The Flatiron School, a New York-based programming school for adults and high schoolers, has raised a $US9 million round of funding led by Thrive Capital with participation from CRV and Matrix. The startup is teaching a bunch of people, including Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss, how to code.
The school was founded in 2012 by two men who met on Twitter, Avi Flombaum and Adam Enbar. Enbar was working in venture capital researching higher education, and Flombaum was a self-taught, college-dropout hedge fund CTO who taught people to code in his spare time
“Avi told me his favourite part of teaching was that he could help some of his students actually get jobs,” Enbar tells us. “And that blew my mind. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m speaking to the deans of universities and they can’t figure out how to get their students jobs, and this guy’s doing it on nights and weekends for fun and he’s getting them amazing, high paying jobs as engineers.'”
I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m speaking to the deans of universities and they can’t figure out how to get their students jobs, and this guy’s doing it on nights and weekends for fun.’
Flatiron School is a highly selective, full-time intensive programming school — it accepts just 6% of applicants. Its job placement rate is 99%, meaning normal people can walk into Flatiron School with zero coding experience and 12 weeks later, they can leave with a $US70,000 software engineering gig at a place like Google or Intel. Flatiron School’s courses cost $US12,000, but if students accept job offers through the company’s placement program, they will get a $US4,000 refund on their tuition.
In addition to training normal people, Flatiron School has celebrity appeal. Victoria’s Secret supermodel Karlie Kloss started taking classes at Flatiron School about a year ago, Enbar says. (Kloss also dates one of Flatiron School’s lead investors, Joshua Kushner).
“She was really inspired to share [learning to code] with more girls — especially younger girls. So she’s donating 20 spots to girls to attend our summer high school coding program.”
Though Flatiron School was initially bootstrapped, it raised its $US5.5 million Series A round of funding in April 2014 from Matrix Partners, BoxGroup, and CRV.
After seeing the success of its adult program, Flatiron School decided to start using its curriculum to teach high schoolers how to code too. “Even at a very high level, a state and government level, people are realising it’s really important to expose kids to computer science skills,” Enbar says. “But because they don’t teach them in high school, not nearly enough kids even explore it as an option in college, and so we’re not graduating enough people with technical skills.”
Flatiron School offers summer courses and after-school courses for high school students at its New York campus and at the country’s best high schools, including The Dalton School in New York City’s Upper East Side and Palmer Trinity in Miami.
“We’re really investing in building up our ability to train incredible teachers and create amazing curriculum and software so that we can actually increase access to this education,” Enbar says. “We believe education is fundamentally not about content. It’s about people. If you think back to your favourite college class, you don’t remember that awesome textbook. You don’t remember the slides in any individual lecture. You remember that really passionate teacher or the great study group you had.”
For its high school programs, Flatiron School is partnering with programs like Teach for America and DoSomething.org to train more teachers and give more students access to computer science. This summer, the company is planning its high school programs in six cities: Miami, Austin, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
In terms of growth, Enbar says Flatiron School is more concerned with keeping its adult courses selective and high quality than trying to enroll tons of people. “When we think about building a next generation education institution, we don’t think about growing by enrolling tens of thousands of students and losing quality,” Enbar says. “We think about growing by maintaining a really high bar for quality and having impeccable results.”