Galvanise others by dreaming big

Hadi Partovi, co-founder of, on his journey, inspiration, and what he’s learned along the way

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Hadi Partovi was born in Iran and moved to the US with his family as a teenage. He had a successful career with Microsoft before becoming a tech investor. In 2013, he founded with his twin brother Ali, dedicated to the vision of giving every K-12 student the opportunity to learn computer science. courses are available in 67 languages and currently used in 180+ countries.

What led you to launch

I am from Iran and I was six years old at the time of the Islamic Revolution. Then came the Iran-Iraq War, which was a very rough time to be living in Tehran.

My life changed dramatically one day when I was nine years old; my parents brought home a Commodore 64 computer and gave me a book about computer programming. The computer became my escape from the realities of the world that I lived in, and I was lucky that my father was a physicist, and my mother was a computer scientist, so they helped me to learn to code.

Later, we moved to United States. As immigrants, having left everything behind, we had no money and had to start from scratch. As I got older, I came to realise that my computer skills were highly valued. I rose through the executive ranks at Microsoft, and I had the good fortune of becoming an early investor in many of the tech brands that people are familiar with today. The best investments I made early on were Facebook, Uber, Dropbox, and Airbnb.

However, once I turned 40 years old, I realized that I'd made enough money and the thought of just continuing to make more didn't really make me feel happy about who I was. I wasn't spending money fast enough to use what I'd already made, so I decided then what I wanted to do was get more focused on impact. 

And so, my third start-up was, which is dedicated to the vision that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. 


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Hadi is on a mission to give all school children the opportunity to learn computer coding. Photo: Shutterstock.

How important is partnership and collaboration to you and And how have you successfully done this in the Gulf Region? 

Much of our work comes through partnerships, which are is critical for us to have the scale of impact we want while having a very small budget and team.'s team right now is about 100 people, with budget of about $25m. But we have reached 70 million students and two million teachers, and we have changed policies in all 50 US states. as well as 70 other countries. And that's only been possible with partnerships with local nonprofits and philanthropic organisations, and with governments.

In the Middle East region, for example, in Jordan we’ve partnered with the Queen Rania Foundation and their educational initiative Edraak to localise and translate our courses, and in Lebanon, with the World Bank on the Beirut Digital Academy.

While in the UAE, we have worked with the Dubai Future Foundation, as well as with the Emirati and Saudi education ministries on coding initiatives.  

"It’s about having that willingness to see what it hasn't been seen yet and then to try to make it happen."

As you reflect on all that you’ve accomplished in both the tech and philanthropic sector, what are the character traits or lived experiences that have contributed to your commitment to innovation and your big dream? 

By far the biggest learning I've had at, is that if you dream bigger, you can achieve more because more people will want to help you. The bigger your dream, the easier it is to get people on board. When we see Elon Musk dreaming of going to Mars, everybody wants him to succeed because that's a dream for the entire human race.

If we had said we wanted to get 100,000 students to learn computer science, most people would have said ‘good for you, go do that, great idea’. But once we said every student in every school, we needed everybody to come on board.

Creating big dreams makes it easier to get the work done. We’ve done the opposite of starting small and growing and it's been something that has helped us in so many ways. It doesn't just drive us; it drives all our partners as well.

I also believe that being an immigrant has fed my entrepreneurship spirit, because it is this voyage of leaving everything behind and creating a new life in an undiscovered country. You take the risk of leaving one place and then jumping with both feet into the complete unknown. 

This is what entrepreneurship is like, and this has been true in my tech career, but also true in what I'm doing with It’s about having that willingness to see what it hasn't been seen yet and then to try to make it happen.

Hadi was speaking to Sharna Goldseker, the founder of 21/64, a nonprofit practice serving next gen and multigenerational philanthropic families, at an exclusive Circle event in May 2022. To find out more about Circle membership and how you can attend events like this, click here