Outlearn seeks to be a software developer’s alternative to ‘just Googling it’

Paul Sagan
Paul Sagan

A small Boston startup is trying to give software and web developers a better way to get up to speed, and it’s raised $2 million to do it.

Outlearn Inc., a five-person company with its headquarters near South Station, has created a website that’s meant to help coders and the companies that hire them keep abreast of the latest technical standards and company-specific practices in an orderly way, according to chief executive Jeff Whatcott.

“Googling ends up being a terrible way to learn something new,” he said. “It’s very easy to get distracted, to run down a rathole.”

Outlearn’s website includes user-generated lesson plans, explanations, and lots of links to external content that developers can use to learn about app frameworks and runtime environments such as  AngularJS and Node.js. Companies can also pay to get specific lessons tailored for their employees and their internal practices for rates starting at $15 per employee per month, according to an Outlearn news release.

Whatcott, who previously worked at the Boston web video company Brightcove Inc., said the market is ripe for a company like his. Although other software instructional sites such as Lynda.com and PluralSight.com are available, he said the structure that Outlearn offers – and its willingness to link to external content – avoids direct competition with such established websites. And with 29 million tech workers worldwide, Whatcott said, the audience is large.

Those workers “are always changing jobs, entering into new companies. Onboarding becomes something where this is very important,” Whatcott said.

The company’s main financial backer is General Catalyst Partners, a software investor with offices in Cambridge. Paul Sagan, an executive-in-residence at General Catalyst and the former chief executive of the Cambridge tech company Akamai Technologies Inc., also invested. Whatcott said clients included large financial service companies and software companies, but he declined to name them. He said the company’s $2 million should last until mid-2016.