Blog Post

Former Zynga exec ‘Lo’ Toney lands at Khosla-backed learn-to-code startup LearnStreet as CEO

Laurence ‘Lo’ Toney, a former general manager of Zynga Poker (s ZNGA), has traded in his chips to help aspiring coders work on their programming chops.

On Thursday, LearnStreet, a learn-to-code startup incubated at Khosla Ventures, announced that Toney has been named the startup’s new CEO.

The company, which launched in November with $1 million from the venture firm, has been CEO-less until now. In a statement, Vinod Khosla said he expects Toney’s experience with consumer brands, as well as his familiarity with startups, to help LearnStreet grow.

In October, Toney left Zynga, where he had been for a few years, first as the general manager for Poker and then in a similar role in mobile. Prior to that, he worked at Cake Financial (which was acquired by ETrade (s ETFC)), Nike (s NKE) and eBay (s EBAY). He’s also served on the advisory boards of several startups and has been an angel investor.

He said he was drawn to LearnStreet because of his interest in education, as well as a recognition that the digital economy is changing the skills people need to participate.

“I think the opportunity is massive and transformative and anyone can see the direction that all economic indicators are leading toward,” he said.

In the last few years, the learn-to-code landscape has become increasingly crowded with companies like LearnStreet, Codecademy, Treehouse, Coursera and others – all interested in some way in helping people hone programming skills online.

When it launched, LearnStreet said its goal wasn’t to be a place for people want knowledge, but a hub for those who want to actually build something. Through its “Code Garage,” for example, students can choose from a range of kits that help them learn by creating games, calculators and other digital tools.

Toney said LearnStreet will continue to focus on a project-based approach and, while it will expand horizontally into other languages, its real opportunity will be in expanding vertically to accommodate learners at different levels.  He also said the company plans to do more behind-the-scenes building to use its data to personalize each student’s online learning experience.