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General Assembly sells to Adecco for $413M (techcrunch.com)
159 points by sethbannon 9 months ago | hide | past | web | 77 comments | favorite

I witnessed the quality of education provided in the areas of design and product management and I wasn't impressed. To me GA felt like a predatory business that provided a very superficial veneer of legitimacy to extremely unqualified candidates. The good ones going in would be well served by the networking but people that didn't know anything about the field would crash and burn at their first contact with the reality of the industry.

I'm not one of those people hung up on traditional college education, I got my degree mostly studying by myself and always found most of what my college offered useless, so I'm not coming from the angle of "you need an x year college degree for this...".

I realize this is an harsh opinion but it's not cool to get north of $10k from people that need a job and tell them "we'll make you a designer in 3 months", that just doesn't happen.

Predatory indeed. I know of many people who were previously working service industry jobs, saved up the $10k for a GA course with the promise that they’ll be making $150k/yr in ~12 weeks.

I’ve personally interviewed around 25 GA grads, and the result was pretty much the same with all of them - “great, you now know what you don’t know, and have about a year of self-directed learning followed by a year of on the job experience before being employable in a role above an internship.

It’s actually pretty heartbreaking when you talk them and get a sense for how much they were oversold.

Disclaimer - taught GA part-time courses (data science)

My heart goes out to those people, and I'm guessing Web Development Immersive students?

I always described GA's programs as a multiplier in that your outcome is going to be weighted by your experience going in. And for the most part I felt GA managed that expectation fairly well for most of its immersive programs - except Web Development.

In WDI I would see students who had no background in CS, design, etc. hoping to go from no experience to a full-stack developer position in 12 weeks. With a broad curriculum that iirc was starting with html/css fundamentals and working through Rails/Node/... maybe Angular? I felt it was giving them a base to start learning on their own, but not enough to immediately start working except for the very-top students (who likely had some sort of helpful background coming in).

I do believe GA is at its core a good organization that wants to see its students succeed (can't say enough good things about the career coaching / placement staff aka "outcomes"). But I can see how with a lot of competition in that space, the sell may have gotten stronger than what the product supports - and that's 100% on GA to address.

I just wanted to chime in and say that I am a graduate of Web Development Immersive program (London campus). In 2014 I was crazy enough to put all my trust in GA (I didn't know much about them, except that they taught Ruby on Rails, and it sounded cool, and I wanted to learn), and go there from a different country to get the training. Turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me, ever! True, I did not have particularly high career expectations, nothing like making $150k/yr or anything that lofty, but I did hope that it would give me enough of a foundation to help me change my career and become a software developer. Which it totally did.

I saw this equally across the UX, WebDev, and product management immersive graduates.

I don’t doubt that GA started with good intentions, but it seems clear that they got caught in the typical startup trap where they get ‘forced’ to prioritize investors over users as their target audience.

Now I'm genuinely curious to know who you are :) You can contact me via my profile.

I used to interview would-be students for Lambda School (we now have a team that does that), and we had many GA grads that couldn't even pass our code challenge we required to start.

It wasn't outrageously hard stuff they were tripping up on, if you don't grasp closure or recursion or something that might be OK, but most couldn't code fizzbuzz. After having paid $10-15k in tuition and being trained for three months, I would at a minimum expect a student to be able to write a for loop.

Although, at a traditional 4 year university you can easily spend 6-10 times that amount of money and many students coming out of CS programs still aren't able to code fizzbuzz.

Turns out a four year university being awful and a code bootcamp being awful are not mutually exclusive.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that. My university had a decent CS program, but not top 10 or anything. You wouldn't be able to get past the required intro to CS class without knowing how to code fizzbuzz, much less move on to the later courses. Unless the students you're talking about cheated on every assignment and test, in every class.

You would be shocked. Truly.

Some bootcamps are certainly predatory, but I think there are often expectation mismatches from the student. I do think that bootcamps tend to attract the "wrong" types of people—those who view bootcamp enrollment as a financial transaction (pay $10k, get 10x ROI), or vastly underestimate the amount they also need to pay in sweat and hard work. I'd argue that the most successful bootcamp grads are those that likely would have succeeded outside of a bootcamp. Alone, or through other programs, e.g. MOOCs, that have infinitely better ROI (literally, division by zero/free).

I interviewed and rejected so many GA candidates that I unfortunately don't bother interviewing them anymore.

