Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Product / Service Offering: Intensive coding curriculum for Generation Z
Co-founder Interviewed: Thomas Brady
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am an advocate for sustainable economic change that brings innovation and technology to the forefront of our local, state, and nation’s economy. Entrepreneurship came into my life during my sophomore year at Florida State University when I was accepted into the Jim Moran Institute for Entrepreneurship. It is a three year program during which I started my first company. Upon graduation, I was fortunate to have my company. This has allowed me to focus on my passion of innovating and helping increase awareness of the benefits that can be derived from an innovative economy.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
CodeSkools was established during a roundtable discussion with members of Innovation Florida, a non-profit dedicated to expanding Florida’s innovation ecosystem. It consists of numerous C-Level members representing many of the state’s leading corporate technology companies. We discussed the deficiencies in our workforce. With more than 60,000 IT jobs currently unfilled in the state of Florida, and only 2% of our university graduates holding Computer Science degrees, demand has outweighed supply. We need to exceed 7% in order to be competitive.
In order to evolve away from the traditional tourism industries, Florida’s education system has to be reformed with a major focus on technological prowess and understanding. As the first and only program of this caliber in the state, CodeSkools is truly preparing Florida’s youth for the digital age.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
The things that set us apart from our competitors are:
- our award winning, intensive coding-curriculum
- our partnerships with the local school districts (for example Broward County Public Schools, the 6th largest district in the nation)
- and our focus on Generation Z.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge was getting local community stakeholders on board. Here in South Florida, the industries that people understand the most are: Hospitality, Tourism, and Real Estate. Needless to say, Technology is not as well understood here as in other regions of the nation, such as San Francisco, Boston, Austin, etc.
Regardless, this problem must be addressed if Florida seeks to be a part of the conversation of modern economies. Through our tenacity in depicting the bleak picture, we were able to convince the needed partners to come on board. After establishing our partnerships, we began to execute immediately. Within two months of existence, we had over twenty local high schools learning how to code in our Fort Lauderdale office located at Broward College.
What resources have you utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
One thing that many entrepreneurs overlook in establishing their companies is the power of strategic partners. By establishing strategic partners, your company is automatically receiving validation, a sales pipeline, and brand awareness. We leveraged our strategic partners, Citrix, Broward County Public Schools, Wyncode, and Synechron, to make CodeSkools a reality.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
As a leader in Florida’s innovation ecosystem, The South Florida Accelerator and Innovation Florida underwrote the first summer camp. In taking this leap, TSFA and IF became true pioneers in laying the groundwork to build an ecosystem. Since its inception, we now have more than five county school systems in Florida, representing thousands of high school students, committed to integrate CodeSkools into their curriculum.
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What questions have you had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
The most difficult questions I have faced and am still attempting to answer are:
- “How can we modernize the thinking of local business leaders, stakeholders, and elected officials so they understand that Florida needs economic and educational reform now?”
- “How can we expedite the process of fundamentally changing Florida’s economy of hospitality and tourism to an innovation economy based on shared idealism and technology?”
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The biggest challenge we face is breaking down the barriers to entry into any technology career field. The next generation’s leaders are out there. However, many of them lack the access and exposure to technology. By and large, this effect limits and narrows their career choices and/or interests.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
It is not necessarily a “hack”, but it is something that I have learned the hard way. Feasibility and validation are KEY. If your idea is not valid after user-interviews, experimentation, A/B testing, etc., you are literally wasting your time and resources.
If your idea is not monetarily, technological, or logistically feasible, you are also wasting your time and resources.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
We successfully completed our pilot program over the summer of 2017 and expanded into Boyd Anderson High School and Coral Springs High School in the 2017 fall semester. We are also collaborating to share our curriculum with Indian River County, Miami Dade, and the Palm Beach community.
Technology is the key to sustainable and meaningful change for Generation Z. CodeSkools is the conduit in preparing the next generation for the needs and requirements of a 21st century workforce.
Are you familiar with other startups you believe should be spotlighted? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!