George Boateng’s venture, SuaCode.ai, emerged largely by accident. In 2013, as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, he’d teamed up with a group of friends to launch a summer innovation boot camp for high school students in their native Ghana. When the donated laptops they’d gotten for the course broke down a few years later, they were in a fix: only a quarter of the students had laptops of their own, and buying more would overwhelm their budget. All the students, however, had smartphones—so Boateng and his colleagues redesigned the coding module to fit a five-inch screen.
The experience went so well that it hatched a spinoff: in 2018, Boateng and cofounder Victor Kumbol ran their first pilot of SuaCode, an eight-week smartphone-based course. The course, which teaches Processing, a Java-based language, now has more than 600 graduates from two dozen countries. Boateng, currently a doctoral candidate in applied machine learning at ETH Zurich, also engineered an English- and French-speaking AI-powered teaching assistant named Kwame—a nod to Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. “His pan-Africanist vision resonates with our goal of empowering youth across the continent,” Boateng says.
Boateng’s hope is that the automated nature of the course will help it reach far more students—providing early exposure to coding that will serve as a bedrock for further education and ultimately help them land well-paying jobs in tech.