Interview with Laurent Meyer, CEO of Propulsion Academy
Published on 23-06-2021
What is Propulsion Academy's business idea?
"Located in Zurich, Munich, and online, Propulsion Academy is a coding and Data Science academy offering a variety of full-time, part-time, and corporate programs to motivated learners looking to enhance their careers with technology. Founded late 2016, Propulsion has 20 employees and features two well-known ETH Zürich Computer Science professors, Dr. Markus Gross and Dr. Bertrand Meyer, as Cofounders and Advisors.
Propulsion provides Education programs to enable students from other fields to transition into Software Developer and Data Science roles, some of the most attractive jobs of the future. Graduates of the intensive 12-week programs get hired by companies including Google, Novartis, UBS, Swiss International Airlines, Roche, eBay, as well as top 100 Swiss startups such as ClimeWorks, Ava Women, Sherpany, Avrios, … Corporate clients include Tamedia, die Mobiliar, Ringier, … where Propulsion teaches advanced technologies and concepts such as Machine Learning, AI, NLP, and Deep Learning. Academy staff also contribute and teach parts of the programs at universities such as ZHAW, HSLU, and HSG.
In response to all the talent in its network, from students, staff, to instructors, Propulsion Labs was created in 2020 to help spin-off the most promising ideas created during the final project phase of its programs. There are currently 5 DeepTech startups in incubation with many more to come."
How did the business idea come about?
"Propulsion was created to address the growing needs for tech talent from Swiss companies in comparison to the limited supply from traditional universities. Thanks its hands-on, project-based, and industry-focused approach, students are able to transition into technology roles directly after completing its programs, even though they come from other disciplines and have little prior experience. Propulsion is known as a “coding bootcamp”, a concept that has taken off globally to help fill the need for technical specialists. There are several hundreds of such academies around the world, but Propulsion is the only one in Switzerland. "
What professional know-how did you bring to the startup?
"15+ years of business development experience in the technology sector in large and small organizations, in the US and Europe."
What did you have to learn from the beginning?
"Applying my previous experience to a new sector (education), building a team of staff and faculty to launch programs that would be attractive to potential students."
What is the mission that drives you and your team?
"To give our students new career opportunities by unlocking their hidden potential and making them the effective Software Developers and Data Scientists that the industry so desperately needs. Propulsion Academy graduates are living the dream of the digital revolution by learning the tools to build the disruptive technologies of tomorrow. "
What is Propulsion's USP (unique selling proposition)?
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
"Creating a new concept from scratch in one of the most difficult markets and with hardly any resources and not knowing if it will work. Building a brand. And most importantly getting people to believe in themselves and that they can learn programming (our biggest competition is people themselves). Propulsion has turned musicians, athletes, marketing people, ... into excellent Software Developers. Of course, part of this is that companies accept that students can work for them after our short but intensive programs. The skepticism still exists 4 years later, despite a substantial list of companies recruiting from us."
What has been the biggest success so far?
"Creating world-class programs and becoming a top player in Europe, as well as building a great team of motivated people who care about student success. The last few months with Corona have also helped drive the launch of new remote offerings, allowing us to successfully grow our portfolio in the fastest time possible. Furthermore, we are proud to have received the trust of Swiss universities to teach and develop parts of their programs."
How has your life changed after starting up?
"I've always worked hard no matter what role I had, but there was always someone above me calling the shots. The biggest change for me now is that I have to do both, supported by great team members, of course."
What are the next steps?
"The next important step is to expand to Munich and other strategic locations, as well as to continuously expand the course offerings and teach the most in-demand technologies."