Startup Institute has named its new CEO, and it turns out he’s been hiding in plain sight for months.
The startup boot camp announced on Wednesday that longtime employee Rich DiTieri is taking over the role that was previously held by Diane Hessan, who stepped down last summer to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The company also announced five other additions to its leadership team that have been made in the last four months.
Startup Institute has been through a whirlwind of changes over the past two years. Besides losing Hessan, other employees in leadership roles have stepped down. The company also pulled out of Chicago and Europe, leaving Startup Institute with only two locations, Boston and New York, and a newfound focus on profitability over growth.
“Let’s take this thing and figure out how to bring that into a corporate training setting.”
DiTieri, who was previously director of Startup Institute’s Boston program, told me he started as CEO at the beginning of the year. In the past few months, he said he’s had his head down to focus on making new changes — including the addition of a new part-time program to boost corporate innovation training — as well as building the company’s new leadership team.
Before joining Startup Institute, DiTieri was co-founder of Pintley, a startup focused on craft beer communities that went through MassChallenge’s startup accelerator. Before that, he was director of strategic partnerships at LevelUp.
“It feels amazing. It’s definitely stressful, but I love that,” DiTieri said of his new job. “I can only operate in chaos and stress, but I think it’s the right role for me.”
When it was founded in 2012, Startup Institute was designed as a full-time curriculum of classes that would enroll people who were dissatisfied with their corporate jobs and re-train for a career in the startup world. Over time, the boot camp found that large companies actually had a need for employees with a startup mindset, so Startup Institute not only had startups as hiring partners but large companies, too, like John Hancock.
With DiTieri now in charge, he said Startup Institute is now going to lean heavier into employee training for larger companies. He said larger companies have been interested in sending their employees to take classes, but they weren’t quite willing to let them go on a sabbatical, per se, for the full-time program. That’s one of the main reasons Startup Institute has started its new part-time program, which currently has employees from Bose and Gillette enrolled.
“We have all this content we teach to our students,” DiTieri said. “Why can’t we do that for teams at a company? It’s not an impossible thing. Let’s take this thing and figure out how to bring that into a corporate training setting.”
Startup Institute’s full-time and part-time programs both offer four tracks for students to choose from: digital marketing, web development, web design and sales and account management. DiTieri said the company will also be offering a new “intrapreneurship” track for companies that want to arm their employees with entrepreneurial skills.
The boot camp has found another way to boost corporate innovation — and profits. In the past, students have participated in hackathons as part of a program’s curriculum, and those hackathons would always revolve around solving real problems for companies and nonprofits. Participating companies previously didn’t have to pay to participate, but Startup Institute is now charging companies for a chance to get outside help on difficult problems.
“It never feels good to recoil, especially in a market like Chicago.’
DiTieri said students don’t get paid for working on problems at company hackathons, but there’s one important rule for participating companies: students must be able to claim credit for their work.
Having first joined Startup Institute as an instructor a few years ago, DiTieri has had a front-row seat to the successes and growing pains the boot camp has gone through. That includes the 1,400 people who have gone through Startup Institute’s programs, as well as the difficult decisions to shut down in Chicago and Europe.
“It never feels good to recoil, especially in a market like Chicago,” he said, adding that he would one day like to expand back to the city. “The fact was, we just expanded way too fast. It’s not a cheap program to run.”
But those difficult decisions “came with a real serious purpose,” DiTieri added. “We know what we’re good at, but if you’re not profitable yet, we’ve got to focus on what’s working and what’s growing.”
Joining DiTieri on the leadership team are Peggy Yu as COO, David Yourgrau as vice president of business development, Jaime Goldstein as vice president of curriculum, Elizabeth Ames as Boston’s managing director and Justin Miller as vice president of marketing. Previously, Yu was interim director at Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship; Yourgrau held roles at Offerpop and LevelUp; Goldstein was program director at the MIT Communication Lab; Ames was a consultant for social enterprises; and Miller, formerly of Barton Associates, has helped launch Tech in Motion and InnoNorth.