Ep. #7 - Austen Allred, CEO of Lambda School, on Alternate Education, Aligned Incentives & Being Personally Invested


"Everybody thinks they have to be riding on an airplane and get hit by something across the forehead to realize that something is broken and they are the only individual in soceity that has the right skills and knowledge to go fix it. Most of the time it’s much more, you know, kind of stumbling through the dark, groping and trying to figure out what’s there and stumbling on something." - Austen Allred

This episode’s guest is Austen Allred, CEO and founder of Lambda School. Austen is a serial founder, having started news network Grasswire, as well as a variety of other businesses.

Lambda School, his current venture, is a 30-week immersive training program that teaches students skills to launch a new career, with no tuition up-front, instead taking a percentage of income once students get a job in their new field.

Lambda School currently focuses on teaching computer science skills, with programs for Full-Stack Web Development, iOS Development, Data Science, Android Development and UX Design.

Austen and Lambda School are graduates of Y Combinator, and they just raised a $14M Series A financing round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) with participation from Stripe.

I am extremely excited about this episode, as aside from being one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter, I believe Lambda School and models like it are the future of education, and a brilliant alternative to college.

In this episode, we talk about the details of Lambda School, some of their success stories, education in general, rapid improvement, and more.

Where you can find Austen:

Twitter | LinkedIn

Selected links from episode

Show notes

  • Testimonial from a graduate of Lambda School [2:13]

  • A couple of Austen’s first ventures: Stubtopia & Grasswire [4:24]

  • An overview of Lambda School and the motivation for founding it [14:20]

  • How Lambda School aligns incentives with it’s students [16:34]

  • How Lambda works to get their students hired [18:26]

  • How Austen views the choice between university or Lambda School [21:59]

  • What Austen believes is positive about university education [25:04]

  • What disciplines Lambda School could potentially tackle after computer science [25:56]

  • How Lambda developed their early curriculum [28:17]

  • Why Austen is so obsessed with feedback, and how that is used to improve Lambda [29:56]

  • How hiring has gone so far for Lambda graduates [32:27]

  • How Lambda screens for successful candidates [33:43]

  • How Austen viewed VC funding when starting Lambda School [36:00]

  • The experience of participating in Y Combinator [38:05]

  • What the next 12-18 months look like for Lambda School [40:06]

  • The value of being personally invested as a founder, and how to deal with criticism [41:02]

  • Why Lambda is better than someone learning on their own [48:02]

  • What a good morning looks like for Austen [50:21]

  • Books that have had a large influence [51:54]

  • What Austen admires most about Elon Musk [53:10]

  • The worst advice Austen sees being dispensed in the education and startup industries [55:07]