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This Woman Is Teaching One Billion Children How to Code

Career

One of the most common job openings, in tech, is for software developers: full-stack, front or back end, junior or senior, and the only thing that matters is trying to level demand with supply. A lot of industry people believe that a key part of the solution is to treat software development education like teaching a foreign language-by starting much earlier than high school or college.


Katy Lynch, CMO & Co-Founder of Codeverse: the world's first fully interactive coding school and educational technology platform for children knew that she could do better. Unlike current tech-ed options, such as: code.org, Blockly, Tinker and Bitsbox, which are all drag and drop visual programming options, Lynch and her team have created a language (KidScript) that was hands-on, where children are actually typing code and seeing results in real time.

How did you get your concept or idea for Codeverse?

"The idea to start Codeverse came from a documentary I watched back in 2015 called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap", which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields.

Coding is a vital skill for 21st century kids for a multitude of reasons. Coding not only teaches kids how technology actually works, but it also teaches kids about problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and independence.

Craig (spouse) and I spent months researching the coding landscape for kids, and we noticed a couple of things: 1. there is not a fun, modern, tech-enabled environment that really inspires children to collaborate with other kids to build whatever they want, and 2. there is no real programming language for kids that not only teaches them how to build apps and games, but also teaches them how their code can control modern tech gadgets, like 3D printers and drones.

We immediately brought Dave Arel, a fellow entrepreneur and technologist, onto the team as our third co-founder. What we've built is state-of-the-art studio in Chicago, where kids (aged 6-12) can build anything they want using our programming language, KidScript. Kids can also use KidScript to program any object featured within our facility, including robot arms, drones,. 3D printers, lights, and music speakers."

What was your mission at the outset?

"Our mission is to teach a billion kids to code! With Codeverse, we're looking to leave a legacy. A billion kids isn't anywhere as intimidating when you know you're working on this for 30 years."

Katy Lynch

What was/were the biggest challenges with creating Codeverse?

"Craig and I have a lot of experience running tech companies, but not specifically in ed-tech. One of the key lessons we've both learned as entrepreneurs is how important it is to surround yourself with people who are experts in their field. From Codeverse's conception, we've worked with education consultants, city officials, teachers, parents, and leaders from notable ed-tech companies. Collectively, they have given us such valuable advice."

What advice would you deem most important about entrepreneurship?

"Entrepreneurship is extremely challenging and it is not for everyone. In fact, most people shouldn't do it. It takes long hours, self-motivation, passion, and confidence. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and maintaining a positive attitude and the energy to keep going."

What are the most valuable insights that you've gained as an entrepreneur?

"Learn every aspect of your startup, especially the parts you're not good at. Hire individuals who are experts in their field.Be intellectually curious! Anyone willing to constantly learn, challenge everything, and work hard every single day will certainly be successful."

To what do you attribute your success?

"Persistence, passion, and a positive attitude!"

What are your company goals?

"We have many. First and foremost, our flagship studio opens in July in Lincoln Park, offering summer camps and weekly classes. We're already working on three more locations in Chicago within the next 18 months! In the next 5 years, we want to have a Codeverse studio in every major metropolitan area in the US.We realize that teaching a billion kids to code may take 30 years, so SaaS and online learning is a huge part of that mission. In the future, KidScript will be available to parents and kids for at-home use. We are also planning on partnering with schools, libraries, non-profits, and other organizations."

Have you ever turned down a client, and if so what did you learn from it?

"When I was President of SocialKaty, we turned down paid work for many reasons. When you're running an agency, you only want to partner with companies that you believe in, and work with individuals you truly like.

Turning down a client because they are not a right fit, or you don't get along well with them, or you genuinely cannot help their business, is a good thing!

Your decision to turn them down is not about the money. It's about the long-term relationship with the client, and the health of your business and your company culture - which is so important."

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, as an entrepreneur, what would it be?

"Be persistent. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, and many times things don't go as planned. What's important is your ability to push through the hard times, and keep moving forward.

If you're thinking about fundraising, be prepared for a hundred 'no's' before you receive one 'yes'. Do your research on investors and their portfolio before you meet with them."

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Business

How These Co-Founders Exited for $100M Without Any VC Funding

When their frustration with current fabric care options had fashionistas Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd worn out, the two entrepreneurs made it their mission to start a new niche and launch their very own at-home, eco-friendly laundry detergent line.


