Zach Sims, a former Political Science major at Columbia who started Codecademy with little to no web development experience, took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions from the Northwestern Business Review about Codecademy’s current growth, its future and the importance of learning how to code.
NBR: Could you give some perspective on how Codecademy was founded, the motivations behind the concept and what you initially imagined it to be?
Sims: While at Columbia, Ryan, my co-founder, had spent weekends and free time teaching students how to translate their theoretical classroom CS knowledge into practical applications by learning Ruby/Python and other popular web languages. I had worked at a few startups, GroupMe before Skype acquired it, drop.io before Facebook acquired it, as a business and product person. I had always wanted to learn to code. When Ryan and I started a project earlier this year and got into Y Combinator, we found that our biggest problem was that my development skills weren’t as good as his. I was frustrated with books, videos, and other learning materials. We built Codecademy for people like me.
NBR: Codecademy recently raised $2.5 million in venture funding. What are you and Ryan currently working on? Are there any important projects currently ongoing?
Sims: We are working on expanding the content (user-generated) and on adding more community features to make everyone at Codecademy continually motivated to learn.
NBR: You do not have a background in coding or computer science. Based on what you’ve learned from Codecademy so far and the increasing demand for programming skills, what is your take on the importance of coding for today’s students or anyone for that matter?
Sims: Coding is incredibly important – it is why we’re working on Codecademy. I think it will be important in a ton of fields such as journalism, law, and finance as it can just simplify everyday tasks. I’m learning a lot more about development and I already know a bit by taking the courses on our site.
NBR: I read recently that half a million people have used Codecademy so far. What are your future goals for Codecademy in terms of expansion, management and website improvements?
Sims: (That number) is now more than 800,000. We are gradually rolling out more content and will continue to improve the site from there.
NBR: What is your hope for those who complete the Codecademy exercises?
Sims: We are hoping people will eventually be able to be talented web developers after completing the lessons on our site.