About us: why we started CompuKids

One of the strangest reasons for starting a business


My name is Bilal Kathrada and I am one of the founders of CompuKids. I want to share with you my story of why we started CompuKids.

There are a number of reasons why people start businesses; to become independent, to make extra money, to create something new, etc. But I started CompuKids for a completely different and perhaps unusual reason: for my sons.

You see, I have been a coder since 1985, when I was just 10, and have been in love with coding and technology ever since. My three sons turned out just like me when it came to the technology part. They took to it like little ducks to water.


The problem

But I couldn’t say I was happy about their usage of tech. They began to use it almost exclusively for entertainment and enjoyment. You know the usual suspects: YouTube, video games, social media etc.

I realized I had to do something about it before it got too late. But what could I do? On one hand, there were (and still are) prophets of doom who tell us about the dangers of technology, sometimes calling it “digital cocaine” and other terrifying names. These peoples’ advice: take away tech entirely from kids.

That didn’t appeal to me at all. I found it to be on the extreme side, and I knew it would spell disaster on multiple fronts. My boys would resent me, and I would be depriving of all the good that I know technology offers for learning and careers. What’s worse, I knew that if my boys didn’t have access to tech at home, they’d find it somewhere else. That’s just kids for you.


The solution

After much thought, I decided to take action: instead of going to extremes, I would give my sons an alternative to using tech for entertainment, and introduce them to more constructive, educational and beneficial aspects of technology, like coding, graphics design and animation. And it caught on like wildfire.

They really got into it, and began creating amazing things with technology. My eldest took to coding, and decided to become an App developer. He went on to win the IBM Youth Innovation Award at age 17!

Winners of the IBM Youth Innovation Challenge. My son Maseeh is the guy seated on the right.

My second son went into 3D Game development, and is currently creating an amazing first-person RPG (role-player game). My youngest went into a different direction, and took to graphics and animation. He began making his own little animated shows and uploading to YouTube.


Unexpected benefits

I realized that my boys were benefiting from their new-found love for constructive technology in other ways: they became self-learners, and started to read a lot more. They also became a lot more focused, persistent, and goal-oriented. When they started a project, they stuck to it until the end. If they encountered bugs and issues, they stuck with it, refusing my help.

The effect of this was that their results in school, especially maths and science, improved.


The plot thickens

And then it got really weird. My sons approached me one day, and said they’d like to teach other kids their tech skills just like I had taught them. I loved the idea, and supported them. Not long afterwards, we launched free coding classes for kids, where my sons (mostly my youngest) did all the teaching. He was 11 at the time.

The coding classes were a smash hit, and kids all over attended and loved it. We even got featured on national TV!


CompuKids is born

I identified an opportunity here to start a business and to make a change in the world. We put our savings together and started CompuKids. We began by going to schools and teaching technology courses after school, on Saturdays and on holidays.

We signed up some of the best schools in and around Durban: Al Falaah College, Crawford Prep in La Lucia, Crawford Prep in Tongaat, Hartley Road Primary, Grosvenor Boys and others. The kids loved it, and parents and teachers were thrilled.

The next step was to take our courses online so that we could scale the business and reach kids around the world. We would create a high-quality, practical, video-based and easy-to-follow technology curriculum, where kids could learn on their own. We would have forums for online support, in case anyone was stuck and needed assistance.

By March 2016, we were fully online, and had signed up our first customer: the Al Falaah College.


The CompuKids Vision

My sons are doing well with technology, and are set in their careers form a young age. But they had a distinct advantage over other kids, in that they have a dad who knows tech and taught them what he knows.

If you look at it, most of the famous successful tech entrepreneurs like Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) and Elon Musk (founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX) all had a similar advantage: they were exposed to technology and coding from a very young age.

Our vision is, very simply, to give that advantage to every child. We want to get every child using technology to create amazing things from a young age. Who knows which child will become the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg?