There are lots of systems clamouring to help educate the next generation of coders. One of them, New York-based startup Hopscotch, closed a $1.2 million seed funding round last August which it’s just announcing today, in conjunction with the release of v2.0 of its app.
The seed funding came from Resolute Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Kapor Capital and other unnamed investors, and was used to expand the team, launch the community and build version 2 of the app, says co-founder Jocelyn Leavitt.
Hopscotch’s special sauce is to be mobile device focused. Its graphical programming language has been specifically designed for use on the iPad. Indeed, it calls itself an “iPad programming language”, and focuses on making coding easier via graphical elements that kids can drag and drop to build up programs. So basically like Scratch — but for iPads.
“Hopscotch works by dragging and dropping colorful blocks of code to build routines,” explains Leavitt. “These routines can then be saved and attached to different objects and activated by different events on the iPad (such as “when the iPad is shaken” or “when the iPad hears a loud noise”). So you could, for instance, program a bear to do a somersault every time you clapped your hands.
After a year on the app store, Hopscotch said its app has been used to create more than 1.5 million projects, compiling more than 57 million blocks of code. The startup itself was founded in 2011, and has been used by teachers and kids in more than 100 countries thus far. It’s not disclosing user numbers at this point.
The new version of the app combines the editor and the stage portions of the app onto one screen, rather than siting them on separate screens as was the case previously. It also introduces a feature called “abilities” — aka functions/subroutines, in standard programming nomenclature — allowing users to grapple with more complex programming concepts as they build their apps.
“There are hundreds of visual programming languages out there,” adds Leavitt, discussing the competitive landscape for initiatives seeking to make coding easier for kids. “Popular ones are Scratch, Alice and Blockly. I would not call these competitors, since they are all mostly the work of universities (although Blockly is by Google). And actually, John Maloney, who originally built Scratch and Scratch 2.0 at the MIT Media Lab, is one of our advisors.
“There are several other companies that have emerged in the mobile ‘coding for kids’ space since we launched, but none of them are really programming languages. Most of them are more coding puzzles where users beat consecutively difficult levels, rather than open ended creation tools for anyone to build anything. Hopscotch is a digital toy that can be used to make other digital toys. Think 21st century Legos.”