Until last February, Janine Holsinger had never typed a single line of code. But the Columbus, Ohio, entrepreneur wasn’t going to let that get in the way of her dreams. She signed up for a service called Treehouse, paid the monthly fee of $25, and devoted 8-10 hours a day to learning Ruby on Rails.
“Within a few days, I was building my own Rails application,” she said. “Within 30 days, I’d launched my company website, NextChapter.”
Holsinger’s experience shows just how empowering and lucrative learning to code can be. But some startups are learning there’s even more to be made in teaching the skill to others.
Code Breaking Records
Within the last two years, more and more companies have saturated the market with the express purpose of teaching everyone and anyone our generation’s hottest new job skill: programming. Now it’s become a fundraising race to the top of the pile.
This April, learn-to-code startup Treehouse announced that it raised a “war chest” of new funding. In a Series B round led by Kaplan Ventures, the Portland, Ore., company added another $7 million, for a total of $12.35 million.
For CEO and founder Ryan Carson, the money couldn’t have come at a better time. Competition between learn-to-code startups is rising, and Carson plans to press his advantage by adding more employees to Treehouse's current 55 workers.
One of Treehouse’s biggest competitors is the omnipresent Codecademy. Founded by 22-year-old Zach Sims, Codecademy has been heralded as the leader of a “movement” in code education. The startup’s most recent Series B funding round, in July 2012, brought the company $10 million. With just nine employees, Codeacademy is just a fraction the size of Treehouse size, but it boasts “millions” of students, including the mayor of New York City.
The newest startup on the playing field is Tynker, launched just last week with $3 million in seed funding. Like many programming apps aimed at young children, Tynker uses a visual programming language designed to get kids comfortable with coding. Even though Tynker doesn’t have a product yet, angel investors like 500 Startups are already comfortable funding it into the millions.
It's Not Just Venture Money, Either
Even learn-to-code startups who aren't looking for venture capital are finding that money is easy to come by. When Code School wanted to crowdfund an iPhone app development course, it turned to Kickstarter and earned triple its $50,000 goal. Meanwhile Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that targets the gender gap in the tech industry, received a quarter-of-a-million Knight Foundation grant last year.
The startups named above are all less than two years old, but the market’s education giants already know that programming tutorials are a goldmine. Udemy raised $12 million in a December funding round, and tech education oldtimer Lynda raised $103 million this January.
It’s hard to say how long the money will keep flying at this rate. But it's clear the race to dominate coding education is on — and still wide open.