What We Do

The Digital Corridor is a creative effort to attract, nurture and promote Charleston's tech economy through a combination of technology-enabled initiatives and business incentives, private business support and member-driven programming.

Talent

Opportunities Abound
"Attending courses at CODEcamp allowed me to hone my web development skills while giving me the opportunity to interact with professionals that are driving Charleston technology community."
  • Ryan Barrineau
  • Developer
  • Blue Acorn

Spaces

Get Working
"As an early stage software company, it was not only important to have a location to grow in but also the means to mature as an organization. The Flagships afforded this flexibility and infrastructure."
  • Earl Bridges
  • Co-founder
  • Good Done Great

Community

Peer Networking
"The Charleston Digital Corridor serves as the central hub for technology companies in the area and what that has done is create a sense of community around the companies that are a part of it."
  • Grier Allen
  • Founder & CEO
  • Boomtown

Capital

Accelerating Growth
"While there are many opportunities for investment, our fund is happy to make growth capital available for Charleston’s tech companies. Michael Knox, Managing Partner, Silicon Harbor Ventures."
  • Michael Knox
  • Managing Partner
  • Silicon Harbor Ventures
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American Entrepreneurship Is Flourishing, If You Know Where To Look

At first glance, it seems that America's economy is losing its mojo. Many economists, most notably Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, have lamented that productivity growth seems to be anaemic when compared with earlier golden eras (see Free exchange). A gloomy chorus of business leaders has echoed what media outlets have by now turned into a mantra, that American entrepreneurship is in steady decline. Surely America's overall competitiveness, then, is plummeting? Read More:

Julie Moreland, Vizbii CEO

Vizbii’s Moreland on Starting, Ending the Day Tech-Free

The Charleston Digital Corridor's Leadership Profile Series is focused on the individuals who are driving the Charleston tech scene forward. This series is brought to you with support from Charleston Southern University.

Julie Moreland is CEO of Vizbii, which is short for visual business intelligence. Vizbii is the creator of Morphii, a platform that provides emoji-like tools for customers to express emotion, giving companies actionable insights on their experiences. Vizbii, founded in 2016, is located in downtown Charleston.

Where did you grow up? What was life like and your memories from there?

I grew up in a town called Winston, Ga, which is maybe 30 miles outside of Atlanta. I can't imagine it being much better. Go carts, trails through the woods, swimming in the summer in the creeks.

My mom's parents raised us, for the most part, because my mom was very career-focused, and so was my dad. I got it from both sides of my family, being very focused on business. My mom ran the largest buying group of an ad agency in Atlanta at the time. I grew up watching the commercials, as opposed to skipping – well, you couldn't skip them in those days. My dad was a developer. He developed both commercial real estate and residential properties. Rode out the markets and won and lost everything, a couple of times.

How did you come to be in Charleston?

I started my first business in 1989. I left the corporate world and started a business in Atlanta doing behavioral assessments. In 2002, I moved the business, PeopleClues, out to the West Coast and grew it. One of my partners was a Charleston-based company called PeopleMatter. They were buying our products, and they made an offer along with a Houston-based company that was bidding for us. I said, you know, this is probably the right time to get some equity back out for my business partners. So I sold to PeopleMatter (later acquired by Snagajob), went onto their executive team, and I moved in late 2013. That's what brought me to Charleston.

What drew you to your current business?

In the middle of 2014, I met Dr. Brian Sullivan, who was the founder of Morphii. I met him for breakfast, and listening to him talk about his vision for Morphii and what it could do for business and for individuals themselves, I literally got chills. I said, "This is my next gig."

I just looked at him and I said, "I don't know why I want to help you, but I want to help you. I've got a 90-hour-a-week job going, but I'm going to moonlight with you and help you build your business plan and figure out how to get your funding. This is something that needs to exist in the world."

So we started working just a little bit, after hours, thinking about what is the business model, when it dawned on me that the same business model I used to build this company called PeopleClues to sell it to PeopleMatter is perfect for this thing that you're building. One night I just looked at him and his partner, Corley Sullivan, who was the other founder, and I said, "Guys, I can take this baby that you have and go do something really special with it. And I want to work with you." So they offered me the CEO role.

In your own words, what does your company do?

We have created a digital way for people to look at a face and dial in their exact emotion, the way that they feel. Companies then, using that data, can better understand and predict what that customer is going to do next, and be able to actually affect that in advance.

To give you an example, let's say you're in Starbucks. Starbucks has an app. While you're in there getting your beverage, a Morphii could appear and say, "How do you feel about your experience with the barista today?" You could stay I'm disgusted, I'm happy, I'm meh. Let's say that you had soy milk in there and the soy milk was off, and you're disgusted by the experience.

