Although we are well into the 21st century, there is sadly a lack of diversity in STEM-related industries. The science, technology, engineering, and math industries are very male-dominated and there are still very few women involved in computer science and coding. However, there is one young female entrepreneur who is hoping to change that.
Samantha John grew up in a suburb of Detroit and as a girl, she decided that she didn’t want to go into computer science because she wasn’t a big fan of computers She thought that coding wasn’t very interesting and that computers were something for boys. Instead, she eventually studied applied mathematics, English, and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York.
Although Samantha originally planned on going into med school, life had other plans for her. She became interested in computers and programming by chance during her senior year at Columbia when she was working on a website for a student club and her passion quickly grew. She realized that the better job that she did at creating a website, the more people would use it. This motivated her to keep trying new things and improving her skills.
After graduation, she applied for a lot of different jobs and was finally hired to do quality assurance for a tech company which entailed going through websites to figure out if there were any bugs in them. Although she wasn’t happy in the job, it did teach her PHP which allowed her to get her first real programming job. Samantha worked as an engineer and developer at Pivotal Labs and was one of the only female developers in the company. During her time at Pivotal, she taught multiple programming classes to beginners.
Samantha created Hopscotch when she was just 26 years old along with co-founder Jocelyn Leavitt with the goal to create a programming language that children could use to learn programming basics while building games and creating animated artwork. It is the first programming language designed for a touch screen device.
Hopscotch started off as a labor of love and Samanth and Jocelyn began by working on it nights and weekends as a side project. This part of the company’s history is very important to Samantha. Although she was still working full time and could have done other things like hanging out with friends or even focused on advancing her own career, she chose to prioritize Hopscotch. After they launched their first app, Daisy the Dinosaur, they decided to take a two-week “vacation” in early 2012 to work on Hopscotch. The day she went back to the office after her vacation, Samantha knew what she needed to do – she handed in her resignation and has been focusing on Hopscotch ever since.
For the first 18 months, they didn’t raise any funding for their project or receive any revenue for it so they continued to do consulting jobs on the side. This helped them pay their bills while giving them to pay to create a truly remarkable product. This dedication paid off. Within the first week of its launch, a free version of Hopscotch was downloaded over 20,000 times and quickly earned an average of 200,000 active users a month.
The world quickly began to notice these young entrepreneurs. In 2013, Business Insider listed Samantha as one of the “Most Important Women Under 30 in Tech and in 2014, she and Jocelyn here included in Glamour Magazine’s list of the “35 Women Under 35 Who are Changing the Tech Industry.”
In 2015, Hopscotch launched a subscription model which allowed access to exclusive features. It now has more than 6,000 subscribers with subscriptions ranging from $10 per month to $80 per year. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave a huge amount of money for revenue.
Luckily, in 2020, Samantha received a message encouraging her to submit an audition for the reality TV show Shark Tank. In the show, entrepreneurs pitch ideas to investors in order to get funding in exchange for giving equity in the business. In 2021, Samantha appeared on Shark Tank to pitch Hopscotch and received over $550,000 in funding.
Samantha now wants to get more women and children involved in coding. Through Hopscotch, she hopes to introduce the younger generation to coding and to understand that computers are not just machines. They are tools that you can use to extend your own capabilities and extend the power of your mind. She suggests that anyone who might enjoy coding or is a little intimidated by other programs available try using Hopscotch to get a taste of what coding is about.
To learn more about Hopscotch, check out the company’s website here.
Photo Credit: www.asianentrepreneur.org/