Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Aditya is the Co-founder and CEO of Codomo, an education technology company with a mission to deliver delightful education experiences to nurture innovative minds through products and experiences rooted in Design Innovation; an amalgamation of design thinking and computational thinking. Under Aditya's leadership, Codomo’s first product; Potato Pirates has gone on to be the most backed gaming project from Singapore on Kickstarter - raising over a quarter-million dollars with over 5,000 backers.
1. What made you want to start Potato Pirates? And how did the inspiration of moving "offline" happen when everybody is moving "online”?
When we started doing computer programming workshops for students some 5 years ago, we realised that there were more and more online resources coming up for students to learn programming. However, there were still quite a few limitations. Many parents who are not tech-savvy do not understand the premise of why coding is essential and neither are they able to guide their children. Teachers are out-sourcing this movement to third-party vendors like ourselves. It is not very sustainable. Moreover, kids are exposed to too much screen-time and creating yet another app, albeit to teach coding was going to add on to the plethora of apps fighting for a kids attention. Parents don’t want to encourage that, and like I said tech-savvy parents don’t recognise why coding is important for kids. So we decided to push the envelope and introduce coding without computers - removing screens and introducing social interaction to an otherwise reclusive experience of just interaction with machines. I’m very glad to know that the idea has been so well received by students, teachers, parents, engineers and gamers all over the world.
2. Do you feel that gamifying the learning process should be implemented in schools? Why/ why not?
Gamification is a term that is pretty loosely used nowadays since its transformed into quite a buzzword. Gamification to me serves a very simple purpose. Delivering meaningful and measurable learning experiences without explicitly being put across as “educational”. I believe it is essential in 21st century learning. Student experiences have truly changes. Interactive experiences are the norm. It also allows for delivering personalised experiences through products and platforms. However, there is a catch. If a game markets itself as an “educational” product, that in itself serves as a limitation because it can’t break the barrier or prejudice that students have against “educational” games. The most successful gamification products are ones that do not present themselves as an educational product. Minecraft is a great example of this.
3. What was the inspiration behind the name Codomo?
Kodomo means children in Japanese. It was really just a creative spark that made this happen. Our tagline is Code. Design. Make. which are represented by the three syllables in the name. This is primarily what we started out doing. Delivering experiences through workshops, events and trainings which delivered design-centric coding and hands-on making experiences. It was sort of the same inexplicable creative spark that brought about the name Potato Pirates. There’s no logical explanation. It just worked. We all unanimously loved it.
4. What are the skills that you feel are vital across all industries, and how does Codomo bring those skills out in people?
Are we move deeper into the 21st century, the challenges of the future are getting more multi-disciplinary, complex and embedded across different traditional verticals. With the emergence of A.I. we need a way to distinguish human capabilities over computation power of machines. I personally find this to be represented by 3 skills:
computational thinking which can be further broken down into:
We need to develop a diverse set of skills. Instead of becoming experts in a single field, we need to become generalists. This is also known as becoming a polymath. Elon Musk is a great example of this. He has a great grasp on engineering, management, design etc. We need to learn how to learn rather than what to learn.
5. I believe Codomo has four co-founders. How do you all work together and is there one clear leader?
We’ve always had a very flat non-hierarchical structure. We have our own niches and skillsets and complement one another synergistically and symbiotically. That being said, there always has to be one clear leader and in a corporate establishment that responsibility is taken by the CEO. We don’t usually come to blows or lock horns. We always find a middle ground. I guess that comes down to finding the right team and I’ve been blessed.
6. The success of Potato Pirates’ kickstarter campaign is no small feat. What would your advice be to other entrepreneurs looking to start their own kickstarter projects?
Virality is engineered. Most creators get obsessed with their product and focus 100% of their effort on it. Learn to take a step back and follow the golden rule of 50% product and 50% audience as set by Gabriel Weinberg, founder of Duckduckgo search engine. Spend an equal amount of time and effort on building your audience as you do on building your products, and not post-launch. This needs to be done pre-launch. You can’t launch cold! The first 72 hours after launch are the most critical to your project. This will either make or break your project.
7. Your bio mentioned that you are a big believer in biohacking and spirituality. I would like to hear your perspective on the Ship of Theseus; does an object that has all its components replaced still remain the same object fundamentally?
Well, this is more a philosophical question. The human body replenishes all its cells every 7 to 10 years. We too have had all our parts replaced. Do you consider yourself the same person you were 7 years ago? Fundamentally we’re the same person. What about our purpose? Our pursuits? Aspirations? Over the past 7 years, my thoughts, values and outlook on the world has dramatically changed. I’m always striving to continuously re-build and upgrade myself and I think everyone should. I don’t think that answers the question but its food for thought :)
8. With the advancements in CRISPR and prosthetic limbs, what are you most excited for in the future?
There are lots of promising technologies. Artificial Intelligence is one of them. More than this I’m most interested in humans waking up to harness their full potential. Modern physics is becoming increasingly metaphysical. The boundaries between science and spirituality are thinning and that’s exciting. I’m very interested in bio-centrism and the works of Robert Lanza and Gregg Braden which states that consciousness and sentience are the basic essence of matter.
9. I understand you are working on this new project called “Creativity for Humanity”, which seeks to demystify design thinking and creativity through gamification. Can you share more about this and the inspiration behind this project?
With Creativity 4 Humanity, we’re trying to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to supercharge Design Innovation (D.I.). Creativity is one of the most important skills of the future which has never really been quantified. We’re trying to quantify, eliminate barriers to entry to creative thinking, inculcate creative confidence and allow corporations and institutions to identify talent. There is an increasing amount of interest in this field of A.I. + D.I. with Singapore University of Technology and Design recently announcing a new pillar of study for this exact major. This stated with us using an offline, warm-up rapid sketching activity for creative thinking in our workshops. The warm reception of this idea made us take a hard look at the potential of making a platform to do the same more interactively, efficiently and effectively.
10. What other exciting projects are you working on?
Aside from Potato Pirates: Enter The Spudnet, which is live on Kickstarter right now, we’re only focused on developing Creativity 4 Humanity.
11. You mentioned when you started your entrepreneurship journey, you overworked yourself and lacked balance. Can you describe your experience and explain why you made the change to lead a more balanced lifestyle?
Yes I was eating, sleeping and breathing Codomo. I still do, but I now know when to take a step back and focus on holistic wellness. I just realised it was not sustainable. You may think you’re working harder but your energy and focus is sub-par when you are not focusing on holistic wellness. Mind, body and spirit. It all comes down to discipline, consistency and time management. Time is the one thing that we all have in common. Optimising it can allow you to supercharge your progress and achieve things without having to compromise on other aspects of your life like health, family, friends, etc. I’d encourage everyone to read more and adopt best practices from the greatest entrepreneurs in the world. Read widely, choose what you wish to adopt, see what works for you. Diet and sleep are your fuel. Don’t compromise on them. I can go on for hours about this but in essence, its about finding balance. Everything in life is about balance.