Just over 10 years ago, the coding bootcamp model was born. Students paid around $15,000 USD to complete a full time, cohort based, in-person and instructor led 12 week immersive program in coding, then digital marketing and over time a broader range of digital skills. Cohorts were generally made up of novices, new to digital skills, many ‘career switchers’, some recently graduated from college or university, military veterans or other ‘trade’ focused workers looking for on on-ramp and pathway into tech. Bootcamp cohorts were almost guaranteed a job in tech and for most graduates, starting pay-checks were 50% higher than their prior job and these days with salaries averaging $70,000 USD. Whilst Bootcamp’s did not position themselves as an alternative to a degree, the ROI on time, cost and a 50% pay-rise in the booming tech sector was an incredibly compelling option.
10+ years on, Bootcamp’s are booming. Pre-Pandemic, General Assembly dominated the B2C category, Trilogy (now 2U) dominated University Partnerships and Lambda School (now Bloom) championed the ISA. Now, a much larger, increasingly global and more diverse cohort define the next-gen bootcamp landscape including players such as Coding Dojo, Digital House, Great Learning, Pathstream, ThriveDX, Simplilearn & Springboard to name but a few (examples only). Some would argue professional apprenticeship players such as Multiverse and OPM like platforms such as Emeritus are now firmly in the bootcamp category and represent the convergence of cohort based models with instructors, coaches or mentors towards clear labor market focused outcomes for the learner and/or employee.
The first generation of Bootcamps scaled their B2C offering through physical campuses and over time developed online cohort models. Around 2015, Bootcamps started establishing partnerships with colleges and universities who benefited from the curriculum, practical and project-based learning and much stronger industry linkages. Bootcamp-University partnerships have been growing faster than OPM partnerships for the last few years and are now expanding into local, state and national government partnerships in somewhat similar circumstances.
At the same time as Bootcamp’s started experimenting with University partnerships, the sector expanded in to B2B Digital Skills programs with large employers who again valued cohort led, instructor driven training. Large employers were looking for curriculum consistency to help build internal standards and a common language within a capability and in many circumstances needed a delivery partner who would provide the training in-person and online to global workforces in both re-skilling and up-skilling contexts.
The next-generation Bootcamp is a truly multi-channel, multi-market and multi-model platform, extending it’s reach from traditional in-person or online B2C programs, through government, university and business partnerships and further towards curriculum and content licensing, franchise arrangements and on-demand content that will increasingly compete directly with on-demand digital skills marketplace and catalogue incumbents.
Just as the model is evolving and expanding, so too is the addressable market through a more comprehensive set of digital skills programs. As the core offerings of coding, digital marketing, UX/UI and product management through to data analytics and data science build momentum, new programs in cyber security, dev ops/system and network management and now tech sales and metaverse/web3 and other advanced technologies are growing rapidly.
Bootcamp venture funding ‘Wave 1’ powered an initial cohort to pioneer the model and grow aggressively in a product and campus led strategy. Leading players scaled rapidly, and competition increased quite quickly, which also had un-intended consequences such as driving up the cost of acquisition as a brand new model gained traction with consumers. The market spawned a significant number of players very quickly, some of whom struggled to scale and the landscape represented a handful of medium to large platforms and a proliferation of hyper local sub-scale operators often linked to a co-working space.
After some time, a wave of acquisitions started consolidating the market just as the next generation of bootcamps got started with fundamental modifications such as purely University focused platforms to synchronous online only cohorts and Income Sharing Agreement funded models or pure-play B2B offerings. Funding ’Wave 2’ fueled experimentation and scale of these modifications. This accompanied a series of strategic acquisitions, as many OPMs and large publishers recognized the value of the model and acquired a bootcamp operator to add to their portfolio.
As the pandemic arrived, COVID forced immediate online delivery for those bootcamps not already multi-modal. Universities, governments and companies everywhere also sought accelerated digital skills partners who had student-ready curriculum, marketing and recruitment support, instructors and hiring relationships with career pathways. This coincided with a new wave of digital skills such as cybersecurity and tech sales, broadening out offerings and depending demand. The aggressive surge of growth capital through the pandemic has fueled ‘Wave 3’, now seeking to scale a multi-channel, multi-market, multi-mode expansion.
We expect an additional 1 billion post secondary qualified graduates over the next 30 years, presumably many of those will be digital skill domains and require ongoing upskilling as technology changes and the labor economy responds.
For now however, the digital skills demand vs labor supply gap is only growing. The formal and traditional post-secondary education systems represents more than $2T in annual expenditure, but for the most part in many parts of the world, is yet to embrace accelerated digital skills as a core part of their mandate. In the United States alone, there are 600,000 unfilled Cyber Security related roles against a total workforce of 1 million according to CyberSeek, a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The pandemic, the rise of micro-credentials and public-private partnerships, together with the corporate training market lacking the sophistication to deliver industry-ready digital skills, all accelerated demand and funding for the predominately instructor led, cohort-based Bootcamp model. Bootcamp inspired pathway frameworks could be adopted as mainstream models for formal education delivery, or take market share as a credible alternative, or scale with institutional partners to bridge the gap from post secondary education to job-ready graduates.
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