Interview: Treehouse Founders Offer Affordable Technology Education for All

Learn how Treehouse aims to change the world through technology and why when it comes to entrepreneurship, you have to do it your own way.

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Tech gurus, Alan Johnson and Ryan Carson are on a mission — to bring affordable technology education to people everywhere.

Carson first came up with the idea for Treehouse at one of the many conferences he held as the founder of Carsonified, a world-class events platform for the web industry. In 2011, he decided to utilize his events company and blog as a catalyst to develop the first incarnation of what would later be called, Treehouse — an online platform that enables beginners to learn to build websites, create iPhone and Android apps, code with Ruby on Rails and PHP, or start a business.

Alan Johnson, Treehouse co-founder, attributes the growth of their achievement-based learning environment to empowering everyday people with the technology skills they need to be successful. “Users can sign up for a membership plan which gives them access to a library of videos that feature lessons on web design, web development, and iOS and Android development,” Johnson explains. “[Then] challenges and assessments test the user’s knowledge of what they learned, and they earn badges to showcase their new skills to other users.”

One of the major focuses of Treehouse is entrepreneurs. “We meet people every day that have ideas for apps or websites,” according to Johnson. “That’s kind of our mentality behind Treehouse. We’ll at least get you to the point where you can talk to people who can build this stuff for you; we can get you [to a place] where you can talk to people about it and get your dream to happen. Even beyond that, we’ve been able to train a whole lot of people to build the thing they dreamed up themselves.”

Learn how Treehouse aims to change the world through technology and why when it comes to entrepreneurship, you have to do it your own way.

Company: Treehouse
Founders: Alan Johnson, Ryan Carson
Location: Portland, OR
Industry: Education, Technology
Startup Year: 2011
Startup Costs: Undisclosed

How I Got Started:

[My co-founder] Ryan originally [came up with] the idea. He ran an events business called Carsonified that had several pretty big events in the web design and web development community. At the conferences people would say: “It’s really great to come to one of these conferences”, or “I love it, but I really wish there was some way to continue on after I get home. I learned so many good things.” People would come up [to him and] say: “Hey you should do video service”, or you should do this or you should do that. So he kind of thought about it for a while and [decided it was a] pretty good idea.

In late 2011, [Ryan] hired a contract developer and a few people and launched the original incarnation of Treehouse. At the time it was called Think Vitamin Membership because he had a pretty big blog back then called Think Vitamin. I actually didn’t join until a little bit after the original launch.

Then we pivoted the company from being all about the people who came to the conferences (i.e. people who were already more established in the technology community) to [focusing on] beginners. [We changed focus to] make sure we had people covered so that they can start from square one and learn everything they would need to know to get a job in technology.

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