'We tried to kick him out last week'
In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
20, founded CoderDojo, free clubs where children and teenagers learn computer coding, in 2011. He also runs his own web company, Disruptive Developments. Last month, he was named one of US magazine ‘Forbes’ “30 under 30” social entrepreneurs to watch. Originally from Cork, he shares a flat in Ballsbridge, Dublin with two tech entrepreneurs
When I was about 16, I wanted to play paintball, did some research into it and found there were people in Ireland who played it on a continual basis. So I contacted Hugh and joined his league. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of good guys.
It was only when I came to Dublin in September 2011 that Hugh and I became really friendly. He asked me over to the house he shares with four lads in Drumcondra and I realised I could come over whenever I wanted. I think the couch there has been nicknamed my room. And there was a drum kit in the house as well! We do everything, from playing guitar to doing rap battles.
What’s really nice is that it’s a really normal environment. Whatever happens to me, it’s never a big deal. Someone will say, “oh, that’s kinda cool, here, take this PS3 controller” . . . it’s brilliant. I’m not going to college, but it’s like a fantastic college experience. It’s most definitely my second home.
I never entered the Young Scientist competition, I was never smart enough for that. Growing up, I was never academic, but I taught myself coding from the age of nine. My parents are dentists, there was nothing techy in my background.
In 2010, I won the Eircom Junior Spider award for a website. I’d also hacked the iPod Nano: people got excited, it got written up on technology blogs and was the first thing that got my name out there.After that, I set up a computer club in my school to teach basic programming. Then I met Bill Liao [Irish-based Australian web entrepreneur] of SOS Ventures. A combination of his business savvy and my personal experience and knowledge of open source technology fused to make CoderDojo what it is. Of course it wouldn’t work without the incredible community of volunteers.
As Coder Dojo got to a certain point, SOS Ventures stepped in. Sean O’Sullivan, who appeared on Dragon’s Den, and Bill Liao gave me a stipend to live on so I could move off eating catfood and stop living on couches. Things went from there. This past year has been crazy.
It’s a lot of hard work; I’ve done my fair share of 30-hour days. Even when I’m hanging out with the lads I’ll be writing code, sending off emails.
The thing with technology is that it’s a fantastic community, but sometimes you want to detach yourself from that. That’s where Hugh and the guys come in.
CoderDojo has a stand at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2013. The exhibition finishes today at the RDS, Dublin.