Solution Overview

Solution Name:

The Enhanced Mississippi Model.

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One-line solution summary:

A path for underserved and displaced workers into tech careers and full-stack coders in 13-months with continuing ed to senior developer.

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Pitch your solution.

Problems: (1) Under-representation of the underserved, minorities, and women in tech, (2) shortage of software developers in Mississippi (1,100) and the nation (500,000) and (3) lack of a single integrated path from a developers' first line of code to senior developer.

Our non-profit coding academy owns a for-profit software development company whose profits will fund new coders' training. We contract with gener8tor to provide a 10-week introduction to software development, followed by an 11-month full-stack curriculum. Over the next 24+ months, while employed by CodeWorks or others, they continue professional development with AWS Cloud (or similar certifications), achieving senior developer status faster than is typical.

Change Lives: After a year, our coders are making $37,500 on average and can expect to make $75,000 in several years, from $125,000 to $170,000, when they complete the AWS Cloud certification process.

Elevator Pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Problems

Under-representation of the underserved, minorities, and women in tech.  The EEOC’s report Diversity in High Tech measures under-representation of African Americans (7.4% vs. 14.4%), Hispanics (8% vs. 13.9%), and women (36% vs. 48%) in tech relative to the private sector overall and that women are significantly underrepresented in tech executive positions (EEOC). 

Shortage of Software Developers: nationally 500,000 (code.org). Several million jobs are probably available given (1) possible re-shoring of work sent overseas, (2) unlisted jobs (discouraged employers), and (3) growth in need for coders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a national growth rate of 22% in software developer employment. However, since computers became commonplace in the 1960s, our society, our corporations, and our educational system have not produced coders - especially full-stack coders.

Lack of a Direct Path From First Coding to Senior Developer. Coding education is fragmented among 2- and 4-year colleges, three- to four-month for-profit boot camps, and self-education online. There is no single system that takes learners from their first lines of code through senior developers. Coders must piece it together themselves. This fragmentation is particularly difficult for those outside of the traditional sources of coders.

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What is your solution?

The Enhanced Mississippi Model takes learners from their first lines of code: "Hello World" to senior software developers in a single, integrated pathway.

The Model is a sequence of gener8tor's 10-week Upskilling, then our 11-month full-stack, and finally full-time employment at CodeWorks or elsewhere. Then coders participants can pursue AWS Cloud Professional or other similar certifications.  Full- or part-time paid employment begins after the Upskilling (either in the industry or with CodeWorks) or after the full-stack certification.

We use instructors with industry experience.  We simulate a workplace with the look and feel of an agile development team. In the full-stack program, the coders make three project presentations that are evaluated by IT professionals.   We avoid the credentialing and accreditation processes of educational institutions and the revenue pressure of for-profits.

We are developing hybrid remote virtual learning with centralized live synchronous instructors linking to several scrums by streaming, each with a junior instructor.

CodeWorks: is an employer and software development company that is minority-majority, owned by MCA, with profits partially funding the initial training. The entire program is free to the coders, with no income sharing agreement; CodeWorks revenue supports professional development and, partially, the training of new coders at MCA.


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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Across its three cohorts to date, the Academies have graduated 61% of its 123 entrants (75, plus five from the part-time cohort); 73% started careers in tech, 17% went to higher education or the military.

Underserved Young Adults: Our young coders are among the most naturally entrepreneurial youth: their life experiences, coding skills, and entrepreneurship produces business concepts that are creative and distinctive.

Displaced Workers: Many workers now find themselves displaced into a weak job market by COVID-19 and need to upskill.

Veterans: Our COMCAST Veterans Code program upskilled existing workers, qualifying them for enhanced employment. We issued five full-stack, 14 front-end, and seven back end certificates in our beta test in 2019-20. COMCAST continued funding.

Understanding and Engaging: We show them a pathway to a tech career and implement it in a simulated workplace (not a traditional classroom). We spur them to self-education through which they are diverted to a career in tech.  

Address Needs: TEMM is a powerful tool for racial justice, diversity, inclusion, income inequality reduction, and economic development for its coders and their communities.

Increased Income: typically earn 2x-5x to start, more with continuing ed.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Increase access to high-quality, affordable learning, skill-building, and training opportunities for those entering the workforce, transitioning between jobs, or facing unemployment
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge and your selected dimension.

