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Sarah Hanson Auctions Off Her Future Earnings to Get Seed Funding

Ross Kenneth Urken

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Sarah Hanson, 19, has offered 10% of her income for the next 10 years to the highest bidder, an anonymous investor in the San Francisco area who wagered $125,000. Hanson, who dropped out of college this year as a freshman, plans to use the money to pay down her student debt and advance Senior Living Map, a website she started to help seniors find assisted living facilities. We spoke with Hanson today to delve deeperinto her motivations:

Do you view college as having a poor ROI? If so, is your view informed by all massive student loan debt in the country?

Hanson: That depends. I think for certain people it's a necessity. For example, I wouldn't want a doctor who taught himself how to be a doctor but if it comes to a designer or programmer then it doesn't really matter how they learned their skills, whether that be through a formal college program or through their own efforts. All that matters is the work they can produce.

I'm lucky in that I know what I want to do. I don't think most do, and they spend four years taking on debt trying to figure that out and still don't know when they graduate. My older sister has friends who have a college degree and no idea what they want to do with their lives. They're nannies and work in coffee shops and have a ton of debt from college.

I have no idea how you get people to discover at a younger age what they want to do, but if that was possible, people could make better decisions on what path to follow to get to where they want to go. For some, that would probably mean college--others it wouldn't.

Do you think people your age see the Zuckerbergs out there and acquire a hankering for Silicon Valley glory, in lieu of an unnecessary liberal arts education?

Hanson:I think you have people who see the fame and money of the Zukerbergs and want to chase that for sure, and I don't think those people will be successful.

The people I've met like that are more interested in what comes along with building something big vs. what they're actually building.

Money isn't Mark Zukerberg's motivation. He had a number of chances to sell Facebook for insane amounts of money, but he didn't. He cares about what he's creating more then anything.

I think that's an important factor in what separates those who are successful from those who aren't.

You’re auctioning off 10% of your future income for 10 years: why did you decide to go this route instead of more traditionally gathering money from investors? And do you have little faith in the JOBS Act and microlending sites?

Hanson: If by traditional path you mean having an investor invest directly into Senior Living Map for a percentage of ownership then I'd say I don't think a conventional path was even an option for me. To me the only realistic path was to try something unconventional.

When you want something bad enough and typical paths aren't an option, you have to be creative.

You blindly emailed 1,000 investors on angel.co. Do you think it’s easier for budding entrepreneurs to access seed money than ten years ago? Or do you think that easy access creates too much of a flood in the shark tank?

Hanson: It's really hard to say since I was nine ten years ago :)

I'm not sure if it's easier for entrepreneurs to raise money but I think the cost has fallen significantly and only continues to fall, so what it would cost 10 years ago to do something, maybe is 1/10th of that today.

Ten years ago Amazon web services didn't exist. Now all it takes is an idea and some coding skills to get a website launched, and if it's a hit, you can easily scale it by leveraging Amazon's infrastructure.

Who knows how much further the cost of launching a tech startup will drop, but the farther it drops, the more startups will be created.

Recently on MainStreet, we interviewed the founder of Aidin, a medical technology company that tries to reduce readmissions rates to hospitals. Would you consider monetizing on a subscription plan from health care facilities as Aidin does?

Hanson: I'm not sure. At this point Senior Living Map is still in an early stage, and I'm trying to figure out what the best experience for users will be. That's my number one priority. I want it to be the best resource online for finding senior living options.

Once I get closer to that point, I'll have to see what fits best with how the site operates. I want whatever the business model is to fit in seamlessly with the site. I don't want it to take away from the user experience.

So we'll have to see. Time will tell what the business model turns out to be.

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