How a college dropout learned to code on Codecademy, then launched a company that was accepted into the buzziest Silicon Valley startup incubator

Patrick Stapleton
  • Patrick Stapleton founded Tipe.io, a CMS platform that was accepted into Y Combinator’s 2018 class.
  • Stapleton, a college dropout, learned to code almost entirely from resources he found online.
  • He says he owes his education in coding to Codecademy, another Y Combinator company.

In March, Patrick Stapleton launched his company, Tipe.io, a content management system that’s geared toward nontechnical users. Despite creating a highly technical product, Stapleton’s route to programming recalls the nontraditional path taken by many startup founders before him: Stapleton is a college dropout and a self-learner who learned to code almost entirely from resources he found on the internet.

Stapleton first began coding in high school, when he started tinkering with the HTML and CSS code on his Myspace page. It wasn’t long before his glitzed-out profile caught the eye of other teens at school, and soon he was receiving commissions to design custom layouts for his classmates.

“Everyone in high school wanted a custom layout,” Stapleton said in an interview with Business Insider. “I had the best-looking Myspace profile at school, and everyone was asking me to make them one.” From there, Stapleton began soliciting small businesses, charging anywhere from $US20 to $US200 for a tailor-made Myspace page.

At first, Stapleton thought that his flare for aesthetics would land him a career in graphic design. But then, as he began toying with the back end of more and more web pages, he realised that his passion lay not in design, but in writing the code for the websites themselves. Eager to learn more about coding, Stapleton began to explore the web f0r more resources.

“I was really obsessed,” he said. “At that stage, I was like a sponge.”

When Stapleton first began coding in 2011, there weren’t as many online resources as there are today. Of the few programs he used, Stapleton said that Codecademy, which had been launched early that year, was the one that occupied most of his time. Nearly every day, Stapleton said he worked from 9 am to midnight on Codecademy learning coding languages like JavaScript, Ruby, HTML, CSS, and Python.

“I’d wake up everyday and learn everything I could,” he said. “It was like a full time job.”

Two years later, Stapleton was ready to put his programming skills to the test, and in 2013, he entered a hackathon where he helped build the Reddit analytics site, Reddit Insight. The project won the contest, and in an unexpected twist, went viral.

Reddit InsightReddit InsightStapleton helped create Reddit Insight which went viral in 2013 and attracted interest from prominent tech companies.

“It was picked up by everyone,” Stapleton said. “I started getting calls from Apple and Twitter – big companies that I never thought I would work with because I was still learning how to code.”

And while Stapleton had yet to graduate from Codecademy, he was soon working on projects for Google, Netflix, and several Fortune 500 companies.

But despite his high-profile freelance work, Stapleton ultimately opted for an alternate path. Last year, he decided to create his own product: a content management system that would provide seamless collaboration between content creators and developers.

In an effort to grow his new project, Stapleton and his team applied to enter prestigious Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator’s 2018 class. “We didn’t think we would get in,” said Stapleton. “We thought ‘Hey, let’s just apply and see if it works.'”

To Stapleton’s surprise, Y Combinator picked Tipe up immediately, and on March 19, Stapleton launched the company at Y Combinator’s Demo Day.

Stapleton credits his company’s fledgling success to the resources he found online as a programmer and specifically to Codeacdemy, which went through Y Combinator’s 2011 class – the same year Stapleton discovered the platform. Stapleton said he believes that his nontraditional education in coding is indicative of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture.

“It’s getting easier for everyone to pick up this skill set and learn how to code,” he said. “It’s all about creating products that make coding more accessible.”

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