Quality, Affordable Training for Underserved, Displaced, and Minorities: We help high school graduates, and low-wage workers transform to full-stack development in 11 months for less than $20,000. We help veterans, displaced workers, and underemployed degree holders retool.

Blacks & Minorities: Our graduates are 70% Black, 30% female. We increase diversity in tech, reducing income inequality and the digital divide. 

Competency-based, Lifetime Learning, and Credentialing: We help coders become lifelong learners. We teach foundations of software development and teach them their first programming language. We then challenge them to learn additional languages on their own to solve problems provided to them.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Jackson, MS, USA
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In which US state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • Mississippi
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
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Who is the team lead for your solution?

Richard A. Sun, CFA

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How many people work on your solution team?

Total - 7

Full-Time - 5

Part-Time - 0

Volunteer - 1

Contractor - 1

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization?

From inception, we have been a minority-majority enterprise (currently about 70% Black, 30% female).  As we scale, minorities and women will continue to be over-represented. The Model is equally applicable to Latinx and other underserved populations, including Native American and single parents. We believe we can become an example and role model for established tech companies on diversity.  We are committed to promoting our coders faster than is typically possible except in high-growth companies such as ours, where new senior positions are continuously created. We will aggressively recruit management talent from the target populations.

Our Coders.

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Many will also become employees of Mississippi CodeWorks.

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Our competitors are the computer science departments in higher ed and the short, intense “boot camps” run by for-profit companies and some non-profits.  Our process is unlike either.

We consciously simulate a workplace and specifically a software dev team with software instructors straight from industry, usually without teaching credentials. During the full-stack program, the coders undergo three project/performance reviews; they present, explain, and defend their coding projects to IT professionals and hiring managers.

The classroom model of higher ed is not as effective and especially does not engage our target population.  Nor would our coders be successful in the boot camps; it takes more than six months to assimilate and integrate the abstract concepts required for software development. Similarly, it takes at least a year to learn soft skills by living them (turning minimum wage workers into IT professionals).  

We have intentionally packaged existing elements into a unique process with extraordinary results.  In our first three years, we have produced 80 coders, primarily from underserved recent high school graduates, and demonstrated the ability to hit a 67% completion rate and 90% placement rate; these are unheard of workforce development results.

A few software companies and IT staffing firms have added developer training programs.  These were add-ons to an existing company. They can’t work as naturally with our underserved population. Those programs work best with people already possessing professional workplace skills.

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Describe the core technology, if applicable, that powers your solution.

The IT hardware and software that we teach our coders to learn and use is integral to our operation. Our coders learn to exploit the power of the hardware and software. The Enhanced Mississippi Model immerses them in technology and helps them become fully adapted to it.

We prepare the developers for the workplace they will be entering by simulating that workplace in our program. They learn coding and soft skills by living them, not by listening to a lecture about them. The technology that we train people to use in our training process is the tech they will be using in their first jobs.

Educational institutions force the learning process into their model (classes several times a week, lectures, self-study, tests, etc.).

Remote working technology enabled us to transition from in-person coding scrums to virtual scrums seamlessly with minimal productivity loss on a week’s notice and planning.

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Provide evidence that this technology works.

The Mississippi Coding Academies certified/graduated our first cohort of 20 entry-level full-stack coders in September 2019, our second cohort of 33 coders in May 2019, and our third cohort of 22 coders over summer 2020. Of the 75 certified coders, 42 are employed in tech, and 13 went on to higher education or the military (Alternate Placement).

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Gener8tor Evidence: The Upskilling program has successfully scaled since inception across four cities throughout Q3 and Q4 of 2020. This programming has resulted in 130 graduates alone and led to the facilitation of 250 interviews. 

In the five months since its inception, gener8tor Upskilling’s four pilot programs (which ran in Summer and Fall 2020) show excellent early outcomes and illustrate that gener8tor UpSkilling is invaluable to both workers and employers. For example, the North East Wisconsin Upskilling program, which ran in Summer 2020, received just shy of 200 applications in under 14 days. Below is a chart reflecting the performance of learners who participated in this same Upskilling program,  which clearly demonstrates that the technologies utilized by gener8tor Upskilling are indeed effective in upskilling learners with the tools and skills they need not only to complete the program, but also to be placed quickly into in-demand jobs shortly after program graduation. 

