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Startup co-founder and CEO: How I got my job and where I'm going

What does it take to found a startup? Is a degree required? Jon talks about his path to found Kodable, a Bay Area startup, and his plans for the future.

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Video transcript

I actually started programming when I was six years old. I was actually grounded a lot as a kid, and my parents wouldn't let me go outside or play with video games, but they had this really old Windows 3.1 computer that I could play around with. I found the old BASIC interpreter in MSDOS, and I started playing around with programs in that, made my first program ever, I was about six and a half. It was password program that if you, if the computer started it would ask you for your password and if you got it right, it'd let you in and if you got it wrong, it'd call you an idiot and tell you to try again. And then I was able to go a little further with it, but I hit a wall pretty quickly because there weren't a ton of resources that were around for computer science learning that young, when I was six in 1996, so I kinda dropped off after a couple of years. And then, in college, I wanted to start my own company and I knew I didn't want to be relying on someone else to build my dream for me. I wanted to do it. I talked to my academic advisor about switching my major, at the time I was a business major, and I wanted to switch over to computer science, and she said it would take two more years of school. And I hated school, I couldn't wait to get out and get into the real world and do something. So, I was like, "Nope, I'm not gonna do this. "I'm just gonna teach myself." And I was able to learn really quickly because I had learned to think like a programmer when I was so young. So, irony of ironies, my first job out of school was in computer science, I was a programmer. I had just started teaching myself maybe a year earlier. I really wasn't as qualified for that job as I should have been, but I was lucky in that they hired me and were willing to teach me. So I was learning IOS development at the time, I graduated from college on a Friday, I started my job on a Monday, so it was really easy. A lot of the people I went to school with in marketing, in marketing degrees or business degrees spent a lot of time looking for a job, but it was real easy for me to find one. And that gave me the added bonus of having a lot of time in front of a computer to be learning about computer science and learning to become a better programmer, and as I did that, when I got the new idea for Codeable I was easy to build it pretty easily because I knew what I was doing. Funding Codeable in the early days was a challenge. We cut it really close. So actually, I worked at this job for about six months and it became very apparent that I didn't like the job and I needed to focus on Codeable, I needed to make this work. So I ended up quitting my job. I had no backup job, I had nothing else going on. I was lucky in that my co-founder's a designer and I'm a programmer. So we were able to freelance on the side, do some contracting work to basically pay the bills and we lived in Louisville, Kentucky, which is a lot cheaper than the Bay Area, so we didn't have a ton of expenses and we had never really upgraded our lifestyle from college. So, we were able to really keep working on this for a long time on a cheap level. And then we were accepted into Imagine K12, we ended up getting actual investment, which gave us a lot more freedom to come out here and start. So, right now Codeable is used by a little over half the elementary schools in the United States and we want to reach every elementary school in the United States in the next couple of years. More than that, we want to reach every child in the world. We want to give every student in the world the opportunity to learn computer science. I am a very firm believer, and one of the reasons that gets me up every morning, is that computer science is incredibly transformative for the whole world. You can essentially create value from nothing. Nothing has ever existed like that before. You know, you could make the first version of Facebook on a $30 laptop. You don't need much. You really don't. Like, most other things, you needed a ton of time, you needed a ton of resources, you needed things to do it, but in computer science you don't have to have that and it has immense possibilities to help underserved communities, poor countries. Technology doesn't know any of that stuff. It's really a powerful thing, and I think you can do a lot to really change the world. And the other big thing, and that is that I think in the next 15-20 years there's gonna be a lot of jobs growing in technology and computer science and outside of that, a lot of jobs are gonna start to go away. Automation is gonna really start eating away at the workforce and away at the world, and there's gonna be a problem there. The students that we're educating now are gonna inherit that world, and if we can even just teach them how to think like a programmer now, we're giving them a chance to succeed. That's all we can ask. Personally, I want to build a successful company. Ideally, I'd love Codeable to be the biggest, greatest company ever. There's a lot of great companies out there and I want it to be a success. I want to impact students everywhere. And that's not just a company goal, that's my own personal goal. If I can look back in ten years and say that I built something that touched every kid in the world that's impressive, that's something big. You know, personally, longer term after Codeable, I probably want to take some time to just explore various hobbies. I know I need a break. I'd love to do some more, I'd love to learn how to draw and paint. Spend more time with hobbies and do different things. And then I'll probably start working with startups again. Whether I was on the investment side or whether I was in just starting another company, I'd definitely... I've accepted the fact I'm never gonna be able to escape start-up-ville. It's not gonna happen.