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Launch Code Aims To Grow St. Louis Tech Talent

Courtesy of Launch Code

In the St. Louis region and across the nation, it can be difficult for new programmers to get their foot in the door.  At the same time startups and established companies in the St. Louis region can struggle to find qualified talent.  

Enter Co-founder of  Square and owner of Third Degree Glass Factory Jim McKelvey, whose new project Launch Code pairs beginner programmers with their more established counterparts.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Tim Lloyd recently spoke with McKelvey about the project, below is an extended version of that interview and some of the highlights.

How the program works.

“It’s something called pair programming, which is something we practice in Silicon Valley.   The idea is that you can match two people together and the productivity of the team is higher than the individuals themselves.   Also, if you pair an experienced person with an inexperienced person, the inexperienced person learns very quickly.   So, it’s a quick way to get someone fully trained.”

On the shortage of programming talent in the region.

“The amazing thing is the amount of major companies that are participating.  If you look at the Launch Code website, you’ll see that all of the big employers in St. Louis are on the list.  It’s a problem that pervades not just St. Louis, but the entire country.  Launch Code, if it works like it looks like it’s going to, it will change the technological landscape in St. Louis.”

Is the idea to create such a large talent pool in St. Louis that ultimately that attracts new companies?

“That’s exactly right, if we go from a talent deficit to a talent surplus, we will start bringing the biggest employers here.  For every one tech job you get five other jobs with it, so, it’s a tremendous boon to the economy.”

You’ve had a lot of success in the startup world, how do you translate that into ensuring that you can make rapid changes and modifications to this program?

“We’re running it like a startup, we don’t have a business plan.  We change things every day, we have a lot of smart people who have autonomy and can make decisions on their own.  And then we listen to our customers, in this case it’s the programmers and the companies.  That sort of humility allows us to adapt very quickly.”

On growing Launch Code

“We’ve limited the program to 100 just to get a good statistical base.   But we expect thousands and thousands of placements to result.  We’ve already identified those placements at the companies, so, there are the jobs there, we’ve identified roughly 5,000 open positions right now.”


Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.

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