Celebrating 10 years of collaborations, challenges and impact against the Digital Divide.
WOW, time flies. What a journey so far! We've learned so much in 10 years, especially that enduring problems like the Digital Divide require enduring solutions and partnerships. We celebrate the end of a year by looking back at an entire decade. A huge thank you goes out to our amazing team & partners!
What still keeps you motivated around our mission, 10 years later in 2022?
When I think about the stories, the faces, the people that I met along the way, those memories still hold me. That fire, that ember, even through two years of COVID not being able to do that with the same vigor that I did. It is still so clear the need. That need is still there, still accounted in billions of people. It is a decade later and still not solved. Until every kid has access to what we are bringing them, we gotta fight for it.
Another thing that gives me motivation, is that I keep seeing another path, I keep seeing another way forward. As I think about my children, and what I would want for them, the world I want them to grow up in, it’s a world where EVERYBODY has opportunity. I believe that the world is being defined now, at this moment in history.
The three most important things I think are: Teach kids the skills of coding, and 21st century skills that will help give them jobs in the future. Make sure that even if they don’t have internet, they can still have that. Thirdly, get them the device, so that they can have all of the other things. If you can achieve those three things for one kid, you can change that kid's life… Watch video version here.
How would you describe the purpose of Endless across the years?
It all boils down to one goal, which is I want every kid in the world to be a creator. If you take all 10 years, and every insight we have had, it all boils down to that one thing. How do we make every kid a creator? Insight number one, was to use the smartphone processor and supply chain to bring down the price of a computer so that more people could have it. While doing that, we discovered that internet connectivity was an issue, and that wasn’t going to solve itself for half the planet anytime soon.
I still remember to this day, someone in rural Guatemala gave me a DVD and said make sure you install this on all of your computers. I asked what is it? He says “It’s Wikipedia.” That was the moment, AHA! Holy cow, you can use storage to make sure you’re putting inside everything you need for people who live beyond the internet, and the moment they connect to the internet, refresh it. That is life-changing!
Marsha did not have internet access because she couldn’t afford an internet cafe, so she dropped out of school. She then got an Endless Computer, full of all the content. She went back to school and graduated Valedictorian. WOW the difference that makes!
The second big insight was that we realized that financing was more important than the cost of the device. The challenge, very clearly, was that no one would give loans to these people. We took the answer from the solar industry in Africa, you basically pay, then it turns on and activates.
Insight number three, was the insight that a game could teach a kid in a really engaging way. Seeing all these kids in Guatemala playing math games and loving them helped us learn that games can teach. Our very own engineering team learned to code by playing and hacking games as kids.
My mission is to teach every kid the skills that will allow them to have a bright and beautiful future that involves both a job and also something there passionate about.
Today, when I look back at a decade of Endless, I say what do we do now? My mission is to teach every kid the skills that will allow them to have a bright and beautiful future that involves both a job and also something they're passionate about. When I say every kid, I don’t mean every kid of privilege, I mean every kid. That requires us to solve the two problems of internet connectivity and device access, so that every kid can actually have it. If we can succeed at those things, we will have changed a lot of lives. Watch video version here.
You once said addressing the digital divide is too real and urgent not to happen. Does this still hold true? Why?
Computers are still too expensive in upfront cash. Internet connectivity is still too expensive for carriers to build to every corner of the earth. Video games aren’t teaching; the industry doesn’t believe you can win discretionary time from teenagers which is when they really learn. The outcome of those three things is that half the planet still does not have internet access. More than half the planet still doesn’t have computers. The best education games are 20 years old. The outcome of that, is that kids don’t know how to code, and are not being prepared for their digital future.
The problems we are trying to solve have gotten better. Billions of people have gotten internet connectivity and smart phones since we started. But the big players that define the answers, whether it’s Google, a carrier, or a bank, aren’t making money by solving these problems so they are not solving it. When you look at shifting a generation forward, you have to solve these problems.
It’s up to someone small like us to show up with other solutions that just might be able to solve those big problems.
So it’s up to someone small like us to show up with other solutions that just might be able to solve those big problems. Watch video version here.
You have said that “Magic happens when you travel, go into the field and connect with people”. Over the 10 years, who are the users that Endless has most deeply connected with?
