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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Eleven Fifty Academy Supports Entrepreneurship

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by Kara Kavensky 
 
Entrepreneurship is a huge component of technology. In fact, innovation and entrepreneurship are so tightly intertwined, there could not be one without the other, especially when it comes to technology. Eleven Fifty Academy founder Scott Jones understands this better than nearly anyone from his experiences in building tech companies, which inspired him to turn towards educating a tech workforce to support these innovative entrepreneurs. 
 
Many students who come through a course with Eleven Fifty Academy do so to work on their own idea for a platform. The entrepreneurial-minded student enters an immersive multi-week course and learns critical skills on an accelerated basis that doses learning in digestible bites. 
 
“Some students walk in the door with an idea for a platform that they want to create themselves and it can be overwhelming to discover how much there is to learn,” says Jones. “The worst case is that they learn valuable tech skills and life skills that will serve them well, no matter what they do next in life.” 
 
Early stage companies under five years old are responsibility for creating an abundance of new jobs. Many of the companies that hire Eleven Fifty Academy graduates are newer to the market, and most are run by people with vast tech experience. It is not surprising that the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs is within the Black community, with 60% of these companies owned by women.  
 
Creating an ecosystem conducive to growing companies has been a priority for many local economic development organizations, but the dispersement of funding has not been equitable. Many organizations are working to change these practices to provide fairness and blind lending designed to remove inherent bias. In regards to tech companies, entrepreneurs Scott Jones and Emil Ekiyor have teamed up to leverage technology to lift the most vulnerable populations. 
 
Ekiyor founded the InnoPower organization, which hosts its annual Minority Business Week in June. The event draws in dozens of speakers and hundreds of attendees to fortify a supportive ecosystem around entrepreneurism. Eleven Fifty Academy is a lead sponsor for this event. 
 
Many of the founders of the largest tech companies dropped out of college to pursue their idea for their company. It was at once visionary and pragmatic for the United States government and many tech companies to declare, starting in 2020, that “abilities” were vastly more important than “degrees” when hiring for the 2 million jobs within our federal government and beyond. Skills-based hiring breaks down barriers for many, especially in the area of technology. The barrier that is removed is the two- or four-year degree requirement, which kept many capable individuals, especially those in the lower socioeconomic layers, from fully realizing their potential. This is also excellent news for earlier stage entrepreneurs who can hire amazing talent without a college degree requirement. Recent announcements by Google and Salesforce eliminating the college requirement provides incredible opportunity for all individuals, especially those of color and other underserved populations. At Eleven Fifty Academy, the student population is 25% students of color and 36% women, and they are working hard to increase these numbers. 
 
Eleven Fifty meets the unique needs of their students and sets them on a successful path for a sustainable career in tech. Tech is a trade, and those who don’t know the “tech” language will be considered effectively illiterate in future decades. The Academy has designed its curriculum to help break through barriers into sustainable careers without absorbing heavy student debt. 
 
Eleven Fifty’s advisory board is made up of hundreds of entrepreneurial employers who actively hire its graduates. These members drive the constantly-tuned curriculum, help with mock interviews that prepare students for real-world interviews, teach in our classrooms, host field trips, and mentor students. When companies share their employment requirements, communities can work together to connect the dots from early education to workforce. This is one of the strongest ways to support entrepreneurism, by supporting a tech workforce to help these companies grow. 

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