  

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Audiovisual Media
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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What is your theory of change?

One Sentence Impact: By showing underserved young adults a pathway to tech careers and then helping them execute it, we change their future, increase their income, increase diversity in tech, increase community income and economic development, reduce income inequality, contribute to racial justice, and build a sustainable community.

Logic Model: We prepare the Evaluation Reports required by the WKKF; reports for FY2018 and 2019 reports are available.

Activities: Instructors guide the new coders in learning and practice coding at gener8tor’s Upskilling Boot Camp and MCA’s simulated workplace, followed by employment at Codeworks or elsewhere and continuing education led by MCA.

Short Term Outcomes: entry-level coders with jobs, earnings increase of two to five times, initial income $35-40,000.

Long Term Outcomes: individuals have careers in IT, likely earning $75,000 without continued professional ed, $125-175,000 with.

SMART Goals

Specific: Produce entry-level coders: (1) for the underserved low-wage workers: under $20,000 each in 13 months; (2) for those with soft skills:under $12,5000 in 13 months part-time.

Measurable: by our Graduation Rate of 65-75% and placement Rate of 90% (including a few in higher ed) and income levels, documented in detail in our Evaluation Reports and corporate-style Key Performance Indicators memos.

Achievable: Demonstrated by our record to date.

Replicable: We have graduated seven cohorts and with 80+ graduates: six cohorts over three years from two locations in our full-time underserved model and once in our part-time evening format. The model is easily replicable and scalable if the actors are faithful to the core model.

Time-Bound: 13 months part or full time for full-stack and higher-level certifications at timing to be determined, but within three to five years.

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Rural
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
  • US Veterans
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many people did your solution serve in 2019? 2018? 2017?

gener8tor 2017 nil, 2018, nil, 2019 nil, 2020 24; MS Coding: 2017 20, 2018 33, 2019 340.

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What percent of the people you served in 2019 were between the age of 15 and 30?

  • 81-100%
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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Scaling: throughout Southeastern US - subject to funding.

Leveraged Impact: Every tech job is estimated to add five other jobs, rather than two for non-tech jobs (Morretti, 2011). A coders impact is multiplied by five for the jobs and upskilling from low-wage to tech worker has an impact on the family (say three to five other close family members).

We have seen that this transformation sets an example for the community. By creating a growing community of coder developers in Mississippi from the under-resourced minorities, we have already changed the way: the coders think of themselves,  their peers think of them, their community thinks of them, the community thinks of itself, Mississippi thinks of itself, and the way all of them think of their potential futures. In time we will change the country thinks of Mississippi.

Replication: We are open-source and will make our business model available to all. We expect that variation of our model, retaining the core concepts (simulated workplace, industry instructors, non academic environment.

SEMATECH for Coding: In the same way that a public-private partnership revived the US chip manufacturers in the mid 1980s, similar concepts could be applied to our business model to scale rapidly. SEMATECH required $100 million and staffing commitments over five years by all the chipmakers, the government provided matching funds over five years and waived certain government regulations, such as anti-trust, to allow competitors to collaborate.  Here scaling could produce hundreds of thousands of coders with extraordinary impact (see below):

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

To grow, we need funding, management, senior coding instructors, and senior developers/dev team leaders for CodeWorks.

Cultural Barriers: We are changing the lives of young adults from minimum wage workers to careers in tech.

Staffing: In addition to our junior coders from The Academies, CodeWorks will, over time, need team members in the following roles:

  • Product Owner: to work with the client business to scope the project, set terms and parameters, and manage the product creation and delivery. (currently sought, see detailed position specification sheet attached)
  • Operations Lead: will manage Dev Teams (Scrums) via the Dev Team Leaders (to be added when business volume or funding permits).
  • Scrum (Dev Team) Leaders & Mid- & Senior-Level Developers: will be added as required
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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Funding: We have been successful in funding MCA to date. We have a record that, with effort, a good story, and good partners should result in funding. Until then, we will bootstrap.

Management: We will need help finding qualified senior management, preferably with significant minority representation. We will use the EdTech community and staffing firm to supplement.