Moreover, I blame them for completely weakening what "Data Scientist" is supposed to mean. It was never really clear in the first place, but always assumed to be "a programmer who knows about statistics or a statistician who knows about programming". GA distributes their certifications to people who are neither.

Corollary, you're better off coming to me with no diploma/certification than with a GA one.

I took GA recently, and was never over-sold. I knew exactly what I was getting into-- yet I do have previous programming experience.

What upset me were, as you said, those who wanted to believe the promise of instant-employability without ANY prior coding experience. But GA did not over-sell this. They make it very clear in the entrance interview that there are no promises and the employment process is on our shoulders.

I feel, perhaps, the industry oversells itself: claims of "everyone should learn to code", claims of developers "making millions on IPOs", and reading how big tech companies are making the headlines every day. My neighbor's are all driving nice, fancy cars. Why? Amazon developers. Who doesn't want to be a developer-turned-overnight-success with propaganda like that?

I can attest to this in the case of the Data Science course. My wife, a non-CS PhD, was interested in changing her career track. We were referred to General Assembly (the SF location) by one of my coworkers and the curriculum looked comprehensive enough, so she signed up.

About a month into the course, to our despair, we discovered that there was almost zero conceptual training imparted (I am a data scientist by profession and can speak to this). The instructors seemed to be working there as a stopgap measure while looking for other jobs, and the students were there for standard credential-seeking. The course material meanwhile was focused on answering "How" but not "Why", which is far more important when approaching data science problems.

To fix the situation, we quickly pieced together a curriculum based on Tibshirani & Hastie's machine learning video lectures[0] and picked a few Kaggle challenges for practice. My wife went through this material over a month, and came out with enough of a mental framework to be able to tackle book-length material such as ISLR[1].

Finally, there was almost zero career support provided apart from generic advice around how networking is important and how one should try to get outside their comfort zone.

Though all's well that ends well (my wife is working as a data scientist now at a seed-stage Valley startup), in retrospect we often talk about how we shouldn't have wasted money on this course. She didn't learn anything that she couldn't have picked up on her own, not even practical skills re: data analysis with Python/R, and her student cohort was quite disinterested in making connections.

Ce la vie.

[0] http://www.dataschool.io/15-hours-of-expert-machine-learning... [1] Introduction to Statistical Learning, http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~gareth/ISL/

Just to tack onto this, from what I understand, quality at each of the GA locations varied wildly. Part of that is it's on the instructors to come up with all the details of the curriculum so instruction varies from class to class depending on whether or not the instructor had taught it before, or if HQ decided to change the material in the course. My understanding as a former evening class instructor was the SF location was a shit show, whereas the Boston location where I taught had better outcomes.

I've long looked at their courses with interest, and recently took a free class intro so I could scope out if the place was worth the money and.... I wasn't impressed, especially not for the high prices.

The instructor was a "senior engineer" while his resume was only 2-3 years long, and he was an average at best instructor. The furniture was Ikea or Ikea-level. And perhaps most unforgivable to me, the (cheap) desks/benches did not have power outlets, even though laptops are a fundamental requirement. My last point may seem petty to some, but to me it indicated a distinct lack of consideration for what students actually need to succeed.

If I'm paying north of $100 per class hour, I expected considerably better.

I used to teach the web development immersive.

The quality of the courses depends on the quality of the instructors -- and because GA tends to hire instructors as contractors without benefits, it's difficult for them to retain good instructors.

I also think the rigor and quality of the curriculum varies widely between campuses. NYC and DC do have fairly solid curriculums and high expectations for students. I get the impression that this is not the same for all campuses. (As an example: a campus on the west coast spends one hour total on SQL, while campuses on the east coast spend 9-10 hours of lecture time along with two homework assignments.)

I was a contractor that taught evening classes. Definitely agree that quality is all on the instructors, and quality of outcomes varied between instructors and campuses. When I was still teaching, I was pretty sure WDI instructors were full time employees. Is that not still the case? The biggest issue I heard from the WDI guys I knew was burnout. They were doing 40 hours in class, then class prep/student aid outside. For the same salary as a dev, they basically had 60-80 hour weeks in session.

In NYC, at least, there are three or four full time slots, and the rest are contractors. 8 or 10 total. Burnout is definitely a big deal. Instructors who naturally tend towards burning themselves out stick around longer...

I've helped a few students with their homework, despite never taking a course there. They were utterly lost.

