Since launching in 2015, Silver Spring, Md.-based I/O Spaces has become the co-working destination for minority entrepreneurs.
Now, co-founder Leslie Tita hopes to expand their success into the education space with the launch of I/O Learn, which offers a wide range of education programs and coding bootcamps.
Through I/O Learn, the team plans to offer courses unique to the needs of minority and diverse tech founders and entrepreneurs. Course subjects include cybersecurity training, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, project management, data science, design thinking, startup funding and business. All courses are hosted in-person at the Silver Spring location, and instructors come from places like Amazon, TEDCO, Google and Cisco.
So it makes sense that Tita would view this initiative as a rival to D.C.’s bootcamps and coding schools — including General Assembly and the incoming Flatiron School.
“We’re obviously competing with a lot of bootcamps that do exist out there, but what makes us stand out is that we created this as a way to support our already existing community of members,” Tita said. “We’re creating this to help them and to also support the community at-large.”
I/O Learn students are also given I/O Spaces memberships during the length of their course, allowing them to use the building as a study spot in between classes. Classes range from one-day intensives to eight-week training courses. Depending on the nature of the course, prices start at $15 and can be as high as $5,000. Need-based scholarships are also available.
Sheila Kasasa, who is heading up programming for I/O Learn, said the goal is to create a unique set of classes that help founders from underserved communities find their own success in their ventures.
“Hypothetically, this would be a one-stop shop for all things education, and we’re including lifestyle in education,” Kasasa said.
I/O Learn is entering the education training space at an interesting time in D.C. The Iron Yard closed down officially in October, following the end of its final immersive course. Boston-based Launch Academy just launched its women-only program, Prism Shift, in Dupont Circle. 1776 just merged with Philadelphia-based Benjamin’s Desk, which has raised questions about what education programming and resources will be staying put. New York City-based Flatiron School is also launching its second location in D.C. in early 2018, which was announced right after WeWork acquired the program.
By appearance, it looks like I/O Spaces is taking a WeWork approach as it expands its co-working brand into the education space — but, instead, I/O Spaces is creating their programs in-house, rather than acquiring them.
I/O Learn also plans to offer a wide array of courses, outside of the typical industry-specific programs. Kasasa said she also has a collection of wellness-based courses in the works.
“We keep saying it’s education powered by culture, and the reason for that is I/O Learn is setting the standard for what a lifestyle entrepreneur looks like. Where can I go to learn how to code or scale my company, and at the same time take a photography class or even get certified in something like yoga?” she said.
The new program comes shortly after I/O Spaces celebrated its two-year anniversary. Now, the community is home to 130 members, compared to the 12 startups it started out with when it opened.
“If you come to I/O Spaces, you’ll see entrepreneurs from every background, not only racial but economical,” Tita said. “We didn’t put it out there, that’s just how we started. If you walk into our class, there’s a higher chance that you’ll find someone with a similar story.”