Thinkful, an online coding school, announced today that it has raised a $9.6 million series A round to bring more in-person career development programs to cities across the U.S. Owl Ventures led the round, with participation from Tribeca Venture Partners. Previous investors include Peter Thiel and RRE Ventures in New York.
Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Thinkful offers flexible training programs in data science, front-end development, and full-stack development, as well as a full-time engineering immersion program. Tuition ranges from $500 per month for the front-end developer program to $14,000 for five months for the engineering immersion program.
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Thinkful’s approach differs from other technical schools in a number of ways. First, while Thinkful’s classes are entirely online, each student is paired with a mentor who meets with the student twice a week either in-person or over the phone to talk about specific career goals. Thinkful has a network of about 300 mentors, who work at companies including Bank of America, American Express, and Turner, and have an average of 10 years experience in their chosen field, according to cofounder and CEO Darrell Silver.
Second, Silver told VentureBeat that Thinkful’s programs are designed for students who are looking to keep their current job while looking to change fields, with an expected in-class workload of 20-30 hours a week. Thinkful also introduced an income share agreement for its engineering immersion program, which gives the students the option of not paying tuition until the student finds a job. However, students who participate in the income share agreement do have to put down a $1,000 dollar deposit and agree to pay 15 percent of their income to Thinkful for the next 3 years, once they find a job that pays at least $40,000 — a significant portion of a paycheck for any worker.
According to Silver, 9,000 students have graduated from Thinkful’s programs since 2012. Additionally, 92 percent of its graduates land tech jobs within six months of graduation.
Thinkful has been profitable since 2016, so it’s a bit surprising that the company chose to raise more money. But the fresh round of cash comes as Thinkful looks to expand some of its in-person offerings. In 2017 the company began creating in-person “communities,” starting in Atlanta. Today, Thinkful has a physical presence in six cities, including Atlanta; D.C., Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, and Phoenix are the others.
In these cities, Thinkful has a community manager, who helps organize a couple of free events each week, ranging from panel discussions about how to break into the local tech scene to career workshops. Silver says that Thinkful has gotten a positive reception in the cities where it’s launched communities, which spurred the decision to raise more capital.
“There’s a lot of places in the U.S. that are not on the coasts … where most of the tech growth is actually happening,” Silver told VentureBeat. “People want real stability, and they want tech jobs. As soon as we saw people’s reactions to what we were doing in Atlanta and a couple of other places, it became obvious we were onto something.”