If You Make Coding Fun, You Can Change Kids’ Lives, Bitsbox Believes

EdTech Startup Having a Real Impact

Parents might find this hard to believe, but there’s a way to get your child to want to learn how to code. 

The answer? Make it fun. That’s the solution provided by Bitsbox, a sort of “code academy for kids” which aims to make STEM education a “crazyfun” part of their everyday lives. 

With a paid Bitsbox subscription, kids receive a new box of skill-appropriate coding projects every month. Additionally, Bitsbox lets kids and teachers use the coding platform on its website completely free. The projects teach kids computational skills, then let them apply their newly-acquired talents to make devices they and others can play with. 

It’s “the coolness of building real apps, fueled by getting presents in the mail,” the company says. 

More than 1 Million Users

Bitsbox is having a real impact in the EdTech space: more than 1 million kids have built apps on its website, and it has subscribers in over 70 countries. And while the boxes are designed for kids aged 6 to 12, Bitsbox has found appeal with boys and girls, not something you’d think for this kind of tech product. Forty-eight percent of users are girls – a stat Scott Lininger, a co-founder of the company and its CEO, said he’s very proud of. 

Bitsbox believes every kid has a right to learn, and teaching kids to make things is empowering and important. 

“If you have that skill of computer coding, you can do anything,” said Lininger. “And it doesn’t matter what you look like or what language your parents spoke or what part of the world you’re from. It’s this magical skill that lets you go places, and make an impact, however you want to make it.” 

An Incentive to Code

Co-founder Aidan Chopra said with Bitsbox, he and Lininger set out to solve a hard problem: “How do you teach more people how to code?” He said he became convinced “there are a million different ways to teach kids to code, and most of them are pretty good.” 

But, he added, “Everyone has done a terrible job trying to figure out why – trying to give people an inherent reason to do it. Some kids are just motivated to do it. But most aren’t.” The key was to give kids the incentive to do it – and the final result of a Bitbox project is a device they can play with and use – such as games, apps, art projects, and more. 

Bitbox appeared on Shark Tank and is a 2015 alumnus of Boomtown, which designs and executes innovation platforms focused on startups that are looking to have a meaningful, positive impact on the world. 

‘Not Been Easy’

That aligns with Bitxbox’s work, which hasn’t always been easy, Lininger said. 

“When you’re deciding what to do as a startup founder, if you choose something that has an impact, it helps you emotionally,” he said. “Startups are really hard. They’re exhausting – it’s the most stressful thing you’ll ever go through.” 

It can be challenging to run a successful, thriving business while giving your product away to as many people as possible, as Bitsbox does with its web site coding platform, Chopra said. But having an impact makes it worth it, he said. 

‘Making a Difference’

“On the hard days, we get to look at emails from educators and from kids saying ‘Look what I made’ or ‘Wow, look what I built there,’” he said. “Life is too hard to dedicate yourself to problems that only have to do with money and business and stuff. When it comes down to it we get to wake up in the morning and go, “you know what? We’re making a difference in people’s lives.” 

Bitsbox is rolling out a library-style product for New York Edge, one of the biggest afterschool programs in the country that serves kids in New York City, Chopra said. Many of those schoolchildren are underprivileged, he said. “So we’re on the cusp of serving a group of people we wanted to serve all along, which I feel really good about,” he said. 

The startup also recently formed a partnership with Highlights for Children, the company that started with magazines for kids but now sells lifestyle gear, books, and activity subscriptions, he said. Via the partnership, Highlights and Bitsbox aim to make socioemotional learning a force for good in the world, Lininger said. 

Positive Change 

And in that way, kids themselves can become innovators bringing about positive change, he said. 

“Innovation is humanity’s super power, we have to just cast a wider net,” added Lininger. “There are brilliant people all over the place and the best way to raise the boat is to reach those people who are going to change the next generation for the better.” 

Tripp Baltz
Head of Research