Sunday, August 4, 2013

Codecademy Vision and Execution, as a platform with an unique culture - interview with founder Zach Sims

During the Crunchies 2012 days, I got digitally acquaint with Zach Sims the founder of Codecademy. Very soon, i wanted to follow interviews like the one above. Even during our short email only interaction, he strikes as someone who is capable organized and very traditional business-minded with a strong entrepreneur spirit. In contrast, the other founder Ryan is pragmatic, technical , quick to speak, and very programmer / engineering. Zach is the business founder.

His story is best told by himself, see the above interview. I am just doing some indexing here, summarizing, so this content is more searchable and available for newer audience:

  • Zach talks about his early entrepreneurial career
    • including a surprising period when he was young selling cell phone cases sourced directly from Chinese factories!
    • dropping out of Columbia to attend Y Combinator 
    • before Codecademy, his earlier business experiences at startups that were sold, and VC related AOL funds
  • Building Codecademy as an interactive platform, where people can get their Aha moments!
    • Great developers have learnt in the past by reading documentations and getting hands on, Codecademy aims to provide that environment
    • Community based, completely interactive, gamified
    • learn by doing
    • Zach himself wants a better learning product when he learnt to program
    • My comments: as I work for short term contract work occasionally at Codecademy, I can attest to that Codecademy truly has a vision of its own, and does not just blindly follow and compete with other online learning platforms. Students often do have to go through a bit of struggle for that aha moment, searching stack overflow and Q&A forums (quite a real practice actually)

  • Building Codecademy as a learning platform
    • Not just a lesson plan
    • But a tool for people to teach and learn
    • Recruit content creators who actually create great tutorials out there, but end up not being engaging. Now people actually get audiance
  • Moderator: gamification is new, the previous learning wave was video-based, and interactivity was forgotten. How is interactivity important now?
    • Zach: recreate how best developers learn, how to make it interactive, help people get the aha moment
  • Growth, how to get to the first 2 million?
    • Some fun luck and so happened to be. Someone posted on Hacker News got thousands of concurrent users. First built for just a few people
    • Spent next few days scaling it. User loop is very simple, didn't even have to sign up, no need to download anything

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