A disgust experience is rooted in anger, and angry people will hurt you. They are the ones likely to tweet, to post on Instagram or something and say, "Ugh, look at this, this is disgusting." I actually want to lash out and hurt Starbucks. If you dialed in disappointment, disappointment is rooted in sadness. I really wanted you to get this right. I want you to make it right.

Well, in real time, that Starbucks, seeing that someone has dialed in disappointment, they can immediately push out a coupon and say your next one's on us, we guarantee we're going to get it right for you. The angry, disgusted person just wants to be left alone. You just need to apologize. All this can be built into the Starbucks app. That's a way of using Morphii for a brand.

What do you see as the future of your company?

The vision for Vizbii is we already have a couple of other technologies that we are going to do next. Morphii is the first of many platforms that we are going to build.

The vision for Morphii is anywhere, anytime, anyplace where you as a human being want to express an emotion about something, Morphii is an option sitting there for you. You're on Amazon doing a review. Instead of the dreaded five-star – that doesn't tell you anything. I don't actually know how you feel. The vision is we will live in all these platforms everywhere. Companies that even use the IBM Watson platform for analyzing text will also be using Morphii data along beside that. That becomes a way for me to be understood, and a way for that organization to understand.

And as that's happening, organizations will want to take us off of the market, and they will buy that technology from us, and then we will go build the next one.

Did you have an entrepreneurial drive early on, or did you acquire it through experiences?

My first real job was at IBM, and I said within two weeks, "I will never survive here. This is just too corporate." I went from there to Georgia Pacific. I thrived a little bit more at Georgia Pacific. This is going to date me: PCs were just coming out then, and no one had them at their desk. They were literally being rolled in on a cart. People were fighting over them and saying, "I need the PC today." Georgia Pacific put me in a role that never existed before, and it was an interpreter.

I sat in executive meetings where you had finance/CPA type people saying, "This is the type of data we need and how we need it," and then you have data processing people who were managing these massive main frame computer systems, saying, "Well, we've never output anything like that before." I would basically sketch out what you needed to build in terms of code that would give these people the kind of report and data they were looking for. Sort of an interpretive role. I would take downloads of data from a main frame and put it in to spreadsheets and build formulas and then hand it to the accounting people. I was in heaven.

But the problem was they had no female executives. They looked at me, I think I was like 24 at the time, and they said, "Let's promote Julie." That's when things went south because they took me out of this really cool entrepreneurial think-tank role and they put me into an accounting department managing like 15 accountants, in charge of billions of dollars of building products and all these distribution centers. That's not really where I wanted to be.

I left there and went to a small company, they had 25 employees, called Front End Systems. They basically went into law firms, installed computers, trained all the staff on the computers. I thought this was kind of ideal. I took everything off my resume, because I didn't want to be in charge of a bunch of stuff. I just wanted to go and contribute my thought, my strategy to something.

I worked for this company as their bookkeeper, accounting, strategy and all of that, and the owner came to me and said, "You've been withholding something from me. I heard from a CPA friend of mine that you did this, this, this and this at Georgia Pacific, and you were at IBM." I said, "Well, yeah, that's true." He said, "Why didn't you put any of that on your resume?" I said, "Because I didn't really want to run things." I just wanted to contribute. He said, "Well, I want you to run the company. I want to promote you." I said, "I'll think about it." I went away and thought, here we go again. I was being put in a role that I really was not looking for. But it was great because it was a 25-person company and I could control everything.

That was when I really realized, OK, I am an entrepreneur. I like to run things. I don't want to be put in middle management someplace where you have all the responsibility for it, but you have no authority to make any real decisions strategically for the company. That was really the turning point for me. From there, I went out on my own and started my first business, and I loved it. I started selling behavioral assessments. I was fascinated by the idea that you could measure people and match them to jobs and go, these are your core characteristics, and this is the type of job that would be suited for you.

What one person has been the biggest influence on your business life? And why?

If I had to put everything in perspective at this point, I think my family ultimately ended up being the biggest influence because of the longevity of that influence.

My mom and dad both instilled in us this work ethic of just keep going and always do the right thing. I learned a lot from my mom. One of the jokes we had is, she had people coming in and out of her office all day long, and I would say, "Mom, how do you deal with all these interruptions?" And she said, "Well, when I'm done, I stand up, and they know to leave."

