Codemoji

Emojis and coding aren’t typically used together in the same sentence, but what if I told you to ignore this and think bigger? That’s where we discover the online EdTech platform Codemoji. Cofounded by Livio Bolzon, the company is dedicated to helping the next generation of students learn coding with an unconventional approach: emojis. 

Fresh out of school, he was looking for a way to make a difference in the world while helping people in the process. Through his research and personal experiences, he found that the education industry had some holes that needed filling, specifically when it came to CS (HTML and JavaScript in particular). Combining this with his background in programming, the idea of Codemoji was born. 

Like many others, Livio understood that diving right into the ‘nitty gritty’ of coding can quickly feel overwhelming to anyone trying to learn the basics, especially young students. By eliminating the finer details, like the syntax, and instead starting with the basics, students would be more willing to give CS a try. To do this, Codemoji replaces various code functions with simple emoji icons that allow students to focus more on the concepts before they are introduced to harder topics. But getting to this place wasn’t easy for Livio. 

As a young entrepreneur, Livio admits that he made some mistakes when first starting up his business. The initial “ramp up” was difficult for Codemoji, partially because the primary focus had been on user growth rather than on revenue growth. So later on when they were strapped for cash, they had to seek outside help from accelerators and related programs. As their luck would have it, they were “rejected a million times”. To make matters worse, it certainly didn’t help that he was years younger than many other startup founders at the time. When trying to fund the company, it was extremely hard. “You have no money, [and none of your] friends have money because they’re all in college”. 

He would soon find out that the edtech industry that he had just entered was already saturated with “a lot of big people and not a lot of small people. There are a lot of small people trying, [and] there are a lot of small people dying. Your level that the product needs to be at has to be so high to get paid by that school or else your retention rate at that school is going [to suffer]”. Simply put, the conditions were less than optimal for the small startup. 

Eventually, however, things began to take a turn for the better. At first, they had been trying to target entire schools and work in a ‘top-down’ approach to get to student. And while that may still be the goal, Livio found it much easier to onboard individual teachers and pitch Codemoji as an add-on to their classroom rather than a curriculum change. After some doubts about going back to finish his education, he made up his mind when outside help finally came. With the assistance of funding, Codemoji was finally able to grow and gain the momentum it desperately needed. They continued to build momentum through mass emailing and with the help of newfound teacher-evangelists that were once early adopters. Ultimately, they discovered that private schools and individual teachers would be the strongest initial supporters of Codemoji due to their curriculum flexibility. 

When the ball finally started to get rolling and the first thousand users were onboarded, Livio realized that Codemoji had potential. “Once we hit 1000 or 2000 [users], we were like ‘something’s going on here’… once you start hitting some numbers it gives you more reason to invest time [into it]”. As traction gained, they added more to the service. They first offered web development languages like HTML and JavaScript, but as can be seen, many new languages have been added with more to come in the future. In addition to new languages, students had their own requests for games as well, so the team granted their wish and added games to keep users engaged. This means that there is an endless supply of content, but creating each language’s course is a challenging task. In other words, one pro of the idea behind Codemoji is that the product roadmap is somewhat scalable. 

Although Codemoji is yet to be considered a ‘big guy’ in the industry, they have already been able to make a great impact on kids to help them learn and love CS. Said best by Livio, the goal has been and is “[to] get them excited about computer science. [We try] to make it simple and easy enough to build that early confidence [so students can] persevere later”. 

Entrepreneur Advice

“Go work on one thing and do as much as you can to make that happen. I think that is something that I didn’t do as much as I should have. I wanted to make the product as good as we could then go sell it. I should’ve focused a little more early on about sales. I think having realistic goals early on whether they are app downloads, paid views, or revenue, you have to be realistic with what those figures look like and how you are going to get there. Make clear plans like ‘how are we going to make our first thousand dollars? Then our second?’”

To learn more about Codemoji, visit them here. To see our interview with Worksense click here. If you’re interested in the most recent business secrets, check out our Business Knowledge page. If you want to stay up to date with the most recent BWS news, follow us on Instagram!