With $40M investment, Codecademy wants to bring more coding to the workplace

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Codecademy burst onto the New York startup scene in 2012, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg joining what became 400,000 others pledging to learn coding skills through its website.

Since that initial jolt, the SoHobased company has grown steadily—and a bit more quietly—over nine years, reaching more than 50 million users worldwide. On Tuesday, the online platform announced a $40 million investment deal to expand its products, particularly those aimed at employers.

Codecademy teaches coding through self-guided lessons with quizzes and other challenges. Most classes are free, with the company offering a $20 premium option.

The firm is positioning itself for what CEO Zach Sims said is a long-term shift to online learning, a trend that existed even before Covid-19 pushed students throughout the country into remote class. 

“This is part of a systemic shift,” he said, “not just this pandemic bump.” 

The new investment will better position the firm for what Sims said is a growing number of companies offering employees a way to boost technology skills. The firm already has partnerships with Google, Facebook and IBM. Codecademy for Business launched at the start of 2020.

“That product has scaled super quickly,” Sims said. “It often comes through consumer-learners brining this into the workplace, saying this is helping me learn for my job, can I expense this?’ The boss realizes that if one person is using this, maybe an entire team should do so, and we have benefited from that.”

Bloomberg bump

Sims was 21-years-old when he registered a domain name challenging people to make 2012 the year they learned a computer programming language. It was a viral marketing hit, thanks in part to Bloomberg tweeting that his “New Year’s resolution is to learn to code with Codecademy in 2012!” A host of outlets jumped to cover the pledge, including CNN and the BBC (then-London Mayor Boris Johnson said he’d consider taking the course—”if re-elected”).

“The mayor was focused at the time on turning New York into a technology hub and so promoting us as a New York company was one way of doing that,” Sims said. “That was a big boost for us.”

In 2020, the company said it added five million new users, 150,000 paid subscribers and 600 Codecademy for Business customers. The firm also launched partnerships with New York state to teach employees coding skills, as well as New York City to offer training for New Yorkers through the city’s Career Discovery NYC site, launched in response to the pandemic. 

The latest funding round is led by Owl Ventures, one of world’s largest investment firms to focus solely on education technology. Sims and his co-founder Ryan Bubinski had secured a $2.5 million seed investment led by Fred Wilson’s Union Square Ventures just before the 2012 challenge boosted enrollment. 

Codecademy has raised just under $82.5 million from investors including Tuesday’s deal.