It’s hard to ignore a rapidly increasing update in our children’s educational curriculum: Coding. It comes up in conversation when I talk to other parents about children’s academia while schools are slowly and steadily adopting the skill as necessary for modern learning. Is coding the new normal? Is it a skill that’s going to become necessary? Will children need to code certain areas of the life as adults? These are a few questioned that parents have included in dialogue. With a few years of managing one the country’s biggest tech conferences under her belt [Tech Week], Codeverse co-founder and CMO Katy Lynch and her husband, co-founder Craig Ulliott have both developed a language specific for codeverse students in teaching them how to code.
Katy is one passionate entrepreneur both personally and professionally. Besides loving her job and riding the obstacle wave to now having a quote ‘well oiled machine’ of a business, she’s also an avid sailor [she’s always on a sailboat whenever she gets a chance] that enjoys every opportunity to set out on an adventure at sea. Her positivity is infectious and her warmth immediately picked up with a single handshake and smile. We talk to Katy about her journey as an entrepreneur, working with her partner and husband, challenges along the way and how she’s tackled it all.
What is Codeverse?
Codeverse is the world’s first fully interactive coding studio and tech platform for kids ages 6-13. We are founded on the mission to “teach a billion kids to code”.
How did you come about with the idea? Was there a market gap?
Great question! Prior to Codeverse, I was the CEO of Techweek – the nation’s largest traveling technology festival. While at an event in LA, I went to a viewing of “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap”, a documentary that explores the reasons why there are a lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. It is a scary and sad fact that young girls lose interest in math and the sciences at a young age. As a woman in tech, and someone who is a big advocate for girls, I knew that this needed to change. Getting girls excited about coding, as early as 6 years old, can have a big impact on their lives.
Craig [husband and co-founder] and I did a a lot of research into the different apps, toys, games and gadgets that existed out there to get young kids excited about coding. In our research, we noticed two big things: There was not a physical space where kids could program every object around them, and there was no hands-on coding language designed specifically for 6-13 year olds. And so, that’s when the idea to start Codeverse came about!
Coding is a big thing right now, do you think it’s a trend or something that’s here to stay?
Coding is here to stay, but what coding means will evolve incredibly quickly for the foreseeable future. It’s why we teach kids intellectual curiosity, creativity, and problem solving as much as we’re teaching them the syntax of particular languages. Those are the skills that last a lifetime!
What is it like working and co-founding a business with your husband? How do you make it a success?
I get asked this question a lot! It’s terrific and I cannot imagine running Codeverse with anyone else. It is important to understand that Craig and I have completely different skillsets, which complement each other well in business. But, working with a significant other isn’t for everyone. In fact, I usually steer couples away from working together because it is complicated. Your work and personal lives are very much intertwined. It takes a lot of open communication, patience, and trust to be able to work with your life partner.
It is important to understand that Craig and I have completely different skillsets, which complement each other well in business. But, working with a significant other isn’t for everyone.Katy Lynch Ulliott
Launching a businesses and needing to fulfill everything all at once is a challenge- how did you over come this?
One of the worst [and scariest] things I hear about is what I call ‘Entrepreneur Burn Out’. This occurs as a result of startup founders taking on too many projects at once, or saying “yes” to things that don’t provide any value to their business. I almost experienced this when I started my first business, SocialKaty, in 2010. When I wasn’t in the office working, I was spending my time attending networking events around Chicago.
Most of these events were riddled with sales people, trying to convince me to purchase their services [everything from office catering to billboard advertising.] Simply put, it was a waste of my time and I’d leave many of these events overwhelmed and tired of endless business pitches. I learned very quickly that the only events worth attending were the ones I was speaking at, or meeting people that would help drive my business forward. The most successful entrepreneurs have no problem politely declining an invitation to an event, or saying “no” when something doesn’t serve them or their business.
Great entrepreneurs use their time wisely, and do not allow themselves to be distracted by anything that doesn’t align with their mission, vision, or values. Here are three tips for avoiding ‘Entrepreneur Burn Out’:
- Create weekly goals and stick to them. Prioritize projects and stay focused.
- Look after yourself. This can be as simple as taking 20 minutes out of your busy schedule every day to take a walk around the block. Your health is your wealth, as they say!
- Stop accepting coffee meetings with people you don’t know that want to “pick your brain”. Giving out free advice constantly is wasting your time and doesn’t help you or your business.
- Have fun, be goofy, and laugh at yourself! Entrepreneurship is hard, but it shouldn’t suck the fun out of you. Find a new hobby, whether that’s attending a comedy show once a month, skydiving, or learning how to sail. 😉
Great entrepreneurs use their time wisely, and do not allow themselves to be distracted by anything that doesn’t align with their mission, vision, or values.Katy Lynch Ulliott
What’s it like to work with children?
It’s brilliant! Kids are awesome and full of cool ideas. They are curious, open-minded, funny, and not afraid to take risks. One of my favorite things about the Codeverse experience is, at the end of every summer camp, we encourage the kids to present their coding creations to their family and friends. It’s amazing and inspiring to hear the kids [some of them as young as 6 years old] talk passionately about what they have learned and what challenges they have overcome during the weeklong camp.
Kids are the greatest clients! What do you spend your time mostly on, at Codeverse?
Most of my time is spent on our marketing initiatives including PR, advertising, brand, video, and social. Additionally, I spearhead our Scholarship Program – where we partner with non-profit organizations to ensure that kids from all neighborhoods and backgrounds have access to our beautiful, state-of-the-art coding studios.
How does Codeverse stand out to the rest?
I’d say there are two things that make us unique. First and foremost, we’ve designed the world’s first fully interactive coding studio. This means that all of the cutting-edge technology [such as lights, speakers, robotic arms, TV’s and more] featured within our studios can be programmed in real time by kids. Codeverse is the classroom of the future!
A lot of parents are concerned about AI and technology taking over future jobs. Do you believe this to be true? What do you advise is the best thing parents can do to help their children bolster future job opportunities?
This future is inevitable. There’s nothing we can do to change that. So, the first step is to embrace it. The second step is to teach your kids intellectual curiosity, creativity, and problem solving!
Quote you live by?
I don’t have one quote I live by. But here’s one by Mother Theresa that I’m digging right now. “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more”.
Photography by the talented Enas Siddiqi.