Envy Labs and Code School Founder
Gregg Pollack, in spite of his degree in computer engineering, recognized that most people don’t learn to program or design for the web by reading a book. According to his company’s website, “real learning takes place when you start experimenting with code in the browser and using design concepts in a website.” Essentially learning by doing. Describing himself as a self-professed “Hollywood director trapped in the body of a software developer,” he is passionate about Orlando’s entrepreneurial tech community, finding new and creative ways to educate and building a company where people love to come to work.
LAUNCHING CODE SCHOOL
Blogging is part sharing information or experience and part self-promotion. I discovered that I was getting good consultant leads from blogging and podcasts. So about five years ago, we decided to launch Envy Labs, which is a software design contract shop with about 15 people. Around that time, we released something called “Rails For Zombies” [an interactive teaching tool for Ruby On Rails, which is an open source web application framework that runs via the Ruby programming language], which combined high quality video production, which I enjoy, with a level of interactivity.
It was free and self-funded out of my other business, with the objective of generating more consulting leads. However, we got so much positive feedback that we began to wonder if we could actually charge for our educational products.
By that time I had built enough of a following or social capital, so we spent around $20,000 to produce a single course online and in a couple of months our ROI was $40,000. Then we did it again and again. Next, we came up with a subscription model of $29 per month, which gets you access to all of our educational products. Today we have around 21,000 subscribers.
CODE SCHOOL SUBSCRIBERS
The majority of our subscribers are supplementing their more formal education. If you want to become a web developer, there is no certification you can get, licensing you have to pass or continuing education credits you need. The technology is moving fast, so you want to stay up to date. That is our goal – to teach the newer technologies. Our vision is for Code School to be the place that people look first when they want to learn a new technology.
People come to us because we teach these subjects in the most entertaining and effective way, in the shortest amount of time. Students can easily track their progress and even put their achievements on their resumé. Every course has a theme, like skiing, and starts with a video that includes a jingle that we write for each one. If you’re learning a new technology, if you’re going to fail, you generally fail in the first 30 minutes. So we take all the pain out, so that people are able to easily advance.
MAKING IT WORK
I realized the majority of people who work for me are craftsmen; they love the work and they want to do it with excellence, the best educational content and best code. Next door we have Starter Studio; few of my employees are interested in going over there to learn how to build their own business. I love to program, but the self-realization that I could create this incredibly successful business didn’t come as a result of some long-term vision, but more following the bread crumbs of opportunity and figuring out how to capitalize on them.
I found I get real pleasure out of hiring developers out of crappy work environments, paying them well, and putting them in a work environment they enjoy, surrounded by very intelligent people.