Francesca Giordano says she learned the hard way that in some businesses, it’s who you know, not what you know. The Venezuelan graduated from the University of Miami and fought to get a work visa. She struggled to find work in her area of study, commercial graphic design. Giordano became a manager at Chipotle, living paycheck to paycheck.
In early 2017, she saw an ad for a coding bootcamp, Ironhack. She had no programming background, but thought those skills could complement her artistic training. Six months later, she could build apps. And after attending a job fair organized by Ironhack, she got a full-time gig as a front-end developer with Office Depot.
“It has definitely been life changing,” says Giordano, 30. “I have more freedom. I can go out more. I can visit my family in Venezuela and Spain.”
Giordano is one of more than 3,00 students Ironhack has graduated from its nine campuses worldwide. Now, the company has the resources to expand its programs and train more aspiring programmers, thanks to a $4 million investment led by JME Capital. Additional investors in this round include All Iron Ventures and Brighteye Ventures. To date, the Miami-based company has raised $7 million.
Ironhack offers a full-time bootcamp that lasts nine weeks for about 40 hours a week. A part-time program runs for 10 hours a week for 24 weeks. Both types of programs feature fewer than 30 people per class. Costs vary by campus—which include Miami, Mexico City, Madrid and Amsterdam—and Ironhack offers a variety of payment and installment plans. At the Miami campus, full-time programs cost $11,500 and part-time programs cost $12,000.
The flexible payment plans were part of the attraction for investor Brighteye Ventures, according to Benoit Wirz, a partner at the Paris-based education investment firm. He adds that the startup’s traction across Europe also distinguishes it from similar companies that he has come across. Wirz shared that his team has passed on pitches from 12 other coding bootcamps.
Ironhack doesn’t accept hacks, either. To be part of the program, prospective students must pass a personal interview and a test to prove they can learn at a fast pace. They then make a $1,000 deposit and must complete some pre-course work on programming fundamentals.
The company claims that about 85 percent of graduates are hired in less than three months through a network of over 700 companies, including Office Depot, Twitter and Visa. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Facebook to create a $250,000 scholarship program for women and underrepresented groups in technology.
Ironhack was founded in 2013 by Ariel Quinones and Gonzalo Manrique. At the time, Quinones had returned to school for an MBA after working for about three years with Credit Suisse.
Originally from Puerto Rico and the son of an elementary school teacher and university professor, Quinones says he saw coding bootcamps as something that offered a more efficient path to programming work.
Another impetus for starting the company came from the fact that Spain, Manrique’s home country, was wrestling with a recession that saw unemployment rates nearing 30 percent. “Our big thesis was that this model could work outside the U.S.,” says Quinones. “It was a no brainer—we looked at youth unemployment and vacancies in tech and saw a clear market inefficiency.”
The company has grown to 100 full-time employees, 80 percent of whom work in the nine campuses. With this new round of funding, Ironhack hopes to expand in Europe and Latin America, two countries where there is just as much demand for programming talent, and where there is less competition among existing education providers than in the U.S., Quinones says.
Ironhack will also develop more corporate training services for companies looking for programmers in those regions. Past projects have included one with Google in Mexico and Media Markt in Germany.
For Ironhack graduate Giordano, she’s approaching the end of her second year with Office Depot. She is happy with the project-based and practical curriculum of Ironhack, as compared to what she might have learned if she went back to college.
“You may not know what a computer science major knows, but you will know how to make an app,” she says.