We interviewed co-founder Aidan Chopra, who told us that more than 800,000 kids have tried Bitsbox, and collectively spent more than 20,000,000 minutes coding on their platform.
They consider their online coding environment a safe place where kids can learn without having to install a myriad of tools beforehand. As of now, they have subscribers in over 60 countries and users such as schools and coding clubs, in over 100.
As for the future of the business, he said, “Bitsbox has a place everywhere there are kids who want to learn. Coding education is a huge challenge, and we’re thrilled to be playing such a huge part in tackling it.”
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
It all started with Scott’s [Lininger, co-founder] daughter, Audrey. She was 7 at the time, and asked Scott what he did at work. He started hunting for a product to teach her programming basics, but the tools he found weren’t quite what he wanted for Audrey. He wanted a system that worked the way he taught himself to code when he was 7, back in the early ’80s. So he built a prototype, and the rest is history.
How Their Experience Working at Google Helps in Their Business
Working at Google teaches you to build prototypes as quickly as possible, test them early and often, and to never be afraid to scrap something that isn’t working, even if you spent a lot of time on it. Google also has a data-first approach to building things; as such, Bitsbox keeps track of tons of metrics about what kids are doing (anonymously, of course) so that we can always improve the experience. I don’t think anything about working at Google prepared us for running a business — entrepreneurialism is an attitude combined with experience that you accrue as time goes on. I think the only way to learn how to do this is to actually do it.
The ‘Tank’ Experience
I stood in line at an open call for companies in New York City last spring. We didn’t think we had much of a chance — I wasn’t wearing a unicorn costume or anything. Two weeks later, they contacted us about making a short audition video. As we moved along in the process, it just kept getting realer and realer, until we were there in LA, standing in front of the Sharks. Surreal. We’d rehearsed our pitch nonstop for a few days, but we had no idea if the Sharks would get what we’re trying to do. Would they accuse us of being geeks who want to turn all the children of the world into geeks, just like us? Would they appreciate that coding is an important skill to teach kids? Would they be mean? There’s nothing about going on Shark Tank that parallels real life.
Their Unique Subscription
Unlike most subscription boxes where everybody gets the same box every month, new Bitsboxers start with Box 1 and receive the next box in the sequence every month. This allows us to introduce coding concepts in a logical order. Our product is really more of a learning system than a traditional subscription box. But what kid wants a learning system for her birthday?
The Importance of Learning to Code
Coding is the literacy of the 21st century. The ability to code opens doors for kids — coders can live or work anywhere they want. But we’re not saying everyone should grow up to be a software developer. You don’t teach your kids to read and write because you expect them to be novelists. It’s about giving them the tools they’ll need to be able to make the things they can imagine. In 10 or 20 years, people who know nothing about code will be considered illiterate. That doesn’t have to be terrifying; anyone can learn with enough time and practice, especially kids.
Creating the Projects
Coming up with the apps is a collaboration between me, Anastasia Miliano, also our COO, and sometime Scott, depending on how slammed we are. We start by figuring out what coding concept we’re going to teach that month -functions, variables, conditionals- then we pick a theme -animals, fairy tales, robots. We try to create a variety of games, simple practical jokes, drawing tools, and other apps that kids will like. Our artwork and photography is sourced from stock sites, and I do most of the graphic design and writing.
Other Shark Tank toys for kids: