NY coding start-up partners with Melbourne college

Richard Branson-backed start-up Codecademy has partnered with an elite college in Melbourne’s east thanks to Australian Rhodes Scholar Leng Lee, the start-up’s first employee.


Based in New York, Codecademy describes itself as “a team of hackers working hard to build a better way for anyone to teach, and learn, how to code”.


It was founded in 2011 by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski.


Investors include Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, O’Reilly, SV Angel, Thrive Capital, CrunchFund, Collaborative Fund, Founder Collective and Richard Branson.


Sims and Bubinski lead a team of seven, including their first employee Leng Lee, an Australian Rhodes scholar living in New York.


Lee, who works as a data scientist at Codecademy, is a former student of Haileybury College, located in Melbourne’s east.


In addition to New York, Codecademy is rolling out a trial of its core product at Haileybury. The project will be run by principal Derek Scott as an extracurricular club open to staff and students.


“We see a number of benefits with partnering with an Australian school such as Haileybury,” Lee told StartupSmart.


“First, it gives us a way to learn about how our product can be used by schools outside of the US. We want to start to see how our product works in various school settings.”


“Second, the benefit with working with a school like Haileybury is that they were very responsive and quick to see the value of such a pilot.”


“They are already working on improving their tech offerings and this was a natural fit for them.”


“Third, partnering with an Australian school where we have staff that are familiar with the local context is hugely beneficial.”


According to Scott, Codecademy will provide Haileybury students with a new and interesting way to interact with modern technology. 


“Students will be able to design their own apps and become involved in the online environment like never before. As an extracurricular activity, I foresee this being as popular as our chess or debating clubs,” Scott says.


Haileybury isn’t the only college Codecademy has partnered with. Other recent partnerships include New York University and the Computing At School project in Wales.


“We’d be very open to hearing from any schools that are interested in teaching coding as a part of their mainstream curriculum,” Lee says.


“We are working with the Estonian Government to get coding into the regular curriculum for all their students and think that this is [a] direction Australia should take.”


As Codecademy expands, Lee says it would “love to hire more Aussies”.


“Any talented developers and designers looking for an exciting challenge in NYC should definitely apply,” he says.


According to Sims, everyone should be exposed to programming and computer science, but especially young people.


“Codecademy wants to help every school to start an after-school programming club – an easy way for kids to start learning the programming skills that formal education doesn’t yet provide,” Sims wrote in a blog.


Sims said there are now “hundreds” of teachers using Codecademy in their classrooms, and starting after-school clubs to expose their students to programming.


“Based on their feedback, we put together a simple kit for teachers (or students!) who want to start an after-school programming club at their school,” he said.


“We’re also launching the ‘teachers’ lounge’ for teachers to share stories, ideas and support among themselves.”


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