I think they are probably better viewed as a good option for part-time courses in technical disciplines for self-motivated people. At least as a potential applicant (have never taken a bootcamp) I didn't see them in the same light as Hack Reactor, for example.

"Over time, General Assembly became less of a consumer facing business and transitioned into one that was serving primarily business clients — which means access to Adecco Group’s over 100,000 businesses is a big boon to the company’s continued expansion plans."

I thought this was interesting. Anyone know more about the services General Assembly was offering to businesses? I guess there is more money and less risk associated with this market. Going after the public / the bootcamp model means you run into accreditation laws surrounding educational institutions and you have to do more work (e.g. tracking placement rates).

I know Booz Allen Hamilton launched a company-wide initiative with General Assembly for a data science course [1]. From my limited understanding of the content, I believe it is aimed at providing a very rudimentary introduction to the field for the more businessy/consultant types. And to demonstrate that BAH is "data-driven".

[1] https://www.boozallen.com/s/insight/thought-leadership/accel...

BAH is a leech on the federal government. I’m not even sure what they do, other than sucking $M in project management costs while providing nothing.

I support this - it's money that's not going to the military. Every government contract signed, every middle manager given a raise, signifies, in a final sense, a theft from those who would bomb and are not armed, those who would kill and have no weapons.

One thing they do is serve as a recruiting agency as well. I was an instructor there for awhile and that was part of the business. But that was back in circa 2012 and I wasn’t exposed much to their actual sales/b2b efforts.

GA is a great org — they also did a lot of (job training) work with returning military vets as well. GA has gotten a lot of people into the tech world. Their courses aren’t all-encompassing, but their web dev courses are good enough to get junior devs off to a good start. I wish I had them when I got started! Their current Project Management courses look pretty solid as well. Highly recommended (but I have an admitted bias of course.)

I worked for a company that was running a pilot with them for a few years to train internal candidates who wanted to go into Software Engineering, almost as a way to

1) outsource employee development 2) satisfy the need to hire lots of devs faster than recruiting could hire them 3) bring down the cost of hiring devs overall.

I left before seeing the results of the pilot, but I remember folks saying that it definitely opened up doors to those looking to switch careers, but that it's a slow process: it takes a lot of time and practice to get to even an entry level engineering position, especially when it's a part-time course.

Overall I like the idea of democratizing education and lowering the barrier people who want to get into the industry; plus, it definitely seems like a solution to the supply/demand problem for devs for companies, so I expect the trend of bootcamp/business partnerships to continue.

Never underestimate that people just take the classes there and expense them. I signed up for GA in order to evaluate multiple classes on Design Thinking - not because I needed to learn that material from a class, but because I needed to prove I had taken a class to be eligible for an internal certificate within my company that qualified me to work on a certain kind of project. I ended up taking a different class (from codecademy), but GA was attractive because it was relatively inexpensive and the classes seemed to be pretty short, which would have helped.

My codecademy course in data analysis seems to be a lot more work, but also a lot more useful.

I am a cofounder at Hack Reactor. B2B is our fastest-growing business unit, and this is true for most bootcamps that do B2B. Mostly this is corp training that happens onsite. For example, Company X has 3000 desktop or Java engineers that need to learn JS/web/data science/whatever. GA (and a few others) also has a suite of non-classroom products, which you might see as closer to Lynda or Udacity.

I taught the web development immersive for a while. They offer private, on-site, tailored WDI cohorts to businesses. They've also built a cybersecurity course for a client, and I'm sure a bunch of other stuff I don't know about.

In New York, at least, it was not accredited but it was...registered, I guess? with the state. I had to get a teachers' license.

It seems super-valuable for something like GA to get pulled into a classic vocational-training style setup. Adecco seems very well suited to place a large number of entry-level programmers, including on the receiving side, to help business structure teams around getting value out of such employees.

I took their product management course as part of our corporate development. I felt that GA did a very good job in highlighting frameworks and methodologies that made me a sufficiently better product manager to justify the investment.

4 times revenues is pretty good for a company like that. Lots of physical presence required, a ton of handholding so it doesn't scale nearly as well as your typical 'SaaS' or other software company. Well executed and well negotiated.

I don't think it is that good taking into account that $ 120 million were invested in GA. Investors look for bigger multipliers.

