Access Code

Access Code is a free 9 month mobile development program, which enables talented adults from low-income and underrepresented communities to learn iOS or Android and get jobs in the NYC tech economy. This program raises the average income of graduates from less than $26,000 a year to $73,000 a year, and brings them from the poverty line to the middle class in the process. Access Code was developed by Coalition For Queens (C4Q).

I believe that people from every community and background should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech, and pursue entrepreneurship. By working deeply within local communities to identify talent, C4Q is creating a tech community that is representative of the diversity of New York, with cohorts that are over 50% women, 60% African-American or Hispanic, and 50% immigrants. Furthermore, they serve the 65% of New Yorkers who don’t have a college education. If you never graduate from college in New York City, your average lifetime income is $27,000 a year. C4Q rigorously selects the top 5% of applicants, and opens new career opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship for them. There are graduates who are former administrative assistants who have now become mobile developers at companies such as Buzzfeed and an Egyptian immigrant raised in Queensbridge Public Housing has graduated from Y Combinator and raised venture capital.

The New York community is generously contributing time, skills, and funding to these efforts to expand opportunity for others. C4Q is able to provide these programs with the support of leaders in technology, business, and philanthropy such as the Robin Hood Foundation, Blackstone, and Google. Many leaders in the New York iOS and Android community are involved with curriculum, teaching, and mentoring — including Otra Therox and Ash Farrow of CocoaPods and, Brian Donohue, the CEO of Instapaper, as well as Kevin Galligan of Touch Lab, organizer of DroidCon NY and the NY Android Developer meetup.

In our recent Techcrunch Disrupt interview, I spoke about the need for the tech community to be civically engaged and the importance of expanding access to education. Many organizations are solving this problem by teaching coding in schools and increasing the K-12 STEM education pipeline. Providing coding training to underserved adults who can fill tech jobs, as Access Code is doing, is another part of the talent equation that can make significant immediate impact. If you feel like you can support this effort with your time or your money or by hiring Access Code graduates or by teaching a class, please do so.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

    C4Q rigorously selects the top 5% of applicantsThat’s the key step. Programs like this are going to do more to disrupt traditional education than massive online open courses, because of that.What other fields could this approach work for?Of course, there’s still the problem of improving economic prospects for the other 95%, but your partner Albert is working on that.

    1. Matt Kruza

      This could work for financial analysts type positions. Having the skillset to really analyze financial matters for companies is extremely valuable, and traditional college / undergrad is very slow to accomplish this. I have used these skills at an investment bank, venture capital firm, management and strategy consulting position, healthcare startup, and now my own startup. I think it is a field that could lend itself well to the 3-6 month startup model, and then focus on connecting with many small to medium enterprises. Many companies under 100 or so employees are WOEFULLY lacking top financial analytic skills because they are competing out of undergrad with the huge firms / extremely high salaries which I discussed that I have worked for. Perhaps even sales / marketing too. I think a majority of business fields (maybe ex accounting due to the exam process and cpa requirements) might work well in this model

      1. Richard

        I don’t see the demand ? Why are you so sure it exists?

        1. Matt Kruza

          Well there definitely is demand for good financial analysts, and the current model mainly works for Fortune 500, consulting, banks, pe shops in my opinion. I guess its also a case of I think 4 year education as a bachelors can easily be done in 12-18 months in maybe all but the hardest of core sciences / math, so instead of a student taking 4-5 years and $80k to graduate, if they can do it for $8-15k and 3-6 month bootcamps I think a lot of efficiencies exist. Not the same type of demand as programmers to be sure, but one of the other fields where this would work. Hard to make it work in health fields due to insane regulation, and some sciences / engineering (mechanical, electrical etc, not computer though in my opnion) really do need multiple years.

          1. Richard

            I just don’t see today’s highschool grad (presumably) with 18 months of finance training to have the mindset to perform any real type of financial analysis. Even Freds basic MBA Monday’s were above the level of many of this blogs readers.

          2. Matt Kruza

            Hmm, now maybe I am an outlier, but after 18 months worked at a healthcare startup and worked on a critical analysis of sales and distribution strategy that this firm which had raised $7m in funds and had a CEO with a $100M+ exit under his belt didn’t fully analyze prior to me being there. My point is not the humble brag, but rather that I know what was possible for me and some of my other friends, and I think it is very possible. Now, the big thing is obviously it has to be structured differently (college that is – or these new bootcamps etc.). Most colleges have the first 2 years (18 months) you may only take 20% classes that are your major. Gen Ed classes do NOTHING to make you better at finance, and realistically all the learning you do anyway is basically in junior year and first semester of senior year (18 months), and its still pathetically inefficient. Again, college is a $600 billion sector who is not about to “disrupt” itself and put itself out of business, but I would short the hell out of it over a 10 -20 year period. And lastly, I think the other issue is that we need to shift what a high school student learns, and perhaps start junior / senior year being more career focused. 100% doable, but certainly a decade + before it will be a wide spread practice, but the underlying opportunity is so big at some point it will happen. I am droning on I know, but jut an issue I am very convinced will have to be dealth with at some point by our society

  2. Twain Twain

    Thanks for sharing, great program.Those low-income and under-represented communities include parents who can become coding role models for their kids. When those kids see and experience first hand the apps their parents make, it’ll inspire them to learn how to code too.Love virtuous circle initiatives.

