We know that digital entrepreneurs can do a lot without having to be a coder. But a little software coding knowledge can open up a whole new world. An as entrepreneur, the more you know about what is possible with technology, and how easy or hard it is to develop something, the more effective your business prototyping will be.
We gave our entrepreneurship students a 12-hour coding challenge—pick a coding language, spend 12 hours learning, and create a little demo program or app at the end. Even though almost none of them had previous coding experience, it was an eye-opener that they enjoyed (mostly) in the end, but wasn’t without its challenges.
As one student, Gabe Vargas, put it: “Be patient, having your code run smoothly and without any issues is an incredible feeling.”
No matter which language you choose, the students recommend setting aside hours to focus only on coding. They also say that many of the coding introductions or ‘bootcamps’ are targeted at hardcore developers, and go into a lot of detail. The students recommend finding simple coding projects that will interest you and keep you motivated, whether it’s a game, a mobile app, or a data analysis.
Here are the coding languages the students chose, in order of popularity, along with their favorite resources and tips:
- Python – Best for general coding knowledge, and data analysis
- Swift – Best for mobile app coding
- SQL – Best for working with relational data in tables
- Raspberry Pi – Best for hardware and sensors
The majority of students picked Python as their coding language. It’s the language of choice for beginners. Students found the basics like variables and control structures easy to learn. But as one of our students Zhiming Lin says: “Don’t spend too much time on the basics, try to get a project that you’re interested in as quickly as possible.”
Many of the Python projects are focused on data analysis. Python uses code libraries to add new features, and the students recommend learning libraries such as Matplotlib for displaying data, and pandas for manipulating data. Other project ideas include building a game with the PyGame library, and a simple personality survey.
The next most popular language choice was Swift. Swift is a great choice for building mobile apps, though they only work on Apple iOS devices. The students who chose Swift enjoyed building user interfaces through Apple’s free Xcode development environment. It was motivating to run their apps on a simulated iPhone on the computer, but it was also easy to upload their apps to a real iPhone or iPad.
The tutorials for SQL aren’t as well developed as some of the other languages. One student recommended the udemy course. Others tried to learn on their own, using resources such as W3Schools which allow you to try SQL commands right on the site.
Raspberry Pi isn’t a coding language, but a small computer that makes it easy to connect sensors and devices. If making actual hardware bend to your will sounds more exciting than just running a program on a screen, Raspberry Pi could be for you.
Most Raspberry Pi projects are coded in Python, but of course require you to buy the computer itself and any add-ons. The Raspberry Pi foundation has starter projects to choose from, or you can buy an additional device and watch the tutorial for how to connect it. One student bought an LED matrix display and learned how to program it. There’s nothing like a physical prototype to get customers and investors excited.
We hope these give you some ideas for continuing your journey as a digital entrepreneur. Enjoy!