It’s official: there’s a coding school coming to Wilmington.
It might not have a brick-and-mortar location locked down yet, but Zip Code Wilmington is expected to launch in downtown Wilmington this coming September. Founded by venture capitalist Ben duPont, Epic Research CEO Jim Stewart and Brown Advisory partner Porter Schutt, Zip Code Wilmington’s objective is to fill big business tech jobs in the city with locally sourced talent.
“We know there are a lot of tech jobs in Wilmington,” said Stewart. “We hit on this idea, of attracting a bootcamp to come to Wilmington. The initial attempts were to get an existing school to come here.” Stewart said Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary Alan Levin made a few calls, but long story short — it didn’t work out.
It was right around that time that Stewart, duPont and Schutt were introduced to Patrick Callihan, executive director at Tech Impact.
“I’m not sure we were interested in doing a total from-ground-zero startup,” Stewart said. Instead, the team decided to launch Zip Code Wilmington as a nonprofit and court Tech Impact as a partner. The former would raise the funds, act as the board and provide oversight for Tech Impact, which would manage operations — including hiring teachers.
Additionally, Zip Code Wilmington has managed to pull a handful of major employers in the area onboard, including Capital One, Barclays, Bank of America and CSC.
“If we’re not graduating people they’re dying to hire, then we’re wasting our time,” Stewart said. “We have a steering committee of employers who are helping us design the curriculum, the apprenticeship program we’ll graduate people into, and give us continuing feedback as to how the graduates are doing.”
The city got a taste of Zip Code Wilmington last month, when the startup sponsored a weekend coding class organized by and held at coIN Loft. The class, taught by GoLearnToCode.com founder Jeff Cohen, drew dozens of prospective coders to the coworking space.
Stewart said the community has been supportive of Zip Code Wilmington’s efforts thus far. “It’s been great,” he said. “We’re spreading the word amongst politicians and community leaders. It’s been universally supportive.”
That community support will be an integral ingredient to Zip Code Wilmington’s success. Having large corporate sponsors and political endorsements will certainly set the nonprofit up nicely, but they’ll need to continue engaging the existing tech community in order to become sustainable. Zip Code Wilmington will be having a pre-launch party for stakeholders, politicians and community leaders the first week of June.
“I’m extremely supportive of their initiatives,” said Archer Group’s Mona Parikh, who has organized multiple coding workshops out of the coIN Loft. “If their students need any help or support, there are resources in place and people who know what it’s like to learn how to code for the first time,” she said.
Stewart said Zip Code Wilmington would like to be graduating 100 plus people once they get the scale next year. “But the first part is filling the jobs that are already here,” he said. “Once there’s a little critical mass, making Wilmington more effective as a tech center, it’ll be a great place to be in the next five to ten years.”