After our first full year running The Coding Space, we decided to share an update with some of our close advisors.
In writing the email, we realized we were equally excited to share our progress with friends so we decided to publish that email below.
Feel free to take a look and let us know what you think!
June 22nd, 2016
A year ago today, we started The Coding Space to pursue our mission to help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. As one of our advisors, we wanted to keep you updated on our progress over the past year, what we’re working on now, and our goals for the future.
Q3 & Q4, 2015: A quick pivot
After failing to convince public schools to work with us in Oakland and SF, we moved out to New York in July and quickly reached some early milestones. The 92Y hired us to run their coding camp and we launched our own after-school program in September. After meeting a few parents who would become The Coding Space’s top champions, we rapidly grew from 6 students to over 50 (with 30 more in schools) by the end of 2015.
Q1 2016: Early roadblocks
With the wind in our sails, we were bullish on Winter 2016. We expanded from 3 classes to 9, hired a teacher manager, and offered free trial classes for new students. However, we soon realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy and the Winter became hectic.
We made bad hiring decisions, our “free trials” were creating extremely unqualified leads, and the amount we were paying for renting space and teachers were both too high for our margins to make sense. We came out of it having learned a lot and our program had grown to 75 (with 30 more in schools) students, but our overall quality had lowered.
Q2 2016: Widening the margins
This past Spring we moved to 7 classes, cut teacher costs by 40%, more closely managed our teacher quality, and had parents register ahead of time for the full semester. Our margins increased substantially, but we were disappointed by ending our Spring semester with 65 students (with another 60 in schools). We are hypothesizing that this could be because of low interest in after school classes towards the end of the school year (which is corroborated by Google Search Trends), but are also working to improve our classroom experience and referral marketing to increase numbers for next semester.
As word spread of our program, we were also able to close deals with top schools including Dalton, Sacred Heart, Avenues, and Trevor Day.
Q3 2016: SummerCode
We launched 8 weeks of our own week-long camps this summer, including 3 weeks of a girls-only camp called GirlCode. We’re aiming for 70 paid students to sign up this summer and are currently at 55 paid and 11 more scholarship students.
The GirlCode program has really taken off and now our entire summer program is 80% female!
(Update post-writing this, we ended the Summer with 89 paid students and 100 students total)
Q4 2016: Moving Forward
We aim to have 100 students enrolled in our after school program by the end of this upcoming Fall in 9 classes, two of which will be girls-only GirlCode classes. We also hope to have 100 additional students through our school partnerships.
Here are the current projects we are working on to achieve these goals:
Hiring for our 4th full time employee (in addition to Eli, Steve and Nicole) to be our lead teacher, and assistant curriculum developer to start before the Fall.
Experimenting with our pricing. While keeping the same hourly margins, we’re decreasing the amount of time parents sign up for at once (5 weeks instead of 10 weeks), and hoping this will make a difference.
Leveraging press opportunities. Clearly articulating our “why” of the company to both customers, and to a wider audience.
Building a tool called Woof to help students transition from beginner (Scratch) to advanced (text-based) programming languages. Students, teachers, and parents have been very excited about this because there’s nothing quite like it in the space. We believe it could catch on a big way in the growing computer science education movement.
Building out a lightweight CMS to automate our current work around managing student projects, teacher notes, and parent progress reports.
Exploring possible fundraising opportunities to accelerate our growth, but proud to say we are still entirely bootstrapped.
If you have any feedback or advice that could help with our current projects or how we’re thinking about things, we’d love to hear it.
We truly couldn’t have gotten to this point without your continued support and advice, so on behalf of our team, teachers, students and parents: Thank You.
Steve and Eli