Austin’s MakerSquare offers alternative path into Web development world

Jul 21, 2014
Austin American Statesman

Aaron Hayslip was a recruiter and trainer for a local nonprofit when he decided to make a change


“I had always wanted to do something creative, but I had never really pursued it,” says 25-year-old Hayslip, who majored in religious studies at St. Edward’s University


“Every year I told myself, ‘OK, this is the year I am going to buy the books and learn design.’ Finally, I read one book and built a real simple website. I realized it was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know what the next step was”


Then, last fall, he heard about MakerSquare, an Austin startup that offers an intensive 12-week software coding Web development program for non-techies wanting to break into the tech industry


Hayslip got accepted into the September class. The timing wasn’t ideal – he and his wife had just learned they were expecting their first child – but he quit his job, took out a loan and spent the next three months learning to write software


The week after the course ended, Hayslip had seven interviews for software development-related jobs. Today he’s an associate software engineer at Austin-based Spredfast


“It’s a dream job that I never would have imagined I would be doing,” Hayslip says


That’s the goal of MakerSquare, which was founded 18 months ago by two University of Texas graduates and two friends from Chicago and New York. They put in $5,000 each, and raised about $70,000 from friends and family to get started


MakerSquare graduated its first class of 20 students last June from its offices on Congress Avenue across from the Paramount Theatre. Nineteen of the students received full-time job offers with salaries ranging from $45,000 to $90,000, says co-founder Shaan Shah. Overall, 95 percent of students find jobs or launch their own companies within months of graduating, he says


The 12-week program costs $13,880. Classes start every six weeks, with an average of 18 students per class. MakerSquare also offers a part-time, 10-week course that focuses on website development and costs $3,380


The average MakerSquare student is a college graduate and has been in the workforce for five years. Backgrounds include finance or marketing, as well as human resources, sales and recruiting


The program accepts about 20 percent of applicants, and they complete one to two months of work before the program begins. The 12-week course includes lectures, programming classes and group projects as well as evening events with speakers. Students often put in 60 to 80 hours a week


MakerSquare is making plans to expand, as more players are jumping into the fast-growing non-accredited coding school business. The number of graduates from coding bootcamp programs is expected to jump to about 6,000 people this year compared with about 2,200 last year, according to Course Report, an online data base of coding schools


MakerSquare, which had revenue of $1.5 million last year and expects to post $2 million to $4 million this year, is launching classes in Houston and San Francisco and is considering additional locations


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