Startup Institute Comes to New York City


New York has its share of accelerators, incubators, skillshare classes, hacker schools. It was only a matter of time before there was an actual school for people who want the skills needed to work at startups. Come June, Startup Institute opens its doors for its first New York session.


“The response from the NY community has been overwhelming,” said Christina Wallace, an entrepreneur herself and founding CEO of Quincy, who is also the Institute’s New York Director. “New York needs this school.”

And will have it soon enough. Applications are currently being accepted for the first class, which starts June 10th and runs until August 1st. The deadline for applications is May 5th.

Startup Institute offers an eight-week program where students are trained in one of four different tracks, depending on their career choice: web development, product & design, marketing, or sales & business development, by teachers who are all actively working in the tech industry: as VPs of engineering, product designers, heads of marketing. They’re experts in their respective fields and in startup methodology: the Institute trains them in how to teach.

“We’ve got curriculum specialists to help prepare the day,” said Wallace. “They don’t all start out as great teachers.” Wallace noted.

There will be 60 students in all, 15 across each of the 4 tracks. Students apply to a specific track, and as soon as that track is filled, it’s closed, so the sooner one applies, the better the chance of getting in. The Institute plans on running three sessions this year.

Considering her background, Wallace seems the perfect person for the job. Trained in classical music from the age of 4 (piano, cello, and as an opera singer), Wallace made her way to the Metropolitan Opera and pursued a career in the non-profit arts world as well, until she realized that it was a world that was contracting and offered very few paths for young people, and few if any opportunities for promotion. So off she went to Harvard Business School, and after consulting for a year, she hit the startup world.

And learned from experience that it’s a world in which you’re expected to hit the ground running: there’s no training process and very little onboarding of new employees, beyond the paperwork and pointing out where the loos are located.

“Everyone has transferable skills, and we don’t only accept recent college graduates: we accept people of all ages and from all walks of life. Everyone has skills and we like taking people from other industries and teaching them how to translate their skills so that they can transition to other environments. The startup world is high growth – and high opportunity. But you have to know how to translate your skills and add value from Day One.”

Startup Institute trains students in the startup methodologies, and teaches them how to refine their skills so that they’re startup-ready. Team dynamics, a growth mentality, and a “get it done” attitude are all core to the curriculum.

The program launched last year as the Startup Institute Boston. Founded by Aaron O’Hearn, Shaun Johnson, Katie Rae, and Reed Sturtevant out of TechStars Boston, the group saw the need to solve the challenge that startups are facing in recruiting, training, and retaining talent by coupling professional education with a curriculum that reflects the needs of high-growth technology companies. They graduated two classes of students so far (class #3 recently got underway) and 94% of the graduates have accepted jobs at startups. Much of this success is a result of the fact that the classes are taught by entrepreneurs and professionals from the tech industry. This allows students to develop strong relationships with the instructors and gives employers the opportunity to see how the students might perform on the job. Startup Institute has helped over 80 companies with their recruiting needs, and several of the graduates have been hired by New York startups, including Lot18 and CrowdTap.

“We’re still building our roster of companies that will be participating with us in the hiring process here in New York,” said Wallace. “Our inbox is overloaded with hiring partners wanting to come in, from recent Techstars companies to cornerstone companies.

“Look at the New York ecosystem,” Wallace explained. “There are a lot of freshman companies. There are the Etsys and the Foursquares, who are ‘seniors,’ but we don’t have that many seniors here – mostly sophomores and juniors and they don’t have the bandwidth to hold your hand and explain what it means to be a programmer in this environment, or what agile development is. Everyone works differently and the reason New York has been so successful is that we have a lot more of the smaller startups – sophomores and juniors. New employees need to be able to hit the ground running. The first question can’t be ‘what am I supposed to do today.’ Startups have a very different approach to the work. The Institute offers workforce training within the startup world.

Tuition is $3750, and payment plans are available. “Students are able to pay half up front, and half when they get their job. Some Boston companies offer a ‘signing bonus’ that pays back the student’s cost for program. We have to charge something so that students have skin in the game,” said Wallace.

And it’s good to learn early, that business is business.

About the author: Bonnie Halper

Bonnie Halper curates the StartupOneStop.com newsletter, which focuses on startups and entrepreneurs, and is currently being read in 50+ countries around the world.

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