Springboard Raises $11 Million to Expand Mentor-Driven Coding Bootcamps
Kashif Ross needed a career change. The 34-year-old felt rewarded in his job as a seventh-grade teacher, but he knew that a job in the tech industry would yield more pay plus more time with his wife and his two kids.
Ross searched for online programs he could afford and came across Springboard, which advertises itself as a part-time bootcamp you can take at home. He spent about three months of 2019 learning to design programs. He worked one-on-one with a mentor, whom he’s stayed in touch with even now that he’s landed a full-time job as a user-experience designer in Austin, Texas.
“I’ve doubled my pay and decreased my workload,” says Ross. “I’ve found something that fits my design background, my artistic background and my communications background.”
He isn’t the only person to give Springboard a stamp of approval. The San Francisco-based company has plans to reach more learners now that it’s raised an $11 million post-Series A financing round. Reach Capital led the round. Pearson Ventures, International Finance Corp., Costanoa Ventures, Learn Capital and Blue Fog Capital participated.
In a statement Monday, Pearson announced its $2.2 million investment in Springboard as the first from its startup investment arm. As part of Pearson Ventures’ first investments, it also gave $2 million to Knowledge to Practice, a Bethesda, Md.-based health care education service for hospitals and health professionals.
Springboard will use the money to recruit more students internationally, to build out more courses to cover wider subject matter and to forge more corporate partnerships, says CEO Gautam Tambay. Earlier this year, the company launched three programs in India, where Tambay and co-founder Parul Gupta grew up. Tambay sees more room to grow in India and Southeast Asia, as well as in Europe and Latin America.
The company says it has trained more than 14,000 students since its founding in 2013. Graduates have landed jobs with employers like Microsoft, Facebook and Boeing. And Springboard recently finalized a partnership with Microsoft to help train and place 5,000 students into analytics jobs over the next three years.
Tambay sees Springboard growing beyond just tech, saying there’s a need for his services in other industries, like health care. “The skills gap is by no means limited to tech,” says Tambay, 37. “This is a really massive, global problem.”
As for corporate learning, Springboard boasts that it’s trained teams at the likes of Facebook, Visa and Target. Springboard expects this to become the fastest-growing segment over the next five years.
Tambay believes the corporate partnerships, an option to defer payment until after students land a job and the network of more than 600 mentors across 40 countries help Springboard stand out among an increasingly crowded field of coding bootcamps.
Just this year, coding bootcamp Lambda School raised $30 million while Ironhack raised $4 million, and bootcamp marketplace Career Karma raised $1.5 million. Bootcamps have been acquisition targets as well, with Chegg scooping up Thinkful and 2U buying Trilogy.
Springboard programs range from $5,500 to $10,000 for students who want to pay up front for a nine-month coding curriculum with a job guaranteed at the end. Those same students can defer tuition until they are in the job, which will cost $950 a month. Springboard also offers scholarships for veterans, women and current college students.
The company provides a full refund if students don’t score a job in six months. It has given only one refund so far, Tambay says.
For Ross, the Springboard student who found a job in October, he says the structure of an online program like Springboard fit his own learning style. He had struggled to pay attention in programming courses he took in the past at the University of California, Irvine. “It was frustrating,” he says. “Sometimes the people teaching didn’t know more than me.”
With Springboard, he says he felt enough independence to learn at his own pace and received enough approval from his assigned mentor. He completed a program meant to last six months in about half the time.
Ross says he recommends Springboard invest more in how it pairs students and mentors. While Ross eventually found a mentor he clicked with, he didn’t match the mentor on the first try. “His feedback was solid,” says Ross. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”