Why Hungry Academy Matters
Jan 06, 2012 Clay Johnson

Living Social's Hungry Academy is really important and you should pay close attention to it, as it's success might be a great example of Tim O'Reilly's idea that successful companies create more value than they capture.

For those unfamiliar, Living Social is likely the fastest growing technology business in Washington, DC that's run into a problem: they cannot find engineers in the DC area quickly enough. So instead of uprooting and moving to Silicon Valley or some other more tech-dense city, Living Social is taking a different approach. They're trying to create more developers. Hungry Academy's goal is to take 24 driven people without development skill, and turn them into developers. And they'll employ them, full-time, while they're undergoing training.

It's a big risk -- their investment in these individuals is about the same as a YCombinator investment. While YCombinator rarely invests more than $20,000 in a start-up, Living Social is investing a $50k/yr job (for about 5 months) in an employee with those that make it through the course receiving a higher-paying job upon graduation.

And while Peter Thiel is offering to pay kids 100k to drop out of college, I suspect that the kids that would take that deal already have a lot of opportunity ahead of them. DC has the highest child-poverty rate in the country -- not exactly the land of opportunity. Living Social seems to be willing to change that, and hopefully create some opportunity for people in the DC area that might not get exposed to the world of technology.

Finally, they're opening their doors to others. Through their work with JumpStart Lab, they're actually publishing a lot of their course materials and other byproducts of the classes. I shot a quick email to one of the coordinators of the course, Jeff Casimir, and it looks like they're going to be using open data and open government data sources as the foundation of some of the teaching material too, making the project even more meaningful.

It's a huge risk on Living Social's part, and something that could really transform Washington, DC over time if successful. I tend not to gush about projects for fear they sound too much like advertisements. But this one is too important to let slip by. If you know somebody that might like a career change, and, well, wants to get paid to have a technical education. Encourage them to apply. The deadline is Monday.

Information Diet © 2011 Clay Johnson