May 16, 2017

Startup Institute – Bridging the Talent Gap for the Innovation Economy

The Startup Institute has come a long way. Co-founded back in 2012 by Katie Rae, Reed Sturtevant, and Aaron O’Hearn, it was originally an offshoot of Techstars named Boston Startup School. The goal was to increase the talent pool in the Boston tech ecosystem across areas where the demand heavily outweighed the supply.

Startup Institute ClassroomIt created an opportunity for recent college grads, or individuals who are looking to make a career change, to learn new skills in areas such as development, sales, marketing, and design within a professional setting. The Startup Institute not only provided the foundation for today’s skills in the digital economy, but they also provide the gateway to employment for its students by working closely with hiring partners.

Over the past five years, the Startup Institute has made a considerable impact. In a 2015 survey by EdBridge, 93% of grads were placed within 90 days and they have since grown to over 1,400 alumni. We’ve featured many of the students on VentureFizz, as each class is getting ready for to pitch themselves to prospective employers at the Talent Expo.

Several of its alumni have gone on to work in high profile positions at many tech companies in Boston such as The Grommet, Constant Contact, Fuze, and Twitter.

A recent example is Peter Micali, who graduated from the Startup Institute’s digital marketing program this past spring and is now the Senior Director of Marketing and Operations for Partnerships at MassChallenge. Another example is Renee Farster-Degenhardt, who joined Constant Contact in 2015 as a Senior Innovation Catalyst after completing the Startup Institute’s program.

“Our alumni have gone on to do some amazing things,” says Startup Institute CEO, Richard DiTieri. “It’s unbelievable sometimes that they are students and not teachers with us. They learn so much from each other, and a lot of them do even come back as instructors after they have post-Startup Institute experience.”

Like any startup, there are always bumps in the road and the Startup Institute is no exception. At one point, the program had established locations in Boston, NYC, Chicago, London, and Berlin. The rapid growth put a strain on the organization and it has since scaled back to two locations  in Boston and NYC. There’s a core focus on the repeatability of their programs and ensuring that students and companies ultimately have great outcomes.

The Startup Institute has also brought together a new leadership team to focus on the growth of the program and its offerings. DiTieri is at the helm as the organization’s new CEO. The new leadership team also includes Jamie Goldstein, formerly of MIT will be the VP of Curriculum and Elizabeth Ames is taking over DiTieri’s former role as the Boston Managing Director. Other new members include Justin Miller, who is the new VP of Marketing, Peggy Yu as COO, and Sarah McLaughlin as the institute’s newest Director of Admissions.

The organization recently completed a new round of funding from its previous investors, which include Silicon Valley Bank, Accomplice, and angel investor, Walt Winshall. The new round of capital will help fund the expansion of some new critical programs.

One of the biggest challenges for most people who were interested in attending the Startup Institute was the fact that you needed to commit to the program full-time. This means you had to take a leap of faith and leave your current job, if you were already employed.

To address this challenge, the Startup Institute is launching a program for part-time courses, which was a result from DiTieri and his team experimenting with the idea last fall. “We are taking everything from our full-time program and building it into something people can come into on nights and weekends,” DiTieri says. “Which is a huge, huge change.” Several of Boston's anchor companies and startups are already taking advantage of the new part-time program, including Gillette, Bose, the CIC, and MassChallenge.

Startup Institute is beginning their part-time, twelve week program later on this month, and students will be attending classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day on every other Saturday. “Anything you get with the full-time program will be available in a more time-friendly schedule,” says Miller.

By offering a part-time program, the Startup Institute is adding another growth area for the organization with a new B2B arm. Larger companies are interested in having access to the Startup Institute’s programs as they are looking to train their current employees and bring the startup mindset internally. “It’s hard to find talent,” DiTieri says. “It allows larger companies to bring another benefit in terms of training for employees and it helps them avoid disruption by staying ahead of the curve. Think of it as skills plus intrapreneurship.”

The new B2B arm will also offer custom onsite training at companies and other advanced learning tactics like running an internal hackathon to address a particular business challenge.

The Startup Institute results speak for itself in terms of accomplishing its original goal of increasing the talent pool. Under the new leadership and new program offerings, one could say the future is only looking brighter.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.