“Education is one wagon behind innovation”: Le Wagon’s coding school now open to Aussies


Le Wagon's founding team: Romain Paillard, Boris Paillard and Sebastien Saunier.

Global coding school, Le Wagon, has touched down in Australia, with the launch of two campuses catering for entrepreneurs and other creative professionals seeking the technical skillset necessary to create and work on digital products.

The brainchild of Parisian brothers Romain and Boris Paillard, Le Wagon currently runs a series of 9-week coding bootcamps in 27 cities around the world. In the five years since Le Wagon was founded, more than 100 startups have been launched by its community of 2000 alumni, 25 of whom have successfully raised between $300,000 and $1.5 million in external funding.

With Le Wagon’s first Melbourne bootcamp set to kick off next week (5 March), hot on the heels of its inaugural Sydney bootcamp, the school’s founding brothers spoke to Dynamic Business about their plans for Australia.

DB: What value does your school create for entrepreneurs?

RP: Everyone who takes part in a bootcamp will leave with the skills you need to bootstrap and launch your own product/web app. That’s why we teach Ruby on Rails – as well as being a great coding language for beginners, it gives you the ability to build and deploy your product quickly.

BP: While startup founders save both money and time by being able to build their own products, they are not the only people who benefit from Le Wagon bootcamps. For instance, around 30% of our alumni are hired as developers or product managers. There is also an appetite within large corporations for staff to learn hard technical skills, which is why marketing, finance and business development professionals have taken part in our bootcamps too.

RP: Our students include everyone from startup founders and business school graduates through to people seeking to change their career trajectory completely. We’ve had the likes of engineers, lawyers, journalists, architects, musicians, truck drivers and even dancers go through our bootcamps, so I guess we don’t really have a typical student.

DB: What motivated you to launch into Sydney and Melbourne?

BP: The incredible level of engagement in industry meetups – and Australia’s startup community more broadly –  really resonated with Boris and I, and we were confident that we could help creative people, including entrepreneurs, build world-class products, regardless of their professional or educational background. Relevantly, the latest Startup Muster report found that almost a third of Australian founders wish their team had software development skills at launch, which demonstrates the value placed on practical knowledge of coding.

RP: When we were deciding where to launch next, we found that Australia was very similar to France in the sense that coding education was a bit ‘old school’ – students weren’t really being skilled for the 21st century. We have a saying in France that ‘education is one wagon late compared to innovation’, and we think it applies to Australia too. There just aren’t any schools that offer what we now do in Australia. Sure, other places teach students Ruby on Rails but they do it solely so that students can find employment upon completion of the course, whereas our focus is to teach code to build an entire product. In that sense, we are unique.

DB: What are some of Le Wagon’s success stories?

RP: Fifteen of our alumni have raised more than $1.5 million (AUD) in external investment, while a further ten have raised between $300,000 and $900,000 each. A-line, Kudoz, Travelsify and Regaind, which was acquired by Apple, are some of the successful companies to emerge from Le Wagon globally.

A recent success story from Australia is Roger Scott, who participated in of our first bootcamp outside of Europe, held in Sao Paulo two years ago. When Roger joined the bootcamp, he was working as a venture developer in Mexico but had aspirations of being a product manager. Immediately after the bootcamp, he found work in Brazil as a senior product manager making mobile security apps. Most recently, he was appointed as a product manager at BPay in Sydney.

DB:  What is your strategy for engaging your students?

BP: We train students to build a product, so rather than training them just to get a job at the end of the course, we are giving them the skills for all of their future projects. We also try to keep class sizes low to enhance the experience for students and to make no-one is left behind. In this respect, we ensure that students who wish to take part are 100% motivated to complete the course so there are rarely issues with keeping them engaged.

RP: If you only apply to Le Wagon to get a head start on your own project during the last 2 weeks of the curriculum, then you’ve misunderstood the real purpose of our program. There is no shortcut, especially in the first weeks where students learn the core concepts of programming and software architecture. The ultimate goal is to really learn how to code a product, alone or in team, applying tech industry best practices.

DB: What is your take on the local developer talent pool?

BP: The developer talent pool is at a very high level in Australia, the problem is just that there isn’t enough talent to satisfy the increasing market demand.

DB: What will you do to address this technical skills gap?

BP: At Le Wagon, students learn in 2 months what they could spend up to 2 years learning at a traditional educational institution. In this regard, we can significantly shorten the length of time it takes to ready developers for the workforce. The main difference between a traditional degree and at Le Wagon Bootcamp is that Le Wagon focuses on Learning by Doing. In a traditional curriculum on the other hand, you will start learning all the theory before getting your hands dirty. In this respect, Le Wagon can help upskill Australians across a variety of sectors and industries.

DB: What does Le Wagon have planned for Sydney and Melbourne?

At this stage, we plan to run four Bootcamps per year and also have plans to partner with business and engineering schools.