Posts from hacking education

Help Teach A High School Computer Science Class

I have written about TEALS here many times. TEALS is a program where software engineers volunteer and support high school teachers who have limited or no computer science background so that their schools can offer computer science, and eventually continue the program without volunteer support. In its third year in NYC, TEALS supports 20 teachers in 19 high schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens. Last year, 7 NYC TEALS teachers reached “hand off,” a milestone indicating they can continue teaching independently or with diminished support. To learn more about TEALS, visit their website.

If you are interested in doing this next year (Sep 16-Jun 17), you can attend an info session. The next one is in Brooklyn on Wednesday, May 11th:

Brooklyn, NY:
May 11th, 2016 6:30 – 8:30pm
Williamsburg Preparatory High School
257 North 6th Street (Brooklyn)

Many AVC readers have done this over the last three years. And I’ve heard from many of them that it is a very rewarding way to give back and help build a more diverse pipeline of software engineering talent here in NYC. I hope you will consider doing it this year.

MIT Digital Currency Initiative

My alma mater is doing some really good work in the area of digital currencies. MIT, via its Media Lab, has built something called the Digital Currency Initiative. The basic idea of the DCI is to bring together researchers and scientists from all over the world and from many different disciplines (cryptography, economics, privacy, distributed systems, etc) to collaborate on research and efforts to promote and develop digital currency and distributed ledger technologies. This is a institute wide initiative at MIT though its center of gravity is in the Media Lab.

Earlier this week, MIT’s DCI announced a $900,000 Bitcoin Developer Fund. The Gotham Gal and I were one of the financial backers of this fund which will pay the salaries of developers who work on the open source codebase that is at the core of the Bitcoin protocol. It is important to note that as a financial backer of this fund, we do not have any influence over these developers. That is true for all of the financial backers. In the true sense of “academic freedom” the Bitcoin Developer Fund has a “hands off” approach to the developers it supports. This quote is from the announcement:

The establishment of this fund enables us to offer positions in a neutral academic environment. This allows developers like Wlad, Cory and Gavin to work on code and develop new ideas that may be controversial, but can do so with the assurance that they won’t be fired for diversity of thought.

I would love to see this fund grow in size over time and be able to support a larger group of computer scientists and developers to work on forks of Bitcoin and other digital currencies like Ethereum. Diversity of thought is badly needed in this important new technology sector and we don’t have enough of it right now.

While I’m on the topic of diversity, DCI also announced $100,000 in “diversity scholarships” this week. Here are the details:

The MIT Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) is excited to announce more than $100,000 in scholarships and support for underrepresented minorities and women to attend Consensus 2016: Making Blockchain Real. In collaboration with CoinDesk, a news site specializing in bitcoin and digital currencies, the DCI will be selecting 50 Consensus Scholars to attend the event on May 2–4 in New York City. This will be our second year collaborating on a scholarship effort for the conference–we are excited to continue to foster a more diverse community of attendees at Consensus. Click here to apply!

If you are a woman or a minority with an interest in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other blockchain related technologies, you should apply for one of these 50 scholarships at the link above.

I am pleased by and proud of MIT’s efforts in this area. Entrepreneurs and investors are doing a lot to move the state of the blockchain technology sector forward, but there is a big role to be played by the world of academia. And MIT is certainly doing its part.

Path Forward

Our portfolio company Return Path built a “returnship” program a few years ago to help stay at home moms and other men and women who have left the work force to take care of children, sick parents, etc figure out how to get back into the workforce. This program, which involves a 20 week paid internship and a bunch of training in new tools and technologies, has been incredibly successful at Return Path where they have run several cohorts and hired many of the interns into full time positions.

Recently Return Path started helping other tech companies start these returnship programs. They found that these companies had similar success with it.

So this week Return Path spun out the team, the systems, and the curriculum into a new non-profit called Path Forward. The Gotham Gal, who has written a lot about the challenges women face in getting back into careers they temporarily left, will be joining the Board and helping them grow this new effort. She wrote a bit about it on her blog yesterday. And Fortune has a great piece on Path Forward too.

