Nearly a year after its last layoff, online coding bootcamp Lambda School just announced more cuts amid a broader restructuring. In a blog post, CEO and founder Austen Allred said that the startup, which raised a $74 million Series C in August, is laying off 65 employees.
The roles that were cut span senior product, engineering, design, community management and instructional staff. There is a Google form for companies to post job opportunities for new Lambda School alumni.
“We have been working for years on making incentive-aligned education work,” Allred wrote in a tweet. “It’s harder than we initially thought; we’ve had to invent a lot from scratch simultaneously and we have to get a lot of things exactly right.”
Lambda School creates online bootcamps in the career and technical space — and it’s also a pioneer of the ISA, an income share agreement, touting it as a vital way to finance employment-ready education. ISAs essentially allow students to avoid paying upfront fees to attend a bootcamp, and then ultimately pay back class fees through a percentage of their future income. A number of startups have taken the “Lambda School for X” format, such as Henry and Microverse. Other companies also offer ISAs, such as Pursuit, V School, Launch School and the Grace Hopper Program, one analysis shows.
The pandemic, and volatile economic circumstances, have made ISAs a harder route. Allred said that some startups pivoted from the model, but it appears that Lambda School will not. It’s still a hard thing to finance as a startup, since the company is essentially in a waiting game of debt until students pay. The company might be looking at a variety of ways to fund the ISA business, one of which got them in hot water years ago.
“We have a lot of interest in purchasing the income share agreements at the point of graduation, from investment funds and that kind of thing,” Allred said back in April 2020.
We don’t know how exactly the restructuring will look from a strategy perspective, beyond the fact that Lambda School is pausing new enrollment in part-time programs. Earlier this month, Lambda School announced a new partnership with Amazon: a back-end engineering program that will last nine months. Because the program is full-time, it is likely not impacted by the restructuring.
Today’s call by Lambda School illustrates how hard it is to build an edtech company that is truly doing something new. The company has a lot of stakeholders with different incentives to consider: students saving money, businesses making money and venture capitalists who have given millions and millions to the company expecting some type of exit one day.
“Despite these changes, our mission remains the same. As we move forward, we will continue to focus on unlocking opportunity, regardless of circumstance, for everyone willing to put in the work,” the blog post reads. Allred didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.