Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life


Would you choose Yale over a full-ride to a state school?

I recently tweeted this question out to my followers:

And I’ve been asking this question a lot to friends and fellow parents.

Assuming the world goes back to normal, a college education is still highly valued, and you’re in your current financial situation, how much is it worth to you for your child to have Yale (or any other top-tier school) on their resume?

Do you believe that the Yale brand is valuable enough to bypass a full-ride scholarship to a very good but not elite state university?

Twitter Responses

The responses were certainly varied. 

On one end of the spectrum, some people were completely against taking on debt. 

On the other end, some believed that the Yale brand sets up the student for long-term success.

Another respondent considered the quality of the student body:

And one person took into account the many options available in addition to just doing four years at one institution. 

Of course, the college selection process is very nuanced. There are many important factors to consider such as major, size of the student body, campus environment, and many others. 

As Karen Rands replied above, you can always attend community college or a state university then transfer to a more prestigious school later. 

There are certainly a lot of factors that aren’t accounted for in my question. But what I wanted to get feedback on was how much people valued the brand of a university. 

What is a University’s Brand Worth?

To many, the name brand of a university is extremely important because it reflects the quality of education, the student’s intelligence, and their ability to learn and succeed.

On one hand, your child having Yale on their resume is a stamp of approval that reflects extremely positively on your child. 

If a future hiring manager sees Yale on a resume, that candidate will always garner some consideration and likely will at least get a first interview. I don’t think that can be said for state schools ranked outside of the top 3 or 4. 

On the other hand, $300,000 is a hefty price to pay for that stamp.

And if your child got accepted to Yale, it’s likely that they’re smart and will be successful no matter what college they attend. 

Let’s take a look at some salary data from Payscale. Many of the Ivy League and other top-tier schools rank in the top 15 for early-career and mid-career salaries. 

Many state schools that I’ve posed in the question, such as University of Florida, Wisconsin, and others in that range, rank in the 200s. 

So it’s pretty clear that attending a top-tier school, generally, will increase your lifetime earnings by a significant amount. 

My Opinion

I would choose Yale over a full-ride to a state school for my daughter, Maya.

I believe that the Yale brand carries so much weight and will open many doors for Maya. And the experience of being around thousands of smart, ambitious students and having this network for life will absolutely help my daughter succeed.

Yes, $300,000 is a hefty price tag. But I think it would be worth it.

For the Twitter respondents who chose Yale, I asked a follow-up question:

If Maya got a full-ride scholarship to Berkeley (historically ranked #1), I’d definitely choose that over Yale.

I’d likely also go with UCLA, Michigan, and UVA.

When we get to the 5th-ranked schools (typically UNC and one of my alma maters, Georgia Tech), I’m not so sure.

I’m not knocking on state schools at all. Heck, I attended one (albeit for grad school), and it was a great experience. Many undergraduate state schools are just as good as some of the country’s elite universities at a much more reasonable price. And many exceed elite universities in certain factors, such as quality of specific majors, diversity of the student body, access to better sports events, and many more. 

I just believe that, all other things equal, graduating from an elite university brings many benefits that can open many doors and help one succeed in life. 

And that’s worth a good deal of money to me. 

The Importance of Brand, Generalized

More generalized, the question basically boils down to “How much does brand mean to you?”

The brands of the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the phone you use, and other products you own reflect you as a person. These brands provide signals about what you value and represent.

Personally, I am not all that concerned about the brands of my products. I just look for good products that work well and last. 

I wear clothes that I bought off Amazon, drive a Subaru Forester, and use an Android phone (which I do think is better than an iPhone, but that’s a debate for another day). 

But I do highly value education, especially if it helps my daughter succeed. Thus, brand in education is very important to me, and a brand like Yale is as good as you can get.


Not everyone agrees with me, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone values things differently. 

There are so many factors that goes into selecting a college, and it doesn’t just come down to brand. But I wanted to gauge the value that others put on a university’s brand.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Click this link to share this article and include your choice in the tweet. Or comment below.

Thanks for reading!

A look back to 2017 and forward to 2018

At the beginning of this year, I didn’t make any resolutions like “lose 5 pounds” or “work out 3 times a week.” Rather, I just vowed to be more focused, disciplined, and consistent in work and life.

Let’s see how I did, and what’s in store for 2018.

Looking back to 2017


For 2017, I pledged to be more focused on a macro level (doing fewer things better) and a micro level (focusing more on the task at hand).

I’d call this a minor win.

In 2016, I spent a lot of time working on my podcast, the Go and Grow Podcast. While I really enjoyed it and it helped build an audience, it wasn’t getting me closer to my goal of launching my startup. So I put it on hold, which gave me more time and mindshare to work on WinOptix. That was a win.

But I did and continue to spend a lot of time learning how to program in Python. Python is great for data science (which will help with WinOptix) as well as back-end and web development. While learning Python took away some time and focus away from WinOptix, I think it will help me become a better technical leader, which will certainly help the company and my career in the long run.

On a micro level, there were certainly times where I got distracted from the tasks I was working on. But overall, I was very consistent in using the Pomodoro Technique and turning off notifications on my phone to stay focused. (Just as I write this, my phone buzzed. Ugh.)


I vowed to be more disciplined with my schedule and diet and exercise regimen.

I’d also call this a minor win.

I made it a point to schedule my tasks in my Google Calendar the night before or morning of a work day. Specifically assigning a time to execute the task and setting its duration forces you to focus on that task and not allow it to expand. Super helpful.

Overall, I was relatively disciplined with my diet and exercise, if you leave out the last two weeks of holidays. 🙂  I worked out about 2-3 times a week, with a mixture of basketball, lifting, and push-ups and sit-ups at home. And overall, I think I ate pretty healthily over the year. Vicky and I did do the keto diet for a while, but my cholesterol spiked, so I had to stop. So I just went back to a balanced diet.


I’d call this a draw.

I was pretty consistent in working on WinOptix. I worked an additional 10-20 hours per week on nights and weekends to make as much progress as possible.

I mostly kept up with posting to this blog weekly, only missing weeks where I was traveling or on holidays.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I was as consistent with blogging for Thorn Technologies. Writing about very technical topics like cloud computing can be tough.

And I was just OK in staying consistent on social media and keeping up with personal and home improvements.

A draw sounds about right.

Looking forward to 2018

2018 is going to be a big year. Yeah, I know, I say that every year. But for real.

First of all, I’m turning 40! So I better figure out my life soon. 🙂

Next, there are a few things that I’d like to accomplish this coming year.

While I’ll continue to be more focused, disciplined, and consistent, there are a few specific goals that I’d like to achieve.

The first is to acquire at least 5 paying customers for WinOptix. We’re launching the product by the end of January, and hopefully we’ll get a ton of feedback from our initial users to make the product better to the point where they’d be willing to pay for it. Then we can really go out to the market and sell it.

Second, I’d like to complete at least 3 Python projects. I’m currently working on a Pomodoro timer and a program that takes data from CSV files, concatenates them, and runs reports on the data. So my goal is to complete those and add one more project to the mix.

Finally, I want to be a better dad and husband. While this isn’t as concrete as the other two goals, it’s still something to strive for. I think I’m doing a good job, but I can always get better.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2018?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

It’s all about the people

In any situation, it’s the people that matter.

At work, if you surround yourself with the best and brightest, you’ll learn from them and continue to get better. The best team always find the way to win.

If you surround yourself with high-caliber friends and family (though you can’t choose your family), you’ll grow as a person and have a great personal and social life.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I am amazed at the people I work with. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by really smart, driven, and well-rounded co-workers.

And I love my friends and family, and all of them are just as smart, driven, and well-rounded as my co-workers.

I’m very appreciative of everyone I interact with and owe a lot to all of them.

If you feel that you’re not getting enough out of your career or personal life, look around at the people you spend the most time with to see if a change is needed.

Because it really is all about the people.

What do you think about the people that surround you, and how do they affect you?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me@mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!



