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Learning how to code has always been something that many of my peers and I wanted to pick up. Yet, as working adults whose exposure to coding is basic lines of HTML at most, it’s something that’s perpetually on our backburners.

If you can relate, I’m happy to report that there’s a Malaysian app that might just solve our collective problem.

Called Codeo (or Codeo.ai), it’s described as a Duolingo for coding. Like how the popular language learning app offers bite-sized lessons, Codeo simplifies coding education for complete beginners with gamified features and short lessons.

Funded by a RM100K grant from Cradle Fund’s CIP Spark programme, here’s the story of how Codeo came to be, and what it aims to do.

Not his first rodeo

Starting his career in the VC world, Deric Yee quickly learnt it wasn’t something he enjoyed doing.

“I was more involved as the ‘finance guy’, but I wanted to be getting my hands dirty, building and steering the ship for my business, rather than being the financier,” he explained.

Image Credit: Codeo

That’s why he quit his job to pursue a path in tech. For about a year, it was an incomeless hobby before Deric began taking up projects.

Within a month, he closed his first project at around RM10,000. The next one was around RM100,000+. Over time, he even got friends who paid him to mentor them in their Computer Science degree studies.

Recognising a strong demand for tech education and talent, he co-founded The Hacker Collective with his previous business partner Ming. They would charge a small fee to teach people coding skills for any career. However, they faced cash flow issues and struggled to get the project off the ground.

So, Deric pivoted to start Sigma School to serve people who wanted jobs in tech. The online school offers a three-month coding bootcamp to help students get jobs in tech, or their money back if they don’t get a job after graduating the bootcamp.

Image Credit: Codeo

Knowing firsthand the gaps between what the industry needed and what traditional education was providing, Deric designed Sigma School to provide students with skills they actually need to succeed in the industry.

A beginner’s introduction into coding

As mentioned, Codeo kicked off with a grant from Cradle Fund’s CIP Spark. The pain point he wanted to address was something he found “painfully obvious”.

“Everybody wants to learn to code, but not everybody has the privilege of sitting in front of their laptops 10 hours a day like I did,” he pointed out.

As someone who would learn with Duolingo during his commute, he saw an opportunity to do the same for coding.

“We need a user-friendly, fun, gamified way of learning to code for casual learners and I believe Codeo will be the one to make this happen,” he said, claiming that there weren’t good coding apps in the region.

Image Credit: Codeo

Designed to be a free platform offering short and simple lessons, Codeo serves a completely different audience compared to Sigma School.

So, instead of competing with each other, the founder sees them as complementary solutions that make up a dream team.

“Whether you want the serious, straight path to a coding job, or just want to dip your toes in the coding world while playing games, you’ve got help. They’ve got you covered from all angles,” he shared.

An AI-integrated app

The development of Codeo took around six months, including user research, UI/UX process, frontend and backend development, as well as AI integration.

Specifically, there are three AI-enabled features that are key to Codeo.

The first is AI Persona, which creates a personalised learning experience by using analogies from popular idols like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lee Chong Wei, or LeBron James.

Image Credit: Codeo

“It’s designed to make learning coding more relatable and inspiring, as if you’re being coached by your favourite sports star or celebrity,” Deric said.

There’s AI Elaborate which simplifies topics, breaking them down as if explaining them to a 5-year-old. This ensures that even beginners without a technical background can grasp the basics of coding without feeling overwhelmed.

Lastly, to cater to a global audience, the AI Translate feature helps bridge language barriers by translating technical terms and explanations into different languages.

On top of that, Deric is working on integrating Codeo with an automated job matching startup, helping users who completed milestones to apply for remote jobs.

A profit-driven company

Officially launching in April, the app has already achieved around 300+ signups without running any paid ads. Three users have even paid US$297 each for the lifetime deal.

Although free, Codeo will be monetised through subscription-based access to premium features, one-off purchases for specific courses or features, corporate or educational licences, as well as advertising and partnerships.

Deric has also devised a certification fee, charging for credentials upon completing certain courses or learning paths.

Thus far, Codeo has been intentionally bootstrapped so Deric can have more control to steer the ship and not be pressured to “grow at all costs”.

Image Credit: Codeo

“I believe business should be profit-first,” he explained.

The entrepreneur references Y-combinator founder Paul Graham’s insights on how he splits businesses into two categories—default dead or default alive.

“If a business is not profit-making, and has no path to profitability, it is default dead,” Deric elaborated. “I wouldn’t want to be in a default dead business, nor would I want to raise funds for a business that is default dead.”

Hence, instead of fundraising, the founder wants to first make sure his model works, creating a product so good that it can retain a healthy monthly recurring revenue. Only then will he consider raising funds with likeminded investors so Codeo can scale faster.

A futureproof country

Right now, Deric’s goal is to onboard 10,000 users and 1,000 active users within the next quarter.

He hopes to reach out to underserved communities, B40 groups, refugee groups, as well as blue-collar workers to try out the app for free.

“We will be building with them in mind for sure, to help them have the education needed to break out of the poverty cycle,” he explained.

By the end of the year, he targets to monetise at least 10% of their active users and start reaching out to corporates for collaborations.

Image Credit: Codeo

But his Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal would be to have a coder in every household, despite arguments that coding will become less valuable as it becomes replaced by AI.

“Since day one, the reason I joined the tech industry is because I see every single industry eventually being disrupted in some way, shape or form due to the adoption of technology,” he explained.

“It’s something we cannot run away from. So, I want to help myself and the people around me be equipped with the skills to navigate this space as well as possible.”

  • Learn more about Codeo here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Codeo

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)