Indianapolis-based computer coding school Eleven Fifty Academy, which as recently as late last year had big expansion plans, is now in financial straits and is negotiating with bidders to take over operations.
The not-for-profit academy, co-founded in 2014 by tech entrepreneur Scott Jones, has been sued by one vendor for nonpayment, is facing claims related to unpaid wages and says on its website it’s not registering new students.
Jones, who serves as the school’s president and chairman, did not directly address financial questions about the organization but said the school has accepted bids in a process that ended last week. “We are now in negotiations with the primary bidders,” he told IBJ.
Meanwhile, online classes are in session, he said.
Jones—who is credited with creating key technology behind voicemail and digital music sharing—said he expects negotiations to wrap up within days. He declined to provide details about the nature of the bids or negotiations.
But as of Wednesday, the “donations” section of Eleven Fifty’s website was topped with the message “Eleven Fifty Academy Needs Your Help,” and further down the page, in a section titled “Headwinds,” the site says, “… our funding streams are complex and erratic. To continue delivering our industry-leading results and outcomes, we must fill the financial gap urgently.”
Jones co-created Eleven Fifty with the goal of helping students acquire computer coding and cybersecurity skills in as little as a few months, positioning them for tech jobs without having to earn a college degree.
Early on, classes met in the basement of the home Jones then owned in Carmel, and the organization took its name from Jones’ street address. Eleven Fifty’s headquarters is now located at 151 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis and, since its inception, has graduated more than 1,800 students, Jones wrote earlier this month.
To broaden its impact, Eleven Fifty announced plans late last year to expand its programming to 10 counties in west-central Indiana, including Tippecanoe County, with support from a $1 million, three-year grant from Indiana University Health. IU Health announced that grant in December 2021.
And earlier that year in April, the Lilly Endowment granted Eleven Fifty $5 million to build a tech hub at Martin University that would offer Eleven Fifty programming. The Lilly Endowment declined to comment on the status of the project, and Martin University did not respond to a message seeking comment.
But Eleven Fifty does not mention programs at those locations on its website. Instead, the site only lists its Indianapolis headquarters as well as online classes and a campus at Launch Fishers, a co-working space where Eleven Fifty was headquartered for years before moving to Indianapolis.
The Ohio Street headquarters was dark and its doors were locked on Wednesday. But Jones told IBJ that students and teachers haven’t used the office for 2-1/2 years and that all classes are conducted online.
The school is facing several financial issues.
Since September, eight wage claims have been filed against Eleven Fifty, a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Labor told IBJ. Employees who believe their employer owes them for unpaid wages can file a wage claim with the state in an effort to resolve the dispute. IBJ requested more details about the claims but the department has not yet provided the information.
Separately, Eleven Fifty is facing a lawsuit from California-based TriNet Group Inc., a human-resources service provider that claims the school owes it close to $200,000.
TriNet filed suit against Eleven Fifty in July in Marion Superior Court. In its complaint, TriNet said Eleven Fifty owes it $197,521 for outsourced human resources services rendered. TriNet is asking the court to issue a judgment against Eleven Fifty for the amount owed, plus interest, attorney’s fees and costs.
Eleven Fifty filed a motion in September seeking a partial dismissal of TriNet’s claims and seeking to instead resolve those claims via arbitration. A hearing took place Nov. 3 on the motion to dismiss, but the court has not yet issued a ruling, according to the docket for this case.
Eleven Fifty graduated 900 students last year. Currently, 65 students are taking classes, Jones said Wednesday.
In a text message on Tuesday, Jones said that the state isn’t doing enough to fund programs like Eleven Fifty that improve Hoosier workers’ skills, even though Gov. Eric Holcomb has said workforce issues are a top priority.
“Focusing on the fallout is the wrong place to focus,” Jones said in answer to questions about Eleven Fifty.
The Governor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Jones’ assertions.
Jones said the school scaled up rapidly in 2020 in response to the state’s request to train more workers. “The state asked us to ‘sprint’ when the pandemic began,” he said.
Because of that work, industry advocacy group TechPoint honored Eleven Fifty Academy with a Talent Impact Award at its Mira Awards in April.
“Its graduates have filled more than 800 tech jobs since the start of the pandemic, earn average starting salaries of $54,000 and 97% of them remain in the Indiana tech ecosystem,” TechPoint said in April.
Correction: The story has been corrected to say that 65 students are taking classes currently. That is not the total for the year. See IBJ corrections here.