In the Endless DNA we have this concept where we have always said that “Magic happens when you travel”. When you go into the field and you see what is happening, and you're struggling with a question, you will get your answers within moments, and you get it in such a humanized way. It all boiled down to one question, do people want [these solutions]? And there was no way for me to answer that question sitting in Silicon valley.
It was so consistent and it was so clear to everybody I spoke to, that this is a need.
I traveled through six different countries and eighteen different cities in the first three months to try and understand the problem. It was so consistent and it was so clear to everybody I spoke to, that this is a need. The spark in their eyes, the way that they lit up when I spoke about getting them and the kids in their country access to knowledge, education, and technology. This was the fuel for me to sacrifice everything, and follow this. Magic happens when you travel! Watch video version here.
You have addressed the "offline internet" for 10 years. What has changed, what is the same?
The internet actually has an end. If you live beyond the wires, and beyond the signal, that’s the end of the internet. What we are focusing on is how you make it live beyond that end. The answer is: put it into your computer, so the very last server of the whole system actually lives inside of your computer.
What has changed since we started, is that billions of people have gotten access to it. It is amazing, it is one of the greatest revolutions in history.What hasn’t [changed] is that billions still don’t have it.
We realized how hard it is for us to solve it in the way we were solving it. We were trying to build an Operating System that could solve all problems inside of that one Operating System. Every kid that gets that system has everything top to bottom solved in that one place. What we have realized is that it is far more powerful if you take the valuable things out of the operating system, and you make them available to anyone anywhere despite the platform. If you can do that, things can grow exponentially at zero marginal cost. So when you ask me what gives me hope for our future, what is the path that we have to try, it is just obvious. That is the bottleneck we have had for years.
We had to shift our business model from a for profit organization that was monetizing the ecosystem around the operating system to a nonprofit where we don’t care about the monetization, we care about the impact. It took a lot in terms of mind shifts, business model shifts, and team shifts for us to be able to make that transition. But now we have.
What are some of the values or characteristics that you see in the Endless team, and our partners? Why are these meaningful to you?
The team we have is so full of amazing people. People that care, who are committed, who are fighting for this thing through all the twists and turns, who have held on because they care about the mission. They are here for a thing that is bigger than themselves. The team is wildly competent.
I remember this team member we were trying to hire. We brought him to this company retreat to meet everybody, and at some point in the retreat he turns to me and says “I feel like everyone is a superhero, like when I get to know them they have their own superpower, every one of them”. That is how I feel about the talent and the competency, and that every one of them is just a good human being. If you have those two things, with commitment, you can make some really amazing things happen. This team has fought so hard, the people who are not with us that fought for us years ago and the people that are with us. The loyalty that they have given, gives an urgency to what we are doing, a need to make it work.
I feel like everyone is a superhero, like when I get to know them they have their own superpower, everyone of them.
We have been so lucky with the team we have. Watch the video version here.
Describe Endless in one word, and why you chose that word? Why?
Empowerment. Our goal is to make every kid in the world live an empowered life. I think that ultimately comes down to every kid in the world being a creator. If you are a creator, you can have a job and actualize your dreams. You’re empowered. If you solve internet and device access, it means every kid can have that.
Endless wants every child in the world to have the ability to shape their own future. What future would you like to see for your children and all kids around the world?
When I had kids, I had a series of realizations. What I am doing has the potential to shape the world they grow up in. The world they grow up in has the potential to be a tough world, the arches of civilization go up and down. I believe that in a world where you lift up the bottom, is a more stable, happy, and beautiful world.
Congrats on 10 years Matt! Is there anything you would like to say to the Endless team (past and new) and all Endless Partners and Collaborators at this 10th anniversary?
It’s been 10 years, I still can’t believe we are here. Every dream I just described doesn’t happen without you being here. So thank you. Thank you for everything you have done to get us here, and thank you for everything you are about to do to get us to where we want to be. Without you it’s not possible! Watch the video version here.
Matt is the founder of Endless—an organization fighting for a world in which every kid is a creator. Matt was honored as one of Oprah Winfrey’s “People Changing the Lives of Children Around the World”, was one of Teen People’s “20 Teens Who Will Change the World”, and is the youngest recipient of the Fulbright Award for furthering peace and international understanding. Matt is an adoring alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.