SVB and Startup Institute: Working Toward a Greater Good

In any startup community there are a series of interconnected engines that are crucial for success—talent is perhaps the least well-understood, and the hardest to scale… There is magic in the [Startup Institute] program: the graduates arrive on the job with a mindset and pace that gives them an immediate positive impact.

— David Cohen, Founder and CEO of Techstars

We have exciting news to share.

As you may have heard, Silicon Valley Bank has invested $3 million in Startup Institute to support our worldwide expansion of offices and programs. Startup Institute’s and SVB’s visions are aligned, and we feel incredibly fortunate to move forward together with a shared mission.

The first Startup Institute program launched in the Summer of 2012, based on the observation that the best startups in Boston had a hard time finding people who could help grow their companies. Candidates seemed to have the “hard” skills, but failed to contribute when hired because they were disoriented and failed to understand how high-growth innovative companies worked.

[bctt tweet="we had no idea what the demand for this style of education would be, but we soon found out."]

The founders worked with their friends and networks to create a curriculum to teach the skills they knew were needed; testing a hunch along the way: that “hard skills” are only one small component of What It Takes to Survive in the innovation sector. Candidates hired based solely on technical expertise lacked important “soft” skills, like sociability, humility, and purpose (yes, those are skills; come sit in on a class and we’ll prove it to you). They assumed that the main benefit of doing so was that all the founders they had worked with at TechStars Boston would find it easier to meet and hire qualified employees who could actually thrive in a startup environment. We didn’t yet know that “transferrable skills” and “emotional intelligence” were concepts that would resonate loudly with not only cohort-after-cohort of amazing people looking to switch careers in cities across the world, but with the innovative companies around the world that hire them (often before they even graduate from Startup Institute).

In short: we had no idea what the demand for this style of education would be, but we soon found out.

According to the New York Times, Gallup Report and Business week, there were multiple factors working in our favor. 69% of tech executives cite talent as a top barrier to their company’s future growth. Combine that with the 70% of people who are unengaged, or actually hate their job, the 50% of college students who go un- or underemployed upon graduation, and the 84% of 2013 MBA graduates who say their expectations of return-on-investment (ROI) were not met, and you have a recipe for helping people find jobs they love (particularly in the innovation sector from whence we were born).

In 2013, we opened Institutes in New York and Chicago. In 2014, we opened schools in London and Berlin, and launched our part-time, hard-skills-focused, RampUp program.

The response has been humbling. Seven of every ten full-time students are referred by an alumnus. One out of every three students are hired by a partner company (which means they receive tuition reimbursement, because that’s the fair thing to do), and six of the remaining seven people are no longer looking for work three months after graduating. Our alumni are a maniacal group of evangelists, the likes of which most brands dream of earning (go ahead, tweet one of them and ask about us).  Our network of participating companies has grown to over 1000.


We feel confident that growth into new markets and the expansion of our service options was inevitable, but our strategic partnership with SVB Financial Group (the holding company of Silicon Valley Bank) means we can accelerate that growth and the evolution of new markets and products in 2015, and beyond.

It is a dream come true for those of us who have poured ourselves into making this a singular experience for our cohorts.

In the near-term … well, we want to share that feeling with as many people as possible. We want to celebrate Robin Hood style. And, while we’re at it, we want to continue our mission of making the Startup community more inclusive, and more connected to the wider world of intelligent humans, and not just those who have worked at other startups. To that end, we made the decision early-on to use a portion of these funds to establish an ongoing scholarship program for 2015, designed specifically to assist women, minorities who are underrepresented in tech and innovation fields, and military veterans. And because we’re at least as impulsive as we are idealistic, we’re kicking off the announcement with a handful of scholarships across all our institutes—available to all new applicants—applied toward our final full-time program of 2014 (starting in October).

Admittedly, this post is a love letter to SVB. Doing good for others has been at the core of our company since we opened our doors, but at some point, without partners who believe in our vision and support our anti-predatory model, none of this would be possible at scale. 

“Silicon Valley Bank has been a major supporter of Startup Institute since our inception,” said Katie Rae, Co-Founder and Chairman. “They deeply understand how the talent gap limits growth in the tech world, and the team has been consistently engaged in expanding our vision for the company and its role in the community since we first started working together. With their investment we can accelerate our development of new programs and our expansion into cities.”

“Through our experience and research, we know first-hand that one of the biggest challenges facing the global innovation economy is developing the talent to support growth,” said Claire Lee, Managing Director for Silicon Valley Bank. “Since we are continuously looking for ways to help increase innovation companies’ probability of success, working with Startup Institute to address this problem is a natural fit. It gives students an on-ramp into the startup world, as well as the skills to succeed, while providing startups with access to an expanding workforce to help them scale. Perfect.”


Banking the world’s most innovative companies and exclusive wineries, SVB offers diverse financial services, knowledge, global networks, and world class service to increase clients’ probability of success. With more than $29 billion in assets and more than 1,700 employees, they provide commercial, international and private banking through locations around the world. 

Forbes Magazine ranks SVB among America’s Best Banks and Fortune named SVB one of the best places to work. (Nasdaq: SIVB)

Silicon Valley Bank is the California bank subsidiary and the commercial banking operation of SVB Financial Group. Banking services are provided by Silicon Valley Bank, a member of the FDIC and the Federal Reserve System.