New experiment – 30 consecutive days of blogging

I’m going to blog for 30 straight days. Today, February 15, is day 1, and this is the first of 30 posts.

I’ve had this blog for a few years now but I’ve never been able to consistently create content.

There are plenty of reasons why, and here are some of them:

  • I’ve been busy with other projects.
  • I had a baby 9 months ago, and taking care of Maya requires a lot of time and energy.
  • There are times when I felt no one is reading what I write (which may be true), so I get discouraged.
  • (Insert any other reason here)

Actually, all of those are excuses, not reasons.

The real reason is that I’ve never dedicated myself enough to make blogging a habit.

With this experiment, I’m going to see if it can become a habit.

I recently listened to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where Seth Godin was the guest. Seth said that blogging was one of the best business decisions he has ever made, and that prompted me to start this experiment. You should definitely listen to that episode. It’s pretty amazing and really helpful.

What am I going to blog about for the next 30 days?


The posts are going to be about whatever is on my mind.

They may be about startups and my entrepreneurial journey.

Or my family and friends.

Or something random and interesting (to me) that I see that day.

These articles aren’t going to be fully though-out and researched pieces. Rather, this blog will be a journal or diary of sorts.

The posts probably won’t be the most grammatically correct, either. They probably won’t have any pretty pictures.

I don’t want perfection to get in the way of me just writing and publishing.

After 30 days, we’ll see where I stand and how I feel about blogging.

At best, I’ll continue to blog everyday.

At worst, I’ll develop a deep hatred for blogging and writing. I don’t expect that to happen, but it would suck if it did, because my livelihood depends on writing.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride with me. It should be fun. I hope.

Anyway, here goes! I’m hitting publish right now!

Reflecting on 2015, big changes coming in 2016


Another year flies by! It’s amazing how fast 2015 went and how quickly 2016 will be here.

Here are my thoughts on how I did with the resolutions I made in 2015.

And I’m not making resolutions for 2016!

Read on…

Recapping 2015

Here were my resolutions for 2015 and how I did:

1) Publicly launch ribl and gain over 100,000 users: ribl launched, but we didn’t get close to 100K users

We launched ribl publicly at SXSW in March, but we certainly did not gain over 100,000 users.

While we worked hard to launch our app, we couldn’t keep up with the fast pace necessary to maintain and grow a consumer mobile application.

We’re bootstrapping ribl, which means that we’re funding the company with our own money. Bootstrapping a startup is hard; it’s difficult to find a balance between working for paying clients and building a product that won’t bring in any revenue for the foreseeable future.

Because we had to spend a lot of time on consulting engagements, we didn’t quite get as far as we expected with ribl. Sucks.

Rating: 5 out of 10

2) Measure more: not bad

I made a resolution to be more analytical and more frequently look at the metrics of my clients’ websites, my blog, the ribl app, and any other property that I managed.

I did spend more time on analytics and learned some new measurement tools, but probably didn’t do as much as I could.

Rating: 6 out of 10

3) Avoid alcohol for two weeks every quarter: total fail

Jeez, I totally forgot about this one. Again.

Absolute fail.

Rating: 1 out of 10

4) Be a great dad: pretty good!

Baby Maya was born on May 14, 2015 and she is incredible!

It’s tough for me to truly judge how great of a dad I’ve been, but I think I’ve done a solid job so far.

Vicky and I have been working well together to balance our schedules to take care of Maya. We also have the help of Vicky’s mother and my Mom, which has been a godsend.

Maya is happy and healthy, and that’s all that really matters.

Rating: 8 out of 10

One more thing for 2015 – launch of my podcast

Another big thing that happened in 2015 is that I launched a podcast, the Go and Grow Podcast.

At the beginning of the year, I hadn’t ever listened to a podcast. But by October, I launched my own!

It’s been a great ride so far.

My podcast has reached #1 on a few iTunes New and Noteworthy categories.

More importantly, I just love speaking with entrepreneurs about how they’ve launched and grown their companies. I’ve learned so much and have been inspired by their stories.

Looking forward to 2016

To tell you the truth, I don’t feel like making any resolutions for 2016, and maybe ever again.

