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Dev Bootcamp is shutting down
129 points by Techowl on July 13, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 34 comments
The email sent out to alumni (closing paragraphs elided, in consideration of the character count):

"I am reaching out to let you know of some very sad news. After considering all of our options, we have made the heartbreaking decision to wind down DBC operations. In other words, DBC's final cohort will start on July 17 and will graduate in December 2017.

Campuses will officially close on December 8, 2017, as we are committed to providing our currently enrolled students with full delivery of the program, including seeing them through the entire curriculum and providing at least six months of career support for these students after graduation.

Please know that we did not come to this decision lightly, and it is one that deeply affects us all. We’re so proud of what our students, alumni, DBC team (past and present), and community and employer partners have accomplished over the past five years. But despite tremendous efforts from a lot of talented people, we’ve determined that we simply can’t achieve a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that is accessible to a diverse population of students.

DBC has been committed to providing access to careers in technology since 2012, pioneering a new industry, and championing a radical form of education -- one focused on hands-on practical training over theory. This talented community of over 3,000 is proof positive that the educational experiment we launched five years ago could make a real difference in people's lives when combined with the passion and grit of our students. If our staff is the heart, you all are the soul of DBC. You and your continued work in the industry will keep DBC’s spirit alive."

(I'm a cofounder at Hack Reactor, a competitor.)

DBC launched an industry. Early students/staff went on to start Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Hackbright Academy. Early students/staff of Hack Reactor went on to found Zipfian Academy (acquired by Galvanize -- went on to lead Galvanize's education efforts), Codesmith, and a half-dozen other bootcamps. I'm sure AA and HB alums went on to pass the gift on in their own ways.

DBC also launched several thousand careers. I attended a coworker's birthday happy hour today, and I told a story of a former student that brought me to tears. DBC launched an industry where real lives get changed in real ways. Staff and alums alike participated in a very personal transformation.

DBC was a rock in a pond and its ripples will extend past where its story ends today. I can't speak for DBC, but they were probably struggling (like the rest of our sector) with growing past the bootcamp industry's early days, when starry-eyed optimism clashed with the operational realities of a highly-regulated industry. Kudos to everyone that tried, and there were many that poured their hearts and wallets out.

Staff/students/mgmt/etc -- reach out if I can help. shawn@hackreactor.com

For nostalgia's sake, here's the HN post where Shereef launched DBC: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3267133

Shawn was actually the person who sent me that link and said "some guy wants to teach people to code in a coffee shop or something, you should check it out." Back then, I had been hacking things together and had an engineering job, but never felt like I had enough credentials to be a 'real' programmer. I ended up deciding to join the first class of DBC to see what it would be like. There ended up being 21 of us in a tiny sublet at 923 Market. We literally had to go in through a door that was part of a larger garage door. CEO's and CTO's would come speak and everyone was very excited about what we were building together.

I think the thing I learned from the most was the way that Shereef carried himself and ran the community. We all felt like we were building something bigger than ourselves. Shereef was a next level community manager and wasn't afraid to cajole people into the uncomfortable spots for them. I think literally everyone in my class cried at some point. DBC was more than just a technical education, it was an emotional education. I've tried to emulate and embody the emotional balance I learned while in DBC, especially as Shawn and I were creating HR. I think DBC's longest mark on the industry will be in the insertion of 'engineering empathy' into the curriculum.

Shawn, don't forget that the founder of Epicodus came out of that first class of DBC, as did the founder of Codeunion. And the Bloc folks were working out of DBC early on as well. DBC set in motion a whole industry.

As a member of the industry, a former student at DBC, and a former staff member at DBC, I feel for the people (staff, students, alums) affected by this event and am saddened by the void that it will leave for many. I still have my dog tags, and took them out tonight in reverence. Props to everyone on the team who no doubt fought this closure until there wasn't fight left.

Anyone have great DBC memories to share? My two favorites: 1. Speed chess that happened just about every lunch in the first class 2. White water rafting with DBC2 students and staff

@sharksforcheap 'founderS' of CodeUnion and how was the graduating party of that first cohort not on your list ?


Woops. Sorry John. :)

The graduation of your cohort was pretty amazing, though I'll say you being a mixologist during the event would be a welcome improvement. :)

> I think literally everyone in my class cried at some point.

I'm still crying tony.


