Our City Thoughts: Why did you decide to create in Miami?
Wyncode Founders: We love what’s happening in Miami right now, especially in tech. The city is in transformation and there is so much incredible potential. We want to play a small role in making Miami a destination for people beyond the great weather!
OCT: What does your org do? How was it founded?
WF: The first of its kind in Florida, Wyncode is the first brick and mortar code school south of Austin. We teach people to code while also placing an importance on the business skills required to be successful, whether it’s running their own start up or being successful in a corporate environment. We founded Wyncode after drafting up our one pager over a cold brew at Panther coffee in December 2013.
OCT: Describe a challenge you overcame raising Wyncode from the ground up?
WF: The biggest challenge with a new start-up in a new city is just doing it. It’s exciting and it’s scary but most importantly it takes hard work and courage. Once you decide to go for it, then the rest of the challenges are ones you can chip away at when the time comes. Once here, I think the biggest challenge has been explaining the concept of a code school. People understand the need for developers, and we’ve had more applicants than spots, at the same time it’s a new concept to Florida. Major investment and a full-time commitment is required so hearing people quit their jobs to attend has been exciting.
OCT: How did you two end up collaborating?
WF: Johanna is not just my co-founder but also my wife, so we love collaborating. We have had experience running major events together like the Canada Cup Floorball Championship in Toronto so I know we work well. It’s important to be able to trust each other and with Johanna I also know that I can say what I think, rather than try to filter it.
OCT: What does your team mean to you?
WF: We’re extremely excited to have Ed Toro as our head instructor. He’s been such a great team member in many ways. His tech skills and passion for teaching give students confidence to join Wyncode. He’s spearheading creating our curriculum and has also through his connections in Miami Tech been able to introduce us to lots of important people. We also have two to three teaching assistants who we will be announcing very soon, great individuals and talented developers! The team dynamic is extremely important to us, launching a start up means you get the incredible opportunity to surround yourself with brilliant people. Having an energetic and positive team is what we strive for and we want to bring that into everything Wyncode does from the classes and events to the people.
OCT: How has Miami impacting you?
WF: While we’re new to Miami, I lived in South Florida early on in my life and Johanna and I have been here on and off for the past 20 years. We realized we were visiting 4-5 times a year so making the move seemed natural. I definitely feel at home in South Florida, and Miami in particular. I think my positivity and entrepreneurial outlook are due to growing up here and I love the fact that everything you need is here. But my sentiments right now is that Miami has changed my life! New start up, new surroundings, new people, every day is an adventure!
OCT: What do you love the most about how Miami is being redefined?
WF: We truly believe that Miami is on the verge of great things. The tech category is being created, but on a large scale Miami’s identity is also up for grabs. There are some great people here doing great things for the city. Matt Haggman with Knight Foundation for example, the eMerge Americas team, Code for Miami and of course the LAB Miami.
There are too many to list who are working hard each day but we continue to meet incredible people who really believe in what is happening here and playing important roles in moving Miami forward. The startup ecosystem is also a vibrant community bringing new ideas and new people to the area. It seems there is no shortage of exciting events and developments.
We love that Miami is becoming a true city – an urban oasis surrounded by palm trees, but still with the things you expect from a major city. Areas we love like Wynwood and the Upper East Side feel like they could be in New York, except with a lower cost of living and no snow storms. I also love the Latin American influence as the culture people bring with them is warm and open and it also gives Miami a huge strength in terms of connecting with the markets down there. We think Miami is going to continue to grow and attract more younger people, maybe people who come down on vacation but end up loving what they see and staying here.
OCT: Anything special you are working on?
WF: We continually hear from employers and community organizations that Miami is lacking in developer talent so we are bringing a creative and innovative way to grow this community. We are also creating a “Made in Miami” curriculum to teach people without a coding background to become a developer and also develop the business skills they need to be successful.
OCT: What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do? And the most grating?
WF: The most gratifying thing so far has been the response from the community. We have been welcomed with open arms and received a lot of support from different organizations and individuals. We’re truly grateful for that. We are also thrilled about the number of applications we have received, it’s a great feeling having the code school concept be embraced by partners and applicants alike.
The most grating has been the challenge of starting a new concept from scratch and because of that, not being able to find a partner to fund students who might not have the whole tuition up front. It feels terrible to turn down great candidates for the program simply because they don’t have the money right now.
OCT: What wisdom would you share with your younger self (maybe when you were 18)?
WF: Sell everything your family has and buy Apple shares. Also to just start. Do the planning but don’t delay the action, go after what you want today!
OCT: What community issue keeps you up at night?
WF: I think it’s Miami’s future to become New York with palm trees, we moved down from Toronto’s Queen West neighborhood and have really seen how the neighborhood and the city at large has urbanized, gentrified and developed in a positive way to be a place where everyone wants to live. Miami is in a great position to follow this path, as long as there’s a consensus on building some of the things needed for a great city. These things are common across the board: affordable places for people to live, less reliance on cars, a focus on supporting local, community based businesses and a respect for the environment.
OCT: Describe your ideal Miami. Why are those qualities important to you?
WF: It’s really all of the things I mentioned above that will help Miami become one of the world’s great cities. We’re originally from Helsinki, Finland, so sustainability, the environment, and a strong economy are things we have always valued, and I can see them in my ideal Miami.