Codecademy Raises $10M to Teach Computer Programming

There are arguments that computer programming should be taught in schools in the same way as other languages essential to global communications, like Spanish and Chinese. Under that scenario Codecademy, a new but fast-growing startup based in New York City, is angling to become computer programming’s Rosetta Stone.

Receiving an additional $10 million in investments from major venture capital groups should help the pursuit of that goal. The company announced today on its blog that it received the funding, from renowned venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and others.

Codecademy_logo.jpgCodecademy is a free website that offers weekly computer programming lessons to users. Each lesson includes a series of tasks based in computer programming languages like JavaScript and HTML, the code behind most websites, with less-structured tutorials available for more specific topics.

Users can earn rewards and badges for completing courses. It gained popularity on New Year’s Day with the advent of its CodeYear initiative to enlist novices to program, and quickly grew to hundreds of thousands of users, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Codecademy is used by people of all ages, but its story and its goals are rooted in education. Co-founders Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski met at Columbia University, where Sims was a frustrated programming student and Bubinski a programming tutor bound by the limitations of in-person tutoring.

One of the company’s investors, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, in addition to investing in companies like Twitter and Spotify, also invests in education companies like textbook rental service Chegg. One of Kleiner Perkins’ partners, Mary Meeker, recently released her annual Internet Trends report, which references opportunities for digital change in education, something that Sims identifies in his blog post as an inspiration for the site.

At a conference in New York City last week, Sims appeared on a panel with other founders of well-known education startups, like adaptive software creator Knewton, peer-to-peer tutoring service Skillshare, e-textbook distributor Kno, and math gaming website DimensionU.

“[Technology] enfranchises everyone to become an educator,” Sims said at the conference, according to a report from GigaOm. (He echoed similar sentiments in a column for Time.) “[That] creates an interesting predicament for [traditional] teachers.”

The company began as a nonprofit organization but switched to a for-profit enterprise. In his blog post, Sims said the money would be used to expand the site internationally, where more than half of the site’s users reside, and to make it easier for teachers to create courses using the tool.

That last goal could be attractive to teachers looking for easier ways to incorporate computer programming into the classroom, especially teachers without an extensive amount of programming skills themselves.

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