Jim Deters, CEO and founder of Galvanize, courtesy photo.

Publisher and Reporter with Silicon Hills News

At Galvanize Austin’s one year anniversary party on Friday, Jim Deters, the company’s CEO and founder, lauded the company’s accomplishments and how it has changed lives.

“The way you change the world is you democratize access for entrepreneurs to have employable skill sets,” Deters said. “There are really only two upwardly mobile paths in this world today…You need to learn how to build your own company or learn software engineering or data skills.”

Deters founded Galvanize in 2012 as a “nerd castle” or a “nerd health club” to create a community to give entrepreneurs, engineers and data scientists the skills they need to succeed. He built all of the things he wished he had coming out of DePaul University in Chicago, Deters said.

“This is a 21st century school for entrepreneurs and engineers,” Deters said.

Galvanize is home to “instructors, students, startups and others who are dedicated to level up their skills.”

Deters, a serial entrepreneur, has strong ties to Austin. He built his most successful tech startup here.

“A lot of my history that led to Galvanize is Austin-related,” Deters said.

In the late ‘90s, Deters built software companies. And then in 2004, he co-founded Ascendant Technology, based in Austin. At that company, they launched a school to teach Java-based skills to employees. They sold the company, which had more than 250 employees, in 2012 to Avnet.

Deters lives in Denver, but he keeps an apartment in Austin. After selling Ascendant he wanted to do something meaningful to change the world, he said. He jokes that his penchant for entrepreneurship made him “unemployable.” He wanted to build something to give others the opportunity to build something.

Galvanize started in Denver and now has eight campuses around the country. It just opened a New York location. Other campuses are in San Francisco, Boulder, Fort Collins and Seattle.

The various Galvanize locations allow entrepreneurs to build networks and connections in other tech centers, Deters said.

Galvanize is not a coworking company, Deters said. Everywhere they are, there is a WeWork across the street, he said. WeWork is a different business model than Galvanize, Deters said. Galvanize has the largest data science faculty on staff and that sets it apart, he said.

Most of the growth in the U.S. economy is coming from highly skilled jobs with the majority requiring post-secondary education credentials. The U.S. faces a shortage of as many as 21 million skilled workers by 2020 in manufacturing, energy, health care, technology, education and other fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Galvanize is changing someone’s career trajectory and earnings potential during a lifetime by providing them with skills that are in demand in the marketplace, said Bill Blackstone, general manager of Galvanize Austin.

“We have many students who have come from a lot of varying backgrounds,” Blackstone said. “We can provide them an opportunity to develop those technical skills and go into a field like web development or data science.”

Galvanize measures its success on lives transformed, Deters said.

In Austin, they’ve taken homeless people, Best Buy clerks, frozen yogurt stand workers, Cello players and more and provided them with the skills they need to get a high paying technology job, Deters said.

“We are a very sophisticated vocational school,” Deters said. “We’re an accelerated Masters program where instead of walking away with a bunch of debt, you walk away with a job.”

Galvanize is also making strides in addressing the diversity and inclusion issues prevalent in the technology industry, Deters said.

“That’s part of our core mission,” he said. It provides scholarships in partnership with Atlassian, IBM and Google and others to get more under-represented groups into its programs.

And Galvanize doesn’t charge to place its students, Deters said. It wants to work in partnership with companies to provide technology skills to its workforce, he said.

“Learning is an active sport and it never, ever stops,” he said. “Anybody that thinks it does will be extinct.”

During the last year, Galvanize has had more than 120 companies that call Galvanize home, Blackstone said. Those companies have gotten around $37 million in funding.

Galvanize offers a full time six-month web development program for $21,000 and a three month data science program for $17,000. It also hosts weekly events and has a big mentor network.

At the anniversary event, Tosin Awofeso spoke about his experience going through the six month long Galvanize web development program and how it changed his life.

Awofeso was basically homeless when he found out he and his partner, Sophia, were having a baby. A friend gave him some money to enroll in the program at Galvanize. He quit doing photography and music gigs to study full time during the program.

When he graduated in January, he had a job offer. He negotiated a good salary, he bought a car and now he has money to cover all his bills and to take care of his baby and Sophia.

“I’m so grateful to Galvanize,” Awofeso said. “Coding is the future.”