  3. Rob Underwood

    This is fantastic. CFQ is such a great organization and advocate for Queens. Brooklyn can and should follow their lead here.

  4. William Mougayar

    That’s a very noble mission, “opens new career opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship.” and “brings them from the poverty line to the middle class in the process.”Very inspiring program.

    1. Jukay Hsu

      Thank you! If you’re ever in NYC, we’d love for you to come visit sometime.

      1. William Mougayar

        hi Jukay. I was in May, and due in the fall. Thank you. Let’s connect via email? wmougayar AT gmail.

  5. awaldstein

    As my dad would have said–good for the individuals, good for the world.

  6. Mario Cantin

    This is an excellent model to be replicated in other tech communities, and so it is inspiring to read. Thank you for sharing.

  7. LIAD

    upward social mobility = education + capitalism#beautiful

    1. fredwilson


  8. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    access-code 1 : poverty-trap 0Great result for everyone who plays

  9. JimHirshfield

    Access Code…I love the name because it’s a perfect play on words… and sounds like such a worthy program.

  10. Matt Kruza

    Very good approach. Wanted to put a shout out to a company in the Midwest area (Cleveland) with a similar mission. is a coding bootcamp that is less than a year old and is focused on helping underrepresented groups (particularly women, minorities and those earning under the median wage) get coding skills and great jobs. They have had a few sponsorhships and scholarships from local companies and have also tried a 6 month part-time class (mainly weekends and some week night classwork) to allow for a much greater number of individuals to be able to afford the opportunity, since this allows them to not have to give up existing income as they make the transition. The program is run by Mel McGee and her co-founder Shana, just met Mel last week for coffee after having heard about her and very impressive founder and lady who will be advocating / helping however I can. If interested in the program reach out on there website or feel free to follow up with me. There are many people trying to attack inclusion and skill-development out there!

  11. LE

    which enables talented adults from low-income and underrepresented communities to learn iOS or Android and get jobs in the NYC tech economy. This program raises the average income of graduates from less than $26,000 a year to $73,000 a yearAll good obviously.But in theory if enough people learn IOS or Android (at comparable skill levels “in 9 months”) [1] and are therefore are able to earn 73k per year, then supply and demand would dictate that the pay level would drop considerably as more labor enters the market if demand does not continue to increase. Forget economics, just common sense. Further, if we assume that pay is tied to investment in this area (and tech being awash in money which drives this demand) then if that changes the specifically trained labor may not be able to keep those earning (while their standard of living has changed) and may not be able to easily adapt to a learning a different technology in order to keep the same pay. Anyway all of this is not an issue for those that are already down this road or those who pursue this path in the near future. But if enough people go into this area, it’s hard to believe that demand for developers for IOS or Android is literally unlimited. That said it obviously holds more promise than whatever they might be doing right now in order to get kids exposed to a different career.[1] Edit: Point being that 9 months in a course is not a large barrier to entry for additional participants.

    1. Richard

      Demand isn’t the issue as much as having “skin in the game”, both in terms of getting into the program & supporting the program after graduation. Get a 95% graduation rate and the program can become self sufficient.

    2. Richard

      Programs like these are small in scope and don’t do much to shift the supply curve. Presumably if they did NY tech companies could finance the program and recapture the costs down the road via lower salaries.Biggest (social) employment issue going forward will be for those 40+ who have not saved for retirement. This is the demo at which types of programs should focus.

      1. LE

        Good point.Otoh in theory if the program works it will be duplicated by others in many places and the supply curve would then shift. Plus most importantly it matters where these jobs are at. Are we talking jobs at a larger stable company or at a startup that could fold when they are out of “runway”.What I would like to see is more people trained in trades as entrepreneurs that have the skills to complete single discreet tasks. A painter, plumber, handyman and so on can easily earn 74k per year and that’s with additional self employment tax benefits that make 74k earned that way worth way more than 74k earned being employed by a software company. (Different paths for sure …)

        1. Richard

          yep, there is a lot of ignorance about the paths to middle income and the opportunity costs of postponing it.

    3. Vasudev Ram

      >if demand does not continue to increase.It could be that the demand *is* going to increase, a lot over time. Because of “mobile is eating the world” and “software is eating the world”, said by Benedict Evans (who Fred quotes sometimes here) and Marc Andreessen (ditto) respectively.

