Education Moment: The Man with 26 Million Students

Zach Sims, a college dropout founded Codecademy, a website which enables users to learn six popular programming languages, via a simple interface, for free. Codecademy is three years old now, and Sims has 26 million students.

Sims was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos to talk about online education. He was Codecademy’s first student, creating Codecademy to teach himself.

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Introduced by global leaders as the “man who has 26 million students”, Zach Sims runs a three-year-old website called Codecademy, which enables users to learn six popular programming languages, via a simple interface, for free.

Zach is hardly the Davos type – he apologises when using buzzwords such as “intersection” and uses sarcastic air quotes when talking about the WEF’s “new digital context” slogan – but he is a vivid example of a “skills gap” victim, albeit a first-world one.

“When I was looking for internships in my junior year, at companies like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, I realised that nobody I was going to college with had any skills that would be relevant in that context,” he says

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So Zach started to teach himself to code. “We built the first version of Codecademy for me,” he explains, and with the help of a friend, Ryan Bubinski, he expanded the site.

Mr Bubinski became co-founder and together they launched Codecademy, in August 2011.

In the first weekend more than 200,000 people used the product – “it gave the ability to send emails to all those people who said the market size was limited,” Zach quips, unable to suppress a smile.

The site now reaches almost 26 million students in more than 100 countries, and is helping people from all economic backgrounds to “up-skill”, including residents of African refugee camps and single mothers in the US.

“Its crazy that two kids could start something in a one-bedroom apartment in California, and educate more people in a weekend than a formal institution could in years,” he says.

“Education is having a moment”.

Reprinted with permission from Global Economic Analysis.

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