Beginning in September, it will offer a nine-month program that incorporates entrepreneurship and software product design into the web development and design skills now taught in its three-month program.The broader program is aimed at giving someone the tools to launch their own tech company. (Its three-month program teaches the basic technical skills, either web design or development.)
Founders Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee have enlisted a roster of some of the city's best-known entrepreneurs and technologists to help teach including Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals, who invested in Starter League last fall. Among others: Jim Dugan, CEO of venture firm OCA Ventures; Troy Henikoff, managing director of TechStars Chicago; Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty; Harper Reed, former chief technology officer for Obama for America and Threadless; John Tolva, the city's chief technology officer; and Howard Tullman, founder of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.
Their expertise won't come cheap. The nine-month program lists at $36,000, though the first class will get $3,000 discount. That's a leap from Starter League's basic technology classes, which costs full-time students $8,000 and part-timers at night classes $2,000.
“The nine-month version was the original idea for the program: We wanted to cover business design and programming together,” says Neal Sales-Griffin, who launched Starter League two years ago as Code Academy with fellow Northwestern University alum Mike McGee. “We knew starting out that we wouldn't have the experience or credibility to do a nine-month program, so we launched a three-month program instead.”
The idea took off quickly, with a mix of newbies who just wanted to learn how to code and some people who wanted to start companies. It's currently offering a half-dozen classes with about 26 students each per quarter in classrooms at 1871. Mr. Sales-Griffin says he's hoping to sign up two classes of 26 students each for the full-time, nine-month program.
The new classes bring Starter League into a new arena, potentially competing with for-profit education companies such as ITT Technical Institute and DeVry University but with a much higher price tag of $36,000.
“Most other career schools are closer to $15,000 per year,” says Corey Greendale, an analyst at Chicago-based First Analysis Securities Corp. “The value depends on the outcome. If it gets you all the skills you need in nine months, rather than two or four years, then it could be a bargain.”
Mr. Sales-Griffin says Starter League likely will have to offer loans and financial aid in the future, probably through a partnership with an outside provider.
The company also will look for additional space outside the classrooms it has at 1871.
StarterLeague also teaches courses at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago's master's in computer science program. Next month it will begin training City Colleges of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools so they can teach web design and development to their students. Mr. Sales-Griffin says it's also building training software which it will start selling to others the next year or so.