Success Stories

Ryan Ovas

Toronto, Ontario

Ryan chose learning online over a college degree & started his own business

After Ryan Ovas found himself surpassing his peers while studying web design at college, he turned to learning online to further his skills. Finding that he was learning more outside the classroom than in it, Ryan chose to drop out of college and pursue his growing passion for the web industry and startup community. A few months later, with the knowledge and skills he’s since learned, Ryan and co-founder James have successfully launched their own website Sproutr, a resource for student entrepreneurs.

When I first started college a few years ago I thought I wanted to get into photography. I took a course that promised a degree and plenty of hands on experience, and after the first year I realized it wasn’t for me. I had always been interested in tech: I was the kid who liked to take all the broken computers and take them apart to look inside. After doing some research I decided to try out web design since everyone needs a website nowadays. So I applied to the Web Design and Interactive Media program at Humber College here in Toronto and only a few weeks in I was loving it.

After the first semester I began to notice that I was constantly going way too far with my projects and getting into code that wasn’t being taught in my classes. After almost every class I stayed behind to try and get my teachers to help me with code that I had gotten stuck on because it was way out of my league. Eventually I began to spend more time teaching myself online with free resources than I did learning in class. Class became me showing up only to talk to the teachers afterwards about my personal projects because I completed all of my school projects easily. So after first year ended I asked myself, if I am really only teaching myself online why am I paying big bucks for college? So I dropped out. This is when I signed up for Treehouse thinking, what’s $25/month compared to a couple grand/semester? Within the first few weeks I had learned more than I had in months of traditional education and could move at my own pace.. and I was hooked.

The most important thing I gained from my brief education at Humber, was my introduction to the Startup Community here in Toronto. I met a friend named Alfred Junco and together we started a school club for student entrepreneurs called Hawk Nest (a play on Dragon’s Den based on our school mascot). We promised to put on events to connect other student entrepreneurs and met my current partner James Slifierz, who wanted to be a part of Hawk Nest as well. All throughout this time, Alfred and I had been attending a lot of events in Toronto to talk to real entrepreneurs who were actually working on real startups. We were inspired to try and bring Hawk Nest beyond Humber.

Within the first few weeks I had learned more than I had in months of traditional education and could move at my own pace.. and I was hooked.

Fast forward a few months after school ended. Alfred had left to work on another startup that was becoming very successful, and James and I started building a website for student entrepreneurs using everything I had been teaching myself on Treehouse. When we were close to launching we starting looking for feedback from the community and the general consensus was to open the community to everyone, and don’t compete with bird watching clubs on Google. So we rebranded, made major adjustments to the website and launched our website on March 1st 2014.

Using Treehouse, James and I have taught ourselves everything from PHP to Sass to basic UNIX terminal commands. Using these skills we are able to keep our website updated and running smoothly while working 12 hours a day. I handle all the back end and James the front end. We hope to one day see our service become essentially the Stack Overflow for entrepreneurs. The entire website is based around discussions and collaboration and has already begun helping many people around the world, ourselves included, find solutions to problems they are having with bringing their idea to life. And we are only a month old. We are very excited to see how our community grows in time.

I just turned 20 in December 2013, and if I can use tools like Treehouse to start a business like Sproutr, anyone can. I think it’s just a matter of people learning resources like Treehouse, Stack Overflow, Sproutr and the like are out there, and I think in the future these sorts of services will far outweigh the value of traditional education. It’s thanks to Treehouse that Sproutr currently exists.

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