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renuka devi

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                          A company focused on teaching anyone the fundamentals of web development, Bloc, has raised $2 million in seed funding in a round led by Harrison Metal, with First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, and Learn Capital also participating. What’s interesting about Bloc is that, while it’s offering an online program that can be accessed anywhere a student has a computer and Internet access, it also retains the human element of teaching through a one-on-one connection between a learner and their mentor.

                          Bloc was founded by fellow University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign grads Roshan Choxi (CEO) and Dave Paola (CTO) who had found themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area after college. The two shared a mutual interest in the education space, and began working together around two years ago on various projects. One of these, an early version of what has become today’s Bloc, debuted in early 2012 at the Launch conference, helping seed the company’s user base with the first few thousand signups.

                          With today’s version of Bloc, the idea is to connect students directly with an experienced mentor who serves as part teacher, part code reviewer, and sometimes even pair programmer, as need be.

                          “We believe an online apprenticeship is superior to the classroom model,” says Choxi of Bloc’s apprenticeship angle. “It’s the better way to do advanced skill training, so it’s natural that it could apply to other verticals and other topics,” he adds, hinting at the company’s broader vision as Bloc grows.

                          Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 1.35.03 PM (1)

                          HOW IT WORKS

                          Today, the company offers an intense, 12-week course that trains students in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, Rails, and more. The base price for the program is $4,250, but payment plans are available. After acceptance, students select a mentor based on their experience, language, location and availability, then schedule three meetings per week following their initial introduction.

                          In the subsequent weeks, students plow through a project-based curriculum built in-house, communicating with mentors during office hour sessions and chats along the way. There’s also a chat room staffed by mentors throughout the day and night, in case students are in need of help when their assigned mentor isn’t around.

                          Throughout the course, students also have to pass through “checkpoints” where mentors review their work, then help them get it right even if it takes a few times before they succeed.

                          The co-founders tell us that the program tends to attract those who are involved with the tech industry in some way, but don’t necessarily have technical backgrounds. Around half of the students — and Bloc has seen hundreds so far — come from some major metro area, like San Francisco. But the rest come from suburban or rural areas, which is something that speaks to the accessible nature of the online program.

                          The other thing many students have in common is a desire to build something for themselves. “In our heads, a bootcamp is for getting a job, and Bloc is for becoming an entrepreneur,” says Paola.

                          The program teaches students skills that would help them in this pursuit, having them build clones of sites like Reddit or Wikipedia, for example. Then mid-way through, the students pick a capstone project to work on for themselves. The idea is that they’ll have something to actually show for their work by the end of the 12 weeks, rather than just a set of skills.

                          Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 1.41.58 PM

                          Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 1.36.45 PM

                          One graduate, Seth Seigler, was a real estate agent who completed Bloc then built an “Uber for real estate,” which he sold to a real estate firm where he’s now CTO. Seigler today describes Bloc as the “perfect hybrid between the self-paced tutorials and the full-time bootcamps.”

                          “At the end of Bloc, I knew how to learn and how to complete any project,” he says.

                          That being said, not all students complete their training. Over the past 18 months, Bloc has had a 90 percent graduation rate. But Choxi says that the students who drop out tend to do so because they don’t have the time for a 25-hour per week commitment, and later re-enroll a couple of months later. (Bloc offers them pro-rated refunds.) “We work very hard to ensure they have a great experience and have a very good refund policy – we believe we don’t get paid unless they get results,” he says.

                          For a class that has you diving right into Ruby, those are not bad numbers. But Bloc’s platform makes it appealing to students who probably have some inclination for tech in the first place, and are motivated by what they want to do with their resulting skills.

                          In addition to the distributed mentors, Bloc has 13 people based in San Francisco and will use the new funding in part to hire software engineers as well as a so-called “guidance counselor,” who will help students and alumni make progress and choose their career paths. The team is also looking into expanding into new courses, such as iOS development.

                          But for the students coming to Bloc, there’s another benefit beyond the skills they learn while attending – their one-on-one relationship with a mentor gives them an in into the tech industry – something those beyond the Bay area and other tech “hotspots” don’t always have access to.

                          “We think that’s one of the nice things about our community of mentors…we have some who are actually Y Combinator alumni and they also know how to code,” says Choxi. “Students ask them questions that are a little bit tangential to web development, but are still relevant starting a company. That’s something you can only develop when you have a personal relationship with your mentor,” he notes.





