By Mike McGee
on September 3, 2014
John Meyers, one of our inaugural Starter School graduates, worked as a business development rep at Coyote Logistics before the program. During Starter School he built FamilyRoom with fellow student and close friend Chance Griffin. He's now working full-time as a product designer at NextPoint, tasked with redesigning their app's interface.
Last week he wrote a blog post communicating why others should consider Starter School. You can read a snippet of the blog post below.
Exactly one year ago today I was sitting at my desk at my sales job in one of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods. The company I was working for had recently been named ‘The Best Place to Work In Chicago’ for the second straight year. I did not especially like my job. I felt unfulfilled. What kept me going was this little hobby I was working on outside of work. That hobby was HTML and CSS.
A friend of mine down in North Carolina, Chance, was also teaching himself how to code and he suggested I apply to this new code school in Chicago called The Starter School. He had already done so. I applied. We both got in. The two of us quit our jobs and Chance drove almost 1,000 miles to move to Chicago.
First, I quit my good, steady job. Second, I paid $36K. All to attend a brand new program that had yet to be proven.
What the hell was I thinking?
To read the full post on John's decision, visit his blog on Medium.
By Mike McGee
on September 3, 2014
Our friends at Switch, the newest way to learn about in-person coding/design bootcamps, did a Q&A with Starter School graduate and founder of MakeHerSmile Erinn Barr. You can read a part of the interview below.
By the end of her first day at Starter School in Chicago, Erinn Barr had covered everything she'd already known about coding. That set the pace for the education she was about to embark on, having quit her job as an online marketer to learn how to design and code a web application from scratch over a period of nine months. "I wanted to change what my career options would be in the future," she said of her decision.
Since then, Erinn has gone on to launch MakeHerSmile.co, a service designed to help men give great gifts to their loved ones. A person interested in finding a gift signs up on the site and answers questions about the person they want to buy for, before receiving a gift recommendation from Erinn herself. Upon confirmation from the customer, Erinn coordinates the gift purchase, wrapping, and shipping.
We caught up with Erinn to learn more about her experience at Starter School.
Erinn, why did you decide to attend Starter School?
I knew a bootcamp would provide me with more opportunities in the future and also let me take control of my future career. Starter School was a good mix of coding, design and entrepreneurship. I didn't think I would end up a backend developer but wanted to know how to do it myself.
What challenges did you overcome to get to where you are?
There were daily challenges with keeping up on the work, overcoming frustrations, and avoiding distractions. Getting through the bootcamp requires you to continue working through issues even though you may be stuck on a problem or frustrated. The people who give up and quit will have a harder time later on.
What plans/dreams do you have for the next 5 years?
I'm going to move forward with MakeHerSmile.co and building more of it. Right now I'm working at the co-working space provided by the school, but eventually I'm going to want my own space and hope to have that within a few years.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
Be ready to give up on other things for the bootcamp but realize that the time you spend there is special. You'll make new friends, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and learn a lot about yourself.
For more on why Erinn chose Starter School, read the full interview on Switch's blog.
By Eric Brownrout
on July 23, 2014
Imagine an app that revolutionizes communication as we know it. An app devoid of clutter, skeuomorphism, and badging. An app so simple that it only serves one purpose. Imagine an app that sends "Yo."
Congrats! You’ve just imagined what some are calling the greatest mobile app since I am Rich. Unfortunately you’re a few months too late.
I didn’t believe the headlines at first. A million dollars in funding for such a basic app built in only eight hours. It read like an Onion article, yet my browser assured me I was still on TechCrunch. I didn’t know what to feel. This confusion was soon replaced by a wave of anger and frustration. But why was I mad? Did Yo’s funding signify the existence of another tech bubble? Perhaps it was Yo’s marketing that ticked me off. “Single tap zero character communication tool that is everything and anything you want it to be.” Or maybe I was just annoyed that I didn’t think of it first.
Later that day I received a Yo invite. The message read “I wanna Yo you! Add my Yo username” and was sent from none other than the TODDFATHER (aka my dad). Everyone knows that when your parents are inviting you to join the latest social media platform, something is up. So how did this app, so simple in nature, manage to go viral and make waves? This question left me pondering.
