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Flatiron School Raises $5.5M to Teach Tech Skills, Place Graduates in Jobs

April 09, 2014
Wall Street Journal
by Lora Kolodny

A New York startup has raised $5.5 million to deliver technical training to would-be software developers in classrooms in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Charles River Ventures and Matrix Partners led the Series A investment in Flatiron School Inc., joined by Box Group and individual angel investors, co-founder and president Adam Enbar said.

The Flatiron School charges $12,000 tuition for four-month, immersive programs in Web and mobile programming, covering such languages as Ruby, Javascript and HTML5, or Objective C, and tools and resources for developers like Facebook Open Graph or StackOverflow.

The school’s student acceptance rate is less than 8%, higher than that of some top-ranking colleges and universities in the U.S.

When students have completed a course there, the startup helps them find work including at other venture-backed tech startups, like Handybook and Artsy. More than 98% of its students get jobs through the Flatiron School’s placement efforts.

Mr. Enbar co-founded the company in the spring of 2012, while he was an associate with Charles River Ventures in New York.

Charles River General Partner Jon Auerbach said his firm looked at the startup as they would any other deal. He saw in the Flatiron School a profitable, revenue-generating education business that was fulfilling a burgeoning demand for tech education and qualified tech employees.

“Only one in three recent college graduates are able to find work that they’re qualified to do in the U.S., and with skyrocketing student debt, Flatiron…is doing something that higher-ed and existing institutions haven’t been able to do well, which is technical vocational training,” Mr. Auerbach said.

Matrix Partners General Partner Antonio Rodriguez said his firm backed the Flatiron School because it provides a superior “pedagogical experience” and better outcomes for its students than myriad other programs he examined in the field of education.

So far, the company has generated revenue from tuition, and partnerships with organizations like the New York City Department of Small Business Services.

The Flatiron School provided the coursework and teaching for the department’s NYC Web Development Fellowship program, which helped underrepresented populations in tech find work in the field.

In the overall population of Flatiron School students, more than 37% have been women so far. Mr. Enbar and his co-founder Avi Flombaum are taking a census of their students to understand what impact their own efforts are having in making tech a more diverse and inclusive industry.

The Flatiron School is competing in a nascent market for tech skills education beyond the college and university system that includes startups like Codeacademy, General Assembly and Thinkful.

Most competitors are attempting to deliver, and charge for, at least some of their coursework online. While recognizing the benefits of online educators, the Flatiron School is committed to having teachers and students together in a classroom, Mr. Enbar said.

He cited studies that find “good teachers lead to better test scores and learning outcomes for students,” but also noted that there’s a certain commitment required of those who enroll in a school offline, which indicates a higher likelihood of success and enthusiasm for the material.

Flatiron School Raises $5.5M to Teach Tech Skills, Place Graduates in Jobs

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