‘Fast Crimes at Lambda School’

Ben Sandofksy went deep on the history of Lambda School, a learn-to-code startup that aimed to disrupt computer science education, and its founder, Austen Allred:

What set his boot camp apart from the others were “Income Share Agreements.” Instead of paying up-front for tuition, students agreed to pay a portion of future income. If you don’t get a job, you pay nothing. It was an idea so clever it became a breakout hit of Y Combinator, the same tech incubator that birthed Stripe, AirBnb, and countless other unicorns.

When Lambda School launched in 2017, critics likened ISAs to indentured servitude, but by 2019 it was Silicon Valley’s golden child. Every day, Austen tweeted jaw-dropping results. [...]

Things got worse from there, and we’ll get to it. First I need to address a common question: what do I have to do with any of this? I have no professional or personal connections to the company or the team. What compelled me to follow this story for the last five years?

On the surface, this is another window into the 2010’s tech bubble, a period where mediocre people could raise ludicrous money amid a venture capitalist echo chamber fueled by low-interest rates. But what makes this any worse than Juicero, Clinkle, or Humane? Why does this rise to the level of Theranos?

These stories hinge on their villains, whose hubris and stupidity end in comeuppance. Theranos had Elizabeth Holmes, Fyre Festival had Bobby McFarlane, and Lambda School has Austen Allred.

Independent journalism at its best.

Thursday, 20 June 2024