2017 seemed like a bad year for coding bootcamps. Both the Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp closed up shop. In bigger names, the Flatiron School was bought by WeWork, and one Brooklyn graduate spoke out with complaints about job prospects and debt after going through General Assembly.
So why is Thinkful cofounder Darrell Silver so bullish on the field that his company just raised $9.6 million to expand in it? When we asked him that, we expected him to rebut the premise, but in fact he doubled down.
“2017 was a bad year and 2018 will be worse,” Silver said by phone recently. “The bootcamp model didn’t work out.”
Thinkful is doing something substantially different, he explained. If coding bootcamps were the new college, then Thinkful is the new night school.
“The guiding principle is to deliver education you can do while you’re in your current job,” he explained. “We provide education for adults heading into their second third or fourth career.”
The way it does that primarily through video. Instead of students having to go to a classroom and interact in real time with teachers, they can make their own schedule for instruction on Thinkful’s platform, video chatting with available instructors at times they choose.
With the raise, Thinkful will focus its expansion on cities not known for their tech chops, places like Phoenix and Atlanta.
“What we’re finding is that, as we move from old economies, growth is happening most in the smaller cities,” Silver said.
Thinkful’s users also skew older and poorer than for traditional bootcamps, he explained.
“The bootcamps have to put their locations where wealthy people are because those are the only people who can afford it,” he said. “So San Francisco and New York had a lot of great programs, but most people don’t live there and most people don’t want to live there, they want to live in the place they’re from and where their family is. People are not looking to take a huge risk without knowing the outcome and that’s a huge risk when you’re in your 30s and 40s and have kids.”
Thinkful is based in Dumbo, where about half of its 53 employees work. Silver said the company was looking forward to growing the team with the money it raised. The $9.6 million round was led by Owl Ventures.-30-