This topic has been near and dear to our family for a long time. Our daughter Emily wrote her college thesis, Life Sequencing: A Viable Solution To Work-Life Conflict For High-Achieving Women, on this topic and her work has further encouraged us to work on this issue.

If you have a company in NY, CA, or CO (they are starting in those three states) that would like to start doing returnships, go to Path Forward and fill out this form. If you are ready to restart your career after taking time off, go to Path Forward and complete this form.

And if you think this is awesome and want to support Path Forward financially, go to Crowdrise and hit the big donate button.

ScriptEd Internships

One of the questions I get a lot from people about our K12 Computer Science Education work is “where are the pathways to a job?” and right now there aren’t enough of them. Some of it is that not enough students have the skills that employers want in an employee or an intern. But some of it is that we haven’t built enough of these pathways. We are fixing both of these issues and I am very confident that within a few years we will have thousands of students a year in NYC that have the appropriate skills to get a software engineering job or internship and we will also have built the programs to connect these students with these employers and these jobs.

But in the interim there is ScriptEdScriptEd creates pathways to careers in tech for youth at under-resourced high schools. In 30 schools around the city, students take a year-long class which covers HTML, CSS, and Javascript and is taught by software developers who volunteer their time twice weekly. ScriptEd also offers an Advanced Class for second- and third-year students, hosted at companies around the city.

One of the most unique and impactful components of ScriptEd’s work is their internship program. In the summers, students put their skills to work in paid internships at companies like, Rent the Runway and Thrillist. This year, ScriptEd aims to place over 120 highly qualified interns, giving these students real-life opportunities to launch careers in tech.

This is where you come in: ScriptEd is growing fast and has many qualified students seeking internship opportunities. In order to expand the internship program, they need to find new companies to host student interns. ScriptEd is looking to partner with companies with at least 40 NYC-based employees and at least 3-4 developers on staff. Companies commit to host students for 5 weeks, from July 11th to August 12th, to pay students a stipend, and to provide mentorship as the students work on projects.

Participation in ScriptEd’s internship program is an investment in NYC’s tech community. This is a concrete way for companies to help create a larger, more diverse tech talent pipeline, all while offering students a life-changing opportunity.

In addition to contribution to a long-term solution to the tech talent shortage, there are immediate returns on company investment:

  • Employee Development: 87% of volunteer teachers say they are better at their jobs as a result of volunteering with ScriptEd.

  • Past internship partners report that team members working with interns gain management skills, critical experience learning how to explain technical concepts clearly in plain English, and exposure to diversity.

  • Employee Retention: 91% of ScriptEd’s volunteer teachers feel that they have made a significant and meaningful impact on their students’ lives. Internship partners report that team members enjoy the creative outlet of working on new and interesting projects with the students, and feel pride in sharing their passion for technology with the next generation.

To learn more about ScriptEd internships or sign up to host, contact Kate Holzman at You can also check out their Internship Brochure and Annual Report.


Something amazing is happening today.

A philanthropic “flash mob” is closing out projects on DonorsChoose in states and cities around the US in a single day. The event is being called BestSchoolDay and over fifty philanthropists, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs are kicking the day off with their commitments which collectively close out about half of the open projects on DonorsChose.

The best part is everyone can join in. If you want to join this flash mob and close out the projects in your school, neighborhood, or more, head on over to DonorsChoose and join in. Your contribution will be leveraged by Sergey Brin and Brian Acton who have committed to match over $3mm of project funding that happens on BestSchoolDay. If we can close out all of projects on DonorsChoose today, we will raise almost $30mm in a single day for classroom projects around the US.

The Gotham Gal and I are participating in this because we want to help the teachers, the unsung heroes of the education system, who get up every day and bring all that they have into the classroom to help students learn and grow. DonorsChoose is an incredible resource for teachers to get the things they need to help their students. The Gotham Gal is closing out all the classroom projects in Montgomery County Maryland where she went to middle school and high school. And I am closing out all the classroom projects in Orange County, NY where I went to middle school and high school.

