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Boston start-up duo teach the community a thing or two

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 26, 2012 11:36 AM

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By Marissa Lowman


Two local entrepreneurs have set out to help bridge the experience gap for younger entrepreneurs, as well as others interested in brushing up on or learning a new skill.

For those life-long learners who want to brush up on Photoshop skills or learn how to hire the best interns, marketer Sarah Hodges (previously at RunKeeper) and Dave Balter (who is also the CEO of BzzAgent) , co-founded Intelligent.ly, a school for the start-up world.

“There are so many entrepreneurs that have done so many great things and are ready to give back and help other people coming up through the ranks,” said Hodges of the two-month-old start-up. “We just really wanted to create a forum for them to connect with those younger, earlier stage entrepreneurs that need that help and assistance.”

Classes are led by people who are experts in their field, such as David Cancel, Chief Product Officer at HubSpot , Aaron White, CTO at Boundless Learning, and Drew Volpe, Co-Founder and CTO at Locately. All classes are taught in a workshop style and range in size from 20 to 60 students, depending on how much assistance students need from the teacher.

According to Hodges, “there’s great lecture content available all around Boston now, so there’s no shortage of those inspiring talks. But what we found there was an absence of was that kind of hands-on, hard transfer of skills, so each class is really focused around that.”

One class Hodges said she particularly enjoyed was Aaron White’s Introduction to NoSQL with MongoDB (translation please?) because although she does not have a technical background, she was able to grasp a new, totally foreign concept.

Teachers are compensated via a rev-share model, but many choose to give their earnings back to Intelligent.ly. “Most of the instructors who have the talent we like to see tend not to be concerned with the financial reward because they’re more excited about the opportunity to give back and teach,” said Hodges.

Students include a mix of young professionals, start-up founders, start-up team members, college students, and others interested in honing their skills. Although Intelligent.ly has only been around for a couple weeks, it is already incorporating student feedback into its class topics and structure. A half hour networking session at the conclusion of each class encourages students to meet one another and helps Hodges and Balter generate topics for future classes.

But Intelligent.ly isn’t all just fun and games. They’re challenged by spreading brand awareness, because they’re so new, and it’s difficult to consistently know what kinds of courses people want to take.

“We’re working on spreading the word and making sure our curriculum is top notch and that the experts who are coming in to teach our classes are really high caliber,” said Hodges.

Right now, the duo have no plans to expand beyond Boston because Hodges says they are so excited about the Boston community and what the city has to offer.

“We really want Intelligent.ly to become a hub for the community, not just the entrepreneurial community but the business professional community at large,” said Hodges.

Intelligent.ly would love to hear from readers about what classes they would like to see offered. The next class is AdWords 101 – Lessons from a Former Googler and will be held on May 29.

About Marissa -- Marissa is the founder of EdTechup, an organization that brings together education technology entrepreneurs and educators. Her writing has appeared in Time Out Boston and BostInnovation, among other publications.

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