And then my dad, he has a really thick accent. In my early career at IBM and Georgia Pacific, people would actually sort of make fun of me for my accent because everyone I worked with at IBM was from White Plains, N.Y., and had moved to the South. They would say, "Hey, tell me something else." They literally just wanted to hear me talk. I thought, "OK, they're kind of making fun of me." At Georgia Pacific, they were all from the Northwest and had moved to Atlanta, so the same thing. I said to my dad, "How do you get around this in business?"

He kind of got a grin. He said, "Well, that's my secret weapon. Everybody underestimates me." This country boy shows up for meetings, in his jeans, and most of the time he had a beard. He said, "They totally think I'm a hick and I don't know what I'm doing. So, I just let them think that way all the way to the end till closing, and then I'll say, 'Well, you know, maybe we could just throw in this or that, it might be kind of nice if we could do this a little bit differently.'" He said they never see it coming that he's negotiating really well because they assume he doesn't know what he's doing.

I had some really good mentors in both of my parents.

What's the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

That you're in charge of your own destiny and you get to set your own hours and you don't have to answer to anybody. The reality is, everybody answers to somebody, period. I answer to a board. I answer to my customers. I answer mostly to my team. I am ultimately responsible for meeting our goals, nobody else. The buck stops with me.

I have to generate return on investment for my shareholders. I have to return vision and strategy to my board. I have to return growth and career opportunities to my team members. I answer to all of them.

What's the hardest or most important lesson you've learned in business?

I've been through multiple lawsuits. All of them I've won. The painful lesson is it doesn't matter how well you attempt to create really great contracts and ways for people to really collaborate and build constructive relationships – sometimes people just lose their minds. They wake up one day and they say, "I don't think this is fair, so I think I'll just sue you." You can have the most integrity in the world, and you're still going to have other people lose their minds and not do the right thing, where they can't even sit in a room with you and say, "Can we just work this out, because we're both actually trying to do the right thing?"

Do you have a routine that's important to your day? A morning ritual, meditation, etc.?

No technology for the first half hour in the morning, and no technology for the last half hour at night. That is very hard. For a lot of people, their mobile device has become the lifeline.

It's just to be able to get quiet. I am a huge lover of wine. That routine in the evening of sitting with a glass of red wine – I call it getting quiet. There's no noise. I can hear my dog four feet away from me breathing. There's no stimulation of any kind except for me thinking back on the day. What did I get out of today? What could I have done differently that would have made the day more productive or even more peaceful?

Likewise, the first 30 minutes is no noise, no distraction. A cup of coffee. I'm a certified Reiki practitioner. A lot of times in the morning that's what I'm doing.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with a group of people including bankers, CPAs, lawyers, other entrepreneurs, marketing people, and cultivate relationships with those people. These would be mentors. Figure out ways that you can help them, but really ask them to help you. It's a coffee every couple of weeks. Go out for a beer with them.

Cultivate these relationships with these mentors around you because you are going to need them. Meet with them and ask them what the challenges are that they are facing. Build these really tight, bonded relationships. This becomes your circle of mentors. Really listen to them. Don't pick people who are just going to tell you what you want to hear.

What advice would you give new graduates seeking to work in the tech industry?

Take any internship you can convince anybody to give you. Work for free. Don't be so hyper focused on, "Oh, because I've got this degree, I should be able to get a six-figure job." That will come. Go and offer to help companies.

I think a mistake that a lot of people make coming out of college today is thinking, "I put in my time, I need to get a job." You might have student loans. You might have a lot of good reasons for saying I need to go get a job. But focus on the community and those companies that are doing things that you think are really interesting and just showing up and saying I'd just really love to help, here are some thoughts I have. It's not about getting paid. If you can actually help them, they are the ones that are going to see your talent and are more likely to find a place for you, even if they don't have an opening.

Are you a Mac or a PC? iPhone or Android?

All Apple.

What is your usual Starbucks order?

Double short Americano. That just means it's a really strong cup of coffee. It's basically two shots of espresso with just a little bit of hot water.

What is your biggest pet peeve in business or amongst colleagues?

Probably my biggest one is selfishness. People that are just not thinking about anybody else but themselves, and therefore they become toxic inside of an organization. You see it in big corporate entities.

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I ride Harleys. Love motorcycles. Huge animal lover. Always had dogs, mostly rescue dogs, so I spend a lot of time playing with them, getting to the beach, things like that. Really love to boat. That's a great thing here in Charleston. Wine-tasting. I really enjoy playing tennis. Anything with a ball involved, I enjoy that as well.

What has it been like building your technical team in Charleston?

