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Two new education initiatives, Startup School and Intelligent.ly, want to bring aspiring start-uppers up to speed

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 23, 2012 07:54 AM

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It's a big week for Boston when two new professional development programs, both with the potential to have a big impact on the local start-up ecosystem, get announced within the span of 48 hours.

TechStars managing director Katie Rae took the covers off Boston Startup School first, on Tuesday night at the Ruby Riot mixer. It'll be a six-week-long program for recent college grads, focused on making them appealing hires for fast-growing tech companies. Participants will choose one of four tracks: marketing, business development and sales, product and design, or software development. "In six weeks, we want to bring a student to a much deeper level of understanding about what it would take to succeed and be hyper-productive for a start-up on the day they join," says Rae. There will be several opportunities throughout the program for students to interact with potential employers, she adds.

Fledgling companies participating in TechStars often face challenges in hiring, as do the entrepreneurs who serve as TechStars mentors, Rae says: "The #1 thing everyone wants to do is increase the talent pool in Boston that can help us grow faster. And we're all trying to keep the students here in Boston. So it was like, 'Duh, let's do this.'" While the Startup School concept was hatched by Rae and TechStars colleagues like Reed Sturtevant and Aaron O'Hearn, she says it isn't part of the TechStars program, but a separate initiative that will have its own director. I asked whether the inaugural program would include 40 students, figuring ten students for each track. "My desire would be many more than that," Rae said, declining to toss out an exact number. Participants won't pay a fee, with the costs of the program being covered by sponsors or underwriters.

(I should note that Y Combinator, that other accelerator program, runs an annual one-day conference that also happens to be called Startup School. "It's not a trademark-able name, as far as we could tell," Rae says.)

The second program, being announced this morning, is Intelligent.ly, from BzzAgent founder Dave Balter and Sarah Hodges, director of marketing at RunKeeper. It's essentially a new workshop space in the South End, at BzzAgent's offices, that'll host classes on topics like user experience, branding, financing, and new programming languages. Classes will take place after work, and cost between $20 and $60.

In an e-mail, Balter says that he and Hodges will keep their day jobs. He calls Intelligent.ly "a community space where entrepreneurs connect to learn, collaborate, innovate and create. Much like New York's GeneralAssemb.ly, the concept will foster peer-to-peer learning across topics related to entrepreneurship, leadership and professional development."

Hodges explains that Intelligent.ly "really isn't about growing a big, scalable, revenue generating machine; it's about making it easy for people to connect and learn from their peers." She expects the first classes to be held sometime in the spring.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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