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A Year of Code timeline: History of a HYPEGASM
How 'Coding for All' became 'Cash for Saul'
Comment The government's "Year of Code" scheme, chaired by former Tory advisor Rohan Silva, has generated more comments from you than anything else this week. Here's a bite-sized timeline to put the whole story in context.
- February 2007: Saul Klein joins London VC firm Index Ventures. In May, he sets up Seedcamp in Europe. It's a pick and shovel investment business that sells mentoring and training to startups... except there's no bubble in startups in London yet.
- November 2007: Looking to rebrand the Conservatives as technocratic and modern , the Leader of the Opposition David Cameron and his shadow Chancellor George Osborne fly to Silicon Valley, on the advice of policy advisor Steve Hilton. The Guardian reports Cameron is "a little breathless" - Google, says Cameron, is "'responsible for a large portion of the wonders of our modern world". Google picks up the travel bill for the entourage.
- November 2010: Now prime minister, David Cameron travels to Old Street to announce a marketing agency to promote "Tech City", the Government's new brand for what it hopes will be an internet startup "cluster". It's the brainchild of Hilton's protege, Rohan Silva. Cameron promises to rewrite UK legislation Google doesn't like - using a Google quote that later turned out not to exist.
- 2011: Klein's Index Ventures funds a training company, Codecademy, teaching (amongst other things) HTML to non-techies. Like Seedcamp, it's also a pick-and-shovel investment - but can it repeat the trick? Klein and Silva begin to hype the demand for coding courses.
- September 2011: Google leases a seven-storey building providing "advice to startups" near Old Street. Soaring rents in the area cause startups to seek cheaper space elsewhere.
- July 2012: BBC presenter Fi Glover files an ecstatic report on "Tech City". “I haven’t felt so good having spoken to a businessman for ten minutes in about 25 years. That’s not normally how I feel! So thanks very much!” she babbles, after speaking to Dan Crow of gig listings startup Songkick - an Index Ventures investment which boasts Klein on the board. The BBC brushes aside our questions whether Glover had declared a conflict of interest: her partner is a senior executive at Google UK.
- April 2013: Rohan Silva quits No 10 to join Klein's Index Ventures. A job post is created for him: "Enterpreneur-In-Residence" . Silva is said to be working on educational ventures, such as online learning.
- October 2013: The BBC announces year a long "digital education" scheme with initiatives such as "learning to code". Future Media chief Ralph Riviera vows to end discrimination against computer programmers. Brian Cox and Stephen Fry are enlisted to sell the venture.
In the wake of the DMI fiasco, new Director General Tony Hall confirms cuts will come from editorial budgets. The same month, the BBC announces 70 journalist jobs will go from its newsrooms, and new News department boss James Harding creates a new layer of management, including posts that didn't previously exist: such as a "Managing Editor" of news.
- February 2014: Rohan Silva is announced as chair of a new taxpayer-funded initiative, "Year of Code". It's led by a recent graduate who explains she can't write code herself, but assures us it can be learned in a day. "With code, you can do a little over a long period of time," she tells a startled Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. The board of Year of Code has a seat for Saul Klein himself and his training company Codecademy, and several other Klein investments. Two are shared with gig listings website SongKick.
"We live in a world where the intersection of public policy and commerce is often needed to drive an important social agenda," Klein tells the BBC.
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones describes objectors to the Year of Code as "people who see themselves and their craft as an exclusive band of brethren" and labels them “snobs” and “misogynists”. So there.