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Launch Academy program plans to churn out web developers in just ten weeks, starting next May

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 13, 2012 07:56 AM

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A new post-collegiate training program for wanna-be techies is spooling up in Cambridge: Launch Academy.

The goal of the 10-week long program is to "take people with little-to-no experience, graduate them as junior web developers, and then place them in positions at supportive tech companies, where they can continue their learning," says co-founder Evan Charles, who previously ran a speech pathology practice in Newton and worked at Bain Capital. His co-founder, Dan Pickett, was most recently the technical co-founder at Textaurant, which helps restaurants manage their waitlists. Launch Academy will focus on the Ruby on Rails, a popular framework for creating web applications. It's used by sites like LinkedIn, Gazelle, and Hulu. "The starting salary for Ruby developers right now is between $60,000 and $90,000," says Pickett. The program will also introduce students to technologies like Javascript and CSS, as well as familiarizing them with software code reviews and getting them comfortable working with various APIs, or application programming interfaces.

Charles and Pickett say that the program will be self-funding, since students will pay tuition of about $11,000. The program will run 14-plus hours a day, according to Charles, with a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on "challenges" that will require students to work collaboratively. Launch Academy will culminate with a "hiring day," when companies will be invited in to meet the graduates — and ideally, make offers.

"When graduates get a job at a hiring company that we present at hiring day, we receive a recruiting fee from the hiring company," Charles says. "And we'll pass that along to the students, up to $5000, which helps reduce the cost of their tuition."

They hope to run the initial Launch Academy program in Kendall Square starting in May, perhaps at Cambridge Innovation Center. The class will consist of 25 students, and Charles says they've been conducting interviews for the last month or so. "The class is about 35 percent filled, and our acceptance rate is about 30 percent," he says.

Charles says that he and Pickett "got together because we both recognized the technical talent gap everyone is suffering from in Boston and abroad. We believe our non-traditional model for training web developers can help to heal that pain." The pair are considering New York as a second location for Launch Academy.


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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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