How Do You Turn Girls Into Hackers? Vidcode Has the Answer.

This spring, three female developers, Alexandra Diracles, Melissa Halfon, and Leandra Tejedor, teamed up to get more teen girls excited about technology.

The all-women team met at a Startup Weekend Education event. As professional women in computer science, they shared a passion to level tech’s male-dominated playing field for girls and women. In their research efforts, they spoke directly to girls about:

  1. the disconnect they feel from computer science classes, and
  2. the misperceptions they hold, primarily that tech is boring.

Soon after, Vidcode was created, a coding app designed with girls in mind that pairs with a hobby girls love – creating and sharing videos.

“It works!” says Alexandra Diracles, one of the creators. “The app is already empowering teenagers and opening their eyes to how fun and creative computer science can be.”

The team has been taking Vidcode around the country, holding introductory workshops in New York City, New Orleans, and Minneapolis.

“We’re excited about Vidcode,” co-creator Melissa Halfon added. “We want to do more. We see Vidcode as the start of a suite of tech educational tools for girls.” STEM educators, take note.

Fifteen-year-old Emma is proof. She appeared to be thrilled to share her own video completed with the Vidcode software, “I love it! I coded the colors, added a blur filter and I even got my friends involved in the process.”

Sarah, 16, shared her enthusiasm, “At my school there is a class for coding filled with guys. After using Vidcode, I’m realizing something may seem complicated, but also girls can do it.”

In January of this year, Vidcode took home 1st Place Winner in New York’s Startup Weekend EDU weekend. Next is a KICKSTARTER campaign to fund development of extensive coding software and curriculum for consumers and schools. As the team continues to introduce Vidcode, one thing is clear: girls love it. The future for women in technology looks brighter already.


Where are the Winners of SWEDU now?

If you’ve participated in SWEDU you probably wondered what happened to all the teams that formed. Do they go on to have their company grow, quit their jobs, and take on their newly created project? Well yes. Some of them do.

Teams like VidCode, Plexx, and CultureConnect, who got their start at Startup Weekend NYCEDU, have grown beyond their Startup Weekend experience into full-fledged startup companies.

Recently, we followed up with Melissa Halfon, VP of VidCode, to see where they are now, six months after they won Startup Weekend EDU NYC 2014.

1. Is everyone who was originally on the team still helping to build Vidcode? Vidcode is truly a Startup Weekend EDU Cinderella story. We were five strangers who teamed up to solve one problem: getting more girls into technology. Since the weekend, our team has neither lost nor gained a member. Allie, Melissa, Leandra, Terry, and Ken are all still dedicated to Vidcode.

2. Did you guys quit your jobs to work full time on Vidcode? Allie & Melissa seamlessly continued working on Vidcode full time after Startup Weekend EDU. Allie was completing her masters at NYU ITP at the time and centered her thesis on Vidcode, devoting all her energy to it as a result. Melissa found herself without a full-time position (for reasons unrelated) and used the serendipitous timing to continue her dedication to the project. Our other team members have continued to contribute to Vidcode outside of their full-time gigs.

3. What stage would you say Vidcode is at, as a startup? We spent six months after Startup Weekend EDU in full build stage, validating and testing the product. This summer, we were one of the teams in Launch, 4.0 Schools’ accelerator, during which we launched Vidcode’s public beta and identified our target market. Now we’re in the first growth stage, building our user base and selling to early adopters.

4. Have you gone for funding outside of kickstarter? We are currently raising seed capital.

5. Do you think you would have built Vidcode outside of Startup Weekend given the opportunity? The most valuable asset that emerged from Startup Weekend EDU was the opportunity to form an incredible team of like-minded people. The problem is so important to each team member that we would’ve found a way to address it individually. But without the complimentary and talented team we assembled that weekend, the results wouldn’t have been as powerful.

6. Anything else about Vidcode and any of the problems you’ve faced as you have worked to build this product. The response to Vidcode in general, especially from girls, has been so overwhelmingly positive. Their reactions to what we’ve built make all the risks, unknown, and sleepless nights very much worth it. We know there’s a place in girls’ lives where Vidcode belongs and we’re determined to get it there.

7. Also, what is it that the Startup Weekend community can do to help? Spread the word. Our success at Startup Weekend validated that we have a compelling product. We’ve built it out, and now we want to get it into the hands of as many teens and schools as possible. Startup Weekend has a huge following of education leaders and teachers and we want them to know about Vidcode to implement in their own classrooms. The best way to do that now is by supporting and sharing our Kickstarter!

What does all this mean? It means you should come to the next SWEDU event, because you never know what might happen!

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