I really won the lottery because the people that I needed were available and willing to go on this journey with me. When we started in January 2016, it was nothing other than an idea and some prototypes.

That's a very different experience than I had at PeopleMatter trying to hire technology folks. It's very hard to hire because the tech sector here is growing so rapidly. It's very hard to compete for that talent and be able to afford that talent.

What do you see as some of the challenges recruiting tech talent to Charleston?

I don't think we're doing enough to recruit diversity in our tech talent here – women, minorities. I think one of our biggest challenges is drawing those individuals. It's like anything else: If you're always drawing the exact same pool of individuals with the same backgrounds and experience, you're not going to get the types of ideas that you would from people who have a diverse background. I think it's going to get worse, not better, and that's just because we are seeing such an uptick in tech activity here.

What are your thoughts on how Charleston's technical landscape has grown?

There's been a few companies here that have clearly led the way for massive growth, and I believe that the former mayor and the current mayor have really done a good job of staying focused on making Charleston a really attractive place for technical companies.

I don't think the companies have budgeted enough to really get the type of talent that you need here. I think they are suffering from that right now. But I think Charleston as a whole, and certainly groups like the Charleston Digital Corridor, have done an amazing job providing an environment for technology to thrive here. 

STEM Premier Reaches Milestone – Quarter Million Student Members

STEM Premier, an online platform that helps connect students with post-secondary institutions and organizations, announced today that it has surpassed 250,000 student members, three years after launching its networking platform. Making up this milestone are a diverse group of students across all 50 states, from more than 19,000 schools and 2,000 colleges, with interests in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as well as other industries.

For the Charleston-based tech start-up, surpassing a quarter million student members is more than a milestone, it's about connecting students, schools and businesses in powerful ways that enhance the success of everyone involved. "Our mission from the very beginning has been simple – helping students to be seen," said Casey Welch, COO and co-founder. "Each of our student members has a unique story – from showcasing their accomplishments and experience, to connecting to colleges, to discovering apprenticeship and career opportunities. It's these stories, told through STEM Premier, that allow the students to stand out from the competition and really shine."

Through the online platform, students, ages 13 and up, create comprehensive digital profiles showcasing their skills, talents and abilities. Colleges, universities, and corporations can identify emerging talent, view student profiles, and connect via direct message – bridging the gap between talent and opportunity earlier. By exposing aspiring young individuals to higher education and the many sectors within STEM including health-related occupations, mechanical engineering and computer science, STEM Premier is able to tailor each students' experiences based on their profile.

"Take for example, STEM Premier high-school student member Cody Corneglio," continued Welch. "Cody joined STEM Premier after completing the ACT Test. He received an email from ACT inviting him to create a free STEM Premier account so that he could share his test scores along with his other accomplishments, with businesses, schools and organizations who may be looking for someone just like him. And that's exactly what happened."

Cummins Turbo Technologies, a STEM Premier client, was interested in identifying and recruiting talented students for their apprenticeship program. Through STEM Premier, Cummins was able to identify a diverse pool of students who were the right fit for their program. Corneglio was among them. After receiving a direct message from Cummins inquiring whether he'd be interested in their program, Corneglio immediately jumped at the opportunity.

"What I like most about STEM Premier is that it gives students the chance to get their name out there and find opportunities they would not know about otherwise. I am truly grateful that STEM Premier helped make the opportunity with Cummins possible," explained Corneglio.

STEM Premier continues to welcome not just students who are focused in STEM fields, but others who have skills and interests in the creative arts, design, business-related careers and more. Virtually all types of talent can sign up, build a profile and begin to open doors for scholarships, internships, training programs and permanent employment.

About STEM Premier

STEM Premier(r) is an innovative online solution that connects talent, post-secondary institutions, and employers in one digital ecosystem. The solution is uniquely designed to assist talent in planning their own educational and/or career pathway as early as age 13 and to showcase their academic and technical achievements in particular areas, such as STEM, throughout high school and beyond. The solution also provides a targeted recruiting tool for colleges and employers, via talent profiles and direct messaging, to engage talented individuals and ensure a stable and continuous workforce pipeline. The result is a single end-to-end platform that serves the needs of talent, post-secondary institutions, and employers and tracks individuals from educational experiences to workplace success.

Digital Corridor Launches New CODEcamp Kids Platform

The Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to announce the release of the new CODEcamp Kids platform. This platform, developed exclusively for middle school students, incorporates a new website and the MyClassHub curriculum portal for educators and students. It represents the first major upgrade of the code education program since its introduction in 2015.

