Zachary Sims – Codecademy

By Ying Gu on May 28, 2019

Codecademy is an online platform that offers a variety of online coding classes to anyone wanting to learn. It offers classes on a variety of coding languages (Python, HTML, etc.), for the complete newbie or for someone looking for a skills upgrade. The lessons are interactive and invites users to code along with the lessons. The lessons are offered free of charge, but there is an upgrade to pro option ($240/year) where users can unlock quizzes, personalized lessons, the ability to keep a learning portfolio, and access to online experts. The company is based in New York and was founded in 2011. Since then, the website has grown to house 85 employees and 45 million users. Some notable accolades include:

  • 50 Best Websites of 2012 – TIME Magazine
  • Best Education Startup 2013 – TechCrunch
  • Multiple partnerships with the White House
  • 2017 partnered with Amazon to train developers of Alexa

Company investor profile

Zachary Sims (CEO) co-founded Codacademy when he was 20, having just dropped out of Columbia University to pursue this venture full time. Sims knew that there was a big skills gap between graduates and the job market. Universities were creating boot camp programs to train people how to code, but it wasn’t enough to meet the demand, and it wasn’t being offered fast enough. Such programs were also very expensive, which put underprivileged students at a disadvantage. One of the first things Sims did when he started this venture was hire people that he could learn from. He didn’t know much about anything when he started, so he prioritized educating himself.

Sims knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since he was a little kid. He wanted to be his own boss and also knew that whatever he created, it would be related to the internet. At a very young age, he understood that to make something  impact a lot of people, the internet would have to be involved in some way. His first entrepreneurial experience was when he was 13; he received an iPod as an gift and immediately thought about designing a case. He eventually made a waterproof iPod case.

Before co-founding Codacademy, Sims worked for a few tech companies. He saw companies fail when they tried to build upon an idea instead of on customer feedback. He learned the importance of spending time with customers and trying to see everything from their perspective. To this end, he takes almost all of the courses that his website offers! It’s not surprising that this hardworking entrepreneur is on Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list.

Some of Sim’s advice:

  • Ditch your phone during the workday
  • Transparency is the best policy when running a company
  • It’s ok not to know everything. Be honest and tell your team what you don’t know
  • Persistence pays off

Advice #3 really resonates with me. Whenever I have an idea, I never think to act on it because I don’t know anything about setting up a business. Who would want to work for someone who knows nothing? Sims also thought of this, but was surprised that none of this mattered. He found people who knew way more than he did and who didn’t care much about this fact. It takes a lot of courage to stop what you’re currently doing and leap into the unknown. I was surprised to learn from this week’s lessons that most inventors eventually get ousted from their own start-up because the people they hire quickly outgrow them. The only way to prevent this is to never stop learning, and that’s what Sims does, full time.

( Average Rating: 5 )

2 responses to “Zachary Sims – Codecademy”

  1. Rachel

    Codecademy is one of the most mentioned platforms when people talking about the learning of online coding. I think by taking almost all the courses offered on his website himself, it shows how Zachary values user experience. It is too often when we see founders taking more of the teaching role of “I know more in this area and you should be happy that I’m willing to share my knowledge” so having someone who actually values what clients/learners think is something unique.

    ( 0 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
  2. ryan valley

    I am a huge fan of Codecademy and have been a member for awhile now. Interestingly, I found their method of teaching code very effective and would say that I learned coding better from this website than from any of my college and university coding classes.

    ( 0 upvotes and 0 downvotes )

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