Charles Lee is the Co-Founder of Coderschool (Iterative Winter 2021), a Vietnam-based edtech startup that is training and educating a whole generation of coders and data scientists through its courses.
What has been the most surprising thing for you about being a founder?
I would bet many startups had a big early opportunity, such as a huge B2B customer that had an initial meeting, that didn't come through in the end. I find it so surprising how much of an impact early customers and early rejections can have on the lifetime trajectory of the business.
As an example, in our early days, for some reason a bank agreed to meet with us. I would've done anything to get them as a customer. ANYTHING. But looking back, if we had somehow gotten that deal, everything would've changed. EVERYTHING. And I daresay, it would've changed into something I find less compelling than what we do today.
In the words of Nieztsche: "The "work" of the artist, of the philosopher, only invents him who has created it, is reputed to have created it; the "great men," as they are reverenced, are poor little fictions composed afterwards; in the world of historical values spurious coinage prevails."
What was the highlight of your Iterative experience?
When one of the my batchmates lent me $250 because I had no money, and then took me out to a delicious Filipino dinner, explaining the significance of each dish. Shoot, I haven't paid him back yet.
What is one thing that you would tell to your 10 year old self?
What's the craziest thing that has happened to you in your job?
This is not what you're expecting, I bet some founders will identify...the first employee joining felt so crazy to me. I've grown over time so it doesn't seem as batshit crazy to me, but I'm still touched whenever someone decides "yeah, I will indeed spend my waking hours caring about the same mission you care about".
Today I've gotten arrogant enough though that I feel like it's crazy when an employee leaves. Do you not know how close we are to changing the world?! Why would you want to do anything else?!
If you could be an animal, what would you be? Why?
I would be a zealous tiger, because to spend one year as a tiger is better than to live forever as a sheep.
What was your dream occupation growing up?
Grocery store cashier, because I thought they just kept all the money, which seemed like a pretty good deal.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I wish I could speak every language perfectly fluently. I think you could learn so much more than anyone else ever.