Investors are usually pretty savvy of what they invest in and I'm fairly sure they knew that they weren't going to see much more than 3 x revenues on this deal. And depending on how early they entered their multiples may have been a lot higher (with correspondingly longer times before their payday came).

The last round in 2015 was 70 million, that's a pretty good pay-off for 3 years, the one before that was 35 million in 2014, still a very good ROI.

Investors look for bigger multipliers when the risks are higher, a company like this is as start-up investments come reasonably low risk, it is essentially a middle ground between a consultancy business and a scalable proposition and as a result of that the returns are also in the middle.

Investors looking for bigger multipliers would have to be content with taking bigger risks as well.

The $70m round in 2015 was likely for 10-20% equity, meaning a valuation between 350m and 700m. With that in mind, it's virtually no gain or possibly a loss.

The article actually mentioned a latest valuation iirc that said the last round investors had ~no positive return.

I agree with the evaluation of risk, though.

The Axios article[1] is better because it notes that later investors had preferential terms ("preference stack"). It's also says the post-money valuation was around $440m.

It's hard to know what they got back, but since the preference stack is noted I'd guess they made between 120% and 150%. There's no real way to know though - but we can tell they made their money back because the sale went though.

Also, A D round isn't looking for huge returns. They probably would have been outstandingly happy with 3x, so 1.2x is fine for them.

[1] https://www.axios.com/general-assembly-1523667905-ce940016-1...

Exactly. It's very hard to make any definitive statements about this without knowing all the deal terms and those will most likely never become public.

I don't know how much equity they got for that, and without that exact information and the rest of the terms it is hard to know for sure how much they made. There are always lots of stories around an investment of this size but rarely is the real data out in the open. And I'm pretty sure of that because I know the details of some deals and those details are wildly different from the speculation in the press.

Some hints: the later investors likely had the best terms (they almost always do), they were most likely also in a position to block the deal if they did not make at least a certain ROI, they likely had liquidation preferences detailing exactly under what circumstances they would have to agree to a deal that was unfavorable to them and what the other shareholders would have to give up in compensation.

Sometimes you’ve got to double down to see the initial investment pay off. Depends who was in on the round, but a good investor who follows through to help get the outcome is a special kind of partner.

Is it safe to say the bootcamp boom is over? For a while, it seemed like everyone and their cousin was starting a bootcamp, trying to cash in on the gold rush. Now, most of the biggest ones I know of (GA, Flatiron, Dev Bootcamp (RIP)) have been gobbled up.

I don't think the bootcamp boom is over. There is such a huge demand for coding and coding education that some people jumped into the space very quickly and found out that education and computer science are, surprise, each Hard Problems on their own and even harder when you combine them.

In my experience, programmers like solving problems and know that they are good at doing so. Most of my lecturers and classmates had spend many hours working out how to "fix" CS education -- it was the most immediate problem that they were exposed to every day. So it makes sense that many people threw themselves at the wall and not all of them stuck.

At HyperionDev [0], we're using a mentor-driven model to offer a fully online, part-time coding bootcamp where we give people significantly more 1:1 contact time with their mentor, and focus on code review as a primary method of instruction. We've found that we're able to teach people quite a lot in 6-months part-time at a significantly lower price point than some of the places mentioned in the parent.

The global bootcamp market might look a bit rocky, but until we get to a point where we don't have 10 dev jobs for every dev out there, bootcamps are going to have their place.

[0] https://www.hyperiondev.com

Seems like it. But you have some new models - like Lambda School - that are showing a lot of promise

Co-founder of Lambda School here.

The problem with the bootcamp gold rush is and has always been the business model. You have a few major variables:

1. How much can a person pay you?

2. How many people can you fit in a classroom?

3. How long can the classes be while still maintaining a profit margin?

Based on those constraints bootcamps try to teach as much as possible. Within those constraints bootcamps found one model that worked and cloned it hundreds of times: A bunch of people in a classroom for 12 weeks paying $10-15k each. Some will try to chop off a couple weeks, some charge $18k instead of $10k, but it's fundamentally the same.

Every single bootcamp recognizes that this is not a great way to train engineers. 12 weeks simply isn't enough. But there's enough of a shortage or engineering talent that bootcamps could get away with it for a while.

Sure, in an ideal world you would actually train the students based on what they need to make hiring companies happy, but change any of the variables in the above equation and the whole business model falls apart. If you want to make the classes 2x the length you'd have to charge 2x the price, and can you get large numbers of people to pay $25-40k out of pocket? Not a chance.

