ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque-based Cultivating Coders is headed to California this week as one of the top 50 semi-finalists in Tech.Co’s fourth annual “Startup of the Year” competition.
The company, which offers training boot camps for people in underserved communities to become web and software developers, won Tech.Co’s “Startup Night” pitch competition last March at the South by Southwest innovation conference in Texas. That gave it an automatic shot at the semi-finals at Tech.Co’s annual international competition during this week’s Innovate! and Celebrate conference in San Jose.
In August, the company was selected for advancement to the semi-finals from among more than 1,000 competitors. It will now compete against 49 startups to enter the final round, where five companies will face off for $250,000 in products and services.
“This is the big one,” said Charles Ashley III, Cultivating Coders co-founder and president. “My partner, Charles Sandidge, and I will participate to try and pitch our way to the top.”
Just making it to the final round would be a huge success.
“That would put us in front of top technology movers and shakers,” Ashley said. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”
Winning at South by Southwest and now earning semi-finalist placement in San Jose reflects impressive traction gained by Cultivating Coders since launching last December. To date, the company has graduated 36 students from intensive, eight-week coding camps in Farmington, Shiprock and Albuquerque that offer students a rapid path to high-wage computer programming jobs.
Unlike other programs, Cultivating Coders offers boot camps directly in underserved communities in urban and rural areas. It also has Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act certification, which allows low-income and disadvantaged students to receive federal aid for training.
Participation by dozens of Native Americans in the Farmington and Shiprock programs garnered national attention, earning Cultivating Coders invitations to the White House. It was one of only 10 companies to present at the president’s “Generation Indigenous” conference in August, and Ashley was at the president’s “Computer Science for All” summit this month.
Cultivating Coders is a spin-off from Deep Dive Coding, a 10-week boot camp run by Central New Mexico Community College’s STEMulus Center in Downtown Albuquerque. Ashley was marketing manager there when he met Sandidge, a Deep Dive graduate.
The Deep Dive program has trained 102 new computer programmers to date. About 80 percent now have full-time coding jobs. Others work as freelance coders, or they’ve launched they’re own businesses, said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus Center initiatives.
The center is now launching a new boot camp to specifically train coders on Microsoft technologies.
“These boot-camp style programs are kind of the wave of the future,” Mierzwa said. “Students can get in, study what they want and be finished much sooner than with traditional educational programs. It gives them a real jump start into good-paying jobs.”