New York VCs pledge millions to turn their public schools into code academies

Will Silicon Valley VCs rise to the East Coast challenge?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor
Silicon Valley area public school system is failing badly with high dropout rates.


Here’s a fabulous initiative led by New York city’s most successful VC, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures:

My colleagues at The NYC Foundation For Computer Science Education and I are raising a $5mm seed fund to invest in computer science education in the NYC public school system… and now we are now opening it up to others who want to participate alongside of us.

A VC: The Computer Science Education Fund

It’s a wonderful idea that needs to be replicated here in San Francisco and Silicon Valley public schools. Our public schools are broken but they should be showcases for Silicon Valley and not basket cases with nearly 50% dropout rates.

Fred Wilson writes:

I got to this place initially out of self interest (how to get more coders for our portfolio companies in NYC?), but it quickly became about way more than that. When you walk into a school and see kids from neighborhoods like Brownsville and the South Bronx sitting in front of laptops and making software using modern tools like Ruby On Rails, Github, and StackOverflow, you see a pathway for them and for our city and for our country to change what ails us.

Who will step up from our West Coast community and meet the challenge thrown down by Fred Wilson and his colleagues? Mark Zuckerberg I bet. But maybe the Life under Glass brigade will feel their smart watches buzzing that’s it’s time to pony up the money and the organization?

Go West…

Or maybe the cynical and insular VCs of Sand Hill Road will sit back and wait for the NYC kids to head west like the others have done? And thank the East Coast VCs for training up the next generation of foot soldiers for Silicon Valley’s startups.

But that trek west might not happen. Urban density means many new startup ideas will be born from experiences and problems New York city kids and their families face daily. Some of those ideas will be truly groundbreaking and Fred Wilson and his pals will be positioned at the head of a potential gold mine of deal flow.

Start local, go global. The next big ideas will come from dense urban centers where kids and their families are dealing with common problems. And by being able to code they’ll be able to quickly throw together some great ideas. 

Silicon Valley techies sit inside their gilded cages, being fed gourmet meals, and talking to themselves; they don’t interact much at all with the communities of regular people that live around them. Not many great ideas will emerge when they don’t emerge. That’s why there’s so many To Do lists and email management apps.

Ugly ducklings of NYC…

There's bound to be some wonderful Black Swan startups that'll grow from the ugly ducklings of New York's public schools... Again, Silicon Valley only funds a meritocracy of male Ivy Leaguers, all have the same experiences and think the same way, which is not a formula for generating startups that make a difference, by being different.

A lot of the obvious low-hanging fruit has been exploited with software/web apps, and the next generation of opportunities will be more domain specific, and that means knowing your domain. Urban cultures have many domains and some are common to all other urban centers.

I wish the New York educational venture great success and I hope it inspires many copycats.

Silicon Valley VCs had better start pooling their money and set up a similar educational venture here in our public schools otherwise they’ll be missing out on the next blockbuster startups. It’s not a lot of money and our VCs could do with a better quality deal flow. Collectively, they aren’t doing that well.

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