3 years ago Marc Andreessen famously declared that software is eating the world. The core idea – one that we strongly believe in at Shasta Ventures – is that over time all industries will be reinvented by advances in software. Just as software innovator Amazon overtook Borders and as Netflix surpassed Blockbuster, ultimately every industry will be reinvented through software innovations. But none of these advances are possible without the key building blocks in place. Inexpensive computing power, scale-as-you-go storage, and powerful developer tools are essential for this transformation, but on their own they are insufficient. None of this reinvention happens without talented software developers making it happen. And on this front we are woefully behind. Demand vastly outweighs supply, and our traditional liberal arts higher education system, great in many ways, is not suited to mass-producing computer science graduates with the necessary technical skills for today’s world.
In the spring of 2012, Roshan Choxi and Dave Paola (and later joined by Clint Schmidt) set out to attack this problem. From their own experience as aspiring programmers, they knew that they were more successful learning software development through the watchful mentorship of a co-worker or manager than they had ever been in university. They knew that they learned best through practical, hands-on creating, not through repetitive exercises. And they had grand ambitions to make their solution available to every person on the planet with an internet connection, not just those within close proximity to a physical-based education institution. From these insights, Bloc was born. Today, we are announcing Shasta’s investment into the company by leading its $6 million series A financing.
Bloc offers mentor-led online courses in software development and design. The courses leverage Bloc’s proprietary curriculum, and students are matched with regular mentorship from experienced industry professionals. The intensive courses require significant commitment, but also are flexible to match a student’s individual life circumstances. The curriculum, world-class mentorship, and intensity result in students regularly completing courses with the skills necessary to be hired into full-time software development positions. In the online education space we have had hesitation investing in companies selling into bureaucratic educational institutions, but we are compelled by direct-to-student offerings such as Bloc’s that offer students a tangible financial return from their investment.
Like other managed marketplaces, Bloc’s success creates a virtuous cycle. Attracting the best mentors leads to the best student outcomes. The best student outcomes generate additional student demand. More student demand increases the utilization of mentors which drives up mentor earnings, thereby attracting more of the best mentors and perpetuating the virtuous cycle. Businesses like these can be difficult to get going, but once the flywheel starts moving they carry significant momentum. And for a business just over three years old, Bloc has tremendous momentum. It is rapidly growing its student enrollment, its revenue, and its mentor base, all while achieving profitability. Yet for all its early success, we see a business still in its relative infancy now poised to explode. The market demand for software developers will be tremendous for years to come, and we believe that Bloc has the best approach, product, community, and team to capitalize against this significant opportunity. We are thrilled to join Roshan, Dave, Clint and team on this exciting journey.