The Cap & Compass Story

Our first look at a hardcopy version of "life after school. explained." (2002)

Since Cap & Compass was founded in 2001, we’ve gratefully gained many loyal customers and readers due in large part to our humorous stories and life skills content. But we’ve never really had a forum to tell OUR story. So here goes…

The Early Days

After graduating from Duke in 1997 and a brief career on Wall Street, I came to realize that banking wasn’t my life’s calling. I needed to do my own thing.

I knew I wanted to start something with soul, something that could help people but also make a profit.

My early 20s were a study in mastering new situations on the fly – leaving college for life in “the city,” navigating the business culture of Wall Street, graduating from roommates to a wife.  My friends around me were going up the same, sometimes steep, learning curve.

I tossed around a number of ideas, but nothing stuck until the year 2000 when I asked my wife an innocent question over a slice of pizza during a boring airport layover.

“How about something about helping college grads, like Kaplan?” I asked.

My wife remembered a student group at Duke that tried to put on a ‘life 101’ seminar series, but they didn’t have the experience to pull it off.  She ticked off all of the life stuff she wished she’d learned at Duke (cars need oil), and I added my own (carpaccio isn’t pasta).

I can still remember scribbling notes on a sheet of paper over the next flight. And I actually kept the paper:

Notes from my flight (2000)

So I quit my potentially lucrative career in banking and told the in-laws, “Yes, I’ll support your daughter by giving funny seminars to college kids about 401(k)’s.”

I hired a stand-up comic/ex-school teacher, and together we began the long process of writing five seminars about “life after school.”

Seminar at Duke University (2001)

Presenting our material in front of a live audience of college seniors was a humbling experience. We had to be helpful, concise, and funny, or people would walk out with a smile and some free pizza.

But it was also the very best way to hone great content.

After a few months on the road, I turned the five 45-minute seminars into our popular book, “life after school. explained.

Present Day

I’ll talk more about the evolution of our products in a future blog post, but the sale of “life after school. explained.” really took off. We’ve sold over 500,000 copies to date. And we’re even more excited about the prospects of our new mobile app, “crib sheet.”

So that’s our story. I hope it’s helpful to give you a little bit of context of where we came from.

Subscribe to the Cap & Compass Blog by Email