NEXT Academy coding school raises US$300K from 500 Startups
By Lum Ka Kay January 28, 2016
- Malaysian startup aims to teach 1mil people in SEA coding within 5yrs
- 95% of grads get a job within 3mths, or form their own startups
MALAYSIAN coding school NEXT Academy said it has raised US$300,000 from 500 Startups in a pre-seed round that would accelerate its goal of teaching a million people in South-East Asia coding and growth hacking skills over the next five years.
The funds will be used to introduce more programmes into its syllabus, roll out a night school, and expand its team and number of locations, according to cofounder and chief executive officer Josh Teng.
“Every government knows bringing more citizens into the tech industry can transform the economy.
“The Malaysian Global Centre for Innovation & Creativity (MaGIC) has helped pilot and proved that the NEXT Academy way of doing it can make the transformation happen at the right speed, while 500 Startups’ funding will help us to do it at a larger scale,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
MaGIC is a government agency established in 2014 to boost entrepreneurship in the country, as well as to further develop the startup ecosystem.
Starting out as Code Division back in July 2014 before being renamed to NEXT Academy last August, the coding school has produced over 150 graduates. Its flagship programme is a nine-week bootcamp that teaches people how to build apps.
“Students who join us are typically individuals who want to start their own companies or join tech startups,” said Teng.
“They range from high school leavers to bankers, pharmacists, consultants and more,” he added.
According to Teng, the coding school now has 10 instructors. “When we started out, it was only myself and three senior engineers from GrabTaxi, LoanStreet and VLT Labs,” he said.
“As we grew, we hired some of our exceptional graduates and put them through a training programme so that they could become mentors at NEXT Academy,” he said.
He said that most of the instructors were either NEXT Academy’s own software engineers or freelancers working with startups.
“This ensures that our instructors are not purely academic and have relevant practical experiences to share with our students,” he added.
Teng claimed that NEXT Academy graduates have a 95% employment rate, with many ending up working with a regional startup or multinational company.
“Graduates who have transitioned into working as coders are now in companies such as KFit, MindValley and Manulife,” he said.
What about the 5% ‘who didn’t make it’?
“I wouldn’t say these students made it or didn’t make it. We only measured people who are seeking employment, as there is a good percentage of people looking to start their own companies as well.
“For those who are seeking employment, we measure it by their ability to get a job within three months of graduation.
“Other bootcamps may measure it as within six months of graduation, which would naturally yield a higher percentage,” he argued, adding that the other 5% will “make it eventually.”
Several Next Academy graduates have also founded startups that have subsequently received venture capital funding, like CoinPip and GoGet, according to Teng.
Its graduates also include four of the five members of the Malaysian team that won MasterCard Inc’s Masters of Code global hackathon.
Lack of quality coding programmes
Before starting NEXT Academy, Teng had cofounded Televate, an enterprise software company which had managed to raise a six-figure SGD sum from the Media Development Authority’s i.JAM funding initiative in Singapore and Chinese venture capital firm Quest Ventures.
He said the lack of good coders is a huge challenge for the tech industry and probably one of the most common pain points for startups.
“There isn’t a lack of universities teaching students how to code, but the syllabus isn’t changing as fast as the tech scene is.
“Furthermore, we have heard many times from people in the tech industry saying that a lot of computer science graduates came out with a paper but barely have any practical experience,” he added.
500 Startups managing partner Khailee Ng agreed with Teng that the Malaysian education system is lagging behind, especially when it comes to the technology industry.
“The education system we grew up with was built for, and led by, the industrial revolution,” said Ng.
“We’ve been in a software revolution for more than 20 years now, yet our education system continues to hold us back, and I’m pretty sick of it.
“But when you see teenagers, housewives and mechanics learning tech skills and tripling their income, all because of a nine-week coding programme, then you are seeing the future of education, right here at NEXT Academy,” he declared.
Who then, is eligible for NEXT Academy’s nine-week bootcamps?
Teng said that everyone is welcome to learn how to code.
“We have people as young as 16 years old, and the oldest was 43. What’s more crucial is the attitude of learning, of being willing to go through a lot of trial-and-error processes.
“But most importantly, they should all be willing to think. No spoonfeeding here in NEXT Academy,” he added.
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