The point at which I said, “I have
to do this,” was the day that Steve Jobs
died, because I had always envisioned
Steve Jobs to play a role in the video.
He had been vocal about computer sci-
ence education. The opening line of
the video is there because of that. The
day he died, like everybody else, I had
this pang of grief of the loss of a great
man. But, I also thought, “He’s 12 years
older than me. What am I going to do
in the next 12 years compared to how
much he’s done?”
I had this idea for the video for, like,
three years and wasn’t doing anything
about it, because it is very easy to not
do things. And that gave me the motiva-
tion. You know, I’m sitting here not do-
ing anything, and people are out there
dying. I need to go out and do stuff.
you say you have been thinking
about the video for three years. say a
little more about what’s happened in
In March 2012 I was at a tech con-
ference sitting around the fireplace
with Jack Dorsey and Drew Houston,
the founders of Twitter and Dropbox.
This was just a few months after Steve
Jobs’ death, and I had decided I want-
ed to do the video, but I didn’t know
where to start. And I told them, “Hey,
I have this idea for doing a video, what
do you think? Would you guys be in-
terested?” And both immediately
said, “Yes, you should totally do that.
It’s a brilliant idea! We’re in.” It was
such a strong positive “yes”…I never
thought it would be so easy to recruit
somebody. Obviously, I went next
to see if I could get Bill Gates. That
Partovi’s intense passion for the
Code.org mission derives in part from
the success he—and his identical twin
brother Ali—achieved from know-
ing programming and understanding
computer science. The Partovis emi-
grated from Iran to New York in 1984.
As fresh Harvard graduates in 1994 the
brothers started LinkExchange, which
they sold to Microsoft four years later
for $225 million. They co-founded oth-
er companies including iLike, which
they have also sold, and have become
startup advisors and angel investors;
they are pillars of the tech commu-
nity. Earlier this year, the brothers
answered a wide range of questions
on Reddit.com’s Ask Me Anything,c in-
cluding their best “twins pranks.”
As the interview was beginning,
Snyder remarked, “I know you are an
identical twin…am I interviewing the
real Hadi Partovi?” With a smile and a
chuckle, Partovi replied, “I am the real
your video begins with bill gates, Jack
Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and others
saying when they started program-
ming. When did you start?
My first program was for a Texas Instruments calculator that my dad got for
me when I was seven or eight years old.
It was basically programming machine
codes. My first real computer was a Commodore 64 that I got when I just turned
10. I started learning Basic on that.
That was in iran?
Yes, we were living in Iran. Obviously, there were no CS classes there.
Our family came to New York in 1984,
so I grew up in New York. Until late
high school I didn’t have any computer
classes. I was just learning programming on my own from a book. Then I
went to Harvard.
and you taught Cs there?
At most universities there is a shortage of CS teachers like everywhere else,
and so at Harvard undergrads in the CS
Department were regularly the section
leaders. I started doing that the second
semester of my freshmen year because
I came in having already taken AP Com-
c See http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/
puter Science; I think the AB test that
was available back then. So, I’d passed
out of the first year of CS, and started
teaching. For all four years that was my
main job during the school year.
Was that the start of your interest
I wouldn’t say it was the start, but it
has certainly been the most common
theme. I actually have education in my
blood. My dad co-founded the main
tech university in Iran, effectively the
MIT of Iran, called Sharif University.
My dad and uncle were chairs of the
Physics Department. So, I’ve always
had education in my background.
Who inspires you to do this kind of
work with Code.org?
There are two inspirational things
out there that actually gave me the
kick in the pants to do it. Well, actually multiple.
In terms of someone who currently inspires me, I would say Bono. He
doesn’t do anything in education. But
he’s such a strong voice for saying, “Do
something valuable for your life. Don’t
wait for other people to do something.”
Considering that a year ago I was unemployed, and basically am still unemployed and enjoying semi-retirement,
hearing someone like Bono, who’s
obviously better off than me, and he’s
dedicating his life to solving worldwide poverty. It’s not an easy problem
to solve, but he’s so clearly dedicated
to it. He is going to see that problem
through. That’s been inspirational to
me. “What is a problem that I could see
through and solve?”
hadi Partovi: “my effort is to turbocharge computer science education.”