Fullstack Acadmy is acquiring the Starter League (Credit: Fullstack Academy)
Fullstack Acadmy is acquiring the Starter League (Credit: Fullstack Academy)

Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee launched the Starter League back in 2011 (then called Code Academy) when the idea of an immersive coding education was radically new. Fast forward to 2016, the number of code bootcamps and their graduates is skyrocketing as demand for tech talent grows daily.

But with that increase also comes consolidation, as the top code bootcamps find the best ways to expand into new markets and reach more students. And now the Starter League will be among the consolidated.

Nimit Maru, cofounder and CTO of Fullstack Academy (Courtesy of Fullstack Academy)
Nimit Maru, cofounder and CTO of Fullstack Academy (Courtesy of Fullstack Academy)

New York City-based code bootcamp Fullstack Academy announced Wednesday it is acquiring the Starter League. Come this summer the Starter League will be merged into Fullstack Academy and start the first cohort of a full-immersion software engineering bootcamp out of 1871. Sales-Griffin will be the only member of the current Starter League staff that officially continues on with Fullstack Academy, and will oversee the Chicago expansion.

This is the first acquisition and expansion for Fullstack Academy, a JavaScript-focused software engineering bootcamp, which is backed by Y Combinator and run by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alums Nimit Maru and David Yang. The bootcamp offers both immersive and non-immersive courses focused on JavaScript and include instruction on technologies such as Node.js, AngularJS and MongoDB, as well as HTML5 and CSS3.

In May, they’ll start with a 24 student cohort in the full-time software engineering immersive bootcamp, which goes 17 weeks and costs $16,810. Later in the year, they aim to add a part-time version of the immersive bootcamp, as well as entry-level programs JavaScript Jumpstart and Introduction to Front-End Development.

Initially, none of Starter League’s current programs will be run through the new Fullstack Academy, but Maru said they want to continue some of those unique programs, such as UI/UX and entrepreneurship, in the future. “Starter League has a wealth of resources, and we don’t want to ignore that,” Maru added.

Maru and Yang said their bootcamp differentiates from other options in Chicago because they focus on JavaScript and cater to amateur coders, rather than beginners. This allows them to focus on project-based learning about 75 percent of the time they said. Alums from Fullstack Academy, which started in 2013, have gone onto Google, Dropbox, Venmo, and Goldman Sachs among others.

Maru and Yang talked are both UIUC alums and Chicago was always a city where they hoped to expand. They also cited Chicago Public Schools’ computer science graduation requirement as another indication that the city takes tech seriously.

“We were always thinking about the right second city to launch in, and Chicago has always been at the top of that list,” said Yang. “We think there is a really up-and-coming tech scene in Chicago that’s a little different from everywhere else in the country.”

“Being able to leverage that ecosystem that Neal, Mike, and Starter League has built already was very appealing to us,” he added.

Neal Sales-Griffin.
Neal Sales-Griffin.

Previously Starter League focused on a variety of immersive development and entrepreneurship programs. They stopped programs in December, but before that were running five to seven classes at a time, which each had 15 to 30 students. Alums from the program include Jimmy Odom of WeDeliver, Alex Niemczewski of BallotReady, and Tom Cullen of Launchpad Lab.

“I wanted to make sure that what we had done was a part of something special and that our legacy was able to expand in some way, to help people solve meaningful problems with software,” said Sales-Griffin. “As for why we didn’t do it ourselves and go at it alone, it made sense to add to our program with people who can add to our expertise…The expertise the Fullstack team brings to the table is going to enhance the offering and the quality of the education we offer to all of our students.”

David Yang, cofounder of Fullstack Academy (Courtesy of Fullstack Academy)
David Yang, cofounder of Fullstack Academy (Courtesy of Fullstack Academy)

“It’s been an amazing past five years to see what our students have done but also what the industry has done,” added McGee. “For us it’s all about helping [code bootcamps] grow, create more creators than consumers.”

Though Sales-Griffin said he is the only member of the current team moving forward with Fullstack Academy, he said he anticipates that some team members may be brought back on as they continue to expand programs. McGee said he will help with the transition over the next few months, and then would like to stay in the education space in some capacity.

This isn’t the first consolidation to hit Chicago. Mobile Makers Academy, an iOS-focused bootcamp, was acquired last fall by San Francisco’s Hack Reactor.

“We’ll see that over the next few years, the coding schools that have figured out the right academics, the right admissions, the right operational quality will continue to differentiate themselves in everything from outcomes, how good the alumni network is, how happy companies are in the students they hire,” said Yang.