Bringing Programming Education Online, Thinkful Raises $4.25 Million

Thinkful, the online continuing education services company for programmers and developers, has raised $4.25 million in a new round of funding as it looks to expand its portfolio of education offerings.

“We’ve found a away to get a lot of professional engineers excited about helping people learn,” says Darrell Silver, who, along with Thiel Fellowship recipient Dan Friedman, founded the company in October 2012.

Connecting professional programmers and developers with students online, Thinkful operates like a lighter weight and cheaper version of the developer bootcamps and professional education companies that had cropped up over the past few years, according to Silver.

“You see a lot of students learning online much more effectively online and much more cheaply and that’s noteworthy. And it’s because of these experts working with these students,” Silver says.

Unlike a bootcamp, which can run in the $15,000 range for a three month program, Thinkful online education classes cost about $1,000 to $2,000 over the same period, and there’s no need to relocate or suspend work while a student learns, Silver says.

It’s a similar model to one that companies like Treehouse use for its own online education curriculum.

Currently Thinkful has roughly 3,000 students using its services. Classes, which typically take two-to-three months to complete cost between $300 and $500 per month.

The company’s latest round was led by Floodgate Fund, and included participation from previous investors RRE Ventures and Quotidian Ventures, Thiel, who participated in the company’s initial seed round, did not return as part of the Series A investment.

As part of the financing, Ann Miura-Ko, founding partner of the Floodgate Fund, will join the company’s board of directors.

With the new round in place, Silver says Thinkful will look to launch a different type of curriculum that will be a bit more selective, whereby the company can more readily monitor and measure the success of its student body.

One of the issues that Silver sees in the professional training market is the inability for the classes to measure their own efficacy, and it’s a problem that Thinkful will address with its new program.

Thinkful relies on a network of 250 professional engineers who drive 70% completion rates across the company’s classes. It’s a success rate that handily beats the single digit completion rates of other online programs.

“Traditional, classroom education for engineers simply doesn’t work, especially for adults with full- time jobs,” said Silver, in a statement. “Having a great mentor is proven to be the best, if not the only way to become a true expert; we built Thinkful around that idea.”

According to Thinkful, the company’s cadre of programmers have gone on to jobs at companies like Google, PayPal, and Instacart,

“Thinkful was more convenient than any graduate school, and I didn’t need to worry about loans,” said Cody Karst, an alumnus of the Frontend Web Development course in a statement. “Plus, I landed my first freelance job within weeks of graduating.”