Hacker School began life in a small classroom donated by NYU. In the two years since our first batch, it’s grown from six students to 70, and we’ve been housed in everything from a windowless room in Chelsea to a fancy office building on East 9th Street. We’ve even run it in DUMBO lofts and a mezzanine scheduled to be demolished. Hacker School has always been defined by the people and ideas that animate it, and not where it’s located.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve had our fair share of real estate mishaps. It’s hard to find space in one of the world’s most expensive and competitive markets on a tight budget. It’s even harder when you’re a young company and your name’s “Hacker School” (the conversation usually goes something like this: “No, we don’t train people to break into computers. We’re a writer’s retreat for programmers”).
But of all our real estate trials and tribulations, none was more harrowing or nearly fatal than what we experienced earlier this year, when a 7,500 square-foot deal fell apart just days before our summer batch was set to begin. We were left scrambling, and barely scrounged together enough extra space at our current location to fit everyone. Unfortunately, we still weren’t out of the woods. The additional rooms we’d been given access to were slated to be demolished for construction later in the summer, and the clock was ticking.
That’s when TheLadders stepped in. We reached out to John Connolly, a Hacker School alum from our winter 2012 batch, who’s now an engineer at TheLadders. Within a day, he’d put us in touch with Tarmi Addonizio in HR and others there who almost instantly agreed to host 40 students for the remainder of the summer.
And so, the very same day that construction began and we lost almost half of our current space, TheLadders opened its doors to our summer batch.
We lucked out with TheLadders big-time: Not only is their office less than two blocks from ours, it’s also beautiful. Even more important, TheLadders have proven to be gracious and generous hosts this summer.
We are grateful to John, Tarmi, Dariusz Jamiolkowski, Kyri Sarantakos, and everyone else at TheLadders who helped make this summer possible. Thank you!
Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock is a co-founder of Hacker School, a writer’s retreat for programmers. Hacker School runs three batches a year in which experienced and new programmers alike come from around the world to spend three months in New York writing open-source software and becoming better programmers.