Thanks so much for sharing! I was a DBC student in 2014 and have immense gratitude for the program's impact on me: Its students, instructors, culture, the powerful world of programming it introduced me to, and the career change it launched for me.

I feel like I can empathize. My strongest professional memories are of congratulating a student on getting their first job. Crazy to think that DBC is winding down.

> they were probably struggling (like the rest of our sector) with growing past the bootcamp industry's early days, when starry-eyed optimism clashed with the operational realities of a highly-regulated industry

What kinds of challenges does the sector as a whole face? HackReactor?

I am curious because I may still apply to HR but I don't know if I can afford it. I am an Indian-American college dropout from Atlanta, I was below the poverty line last year. I don't know if the scholarship would be granted to me since I am not technically 'underrepresented' in the industry. I've gotten past the basics of front-end web development, I get stuck with algorithms. I've worked at Bluehost before getting laid off, so I've learned a lot about how DNS, back-end, and servers connect together.

The main challenge I think in the sector is over-saturation. The barrier to entry, especially for fly by night schools that skirt regulations is very low. It is difficult for the consumer to judge quality and there's some pretty overhyped marketing out there. Organizations like CIRR.org are cropping up to help with that, but the signal to noise ratio for consumers is very high right now.

Accelerated training isn't going away by any means, but I expect we'll see consolidation and more closings in the short term as the industry separates those with viable business models and outcomes from those that don't.

This response is not about "Dev Bootcamp" per se, which was, as I understand it, a pioneer in this realm, and so therefore gets kudos for simply trying for everyone else, and doing well enough to get others to join in with great investment and hope for the future of this sector. It is very sad that they had to close. The important this is: let's really learn from this moment together! I'm responding to this commenter directly, who I'm inferring from their comment is a member of the CIRR.org crew.

You said,"The main challenge I think in the sector is over-saturation."

The problem is indeed over-saturation of similar mistakes from everyone in the realm. After the pioneers' experiment, though, we need to learn and make adjustments that truly improve...not simply appear to improve through improved optics for the consumer. We are all so into Agile, one would think this would be obvious to us. I hope, if anyone in the industry is reading this, that my comments here will cause at least one founder to consider some of the choices they have made and are about to make, in the wake of Dev Bootcamp's unfortunate closing, because the bootcamp model could become great. Or: at least it hasn't given truly "great" a real shot at happening yet.

You also said, "...I expect we'll see consolidation and more closings in the short term as the industry separates those with viable business models and outcomes from those that don't."

As yet, I have not seen an honestly creative/innovative business model in the bunch in NYC, anyway. Yes, there are some slightly varied models- yes some online and blended affairs, yes some variations in offerings and lengths of study, and yes, some "we only accept the truly top whatever percent of students", and even yes, let's have some "verifiable" outcomes reports. But deferred tuition is really just kicking the proverbial can down the road in a way that is destructive to the student's future success. It's just another form of marketing,(you mentioned, "...and there's some pretty overhyped marketing out there."-- well, there is some of that right here) and is not structural change, which is really what's needed. I'm writing this, because a part of that structure is one that fears honest critique so much that it promotes and brutally enforces a culture of consensus and aggressive positivity from its staff, students, and faculty at all times. This kind of regime is at odds with promoting a culture of innovation. And yes, I'm speaking of several of the top coding schools here, from the inside. If you doubt, read their copy, for starters.

Speaking of structural change that is really needed, "Diversity" includes all forms of diversity-- age, race, income level, gender, coding ability at the start, orientation, aptitudes, views--- and diversity is not being served even by those who use it as a promo-platform to elevate their programs above the competition. I'll give you that it "appears to be all for diversity" but only from a distance. Where diversity is said to be valued, one understands that a monumental effort is made to pick up some of the slack that these diversity candidates can not afford to on their own, right? Just have a look at many of these schools' faculty and staff and think on this-- not from a distance, though, but really think on it critically, deeply, as though you were that desperate diversity candidate yourself. And when a master teacher is on staff, one with real experience, they are often tucked behind the scenes making materials, for instance. Diversity starts with the example you/we all set, and I think it's clear to all of us that tech needs to become a leader in it.

You also said, "The barrier to entry, especially for fly by night schools that skirt regulations is very low. It is difficult for the consumer to judge quality..."