We had to really start from first principles, and start with a new business model, which changes everything else.

The main thing we wanted was incentives aligned with our students; so we started from, "What if we didn't get paid unless students get a job?" That forced us to change everything else. I actually thought it might not be possible for a while.

I don't consider Lambda School to be a code bootcamp. We're six or seven months long full-time, which is 2.5x the length of a code bootcamp, plus a month of pre-course work. A few graduates have applied to Lambda School after having paid another school $15k and haven't even been able to pass our prep work.

I think we're on the _short_ end of what a solid engineering education should be. But we have enough time to teach true fundamentals, our students don't just write JavaScript, but also Python and C, they have an apprenticeship where they ship real projects that make real money on real teams, and they actually learn to think and write real code, not just pump out quick apps then struggle when confronted with anything new.

We can be flexible on class size so long as we keep a good teacher:student ratios because we're entirely online (which, by the way, is actually a superior learning experience to offline). We can pick the best students regardless of financial ability because our pool of potential students isn't limited to people with 20k in their pockets that can move to San Francisco. We actually have _more_ support for students, because our instructors scale across classes when they're not teaching, and we can do some tricky financial stuff on the backend to make sure students are guaranteed a job before they pay.

All of that combined lets us open up a promise, which is what really matters for students at the end of the day - attend for free until you get hired.

I think we'll see massive consolidation in the bootcamp space in coming months, and it's already started (Dev Bootcamp, Iron Yard, Bloc, Viking Code School, and more have either been acquired or closed). That's very healthy, and frankly there are some sleazy bootcamps that only exist because of marketing. You could wipe the bottom 80% of bootcamps off the face of the earth and it would probably be a net positive for everyone. I think we'll get there in the next 3-4 years.

Thanks writing up such a detailed comment!

I assume "tricky financial stuff on the backend" means referral fees for placing students, and the like. Can you go into more detail on this?

I'm also curious how your online training works. Is it an inverted classroom model (read / watch stuff before class, discuss material and exercises in class?), or self-paced, or what? My experience is that online training doesn't work as well as face-to-face training, but this is in a very different context (training developers who already have jobs == they never do homework).

We keep some of the financial stuff close to the chest, but there are ways we use wall street and robust capital markets to help fund student tuition upfront.

Everything we do is real-time, interactive, and absolutely not self-paced. There's supplemental material that's a flipped classroom model, but that's definitely not the main focus.

Thanks for the writeup, great summary of all most all Bootcamps fundamental problems.

> The problem with the bootcamp gold rush is and has always been the business model. You have a few major variables:

> 1. How much can a person pay you?

> 2. How many people can you fit in a classroom?

>3. How long can the classes be while still maintaining a profit margin?

> Every single bootcamp recognizes that this is not a great way to train engineers. 12 weeks simply isn't enough.

> The main thing we wanted was incentives aligned with our students; so we started from, "What if we didn't get paid unless students get a job?" That forced us to change everything else. I actually thought it might not be possible for a while.

> I don't consider Lambda School to be a code bootcamp. We're six or seven months long full-time, which is 2.5x the length of a code bootcamp, plus a month of pre-course work

> All of that combined lets us open up a promise, which is what really matters for students at the end of the day -

attend for free until you get hired.

> Every single bootcamp recognizes that this is not a great way to train engineers

This isn't quite true. I work for Hack Reactor and we're doing well with this model. But every single staff member is also passionate about our students (including those at top), so that might explain why we work if others do not.

Hack Reactor and App Academy are legitimate and do their best, but a 75% hiring rate after 6 months according to CIRR is less than ideal by al accounts. I’m certain that would be closer to 100% with another few months.

I propose a long bet, Lambda vs HR: winner is the first to cross 90% on one CIRR reporting period with >300 students.

PS yall are awesome <3 love the material you keep putting out.

Cofounder of Hack Reactor here.

Austen is hella right about his thesis: bootcamps are not getting enough students across the finish line right now. They need higher admissions bars, more classroom hours, and/or other good ideas. Hack Reactor is (imo) one of the high-water marks of this line of thinking. Lambda and Holberton are others.