The new CODEcamp Kids website provides comprehensive information about the program, class schedules, frequently asked questions and registration. The MyClassHub curriculum portal contains the lesson guides for both students and teachers.

"CODEcamp Kids represents the best of Charleston's 21st century economy with the entire program, from curriculum development, engineering and program, instruction being handled by a team of passionate and dedicated professionals from our community," said Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation Chairman, Kirk King.

"With the launch of the CODEcamp Kids platform and focus on educator training, we are well positioned to fill the void in code education that exists for middle school students throughout our community and beyond," said Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade.

The new CODEcamp Kids portal was developed through the generous support of tech companies through their annual membership dues to the Charleston Digital Corridor.

South Carolina Coding School Closes After Four Years

Peter Barth is confident that six months from now Greenville will have another coding school. He just won't be running it.

Barth, founder and CEO of The Iron Yard, a Greenville-based coding "bootcamp" and programming school, and the board announced in July that the coding school which once boasted 20 to 25 campuses stretching across the United States would cease operations by the year's end.

The announcement on the school's website called it a "difficult decision to cease operations at all campuses after teaching out remaining summer cohorts."

It was the second major coding school to announce it was closing this year. San Francisco-based Dev Bootcamp, launched in 2012 and later bought by Kaplan, will graduate its last class in December.

The Iron Yard's board included Barth; Eric Dodds, its chief marketing officer; and three representatives from the Apollo Education Group, a privately owned corporation headquartered in Phoenix that owns for-profit colleges, including the University of Phoenix.

Barth said he couldn't speak about the board's deliberations related to the decision to close or whether the board's vote was unanimous.

Apollo on June 11, 2015, acquired a 62 percent interest of The Iron Yard for $15.9 million, according to a 2016 Apollo Group annual report.

In recent years, Apollo has found itself entangled in growing financial issues, declining enrollment and lawsuits, USA Today reported. In a first quarter 2017 report, the company reported net revenue of $484.5 million, compared with $586 million in the first quarter of 2016.

First-quarter new degreed enrollment at the University of Phoenix was 20,200 and total degreed enrollment was 135,900, according to a statement, respective decreases of 17 percent and 23 percent from the same period last year. The statement also said operating income for the 2017 first quarter was $8.4 million, compared with an operating loss of $45.2 million for the first quarter last year.

Apollo was acquired in a $1.1 billion deal in February by the Vistria Group and Apollo Global Management, an unrelated company.

Barth said increased regulations did not play a direct role in the decision to close Iron Yard.

"I think just as an industry in general, for-profits were out of favor under the last (Obama) administration," he said. The attitude shifted, he said, when President Donald Trump took the Oval Office in January.

Former President Barack Obama in 2014 announced new federal rules targeting issues of cost and debt at for-profit colleges. But in June, the U.S. Education Department sought to freeze Obama-era changes that would speed up erasing federal loan debt of student borrowers, as reported by The New York Times.

A Coding Bootcamp Market Size Study for 2017, led by Course Report, found coding bootcamps expected to graduate nearly 23,000 students and grow by 52 percent this year based on responses from nearly 100 percent of U.S. and Canadian coding schools.

The $260 million industry is in its fifth year, and the number of bootcamp programs has grown to 22,949 students expected to graduate this year compared with 2,178 students in 2013.

Barth, 40, started The Iron Yard in 2013 after leading several successful startups.

He was a computer science major at Vanderbilt University in Nashville for a couple of years, but never earned a degree, instead dropping out his second year. When he left he became a stockbroker and later a software entrepreneur.

Barth and his family moved to Greenville almost 11 years ago, primarily for a better quality of life.

In Greenville, he became involved in NEXT, an arm of the Greenville County Chamber of Commerce, that plays an active role in the growth of knowledge-based companies in the Upstate.

Within a year of NEXT taking off, Barth took on a leadership role and co-led a number of projects, such as building the NEXT Innovation Center off University Ridge.

The Iron Yard started as a startup accelerator out of the NEXT Innovation Center. The company started in the summer of 2012 and the coding school came next in 2013. It later split from the accelerator in 2014.

The Iron Yard was not initially founded to open as a coding school, but it quickly became the first and only coding school in Greenville, and was one of the early coding schools in the Southeast and in the country, said 31-year-old Dodds.

In spring 2014, Iron Yard added campuses in Charleston and Atlanta. Three months later, branches opened in Durham and Houston, then another three months later in Orlando and Tampa.

The following year, the company opened more campuses in Texas, launching in new cities every three months.

Apollo's investment helped to escalate campus openings.