  12. pointsnfigures

    I one million percent agree with you. Entrepreneurship is open to all. There are some hoops to jump through like any profession. It’s not easy sometimes but it’s incredibly fulfilling and will make you a better person. Governments need to bust down the barriers (Permits, licenses, and many other laws+regs) they have erected that keep people from being entrepreneurs. This is a great program.

    1. LE

      Governments need to bust down the barriers (Permits, licenses, and many other laws+regs) they have erected that keep people from being entrepreneurs.To start a typical business on the web (initially at least) that really isn’t much of an issue in any typical community in the US.Otoh if you are starting a bricks and mortar business then yes you do need permits and licenses and inspections and rules you might have to follow. And you also have to sign a lease and rent space which is a larger problem then anything the government throws in front of you. But most of this also depends on where you are living. In the particular areas where I have operated bricks and mortar type businesses (PA and NJ) I never found it to be much of a hindrance, actually. A necessary evil perhaps. And as far as “many other laws+regs” I think that depends on the scale of the business as well and what your tolerance for risk is and the scale of your operation. If you don’t get a CO prior to occupancy of a 1,000,000 sf property you have a big problem. If you don’t get it prior to occupancy of a 1,000 property (depending on the usage) it may very well not be a problem, right? Business is also about knowing the things that you need to worry about and what you don’t need to worry about that you can fix later. And when you get to the stage of having to worry about SARBOX then you have plenty of people to help you figure all of that out.Lastly, don’t forget that for those who have already cleared these hurdles those hoops are also barriers to entry for others than will be your competition.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Try and get a barber license. Try and do anything in the boutique food industry (you can’t grow organic chickens in Indiana and sell them in Illinois without a distributor). Try and put a sign on your building-need to go through a permitting process.In the future, hopefully everyone will know a bit about coding and able to set up a wordpress site and engage in web commerce. Today, that’s not the case. Poor neighborhoods are hurt badly by existing laws and regulations on the books that erect artificial barriers to entry.

        1. awaldstein


          1. awaldstein

            Good one thanks.Hey we all want certs to keep us doing the right thing. If you have ever been inside a commerial kitchen incubator, you would agree.On the other side the cost of insurance blankets and the deadening process of certs is really a problem.You know the old joke about the restaurant business–Which is more practical, bringing your facility up to code or paying off the inspector….

          2. LE

            Perhaps much of this is a result of operating in NYC or a similar metro area “clusterfuck” vs. in the suburbs or elsewhere in the country. It’s a bit like complaining about the traffic on NYC roads vs. elsewhere, isn’t it? I don’t have any of those issues but I also don’t have any of the advantages [1] that come with being in an area with a tremendous amount of business potential and density of potential customers and skilled employees.In the quiet little place that I live and work I can drive right to the township office and see the person who actually is holding up the paperwork and stand a chance of getting something done. My neighbor is a mayor of a small town and he knows the mayor of my small town. Quite frankly I’d rather have the business opportunity of NYC any day if I could, even with the drawbacks. And that’s not even getting into the labor that you can hire from that I can’t where I am right now.[1] And I am talking business wise btw not the Opera, Theater or the 92nd st Y or the restaurant scene.

        2. LE

          With respect to two of the things that you mentioned (can’t talk about barber licenses):1) Signs – You should have to get a permit and approval for a sign. Inappropriate and poorly done signage can crap a place up very quickly. [1] In your “finer” communities (say where Fred has vacation homes) I doubt anyone thinks signs don’t matter. Compare signs in Philadelphia vs. in a suburb and you will see the difference that having friction in the process and approval will do.2) Food – Of course there should be reasonable restrictions on food distribution for safety reasons. The specific case that you mention may be a case of regulation going to far so I will take your word for that. But friction in something like the food supply is important.3) Permits. I was a bit upset when doing renovating that I would have to pay for township permits. But after going through the process I was actually glad that someone came out and double checked what the electrician and plumber did and in one case found something that needed to be changed. Cost money and delayed the project, but I believe there was value in the process. Obviously this isn’t always the case.[1] In a similar theme, I wrote the sign policy at the office condo complex that I own multiple units at to protect my investment. [2] It specifically limits what other owners and renters can and can’t do sign wise. Down the size of the logos. [3] The purpose of this is to make sure that the place has a standard presentation and not a shitville feel to it. You know if you have a store in the mall they also have sign policies for the same reason. Ditto for any strip shopping center that is quality. Everything needs to be approved. The crappy centers let anyone do anything and it shows.[2] Which other “board” members rubber stamped.[3] Also things like “no phone numbers on signs and no web addresses unless that is the actual name of your business. Because the office sign is not an advertisement was my thinking.