I think he's miscast the three variables though -- partly because he's got a bit of a dog in the race. (As I do -- "we're not a bootcamp" is something many bootcamp founders, yours truly included, have said.) Anyway here's another perspective on the matter:

#1 is mostly right -- bootcamps are limited in price, and this is a huge constraint. It's wrong in an important way: it should be "How much can I charge before a student picks another bootcamp". This problem gets easier, but doesn't go away, if a bootcamp uses a deferred-tuition model. Evidence for my formulation here: App Academy and Hack Reactor have the same kinds of student outcomes problems, because we're both facing the same demon, which is the low-cost bootcamp that prevents us from charging more and spending more on product quality.

Austen's #2 and #3 are both about specific ways to tweak the bootcamp's expense : quality ratio. This is an interesting topic that goes really deep, and I think Austen's reduction is (honestly) pretty heavy on the marketing content. If I were to boil it into two bullets it'd go like this.

#2 "Can you run a good program, online or offline, that isn't classroom-based." Here, by "classroom" I mean "15-40 students and teachers that know each other personally", and it can and does happen online. (Viking Code School, and Hack Reactor Remote, do online/classroom-based programs.) Classroom programs are very challenging to operate: they introduce discrete start dates, fill rate problems, etc. But it's hard to reproduce the quality of a classroom-based program in eg a mentor-driven or community-driven program. I think the answer here will be "kind of", and hybrid classroom-like programs will win.

#3 "Can you get students to pay $10k+ for an online program". Online can be better than offline -- Hack Reactor Remote is our top-performing campus right now. However, few people want to buy it, despite the fact that it doesn't involve moving to SF. Perhaps Lambda has figured something out here -- I don't know about their growth numbers. I hear Thinkful has. Generally, I think the bootcamp space will mostly become hybrid online/offline. I bet half of Lambda's students are in SF, they meet up in person already, and Lambda does or will facilitate/market this.

My #2 and #3 are also poor formulations of the fundamental challenge here -- the quality : cost ratio. For instance, my favorite recent innovation in the bootcamp space (evidenced by Holberton, and maybe Lambda?) is to offset tuition costs and increase grad expertise by bundling an internship and taking a bite of internship income. This doesn't pertain to my #2 or #3 (or Austen's) but it's a way to solve the top-line problem Austen mentioned.

Anyway, TLDR: another bootcamp founder agrees with Austen's thesis; quibbles on details in ways you might find interesting.

You're wrong about many things but I don't want to correct you because then that would give away some aspects of why Lambda is working so well :)

Much respect!

I think you hit the nail on the head with this question:

> #2 "Can you run a good program, online or offline, that isn't classroom-based."

In my opinion, every learning experience that requires teachers and/or a physical space is highly limited by its margins, and, as you said, will be much more sensitive to price-based competition.

If you want to increase the quality of the output, you need to increase the number of teacher-hours and real-estate-hours. Considering that labor and real estate are two of the most expensive resources you can think of, that is quite limiting.

Can we really think of a scenario where a high-quality learning experience is not limited by those two resources? I think Thinkful is doing a pretty good job. There is plenty of pedagogical evidence of the high impact that mentor-led education has (e.g. Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem). However, I think they are quite limited in a way that I consider crucial to solving the education problem:

They are very dependent on their mentor-led approach, both from a marketing and a financial point of view. That makes them very expensive and don't let them approach the problem/solution challenge from a more global point of view (i.e. only people in the US can, at scale, afford to pay $15k for a training like this, and their Income Share Agreement is only available to people in the US).

My main question here is this: What makes a mentor such an important element in the formula for student success? Is it the guiding, the technical knowledge, the accountability, the motivation?

My thesis here is that technical knowledge is not that important, but accountability, guiding and motivation are. At Microverse, we currently have students all around the world who are learning to code as part of distributed teams. They key here is that they spend almost 8 hours per day doing pair programming and holding each other accountable. We are "outsourcing" the task of holding students accountable to the students themselves.

However, there is also the motivation and the guiding aspect of the role of the mentor that students themselves can't take care of. In order to solve that, we are using quantitative/discrete input from the students that trigger the intervention of a more experienced mentor.

Also, one of my main hypothesis is that creating more content is not the key to adding value. There is already so much high-quality content available for free that only needs to be curated. And Thinkful (and almost every other player) is not understanding this part either.

Some students will think that they are paying for nothing if there are no teachers, no mentors, no physical space and no original content. However, if you flip the pricing in the way that Lambda School is doing by charging after the program, then the student perspective changes because she knows the only thing that matters is the outcome, and the payment is tied to that outcome.