Barriers should be low, if this is a true service for students, not just a revenue stream for investors. Bootcamps, and especially the "top tier" are supposed to help people change careers or find work in a reasonable time frame, or so everyone's copy states. Get honest about real time frame and competition level with your students, if you aren't. There is always room for improvement there. These "barriers" or "tests" for entering students--like huge hauls of pre-work and difficult coding challenges for entrance interviews-- are often merely tests of affluence, only just barely disguised as skill/commitment tests of tedium endurance (bland curricula) and self-teaching ability. Students must have the time (or prior experience) and money or parental or spousal support to take the time off to commit to such antics and hoops, just to "get in" to these bootcamps, and this process alone creates a kind of sunk-cost fallacy class-level abuse these students are already recovering from and still vulnerable to. We expect and still tolerate this sort of thing from the ivy league, but bootcamp is supposed to be an answer to the student debt-crisis and also to the problem of being "career ready" in a shorter time frame, because the rising cost of college is untenable at this point in time. And yet these bootcamps are still trading on the fumes of this status model borrowed from the ivy league. The thing is, those who can afford to do so tolerate this from the Harvards because it provides direct and forgiving (and many many) connections to its students even before graduation--- even the runts who arrive a bit slower than the rest. That's what you pay for, that's what you endure the hazing for. But you can't have it both ways. You can't pretend to be a practical solution to this nonsense for the common person and deliver its status model and a modified version of its financial model to boot. Many of those who clear this barrier at selective bootcamps are graduates of extremely selective colleges and in many cases even graduate schools in this crazy economy with no jobs (and they already have huge debt loads, as you know). If we could be true advocates for these students, it would go a long way to trust and credibility- much more than any outcomes report. This means inviting critique and accepting our share of the responsibility of getting them jobs and making them ready for these.

Low barrier: why, exactly? Anyone can "teach" someone who can already teach themselves to code out of sheer desperation. If we must borrow from the ivy league then we should borrow this: If many of these coding bootcamps would put the real force of their effort into learning how to identify (really, with perhaps a higher and more demonstrable barrier to entry on this score) , reward, value, promote, and inspire incredible teachers-as-visionaries in the pedagogy of this field (the individuals who really make a school what it is; those who help nurture an environment in which accelerated learning has the best possible chance)there would be a resounding ovation throughout the industry. There would be no need for organizations like CIRR.org in the same way that there is no need for these with respect to Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford. CIRR.org, and other independently verified outcomes reports, while better than nothing, are misleading. One example of many, and we all know what we are hiding: They need to show prospective students what their budgets will be for the duration (pre-work, during, and post- while job seeking, and the real timelines of each individual student) Again, this appears to be brave on the part of these schools, but if these schools were truly transparent, they would offer (actually require!) a way for students and employees to give anonymous reviews without fear. They would also realize that the burden should be on the employer, not the student, if they are actually filling such a great need in the industry. Are they? Then, this should be a cinch to prove, but the fact is, it is tough to get these junior devs jobs, and that is why they have such punishing application and interview schedules. Where are the connections like the Harvards have, served up with comped dinners out? The student's job should be to learn, the schools' to teach, and the employers' to pay for truly excellent programmers. If a school aims to teach, they should be able to keep enrollemnt low, and they should be able to teach anyone from zero with an interest serious enough that they drop out of society to do it for several months of their life. Because employers would pay big money for that service, just like they do for Harvard. Instead, they seek those who could already do it without their help, and they seek payment from them too.

If one must go with the curriculum model of teaching: Most of these schools offer dry curricula that is delivered with very little creativity and inspiration and by teachers who are mostly graduates of their own programs. There isn't a single coding bootcamp that promotes itself on the reputation and the skill and the efficacy of its teachers. They should be famous like members of the NY Yankees- that is how good they need to be. They should deliver lessons that inspire - lessons that are legendary. This is not happening. All world class sports training programs do, all arts training programs do, all top tier colleges still do, and all great teaching hospitals do.

I hope with the sad closing of a great pioneer, we can all (especially the top tier coding bootcamps and programs) learn to invite aggressive, honest critique and an environment that promotes innovation- not shuts it down and drowns out any new ideas with consensus positivity. We need to be for the students, which is, as I also understand it, something many of us got into teaching to be. I think we need to get back into touch with that and hold ourselves to a much higher standard. The barrier to entry should be the highest for us.

I graduated from DBC in 2015 and have been teaching as a Phase 0 Guide ever since. Even through engineering contracts and full time positions, I've continued to work with DBC and its students. I think this connection is so strong because I feel a deep gratitude for how my teachers, mentors, and peers helped shape me into the compassionate and curious developer I am today.

It's sad to see the program come to an end and I'm still digesting it, but the community and personal transformations that came out of DBC aren’t going anywhere. And for that I am thankful.

That HN post and a single TechCrunch article were the only things I had to go by in June of 2012 when I applied (and joined) their 3rd cohort. It was an experience that changed my life and gave me the skills and confidence I needed to begin a career that has enabled me to support my family in a way I could not before. I'm sorry to see that it won't be available to more people.

As a former employee I have to say that Kaplan did a very fine job keeping the company afloat when it would have otherwise collapsed years earlier. I know the story of an evil corporate takeover is a tempting one, but that's not what happened here. Frankly, I was astounded at just how massive a bet they were willing to make on us. More than once they provided an influx of capital while Dev Bootcamp's leadership attempted to find a sustainable business model. In the nearly four years I was there they exerted shockingly little influence over DBC, and largely left it up to us to figure out how to make this work.

DBC failed because DBC failed, not because Kaplan made us fail, and I think it's important to own that. Without their deep pockets our quirky, beautiful, compassionate little place of learning would have fallen apart a long time ago. As far as I'm concerned, Kaplan bankrolled an amazing thing far past its expiration date, and gosh am I glad they did, because I had a blast.

I was a part of Matt's first cohort at Dev Bootcamp and he saw us all the way through the program. I remember telling him afterwards that he was the best teacher I have had and I think everyone else in my cohort felt at least similar if not exactly the same. It was teachers like him that made Dev Bootcamp an awesome experience for many. He developed extra lectures beyond the curriculum on stuff like SQL injection and really thought out how to present them effectively, sought out things that we were struggling with like at one point I think it was scoping in Javascript when we had primarily been dealing with Ruby, or this one time where he was really excited to show us something he repeatedly said would "blow our minds.” I think it was predicate methods and how you could compose them to make new ones. I remember thinking at the time something like “That’s it? Or am I missing something…” Still, it was the effort and caring that stood out. I also remember him staying late with us to refactor a Javascript challenge that was already meeting specs to be object oriented, even though it wasn’t part of the challenge.

I think it was experiences like that that make so many DBC grads so fond of it and why so many graduates still come back to pair with current students. Yet it wasn’t all good. I saw a cohort after us, if I recall correctly have around half of the students help back and have too many students and not enough teachers. Still, I think they tried to do the right thing most of the time. Why else would you allow students to repeat portions of the course and take up to 6 weeks longer instead of just churning through students as fast as possible or make a special effort to try to make the program more accessible underrepresented persons?

Personally, I was miffed by some stuff like finding out during the course that average salaries were lower and average time to employment longer than listed on the website and not seeing an urgency to update those numbers publicly. Or hearing about a plan to try to collect money from potential employers upon hiring a grad when the job search already wasn’t easy and they had already collected thousands from each student in tuition. Like student needed another barrier to being hired. I felt bad for people coming after me having to compete both with more Dev Bootcamp grads as more campuses popped up on top of all the new competing bootcamps, but I really hope most people made it work. DBC did always say that it wasn’t graduating there that’d get you a job, but what you make of that experience and how far you continue after, but still I always wished they were more forthright with their statistics and outcomes.

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this. Guess I'm saying it was a special place, but also a mixed bag in my experience.

The stupidest/silliest thing we ever built is still works. http://berniesbistro.herokuapp.com IIRC, we were having trouble coming up with an idea of what to build and made this in the last 30 minutes before we had to present.

As a former employee I have to say that Kaplan did a very fine job of running the place into the ground. Kaplan management managed to take an industry leader with first mover advantage and completely squander it by myopically focusing on quarterly profits. They really should have switched to a pay-after-getting-a-job tuition model that schools like AppAcademy offer. That would have simultaneously better met the mission of serving diverse students (students who can't afford $17,000+ and living in an expensive urban area for almost five months) and improve long term outcomes.

The pay-after-getting-a-job model creates virtuous cycles, because the schools that implement it suck up the most prepared students. Schools not offering that model end up with the leftovers after admissions to the top schools.

Arguably colleges and universities should also adopt pay-after-getting-a-job but that would probably hurt their bottom lines substantially. It definitely creates the correct alignment of incentives for the school to educate well.

