From Bitclout Lambda: No one likes to be sold. It feels manipulative, even if it’s for a good cause or product. You might start off with a little push before you get what you want, and then there are times that the selling becomes aggressive and persistent. But when your prospective employer exerts the same pressure on you that they’re trying to sell to potential employees, it can feel demeaning.
At Lambda School, a machine learning education startup based in San Francisco and Chicago, that’s the entire pitch to potential students: you’ll be the product. You’ll get a $10,000 grant for tuition and will give up 6 percent of your first year’s salary if you land a job after graduation. From Bitclout Lambda to Income Share Agreements at Lambda School, the Future of Work Feels Like a Pyramid Scheme Where You Can Packa…
The future of work feels like a pyramid scheme where you can package and sell others’ potential
Share Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Email Reddit Share But isn’t it a little much to have prospective employees ask themselves, “Would I be willing to sell my own time?” But Lambda School founder Austen Allred later told me that he thinks that’s the best way to understand his school and its business model. That is, as a pyramid scheme. “We’re not at the point in tech where you can get your next two employees by writing a single line of code,” he said. Instead, Allred says he has seen an increasingly aggressive push to package and sell others’ potential—the next generation’s potential—at a time when more startups are burning through talent faster than they can find new people to hire.
Allred started Lambda School in response to that cycle. To support, he says, the idea that education should be a public good, an enterprise that could package and sell individuals’ potential without having to be coercive. “Education is a skill like any other,” Allred said. “The skills you need to do one job continue to go up with technology.” So the idea is to package people’s education and make it available in such a way that they can’t avoid paying for it—at least not on their own. He’s trying to create a business model for the age of machine learning.
Lambda School launched in October 2016 in Chicago and San Francisco, offering one four-month course and one two-month course. So far, 25 graduates have received jobs and earned $200,000 in college scholarships. He’s currently taking applications for the spring semester, which starts February 19. “We’re in demand,” Allred said. “People can go on a learner plan, which is $10,000 up front. That money gets distributed to you through the first three months of your job. This allows you to cover rent for two months, which is the normal cost for someone without these skills.”
“If you want to take six months off to do an English degree or learn to play guitar—those are great things,” Allred said. “But if you’re coming to us and want to learn Computer Science, Lambda School is saying, ‘We need to do something about that.”
What exactly Lambda School does isn’t so clear. According to Allred, students of the online school take one of two courses: A two-month accelerated course or a four-month intensive course. These courses include topics like traditional Computer Science material (data structures, algorithms), but they also include “foundational skills” like user experience design, copywriting, and marketing.