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By Romain Dillet

Le Wagon raises $19M to build a global coding bootcamp

French startup Le Wagon has raised its first round of funding after many years of bootstrapping. The company closed a $19 million funding round (€17 million) a few months ago. Cathay Capital is leading the round with AfricInvest also participating.

"We've always bootstrapped since 2013, and we've always been profitable since day one," Le Wagon co-founder and COO Romain Paillard told me. "Structurally, all of our metrics are doing well but we wanted to increase our resources."

Le Wagon is an interesting story of a slow iteration of a successful product. The company has been laser-focused on a single course for most of its lifetime — a highly rated full-stack web development course. There are now 38 campuses around the world across two dozens of countries (but not the U.S.) offering this course.

But Le Wagon wants to go one step further. With today's funding round, the startup hopes to widen its reach with both new courses and new countries. And it starts with a new data science course. It is only available in a handful of cities for now, but Le Wagon hopes to offer the new course across all its campuses.

The company has also been working on a new format. Instead of committing to a 9-week full-time bootcamp, you can apply to a part-time course on Tuesday night, Thursday night and Saturday. It takes longer to complete the course, but it could be particularly useful if you have a family and kids — maybe you can't afford to leave your job or take a sabbatical.

Once again, part-time courses are live in a handful of cities for now. Le Wagon hopes to replicate the same offering across all its campuses.

Le Wagon Executive is another project that has been promising but is still underdeveloped. The company started offering courses to big corporate clients to train top talent. Clients include Axa, BNP Paribas, L'Oréal or LVMH. "For now, it's only a small part of our business because it's still the very beginning," Paillard said.

As you can see, Le Wagon has a ton of ideas to grow its business, but it's hard to iterate at a fast, global pace when you're still bootstrapped. The company will now be able to reproduce things that are working well in Paris across all other countries much more easily.

And after that, you can expect more courses and more countries. But Le Wagon still wants to build a uniform coding school and remain in control of its courses. That's how Le Wagon managed to reach that scale in the first place.