Another Coding Bootcamp, Learners Guild, Bites the Dust
by Tony Wan
Another coding bootcamp has kicked the bucket. Learners Guild, which offered a 10-month program for aspiring software engineers, has shut down.
The following note now appears on the website of the Oakland, California-based company:
“Nearly three years ago, we set out to create a radically accessible program whereby anyone with the will and determination to do so could become a software developer. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a sustainable business model, and as such, we have ceased operations.”
Founded in 2015, Learners Guild joined a flurry of so-called “coding bootcamps” that ran intensive courses, usually lasting several months, to teach students the skills needed to land a programming job. For many organizations of this nature, the market opportunity was a matter of supply and demand: Tech companies had roles that were going unfulfilled, so why not create short, intensive programs to prepare learners to fill them? (To learn more about the dynamics, check out our guide to the coding bootcamp industry)
Learners Guild operated on a unique business model: It didn’t charge students tuition upfront, and even offered them a $1,500 monthly living stipend for the duration of the program. Students would only pay the school back after they graduated and secured a job that pays $50,000 or more. That amount generally ranges from 10 to 20 percent of their paycheck.
Today, that alternative education financing model is known as an “income-share agreement,” or ISAs. (Here’s a primer and glossary.) They are offered by other bootcamp-style coding programs as well as a few well-known higher-ed institutions like Purdue University.
In an interview last year with KQED, Learners Guild’s president, Ian Inaba, said the school was also intentional about welcoming students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the tech industry, including those of African-American and Latino descent.
That mission, coupled with its financing model, attracted headlines and investors. Learn Capital, Obvious Ventures, Acumen and Kapor Capital put $10 million into the school.
“Learners Guild has removed many of the traditional barriers to acquiring the skills one needs to become a developer at a technology company,” Mitch Kapor, a partner and founder of Kapor Capital,” told CNET in 2017. “And in so doing, creates opportunity for people of all backgrounds.”
Learners Guild was founded by Shereef Bishay, who also happens to be the founder of Dev Bootcamp, another coding school that also shut down last July. (Bishay had left Dev Bootcamp in 2014, before the closure.) Another coding school, Iron Yard, shuttered shortly afterward.
The coding bootcamp industry is consolidating in other ways as well. Last year, WeWork, the office-sharing startup, acquired Flatiron School. This year, Thinkful, an online bootcamp, bought Bloc. Perhaps most notably, General Assembly, which offers short-term programs on a broader set of skills, was acquired in April by Adecco Group, a Swiss HR firm, for $412.5 million.
We reached out to Bishay for comment and will update the piece with any additional information.