By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Along the way to the traditional, buttoned-up college education he thought he would need in life, Isaac Budmen went rogue, you might say.

The third contestant in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) #140challenge, Budmen described how his co-founding of a technology company and his graduate schooling in information entrepreneurship were spurred by a shutdown of sorts. He had heard too many times already about so-called “evils of the Internet” when he was advised in a class one day that the Internet would never help him land a job.

Isaac, being Isaac, couldn’t resist some pushback.  So he tweeted about it under the hashtag, “#IGOTMYJOBONTHEINTERNET.” 

The Twitter discussion caught on across the Syracuse University campus. Soon, it was picked up in Western New York, in Albany, and quickly went statewide. Then, “it got a lot bigger very quickly, and we were part of a nationwide discussion around the hashtag,” Isaac recalled.

The results reaffirmed his beliefs about the power of real-time communication. Next, Isaac and his tech friends created a tweet-played social game, #DrinkUp. That effort took a similar trajectory, gaining 20,000+ unique visits within 48 hours. It became popular around the world, with people from 77 countries participating. Aside from creative enjoyment, those experiences taught Isaac “real-time disruptive technologies put us in amazing contact with each other, allowing us to go after goals and assess goals together – that’s authentic learning,” he said.   “Without it, we wouldn’t have the potential to engage with influencers, become a small part of a huge intellectual marketplace, and share an experience you can’t get in the classroom. It’s like sharing your thoughts and discussions with every seat in the [SU] Dome in real time,” Isaac illustrated. 

Another rebuff proved just as rewarding, in the end. When Isaac tried to meet his tech idol, Foursquare founder and SU Alum Dennis Crowley, via conventional business protocol, he was discouraged from doing so by some of Crowley’s staff.  Again, Isaac again took matters into his own thumbs. He tweeted Crowley directly.  The strategy worked. Isaac’s group met Crowley for coffee and a discussion that inspired their future course. “The biggest lesson we took from Dennis was to build. Build for yourself, build often, build, build, build,” Isaac recalled. 

Today, Little Tinker Co. is building both physical hardware and code, growing a company founded on the principles of “great ideas, great people and great products.” While Isaac enjoys creating hardware, he thinks building code is just as critical to success. “Code is one of the greatest features that’s so often overlooked. Reliability, constant functionality– it is the biggest feature software can have.” 

For now, Isaac is completing his undergraduate program at the Maxwell School, taking iSchool graduate courses, and is enrolled in the iSchool’s graduate Entrepreneurship in Information Technology program on a scholarship. He is enjoying a pathway that seems attuned to someone “who has loved gadgets and Tinkertoys since I was a little kid,” he says. 

The future includes hopes of moving Little Tinker Co. to San Francisco’s tech hotbed someday. “I’m not saying we’ll be the next Apple or Microsoft, but we have a really big vision for bringing people technology that allows them to learn and engage in ways that they haven’t thought about. We want to revolutionize the way people think about technology,” Isaac explained. “We’ll start small and work our way up. Someday, we’ll come back and look at that silly game we made,” he added, reminding his audience of the wise advice he took to heart: “Don’t let education get in the way of your learning.”

Isaac Budmen is one of five students vying in the #140challenge to win a presenter’s spot at the noted #140Conf NYC. Two more presentations will take place on two Fridays in March, from noon to 1:00 p.m. at the School of Information Studies iCafe:

March 23: Gabriel Mugar
doctoral graduate student at the iSchool
@gmugar; and on the web at:

March 30: Alyssa Henry
graduate student at the iSchool (’12)
@AlyssaHenry; and on the web at: