Ne-Yo Backs Coding Academy Eyeing More Diversity in Silicon Valley

Ne-Yo, Trinity Partner Dan Scholnick, and the founders of Holberton School Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier
David Dines

Ne-Yo, Trinity Partner Dan Scholnick, and the founders of Holberton School Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier.

Ne-Yo has emerged as a high-profile booster for Holberton School, a year-old academy for full-stack software engineers that features free tuition and no formal teachers. The school announced on Thursday that the three-time Grammy winner invested in Holberton's recent $2.3 million round of funding and has joined the school's Board of Trustees as a point-person for promoting more diversity in tech.

"I believe that a major key to success in life is the presence of opportunity," the "So Sick" singer said. "Tech is an ever-growing, evolving industry, and I want to assist in opening doors for people across the country. Holberton School is in a unique position to train people of all backgrounds to lead in the digital age. I couldn't be more excited about Holberton's mission and model."

Instead of up-front tuition, Holberton asks students to pay a percentage of their salaries for their first three years of employment in tech. If they don't get hired, they don't pay anything for the two-year program, which is project based and lacks traditional teachers and courses. The school's inaugural class (graduating in 2018) is actually quite diverse, with people of color comprising 53 percent of the student body. That said, Ne-Yo will help "push the boundaries even further," said school investor Anjula Acharia, partner at Trinity Ventures.

"When I first met Ne-Yo, we talked at length about the lack of diversity in tech generally and Silicon Valley specifically. I shared my excitement about Holberton School's disruptive approach, as well as its early success in developing one of the most welcoming, varied and balanced peer groups in Silicon Valley," said Acharia. "He can use his voice as a platform to reach demographics that haven't traditionally been represented or included in the tech industry."


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