I just wind up forgetting about the resolutions I’ve made and then get depressed when I write this blog post at the end of each year.

Yeah, I know, it seems like a cop out. The better solution may be to actually remember the resolutions I’ve made and stick to them, right?

Instead, I’m just going to work hard, make progress every day, and balance my career and life as a whole.

I do want to highlight some major changes that are coming in 2016.

Career changes

As I stated in my recap of resolution #1, we didn’t even come close to progressing with ribl as we hoped. This was because we lacked the time and resources to focus on building and growing the app.

The ideal situation would be for me and my co-founders to dedicate 100% of our time on building ribl or whatever product we choose to develop. But life doesn’t work that way, as we all have families for which to provide, so we need income.

So I’ve decided to join my co-founders in growing their software development firm, Thorn Technologies, where I’ll be Chief Marketing Officer!

The structure that we’ve had the past couple of years wasn’t quite working.

I consulted for Thorn Technologies for a few hours per week to help market the firm and sell software development projects. And whenever we had some free time, we would work on ribl.

Thorn Tech would grow a little, ribl would grow a little, but we would still be strapped for resources and not get as far as we’d like on either.

Now I’ll be working full-time to grow Thorn Tech faster.

The hope is that by dedicating more time to growing Thorn Tech, we’ll have a larger portfolio of projects and more robust pipeline of potential clients. This in turn will put us in a better financial situation, allow us to hire more resources to both cover our client projects and help us build a product, whether that’s ribl as it exists, ribl in another form, or something in a completely different direction.

Will this new structure work? We think it will, but who knows.

It’s clear that what we had didn’t work, so we need to try something else. It wouldn’t make sense to keep going as-is and just hope that things will get better.

So we’re going to give this experiment a shot and see how much progress we can make on the product front.

I’ll still continue to grow my podcast on my free time, and maybe even launch a show for Thorn Tech!

Life changes

With the birth of Maya, our condo is getting pretty cramped. And with Maya growing so quickly, it will only continue to get more crowded.

So Vicky and I have been looking for a larger home that will accommodate our growing family.

We’re not sure where we’ll wind up, as we have to balance our love for the city, the quality of schools, availability of houses within our budget, and many more factors.

It’ll be a lot of work to find and transition to a new place. We’re not even sure if the move will happen in 2016 but it’s certainly a possibility.


2015 was a fun but up-and-down year.

The birth of Maya was certainly the highlight of 2015. Though it’s a tough job raising a child – many sleepless nights and lots of uncertainty – it has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever.

And while I’ve had early success with my podcast, I didn’t come close to achieving as much as I would have liked with the startup, which is my #1 career priority.

2016 is going to be full of change and excitement.

I can’t wait to see how much Maya develops, and look forward to the changes her growth brings to our lives.

I’m pumped about my new role at Thorn Tech, as I do believe it will help us progress in building a product.

And I’m excited to continue working on my podcast and growing my audience.

See you later, 2015, it was nice knowing you. Hello 2016, looking forward to finding out more about you!

What changes are coming your way and what will you focus on in 2016? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Guest Post for The Good Men Project – I’m a Husband, Father, and Entrepreneur, Thanks to My Wife

Good men project image

Check out my guest post on The Good Men Project titled “I’m a Husband, Father, and Entrepreneur, Thanks to My Wife.

I’ve been a husband for over three years, and a father to my beautiful baby girl Maya for just over six months. Of course, I couldn’t be a husband and father without Vicky.

I’ve also been an entrepreneur since July 2012. I owe that to Vicky as well.

Being a husband and a father were inevitable. Being an entrepreneur didn’t have to happen. But it did, and I couldn’t be an entrepreneur without the financial and emotional support from my wife.

Being a husband, father, and entrepreneur all at once takes a lot of sacrifice and compromise, and of course, not only on my part. Vicky arguably has sacrificed more than I have, and I owe everything to her.

Read our full story on The Good Men Project.

