Codelicious CEO and co-founder Christine McDonnell set out to raise $500,000 to help grow her company, which offers cloud-based software to schools that enables any educator to teach full semesters of computer science for grades 3-8.
She nearly doubled her goal, announcing this week that her company raised $940,000 in its first round of funding. Until now, the Indianapolis-based company has been bootstrapped by McDonnell and the company’s co-founder, Erik Young.
Investors included Collina Ventures, GRE Capital and Elevate Ventures among others.
McDonnell said the money will be used to expand the company’s workforce in central Indiana, bolster sales and marketing, and build the intellectual property and internal infrastructure needed to sustain growth.
The company, which began building its curriculum in late 2016 and rolled out its software in early 2017, is currently powered by the two founders and 15 contractors. McDonnell is aiming to have 30 full-time employees in the next couple of years.
The company already has deals with 10 school districts and annual recurring revenue of $100,000, McDonnell told IBJ. Since Codelicious offers computer science curriculum through a software-as-a-solution subscription model, it can be updated and upgraded continually, McDonnell explained.
“We’re to the point that we’ve demonstrated that our product works and there’s a demand,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell wasn’t totally surprised that Codelicious beat its fundraising goal.
“I believe the excitement and investment comes from the overall proposition; the demand for what we offer combined with the desire to bring computer science to the classroom,” McDonnell said.
Codelicious’ timing appears to be good. Earlier this year, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law mandating Indiana schools teach K-12 students computer science by 2021. New York and North Dakota passed similar laws and tech and education experts predict other states will follow suit.
Across the state—and nationally—computer science positions are in high demand and the need to educate students earlier in the field continues to rise. However, elementary and middle school teachers often cite challenges related to a lack of skills, a lack of resources (lesson plans) and a lack of professional development. Codelicious, McDonnell said, helps alleviate all three of these pain points, providing instant access to computer science curriculums that educators can teach in the classroom.
While McDonnell didn’t discount the possibility of expanding the Codelicious’ curriculum to include all grades K-12, she said: “Right now, we are focused on scaling our target market of [third through eighth] grade. There are many opportunities to expand from there, but for right now we are focused on upper elementary and middle schools.”
So far, all of Codelicious’ clients are in Indiana, but McDonnell expects the company’s footprint to expand nationally. Next month, she’s traveling to San Francisco to take part in a TechCrunch event and while there has appointments to talk to two school systems in California.
“We think there’s going to be broad appeal for this,” McDonnell said. “We have great balance. We’re working with public and private schools, we have charter schools in the pipeline and we’ve worked with organizations like the Girl Scouts.”
Codelicious, McDonnell explained, sells a curriculum that is designed to be taught in a classroom by an educator in a collaborative fashion. She emphasized that teachers don’t have to be experts in computer science or even in the STEM fields to use Codelicious’ platform.
“At Codelicious, we are creating access and removing barriers to teaching and learning computer science,” McDonnell said. “We believe in the importance of building foundational skills early to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. This belief drives our focus to develop courses that any educator can confidently teach, regardless of their computer science background and that engage students of all learning styles.”
Codelicious was one of five Indiana-based startups to participate in gBETA Indy, a free, seven-week accelerator program co-hosted by Wisconsin-based gener8tor and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Codelicious graduated from the accelerator in June.
In partnership with the IEDC, Elevate Ventures invests in early-stage companies like Codelicious through the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which promotes economic growth and innovation-driven public-private partnerships in Indiana.
"Codelicious has a rare opportunity. The startup is poised to impact not only the state's current entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also its future one. Through the platform, students are better poised to fill high-demand tech positions and perhaps build their own future startups here in Indiana,” Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures CEO, said in a statement. “Our decision to invest in Codelicious’ long-term goals is validated by the state’s and Gov. Holcomb’s priorities to focus on the growth of our talent.”