Crowdfunding has become a popular means to turn concepts into products, but one man is turning to Indiegogo in hopes of financing his tuition at a coding bootcamp. But there’s a twist to his campaign: If funded, Lex Alexander says he’ll pay it forward, pledging 10% of his salary for the next two years to finance a minority or female developer to attend a hack school of his or her choosing. “All I ask is they do the same for the next person, and so on,” Alexander told Fast Company.
The 23-year-old resident of Pasadena, California, said attending local hackathon events made him realize how out of place he was as a black developer. Alexander, who has been studying business at a local community college, took fourth place at a Hack for LA event in December with his app MapMySnaps, a mapping program that shows which local stores accept food stamps in Boyle Heights, a working class neighborhood in East Los Angeles.
His own coding journey began with a startup idea that fizzled. When he was trying to build a Craigslist-type service for college campuses, he realized lack of programming know-how was holding him back. “I said next time I want to start a tech company, it’s going to be very important I learn how to code,” he recalled. That was a year and a half ago, and since then he has been devouring every available resource to him: YouTube videos, Codecademy, Stack Exchange, and more.
Looking to ramp up his skill set in a structured classroom setting led by practitioners in the industry, he applied for General Assembly’s immersive program in Los Angeles and was accepted three weeks ago. Though he made his first payment of $2,875, he’s having trouble paying for the rest of tuition, which in total comes to $11,500. The idea for a crowdfunded scholarship, appropriately named Code It Forward, came after banks rejected him for a student loan, partially because hack schools aren’t accredited in the state of California.
To show gratitude for his supporters, Alexander is hoping his Indiegogo campaign will foster a cycle of giving back. “This scholarship would send minorities and women to coding bootcamps and help solve the racial and gender disparities in tech by making these resources more available,” he said.