Photo courtesy of Junichi Ishito on Flickr

3 ways how raising a kid is like running a startup


ribl and mayaVicky and I welcomed our beautiful daughter to the world on May 14, 2015. At that time I recognized that I’m now the co-founder of two startups – ribl and baby Maya!

The more often I perform my fatherly duties, the more I realize that raising a child is very similar to running a startup. Here are the three major ways they’re alike.

There’s no playbook for this stuff

There is no shortage of books and internet articles about other founders’ experiences with startups and what they’ve learned. Entrepreneurs publish posts on their own blogs or write articles on sites like Medium and Quora that communicate what they’ve learned running their companies and things that worked and didn’t.

Similarly, there are plenty of websites like and where experts provide insight on how to raise your children and parents ask questions and tell their stories about their experiences rearing their kids.

In both worlds, there are some standard guidelines that you can follow but in the end, every situation is different. You need to experiment and try different things to determine the best decision for your particular circumstance. The issues that you’ll face running your startup are going to be different than the next entrepreneur’s, just like your child is going to be different than that of the family down the street. You can read all of the advice but just make sure you’re applying the correct information to your particular situation to make the best decision possible.

Both are absolute roller coasters

I’ve been an entrepreneur for about three years and it’s been a roller coaster of emotion, with a bunch of highs and just as many lows. I’ve only been a dad for a week and I’m already finding out about the peaks and valleys of parenthood.

I wrote on the ribl blog that startups are a slog, and running a company is full of little things that you have to do every day to keep moving forward. There are going to be days when you’re 100% sure that you’re doing the right thing and will absolutely succeed. And then there will be days where it seems like you’re climbing a never-ending mountain. The good days are great, but the bad days can be absolutely miserable.

Raising a child is also full of little things to do each day, and many can give you joy or ruin your mood. It’s a great feeling putting Maya to sleep; Vicky and I claim victory every time she’s napping in her crib. But her wailing during the wee hours of the morning is not the way we prefer to wake up, and we’re absolutely exhausted because of it. I’m sure as the days, weeks, and years go on, there will be plenty of good and bad to come.

The only way to deal with the roller coasters of emotion is to celebrate the highs, as small as some of them may be, and not get too down when the lows come around.

The right co-founders are really, really important

Running a company and raising a kid are both extremely difficult to do alone. And doing these with the wrong partner may be just as bad.

Paul Graham, the founder of top-tier startup accelerator Y Combinator, lists being a single co-founder as the #1 mistake that kills startups. He also says that you have to be really careful in selecting and working with the right co-founder. Startup co-founders need to be equally committed to the company and must work well together; the wrong partners can lead to your company’s demise. I’ve experienced this personally.

The same can be said for raising a kid. Rearing a child can be a really intense experience. It’s essentially another full time job and adds a completely foreign dimension to your life. You and your spouse or partner need to be on the same page and work really well together in order to raise a healthy and well-rounded child and not lose your minds doing it.

I’m lucky to have amazing co-founders in both of my startups.


I’m quickly learning how similar being an entrepreneur and a father are. Both entail processing a lot of advice and applying it to my specific situation, dealing with ups and downs everyday, and working together with my partners to achieve the best outcome.

Both of my startups are going to be long journeys on winding roads, but I’m going to enjoy the rides.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If so, please share it and connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Reflecting on 2014, Resolutions for 2015


Happy New Year!

Damn, that was quick! Another year comes to an end, so it’s about that time to look back at my 2014 resolutions to see how I did, and create new ones for 2015.

2014 Resolutions – How I Fared

I made four resolutions at the beginning of the year that pertained to work, health and family. Here’s how I did.

1) Seriously get my startup going: It’s going!

We’ve been working hard on ribl over the last couple of months. We alpha-tested the first version of the app and continue to make improvements, and the second version should be ready for testing in two weeks. (If you’d like to sign up for email updates and help us test ribl, please click here and enter your email address. Thanks!) I’ve been prepping our marketing plan and building out our promotional assets. Things are moving.

2) Drop five pounds: Pounds dropped!

I trained pretty hard for the Philly half marathon and Super Spartan in September. Combine that with eating well, I lost about seven pounds and felt great. I’ve gained some of that over the holidays, but that was to be expected.

