Affirm Acquires Coding Bootcamp Lending Startup LendLayer

Affirm has completed a talent acquisition of LendLayer, a startup that provides lending for accelerated learning programs like Hackbright Academy.

LendLayer partnered with a number of accelerated learning schools like Coder Camps and the New York Code + Design Academy to offer payment plans for those accelerated learning programs. It’s an acqui-hire, and it’s certainly an area where Affirm has been looking closely.

After LendLayer co-founder Steve McGarry first startup didn’t work out, LendLayer was started “with six of us in a two-bedroom in Mountain View,” he said. McGarry and his co-founder went through a developer bootcamp and, prior to this acquisition, had raised $400,000 for the company in seed financing. The connection happened between one of Affirm’s investors who saw the LendLayer pitch and pinged Affirm Co-Founder Max Levchin.

“We worked tirelessly around the clock, and in a matter of 8 months we were the top lender in the accelerated learning space,” he said. “We were partnering with digital marketing schools, data science, design schools, and your average coding bootcamps, ranging from all across different niches. We’re gonna help bring Affirm into that space.”

Coding bootcamps generally run for around a dozen weeks and can cost upwards of $10,000, with the idea of students leaving those bootcamps being able to enter the workforce right away as junior developers. It’s a steep upfront cost, but in theory would lead to a full-time role. When asked about the current loan obligations at LendLayer, Levchin said the company was still sorting out the details.

It’s an area that Affirm, and Levchin, have been interested in for a while. In July, Affirm said it would partner with programs like General Assembly to start offering loans for those programs. As part of that, Affirm would offer 12 to 18 month loans with interest rates that range from 6 percent to 20 percent, and recipients don’t have to repay the loans until later after they graduate. Affirm raised $275 million in May this year.

“I just gave a small lecture of my own at [General Assembly], one of our partners, and you can tell,” Levchin said. “I’m not old enough to call it a little bit of a distant memory, but I remember being in classrooms where I didn’t care to be there. It was a requirement. You can go into a lecture hall and half the people are dozing off. You go to one of these GA classes, every person in that room was grilling you with their eyes trying to absorb everything you were saying. They knew that whatever they were paying for the class was going directly to their career and earning capacity.”

There’s been an explosion of interest in these kinds of programs, with Dev Bootcamp getting acquired last year and the emergence of programs like General Assembly. Though, to be sure, these schools aren’t going to give students a computer science degree or send them to work at some of the hardest problems in computer science — at least, not yet.

But some the programs that Affirm works with, Levchin said, have more than a 90 percent placement rate. For Hackbright Academy, that placement rate is closer to 100 percent, McGarry said.

“The accelerated learning programs are great for people that want to become junior developers at companies, and start their careers and pivot careers, but an important thing to think about is in a 12 week period you cant learn everything across the spectrum,” McGarry said.

“So, they teach you very specific skills, like there’s bootcamps that are primarily focused on Javascript — they’re gonna completely make you a JavaScript wizard. By the end of it but having known that and really zeroed in niche or programming, you can go into a role.”