Timothy Young is a Waikato, New Zealand based owner of an online business, Education These Days, with big dreams to take it international. In 2009, after winning some prize money in a poker tournament, he used it to fly to Canada for a working holiday. While there, the avid snowboarder had a major accident that left him a tetraplegic, wheelchair bound and changed the course of his life. In the years that have followed his accident, Tim’s studied, gained a Master of Science degree in Psychology, bought a house, met his lovely girlfriend and started his own business. Tim talks to Livelihood about Education These Days, the power of technology and his plans for the future…
How do you make a living?
Timothy Young: I make enough money to live because I broke my neck nine years ago. Being a New Zealander, the government now provides me with an almost unconditional base income. However I want to contribute to New Zealand’s economy, not just take. My goal is to make enough money to thrive and grow the business so it’s competitive internationally.
What’s your background career wise?
TY: I have completed an MSc in Psychology with my thesis comparing online group learning to face to face group learning. I then completed a PGCert in Educational Psych. During the PGCert, I was involved with an international team trying to develop an app for kids in developing countries to teach themselves literacy. After that, I decided to start my own educational video game for kids who are already literate to teach themselves more about subjects that they are interested in. My current project is a cultivation of all of my studies and previous experience I have gained in the 10 years since high school.
You had a major life altering accident early in your 20’s (breaking his neck), how did that change the course of your developing career and life?
TY: In hindsight my snowboarding accident was probably a good thing for my education and career. It made me sit down, grow up and focus on my future. At the time of my accident, I was pretty keen to go winter to winter for a few years, being a bum but then those plans were scrapped. Having regular income from ACC meant I could focus on postgraduate studies and my long-term legacy. I think if other young adults had access to an unconditional basic income like I did, they could fulfill their potential too, thus helping the country reach its potential.
Technology and the internet must’ve made your life much easier in terms of maintaining a career?
TY: My accident also made me appreciate technology a lot more. Without touch screens and lots of recent software advances there is no way I would be productive enough to start a successful business.
You own a company called ‘Education These Days’, can you talk a little bit about that?
TY: My business focuses on developing fun and immersive video games that also happen to be educational. Education These Days' goal is to provide fun learning experiences to as many people as possible around the world. Making sure learning opportunities are fun, immersive, and visibly relevant to people's lives are crucial to maintaining motivation to continue learning; and video games are the best way to do that.
What have some of your career highlights been?
TY: Highlights so far include reaching my Kickstarter goal, achieving national headlines in the newspaper, reaching the front page of Reddit, but most importantly, developing a really awesome product that I'm confident will do well. My next goal is to complete the working prototype and start selling it to schools, which should happen in two months time.
Have there been any challenges along the way?
TY: Challenges are always present. Every day I have to learn how to complete the next task on the list. I haven't done any developing before so everything is new but I have a clear vision of the product in my head. Besides that, money is the biggest challenge. I would love to hire a programmer full time so I can focus on growing the business but right now I'm focusing on building the best product I can. I have enough to complete the game but it could always be better with more money.
What are some of your life and career goals for the future?
TY: My life and career goals are one in the same, to provide a good education to as many people as possible. I think that's the best way to improve the world in almost every way including reducing poverty, inequality and war.
If you could create a dream role/company for yourself, what would it be and why?
TY: Education These Days is my dream company, because it is fun, challenging and very rewarding. I would however like to leave the business operations to someone else and focus on game design and development as I enjoy that part of the job the most.
What are some of the websites, blogs, Apps that you use regularly and why do you like them?
TY: I use Reddit and YouTube every day because of the variety of content and sources. I think it's very important for everyone to get news and information from a wide range of publications to develop a well rounded worldview and to avoid having opinions that are polarising. You can use those websites and not broaden your worldview, but I make a conscious choice to listen to those I disagree with, with an open mind, and to those I agree with, with a critical mind.
Who are some other millennials you look up to and why?
TY: I'm in a wheelchair so I look up to most people! I aspire to be like anyone who puts others before themself, but not really any millennials in particular. Salman Khan from Khan Academy is my biggest education inspiration (along with Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia). Elon Musk and his companies (SpaceX and Tesla) are the most inspiring to me from a business and visionary perspective, but I think they're a little old to be millennials. Elon's companies are most inspiring because they are heavily focused on creating on a good product first and foremost, as opposed to relying on tricky advertising. The fact that he can achieve so many 'impossible' tasks is very heartening, and is confirmation that many tasks are only impossible if you allow them to be.
You’ve achieved a lot in your life, what gives you your drive and determination?
TY: A lot of my drive comes from the fear of not contributing enough to society to be remembered for a positive legacy when I die. I guess being confronted with your own mortality at a young age will do that to you. I see leaving a strong legacy as being the best way to be essentially immortal. I have always had a positive attitude and lots of determination even before my accident, but the urgency to leave a mark is new.
Thanks Tim! To find out more about Education These Days, see the website.