Ladies Learning Code founders launch HackerYou startup

The ladies behind Ladies Learning Code have a new startup called HackerYou.

This time, it’s aimed at men as well as women — and it’s a for-profitventure.

HackerYouwill hold part-time evening classes for its first three-monthcourse in introductory Web development starting September 17. Classeswill be restricted to 30 people with a ratio of one instructor forevery 10 students.

The inaugural 12-week course costs $3,200 but is being offered at anearly bird price of $2,800 before June 30. That’s priced well above theworkshops offered by the non-profit Ladies Learning Code program, whichunderstandably sell out at just $40 or $50 each per person. The classesare so popular that they’re not restricted just to females.

HackerYou is in many ways an extension of what began with LadiesLearning Code (LLC), which nearly became a victim of its ownphenomenalsuccess.

Founded by Heather Payne, LLC launched itssmall, intimate courses oncoding and development for Toronto’s female technophiles-to-be lastfall. The courses, boasting small 4:1 student-to-teacher ratios,bargainbasement prices and a ‘chill’, non-intimidating atmosphere, were animmediate hit.

But completely self-financed and staffed entirely by volunteers, LLCwas so popular that Payne and her team members – Breanna Hughes, LauraPlant and Melissa Crnic – were run off their feet yet not making enoughmoney to sustain themselves financially.

“I couldn’t have a normal 9 to 5 job during the day but this wasn’t bigenough to become a fulltime job for me and our team,” Payne says. “Myfear was my team would run out of steam and Ladies Learning Code wouldbe shut down or get taken over and I just didn’t want it to fallapart.”

In February, Payne had a eureka moment: offer longer courses for peoplewho’ve already taken a few LLC classes and want to take the next step,and open it to both men and women as a for-profit business that can besustainable financially over the long term.

HackerYou is self-financed at this point but Payne hopes it willeventually turn a profit if it proves popular enough. Her goal is toexpand both LLC and HackerYou to other cities, a move that will likelyrequire her to seek outside funding, Payne says. She’s also consideringa franchise model for both LLC and HackerYou.

Although the for-profit IT training market is super competitive, Paynesees HackerYou as unique because it still offers a relatively smallinstructor-to-student ratio, evening only courses, and very hands-onlearning. Instead of a certificate, people who complete the courseswill walk away with a portfolio of projects they’ve designed andfinished, and even get to take part in a demo day, she says.

“It’s not for people who want to become developers,” Payne says. “Itreally is professional development…it’s for people who want to enhancetheir skills.”

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Christine Wong
Christine Wong
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at and is now a freelance contributor.

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