Beyond beautiful mountains, a fit and healthy population, and good beer, the Denver area is home to a thriving startup scene. However, like all thriving startup scenes, it doesn’t have enough developers to satisfy demand.
Galvanize is a coworking space in Denver dedicated to stimulating the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today, it is opening the doors to its gSchool, a full-time, six-month web development program.
The 30,000-square foot facility opened in October, with Galvanize touting the three pillars of “capital, community, and curriculum.” Since then, over 100 members have moved in to generate ideas, collaborate, and build companies. Galvanize designed the facility for the needs of early-stage companies, offering options for individuals with ideas to small founding teams to growing businesses with 30 employees. Galvanize’s emphasis is on community and supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem at every phase of development.
However, even with work space, mentorship, and capital, companies cannot grow if they don’t have the team to support it. gSchool seeks to expand the talent pool by providing skills and training to people interested in becoming programmers. The creators of the program guarantee their graduates a job with a minimum salary of $60,000 within three months — or their money back.
“One of the things we face in the microenvironment here at Galvanize is a developer shortage,” said Chris Onan, Galvanize’s managing director of venture capital. “We have 55 companies that call this home, and 40 are looking to hire a web developer. It is holding our companies back, both in the Denver/Boulder area, but more broadly all around the county and the world. Tech talent is an issue, and this is something we are doing to address that.”
gSchool is a partnership with Galvanize and web development firm Jumpstart Lab. The curriculum includes a number of popular coding languages and accommodates a range of skills levels. Students benefit from a rigorous curriculum as well as from proximity to the hotbed of startups and elite group of mentors that are involved with Galvanize. These interactions not only provide opportunities to gain practical experience but also to build relationships that can support their own careers.
Jeff Casimir is the cofounder of Jumpstart Labs and the program director of gSchool. He has an extensive background in education and said his goal is to turn “normal people” into professional web developers.
“I think the sheer practice of skills is more significant than the amount of materials,” he said in an interview with VentureBeat. “We could go over everything the students need to know in a few weeks, but that’s not good enough. They need to practice those skills so they become automatic. They need to be able to know the hard things are possible and have a toolkit. The startup community can’t wait for colleges to change their curriculum.”
While Galvanize and gSchool have the immediate goal of stimulating the Denver/Boulder startup scene, the vision is ultimately to be part of a larger, nationwide effort to address unemployment and tech labor shortages by offering an alternative form of education. Onan said there are far too many college graduates saddled with debt and working as bartenders or waitresses because they can’t find jobs, and as a result, attitudes about traditional career paths are changing.
“Millennials are moving to Denver and Boulder in droves to start companies,” Onan said. “The Corporate America game has been played. There is so much activity here, a lot that we owe to Brad Feld and David Cohen. A lot of the Galvanize companies have graduated from TechStars. Galvanize and gSchool are additive to that community. We want to see this become a tech epicenter attracting people from all over the world.”
By offering a place to work, an active support network, opportunities for capital, events, and education, Galvanize strives to leave no need untouched for entrepreneurs. All that’s left is ski lessons.
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