5 years ago, in January 2016, Sylvain and I launched Holberton School with 30 students. By offering a new type of education, and focusing both on high quality and accessibility, we showed to the world that with the right tools and methodology, anyone with the will could become a software engineer and change the course of their lives. Without a prior CS background, our first students got jobs at the best Silicon Valley companies; some went straight to full-time jobs at Dropbox, Tesla, Google, Facebook, and Nvidia, while others started with an internship in many great companies, such as NASA to work on saving the world.
People noticed, and in 2018, education companies and political leaders came to ask us to open more schools in their regions, in order to both create positive social impact and help with local economic development. It was a no-brainer to us. Our vision had always been global, and everyone in the team joined the company to participate in its mission: making first-rate education accessible to as many people as possible, and helping 1M students access high-paying jobs by 2030. That is why, from the get-go, we developed many tools to automate and enrich the education experience of our students. Our projects were auto-graded – given a very personalized set of feedback to our students -, our intranet was automating recurring tasks, we detected plagiarism, etc. Holberton School is led by software, and it was thus easy for anyone to replicate our education with these tools. We launched the first partner Holberton School in January 2019 in Colombia. Today, Colombia is running 4 Holberton Schools. By the end of 2019, we had 9 schools around the world.
Like everyone else, COVID hit us in 2020. We quickly made sure our students would have an uninterrupted education and supported those in need with computers and internet access since they were no longer able to access our physical schools. In parallel, during that year, we doubled the number of schools in the world. We now have 18 schools around the world, in 8 different countries and the number of enrolled students is growing exponentially. 2020 was also the year where we extended our accessibility in the USA, by partnering with the George Kaiser Family and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family foundations to open a Holberton School in Tulsa with living stipends (of up to $1,500 a month!). That school quickly outgrew its premise and they just announced that it will double in size next year.
Unfortunately, during 2020, and still today, a lot of people lost their jobs. Our Holberton School partners came to us to brainstorm on how we could help more. So together we launched new ways for partners to extend their reach and impact in their region to a new type of student: when current or new clients reach out to us, we are now able to create in a matter of hours, a new, tailored program, that they can use to address their market and that they can deliver online or in-person.
COVID-19 accelerated the digitalization of all industries. It was – and still is – an accelerator of change and disruption. The Education field was not an exception. The vast majority of learners around the world lost access to their education and training and both companies and countries realized they had a gap to fill. In the middle of the pandemic, new types of customers reached out to us: countries, training centers, universities… These new partners were already in education. What they wanted most was our software stack: our auto-grader, our anti-cheating system, our student information system, … They have an education system that works for them, but they want to upgrade it with the best technology. This was a replay of 2018, when partners came to us to replicate our methodology in their regions, except that this time, this was a 1,000x bigger opportunity, both in terms of market size, but also in terms of impact.
Over the last years, we have built the best technology in order to offer our students around the world the best education possible. We created a stack of technology and programs that we called internally the “OS of Education”. Today, we are now proud to offer it not only to Holberton School students and staff, but to ANY student and teacher around the world. The Holberton team, investors, trustees and I are very proud of this new chapter for Holberton, and we are today very happy to announce our series B, led by Redpoint eventures with new investor Pearson Ventures and participation by existing investors Daphni, Imaginable Futures, Reach Capital and Trinity Ventures. This new round of funding will help us deliver the Holberton OS of Education to the world and reach our goal of helping 1M students by 2030.
As our partners always say: “LET’S DO THIS”.