Thinkful Adds Offline Spin to Online Education for Career Advancement

Darrell Silver’s Thinkful is in the online education business, but it was a group of customers who taught the startup a new trick.

The New York-based startup offers online courses and mentors for career advancement. Thinkful was founded in 2012, is backed by Peter Thiel’s FF Angel and others, and is finding ways to adapt to the way people want learn. On Tuesday, the startup announced the public beta for its Thinkful for Teams service. CEO and co-founder Silver says this new offering puts experts in-person at offices where employees have enrolled as a group in the same courses.

These experts can be Thinkful mentors, he says, or someone from within the client companies with the extra know-how to help the students enrolled in the classes. The idea to pair someone onsite with such teams emerged last quarter, Silver says.

Thinkful offers four classes, covering such topics as front-end Web development and programming in Python. While it was common for individuals to signup for these courses, Silver says some folks at Chartbeat, another New York startup, enrolled together and formed study groups. “Because they were all colleagues, it made it more motivating for them,” he says.

As Web analytics provider Chartbeat grew, Silver said the company wanted to enhance the online curriculum for its staff with an in-person presence. “They brought in someone with more engineering experience to help lead, and participate with, the students in the class,” he says.

Thinkful CEO Darell Silver

Thinkful’ Darell Silver

But pulling a busy engineer away from work for a bit of class time is not always feasible, Silver says. So Thinkful developed a formal way to bring experts to teams in the same offices.

So far, Chartbeat and Noodle Education, also in New York, have been using Thinkful for Teams. Silver expects more companies will want to offer the service to their teams.

Prior to Thinkful, Silver co-founded Perpetually, an enterprise Web archiving service, in 2009. Smarsh in Portland, OR, acquired Perpetually in 2012, and Silver went on to co-found Thinkful with Dan Freidman.

Last February, Thinkful announced it raised a $1 million seed round that included backers Quotidian Ventures, RRE Ventures, and FF Angel. Silver says this year Thinkful plans to add more classes to its lineup and hire more staff. “The team is 12 today, it will be 14 by Feb. 1,” he says. “We’re looking at where else we can grow.”

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