With a mission of turning an everyday domestic chore into a luxurious experience, these entrepreneurs not only conjured up an idea for an unconventional product line, but they successfully built their business while turning down the offer of every venture capitalist to knock on their door.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd co-founded The Laundress in 2004 after dealing with their own personal frustrations with limited clothing care options. Whiting, having worked at Ralph Lauren in design and Boyd having worked at Chanel in corporate sales, soon accumulated a stylish wardrobe of designer pieces as perks of their jobs in the fashion industry. However, the duo quickly realized that the maintenance required for upkeeping these items were far from adequate. Laundry products on the market at the time did not cater to delicate textures and fabrics such as tweed blazers, cable-knit cashmere and silk blouses. Taking their clothing to the dry cleaners also proved hopeless as their clothing would often come back with stains or even be ruined despite the overload of chemicals used to clean them. With nowhere left to turn, Whiting and Boyd were determined to create their own laundry solutions designed for specific fabrics.

Not only did the entrepreneurs develop the business expertise needed to finally begin their own company, but they also shared the same educational background that equipped them to pursue their unconventional business venture. Whiting and Boyd met in college as students at Cornell University majoring in Fiber Science, Textile, and Apparel Management and Design. The pair was introduced by a mutual friend and instantly knew they would become business partners. "It was inevitable that we were going to have a business together. We are both extremely entrepreneurial by nature, and it was one of the connections that we instantly shared" said Whiting. After focusing on pursuing their own individual careers for a while, Whiting and Boyd quickly discovered a void in the fabric care marketplace when their clients would continuously inquire about the upkeep of their designer pieces.

The entrepreneurial duo was committed to researching and developing their own eco-friendly laundry products and soon launched their own at-home solutions for specific fabrics like silk, wool and denim, which ultimately eliminated the need for dry cleaning for those particular items. Despite their products filling a necessary void in the market, it quickly became challenging for the founders to persuade people to shift their focus away from traditional laundry care options in order to try their products. However, Whiting and Boyd believed in their mission for the Laundress and bootstrapped from the very beginning, refusing all venture capital funding with the goal of growing organically. In order to be successful, they had to get creative in fundraising. "In the very early days, we funded business development by hosting a 'for profit' party at a New York City restaurant and inviting friends, family, co-workers, etc. to support our new venture. That was pre-Kickstarter and an inventive way to make everyone feel a big part of our decision to be entrepreneurs," said Whiting.

While turning down VC funding as new entrepreneurs seems unimaginable, it is as equally unfathomable to consider how these women gained national traction without social media, all the while hustling to fund their business. For Whiting and Boyd, who started their business before social media existed, it was imperative that they promote their brand by leveraging the resources they had available to them. The CEO's were one of the first to sell consumer goods, let alone detergent, online with the goal of reaching a national audience. Despite having limited retail distribution, they leveraged the power of their website and became featured in publications on both a national and international scale. "Before social media platforms existed, we nurtured our own Laundress community with engaging content on our website, step-by-step tutorials on our blog, and one-on-one communication through our Ask The Laundress email," Whiting explained. With technology evolving and the birth of social media platforms, the founders expanded the conversation about their products from website, blog and email to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

As female entrepreneurs, Whiting and Boyd faced additional hardships as misconceptions about their mission ultimately proved to disappoint more than it encouraged them. As women selling luxury detergent, there existed a preconceived notion that funding would be more easily attainable based upon their gender.

"Everyone thought it was easy to access capital as female entrepreneurs, but it was actually very challenging. We had this unique and disruptive idea within a very traditional space and it was hard to get people on board at first. It's been a continuous journey to educate people in fabric care and home cleaning," said Boyd.

Reflecting on their journey as entrepreneurs, the founders express no regrets about refusing to accept venture capital throughout the process. "Over the years, we could never quantify the cost benefit of VC funding so we continued to grow organically and remain independent by funding ourselves with credit cards and loans," explained Boyd. While their decision proved fruitful, the duo expressed their consideration towards other entrepreneurs who may not be able to fully fund their business as they grow. Because funding is a situational experience, entrepreneurs must ultimately do what is best for their business as no one path is optimal for every entrepreneur or every business.

With an increasing amount of women entering entrepreneurship with their own unique set of products or services, the CEO's offer up one piece of advice on how female entrepreneurs can be successful in their endeavors.

Whiting: "Our advice to anyone looking to build their brands: Have a strong business plan and vision. If you are not disciplined to write a business plan first then you are not disciplined to start a business. Get your ideas down so you ask yourself the right questions; it helps you get organized and plan next steps."

Boyd: "Create quality products without sacrificing the ingredients—no cutting corners. What you create should be the most important piece. Stay passionate, and trust your instincts and follow your gut—something woman are awesome at!"