It's no secret that one of the most common job openings tech companies have these days is for software developers -- junior, senior, full-stack, front-end or back-end, it doesn't seem to matter; the demand for talented software developers clearly has outpaced the supply. Many believe that part of the solution is to treat software development education similar to how foreign languages are taught at a much earlier age, instead of waiting until university or high school to begin learning. One unique tech startup in Chicago is aimed at solving that exact problem.

I sat down with Katy Lynch, CMO & Co-Founder of Codeverse, to discuss her new, budding company. Codeverse is the world's first fully interactive coding school and educational technology platform for kids. She was formerly the CEO of Techweek, the nation's largest traveling technology festival.

Let's start from the beginning - how did the idea for Codeverse come about?
The idea came to me while I was in LA in 2015 for Techweek and I saw a documentary called "code debugging the gender gap," about why girls lose interest in going into STEM at such a young age. Coding is a universal language of the future, and when you think about jobs in the future, this is a skill that young kids, girls and boys, really need to succeed. My husband agreed, and was like "Cool, let's do this!" so we got started! A couple months later, I stepped away from Techweek and we've been working on Codeverse ever since. 100 hour weeks for the past 15 months - it's been so crazy!

We're launching beautiful, state of the art coding studios where kids come and learn how to build apps and games, but - and this is what differentiates us - children are also able to program any object in the studio. I'm talking drones, 3D printers; anything with any gadget in the studio through this language that we've built called KidScript.

We're very passionate about technology because coding really is the future. Every industry is being disrupted by technology, and for me having been in the Chicago tech industry, I've started, sold, and advised businesses - and that's really what brought us to this moment. It's so important that we set kids up, especially when they're young, that we set them up for success. Whether you're planning on going into tech or not, everyone should learn how to code.

You're based in Chicago, and you have a bold mission of teaching a billion children worldwide, so what does the rollout look like in your mind?
Our first location is in Lincoln Park and over next 18 months we're launching three more studios in Chicago. Over the next 5 years the game plan is to launch one studio in every major city in the U.S. We also plan on launching a SaaS product online next year, obviously available to the masses, schools, non profits, and so on. We've raised our first capital from angel investors to fund this early rollout.

Awesome! With such a new company, how do you delegate work? What does your team currently look like?
My husband and myself started it, but our third co-founder, Dave, was the first engineer at my husband's previous company. We have a creative director, director of operations and curriculum director. So, 6 full-time, but 25-30 people working all in all, when you consider design, construction, stuff like that.

For children that are currently interested in learning to code, what do their existing options look like? Or rather, before Codeverse, how were children exposed to coding?
You've probably heard of code.org, Bitsbox, Tinker, Blockly, and Codeables. What we found is they're using drag and drop visual programming languages to teach kids how to code. Many of these tools, apps and games are teaching children how to code through dragging code onto a screen - great to teach fundamentals and basic of coding, but we wanted to create a language that was hands-on, where kids are actually typing code and seeing results in real time.
What makes Codeverse truly unique is the fact that we've created our own programming language -- KidScript -- that is a combination of popular languages in the workplace today (Ruby, JavaScript, Python, etc.). We've taken many of those common concepts and created a kid friendly version, the idea being that KidScript is a first step, that once mastered, they can then go and master more complex languages as well.

Published on: May 12, 2017