Coding · Coding Bootcamps

Are coding bootcamps a good resource?

Fareez Ahmed

November 25th, 2014

I'm thinking of attending a coding bootcamp and was hoping to speak with entrepreneurs who have been through them before. I'd like to hear the pros and cons, especially if you went in with an idea that you wanted to build.

Jeff Chang Startup Guy, ER Radiologist & Hunting for AI

November 27th, 2014

For me, a bootcamp made all the difference -- but your mileage will vary.

I know it's a bit cheesy, but the main thing that a bootcamp should help you with is "learning how to learn".  I went to Dev Bootcamp (DBC,, here in SF, but any good bootcamp should be focused on helping you get comfortable with that state of absolute confusion, where you're learning & internalizing the most.  If you're confused all the time, you're doing things right.  And then it doesn't matter if you're learning just RoR, or just JavaScript -- or if you're picking up Scala, Go or Elixir later on your own -- they've all got more similarities than differences, you just need to know how to get going.

There are some people who are already super-comfortable with confusion & hacking on their own -- in that case, the main benefits of Bootcamp are 1) speed and 2) learning to work well with others & in teams.  On average, we see that Bootcamp helps you learn 3 times as fast as doing it on your own -- to be expected, since you're there 15 hours a day, and when you have questions, mentors and other students can help.  And in good bootcamps, you're pair programming most of the time, and in teams the rest of the time, so you start understanding how to work well with others.  Not to mention an understanding of Git team workflow -- it's the practical stuff needed to become a junior developer, without most of the theory that they'd teach with most CS degrees.  Hopefully you'll be interested enough to learn the theory later, on your own.

I'd try to add 3) empathy and 4) friendships, but that's too idealistic.  Based on experience, even 90 hours a week talking & pair programming with other people isn't enough to make some people more empathetic / learn how to keep friendships alive long-term, if it's just not who they are, or if they're not ready for it yet.

But for me, coming in from the startup angle, bootcamp did make all the difference.  I met the co-founders for my first startup at DBC, even though I'd headed off to U. Edinburgh at the end of DBC to study machine learning.  And when that first startup fell apart, I was pulled into our current startup by my co-founder Doktor, also from DBC (with an idea that he came up with while he was at DBC) -- and since then it's just been a whirlwind of fun, stress, confusion & learning : )

Good luck!

Bonnie Lai Past Founder . #500Alum . Startups

December 2nd, 2014

You should figure out why you want to learn to code first. What is the end outcome you are looking for in learning to code? Are you looking to fill some knowledge gaps? Change in career? 

A bootcamp is not for everyone. I've seen people entering bootcamps with no passion for technology or programming, paid for by loving parents & relatives, who end up suffering in distress and wasting valuable tuition.  

First, find out what you really want out of attending a bootcamp. Then research the camps.   They can give you a leg up - if you are attending them for the right reasons and are dedicated to it. 


November 25th, 2014

I must agree with William.

What is the purpose of you going thru a bootcamp?

Do you expect to learn to code?

Do you expect to meet people who can code?

I have been to then as well as provided them.

In a startup view, there are a couple of things you need from a basic view, a corporate site, this can be very simple or complex. A simple site is one that tells people about you. A web app would be something that someone can login and you provide information to them. You have to determine what you are looking for.

If you are looking for mobile programming, don't waste your time at a bootcamp. Mobile normally falls into two parts, the actual handset code and then the server side, if your providing something on a mobile app then there probably is something that is providing content or that the user is connecting to some sort of back end system, this is where proper API's really help create your product.

With this in mind, its important that you determine what you are looking for and what you expect.

If you want an overview of what programming is for web or mobile, there are tons of books.

If you want to write your own iPhone apps then you need to understand what that means, to start with you need a Mac, some programming knowledge (You can get this with a few books and few hours of reading) and then pay Apple $99 for a developer account, thats it.

Well maybe not exactly all you need, you need to have someone help with a basic icon for you (Needed for your app) and then some graphics help for the user interface (UX and UI) and then a starting point for the app. If you want to connect to a back end system then there is a little more work. All this can be done and can be learned but do you really want to know all this?

