Mindjoy, the Cape Town-based edtech startup that’s for kids, aims to help one million children discover their superpowers through coding.
Founded by Gabi Immelman in July 2021, Mindjoy is tackling one of the sector’s most pervasive challenges - the lack of digital skills development.
Mindjoy makes use of Replit, a browser-based development environment that doesn’t require specific hardware or software. This makes coding possible for kids and grownups on any mobile phone, tablet or computer that can connect to the internet, making it vastly more accessible than many other solutions.
Through live, small-group, virtual coding classes, kids ages 8+ have hard fun by learning to code in real programming languages through hands-on projects. The sessions are facilitated by vetted and trained coaches, who are tasked with encouraging curiosity and supporting rigorous analytical thinking.
Currently operational across Africa and Europe, Mindjoy’s mission is to develop kids’ critical skills while they learn to express themselves using technology.
Platform for having hard fun
The Mindjoy development team of four is crafting a custom-designed platform, which uses machine learning to match kids to their optimal peer group. Helping kids find the right projects and the right peers is the secret to having kids “discover their own superpowers”, Immelman says. She emphasises that it is more about how the kids feel during the learning process than the actual information imparted.
Coaching sessions run online, meaning the platform is accessible from anywhere in the world. Currently, kids from as far afield as the United Kingdom, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia join sessions, with more countries being added weekly.
“Being forced into boring educational environments means kids build up resistance to learning. Our approach is to let the kids lead and invite their friends to learn alongside them. We believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience learning that is joyful, curious and inspiring,” Immelman says.
Deeply curious about how we construct the stories of ourselves in an ever-changing world, Immelman believes that our education (formal or informal) shapes how we construct the stories of ourselves and contributes to human flourishing. As a result, she does a lot of thinking about how we engineer the art of teaching to build resilient, creative, lifelong learners. Mindjoy is one manifestation of this philosophy.
Immelman is adamant that the Mindjoy business model has to be sustainable - and not an NGO - to ensure the project’s longevity. Membership costs R1 000 a month per kid, with unlimited open training sessions and weekly scheduled sessions. (Parents can log in and see their child’s progress at any time of day or night.).
In addition to individual memberships, Mindjoy partners with corporates who purchase Mindjoy memberships for kids from underprivileged backgrounds. In this way, team members aren’t caught up in what Immelman calls “the mind-numbing tedium of fundraising” that NGOs suffer, and can instead focus on helping kids discover the joy of learning.
“We won’t be able to truly benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the metaverse unless we help kids to become lifelong learners. This business is about making that a reality, while also teaching kids to enjoy acquiring the type of technology skills South Africa and Africa as a continent requires from its future creators,” Immelman concludes.