[Reportage] Behind the scenes of Simplon: new school of digital craftsmanship
Alongside the highly publicized launch of School 42, driven in particular by Xavier Niel, another web-related educational project should soon see the light of day. Called Simplon, this new school wishes above all to emphasize the training of developer-entrepreneurs. As part of a social approach, the system also intends to remunerate its students. Explanations and guided tour of very bucolic places.
A social and united project
Located at 55 rue de Vincennes, in Montreuil, Simplon school presents itself as a new “factory for entrepreneurial developers”. Led by Frédéric Bardeau, Andrei Vladescu-Olt and Erwan Kezzar, the project stands out in particular for its social and solidarity approach. “It is not a question of positive discrimination because we select above all the candidates for their personality and their project, but we do indeed seek to turn to under-represented profiles in entrepreneurship and the web, that is to say girls and young people from working-class neighborhoods, ”says Erwan Kezzar.
Based on this principle, the school aims to pay its students up to 60 to 70% of the minimum wage in order to give their chances to people from modest backgrounds. “We have started our recruitment phase and the profiles are very varied, both in terms of social and geographical origin and in terms of studies”. The only skill required: mastery of the basics of English.
From the latex factory to the movie studio
The structure is nestled behind a large portal which opens onto a small courtyard where various artists’ studios are located. The place should tilt some moviegoers since it is a former latex factory, transformed into a film studio on the occasion including films The emotional anonymous and The first day of the rest of your life. How did the trio find the place? “A total chance”, assures Frédéric Bardeau. “We simply typed in disused factory on Google and the place was among the first links,” he says.
A summer camp inspired by American boot camps
In total, the students will be able to follow an intense and accelerated training in premises spread over an area of more than 300 square meters, still in full construction! The official start of the school year, which will welcome 24 students, should not take place until October 2013, but the trio intends to launch a summer camp on July 15. Inspired by American boot camps, the system should accommodate small groups of 8 people throughout the summer for weekly training.
A project financed with own funds, in the countryside on Ulule
To finance this somewhat crazy project, some of which will qualify as utopian, the co-founders ensure that they do not benefit from public subsidies. “We are not an association, but a company. We are financing the project with our own funds and via a bank loan, ”explains Frédéric Bardeau.
Focusing on transparency, the team recognizes having an annual working capital requirement of 200,000 euros. The structure now benefits from the support of several entities including FaberNovel, Intel and the Altaïde firm, but this remains a contribution of skills and equipment. “The idea would be to negotiate real sponsorship partnerships. If we do not succeed, we will undoubtedly open our capital for fundraising, ”explains Frédéric.
In order to keep one of their main promise (student remuneration), the team has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule. Amount of funds sought: 15,000 euros.
A school open 24 hours a day
An open space, a meeting room, small boxes, a kitchen, a living room with a sofa … Of course, you still have to show your imagination, but the 300 square meters under glass should be transformed into a real living space. “We also plan to have the school open 24 hours a day so that students can work at any time on their respective projects.” With this in mind, part of the team should invest the lofts located on the floor of the factory. The program promises to be quite intense with 270 hours of training over 6 months.
Training based around the Ruby language
“We rely on the notion of digital craftsmanship,” says Erwan. Here, the idea is to allow students to be able to develop, with their own hands, an application, a web tool. “Our training is more of a means than an end,” continues Erwan. “The objective is to give birth to developer-entrepreneurs and to reveal this capacity during our recruitment interviews. “For this, we have chosen to focus on the Ruby language” adds Andrei, training manager. Rail, its development framework was chosen by a battery of web players including Twitter, Groupon, Captain Train, AirBnB and Living Social.
Among the projects already identified: a social purchasing and resale network dedicated to the Malian community of the city of Montreuil or web services dedicated to optimizing the actions carried out by the various neighborhood associations.
The origin of the project a few steps from the Simplon station …
Our site visit comes to an end. However, a question mark remains: why did you baptize the Simplon school? “It goes back to the genesis of the project,” Erwan explains. “Andrei and I met at Celsa as students. Afterwards, we lived together by subletting a rapper’s friend’s apartment, located near the Simplon metro station. It was during this cohabitation that the idea of the school emerged. We wanted to set up a start-up linked to education while being useful. The project took shape over time and we wanted to keep the word Simplon, because it historically refers to a pass in the Alps where a train passed on rails. So there is this notion of launch but also that of the Rail framework ”