Q: What does your company do?
Flatiron School’s mission is to enable the pursuit of a better life through education.
In our consumer programs, that means providing people an efficient path into high paying careers by making sure they have the skills they need to get jobs they can be passionate about. Our programs run 5-10 months and average starting salaries for graduates in full time roles exceed $70K per year.
More recently, we’ve been expanding partnerships at the enterprise and university level, to enable those institutions to offer outcomes-oriented training to their communities. We’ve been fortunate to partner with some of the best companies and universities in the world (including Harvard, Yale, Amazon, Deloitte, etc.) and are working with more every day to empower them with better-quality education.
Q: What led you to start your company, what problem were you trying to solve?
My parents are immigrants from Morocco who prioritized giving their children a great education. I was the first in my family to go to college, but when I finished college, I did not feel I had the skills I needed to start a career. After business school I realized that traditional higher education taught foundational ideas but did not provide the skills a person needs to get a job and really contribute. Vocational schools trained people for blue-collar jobs, but there was no equivalent for modern technical careers. I specifically saw a disconnect in the tech world.
The traditional path of higher education works well for some, but not for all. The recognition that not everyone needs college and graduate school led us to look at an alternative path.
Q: What specific challenges have you faced as the company has grown and how have you successfully addressed them?
When Flatiron School started, the idea of a coding boot camp did not exist, and people were skeptical. They could not imagine how we could teach people in four months what most people had taken four years to learn. We had to work hard to convince employers and overcome that skepticism, which we did by persuading them to interview our people. Once we got employers to take a 20-minute interview, we started to change minds and open their thinking to the idea that they could find talent outside of the traditional channels. I still remember the first time our graduates without college degrees were hired by Goldman Sachs and the New York Times. I knew we had established credibility for our process, gained a foothold and begun to change things.
Q: What led to your decision to bring in an equity partner, and what about Carrick Capital Partners’ approach was different than other firms you considered?
We knew we needed a partner who aligned with us, and Carrick was by far the most supportive of our mission. This was evidenced in their diligence when they started asking about student outcomes. They eventually got into the numbers like everyone else, but from the first interaction it was clear they were focused on our mission and they shared our view of the company as a longer-term bet on building the future of education.
Q: What have been the benefits of working with a group like Carrick Capital Partners?
Carrick has a very long-term view on companies. Their thoughtful due diligence process and commitment to our mission and goals, made it clear they were more like a partner than a source of financing. The impact of their commitment and experience as operators began making a positive impact on Flatiron School within the first six months of the relationship.
Q: What is your advice for other growing businesses considering private equity?
Think less about the overall firm and more about the people and who your specific partner will be. Consider how they can help you, and how their values are aligned with yours. Ultimately, the firm does not matter as much as the person you will be interacting with on an ongoing basis.
Q: What are you most excited about at Flatiron School?
Startups talk about changing the world. What makes us unique, is that we think about changing the way a person experiences the world. When a student graduates, they live in a different world. They gain income security and a higher quality of life. Their lives and the lives of their family are forever changed.
Right now, we are at an inflection point. The past year of remote learning has demonstrated that overpriced zoom classes are not the right approach. More companies are realizing they can find great talent from non-traditional places. In the past year we have also seen a huge movement toward racial justice and a trend of women leaving the workforce. Our student body is an order of magnitude more diverse than traditional computer science programs. Doing the right thing in hiring is not just a moral imperative but it is also now a business imperative. This environment and the increasing willingness of companies to accept talent from alternative places, gives us the opportunity to better help the underserved launch careers.
Q: What are your goals over the next five years in terms of growth and measurable impact?
When we think of impact and milestones, they are mostly cultural. It was a huge milestone when we started to get people jobs at Fortune 500 companies that used to require college degrees. Now we are seeing big companies like Google saying they no longer require college degrees. We are partnered with city government to train underrepresented people in technology. They started to realize they could train people without sending them through the traditional path. Schools like Harvard, Cambridge, and many others, realized they could be respected while providing these tech skills so students could be more productive.
What we are doing now is to work more closely with large corporations that are struggling with hiring and retention of tech talent, and particularly diverse tech talent. As the workforce evolves, some functions are dying while other areas are booming. Rather than laying off in one division and struggling to meet demand in another, we are showing companies that great people are still great in other roles. We are teaching them how to invest in their people and retrain them for these high-demand jobs. It’s a good business decision that delivers a higher ROI and benefits society.
We have established deep partnerships with enterprises in terms of hiring and want this to evolve into retraining people internally on a larger scale. We are eager to do more of this over the next five years and hope to reach the point where 50% of our business comes from B2B.