Lots of people vaguely fantasize about learning how to code, but the ones that actually do it have both a tangible goal and a realistic idea of the effort it will take to get there, Codeacademy cofounder Zach Sims tells Business Insider.
And Sims should know.
In the five years since he cofounded Codeacademy, an online learning startup for coding, he’s seen people both give up after minutes and catapult themselves into full-time work as developers.
He has also seen the market for developers change drastically.
On, Tuesday Codeacademy announced that it had raised a $30 million Series C funding round led by Naspers, bringing its total funding to $43 million. But it wasn’t always easy to convince people.
“We got a lot of ‘no’s’ at first [when we were trying to raise money],” he says. At the time, venture capitalists just didn’t think there was really a market for teaching code to bolster people’s job credentials. That idea turned out to be completely wrong, and in the last few years there’s been an explosion in “coding bootcamps,” which promise to turn you into a developer in a few short months — if you commit yourself full-time and pay tens of thousands of dollars.
Codeacademy fills a different space. The startup has become the go-to place to learn code at your own pace. It’s free, quick to start, and intuitive. In my experience, it was even fun. But Codeacademy doesn’t make money off people like me taking a few courses for kicks.
Codeacademy’s revenue model, and forward direction, lies in providing students a premium product that helps you achieve specific career goals. The first iteration of this is “Codeacademy Pro,” which charges you $19.99 a month to guide you through your chosen job-oriented study path, and provides you with all-you-can-ask help from Codeacademy’s “advisors.” These advisors are former students who are paid part-time to give you assistance when you get confused.
This is important because when you get confused, “that’s when you might think about stopping,” Sims says.
Codeacademy’s premium product is designed to fight the big thing that has plagued online learning: apathy. Sims thinks the lack of both clear goals and easy help is what causes people to abandon online courses in huge numbers.
Codeacademy wants to position itself to get you something tangible without requiring the type of intense commitment that coding bootcamps demand of you. Bootcamps ask you to totally devote your life to learning these new skills, and promise you up to $100,000 per year at the end. Codeacademy doesn’t do either (and doesn’t provide placement services).
But Sims and his investors are betting there is a market for the more casual learner who still wants to beef up their digital job skills, and is willing to pay $20 per month to not have to go at it wholly alone.