Episode #43: Investing in Relationship with VC Danielle Strachman

Danielle Strachman is all about building relationships, taking big steps one foot at a time, and non-coercive independent learning. Today, she shares how she went from being a tutor to a Principal and Innovations Academy Founder at the early age of 28 to joining the Thiel Fellowship, founding the Thiel Summit Series and now her own Venture Fund 1517.

Lisa's Podcast Rec for this Episode was the Naked Truth Podcast which is all about West Coast Swing and she promised listeners a view into the dance. So, here's a very old one but a great one of Deborah Szekeley and Jason Colacino  and another with Eric Jacobsen with Yenni Setiowan.


[:28] In 2010 during the founding of the Thiel Fellowship, Danielle Strachman joined to lead the Design and Operations. Now, she is the visionary behind the Thiel Summit Series, and founder of the project-based Charter School, Innovations Academy in San Diego.

[2:14] Even from a young age, Danielle enjoyed assuming the role of a leadership position and found that having an actual reason to socialize was way easier than a chaotic, loose unknown social situation.

[7:56] Danielle finds the process of working on things and “shining them up” very gratifying. She loves the fixer-upper situations of life and working with others to polish them up to their fullest potential.

[10:10] Innovations Academy has been one of the most challenging endeavors of Danielle’s life so far but the most rewarding.

[17:28] Innovations Academy has a “no dumb homework” policy and encourages students and teachers to work together on creating an environment where almost any desire can be met, depending on the time and

space. In inquiry-based projects, the teachers and students work together to build curiosity, confidence, and intrinsic motivation. They prefer open communication (both verbal and non-verbal) rather than rewards and punishments.

[24:48] The Thiel Fellowship program started in 2010, through Peter Thiel’s (Co-Founder of PayPal and first investor in Facebook) Philanthropic Foundation. This was the first in-house program of it’s kind, and Peter went from developing the idea as “20 Under 20” on an airplane, to launching it in a speech the very next day.

[30:48] Danielle had moved from San Diego to the Bay Area when a friend connected her with the Thiel Fellowship. Here, she joined the infrastructure and worked from the ground up on developing the program.

[33:15] Danielle’s current venture fund, 1517, runs on the concept and belief system that extraordinary careers are possible outside of the typical track of classroom education. They support teams with grant, pre-seed, and seed funding for tech startups in an atypical way.

[40:31] 1517 marks a “turning point in history where great social transformations were wrought by technology.” The same as the idea of a requirement to pay to have a relationship with God and Church was disrupted, 1517 believes there are many different ways to be an educated person without having to pay for a piece of paper.

[46:44] Danielle and her other 1517 founders are extremely relationship-based, and always happy to kick around ideas and meet new people. The more overwhelmed you are, the more Danielle loves to break projects down step by step. She welcomes ideas and investors of all kinds, open to an amazing learning experience no matter what the outcome.


“I was not a traditionally good student, but always liked taking on leadership roles.”

“I wanted to rally people but always didn’t feel like I fit in.”

“I always feel better when I have a role in something.”

“If you see something that really resonates with you, reach out because you never know what the infrastructure looks like underneath.”

“It’s about seeing what is novel now, and can’t wait.”

“We saw a gap where young people weren’t being taken seriously by investors.”

“No one should be guarding knowledge and saying you have to pay a lot of money to be able to get into this echelon of people.”

“I’m very big on choice and non-coercion in general.”

“We think of things in terms of stage rather than age.”

“There’s a richness that comes over time with relationships.”

“One of my greatest beliefs is that human mindshare is one of our greatest resources.”

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