When it comes to virality, there is no surefire way to predict which apps will have it. Oftentimes virality is a form of serendipity. For every Yo there are thousands of other apps lying undiscovered, waiting for their moment in the spotlight.
Yet Yo has managed to thrive off its initial wave of buzz and take advantage of every available opportunity.
What makes Yo unique is it that it challenges the principles that some of today’s most successful apps are built upon. Developers are packing more functionality into apps than ever before. And users have come to expect it. Software giants are eating up smaller companies left and right in an attempt to integrate new services.
Then there’s Yo. A simple app (even it’s icon is just a shade of solid purple) which claims to be nothing more than that. When you want to let someone know you’re thinking of them without the hassle of a text. Yo. When you arrive at the restaurant to meet your friends. Yo. When you’re bored and cause why not. Yo.
Is Yo going to change the world? No. Is Yo ultimately a fad? Probably.
But I believe that Yo’s success should serve as a reminder for us all. As we set out to solve more difficult problems, our solutions grow in sophistication and scale. The tech giants are growing closer and closer to critical mass, and even now they are taking steps to counteract it.
Sometimes less is more, yo.
By Mike McGee
on July 7, 2014
MakeHerSmile is a service created by Starter School graduate Erinn Barr that helps you give great gifts to your loved ones. Now that Starter School is over I caught up with her to talk about the building process and what she has planned next for MakeHerSmile.
What was the catalyst for this idea?
Growing up, my dad struggled at buying gifts for my mom. One year for Christmas, he bought her one place setting and figured he had gifts for the next 11 holidays. She asked him whether he wanted a divorce or if she was supposed to eat by herself.
Now that I'm married, I see my husband struggle at buying gifts as well. While my dad and husband have the best intentions, it doesn't translate into a good gift.
There's also the fact that I love buying and wrapping gifts. It's something I get kind of obsessive over when Christmas or a birthday rolls around.
Walk me through how MakeHerSmile works.
A person interested in getting a gift will come to the site and sign up. I'll then reach out to them, ask them questions about the person they are buying for and then send the gift recommendation. Once the person confirms the gift, I'll purchase the gift, wrap and ship it. Going forward, I'll send gift recommendations for other occasions and holidays.
What is special about giving a gift?
The reaction it creates. The way it makes someone feel. Gifting reminds us to appreciate the special people in our lives and to go out of the way to celebrate them. I believe that reminder to ourselves is actually one of the most important parts of giving a gift.
"While my dad and husband have the best intentions, it doesn't translate into a good gift."
Why is it so hard to give a good gift?
I think most of us get busy and don't spend a lot of time thinking or prepping for it. It's very easy to let ease trump thoughtfulness.
Can you remember the first gift you gave? Who was it for? And how did they react to it?
When I was in first grade, my brother was going away to college at West Point. I remember being at a store with my mom and getting to pick something out for him. I picked out a magnet with a mom cat and a little kitten next to her. It said something along the lines of "I love you" and my mom tried to explain that it wasn't appropriate. But, I was certain that that was the gift I wanted to give my brother - a guy going into the military. A magnet with kittens on it. Of course when I gave it to him, he pretended to love it but I do remember a few chuckles as well.
What was the worst gift you've received or experienced someone getting?
Well, my mom did receive a lot of bad gifts over the years. Besides the one place setting, my dad once gave her his wedding ring which had been accidentally mangled by his wood chipper. She was already pretty upset about the fact that he destroyed the ring, but then he put it on a necklace and gave it to her for Valentine's Day. She said, "I don't want your mistake hanging around my neck."
Troy Henikoff, Managing Director of TechStars Chicago, does not like to give gifts. But after using MakeHerSmile, he was able to give an amazing gift to his father.
Over the past few months you've been able to beta test MakeHerSmile. Do you have some special testimonials from your early customers?
"Pure gift giving perfection, Erinn! WOW!! Completely blown away by the care and detail. Love how you arranged the socks. Best gift "I've" ever given. Outsourcing gift giving. Who would have ever thought. I wonder if mom will approve?"
