The Learning Company, a 12-week entrepreneurship program offered by the Alamo Colleges District, is shutting down Aug. 2, just over a year after the death of one of its creators, Hitish Nathani, according to an email sent to members of the downtown entrepreneur community.

Instead, the program – located downtown at coworking space Geekdom – will be decentralized and taught at each of the college district’s five campuses, district spokesman Mario Muñiz said.

“To say that it’s a defunct program or that it’s ceasing to exist is inaccurate,” Muñiz said. “It’s transitioning to another level. We anticipate being able to serve more than five times the number of students we’ve served in the past.”

The Learning Company trained entrepreneurs and technologists on how to take their ideas and develop them into businesses. Students from various backgrounds would form a team and be paired with a faculty member. The teams would receive coaching from The Learning Company’s instruction team and mentorship from its board. At the end of the program, each team would pitch its idea to the board as students sought access to funding and ideas on how to take their product to market.

The program is similar to other offerings at Trinity University (the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and the University of Texas at San Antonio (the Center for Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship) and those not affiliated with an educational institution, such as Geekdom’s The District. But The Learning Company sought to bring entrepreneurship to community college students who wouldn’t have otherwise been afforded the resources to build their own startup successfully.

“Hitish [Nathani] wanted to get entrepreneurship in the hands of as many community college students as possible,” said Luis Martinez, director of Trinity’s entrepreneurship program. “He wanted to ensure that these young men and women who were at the community colleges could see the opportunities they had available in starting their own company, in being founders, and seizing the opportunity while they were in college to participate in the growth of entrepreneurship and startups in San Antonio.”

Hitish Nathani

Nathani, who died unexpectedly at age 33 in June 2018, served as the chief innovator at The Learning Company after teaching entrepreneurship at the college level for several years in San Antonio and founding a business of his own, Bombay Salsa, in 2011. The Indian-Mexican fusion food truck was located at Burleson Yard.

Sarah Olivarez, an entrepreneur and innovation partner at The Learning Company, will depart the Alamo Colleges District after Friday’s shuttering. 

Muñiz said more than 30 Alamo Colleges faculty members have received training at The University of Texas at Austin’s IC2 Institute to ready the district for the expansion of the entrepreneurship curriculum.

“It’s been at least a year that I’ve known about [The Learning Company’s shuttering],” he said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise to the staff or to anyone in the entrepreneurship community. It’s been planned out for at least a year.”

Martinez said he hopes to see as many startups spin out of the program now that it will not be downtown in the heart of San Antonio’s startup community.

“It’ll be interesting to see whether or not that impactful work they had been doing previously could be scaled in this new faculty-driven curriculum model,” he said.

“I hope that as [Alamo Colleges moves] this back to their individual campuses, we won’t lose their presence and their participation in what’s happening in the San Antonio startup ecosystem,” he added.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.