Senior Coding Instructors and Staffing: So far, the social impact attributes have helped us attract instructors. We are currently bootstrapping and will begin with part-time, project-based contractors as Scrum (Dev Team) Leaders & Mid- & Senior-Level Developers. We will convert most team members to full-time, once we have:

·       built a solid, continuing book of business or

·       raised startup funding,

We will continue to use part-time workers and contractors for surge capacity and to acquire specific expertise. We will also offer developers (junior to senior) the ability to work part-time to satisfy family, educational, or other personal needs.

CodeWorks Dev Team Seniors: Similarly, as for the Instructors (many of whom can overlap), we should be able to attract them.

Cultural Barriers: To date we have been successful in the transformation because each class has a person assigned who is an expert and usually part of the community.

We do not underestimate the difficulties and challenges of the proposed undertaking; we have all done many startups. We do think this one has the characteristics of success.

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What outcomes data would you like to be collecting that you are not yet able to collect?

Incoming Workers demographics and characteristics.

Evaluation of our training programs: the Upskilling at gener8tor and Full-stack at MCA.

Career paths and data for graduates.

Survey of employers to evaluate.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit
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How many people are on your leadership team? (Of these, please provide the number of individuals from your leadership team that are full time, part time, and volunteer)

Total - 6. Full-time - 5. Part-time - 0. Volunteer - 1.

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What is the number of individuals from my leadership team that attended community college for at least one year?

One.

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What is the number of individuals from my leadership team that received a Pell grant as a college student?

None.

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In what year was your organization founded? How many years have you worked on your solution?

Mississippi Coding Academies, LLC was founded in 2017; Mississippi Code Works, Inc. was founded in 2019, and became operational in 2020. We began working on the solution three years ago in 2017.

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The entire staff, management, and board of MCA are effectively on the team.

Richard Sun has focused on startup and high-growth companies as a private equity investor, adviser, board member, and executive. He has played a key role in nine startup companies, has invested $230 million in four early-stage companies for institutional private equity investors. He was the first Entrepreneur in Residence at Innovate, Mississippi. He is a founder of MCA, a Director, and has led its Jackson location since its inception in 2017. He is also the founder, Chair, and President of Mississippi CodeWorks. A recent startup of which he is the co-founder was an SXSW CPG 2020 Pitch Finalist, Pepperdine Most Fundable Companies Finalist in 2019.

Sarah Lee began serving as an advisor to the MCA board in 2018 during her tenure as a member of the faculty and Assistant Department Head in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Mississippi State University. Sarah assumed a new role in 2020 as Director of the School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi. Sarah spent nineteen years at FedEx Corporation in various roles in the information technology division before following her passion for increasing tech diversity in her home state of Mississippi.

The positioning of Team’s Lifework: Both Rich and Sarah are committed to MCA and its mission, are volunteers and passionately committed to this effort and to turn it into a national success story with professional management.

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

The employers of Mississippi Coding Academies' graduates serve as key partners throughout and beyond the program. In partnering with us, they:

  • Staff the three project and personal reviews all coders undergo while at the Academies;
  • Give guest lectures, site visits, etc.;
  • Serve as mentors for the coders; and
  • Hire the coders.
Employers of Academy Graduates:
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Evaluators of Academy Coders:
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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Key Resources: Funding, Senior Coding Instructors.

Partners & Key Stakeholders: gener8tor, Employers, Independent Developers

Key Activities: Select prospective coders, coding instruction Upskilling and Coding Academy, employment software development, and continuing professional development at CodeWorks, marketing software development services to businesses.

Type of Intervention: learning software development at gener8tor Upskilling and full-stack at the Academies, and employment and continuing ed at CodeWorks.

Channels: New coders through social media, word of mouth, and recruiting at high schools. Software development services (B2B) via word of mouth, social media, targeted calling.

Segments: Beneficiaries: Primary: individuals who become software developers, Secondary: their family members, the community, employers.

Value Proposition: We increase human capital by upskilling coders to initially increase their income 2x to 5x; starting income in MS is $37,500 ($75,000 in five years). Human Capital Return on Investment is 10 to 25 times over five years measured by GDP increase over five years with no terminal value additional).

Cost Structure: The cost of Producing a full-stack coder from underserved young adults is under $20,000 (gener8tor and Coding Academies) and under $12,500 in the part-time program for working professionals. Includes coding instructions. 

For Software development at CodeWorks:

Surplus: Net Income and Cash Flow from CodeWorks will fund the training of new coders at MCA.

Revenue: for Upskilling at gener8tor and Full-stack at MCA: donations, grants, workforce development funds, and profits/cash flow from CodeWorks. 

