Citing Regulatory Uncertainty, Origin Code Academy to Close

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but that he is personally loath to leave San Diego, where he has spent three years building the startup’s brand and integrating the company into the region’s growing tech community.

In the meantime, Winkler said Origin Code will retain an instructor to work with the handful of currently enrolled students until they have completed the program. But that work will take place at another location, as the firm’s office in downtown San Diego has closed.

Erik Birkfeld said he hired three Origin Code graduates while at San Diego-based software company MindTouch. He said they remain at the company today. Birkfeld said he has found coding schools a useful pipeline of potential hires.

“You don’t have to go get a four-year degree to be viable and useful in this industry,” he said. “You can hunker down and do things with the people around you and the information and technology around you, and it’s a great jump-start to do something like a 12-week bootcamp to at least get you to the 10-foot level, where you can start to see a little bit more and choose which way you want to continue your education.”

Neal Bloom, chairman of local nonprofit tech advocacy organization Startup San Diego, said Origin Code had become an “integral” part of the city’s tech ecosystem. He appreciates how the company partnered its students with local companies on projects to give them real-world experience—and introduce them to potential employers.

Origin Code is far from the first coding school to struggle to stay afloat, although others that have closed have said finding a sustainable business model proved elusive.

Dev Bootcamp, founded in 2012 in San Francisco, closed last year. The company was one of the earliest coding schools to open. It expanded to locations in five other cities, including San Diego.

Dev Bootcamp was acquired by Kaplan in 2014, and said in a Twitter post when it closed that the acquisition had bought it some time, but that it still had been unable to find financial viability. Dev Bootcamp founder Shereef Bishay (who left the company in 2014) later founded another coding school, Learners Guild, which shut down this past June. And Greenville, SC-based The Iron Yard, which at one time had campuses in 20 cities, closed in 2017.

As in other industries, of course, there are bad actors in the coding academy sector. The BPPE closed one Bay Area-based company, Coding House, in 2016 after determining it misled prospective customers with its advertising, among other issues.

Notwithstanding such failures, the industry continues to attract students.

Two locally based coding schools remain in San Diego: Learn and a program offered through UC San Diego Extension, the university’s continuing education arm, by Trilogy Education, a firm that partners with universities to offer coding boot camps. Two coding schools that are headquartered in New York—Thinkful, which raised $9.6 million in venture capital in January, and General Assembly—also have a local presence.

The regulations under which the schools operate are the same as those that govern traditional for-profit colleges. For bootcamps, which pride themselves on being more lean and nimble, Learn’s Kaufman said it can be difficult to keep up with the requirements, such as having new courses approved before adding them to the curriculum. (Of course, regulators and other types of educational institutions might counter that those requirements are there for a reason.)

“It’s very unfortunate because I see the big picture of what [the BPPE] is trying to do—they don’t want bad seeds, they want people who are doing good work,” Kaufman said. “It’s important for schools to be regulated. I want people to be caring for students, but I think [the BPPE] just hasn’t caught up with the times yet, and they don’t quite know what to do with bootcamps.”

She said Learn will hold some events focused on career services in the coming months, and welcomes Origin Code students and alumni looking for job help to attend.

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