This edtech exec shares insight on where she sees things headed.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Yeva Hyusyan is co-founder and CEO of Sololearn, one of the world’s leading mobile-first coding instruction and community apps. The company launched in 2014 with the intention of further developing a coding bootcamp program. But, instead of traditional in-person instruction, “we chose to launch a mobile app as the main platform to make coding classes accessible to more people around the globe,” says Yeva (pictured). “It was so obvious to us at the time that the way to reach as many people as possible, even if it was something as complex as learning how to code, was to go through mobile platforms.”
‘By 2030, the World Economic Forum predicts that over 1 billion people need to reskill to fulfill the jobs of tomorrow.’
In this EdTech Digest interview, Yeva responds to some basic questions revealing her insight into workforce learning, her take on the coding world, funding, growth, and the future.
What exactly does your company provide?
Yeva: We say that Sololearn is a “whole-self” learning experience platform that operates outside of existing, traditional education institutions. We provide bite-sized instruction, practice, and peer learning on mobile and desktop at scale. Our vision is to bridge the skills gap to future careers.
Who do you target?
By 2030, the World Economic Forum predicts that over 1 billion people need to reskill to fulfill the jobs of tomorrow. 60%+ of those new jobs will require tech skills, and this need will be met by “whole-self” education platforms like Sololearn. No traditional institution can scale to meet this demand. And no current edtech platform is built as a whole-self learning experience.
Our target, therefore, are professionals (non-technical and technical) and post-secondary and high school students who need to build technical skills for the jobs of tomorrow.
How do you compare to other coding startups?
Many companies are tackling the coding education space and all of them are trying to serve a particular niche. Some choose online live instruction, others are trying to build coding experiences through desktop web environments. We are unique because we employ active learning in a mobile environment, delivering bite-sized content that fosters making learning how to code a daily habit. Just like people brush their teeth, comb their hair, exercise daily, whatever, we serve people their daily dose of technical skills instruction so they can reskill themselves and improve their lives.
How do you compare to computer science courses in high schools or college?
Aside from the obvious difference in levels of difficulty and granularity with which college courses can offer, traditional coding classes in both high school and college are similar when compared to what we are trying to do. They are based on “one-to-few” instruction that is not scalable and also not accessible to everyone. And, increasingly, we see the cost of education sky-rocketing in places like the United States with young people strapped with a lot of college debt.
Are you currently working with schools – secondary and/or higher ed?
We are working with high schools in the United States that offer coding education, offering Sololearn as a way for teachers to expand their core curriculum with an accompanying app. Our unique practice and bite-sized lessons have proven to be very effective complements for high school teachers who are teaching their students how to code.
What types of languages do you offer?
You just announced your Series B funding of $24 million, what are your plans after this funding and how do you expect growth will look from here?
We plan to scale our impact by building out new content, expanding our product to create endless engagement loops, and growing through product optimization, marketing, and business development initiatives.
What’s your message to those looking into this field and thinking about downloading your app?
Coding is for everyone. You don’t have to know how to code to start on Sololearn, and in fact many don’t. But that doesn’t stop people from learning how to code with Sololearn every day, reskilling, developing technical skills, or going on to be a great developer. Our community is there to help everyone and they support each other through this journey. We have many great stories from people, like Neetish Raj who first learned how to code with Sololearn and then became a developer.
From your vantage point, what’s in store in the future?
Coding education will be a fundamental part of the educational experience in 10 years, as is evident by the rising demand for technical skills that is headed our way as a society. The jobs will be there, but everyone will need to have more technical skill and knowledge to fulfill that job supply.
“Coding” and “programming” can sound intimidating—how do you really open it up?
I think there needs to be a better way to deliver coding content to people and that is exactly what we are working on. We spend a lot of time “gamifying” our experience so people have fun while learning to code. But the gamification angle also allows people to build up currency in the app and use it to unlock new things.
When you think about what has succeeded on mobile over the past 10 years (things like gaming), and how we need to get more people technical skills, we need to make learning how to code way more approachable, bite-sized, and results-driven.
By giving people real ways to practice coding in our app, and by gamifying it, we think we have hit on something special that will break down this barrier that intimidates people from even trying.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]