Boulder startup Bitbox helping to buck gender stereotypes for kids

By October 25, 2015Startup News

If you find it discombobulating that young girls get just as excited as boys about writing mobile apps — not just playing with them — you’re approaching coding all wrong. Boulder startup Bitsbox debuted last spring with monthly kits to nudge children to code. But it’s not like homework. More like an after-school treat. It’s something children seem to want to do — even on a play date.

“We took turns writing the code. We would read each other the codes and type them in,” said 10-year-old Luisa DiGiano of Boulder, who has regular play dates with a classmate who also gets Bitsbox. “My other friends may be getting it soon. They think it’s cool.”

Ten-year-olds Luisa DiGiano and her friend Devin Murphy have regular coding play dates when their new Bitsbox ships. Most recently, the friends had a sleep-over. (Chris DiGiano, Special to The Denver Post)

Bitsbox, whose kits include booklets of kid-friendly mobile-app codes and some extras, has tapped into a trend to cultivate future computer talent.

It’s a market where multiple resources thrive, from the all-ages Codecademy to the programming language Scratch for kindergartners. Bitsbox has received accolades from fellow techies, winning the people’s choice award during the TechCrunch pitch-off contest in Denver this month.

But more rewarding to its co-founders is who is coding on Bitsbox’s website: among the nearly 12,000 kids who identify their gender, 46 percent are girls.

Children as young as 4 spend an average of 19.32 minutes a day on the days that they code. And 7-year-old girls have coded the most apps, at 17 each, according to data the company anonymously tracks on its site.

“No idea why, but it makes me happy,” said Scott Lininger, who started Bitsbox when his daughter was 7.

“Younger kids are obviously better at picking up languages, and coding is a language,” said co-founder Aidan Chopra. “And we thought that the younger they start, the less gender-specific identity the kids have. We wanted to make as many apps as we could non-gender specific. Like food. All people like food.”

Read more on The Denver Post.