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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What is your path to financial sustainability?

The profits from Mississippi CodeWorks will eventually supplant donations as the primary funding source for the Coding Academies, creating a sustainable model.

Financial Projections for Mississippi CodeWorks, Inc.

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If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.

MCA Funding has been granted donations and workforce development funds:

Mississippi State - Workforce Development  grant - $480,000 - FY 2018, 2019

Appalachian Regional Commission - $102,000 - FY 2018, 2019

Mississippi State University / Anonymous Foundation - $180,000 - FY 2018, 2019

COMCAST - $97,500 - FY 2019, 2020, 2021

W. K. Kellogg  Foundation - grant - $1,025,000

Ergon Corp. - grant undisclosed

Entergy Nuclear - $15,000 - FY 2019

ATT - $10,000 - FY 2018 

Staplecotn - $2,000 - FY 2018, 2020

Individuals (various) - $5,850 - FY 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

CodeWorks started this year and has about $100,000 in business.

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If you seek to raise funds for your solution, please provide details.

We will continue to raise donations for MCA as we have to date, albeit in larger amounts to scale.

For example, with $2.2 million next year, $8 million in the second year, and $49 million in the third, we can train 6,000 coders. Coders produced is directly a function of funding, assuming we can also source instructors and manage growth: more funding, more coders.

For CodeWorks, we will:

  • Raise funds to hire senior management, marketing, and dev team leaders to supplement the junior coders and expand more rapidly, or

  • Continue to bootstrap fund CodeWorks as we have to date.

We have not fully developed a funding strategy for CodeWorks. Traditional VC or angel (even impact) intuitively seems inappropriate. We need to review options with Mission Related Investing and Program-Related Investing at the major foundations for non-dilutive funding. Family Offices and their beneficiaries may be able to fund blend value investing in CodeWorks.

The team has raised billions of dollars across the globe and in many different industries with multiple securities forms. 

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What are your estimated expenses for 2021?

Below is our budget for next year is: $1.3 million based on committed
or expected funding.  Salaries are $1 million including fringes, and
admin is $150,0000, and the rest are under $100, 000.  We have multiple
budgets based on available funding.

Our budget and planning document for the Mississippi Coding Academies' Jackson location.

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Partnership Opportunities

Why are you applying to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge?

We believe The Enhanced Mississippi Model represents a new and superior tool for tech workforce development.  Being selected as a winner will provide recognition and validation of our solution.

Access to the resources allocated to the winners will help us achieve our goals.

Access to major tech companies with validation of winning the competition.

Advice from this EdTech group.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Funding and revenue model
  • Board members or advisors
  • Other
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Please explain in more detail here.

Funding: we need a mix of donations to MCA and a funding mechanism to be determined for CodeWorks. The profits from CodeWorks will fund an increasing portion of MCA’s needs. The initial funding for CodeWorks could be a Program-related Investment, a Mission-Driven Investment, a hybrid debt/equity security, or equity. VC or equity seems inappropriate here, given the (partial) ownership by MCA.

Board members or Advisors: we need advice on scaling fast and operating a software development company.

Scaling: We will need assistance on scaling; this is a people and capital-intensive organization. We will need senior industry instructors as employees or perhaps seconded from the major tech companies.

Staffing: It may be useful to partner with an IT staffing firm to source our instructors, senior coders in CodeWorks and management and place our graduating coders.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

Funding, Scaling, and Advisory: Through our research, we have identified several VC firms that we would like to partner with, including, but not limited to: Imaginable Futures; New Profit - Education and Workforce Sector; Learn Capital; and Owl Ventures. We also seek to partner with senior investment officers of major foundations as relates to those foundations' mission investing and program-related investing:

Staffing: Diversant, the largest Black-owned IT staffing firm in the United States.


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Solution Team

  • YB YB
  • PK PK
  • Dr Sarah Lee Director, School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering, University of Southern Mississippi and Board of Directors for MS Coding Academies, University of Southern Mississippi
  • JP JP
    Jonathan Panter Mississippi Coding Academies
  • Cole Shearer Product Director, gener8tor Upskilling, gener8tor
  • Mr. Richard Sun CFA Director, Chair/Pres. MS CodeWorks, Mississippi Coding Academies & CodeWorks
 
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