Boston Startup School Adds NY, Gets New Name: Startup Institute

3/4/13Follow @curtwoodward

The push to remake higher education is picking up steam, and some Boston-based innovators are once again on the front lines.

Boston Startup School, an education company that offers two-month skills training classes for people seeking to join early stage companies, says today that it’s expanding to New York with a first Big Apple-based class scheduled for June.

And since it’s no longer just a Boston thing, a new name is also in order. From here out, the TechStars-affiliated effort will go by the name Startup Institute.

It’s one of a growing number of alternative programs that seek to augment—or perhaps even replace—the traditional ways of getting a business education.

The Boston region is a leader in this brand of experimentation, which makes sense because of its traditional leadership in old-school higher ed. Examples from other parts of the country include Seattle-based Startup Weekend, which teaches company-creation skills around the globe, and New York’s General Assembly, a venture-backed provider of a wide array of technology skills courses.

Startup Institute, now operating its third class of about 60 students in the Boston area, focuses on intensive courses that get prospective tech startup employees ready to hire. As The New York Times put it, think of the program as a “finishing school” for people wanting to join the startup scene.

The particular Startup Institute program focuses on teaching skills in four different “tracks”: software development, product design, marketing, and sales. The company says its lessons are rooted in the skills that startups want employees to have, and relies on the local community to fill its roster of instructors (who are often volunteers).

It’s a full-time, five-day-a-week program. Tuition is $3,750, which breaks down to more per month than a school like UMass (but far less than Harvard or MIT). Startup Institute does offer repayment plans based on a graduate’s salary, and also has agreements in place with some employers to reimburse most of the tuition if they hire a graduate.

The niche is ready to be filled because early stage companies of all sizes continue to say they have trouble hiring enough people with the right skills. The pinch is particularly acute among software developers, but extends into other jobs in the industry, too—huge tech companies are simply hiring as many top players as they can, while many talented folks decide to build startups of their own.

On the other side of the equation, you could also look to workers who are looking to pick up new skills and find better jobs in the fast-growing technology sector. There are, after all, still more than 12 million unemployed people in the U.S. as of last month’s federal report. And that doesn’t even count the people working fewer hours than they need to, or those who have simply given up looking for work.

So it makes sense for Boston’s Startup Institute to branch out to the New York market, where growth in startups has been ramping up. It also takes a page from a competitor like General Assembly, which has expanded from its New York base to the Boston area—along with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Startup Institute co-founder Shaun Johnson says some graduates of the early Boston-area classes have landed jobs in New York already, at Lot18 and CrowdTap. And interest for a similar program in New York was starting to pick up.

Boston Startup School co-founder

Johnson

“There have been tons of off-the-record conversations of, ‘I think what you guys are doing is great, when are you guys coming to New York—I’ll build this if you’re not coming,’” Johnson says.

Startup Institute has hired Christina Wallace, a Harvard Business School graduate and former CEO of onetime fashion startup Quincy, as its New York director. The first class in the city is slated for June and, in the meantime, the Startup Institute is looking to build up the roster of local startups that can become partners—sponsoring tuition for people they hire, supplying instructors, and generally supporting the expansion.

“The more folks we can get involved in the community, I think the more diverse the offering and the people will be,” Johnson says. “And it’ll typify New York and what the New York tech community really is.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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