Holberton gets backing from more industry executives as it looks to scale its software engineering school

Frederic Lardinois
Coding schools and bootcamps were booming a few years ago.

Coding schools and bootcamps were booming a few years ago. But many of them only offered entry-level education, and quite a few of them are now shutting down. From the beginning, Holberton always aimed to stay above this fray by branding itself less as a bootcamp and more as an alternative to a two-year college degree. Holberton already had backing from a number of industry heavyweights, but it has now added to its Board of Trustees Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel and CloudNOW CEO Jocelyn DeGance Graham. In addition, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is now an advisor and investor in the project, which has raised a total of $4.3 million so far.

Founded by former LinkedIn engineer Sylvain Kalache and Docker's former head of growth and community Julien Barbier, the San Francisco-based in-person program puts an emphasis on fundamentals and has now graduated its first five batches of students. Kalache tells me that Holberton was able to place 90 percent of students from these first batches in jobs, freelancing positions or internships. Indeed, he stressed that Holberton students have gotten jobs at the likes of Google, Apple, Tesla, Nvidia and Docker. "Our students are competing with Ivy League candidates," he told me, and noted that many students actually get recruited before they even finish the program.

Kalache attributes this to the program's focus on fundamentals. Indeed, the first thing students learn as they start the project-focused curriculum at Holberton is C. Once you've learned a low-level language like C, higher-level languages will immediately feel much easier to students, but it's this fundamental understanding that also makes these students interesting to these companies. "We now have the validation of the tech industry," Kalache told me. "The caliber of the talent that we are training -- they want more and people who want a high-caliber education now come to us."

It's worth noting that Holberton's business plan depends on placing its students, so it has every interest in preparing its students for jobs at the likes of Google and Apple. The company takes a 17 percent cut of the salary of its graduates for the first three years in their new jobs.

"Talent is everywhere, but with our education system stuck in a centuries-old training format, many are not even given the chance to try," said Weiner in a canned statement. "And a lot of graduates are having a hard time keeping up with the rate of change once they become professionals. Holberton’s education model is attracting students from all walks of life, and is providing them with the skills they need to take on a job after graduation, and more importantly to be able to continually retrain their entire life to take on new opportunities."

Holberton's mission going forward is pretty straightforward: Kalache and Barbier want to scale the program up from the 100 or so students they are training right now to up to 1,000. That's more graduates than even the largest U.S. computer science programs graduate in a year, so the team has definitely set itself up for a challenge, especially as it tries to keep its group of graduates as diverse as its first couple of batches.