By South Florida entrepreneurs, for South Florida entrepreneurs. All things tech in the sunny Silicon Tropic.
Who are you? (Where you from?). Ariel Quinones from Puerto Rico, an entrepreneur who wants to change the education world. Currently working on my first educational venture, Ironhack.
What is your job? Co-Founder Ironhack.
Tell us about the Iron Hack. At Ironhack, we educate people to become programmers. We offer an immersive 2-month program (referred to as a “coding bootcamp”) that is focused on training our students and then helping them get jobs as developers. One of the issues that we’re trying to tackle is youth unemployment. For it’s crazy to see the number of college-educated young adults that can’t find a job. At Ironhack, we’re focused on delivering a high return on investment educational experience. We want people to reach their financial, professional and personal goals in the shortest period of time. To achieve that we focus on teaching some of the most marketable skills in the world of tech.
When did it launch? We launched our first campus in October 2013 in Madrid. Our second campus started operations Barcelona by the summer of 2014, and our third campus in Miami in January 2015.
How did you get started, or how did you come up with this idea? I come from a family of educators. My mother was an elementary teacher and my father started a private university in Puerto Rico. Being exposed so closely to the world of education, I caught the educational entrepreneurship bug early on. I spent some time on Wall Street, but I always knew that I wanted to build my own company in the education world. While pursuing my MBA at Wharton, I met my business partner Gonzalo, who is from Spain. Gonzalo made me aware of the paradoxical skills gap issues that Spain was facing. On the one hand, the country was suffering from 57% youth unemployment. On the other, there were 700,000 unfilled jobs in coding and IT in the European Union. Ironhack was born then to address that issue.
What is a current project or idea your startup is working on? We are launching a new part-time format course for people that want to get the Ironhack experience but can’t enroll in the full-time format for whatever reason. Our first cohort in Miami starts in April.
How many people work for you? 21 people work for us full-time and over 50 part-time instructors.
What productivity apps does your team use? Slack, Trello, Sanebox (Email management), GoogleDrive, Calendly.
What was the worst thing that happened to your startup, and how did you overcome it? When we started in Miami, we had some legal issues that delayed the launching. We had to have a license we didn’t know about so we had to postpone the launch for 8 months! This was an incredible learning experience for us. When you go to a new market, you should do a regulatory and fiscal diligence, this way you don’t have last minute surprises.
What are the biggest challenge your startup faced? How to scale geographically (across the Atlantic!) without sacrificing quality.
How did you acquire your first 5-100 users? Our first cohort (13 customers) were acquired through PR (a leading Spanish newspaper) and an influencer post.
What is the best reason to start or grow a startup in Miami? In other words, what about Miami is great for a startup? I think that for an entrepreneur it’s incredibly important to be in a location where he or she is comfortable. The entrepreneurial journey is hard enough that you don’t want an additional source of stress. For me Miami is a great city that’s also very enjoyable to live in. Also, I like the fact that although the tech ecosystem is quickly growing, it still has a small and personable feel to it. It just makes it a lot easier to navigate and identify the relevant stakeholders you need to work with.
What do you think Miami needs to become the next startup hub? Honestly, I think Miami just needs to time to deliver on the promise. You can’t build a meaningful tech hub overnight. We’re seeing a big movement to push early-stage entrepreneurship and to fill the “top of the funnel”. Now us early-stage entrepreneurs need to work our butts off to make sure that we have some great companies that make it all the way to an exit or grow to national scale. We’ve already seen some good ones, but we need to see more of those success stories.
Do you think there are adequate fundraising opportunities in Miami? Absolutely. There’s angel syndicates, local VCs and VCs from other cities that have taken an interest in South Florida.
Do you use the services or product of any Miami-based startups? Meal Pass.
What book are you currently reading/the last book you read: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.
What is the best advice you can give to someone that is new to the startup world? Focus on your first milestone and go after it with all your energy. It’s important to have a sense of the long-term lofty goal, but if you don’t reach those first milestones your startup is doomed.
Best place for a business lunch: Tinta y Cafe.