3) Avoid alcohol for two weeks every quarter: Fail!

Dammit! I completed this for the first three quarters of the year but completely forgot about it for the last three months. I’m really disappointed in myself because these two-week “cleanses” weren’t too tough to accomplish, and they actually felt pretty good. I just totally forgot to follow through. My bad.

4) Start a family: Mission accomplished!

Here’s proof:

Ultrasound 20Oct2014

 Resolutions for 2015

Here are my resolutions for 2015:

1) Publicly launch ribl and gain over 100,000 users

We’ve applied to the SXSW Interactive Accelerator and if we’re accepted, we’ll publicly launch at SXSW in March. If we don’t get accepted, we’ll likely launch around the same time or even earlier. Regardless, we’re extremely excited to get ribl out there.

That 100,000 number is completely arbitrary and probably a stretch, but what the hell – let’s go for it anyway. It’ll provide a goal to work towards and hopefully attain.

But who knows if the concept of ribl will even stay the same throughout the year. We’ll work hard to find product/market fit even if we have to deviate from the original idea. So while we obviously would love to attain this goal, we’re cognizant of the fact that things can change very quickly in the startup world and we’ll adapt to make it work.

2) Measure more

In my past jobs as a corporate consultant and marketer at the Washington Capitals, I spent a ton of time poring through various data to extract insights for my clients and projects. While I still do a bit of data analysis, I don’t spend nearly enough time on it.

So whether I’m assessing performance for my clients’ websites, ribl, or this blog, I’m going to spend more time, likely in the range of 4-8 hours per week, to dig much deeper into the numbers and learn more about what I can do to improve my work.

3) Avoid alcohol for two weeks every quarter

Yeah, this one again. This time I won’t forget.

4) Be a great dad

Last but definitely not least. Vicky and I are expecting our baby girl in mid-May and I am going to be the best dad I can possibly be. It will be difficult to quantitatively measure my performance on this resolution, but Vicky can be the judge of how well I do. 🙂

What do you resolve to accomplish in 2015? I believe that writing your goals down, especially in a public forum, helps you stay accountable. So I’d love to hear about your New Year’s resolutions in the comments.

Here’s to a great 2015!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Philly Half Marathon ran, $4605 for American Cancer Society raised

2014 Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon

In July, I launched my fundraising campaign where I would run a half marathon and raise $1,500 for the American Cancer Society because I really, really, really hate cancer.

On Sunday, I completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon along with 22,000 fellow runners (that’s me in the front right of the picture – just kidding). I felt really good doing it, not only because the race wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, but because I was running for my father, uncle, best friend and everyone else who has been negatively impacted by cancer. And I was able to raise $4,605 $4,675 dollars from my awesome family and friends to donate to the ACS!

It feels really good to do my part, as small as it may be, and hopefully this disease will eventually be eradicated. I believe that donations are still being accepted, so if you’d like, you can donate here.

Thanks to everyone who donated to the cause and supported me!

Runnin’ Because I Hate Cancer – Please Donate!

I’m raising funds for the American Cancer Society and just launched my first fundraising campaign on Crowdwise called “Running Because I Hate Cancer.” I hope you’ll donate and join me in the fight against cancer.

I really, really, really hate cancer a lot. I lost my Dad to nasopharyngeal cancer and my uncle to bone cancer. My best friend’s mom passed away from esophageal cancer, my sister’s best friend’s mom died of lung cancer, and my former boss’s mom succumbed to breast cancer. And I know many others who have been negatively impacted by this stupid disease.

Now my aforementioned best friend, Mike, the same guy who lost his mother to cancer, has thyroid cancer. Enough already.

So I’m running the Philly Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon on September 21, 2014 to raise money for the American Cancer Society, and I’d love your help in raising $1,500 $3000 to accelerate cancer research.

Cancer is such a shitty disease that has negatively impacted too many lives. I’d like to do my part in helping to get rid of this disease and I hope you’ll join me. Please donate here – any amount will help immensely.

Thank you for your support.