Andy Sack (Randy Stewart photo)

Everywhere you go in Seattle these days, companies are talking about how difficult it is to find talented developers, designers and engineers.

As the director of TechStars Seattle and general partner of Founder’s Co-op, Andy Sack hears this a lot in his discussions with entrepreneurs.

But now Sack is looking to do something about it, unveiling a new project called Code Fellows that he describes as “TechStars for engineers.”

The four-week long coding bootcamps are designed to teach engineers new skills, keeping them fresh (and employable).

Now, here’s the twist.

Code Fellows guarantees that its graduates will earn at least $60,000 after the program — or they will refund the $4,000 tuition.

The first program will start in February, focusing on Ruby on Rails. About 10 students will be accepted into that class, with Code Fellows planning to operate about six to eight classes each year. Other topic areas will include Python, Javascript and iOS development.

Brad Bouse, who has partnered with Sack on the for-profit entity, said that ideal candidates work in technology but not in Web development. That could include someone with a computer science degree who is maintaining legacy applications at a big company.

“We can teach that person modern skills … and train him or her to work on a web development team,” said Bouse, a former developer and designer at Yammer. “We can transform the student into a turnkey engineer ready to start helping out at one of our Seattle startups.”

The company’s motto is “build and ship a better you.”

As Bouse suggests, part of the goal is to make sure that there’s a steady pipeline of talent who can go to work at startups — a challenge for early-stage companies which now find themselves competing against the likes of Facebook, Google, and others. A number of other incubators have emerged in Seattle to help train the next-generation of entrepreneurs, including Founder Institute and TechStars. But they focus more on building entrepreneurs, than engineers.

To some degree, Code Fellows feels most like General Assembly, the New York-based coding and educational hangout space that’s backed by founder Jeff Bezos, Seattle venture capital firm Maveron and others. It offers programs in New York and other cities, with plans to expand to Boston, LA, Las Vegas and other cities. Some of General Assembly’s classes include “Introduction to Adobe Photoshop,” “Getting Started with Github” and “Understanding Mobile Experience.”

Code Fellows too is targeting those with some experience in technology.

“We’re not ready for absolute beginners, but we will be offering workshops aimed at people writing their first line of code,” said Bouse. Code Fellows also is looking at holding one-time workshops — running about 90 minutes on weeknights or over three hours on the weekends — for as little as $100.

In order to offset some of the costs, several startup companies — including Simply Measured, Big Door, SEOMoz, WhitePages and Liquid Planner — have agreed to sponsor applicants with full and partial scholarships.

To get things kicked off, Code Fellows plans to host a job fair on January 16th at the South Lake Union Discovery Center from 5:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. It will feature about 10 companies.

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  • Andy Sack

    Please don’t judge me by this Hawaiian shirt and photo. My mother says I clean up nice.

  • algard

    Great that Andy and Brad are taking action to help solve this issue! There is certainly a need for it, and WhitePages is delighted to participate as a sponsor.

  • Cam the Mac

    One correction; The CodeFellows page should read “Objective C is a finicky, difficult language”. iOS is an operating system, not a language.

    • codefellows

      Thanks for catching that–we’ll fix it.

  • Drew Meyers

    It is indeed a challenge to find great dev talent these days. Seems like a good model, particularly with the small expected class sizes.

  • Codio

    This is a great idea Andy! I can see this being popular worldwide. The approach that I advocate (which if you’re interested I’ve blogged about here: is to take a collaborative, open source stance to teaching people to code. There already exists a strong developer community that’s friendly, approachable and happy to teach new members everything they need to know. I can see Code Fellows working in conjunction with this, people can teach themselves to start with and take a crash course from you to enter the industry.

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