Apollo had already started operations in Phoenix and was working on one in London. Barth said Iron Yard didn't assume operations in Phoenix, but did take over the London campus, which eventually closed.

"Economically, it never worked. It was so expensive," Barth said.

In fall 2016, The Iron Yard closed the Detroit campus and five more campus closings followed early this year.

That left the Iron Yard with 15 in-person campuses across the country, including in Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Nashville.

"Definitely kind of a surprise we ended up where we ended," Barth said.

Code school critics

Barth and Dodds waved off criticism of coding schools, a trend that followed as for-profit coding schools dotted parts of the U.S. in the last several years.

A Bloomberg article published last year, titled "Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools," warned potential students from enrolling due to piling debt and lack of preparation for tech jobs.

Both Barth and Dodds said they're aware of the coding school criticism. Part of that, both said, stemmed from competitors that were small, unlicensed and unorganized.

There was also the sticker shock.

Tuition for the 12-week course at Iron Yard could cost nearly $14,000. The Course Report study said coding school tuition can range from free to $24,000. The average tuition is $11,469.

Most Iron Yard students were between the ages of 25 to 35 and were looking to transition out of prior careers, Dodds said.

Dodds said Iron Yard wasn't necessarily a replacement for a four-year college degree, but he said Iron Yard students were paying drastically cheaper per hour with more one-on-one time with their instructors.

Jose Vidal, a professor and undergraduate director at the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina, has been teaching a senior capstone course to undergrad seniors for the past three years.

Most USC students in the College of Engineering and Computing start as freshmen, but the department does get transfer students from technical schools, he said.

In a senior survey taken in the spring, Vidal said most graduating seniors had job offers before graduation, with the median starting salary at $69,000. Others went on to graduate school.

Vidal said some seniors went to work at Google, Amazon or Microsoft, though the majority stay within a 100-mile radius of South Carolina, working in Charleston or Charlotte.

While the department doesn't survey corporations, companies Vidal has talked to at career fairs told him they are looking for traits beyond just programming skills, such as good personal skills and sometimes knowledge of business and accounting.

Whether he would recommend a coding school to a student, Vidal said it depends on the person, though he leans on the value of an undergraduate degree. Vidal has taken online classes before, and said he could see himself enrolling in coding school programs.

"You can certainly get a job without a degree. ... Half of the people working on software don't have degrees in computer science. That's always been true," he said. "It's always been the case that demand for programmers has exceeded the number of degrees granted."

What's next?

There's no amount of coding to answer what's next for Barth, Dodds or the coding scene in Greenville.

Since Iron Yard's closing announcement, Barth said he's received phone calls inquiring whether the school's shutdown means the tech scene is going away.

"No," Barth said flatly.

As far as the concrete campuses go, Barth said a few Iron Yard employees will hang around until early 2018, but his or Dodd's next venture remains to be discovered.

"We will definitely be involved in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Barth, who will stay on the boards of NEXT and ChartSpan, a successful medical start-up created out of Iron Yard. "I'm fully committed to Greenville," he said.

Dodds is, too. He closed on a home in Greenville in August.

"It really has been pretty cool to build a company in Greenville, and we love it here," Dodds said.

Barth said both have received several job inquiries, but all focus on major cities such as San Francisco and New York.

"Not interested. I want to be here," Barth said, admitting the reality, however, that most companies in Greenville are not looking for their next CEO or chief operating office.

Life after Iron Yard definitely brought a grieving period, Dodds said. But both said the positive feedback brought by current students and some of the roughly 3,000 alumni has been comforting.

"It's extremely sad and difficult, but I think that was a rare opportunity to look back and see the effect we've had," Dodds said. "... (It's a) privilege to be a part of it."

Other options

The Iron Yard expanded to Charleston in 2014. It set up shop near Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant before relocating to Princess Street on the peninsula.

While the Greenville-based operation is shutting down, other options will still be available in the local area for fledgling techies: JRS Coding School, founded by Jack Russell Software, now runs a boot camp in Mount Pleasant. And the Charleston Digital Corridor offers introductory code classes for adults and kids through its CODEcamp program.

CODEcamp

Coding Programs Shift To Meet Market Demand

For around $10,000 and three months of time, the promise of a well-paying programmer job awaits.

That is the pitch of many coding schools. Most have similar business models: Students focus intensely for a few months, classes are typically taught by professionals, and graduates are deemed entry- or junior-level programmers ready for hire.

Coding schools exploded onto the scene in 2012 to meet the ever-growing technology sector's demand for more skilled programmers. Companies' expansions often surpassed their ability to hire qualified people fast enough.

