Skillsharing

Digital Literacy Startup Skillcrush Is Not Just for the Ladies

Digital literacy tutorials for the curious, the inexperienced and the technophobic among us.
 Digital Literacy Startup Skillcrush Is Not Just for the Ladies

Ms. Birnir (addabjork.wordpress.com)

Much to the chagrin of Ladybeat, brogramming is again in the news today, but this time with an insightful piece from Mother Jones on the sexist slip ups fledgling startups are wont to make. Buried at the bottom is an anecdote about 27-year-old Adda Birnir, who decided to start a service called Skillcrush as “an online resource for women looking to learn code and feel comfortable doing it.”

Skillcrush, which is still in its pre-launch phase, offers a set of online tutorials primarily focused on digital literacy–stuff like how to “beautify your blog,” implement ads, and create an online store–aimed at helping everyone, not just women, beef up on their tech skills.

“What we’re looking to do is create an online technical learning community where people can come and do skill-based learning around everything from applied skills, like how to customize a blog and install it on a web server, and also [how] to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby on Rails,” Ms. Birnir told Betabeat by phone.

Ms. Birnir and her cofounder Jen McFadden think that the New York-based Skillcrush can help those with little web or coding skills wade into the wonderful world of the Internet. “We’re working really hard to think about how do we bring people in who have previously been not so comfortable with the Internet?” said Ms. Birnir. “We’re spending a lot of time thinking about how do we initiate people into this whole thing.”

Skillcrush is helmed by three women and one man. Ms. Birnir and Ms. McFadden insist that while their experience with gender inequality in the tech sector may have informed the creation of Skillcrush, they want to make it as open an environment as possible. Translation: just because it’s run by women and boasts a cute company name, doesn’t mean it’s just for the XX chromosomes.

“We’re focused right now on trying to build a product that’s useful for whoever wants to use it,” said Ms. McFadden. “We’re three women and one guy so I think that by nature of what we’re doing we have a little bit more of a feminine bent to it, but it wasn’t to create an exclusionary environment in any way shape or form… we just want to provide an environment that is fun and interesting and a little bit more light and accessible.”

Skillcrush is still in pre-launch mode, but has an active Tumblr where the ladies post everything from quotes from their favorite tech-related articles to a helpful how-to column about tech troubles. The duo plan to expand Skillcrush beyond its current digital literacy offerings to include comprehensive programs on coding, as well as a potential partnership with lady powered Girl Develop It, an offline meetup for women who want to learn how to code.

“We love a lot of the things that are out there already,” said Ms. McFadden. “We know the ladies from Girl Develop It and they’re doing amazing things…We’ve tried CodeCademy and it’s great but we see [digital literacy] as something that 3-5 years down the road everyone has to have a handle on. We want to provide something that’s more accessible to everyone.”

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com