (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Mar 15th 2013

Sramana: How long did you continue in your certification teaching job?

Scott Skinger: I worked at Computer Learning Center until it went out of business in 2001. I was still working as a network administrator. I moved on to work at an independent school as a technical instructor. I started working with more diverse curriculum, teaching topics like Linux, CompTIA A+ Certification, and Microsoft material. The one thing I found in all of my teaching positions is that there was a lack of care for the student.

There was more focus on revenue and profits versus a good quality education. I understand the entrepreneurial focus requires a good deal of time placed on revenue, but it was as the expense of the student. I often ran into problems with inadequate computer equipment. A lot of times, I would be trying to teach, and the computer the students had did not have the minimum hardware requirements to install Windows server on. There were also many cases where I felt that the curriculum supplied was not very well thought-out. Overall, I was rather disappointed with the education that was provided by these technical schools.

Sramana: When you came to that conclusion, what did you do with that observation?

Scott Skinger: In late 2001, I started experimenting a lot in the classroom. I brought in my own computer equipment and I started writing my own curriculum. I was using stories and scenarios using fictitious companies. It provided a lot more context for students, and I had a lot of success with this. After several success stories, I decided to experiment with development of my own curricula. In early 2002, I started developing my own lab books and formed the company TrainSignal. In 2002, I went off on my own and rented a small 10 foot by 10 foot office. I had no idea what I was doing. I funded myself using credit card debt. I had no formal business plan. I had a dream and a little bit of success.

Sramana: One of the issues we entrepreneurs deal with is validating if our ideas have merit. Can you talk about your limited success? What was that success that it gave you confidence?

Scott Skinger: My first success was based on the feedback that I received in the classroom, and that pre-dated TrainSignal. That success gave me enough confidence to launch a business of my own. I knew there was a better way of teaching people and that drove me to develop content and curriculum on my own. It motivated me to start selling curricula based on real-world practical skills rather than theoretical lessons whose only purpose was to help someone pass a certification test.

Sramana: Did you focus on specific computer skills?

Scott Skinger: Our focus is on IT professionals. We focus on people in server and network administrative training. I created courses that taught people how to set up and build a web server or a file server. I taught Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping with $120k Credit Card Debt to $7m Revenue: Scott Skinger, CEO of TrainSignal
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