Startup Institute CEO Diane Hessan Is Stepping Down

This article originally appeared in BostInno.

A big leadership change is coming to Startup Institute, an organization that has become increasingly important to the Boston startup ecosystem and beyond.

[bctt tweet="CEO of @StartupInst @DianeHessan Is Stepping Down, via @BostInno" username="StartupInst"]

Diane Hessan, Startup Institute's CEO, confirmed to BostInno on Sunday that she is stepping down at the end of this month. In an email to friends and colleagues the previous day, she wrote "an opportunity has arisen for me to contribute to a cause, leading to this November, that I feel extremely passionate about. I just cannot turn it down." She added: "When this project is finished, I will figure out my next move!"

Reed Sturtevant, one of Startup Institute's co-founders and a board member, said the board has known about her decision for about six to eight weeks. He said the board has already interviewed a number of qualified candidates to take her place, but that there's no current timeline for when the next CEO would be hired. Until that happens, Startup Institute's senior management team will oversee operations.

"We’re really sorry to see her go, but it’s a unique and personal opportunity for [Hessan] and we appreciate that," Sturtevant said, adding that Startup Institute has been doing really well under her watch.

Hessan said she can't yet reveal what's she's working on but hinted that it's not an entirely new job.

"It’s just a really interesting project related to something I’m passionate about and I just had to go do it," she said.

When you're an entrepreneur, you really cherish adventure and I think I took a look at this and thought, 'this could be a a really interesting adventure.'

Hessan joined Startup Institute in October 2014, about two years after it was founded with the mission of preparing people with the skills, mindset and network to find a job at a startup, but has since expanded to providing a talent pipeline for larger companies as well. It provides a full-time program, along with part-time classes, for web design, web development, digital marketing, and sales and account management.

[bctt tweet=".@DianeHessan is leaving @StartupInst to help a different cause, via @BostInno" username="StartupInst"]

Having expanded beyond Boston to New York and Chicago in its first few years, the organization now has an alumni network of 1,300 people who have gone on to work for companies like The Boston Globe, ezCater, The Grommet and Grapevine. Hessan estimated that about 700 of those have come through the Boston program.

Sturtevant, who's also co-founder and managing partner at venture capital firm Project 11, said a recent third-party audit of Startup Institute's program found that 92 percent of graduates get a job in less than 100 days and that 57 percent receive two or more job offers. The organization has also made improving diversity at workplaces a priority, with 41 percent of its graduates being women and 35 percent people of color — which it had said are higher than the national average.

Hessan, who previously founded and led consulting firm C Space for nearly 15 years, said she wouldn't be surprised if more people step up to apply for her position now that the news is out.

"I think my job as CEO at Startup Institute is the best job in the Boston ecosystem — if you're an extrovert anyway," Hessan said with a laugh. "I not only had a chance to get to know and build relationships with all of these incredible growth companies of all sizes, but I’ve had a chance to get a more intimate understanding of what we don't write about and herald as much as we should, which is the people who work at these companies at all levels."[bctt tweet="CEO @DianeHessan says the best job in Boston is up for grabs —hers, via @BostInno" username="StartupInst"]

During her tenure, Hessan said her three largest achievements have been the following: taking "what was a brilliant idea and program and turn it into a business," which she said the organization has done financially by creating a playbook that will allow it to expand into other cities; making quality a priority over expanding faster to other cities by raising the bar for its curriculum and the types of students it would accept; and bringing on "some phenomenal talent into the company."

While she's leaving soon, Hessan said she will continue to be connected with Startup Institute's community.

"This is not just classes," she said.

What we’re trying to do is build a community of talented, ambitious people who want to make a difference and have them stay connected partially through their connections to us.

[bctt tweet="We're building a community of talented, ambitious people who want to make a difference— @DianeHessan" username="StartupInst"]