This week, Kafkadesk spoke with Gabor Bonyhadi, CMO of Codecool, a Budapest-based IT education startup that launched a disruptive model for training coding and other digital skills to address the shortage of digitally skilled workforce in Hungary and all over Europe.
Launched three years ago, Codecool is currently training hundreds of people with no previous digital training in four campuses in both Hungary and Poland, helping them fulfill programming jobs at some of their corporate partners scattered in more than half a dozen different countries. “The growth of European and especially Central and Eastern European companies will be defined by how successful they can become in the process widely referred to as digital transformation”, Codecool founder Balázs Vinnai explained.
The company raised 3.5 million euros in funding last month to step-up its European expansion with the aim of becoming one of the most important providers of practice-oriented digital training and talent management in five years time, and a goal of 10 campuses for an alumni network of nearly 10.000 people by 2023.
Hi Gabor! Could you tell us a bit about the origins of Codecool?
Codecool was started by four seasoned entrepreneurs from the tech scene. The founder with the idea, Balazs Vinnai (ex CDO of Finastra, among the world’s top 3 fintech company) had the vision of creating an education model that is inclusive to everyone no matter their educational background or financial opportunities. The first Codecool campus was started 4 years before in Miskolc, Hungary, with 40 students. Now we are in 3 countries and have 5 campuses with 500 students.
What’s the profile of the people you train?
We can categorize our students into 3 different personas. But first, let’s see what they have in common: the average age of our students is around 28 years old, with mostly men but also an important ratio of women (more than a third of our students). A vast majority of our students (85%) has some higher educational experience and around 50% of them have a diploma as well.
Our 3 personas: First, people who always wanted to be a developer, who are highly interested in technology, but either didn’t get into university or dropped out at some point; second, career changers who want to have a better, future-proof career. This category of people come with a very various background; and finally, ‘augmenters’ who have a profession that they want to extend with coding knowledge. Just imagine a doctor or a lawyer who can code for instance!
Can you tell us a bit about the content of the courses? What kind exactly of digital skills do you teach?
Around half of our educational program is focused on methodologies, like agile working, and soft skills (working in a team, conflict resolution, giving feedback, presenting, business thinking, etc.).
The other 50% of our curriculum focuses on teaching coding skills and technologies like python, html, css, java-script, java, .net, C++, etc. The courses are structured in four main modules: programming basics, web, object-oriented programming and advanced technologies. Students can only move forward to the next module once they’ve mastered everything in the previous one. We call this: mastery-based learning.
Are you planning any international expansion in the near future?
First, we will be opening our Bucharest campus in Romania, then we will move forward towards Western European countries.
What are the main fields of your corporate partners?
We have partners from any industry that needs developers. That includes banking, insurance companies, consulting firms, automotive industry or telecommunications. Our partners usually have big growth plans in terms of expanding their developer base.
From your own experience, what’s your take on the startup environment and ecosystem in Budapest/Hungary?
We are not a typical startup. Our founder Balazs Vinnai put in 1.5 million euros to his vision, so we didn’t have to go through the funding process with our “risky” business model and four founders with no education experience. After we proved to be successful, it was easier for us to bring successful VC’s on board.
I think our market is small, average VC ticket sizes are also small, that is a downside. On the upside, I could say we have great talent, excellent work ethic and we can hack wonderful things on a low budget!
Are digital skills taught at all in Hungary’s mainstream educational system?
Not in the right way, but yes. Usually, all the knowledge people get in education is already outdated by the time they leave the educational system.