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February 1, 2018

DURHAM – Momentum Learning, the coding school founded and led by former Iron Yard executives, officially launched Wednesday night at the American Underground’s original location in the Strickland Building in Durham.

Jessica Mitsch, co-founder and CEO, and Clinton Dreisbach, co-founder and CTO, previously worked together at the no longer operating Iron Yard coding school.

Momentum officially starts classes in Raleigh and Durham in March 26, pending state approval. The startup launched its web site Tuesday. Its kickoff also included news of Dell opening a virtual reality lab at the AU.

“It’s good to see a launch in the very first American Underground location,” said Adam Klein, director of strategy for Capitol Broadcasting, which led Momentum’s recent $400,000 funding. Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of and WRAL TechWire as well as American Underground. The AU launched in the basement of the American Tobacco Historic District in 2010.

Klein said Momentum is going through a state regulatory approval process to obtain a license issued by the state community college board. “We’re going through all that as a consumer protection measure,” explained Klein. “This way there is more oversight on how the school operates and it’s important for the well-being of students.”

He added, “We’re a big believer that this region is suited for a technology training program.”

During the launch presentation Klein noted:  “The reason for the growth of American Underground and our success in building companies here is we have such an incredible talent base here.”

Mitsch told the large-room-filling crowd: “I know we can make this work in the Triangle.” She said during Momentum’s admission process, one African American applicant who was recently laid off from an ad agency wrote: “The industry has spoken. Learn code or die. I’m 42 and too young to die.”

“There is no question this is necessary in this community,” she said.


Mitsch noted that Momentum’s employer advisory board, which includes firms large and small, will not only offer guest lectures and field trips, but also helps devise the curriculum.

Momentum will also offer customized training for organizations and has already taught its first custom training for a local software company. It is teaming with Durham Tech to help companies with specific needs.

The companies include Adwerx, Automated Insights, IBM, Red Hat, TransLoc, Smashing Boxes, SpoonFlower, plotwatt, Spreedly, thoughtbot, CCI, Lucid Dream, Durham Tech, and others.

“We’re looking to grow the board with other employers who would benefit from a partnership,” she said.

Mitsch said part-time classes will cost $900 while the immersive, fulltime three-month course runs $13,900. Part-time tuition is transferrable to the fulltime program.

It will also offer free crash courses online.

A part-time class on Code Foundations teaching HTML, CSS, and Javascript, already approved, starts March 5. Classes will be taught at American Underground’s Raleigh campus on Fayetteville Street and at its 334 Blackwell Street location in Durham.