How Cody Coleman went from being born in prison to running a Silicon Valley startup

Abu Mubarik January 04, 2024
Photo Credit: Coactive AI via AfroTech

Meet Cody Coleman; he is the co-founder of Coactive AI, a company that helps data practitioners and data-driven teams extract information from unstructured image and video data, integrating it into the realm of Structured Query Language.

Coleman’s story of success started from a humble beginning. He was born in prison and was subsequently placed in foster care before being adopted by his maternal grandparents. In elementary school, he developed an interest in computers and gaming, according to AfroTech.

While in his first year as a freshman, he built his first computer with the help of his brother. He noted that it was his brother who guided him to go past playing video games to create things using a computer. According to him, he found an escape through computers.

“Even on my best days, my future looked really bleak. So, computers actually started out for me as an escape,” Coleman told AfroTech. “I was really interested in video games, and I could just lose myself in this completely other world. Then my oldest brother, he started at college, but he dropped out of college, and got a job working at the University of Pennsylvania.”

“He helped me build my first computer and really showed me that I could go past playing video games and actually build and create things using a computer. That’s where the first spark for computer science ignited for me.”

Coleman was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a full ride in 2009. He went on to graduate with a GPA of 4.9 and obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He subsequently got his masters and a PhD from Stanford University.

It was while at MIT that he met his co-founder William A. Gaviria Rojas. Together, they created Coactive AI to help people sort through several images in seconds. Coleman hopes his company will reach unicorn status soon. Through his work at Pinterest, Meta, and Google, Coleman is also working to democratize AI with his company.

The San Jose, CA-based startup that helps analysts to make image and video data useful raised $14m in combined seed and series A funding in March last year to expand operations.

Backers included Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, SV Angel, AME Cloud Ventures, Fei-Fei Li, Jure Leskovec, Eli Collins, Cloud All Star Fund, Next Play Capital, and Exceptional Capital.  

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 4, 2024

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