                          Original: http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/05/online-code-school-bloc-raises-2-million-for-its-web-development-apprenticeship-program/
                          By: Sarah Perez
                          Posted: December 6, 2013, 2:42 am

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                                          Solar electricity is expected to become competitive with other forms of electricity in an increasing number of markets globally due to declining solar panel and installation costs, according to a new report.

                                          By 2030, solar power will generate $5 trillion in revenue worldwide, a 10-fold increase over today, according to the report from Deutsche Bank (PDF).

                                          Today, unsubsidized rooftop solar electricity costs between $.08 and $0.13 per kilowatt hour of capacity (KWh), or 30% t 40% blow the retail price of electricity in many markets globally. This is unsubsidized, meaning there are no government incentives such as tax credits.

                                          In markets heavily dependent on coal for electricity generation, the ratio of coal-based wholesale electricity to solar electricity cost was 7:1 four years ago. This ratio is now less than 2:1 and could approach 1:1 over the next 12 to 18 months, the report stated.

                                          The 185-page report, released last week, predicts 12 gigawatts (GW) of new solar will be installed this year and 16GW next year, which would bring the U.S. total to 50GW of photovoltaic capacity. Anywhere from 20GW to 30GW of that new total will come from distributed generation or rooftop solar versus utility installations.

                                          "Over the next 20 years, we expect nearly 10% o global electricity production to come from solar. Bottom line: we believe the solar industry is going through fundamental change and the opportunity is bigger than it has ever been before," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah.

                                          Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a pair of reports that predicted solar would be the world's leading electricity source by 2050.

                                          "By 2017, even the drop in utility installations [being predicted] will be mitigated by the strength in distributed generation," the report, titled "Crossing the Chasm," stated.

                                          On average, solar capacity has grown 30% eery year for the past 20 years. Even so, solar power only represents about 1% o the 6,000GW of capacity in the $2 trillion electricity market, the majority of that dominated by coal-fired power plants. In order for solar to produce 100% o the world's energy, the current installed base of solar power would need to increase 120 fold.

                                          Over the next 20 years, the electricity market is expected to double to $4 trillion, and solar power will grow by 10 times. During the next two decades, the solar industry is expected to generate $5 trillion of revenue, and by year 2050, the amount of solar power capacity is expected to grow to represent 30% o all electrical power generated worldwide, the report said.

                                          "The top 10 electricity-producing nations in the world generated over 16,000 terawatt hours (TWh or trillion watts) of electricity in 2013 and it would take roughly 12,000GW of solar to produce the same amount of electricity. Clearly, the total addressable market size is huge," the report stated.

                                          Solar capacity is expected to grow more rapidly in developing economies than in established ones. For example, China and India both expect to deploy an additional 100GW of solar power capacity by 2022, though specifics for how either country will do so are uncertain.

                                          Today's current installed generating capacity in India is about 280GW; that figure is estimated to reach 800GW by 2035, according to Shah.

                                          "Assuming installed generating capacity reaches 400GW by the 2022 timeframe, solar penetration would reach 25% o total capacity and nearly 60% o new installed capacity would be from [the] solar sector," Shah wrote.

                                          In many U.S. states, the cost to purchase solar power is on par with traditionally generated power. Even before adding in government subsidies such as tax credits, solar is currently competitive in more than 14 U.S. states, Deutsche stated.

                                          By the end of next year, about 47 states (including Washington DC) will be at grid parity, Deutsche predicted.

                                          One of the factors spurring growth is the expiration of the federal government's solar investment tax credit (ITC). That measure, passed in 2008, offered a 30% tx credit for residential and business installations. When it expires in 2016, the tax credit will drop to a more permanent 10%.

                                          "Therefore, we expect a significant rush particularly in the residential segment, as large installers rush to complete as many installations as possible while the economics are best," the report stated.

                                          The cost of small (less than 20KW of capacity) distributed generation systems, such as those on residential rooftops, generally ranges from $2.50 to $4.00 per kilowatt hour of capacity.

                                          "We see solar becoming increasingly mainstream as it passes cost competitiveness with traditional forms of generation," Shah wrote. "While we will likely see some utilities fight at every step of the way (because it threatens their business model), we expect system economics will ultimately win in the longer run."

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