* Twin brothers start computer science-education nonprofit
* Release video urging schools to invest in tech education
* Bill Gates, Will.i.am, Miami Heat Chris Bosh make
By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 26 When Hadi and Ali Partovi
immigrated to America from Iran in 1984, they slept in the same
cramped bedroom as their parents, who exhausted their life
savings on the teenage boys' education.
Nearly 30 years later, the twin brothers are firmly planted
in the tech industry's elite circles, after selling companies to
Microsoft and News Corp's MySpace, and tapping
the rare connections to invest early on in Facebook,
Dropbox and Zappos.
Hadi Partovi says the arc of his own successful rise in the
tech world was shaped by an early interest in computers and a
formal education in writing software, or coding, which enabled
that spark to flourish into a career.
Along the way, the twins made influential friends.
Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter
co-founder Jack Dorsey - three people who became billionaire
tech industry luminaries thanks to their computer programming
abilities - appear in a new video released Tuesday by the
Partovi brothers as part of their new computer science-education
The goal of the online video campaign is to encourage
parents to demand more schools to teach computer programming - a
potentially lucrative skill that "equalizes opportunity" but is
only available to a fraction of U.S. high school students, Hadi
"Computer programming, right now, is the best embodiment of
the American Dream," Partovi said. "The American Dream is to be
the next Mark Zuckerberg."
"The tragedy is the skills it takes are not hard to learn,
but only 10 percent of schools offer (computer science) courses,
and these are usually the privileged schools."
After graduating with computer science degrees from Harvard
in 1994, the Partovi brothers founded LinkExchange and sold it
to Microsoft in 1998 for $250 million. Hadi helped co-found
Tellme Networks, a telephony company, while Ali went on to found
iLike, a music service that became one of the first apps to
integrate with Facebook.
The Partovis' campaign comes at a time tech executives warn
of a new digital divide emerging between job-seekers who possess
programming skills and those who do not. They also point to
statistics showing that while coding jobs are among some of the
most well-paid, especially in Silicon Valley, there remains a
dearth of computer engineers, who are recruited aggressively by
companies like Google and Facebook.
But there have also been strong signs recently that
government officials are increasingly raising the issue of
technical education, beginning at the secondary level.
In his state of the union speech this month, President Obama
vowed to redesign U.S. high schools to meet "the demands of a
high-tech economy," while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this
week introduced a new computer programming pilot program for 20
Hadi Partovi, who financed the video with his brother, lined
up endorsements from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and American
Federation of Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten, although
they did not appear on camera. The 10-minute video was directed
by Lesley Chilcott, the producer behind the documentaries "An
Inconvenient Truth" and "Waiting for Superman."
Partovi said he hoped to eventually raise money to fund
programming courses in low-income school districts and perhaps
even advocate for certain policy reforms that champion computer
science education. In California, he noted for example, computer
science courses are not counted toward high school graduation
"We owe our success in business to having learned to code,"
Hadi Partovi said.
Although the video mostly contains interviews with tech
entrepreneurs and has familiar startup scenes - like shots of
young employees skateboarding inside startup offices - there are
some unexpected appearances by pop celebrities, including Miami
Heat forward Chris Bosh and Will.i.am, a part-time startup
"Great coders are today's rock stars," the music producer,
sitting in his recording studio, says into the camera.
But what is considered a truism in Silicon Valley may not be
apparent elsewhere, Hadi Partovi said.
"Middle America doesn't realize it's an issue," he said. "We
can't solve the problem until we realize it exists."