If you want to see this event unfolding live, check out BestSchoolDay which has a live map of the projects being closed out.

BestSchoolDay is a call to action for people across America to support classrooms in need. By funding so many books, art supplies, field trips, and other resource requests, this act of mass philanthropy sends a message: students in every community deserve the materials and experiences they need to learn. The Gotham Gal and I are excited to be part of this call to action and we hope that others will join in to make this a very special day for teachers and students.

Become A CSNYC Founding Partner

Three years ago, I co-founded the nonprofit organization CSNYC to address the extreme scarcity of computer science education in the NYC public schools. I am proud to say that we are now reaching nearly 10% of the city’s schools and more than 12,000 students. But our mission is to reach every school and every student.

In September 2015, Mayor de Blasio and I announced Computer Science For All (CS4All), a 10-year, $81 million plan to bring computer science education to every student in New York City public schools. The costs of CS4All will be shared equally between the city and private philanthropy, and CSNYC and Robin Hood have each committed $5 million to get the initiative off the ground.

As leaders in the local technology community, we collectively have the potential to support what will be the largest scaling of access to computer science education in the country. Early, meaningful access to computer science can change students’ educational lives and create pathways to future educational and career opportunities. These students are our future employees.

I am reaching out to NYC tech companies to help fund CSNYC’s ongoing efforts by committing to an annual membership of between $5,000 and $25,000. As a CSNYC Founding Partner, you will support our work in the schools and enable us to connect your company to employee engagement opportunities, internship programs, and more.

csnycpartnersPlease consider joining this distinguished group of companies:, AppNexus, Bitly, Clarifai, Contour Ventures, Etsy, Facebook, HyperScience, Insight Venture Partners, Justworks, Kickstarter, MongoDB, Nestio, Postlight, Resy, Return Path, Simulmedia, Tapad, Techstars, Tusk Ventures, Warby Parker, and Yext. I am hopeful that we can add your company to this list.  

If you are interested in joining as a CSNYC Founding Partner email us and we will follow up with you directly, or you can simply fill out our online membership form.

The CS Opportunity Fair

On April 7th at the Armory inWashington Heights, we will host the third annual CS Opportunity Fair which exposes career opportunities in computer science and software engineering in NYC to over 2,000 NYC high school students who are studying computer science this year.

If you work at or run a tech company in NYC, we want your company represented at the fair. We want you to host a booth and bring colleagues so that the students can see and talk to people working in tech companies in NYC. We have over fifty NYC tech companies already committed to come but we need a lot more. It’s a five hour commitment, 9:30-2:30, but it will make a big difference in our ongoing effort to open up tech jobs to a much broader range of talent and bring much needed diversity to the tech sector in NYC and around the US.

The CS Fair also showcases colleges from around the region and the country where students can continue their computer science education as well as extra curricular programs students can enroll in to further their studies.

I hope I have convinced you to get involved in this fantastic event. If so, here are the links you need.

CS Fair website

To register to host a booth

To email for more information on the fair

To email for information on becoming a sponsor

I plan to be at the fair for the entire event and I hope I will see you and your colleagues there.

And props to AVC regular Kirk Love for his work on the CS Fair artwork and website. Thanks Kirk.

The First Annual AFSE Fundraiser

AVC folks will know that my first foray into K-12 Computer Science Education work, which has now become almost a second full-time job, was the effort four years ago to open NYC’s first dedicated computer science high school. That high school is called The Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE) and this year they will graduate their first class. Here is Tylor Fields, AFSE’s first student to be accepted to college.

Tylor Fields

There will be many more college acceptances at AFSE over the course of the next few months. And a number of AFSE students will be going on to study computer science in college.

Students at AFSE receive 4 years of computer science courses, opportunities for internships and real work experiences, and 4 years of one-on-one mentoring with professionals in the tech community. 

In addition to graduating its first class this year (with a graduation rate in excess of 90%, which is off the charts for an unscreened high school in the NYC public school system), AFSE is also doing it’s first annual fundraiser this year.

The fundraiser is on February 3 from 7-10pm at Suite36 on 16 W. 36th Street. AFSE is seeking to raise $125,000 which will give the students in the Class of 2017 the following:  

  • Each student is matched with a professional, college-educated mentor from iMentor for all 4 years of high school. This means an email each week, an in-person meeting each month,  and a go-to person for each phase of high school including completing college applications.
  • Each student receives personalized college counseling through junior and senior years, as well as financial support for SAT/ACT exams, public and private college application fees, college visits and college deposits.
  • Each student who is on track for high school graduation but not on track for college graduation is invited to participate in an intensive OneGoal course for the last two years of high school and first year of college.
  • Each student has access to job shadowing, internships, and other work-based learning experiences to build their personal resumes and apply their learning in a real world context.

If you would like to buy a ticket to the event or donate to it, you can do so here.

What Happened In 2015

Last year in my What Just Happened post, I said:

the social media phase of the Internet ended

I think we can go further than that now and say that sometime in the past year or two the consumer internet/social/mobile gold rush ended.

Look  at the top 25 apps in the US:

top 25 apps

The top 6 mobile apps and 8 of the top 9 are owned by Facebook and Google. 10 of the top 12 mobile apps are owned by Apple, Facebook, and Google.

There isn’t a single “startup” on that list and the youngest company on that list is Snapchat which is now over four years old.

We are now well into a consolidation phase where the strong are getting stronger and it is harder than ever to build a large consumer user base. It is reminiscent of the late 80s/early 90s after Windows emerged as the dominant desktop environment and Microsoft started to use that dominant market position to move up the stack and take share in all of the important application categories. Apple and Google are doing that now in mobile, along with Facebook which figured out how to be as critical on your phone as your operating system.

I am certain that something will come along, like the Internet did in the mid 90s, to bust up this oligopoly (which is way better than a monopoly). But it is not yet clear what that thing is.

2015 saw some of the candidates for the next big thing underwhelm. VR is having a hard time getting out of the gates. Wearables and IoT have yet to go mainstream. Bitcoin and the Blockchain have yet to give us a killer app. AI/machine learning has great potential but also gives incumbents with large data sets (Facebook and Google) scale advantages over newcomers.

The most exciting things that have happened in tech in 2015 are happening in verticals like transportation, hospitality, education, healthcare, and maybe more than anything else, finance, where the lessons and playbooks of the consumer gold rush are being used with great effectiveness to disrupt incumbents and shake up industries.

The same is true of the enterprise which also had a great year in 2015. Slack, and Dropbox before it, shows how powerful a consumerish approach to the enterprise can be. But there aren’t many broad horizontal plays in the enterprise and verticals seems to be where most of the action was in 2015.

I’m hopeful that 2015 will also go down as the year we buried the Unicorn. The whole notion that getting a billion dollar price tag on your company was something necessary to matter, to be able to recruit, to be able to get press, etc, etc, is worshiping a false god. And we all know what happens to those who do that.

As I look back over 2014 and 2015, I feel like these two years were an inflection point, where the underlying fundamentals of opportunity in tech slowed down but the capital rushing to get invested in tech did not. That resulted in the Unicorn phase, which if it indeed is over, will be followed by an unwinding phase where the capital flows will need to line up more tightly to the opportunity curve.

I’m now moving into “What Will Happen” which is for tomorrow, so I will end this post now by saying goodbye to 2015 and hopefully to much of the nonsense that came with it.

I did not touch on the many important things that happened outside of tech in 2015, like the rise of terrorism in the western world, and the reaction of the body politic to it, particularly here in the US with the 2016 Presidential campaign getting into full swing. That certainly touches the world of tech and will touch it even more in the future. Again, something to talk about tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and we will talk about the future, not the past, tomorrow.