One of the most common job openings, in tech, is for software developers: full-stack, front or back end, junior or senior, and the only thing that matters is trying to level demand with supply. A lot of industry people believe that a key part of the solution is to treat software development education like teaching a foreign language-by starting much earlier than high school or college.
Katy Lynch, CMO & Co-Founder of Codeverse: the world's first fully interactive coding school and educational technology platform for children knew that she could do better. Unlike current tech-ed options, such as: code.org, Blockly, Tinker and Bitsbox, which are all drag and drop visual programming options, Lynch and her team have created a language (KidScript) that was hands-on, where children are actually typing code and seeing results in real time.
How did you get your concept or idea for Codeverse?
"The idea to start Codeverse came from a documentary I watched back in 2015 called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap", which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields.
Coding is a vital skill for 21st century kids for a multitude of reasons. Coding not only teaches kids how technology actually works, but it also teaches kids about problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and independence.
Craig (spouse) and I spent months researching the coding landscape for kids, and we noticed a couple of things: 1. there is not a fun, modern, tech-enabled environment that really inspires children to collaborate with other kids to build whatever they want, and 2. there is no real programming language for kids that not only teaches them how to build apps and games, but also teaches them how their code can control modern tech gadgets, like 3D printers and drones.
We immediately brought Dave Arel, a fellow entrepreneur and technologist, onto the team as our third co-founder. What we've built is state-of-the-art studio in Chicago, where kids (aged 6-12) can build anything they want using our programming language, KidScript. Kids can also use KidScript to program any object featured within our facility, including robot arms, drones,. 3D printers, lights, and music speakers."
What was your mission at the outset?
"Our mission is to teach a billion kids to code! With Codeverse, we're looking to leave a legacy. A billion kids isn't anywhere as intimidating when you know you're working on this for 30 years."
What was/were the biggest challenges with creating Codeverse?
"Craig and I have a lot of experience running tech companies, but not specifically in ed-tech. One of the key lessons we've both learned as entrepreneurs is how important it is to surround yourself with people who are experts in their field. From Codeverse's conception, we've worked with education consultants, city officials, teachers, parents, and leaders from notable ed-tech companies. Collectively, they have given us such valuable advice."
What advice would you deem most important about entrepreneurship?
"Entrepreneurship is extremely challenging and it is not for everyone. In fact, most people shouldn't do it. It takes long hours, self-motivation, passion, and confidence. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and maintaining a positive attitude and the energy to keep going."
What are the most valuable insights that you've gained as an entrepreneur?
"Learn every aspect of your startup, especially the parts you're not good at. Hire individuals who are experts in their field.Be intellectually curious! Anyone willing to constantly learn, challenge everything, and work hard every single day will certainly be successful."
To what do you attribute your success?
"Persistence, passion, and a positive attitude!"
What are your company goals?
"We have many. First and foremost, our flagship studio opens in July in Lincoln Park, offering summer camps and weekly classes. We're already working on three more locations in Chicago within the next 18 months! In the next 5 years, we want to have a Codeverse studio in every major metropolitan area in the US.We realize that teaching a billion kids to code may take 30 years, so SaaS and online learning is a huge part of that mission. In the future, KidScript will be available to parents and kids for at-home use. We are also planning on partnering with schools, libraries, non-profits, and other organizations."
Have you ever turned down a client, and if so what did you learn from it?
"When I was President of SocialKaty, we turned down paid work for many reasons. When you're running an agency, you only want to partner with companies that you believe in, and work with individuals you truly like.
Turning down a client because they are not a right fit, or you don't get along well with them, or you genuinely cannot help their business, is a good thing!
Your decision to turn them down is not about the money. It's about the long-term relationship with the client, and the health of your business and your company culture - which is so important."
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
"Be persistent. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, and many times things don't go as planned. What's important is your ability to push through the hard times, and keep moving forward.
If you're thinking about fundraising, be prepared for a hundred 'no's' before you receive one 'yes'. Do your research on investors and their portfolio before you meet with them."
WRITTEN BYStephen Doyle