      2. Richard

        There is about $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. fed gov should payoff this debt, lower barriers to entrepreneurship. You would see a new distributed economy sprout and take hold.

      3. qulevergrrl

        I had a home based business that was part-time consulting. Well, I got laid off from my full-time job, had to sell my home, and my pt consulting gig ended up becoming my ATTEMPT at a ft position. THIS has become a major problem for me. I can’t get a regular in-house position, and I can’t do a start-up that makes any real money. Guess why? I no longer own my home, and it’s illegal to have a home based business unless you own your home. I know a lot of people do it, but if you want to go back into the in-house world, or if you want to contract with a large company, like one that advertises nationally, you can’t be anything but 100% legit. So I realized that one thing that seems like everyone does really messed me up permanently. I’m now trying to dig myself out of a giant hole and getting older by the minute, so that’s becoming another issue.

        1. Aaron Fyke

          I realize that this is old, but:”it’s illegal to have a home based business unless you own your home”It is? Why? What difference does it make if you own or are renting?

          1. qulevergrrl

            I don’t know WHY, frankly. I just know that it is. And I am glad someone finally answered me! lol! Actually, if I put some thought into it, I’d be able to reason into something. Most people can get away with small, home based businesses. I was consulting in hiring, you know, headhunting. That was fine and good until I wanted to contract with some of my former clients. They are Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 Co’s. Their legal teams are very strict about with whom they sign contracts, so it was brought to my attention. Well, I already knew, but I was hoping they didn’t discover it. That’s bad, I know, but seriously with the advent of e-commerce, something like 60% of all home based businesses are illegal because of that particular issue.

  13. MartinEdic

    I am curious about actual numbers. How many complete course? How many get jobs? Actual range of salaries, not averages. It is very easy to throw numbers out there optimistically. I certainly hope these are real numbers affecting significant numbers of people. But 5% of how many? Are we talking about single digits or real impact?I ask these questions because I contract to teach startups in a not for profit and I see how they massage their success numbers. It’s done to keep money flowing in.

    1. Richard

      There a number of soft tech (well paying) careers in healthcare that for profit schools train noncollege oriented students for (X-ray techs, MRI techs, physical therapy assistants). I suspect programming in swift et al, will soon be added.

  14. Elias Roman

    Thanks so much for shining a light on Coalition for Queens’s success driving economic mobility in NYC, Fred!

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for getting me and Jukay together!

  15. Dave W Baldwin


  16. abn

    This is great. Happy to read this in the morning. Wish I was in NYC to lend a hand.

  17. Frank Denbow

    Coalition 4 Queens is a great initiative, thanks for helping spread the word Fred!

  18. Jessie Arora

    This is awesome. Very impressed with C4Q. I run an org,, that is working on the K12 part of the pipeline. If this community knows schools interested in teaching elem/middle school kids CS/coding please spread the word. Thank you!

  19. Jovanny Espinal

    Last year I went through Year Up, a 12-month workforce development program, where I was trained in Project Management and Financial Operations. I started that program making minimum wage and left it with a job paying me more than what my parents have ever made. Not only did they teach me the hard skills necessary to land a job, but it provided me with the ability to train my soft skills, something that most college graduates don’t pick up until they’re already in a position where they need those skills.Finishing the program led to me searching for similar opportunities in the tech field and I stumbled upon Access Code.I applied, went through the process, and became one of the top 5%. I knew Access Code was something great prior to applying, but being a student is something completely different: It’s remarkable.I recently finished the first month of the iOS cohort and the environment is truly something else. The support from not only my instructors, but my colleagues as well, really sets this program apart. They know what they’re doing when they decide who they select for the program.The material that’s being taught is also in line with what many of my iOS developer friends have recommended. Funny enough, they feel I am being taught not just how to create programs, but the “why” behind some of the concepts and rules of the Objective-C language.I can’t say whether or not this program will send me into another tax bracket, but the skills that I’ve learned in a month would have taken me at least twice as long without Access Code. I came in with prior basic (very basic, didn’t know much about arrays) programming experience in Java, but am now confident enough to say, “Yes, I can program in Objective-C.”If anyone here would like any more information about my experience with Access Code, feel free to ask away or reach out to me via Twitter @JovannyEspinal.

  20. Kevin Galligan

    Its been interesting to watch as the group went from no programming experience to demoing functional apps. I think they’ve been making great progress. Around the time we were first introduced to the C4Q team we’d been discussing how long it really takes to learn this stuff. 4 year programs generally aren’t all that efficient, but the “boot camp” 10-12 week programs really aren’t enough. Jukay & Co made a big leap in giving this a shot. BTW, if anybody in the Android community wants to come help out, they always need more TA’s…

    1. Jukay Hsu

      Thanks Kevin, thanks for being involved and helping build this with us.