The U.S. now has around 100 coding boot camps, which are on track to graduate 23,000 developers this year, according to Course Report, which tracks coding boot camps. It is a $260 million industry today, the report said.

In the last year, 15 new schools have opened and six have closed, spurring debate over the need for and effectiveness of such schools. A notable closing came when Dev BootCamp said it plans to shutter its operations by the end of the year. Since 2012, the San Francisco-based school had expanded into six cities.

In an interview with Quartz, Dev Bootcamp President Tarlin Ray said an increasingly competitive market and the rising cost of hiring qualified teachers made it difficult to continue.

Closer to home, The Iron Yard said it plans to close its operations by the end of summer, including its Charleston site. The Iron Yard launched from within a tech-focused coworking space in Greenville in 2012. It has since expanded to 15 campuses around the country.

Students graduated from the 12-week course with the guarantee of a job within six months. The closure comes without much explanation. The company said in a statement that the decisions was made after "considering the current environment." Calls made to the founder were not returned.

"While our journey is coming to an end, we will always take pride in the thousands of people our staff helped to launch new careers," the statement said.

Only two coding programs designed for adults remain in the Lowcountry - JRS Coding School and the Charleston Digital Corridor's CodeCamp. This does not account for the region's coding camps for kids, or the programming degrees and coding classes offered at higher education institutions in the region and around the state.

"We would like to see our community full of expert developers, so we're not planning on going anywhere as long as the demand is there, and I think the demand continues to grow," said Tom Wilson, the founder and lead instructor of JRS Coding School in Mount Pleasant. "I see companies in Charleston literally posting hirings daily for software jobs, so we feel like this is still a pretty good spot."

Coding offerings

Most students come to the JRS Coding School seeking a career change; some arrive after deciding college was not a good fit. One student is a rising sophomore in college who attended coding classes rather than finding a summer internship. All students thus far share the goal of becoming a developer and working in tech."From my perspective, if anyone wants to learn to code, we want to teach them and give them a good foundation for their career," Wilson said. JRS operates within the Jack Russell Software Innovation Center, an arm of Tabula Rasa Healthcare Inc. Wilson is Tabula Rasa's chief technology innovation officer.

The innovation center and coding school recently moved into a new Mount Pleasant space at 111 Coleman Blvd.

Wilson and Trip Ottinger teach the students, preparing them to enter the field as junior-level developers, capable of building full-stack web applications using JavaScript.

Since launching last summer, the coding school has graduated 21 people.

The first two cohorts had 15 graduates, and 80% of them found coding jobs in the Charleston region within 90 days of completing the course. The most recent cohort ended a few weeks ago; job placement updates are not yet available for those six students.

"We feel like we're doing pretty good for the first year," said Wilson, noting that tuition revenues do not yet fully cover the school's expenditures. Wilson hopes to see class sizes grow to 20 students over time, helping to make the school profitable.

The course costs $10,000. While the expense and 12-week commitment could be barriers to entry for some, Wilson said the model also opens the door to people who cannot afford or do not want to attend four-year college programs. The next cohort launches Sept. 18, and another will begin in January.

The Charleston Digital Corridor also teaches people to code, but its offerings are weekly and at night to accommodate people with full-time day jobs. Since 2012, more than 1,200 adults have taken CodeCamp courses. Some students wanted to dabble with coding; others have gone on to work full time as developers.

CodeCamp offerings previously included five courses, taught in the Flagship buildings near Calhoun and East Bay streets in downtown Charleston.

While attendance has remained steady over the years, an 80% drop off rate occurred after the third course. Most students were not completing the more challenging courses in the sequence.

Responding to this data and changes in other offerings across the Lowcountry, Ernest Andrade, executive director of the Digital Corridor, decided to revamp the coding program.

CodeCamp now combines elements from its first three courses. The curriculum introduces students to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Coursework includes creating a high school yearbook page, building a basic calculator and creating a daily water meter.

This round of CodeCamp launched a few weeks ago with 11 students. They meet every Tuesday night for 2 1/2 hours for two months. It costs $495, and students who continue on and enroll in the JRS Coding School get $500 off their tuition there, Andrade said.

"Now people can see if they want to make a career out of this. They will gain a general knowledge and understanding. They will have learned something," Andrade said. "And if they do decide they do want to make a career out of this, they can go on to other programs."

Andrade said the Charleston market is performing well with supplying entry-level talent to the tech sector, but gaps remain in finding enough senior-level programmers and managers.

Experience wanted

Nina Magnesson, BoomTown's catalyst for citizenship and social innovation, said Charleston needs more coding courses offered at night and at lower prices to accommodate those working full time or those who cannot afford a $10,000 coding school.

