Nonprofit coding school Zip Code Wilmington is known for its intensive coding boot camps that have successfully helped hundreds of people enter Delaware’s software development workforce. Now, with the help of a New Castle County Innovation Grant that uses county-allotted CARES ACT funding, it’s launching a new program that focuses on students becoming not employees, but tech business owners.
The TECHPRENEUR Incubator Pilot and Certification Trainer program was designed for people who have ideas for tech-based businesses, but don’t have the coding knowledge to to it themselves, and don’t have the money to hire developers to do it.
“It’s the first and only incubator in the area to offer coding, coupled with entrepreneurship and opportunities for individuals to start their own tech businesses right here in Delaware,” Desa Burton, executive director of Zip Code, told Technical.ly.
“The priority for [the CARES Innovation Grant] grant was that it would increase regional tech impact, create jobs and attract new companies or talent to the region,” she said. “They were looking for something new and innovative that can help push New Castle County forward beyond COVID-19 — not just put a band-aid on the recovery, but to help us really push ourselves forward in tech.”
The push shifts part of Zip Code’s focus — the nonprofit continues to center on training bootcamps in software development and data engineering for the local talent pipeline — on creating a more robust tech community in Delaware, with more of our own tech companies that grow and creating jobs.
Like Zip Code’s traditional bootcamps, TECHNPRENEUR involves 12 weeks of intensive training in software development, plus an extra layer of business and entrepreneurship training. At the end of the program, the cohort will have the opportunity to pitch their business to potential investors from the organization’s wide pool of connections with businesses in the area.
Unlike the other camps, graduates of TECHNPRENER continue with Zip Code via an incubator to help them grow.
”Post-Zip Code Wilmington, you still have resources, technical support, a place to come and work, the ability to meet people,” said Burton. “We become a coworking resource space training and support to get off the ground after they graduate.”
In addition to training new students, the TECHNPRENER program will also accept a number of Zip Code graduates whose job searches have been impacted by COVID-19 for the business education and incubation only.
Whether the program continues after the pandemic remains to be seen.
“I believe this is sustainable program, but I don’t know if we’ll be offering [it to] every cohort,” Burton said, adding that it may become an annual offering.