Dreams of Silicon Valley success are fuelling the cluster of micro start-ups set up in partnership between CoderDojo, the free computer- coding workshop phenomenon started by Cork 19-year-old James Whelton, and the National Software Centre in Mahon.
And a special CoderDojo event at Leinster House next week will bring the globally renowned project’s ethos of educating children as young as seven in computer coding skills to the centre of decision-making in Ireland. The NSC in Mahon, where the first CoderDojo was established in June 2011, is now providing office space to a steadily growing number of micro start-up businesses that have emerged from the weekly IT classes, which are provided by tutors free of charge.
Among the fledgling tech companies are www.DarhmaSoftware.ie, a web design business run by two 17-year-olds, Dylan Verian and Dale O’Shea, and MarketMyselfOnline.com run by Lindsay Macvean, who has worked with James Whelton on CoderDojo from the outset.
Other start-ups include The App Lab by 12-year-old Harry Moran, the developer of the PizzaBot App who is preparing his next game, and a business run by his twin brother Con, the Crainn Initiative, which ties in with a charitable effort by WeForest to plant a trillion trees worldwide by 2020.
The agreement between the cluster of micro start-ups, known as the CoderDojo Pioneers, and the NSC provides free office space for a period, followed by a term of ‘peppercorn’ rent, to give the start- ups the space to develop ideas into viable commercial propositions.
As Lindsay Macvean explains, “the environment is high intensity; there’s an incredible energy and buzz that is probably reminiscent of the early days of successful clusters such as Silicon Valley”.
“CoderDojo very organic; there is a sense of venturing into areas previously unexplored, and ‘blue sky thinking’; a sense of, why not? I’ve always come away from CoderDojo feeling really excited so it’s great to be able to take that energy and translate it into business,” he explained.
What began as a simple idea has, following James’s partnership with entrepreneur Bill Liao, exploded into a global movement, with 115 CoderDojos established across the globe in the past 12 months.