School of Code
Between developing their platform, running coding events and preparing for the launch of their Kickstarter campaign School of Code founders Chris Meah and Bhishma Patel found time to answer a couple of questions and give us some insights into their startup.
Tell us something about School of Code.
School of Code is the online collaborative coding platform – team up, learn, solve problems, and code together!
The School of Code is the world’s’ first online, multiplayer learn-to-code platform, where you can learn through collaboration or friendly competition with others.
How did you get here?
I have always been interested in technology/computers since a young age, which led me towards studying Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. After graduating I made my way to London to work as a software developer at a large investment bank. Whilst the pay was good, I came to realise that the rat race wasn’t for me and that I needed to pursue something that I actually wanted to do. I got talking with a friend from University about some ideas he had regarding teaching people to code and it seemed like the perfect fit, so I quit my job and took the plunge.
I wanted to get more and different types of people learning how to code and benefiting from the tech industry. I thought of the School of Code while I was completing my PhD at the University of Birmingham, and started the company with my friend Bhishma Patel, who left his career in London to work on a start-up. The last year has been a whirlwind – developing our platform, and running community events such as our coding class with the homelessness charity Crisis and our Summer of Code with the BBC. We are launching our Kickstarter on the 20th October 2016 and are hoping to build a community, improve our platform, and teach the world to code.
What is your inspiration for creating your company?
I am a firm believer that technology can be a strong enabler in society – that people of any creed, class or race can benefit from interacting with or creating technology. Also, I believe that access to education is important: that no-one should have limited opportunities in life purely because education hasn’t been available to them. Finally, I love teaching. Helping people achieve their aspirations in life by parting wisdom is one of the greatest experiences in life.
There is a huge skills gap in technology, with a lack of numbers, diversity, and also an increasing demand for soft skills. At the same time there is rising inequality and unemployment. The aim was to link these two problems with one solution – by teaching coding skills, we can make people employable and prepared for careers in the growing tech industry! By changing how people learn code, from being solitary and boring into being a social experience, we can help more and different types of people through their coding journey.
What have been your biggest challenges as a Tech4Good Startup?
Balancing developing our platform, achieving our social aims through outreach activities, and managing cash flow at the same time has been tricky. Team is important, and we have managed to find some great people to join the School of Code family and help us.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far is realising just how long it takes. Not matter how good the plan is it might just not happen that way. I was never under the illusion that this was a sprint but optimism and excitement can lead to thinking you will turn in to Facebook overnight. If you study the success stories of your idols or successful competitors you’ll realise that most of them were in the game a long time before they actually made a name for themselves. Overall, I believe that you should sit yourself somewhere between unbounded optimism and gritty realism.
What is your biggest learning from Dotforge?
Dotforge really encouraged a lean mindset from day one, suggesting some form of product launch from as early as week 4. Soaking up this mindset of constantly seeking customer validation is imperative to creating and honing a product/service that people actually want to buy! I encourage embedding these principles into your company culture as they will benefit you throughout the growth of your startup.
Focus on the one metric that matters!
What is the most used piece of advice you have had to developing your startup?
Don’t listen to advice, apart from this, and maybe not even this!
I think this is a cliché but.. Have belief in what you do otherwise what’s the point in doing it?