LAUNCHERS: Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski. Ryan graduated from Columbia in 2011 with a major in computer science. Zach is a rising senior at Columbia majoring in political science and has worked in biz dev at NY startups.
WHEN/WHERE: Aug. 18 / Silicon Valley. Zach tells LAUNCH they started the project only a week and half before launching.
WHY: Learning to code is hard. Not many effective, cheap resources out there. Books are not interactive. Plenty of people learn programming on their own (DIY-ers).
BACKSTORY: Zach and Ryan originally started building building simple sites, or landing pages, for small businesses this summer, but Zach says, "The biggest roadblock was my inability to code really well."
Zach says he tried to learn through reading books, watching videos and learning from the people around him. Although Ryan taught Zach the basics of HTML and CSS, Zach "could never find the right way to learn something."
CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: 200K users have completed 2.1M exercises to date [ hugely popular on Hacker News ]. Codecademy initially thought it would be good for business owners or kids at the beginning of the learning process but are already seeing that "it sort of can help the world." One Maryland parent tweeted to Zach that it works great for their 8-year-old kid, and a man working at a call center in India is using Codecademy to skill up for a new job.
ON MAKING THE PRODUCT INTERACTIVE: "We're focused on this interactive experience, which is what people have told us they like the most," Zach says. "We're really focused on getting you started right now. There's no video, minimal text and you're doing all the exercises."
ON LEARNING: "We really tried to think about what the best aspect of learning was," Zach says. "If you're looking to stay motivated for something, the best way is to work with friends." Eventually, "they'll be able to build their own apps at the end of certain lessons," Zach says.
BUSINESS MODEL: Undecided. "People are saying it's something they would pay for," Zach says. "I don't know if we need to worry about monetization. We've had lots of brands reach out to us to use it as a training tool. It's shown a lot of promise."
COMPETITION: CodeLesson [see our profile here]. Try Ruby. MongoDB.
WHAT A COMPETITOR SAYS: "My initial response to this was that it's cute and potentially useful for some, although certainly not new (MongoDB and others have been doing automated tutorials like this for some time now)," CodeLesson CEO Jeffrey McManus tells LAUNCH via email. "But at the end of the day, unless a piece of education technology figures out how to grow a human brain, it's not going to replace an instructor-led course. Not to say that it's useless, it's just not the same as having access to an expert who can answer your questions."
INVESTORS: Y Combinator [ part of summer 2011 class ].
RAISING: Not disclosing.
In the Confirm or Deny lesson, learn how to create interactive content like a confirmation window or alert.
After completing a lesson, Codecademy gives the user a new badge with options to share via email, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
"In Higher Education, a Focus on Technology" (New York Times, October 10, 2010)
"Online Education and the Market for Superstar Teachers" (Marginal Revolution, December 8, 2009)
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