Startup Institute coming to Chicago this fall

This article originally appeared in Chicago Tribune.

A new program for training startup employees is launching in Chicago this fall, joining a growing collection of local resources seeking to match talent with growing technology companies.

Startup Institute was founded last year in Boston at TechStars, a startup bootcamp with locations across the country, including Chicago. Co-founder Katie Rae, managing director at TechStars Boston, said officials realized that "most founders and early-stage startups are strapped for time and don't have time to train people," especially new employees that lacked prior experience at entrepreneurial ventures. To address the training gap, Startup Institute offers an eight-week intensive course in one of four tracks: marketing, software development, product and design or sales and business development. The program is now accepting applications for its inaugural Chicago class, which will start in October with about 60 students. Startup Institute has so far graduated three classes in Boston and has kicked off its first New York class.

Chicago is home to a number of programs aimed at preparing aspiring startup founders or employees, including the Starter League and Dev Bootcamp. Those initiatives are focused mostly on software development and Web design. Startup Institute offers training in other areas, such as marketing and sales.

"Companies that are really scaling need to hire more than engineers,' said co-founder Aaron O'Hearn.

At the end of Startup Institute's eight weeks, graduates give a 60-second pitch about themselves to an audience of potential employers. O'Hearn said about 90 percent of the program's students have found jobs. The average age of the students is 28, with many of them boasting prior professional experience but wanting to get more targeted training in how to work in a startup environment.

Tuition is around $5,000, and Startup Institute offers scholarships, as well as different payment plans, O'Hearn said. In Chicago, some of the local instructors lined up to teach during the eight weeks include Brian Spaly, chief executive of men's personal shopping service Trunk Club; Troy Henikoff, managing director of TechStars Chicago; and Charisse Conanan, CEO of personal finance startup Smarteys.

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Startup Institute was a valuable addition to the city's startup economy.

'It's exciting to see new attention and interest in building out this important sector,' he said.

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