If you have an idea and think you can market the idea then focus on that, why would you want to learn to program? Focus your energy where it belongs, there are few companies where the CEO is the idea person, marketing person and developer, this is very rare plus why would any one invest with only one person. So you quickly find it takes a team to be successful. An idea and a market is needed but also a good programmer but most important is a fantastic graphics person, this is what will make you stand apart.

This about what you want, if your an entrepreneur then you should find that being in a group for a couple of weeks does not work, learns the minimum skill and make the most of it.

There are lots of ways to get started if your not a technical person again there are so many of them available you need to ask yourself why you want to become one of them.

Got more questions? send me a message, I'm always happy to help.

Doug March Product Design & Engineering

November 25th, 2014

Good list here -

Jeff Hertzig Hardware Engineer at Apple, Inc.

November 25th, 2014

Where are you thinking of attending? I am interested in knowing more about this as well. Thanks for asking the question!

Matthew James

December 3rd, 2014

Replying to Jeff,

I would agree someone forming a tech startup should have a very good understanding of software and how to sell software. I do also think it matters what type of Leader one wants to be and their management style whether or not they go to a coding boot camp. I think there is a balance to how much engagement and involvement one should have.

Most strategic leadership theorists will say you hire the right people, inspire them, remove impediments, and empower stakeholders to do their jobs. From my time in Coroprate America I learned that most executives do not know everything about what their directors and managers are doing, sometimes nothing whatsoever about what their teams are doing, but they do know how to hire the right people and require of them a set of clearly outlined objectives without smothering people.

Michael Haapaniemi Business Analyst at A.T. Kearney

November 29th, 2014

I would disagree that a bootcamp can be replaced by a $10 book.  Being able to ask questions to an instructor and having someone to guide you through your moments of confusion made all the difference.  In addition, they'll let you know what the most important topics are, and make sure you're solid on them, whereas with a textbook you may skim over something important.  If you're not already a coder, going by the book would be a labyrinth in my opinion.

I had minimal coding experience beforehand, and was able to come out with the groundwork, and more importantly, the ability to "learn how to learn."  I currently don't code for a startup but am able to build my own web apps in my free time.

I had a great experience as one of the first Web Dev classes for The Starter League (known at the time as Code Academy), which teaches Ruby on Rails in Chicago's 1871 tech startup hub.  If anyone has any questions about it, feel free to shoot me a message!

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

November 25th, 2014

Check out the responses in this discussion

Shiva Chettri CFO & CEO at OpineIdea

November 25th, 2014

As far as I'm concerned. I would prefer your bootcamp, as it is a get way to learn about future in-comings and possibilities. This is what they follow in lean start-up.

Jeff Chang Startup Guy, ER Radiologist & Hunting for AI

December 2nd, 2014

Replying to Matthew -- from my experience, only the people who're passionate about learning to program will get far enough to be in a full-time programming bootcamp ... it's a self-selected crowd.  Not to say that millions of people don't learn to program entirely on their own, but if you've taken the trouble to apply & surround yourself with people who are similarly motivated, it's a safe bet to say your heart's in it.

If you're going for the purpose of building a startup, realize that your role evolves a great deal as your startup grows.  When it's just you and your co-founder, it works a lot better if both of you know how to code -- it's why YC tends to avoid startups where the confident glib MBA is accompanied by the quiet scared-looking coder.  Once you start building your team, you realize that your role is mostly all about hiring, since your hires will determine your culture, your ability to respond to challenges, and everything else about your startup.

If you don't know how to code, it's tough to understand what you're looking for in a programming hire.  True of just about every role in a startup -- if you or your co-founder(s) haven't done the job yourself at one point or another, how do you know what the role actually involves?  What kinds of skills and temperament you're looking for?  Whether someone's actually meeting or beating expectations?

At the end of the day, you likely won't be doing anything beyond strategic vision and hiring ... but that's not to say you shouldn't understand what's going on code-wise, especially if you're building a software-driven startup.  And realize that even if programming were your life, there's no way that one person can handle everything anyway -- coding, monitoring, updates, security -- by the time you're really worrying about security, you'd better have a dev team of greater than one.