All Star Code Scholar Jerome McCree is a Senior at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and is preparing to enter college next fall and one day run several of his own businesses. In November 2019, he fellow All Star Code Scholar Donald Poindexter won the Best of Show prize at the SRDN Code Day for high school and college students in Pittsburgh.
[During the All Star Code Summer Intensive] I was able to meet some of the most fantastic people, including an African American venture capitalist. Hearing these stories from other people that look like you really inspires you to do something great.
How did you learn about All Star Code?
Two years ago, my mom saw a Facebook ad for All Star Code. I applied and got in. She and I had already
been talking about an idea for a website for local businesses and I was able to learn the technical skills
for me to able to build our vision.
What is your favorite thing about coding?
The idea of working on something like a sandbox project and then being able to turn that into a billion
dollar company. This happens so many times with like companies like Stripe, Facebook, Airbnb, so many
different companies. That’s the most exciting thing. Also being able to help people and influence people
through whatever projects you’re working on.
Is there anything you learned in the Summer Intensive that really surprised you?
What true innovation is. True innovation is vertical innovation, not horizontal innovation.
What that means is horizontal innovation is basically taking what a company is already doing and just trying to make a small change. No company, no big company or big billion dollar companies are built like that.
The main thing is vertical innovation, which is doing something that’s totally brand new. And then being ten times better than anything else is in the market. This is the same thing that happened with Amazon back in the early nineties. They came up with a new type of technology using the internet and were able to sell books literally five to 10 times better than any other retailers. It’s the same thing with Airbnb.
What other lessons from the Summer Intensive have really stuck with you?
To dare greatly. If you’re trying to become an entrepreneur or anything else, that is something you really
need to understand. Being able to come up with new ideas and take risks. And celebrate failure! Maybe
what you’re trying to build may fail but at you even tried to do something. That’s really important!
How has All Star Code changed you?
I was able to meet some of the most fantastic people, including an African American venture capitalist.
He came to see us at Carnegie Mellon, where we met each day, to talk about his experiences. He built
two companies, went to Amazon and then went to Google. Hearing these stories from other people that
look like you really inspires you to do something great.
What advice would you give to someone your age who is interested in entrepreneurship?
My advice would be just go and look and learn about different types of founders and different types of
companies and how they get started. When you start to learn about their stories, you realize they may
not be so different. I think that’s really powerful. Really inspirational. And the Summer Intensive is a
great place to start doing that.