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How A Kid From Jamaica Grew Up To Start An Ed Tech Company

Courtney Williams


This article also appeared September 18, 2016 on

Hello and welcome! I am honored that Forbes has invited me to contribute to their blog on entrepreneurship. Back in early 2011, I decided it was time to take the plunge and do my part to change the world. I started an ed-tech company called Torsh (Today’s One Room School House) and our mission was (and still is) to create better students, one great teacher at a time. We produce a video-based online community and data platform that facilitates teacher observation, feedback and coaching. At Torsh we fervently believe that we need a lot more great teachers to dramatically improve the educational outcomes of the millions of children born into poverty and unfortunate circumstances.  This simple premise drives me and drives what we do at Torsh.

When Forbes approached me with this opportunity, I asked my team for their thoughts on the idea. After some blank looks and minimal eye contact, one brave soul spoke up. “Oh I get it. They want you to blog so other people can learn from everything you did wrong…right?”

What a wise (former) employee. (Just kidding. She still works here.) But she’s right. Regardless of industry, when you start a company, you will make mistakes. Lots of them. I know I did, and still do to this day. And that’s ok – it’s a requisite part of the entrepreneurial journey.  Hopefully by reading this blog, your mistakes will be fewer and farther between, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. At the very least, you will certainly know that you are not alone, and that may provide some comfort.

I’ve been asked to provide a brief introduction, so here goes. I was born in Jamaica but raised in Brooklyn. My high school was consistently ranked among the worst high schools in the city. Strict parents, determined teachers, and hard work on my part earned me a solid education.

I went on to study at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, where I majored in (of all things), politics. I also played football. Realizing my future did not lie in the NFL or in the oval office, I enrolled in Columbia Law School.

My first job after graduation was in (you guessed it), a law firm. This taught me something important about myself: You can’t pay me enough to do a job I don’t enjoy. So two years later, I left and joined AOL, which back in the late 90s was actually a cutting edge tech company and arguably as dominant as Google is today. (Remember those CD-ROMs?)  I spent five years at AOL in a number of roles, finishing up as a VP of Business Development at AOL Europe, based in London.

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