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Stephen G. Shank: Capella Education Company

When Steve Shank was an undergraduate, he wanted to go to law school. But since he was awarded a fellowship, he used it to get a Masters in International Relations and Law. Then he was drafted and joined the military.

After his stint in the military, Shank got his degree from Harvard Law School. When he graduated, he and his wife had two kids, and he wanted to avoid the hassle of the East Coast (the final straw was when he had to stand in line at a grocery store at midnight) and moved back to the Midwest where he grew up.

He joined Dorsey & Whitney, one of the premier law firms in Minneapolis. But he found out that he was one of the oldest associates, so when he got the offer to become corporate counsel to a major toy manufacturer called Tonka Toys, he grabbed the opportunity.

This soon led to him becoming CEO of Tonka at the age of 34. After an ill-timed acquisition, Tonka was sold and Shank had time on his hands.

That is when he saw giant waves converge and came up with the concept of an online university for graduate education. This vision has now grown to a $260 million (sales) company with market valuation of about $1 billion.

This is how he did it.

This introduction is excerpted from Bootstrap to Billions: Proven Rules from Entrepreneurs who Built Great Companies from Scratch by Dr. Dileep Rao. Copying or reproduction in any format or medium without the prior express, written consent of the author is strictly prohibited.

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