Pretty amazing too, considering Kaplan has very deep pockets and could easily have financed the slight lag in revenue switching to models would have required. To me it just reeks of old-school short sighted corporate management thinking.

For a bootcamp to not adopt pay-after-getting-a-job just shows that they lack faith in their own product. Funny because many schools end up having to hire lots of their alums as a way of bolstering their employment numbers.

On a closing note, huge props to all the extremely hardworking teachers and students who went through DBC, they made it an amazing place despite all hardship. I made many of my most meaningful relationships there and I witnessed tremendous transformations in people.

Why is that superior? Strictly speaking, Dev Bootcamp doesnt have to worry about the success of students because it takes the payment upfront. AppAcademy take the first year payment with average graduating salary of $83K which works out at around $13K return for AppAcademy - the same tuition fees roughly as Dev Bootcamp - am I missing something here?

Former A/a grad here. The average graduating salary in SF for App Academy is 105k [1]. They charge around 20% which is 21k. They also have other revenue streams, so on average they likely make more per student on average than that.

[1] https://www.appacademy.io/

Thanks dbz thats really useful to know!

Even though a direct competitor with DBC I just wanted to say: solid team and leadership; we respect everyone there, especially in pioneering the market in the early years.

It was in DBC's NYC campus that I did my first LGBT advocacy event. Still remember the passion of the students and instructors two years later.

I know I speak for everyone here when I say I’m sorry to see a leader and organization leave the community.

- Team Thinkful darrell@thinkful.com

This is truly a sad moment. I was part of DBC's first cohort in Chicago, and was so inspired by its capacity to transform lives that I founded something similar, Code Platoon, a nonprofit coding bootcamp for Veterans. DBC literally changed the lives of thousands of people. Strictly from a job training perspective, I can think of no training model that does a better job at addressing underemployment. The good news is that many great coding bootcamps followed DBC, and the model will continue to thrive.

Kudos to the school who started it all, and the vision behind it. Thinking about the future, and the million of people who could benefit from learning coding, is DBC going to open source their curriculum?

I think they should consider it, and I think that they could reach out to Free Code Camp to see if they can do something together. Hope to see this happening!

From the European side - https://codeworks.me/

So sad to see this. DBC is one of my largest clients and despite all the crap bootcamps take, I saw them first-hand transform lives and careers. End of an era. Incredible careers team, incredible instructors, incredible students, terribly sad and shocking development.

<3 Amir @ skilledinc.com

(Current Teacher at DBC)

First, thank you all for the positive feedback. It means the world to us. Most of the teaching staff only found out about the decision a day or two before it became public, so we are only recently processing this. Trust me when I say that the gratitude that we're seeing...I'm just not sure what we would do without it.

Second, for our remaining cohorts, I want to give you an idea of the sentiment of the teachers at the moment.

We see this as an opportunity to go out on a high note. We know this is our last chance to have a deeply positive influence on students' lives. We don't want to squander that privilege.

(I'm founder and CEO of coding bootcamp, We Can Code IT)

Dev Bootcamp pioneered an industry that has changed lives. It's not an easy business to compete against the "We've always done it that way" mentality, and they did it well for 5 years. They were well-respected and will be missed. Hats off to them for maintaining their principles, passion, and giving it their all! I always appreciated that they focused on inclusion and diversity in technology. I'm sad about that loss, but We Can Code IT promises to continue carrying that torch.

Why did they shut down?

This whole page is long on emotion, not that that's not important, but very short on facts.

Regulation? No tenable business model? Couldn't charge enough to pay instructors? etc.

I haven't actively followed DBC's trajectory but as a long time CS educator I've long said that education doesn't scale in the way that other tech sector initiatives scale, particularly if you want to maintain quality.

I'd really be curious to hear more about the obstacles to maintaining your quality that helped lead to this.

Wow. End of an era.

DBC was really inspiring for me. Just before we opened the 1st coding bootcamp in Tel Aviv (@Elevation Academy) I came for a visit and they were so open, generous and helpful. Thank you for the breakthrough and the hard work!

This makes me really sad. DBC changed my life dramatically. I wasn't a fan of some of the changes/decisions they made over the last few years, but I would be in a much, much worse place overall without DBC.

I would love to buy it and give it another go. Wonder how that would work and how much it would cost, and if it's even an option. Seems a shame to see it close.


This is fake news.

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