By: Lauren Sato, CEO – Ada Developers Academy
In my first 30 days at Ada, I have had the privilege of witnessing a graduation, a Capstone Project fair, the first annual AdieCon (a self-organized alumni conference) and Week 1 of an incoming class. I’ve also been able to meet with our corporate partners, donors, and long-time community supporters. All I can say is this community is a force.
- At graduation 45 of our 47 students had already accepted job offers.
- 250 people showed up to Amazon’s Day 1 building to see what our students had built in their three week Capstone Project assignment. “There are investable ideas here,” I overheard.
- 300 Adies came together at Nordstrom to hold a conference they created for themselves to advance their learning and continue to support each other. “Have you seen that speaker line-up?! I tried to get a ticket, but they were sold out!” – a serial entrepreneur (and non-Ada alum) I had lunch with the week before AdieCon.
- We have investors who want more to invest in, companies who are turning down hiring managers who want more Ada interns, and an endless stream of prospective students who want to join our movement as we change the face of technology.
I knew the Ada community was an amazing one, but to see it first hand and to be at the epicenter of the daily work has shown me that almost anything is possible when we empower people who have been marginalized by systems of oppression. So…what’s next for Ada?
Everyone has a reaction to this word. Often these reactions are well-founded, based on extreme experiences, or horror stories. Sometimes they are very emotional as well – hopes for massive exits, fear of diluting culture, or not feeling prepared.
Coming from the world of high-growth startups, and having faced every possible barrier to growing a company, it has been fascinating to evaluate Ada’s positioning relative to the question around growth. And, to now have heard so many stakeholder thoughts on how/when/where Ada should grow.
When I evaluate an organization’s readiness for growth, here are the things I consider:
- Does the organization have demonstrable and sustained product-market fit?
- Is the organization’s infrastructure strong enough to support growth, and malleable enough to evolve with growth?
- Is there compelling evidence that the total accessible market in which the organization lives will reliably expand over the next 5 – 10 years?
Here’s what I’ve learned about Ada in my first 30 days relative to those questions:
Question 1: Does the organization have demonstrable and sustained product-market fit?
Ada is a two-sided marketplace serving students and employers. In order for the answer to this question to be a “yes” for me, both sides of that marketplace would have to have demonstrated more demand than the organization can currently fulfill. Ada has seen an average of 375 applicants (topping out at 500) for every class of 48 since it began in 2015. The joke has been that it’s harder to get into Ada than Harvard, but the reality is that the supply side at Ada is a definitive YES to growth. On the demand (employer) side, Ada has oversold it’s internships for the last 3 years, with the current class demand exceeding supply by over 20%. Ada has achieved a truly remarkable level of product-market fit.
Question 2: Is the organization’s infrastructure strong enough to support growth, and malleable enough to evolve with growth?
There are many parallels between the tech startup world and the nonprofit world, I have learned. Headlining these is: A Small Group of Passionate People Working Insanely Hard to Change the World! But almost as striking is the scrappy mindset of folks who work in these worlds – Do as Much as Possible with as Little as Possible! These are my people. However, when you’re looking towards a high growth period you have to build ahead, or expect a lot to break. Over the past year Ada has been gifted with the nonprofit version of Sheryl Sandberg. Christine Martin of Valtas Group is Seattle’s own operational Mastermind, who has taken Ada through its scrappy phase and transformed it into a springboard for growth over the past year. The team is in place; there are right-sized systems, processes and planning established, and the final piece – physical space – has been tee-ed up.
After an extended search, we have narrowed our options to two properties that we are incredibly excited about. Both open our options to expand within our current model, and have the flexibility to grow with us over time. We will share more in the coming weeks as we get a lease signed and a grand opening on the books – we hope to see you all there!
Question 3: Is there compelling evidence that the total accessible market in which the organization lives will reliably expand over the next 5 – 10 years?
I won’t belabor this point too much, as many with greater research chops have already done that legwork, but the summary is that tech talent production continues to significantly lag behind market demand. And, because technology is infused in nearly every sector in the modern economy, there is greater resilience in that trend than other more vulnerable markets. Here’s CBRE’s 2019 report for more data and context. With 94% of Ada interns accepting job offers prior to graduation, we have an incredible proof of concept here demonstrates how we are well positioned to be the industry’s go-to source for exceptional developers, as the demand for tech talent, and particularly for diverse tech talent, continues to increase.
Ada is what it is today because of this community, and as we think about what’s next we will continue to center; the heart, soul and mission of the work that binds us together.
While growth can be understandably emotional, I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that Ada has an incredibly strong foundation, and case for significant growth in the next 5 years. And, I personally can’t wait to see what this remarkable team and community is capable of! Come join us!