Josh Braun, VP of Business Development at JellyVision
"Erinn gave me the peace of mind I so desperately needed to make sure I was doing my best to be a better boyfriend. She loved her gift, it worked!"
Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO of The Starter League
"Thank you so much for taking care of each and every detail of my Mother's Day gifts! Everything shipped at the perfect time and made the important women in my life very happy! I wouldn't have had such a successful reaction on my own. Thanks again!"
Jon Solomon, Starter School Alumnus
"Gifting reminds us to appreciate the special people in our lives and to go out of the way to celebrate them."
This is the first product you've built. Talk to me about how much you have learned while building MakeHerSmile.
This is definitely not easy. It's been really important to test my idea as soon as possible. To start working with people and hacking everything together. I know that I've learned more this way.
I'm also trying out lots of different things that I didn't really consider in the beginning. For example, I'm helping a friend buy all the gifts for her upcoming wedding. Also, I'm helping Jill Salzman buy gifts for her Founding Moms Conference that is in October.
To learn more about MakeHerSmile, you can go to http://makehersmile.co, follow Erinn Barr on Twitter, and keep track of updates on the MakeHerSmile blog.
By Daniel Lopes
on May 13, 2014
Ricardo Semler is the CEO and majority owner of Semco SA, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy. He turned his family's moribund manufacturing business into an innovative workplace and increased revenue from $4 Million in 1982 to $212 million in 2003. But the most interesting thing about him is how he achieved such an incredible feat.
As a Brazilian nearing 30 years old, I remember what it was like here in the 80's and 90's. Culturally, Brazil wasn't close to the level of innovation Ricardo achieved. He built Semco amidst inflation, poverty and corruption levels sky rocketing.
The type of environment and mindset he describes isn't only for industrial management. It also fits with technology business like ours. His point of view on motivation, control and leadership are highly inspiring. His management style has a lot in common with successful companies and leaders in our field.
To learn more about Ricardo Semler check out this talk (and if you enjoy his message I would also recommend this in-depth interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USC1RE8jE50)
By Mike McGee
on April 24, 2014
In 2011, we launched the first in-person school for beginners who wanted to learn how to build web apps. Over the past three years, hundreds of 3-month bootcamps have popped up across the world to teach people how to build web apps.
In 2013, we decided to go bigger.
Instead of teaching just one part of the web application puzzle, we wanted to teach people how to build a product and launch a company in 9 months.
Before Starter School, Garrett was a teenager looking for a school to teach him how to build web apps, now he is building an app to help founders manage their company's equity. Erinn was working at a company that didn't offer her the flexibility she needed, now she is building her own company to help people buy better gifts for their loved ones. Pete was a musician who was passionate about sports and tech, but didn't have the skills or community to make his vision real, now he is building a platform for sports fans to share their season tickets.
After going through this program, our students have developed a successful process for turning problems into solutions.
The Starter School Experience
The best way to learn about the Starter School experience is to learn from students themselves. Watch this video to hear their perspective on the program.
Investing in Starter School
When we launched our pilot program, we had our students cooped up in one classroom. While they were making great progress and having fun building their apps, we knew we could provide a better environment.
Last month we moved into a two-floor, 12,000 sq. ft space in the West Loop. Instead of one classroom for Starter School, we have an entire floor dedicated to the program. We've built a custom classroom to fit our students and teachers' needs, we have open space for students to continue working in when class isn't in session, and we have breakout rooms for students to privately collaborate in. Our new space was specifically designed with the goal of making Starter School your second home for 9 months.
Who We Are Looking For
At Starter School, you will transform from customer to creator. Rather than being a cog in a wheel, you will become the designer of the machine itself. You will learn how to build a product from start to finish and will be immersed in the creative process that is software development and entrepreneurship.
If the opportunity to build software and create companies that change the world for the better gives you chills, and you have the passion and energy to do what it takes to make that change happen, then Starter School is for you.
2014-15 Applications are now open
Applications for the next class of Starter School are open! We are accepting students on a rolling basis, so the sooner you apply the better chance you have of getting in.
The application deadline is Sunday, August 17, 2014.
If you have any questions about the admissions process, don't hesitate to reach out to us @starterschool or firstname.lastname@example.org.