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January 21, 2018

Four months after The Iron Yard shuttered suddenly, two of its former executives have opened a new code school in the Triangle.

Called Momentum Learning Inc., it offers what it describes as “immersive code education courses” in 2018. It will be operate in the same space as Iron Yard, headquartered in downtown Durham with a satellite location in Raleigh.

But, where Iron Yard failed, Momentum will excel, says CEO Jessica Mitsch.

Mitsch, Iron Yard's former executive director of growth and strategic partnerships, co-founded the school with Clinton Dreisbach, a former instructor and director of academics at Iron Yard. Dreisbach is Momentum's chief technology officer in charge of curriculum and instruction.

Like the Iron Yard, Momentum is targeting those who want to change their careers in a matter of months. And, like Iron Yard, it is partnering with Capitol Broadcasting’s entrepreneurship organization, American Underground.

But unlike Iron Yard, the focus is all local, she says. And that's the distinguishing factor for its success, she predicts.

“Universities, those types of things, they tend to operate in a local ecosystem,” she says. “We’re going to have the ability to do more to meet local needs. We are going to have part-time classes – things the Iron Yard wasn’t able to explore.”

Momentum can let the local community dictate what skills would be the most helpful for the talent base, she says. The firm will also offer customized training for organizations – and has already taught one such class for a local software company.

Mitsch knows code schools face challenges, she says, noting that they’re a brand new concept.

“The reason we exist is because the university model can’t keep up with the pace of technology education,” she says. “A new software language comes out, you have got to have people production-ready with that software language … what they’re teaching at the university level, it’s computer science. It’s in-depth … But it’s not production-ready code skills.”

Like Iron Yard, Momentum is targeting anyone wanting a career change – no coding experience required. But, as with Iron Yard, the price isn’t for everyone. At $13,900 for the three-month immersive program (awaiting approval from the state to start in 2018), it’s not cheap.

Nor has it been cheap to start the school.

For its initial startup costs, Momentum teamed up with Capitol Broadcasting-owned American Underground, its lead investor. From there, angel investors joined in.

A securities disclosure filed Nov. 13 on behalf of Momentum Learning shows the firm raised nearly $375,000 in its first funding round from five investors.

But even with a funding boost, Momentum will face challenges. Multiple code schools, including the one claiming to be the first – San Francisco-based Dev Bootcamp – announced closures in 2017. And in the Triangle, it will have a lot of competition. Among them is UNC Coding Bootcamp, a $10,000, six-month program, and Tech Talent South, which set up shop at the nearby HQ Raleigh.

Mitsch says her team is ready.

“Our team is all folks that worked at the Iron Yard, so we have a lot of experience and we’ve learned a lot from the successes at the Iron Yard,” she says. “We understand how to run this type of program.”

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