The Ada Story

How we came to be

Ada is a specialist college which gives students the necessary digital skills to build their potential and help them begin a successful career in tech. We want to inspire our students and help them appreciate that right now there is an unprecedented period of opportunity for digital pioneers.

This is why our story is important. The story of Ada, founded by Mark Smith and Tom Fogden, is one of ambition, hard work and resilience whichever way the dice falls.

The skills crisis

It began with the struggle of a student who was studying Computer Science at A-Level. Mark was mentoring a student who needed additional tuition to help his studies. It soon became apparent that there was a real lack of Computer Science tutors in Greater London, and an alarming mismatch between what students were learning in school and the expectation in industry. Something had to change.

The lightbulb moment

Mark’s mentoring experience inspired a the idea for a specialist digital skills college which empowers future generations with the right skills to lead flourishing lives. Ten years after joining the first cohort of Teach First, Mark and Tom’s paths crossed again, literally, as they walked from London Bridge to attend a reunion in 2013. Slowly, the two friends began to mastermind a business plan.

The dream turned real

No dream comes without compromise. Mark and Tom went unpaid for 3 months before Ada received charity status. The best Christmas present ever arrived on Christmas Eve when tech firm, Gamesys, provided initial funding to the cause, allowing Tom and Mark to go full time in early 2014. With borrowed laptops and a whiteboard for ideas, the two co-founders worked round the clock to secure industry backing and financial support.

The turning points

The constant Boris biking, tube hopping, coffee inhaling and pitching around London all paid off when Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deloitte, IBM, Gamesys, King and the Aldridge Foundation all agreed to be Ada’s founding partners. To round off the year, No.10 hosted a roundtable for Ada before the Prime Minister officially announced the College in December 2014. In addition to private donations, the team raised over £31m from central Government and the Greater London Authority for the college buildings and equipment.

Opening our doors

Among various options around London, Tottenham’s resilience and diversity proved the perfect location for Ada's first campus. We converted a former Haringey Council job centre into a modern, spacious learning environment. As the building works finished, student inductions took place at the Here East tech hub in the Olympic Park stadium. The Broad Lane campus was officially opened by Robert Halfon, the Minister of State for Education, in September 2016.

National in the name

We are quickly covering new ground in 2017. We launched our first apprenticeship programme, received official validation of the BSc in Digital Innovation, completed our first year of sixth form and piloted a completely free online learning platform. By the end of 2017, we will have over 200 students and 25 staff.

In early 2018, we will break ground for a state of the art building to open in 2019. This iconic building will lead the new wave of regeneration opposite the Tottenham Hale train station. This will be the main Hub campus for London with ambitions to expand across the UK in the next ten years.

Feeling inspired?

Want to join the Ada community? Find out about our sixth form or discover our apprenticeship opportunities.

Do you play an active role in industry? We want to hear from you. Find out why working with Ada is so special.