Coding Cupboard is hooking up student programmers with small businesses

LAUNCHPAD: Students need experience. Start-ups need cheap coders. A match made in heaven?

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 14 Jul 2014

The shortage of computer programmers in the UK, exacerbated by the government’s obsession with driving down immigration, is a hot topic if there ever was one.

Stubbornly high youth unemployment is another. Even uber-desirable computer science graduates can struggle to find work if they don’t have real-world coding experience, according to Adam Ball, head of start-up Coding Cupboard, which aims to connect student developers with small businesses that can’t afford the high prices professional programmers charge.

‘A big barrier is work readiness. If people don’t have any prior experience, businesses don’t want to take a risk on that,’ Ball said.

Companies post their projects on the site, paying a fee of 14-20% of the advertised budget, and choose their developer from the pitches they receive. It’s a model used for design and marketing by sister company Concept Cupboard, also run by Ball.

‘Through a series of happy accidents I’m running both businesses,’ Ball, who started as an intern at Concept Cupboard in 2011, said. ‘My boss at the time left for a job in Australia, so I ended up becoming an entrepreneur without really meaning to.’

The first site has over 1,500 companies signed up to it and has helped students earn more than £100,000 since its launch in February 2011. Coding Cupboard was launched a month ago and currently has more than 200 companies and 400 students on its database.

Ball hopes to have at least 1,000 students signed up in the next year, and is working to build relationships with universities including UCL, City and Birmingham, where he was a computer science student.

However, the biggest challenge so far has been helping small companies to work out what they actually need. ‘They know they need an app, but don’t know how to communicate their requirements and have no idea how much it should cost. We’re trying to automate and digitise this consultancy process,’ Ball said.

Concept Cupboard is also advertising some full-time roles after requests from companies, something Ball, who is planning to launch a ‘pinterest-style CV’ for students on the site in the next few weeks, hadn’t anticipated.

Once everything works ‘flawlessly’ (for example, finding a way to stop clients schmoozing students off the sites) the companies will consider taking on investment to ‘accelerate growth’ and potentially expand into other industries such as translation, law and accounting.

At the moment, Ball and his sole full-time colleague have free desk space in marketing agency Burn, run by two of the founders of the start-ups. Very Tech City.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime