A History of CodeDay (StudentRND), As Told By Files I Found On My Old Hard Drive
With CodeDay coming up in a week, I thought Id share my history with StudentRND/CodeDay. You can respond to posts on Medium, so it would be great to hear your stories, as well!
Fun fact for people who refer to me as StudentRNDs original founder: Im totally not! I was barely even involved with StudentRND for the first several years!
I got involved when our actual founder, Edward EdwardStarcraft Jiang who used to be legitimately famous enough for Starcraft II that he got a Twitch emoji contacted me in 2009 asking if Id be interested in designing the logo:
It turns out Im not the only one who liked Adobe Illustrators built-in Scientific color palette and slab serif fonts, so he got another volunteer, Claire Lin, to make this logo instead:
The other thing about 2009-era StudentRND is that there was no CodeDay the idea was to open a space where students could get access to tools to work on projects. In 2009 this space was Edwards basement, a 30 minute drive into the suburbs. Edward spent the rest of the summer trying to convince me to visit the space, and I was not interested.
End of 2009, according to my hard drive.
In 2010, Washington Mutual, a bank you probably havent heard of, was bought by Chase, a bank you have probably heard of. Unlike Chase, people really liked Washington Mutual, so Chase decided to give away a bunch of money to Washington-based nonprofits to make people like them.
They did this by means of a Facebook voting contest, which wasnt hard to win in 2010. So we, and many other nonprofits, got a $25,000 check!
(Ironically, Chase wouldnt actually give us a bank account because Edward was under 18. We had to go with US Bank, a bank so bad they literally lost our money three times.)
Having a bunch of money, we bought one of the first 3D printers! Aside from looking worse, it worked roughly as well as modern ones.
We also found a great space for the summer: in industrial Bellevue, right across from a giant pile of dirt. It also didnt really have floors by most definitions it had hardened flooring glue.
But it was cheap, and available for a short-term summer lease, so we took it, and held the grand opening!
I either made the flyer, or printed it, because I found it in a folder called Older stuff:
We worked on a bunch of projects over the summer, including a Microsoft Surface. No, not that one. This one.
And a Trebuchet.
Then at the end of the summer, we packed everything up, and went back to school. End of 2010, according to my hard drive.
In the Summer of 2011, we got a space with real floors! I went to do an internship in Canada, so I was only there for the tail end, but at some point a world-famous DJ stopped by to play a show and no one believed us.
Edward used that show as a launching point for a new initiative: year-round StudentRND workspace! (Remember, until now, it was only over the summer.)
I got back from Canada, and made this video to tell people the good news:
We worked on a few projects, including two kickstarters: a robotic pipe organ, and a plasma speaker!
We also hosted our first CodeDay, based on the fact that some friends and I worked on a game in high school, but actually did all the work in the 24-hours before we presented it.
We called the first CodeDay HACK because I went to the grand-opening of Facebooks Seattle office, and they had a sign that said HACK on the wall, and I thought it sounded cool.
Right after HACK, we started using the name CodeDay, and in early 2012 we held the first event under that name!
While all the CodeDay stuff was going on, I was still not actually working at StudentRND, and I came up with a cool idea for a startup with my at-the-time-girlfriend and some other friends. This eventually became a real startup, and some of us moved to San Francisco, so I missed out on most of this year in StudentRND. To the left is a video of our pitch to 400+ investors.
In September-ish 2012, Edward came to San Francisco to ask companies for money. I still didnt work for StudentRND, but he stayed at our house, and we ran through the pitch-deck together which I apparently saved!
From what I understand, after seeing this pitch, Splunk signed on for $10,000 to help us get to five cities.
We hosted our first CodeDay San Francisco, and it was a big success! I found the kick-off deck we used:
Remember that map from the pitch deck earlier? We didnt quite make it to all the cities, but by mid 2013 we were in quite a few:
- Seattle (where we started, obviously)
- Portland (first outside of Seattle)
- San Francisco (second outside of Seattle)
- New York (third)
- LA (fourth; not on the map above)
In June, I quit my startup job, and moved back to Seattle.
Until September, I kept telling Edward I wouldnt work for him, but I would do some volunteer work, because once he paid me, I had to do what he wanted. Eventually, I gave in and became StudentRNDs first Programs Director.
Edward and I put together a list of all the cities we wanted to experience CodeDay. Which really meant Edward and I searched largest US cities on Google, and went down the list. Here was our schedule for year zero of truly nation-wide CodeDay:
We needed some additional funding to make that happen, so we went back to our friends at Splunk with this new, much larger proposal.
Splunk signed on, as well as a few other sponsors, and we set to work expanding CodeDay. First, to Chicago and Des Moines (major thanks to Fisher Adelakin and Brett Neese for making that happen), then to, well, everywhere else.
We also closed the physical workspace, focusing full-time on CodeDay. No pictures of this; I didnt take any because it was too sad.
2014 and Beyond
And, well, the rest is history. The history you probably already know, anyway. We continued to make plenty of scaling mistakes over the next several months, but eventually made it to 24 cities by the Spring of 2014, hitting Edwards goal of a nation-wide non-profit.
Having achieved his goal, Edward left StudentRND in June of 2014, and I took over as Executive Director from there.
The best thing about this story is that it shows how quickly a great idea can take off. StudentRND existed from 20092012 with some small successes. In the two years after we came up with CodeDay, however, we grew from working with dozens of students in one city, to thousands in 25. Two years!
Also: Edward had a dream of bringing StudentRND to this many people he even dropped out of university to make it happen. If youre a fan of CodeDay, make sure to thank @EdwardStarcraft on Twitter.
Ill leave you with this presentation. I dont know what it was for, but apparently I made it in 2013.
(Heres what our website looked like from 2009 through today:)