Wonderful story of how Lawline CEO David Schnurman, an online education entrepreneur, worked through plateaus and scaled his business over the last 15 years.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?
David Schnurman: I’m from Brooklyn, New York, an area called Park Slope. It’s a beautiful area. I grew up there until I went to college in Washington DC where I met the love of my life, who’s here with me in Barcelona. We met in college and then I moved back to New York.
Eventually, she found me. She’s originally from Florida. Before you knew it, within ten years of being in New York City, Manhattan, we moved back four blocks away from where I grew up. That’s where we lived ever since until I moved to Barcelona last year. We have three kids. We have twins who are eleven years old and a six-year-old.
Sramana Mitra: Talk a little about your educational journey. What did you do and what is the path that you followed? Also, help me understand the timeline of when you are coming out of school and so forth so that I can put that in the context of what is happening in the broader industry.
David Schnurman: I graduated from college in 1999. That was at the height of the dot-com boom. When I graduated college I had this overconfident thing about myself that within three years, I’d have my own business and be making a million dollars and more in revenue.
That was the confidence that I had with no real background or experience to prove. I got a job at a company called 24/7 Media, which was a public online advertising business. They were bought by Google. It was a great transition from college life to what was a big party scene when there was money being thrown out everywhere in the dot-com space.
Three years later, I wasn’t making a million dollars. I had doubled my salary, but I started realizing that maybe this belief that I had in myself of being an entrepreneur was not real. I started to panic and I quit my job. I took another job, and then I quit that job too. I think it was a total of three sales jobs in a row. I kept trying to figure out what the right thing was for me.
It was now September 11, 2001. I lived in downtown Manhattan when the first World Trade Center was hit. I still went to work and I remember thinking that this was going to be a tragedy, but they are going to put the fires out and it’s going to be what it has always been.
I went back for a week, then I quit my job. I realized that I was not happy there. I knew that I needed to reset. I knew that I was living downtown where people’s photos were. Everybody was resetting their lives and I just needed to reset as well. I didn’t have a job, so I decided to become a real estate broker. I really enjoyed studying for the real estate exam and being a broker.
Just to give some background, my dad is an attorney. He is a personal injury attorney. He came from a single mother background with no money. He drove a taxi to get through law school. He also got a scholarship. Doing this helped him build a career and become financially stable. All he ever wanted me to do was to become a lawyer. It ended up being the last thing that I ever wanted to do.
Once I took this real estate exam, I made a decision that I can either be in sales for the rest of my life or choose a different profession. Maybe it’s not the entrepreneur path that I had aimed for, but at least it would be something that gives me focus. I went to law school in 2003.