We (Microverse) are the only training program that is currently offering an ISA available to anyone in the world. And there is a very simple reason why we can afford to do that: we don't have teachers, we don't create content, and we don't need to pay for real estate, all while making our remote experience accessible to everyone and while designing an experience from a motivation/accountability point of view through peer-to-peer work. All of this makes our margins way bigger, and that gives us much more room to take risks.

I hope this doesn’t result in some form of debt peonage temp work, but having worked some Adecco jobs when I was younger, I wouldn’t put it past them. In my experience, they were mostly recruiting for jobs in really toxic workplaces that couldn’t otherwise attract talent, and that were described as “temp-to-hire,” but that never worked out that way. They would get rid of people once they had pushed them to the limit of contracting laws or if you in anyway complained about/reported anything at your job site.

I could easily see this devolving into some kind of debt-based H1B system, where they drastically overprice a bootcamp education that they give for “free” to desperate jobseekers, and then use to lock them into underpaid roles at bad workplaces that can’t recruit technical talent without this kind of predatory leverage.

After watching someone go through their training, I'm not very impressed. They also enormously inflate their job placement statistics by giving graduates a difficult set of hoops to continually keep jumping through in order to be counted at all. For example, miss posting a blog one week, poof!, you're no longer counted in their placement statistics.

It seems cheap to me. I did some digital marketing course there. The classes are more on the basic side but certainly a good intro for some basics in programming and digital business.

Note that this isn't cheap because training doesn't scale like software businesses. That means the revenue multiple is lower than for a software company.

I feel like we have not cracked the code on how to use software to automate teaching yet. Not sure why: NLP, complex representation of understanding, dynamic edition of video content, monitoring someone’s attention… All those are there and have been for a while.

I feel we barely have a notion on how to teach other humans how to teach, let alone a computer.

As a former teacher, I find this very amusing. There's a lot more to it than uploading raw info into receptive brains. As a current software engineer, I think it's probably a lot more likely we'll automate parts of my current career.

Also a teacher-turned-dev, and I completely agree. Teaching is such a labor-intensive, poorly-understood process that the idea of effectively automating it anytime soon is ridiculous. We still don't really have any consistent metric that measures what a "good" teacher is - if you can't even kinda measure performance in an accurate and consistent way, how on earth is the process going to be automated effectively?

Pedagogical understanding is pretty good (given enough effort in a particular field).

But NLP's accuracy isn't high enough for anything more than basic tasks.

It's just not good enough at understanding mistakes, or giving well calibrated probabilities of complex meanings given a context.

(I work in NLP professionally, and I've worked in the education space previously).

NLP is generally garbage. Everything you described sounds really amazing but is twenty years away in conjunction

Yes, all those parts are there, and some of them have been around for decades, but adding these parts and building a teaching AI will be more complex, and I really think that if we are ready to build it we won't need to train humans that much anymore.

We don’t yet have a substitute for asking complex questions about the source material.

Is it just me or did they sell for pretty cheap? Congrats either way!

> Congrats either way!

One thing to keep in mind, with something like this, employees' stock is almost certainly worth $0. There will likely be some sort of retention plan for some set of employees, but their stock in GA probably won't be worth anything. The founders will likely have some sort of bonus, and the investors will make some money (not home-run money, but money). I guess they deserve a congrats, but to me it's worth remembering that most likely employees, who viewed their stock options as a part of their compensation, will be left with nothing but a thank you.

The article said they had revenue of 100M. Training generally doesn't lead to recurring revenue, so a huge multiplier is not justified. Doesn't seem too cheap to me.

B2B training should be recurring, large companies hire new classes of entry-level workers every year.

But that's not as "sticky" as software. If you decide to cut costs next year on training because its non-essential, the revenue gets slashed. If I still need to procure stuff, I'm not going to shut off my procurement software to cut costs.

On the flip-side, if cost-cutting becomes important, a company may decide to invest in current employees skills in lieu of hiring new external employees. Any software that isn't mission-critical faces high risk in a cost-cutting environment.

It also costs more to do (even partially) in-person training than to sell SAAS software.

My take on it is that B2B customers are difficult and expensive to acquire and Adecco has a relationship with 100,000 leads. Seems like a good acquisition to me.

It’s relatively cheap. IMO if they executed better it could have been a $1B+ exit, but it’s certainly not the worst case scenario.

Surprised it wasn't WeWork

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