The Sabio coding bootcamp not only taught Melissa Hargis and Nicki Klein how to be awesome full stack .NET developers, it also ignited their entrepreneurial vision to propel their exciting and innovative tech startup, Betagig. The San Francisco Launch Hackathon 2016 winners are now poised to share their real-world vision with college graduates entering today’s job market and those who are considering their next career move by disrupting the way social traditions have influenced how people prepare to enter specific professions.
Nicki Klein and Melissa Hargis graduated from Sabio’s second cohort in October 2014 and have been on a roll since. Nicki came from the finance world, and Melissa was a Spanish language professor. After graduating from Sabio, both women worked as software developers for other companies to build up their skills before venturing out on their own as entrepreneurs.
Melissa and Nicki brought their critical-thinking and tornado driven mindset to the 2016 San Francisco Launch Hackathon for mobile platform applications. Their experience competing in hackathons to help fund their start-up reflected the technical team mentality that Sabio’s bootcamp had ingrained in them. Collaboration fostered ideas, and those ideas gave birth to Betagig as a concept.
To raise money for their startup, Melissa and Nicki decided to go on a hackathon tour. Their first hackathon in Las Vegas netted them $5,000. That victory in Las Vegas gave them additional confidence to continue with their plan to raise funds for their business with hackathon prizes. They decided to attend the San Francisco Launch Festival hackathon last March where the prize money ran up to a quarter of a million dollars. This is where they decided to showcase their Betagig idea, which provides people with an opportunity to ‘beta test’ a new career with job shadowing.
Employing stage theatrics styled as 15th century monarchs, Melissa and Nicki not only out-dressed the geeky male competition, but they had enough mental stamina (48 hours) to get through round one. They surprised themselves by being selected as one of the 40 teams remaining in the competition. Running on little sleep and little food, their confidence soared when it was announced they had made the second cut. With only 20 teams left, Melissa and Nicki began believing they could actually win the competition. The two costumed queens made the third cut. At that point, they were one of five teams left. For the remaining week, the two monarchs pitched their idea of Betagig’s unique online marketplace to explore different careers to investors. Their confidence, vision, and marketing skills won over the audience.
Theatrics aside, it was the Sabio boot camp experience that instilled Melissa and Nicki’s fortitude to win this major hackathon and to leverage the skills that they had learned during bootcamp and by participating in continuing education with the Sabio community. The Sabio experience prepared them for creating software that that has real world applications and for participating in hackathons where they would have to leverage their skills to quickly create and present a product.
In March 2017, just a year after Nicki and Melissa successfully competed in the San Francisco Launch Hackathon, Betagig raised $1.6 million in seed funding from an investment firm that will support rapid internal and external growth.
“We continue to be involved with Sabio, even hiring some of the Sabio fellows to work at Betagig because we know that they have been well trained and prepared to work in a startup environment. Even though it has been over two years since I have finished my own bootcamp training, I continue to rely on the Sabio community,” said Melissa Hargis, Betagig’s Chief Technology Officer and co-founder.
Nicki Klein, Betagig’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, added that Sabio continues to be a source of support as she navigates the broader technology community.
“Being a Sabio fellow is like being part of a family. I know that I can always approach Gregorio (Sabio’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer) for advice, even at this stage in my career as someone who is now responsible for other developers in a growing company,” Nicki said.
This is the Sabio difference: giving fellows the tools and necessary skills to go out into the world and become entrepreneurs. Melissa and Nicki are not only creating a new product, they are creating opportunities for other bootcamp graduates to thrive.