She also wants to see a bigger focus on training of junior-level developers to become more advanced. She said that newly trained coders need real-life experience but that it can be a financial burden on a company to hire a new programmer and invest the time and money into giving them that practice.

"We still have that 18-month gap where BoomTown can't afford on its own to hire a junior-level developer that just graduated from Jack Russell or Iron Yard necessarily and ramp them up so they're actually billable hours," she said.

She wants the state to fund apprenticeships and internships at tech companies, enabling midsized software firms to hire greener programmers and then provide them more in-house training. The state, readySC and technical colleges run a similar training program for manufacturing positions, massaging the curriculum to fit each company's specific needs.

A Charleston-based startup looks to fill some of those workforce training gaps. Carolyn Finch, Amy Piazza and Suzette Bussey founded Powerhouse in spring 2016.

The firm teaches women to code over six months, and then assists them for another six months with finding contract work with Charleston tech companies, or with Powerhouse. The goal is to get students experience in the workplace, in the hopes of those jobs becoming long-term.

Classes often take place in the evenings and in employees' homes or in their Broad Street office. Flexibility is key to getting more women in the mostly male-dominated tech sector, said Piazza, Powerhouse's chief technology officer.

The first cohort had three graduates; two have jobs under contract with Snagajob, and the third decided not to pursue coding. One student who briefly came to Powerhouse now works at LinkedIn.

"Until you actually get the work experience, companies really don't want to hire you," Piazza said. "So, we did that first step. We give you the job and help you build your portfolio and your experience levels, and then you're more marketable to other companies."

Powerhouse does not charge for services until students are employed. Students then pay 15% of their salary each month until they pay the $12,000 owed for coding courses and job placement services. The next cohort will launch this fall.

Wilson said coding schools overall have a place in the tech workforce development landscape, alongside higher education institutions' offerings. He said the 12-week model has proved to be the most successful among coding schools.

While people can teach themselves to code and free resources are available online, Wilson said the coding school model offers uninterrupted time to intensely focus on learning how to code –- something that can be hard to fit into a daily schedule.

"As someone who has been training developers for a long time, for over 30 years, the formula that I see work the best is to have a foundational process of absolute focus on learning to code for a period of time to build that proper mindset on how to solve problems with code. ... It's a challenge to learn to code, and you want to set yourself up for success."

Upcoming Events

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Intro to Web Development

CODEcamp is a continuing tech education program designed for busy adults exploring a potential new career in the software industry or working professionals seeking a career change. Students learn the fundamentals of web development (HTML, CSS & Javascript) in a hands-on classroom environment. This CODEcamp class:

  • Introduces coding & web development in a convenient and affordable after-hours format
  • Help uncover a passion and potential career in the high-wage, high-demand tech industry
  • Features a balance of lecture & lab with students writing code from the very first class
  • Are delivered by passionate professionals from Charleston's tech companies

Learn more and register HERE.

The Golden Equation of Monetization

In the modern app economy, users are used to getting everything for free. And with thousands of games, apps, networks and services fighting for users' time and attention, just building a great app and even getting featured by Apple or Google is not enough to guarantee success.

In order to build a scalable business, you must understand the "golden equation" that drives monetization and growth so that you can design your business accordingly.

At the October Fridays @ the Corridor event, learn from monetization expert Ethan Levy, head of the new Charleston office of game developer N3TWORK. In this session, Ethan will teach you the ins and outs of the golden equation and how the team at N3TWORK use it to drive the Top Grossing success of Legendary: Game Of Heroes. Learn more and register HERE.

Revolve Conference

Revolve is an event for people seeking to grow their careers or businesses through better design and smarter marketing. Learn more and register HERE.

BiblioSummit: Cities + Libraries 2017

The library has never been easier to use and it is changing how cities, schools and universities strategize about their digital future. Join us at this groundbreaking event to celebrate the launch of a new type of partnership between cities and libraries. Learn more and register HERE.

BSides - CHS 2017

BSides is an open platform that gives security experts and industry professionals the opportunity to share ideas, insights, and develop longstanding relationships with others in the community. Learn more:

CODEcamp Meetup

Technology is in every aspect of our lives. Attend our CODEcamp meetup to learn the basis of what drives the technology we use every day. It may just spark an interest that leads you to pursue a career in web development.

During the CODecamp meetup, you will:

  • Learn about our Introduction to Web Development course
  • Meet our expert instructors
  • Hear about tech ed opportunities beyond CODEcamp

Register HERE.