College Education: Why we Need a New Signaling Mechanism

Old Synergasm Post

Originally published February 21, 2012

Where we’re at:

Take a look at any industry and you’ll notice that all products are on a spectrum that  separates luxury from commodities: Macs are luxury goods, PC’s are commodities. Ivy League schools are luxury goods; state schools are commodities. Craftsman tools are luxury goods. The Wal-Mart version are commodities. You get the picture…

Why is this important? Where they fall on this spectrum determines how much people are willing to pay for that product. This is largely due to how much society in general values the product as a signaling mechanism. Want to appear hip? In tune with the young crowd? Buy yourself a Mac! This works for a while; early adopters to a luxury good are often rewarded with the prestige that surrounds that product. Because others believe that you take on the same traits as the product you’re consuming, you’re willing to pay a bit more for the product…to credibly signal that you do indeed possess those traits. The iPhone was like that for a while, and it worked quite well…until everyone and their uncle bought an iPhone. Now the awkward two-finger typer who doesn’t know the difference between Notepad and a C prompt is just as likely to have an iPhone as the guy who jail-broke iOS 5. Alas such is the way most signaling stories end. Read More →

The Candy Man Earns 500% Profit

There’s a story that I’m fond of telling about my early experiences of being an entrepreneur. It’s filled with unfairness, flying under the radar, gumption, glee, and a sudden end to the golden times. Let’s begin!

My parents believed in a relatively small “salary” for completing chores around the house. So in exchange for doing things such as setting the table, vacuuming, and keeping my room clean, I received $2 per week in spending money. Contrast this to others in my 4th grade class who had parents that gave them $20 per week! I didn’t think this was fair, and so I set out to alter the balance more in my favor.

My mom shopped at three stores each week and purchased different staples at each depending on the coupons du jour (she was an extremely fiscally responsible women for which I admire her greatly). One of those three was our local family fare store and they stocked this wonderful candy known as Zotz Fizzy Candies. We just called them fizz candies. They were sold in individual packages but each package was loosely attached to 4 other pieces. Each individual piece was $0.02. After trying these a few times on my trips to get groceries with my mom, I hatched a plan and solicited my mom’s help: each week I would have her take my $2.00 to the store to purchase 20 “strings” of 100 individual pieces of fizz candy.

Read More →