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Man with 26 million students.

The man with 26 million students

Zach Sims is a college dropout, a statistic of failure in education. Instead of getting an education, though, he founded a teaching company that now has 26 million students. Well played, Zach.


Codeacademy offers free, interactive training in computer coding. It teaches Python, Java, PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL and Sass, as well as HTML and CSS. It helps to fill the skills gap in these ubiquitous programming languages. Sims founded the company along with co-founder Ryan Bubinski when he realised that nobody he was studying with at Columbia University had any skills that would be relevant in the context of employers like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, whom he approached for internships in his junior year. "We figured if students at Columbia - a top five school in the country - can't find jobs when they graduate, there was probably a problem," says Sims.


He says he build the first version of Codeacademy to teach himself to code, then expanded it and eventually pushed it live. In the first weekend over 200,000 people used it. Previously, programming languages were taught as optional modules at college or in night classes; this was a new way of learning to code, at your own pace and in a collaborative online environment. The site now enables 26 million people from more than 100 countries and from all economic backgrounds to up-skill and make themselves competitive in the jobs market.


At the Davos World Economic Forum in 2015, which Sims attended, a report was released stating that 8.4 million jobs were not being filled because of a shortfall in skills and ‘mismatches in skills and geographies’. One company chairman said companies could no longer ‘stick to the assumption that you get educated for 25 years and then you work for 45 years’.


Zach Sims said at the same conference, ‘It's 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.’


‘Education is having a moment’.