Former Bluelock CEO joins coding academy as president

John Qualls, the brains behind fast-growing cloud company Bluelock LLC, has joined Eleven Fifty, the Carmel-based coding academy started by serial entrepreneur Scott Jones.

Qualls came on as president Feb. 2, and Jones, widely known for his involvement in developing a now-ubiquitous version of voicemail, will remain CEO. Qualls helped launch Indianapolis-based Bluelock in 2007 and stepped down at the end of January.

"I really wanted to give back around this concept of teaching people how to code," said Qualls, 46. "You just can't find good coders. They're a precious resource. Once they're good it just seems like they get pulled out."

Jones and three others started Eleven Fifty, a programming boot camp of sorts, in August, and Jones is eyeing rapid expansion. He said he wasn't actively pursuing a president, but was recently reacquainted with Qualls and seized the opportunity to pitch him.

"In my career, for three decades, my best scenarios have happened when I had a strong operational leader," Jones, 54, said in a phone interview.

"I'm good at getting money behind things, raising capital. I'm good at strategically directing businesses. I think John brings a lot of that, but I think he also brings" operational and tactical prowess, Jones said.

Bluelock was one of Indiana's fastest-growing companies under Qualls, jumping to $20 million in annual revenue in its first four years. After gaining confidence in the roughly 50-person team he built there, he started getting the itch to start something new, he said.

"The plan was to take a sabbatical for a few months to gather my thoughts on what I wanted to build next," Qualls said.

"I told my wife that, and she laughed, 'Yeah, right. That's not going to happen.' The sabbatical lasted 48 hours."

Jones said Qualls bounced ideas for his next possible venture over a December dinner at Miracle, a Carmel sushi restaurant.

It was then that Jones told him about Eleven Fifty, which comprises a not-for-profit coding academy, a for-profit consulting firm and, in the near future, an accelerator. Some of Eleven Fifty's coding "graduates" become consultants with the the firm and are encouraged to seek employment with the companies they assist.

Qualls said learning about Eleven Fifty "kind of pulled on my heartstrings" and gave the Indianapolis native the opportunity to give back. He had spent a good deal of time on the coasts over the past four years after transitioning from Bluelock's CEO to its development director in 2011.

"I feel like I've been out of town for four years," Qualls said. "I want to re-establish my involvement in Indiana but also leverage my national network to expand the Eleven Fifty impact."

Eleven Fifty has already trained about 200 coders from Indiana and elsewhere, but Qualls said he wants to kick things up notch and "train 2,000 coders this year." Jones said he's in the process of establishing an Eleven Fifty location in Hawaii.

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