"We haven’t enough doers; developers and engineers", said Bill Liao, tech investor and co-founder of Coder Dojo, speaking on The Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 this week.
As a tech investor, Liao sees a common problem with many startups. "They have a great idea, the marketing is right, but they outsource the engineering. You need the people building the product in the room. You need the doers to make it a reality." He likens it to pitching an idea for a restaurant; the restaurant is on the high street, front of house are models, but the food is being outsourced to McDonald’s. For Bill, without the core ingredient, the engineers and developers, he won’t invest.
Bill spoke of his amazement when James Whelton, co-founder of Coder Dojo came to him six years ago with an app that he had built alongside three full time developers who he had taught through his school computer club. "Two bolts of lightning hit me" said Bill. "We have a shortage of coders and schools aren’t teaching coding." Bill and James went on to set up Coder Dojo, which has become an Irish global success story with Dojo established across Ireland and in 69 countries worldwide.
"Coding is like poetry. It’s a language skill that involves creativity and economy of expression and like any language it needs constant practice."
While the Australian man now living in West Cork learnt to code in the late '70s, in his bedroom in Australia, he said that the best way to learn is to bring kids together in a collaborative, social environment for peer to peer learning and that’s the ethos of Coder Dojo. Encouraging girls to code is another pillar of the Coder Dojo movement, and Bill said that it is great to see a twelve-year-old girl helping a fifteen-year-old boy to learn to code.
"Because computers are connected to everything, the power is enormous" said Bill. It’s a powerful skill that is being taught in Coder Dojos in Ireland and around the world and which will be celebrated at the Coolest Projects Awards, taking place at the RDS this Saturday. Over 15,000 people are expected to attend this free event, which will see the creativity and ingenuity of the young coders being celebrated.