Nearly a year after its last layoff, online coding bootcamp Lambda School just announced more cuts amid a broader structuring. 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, or 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 percent 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 for nine months. Since 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
Lenovo won’t be attending MWC in person, either
Shortly after Samsung announced that it won’t be attending the upcoming MWC Barcelona, Chinese hardware giant (and Motorola parent) Lenovo has confirmed with TechCrunch that it has also decided to forgo the in-person event. The event is scheduled for June 28 to July 1.
“Lenovo is not attending in person but will participate in the virtual partner program,” the company said in a brief statement. The decision reflects that of Samsung’s – opting to skip a booth in favor of going all-virtual.
The move is not particularly surprising – and, as noted earlier, it’s hard to shake the feeling we had early last year, as the dominos started falling ahead of the event’s cancelation (though by all accounts this year’s MWC will have a physical presence regardless). Google, IBM, Nokia, Sony, Oracle and Ericsson have all already confirmed they will not be in attendance.
Some key hardware names are still up on the official MWC exhibitor list, including ZTE, Xiaomi and LG – though things are further complicated by the fact that the latter recent announced its exit from the smartphone business.
Following Samsung’s announcement, the show’s governing board, the GSMA, told TechCrunch, “Of course we respect that planning in a pandemic is complicated. Samsung will adapt their presence to virtual for MWC21 and we look forward to seeing them in person 2022.” It’s safe to assume the response is similar for the moment, though we’ll update if we receive additional comment.
These announcements are, no doubt, a massive blow for MWC’s ambitions for a small return to normalcy this year. But given travel restrictions in many places as the pandemic continues to rage on in various parts of the world, it’s hard to fault any of the companies for their abundance of caution.
eBay embraces NFTs
eBay is joining the NFT frenzy, telling Reuters today that going forward it will allow the sales of NFTs on its platform, a mainstream embrace that follows billions of dollars in NFT purchases over the past few months. The e-commerce company seems poised to slowly build up sales of digital collectibles on the platform, starting with a smaller group of verified sellers on the platform.
“In the coming months, eBay will add new capabilities that bring blockchain-driven collectibles to our platform,” eBay exec Jordan Sweetnam told them.
eBay has invested heavily in infrastructure for physical collectibles like trading cards, as well as items like sneakers and watches which they help verify for buyers.
eBay is a major presence in online shopping, but the platform will have its work cut out for it competing with dozens of crypto native NFT marketplaces already out there. While NFT interest has been high as of late, the infrastructure for buying collectibles with cryptocurrencies still isn’t the most user-friendly. Earlier this week, executives at eBay said they were open to accepting cryptocurrencies in the future.
This news comes as the Ethereum cryptocurrency, which is the primary method of purchase for most NFTs, reaches past all-time-highs, currently trading over $4,100.
Rocket Lab prepares to recover second booster at sea after May 15 launch
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck shared more details on the company’s next launch, which is set to take off from its New Zealand facility on May 15. The Electron vehicle will be carrying satellites from BlackSky, but delivering that payload is only half of the mission: the other half will be recovering the booster stage after an ocean splashdown.
This is the second of three planned booster recovery missions, part of Rocket Lab’s long-term plan to reach reusability for its launch vehicle, an achievement most famously held by its competitor SpaceX. The first recovery mission, dubbed “Return to Sender,” successfully splashed down in the Atlantic in November. While Beck told reporters Tuesday the condition of that booster “was remarkable,” this upcoming mission nevertheless features a number of component and system upgrades aimed at further fortifying the booster.
Most notably, the booster will be equipped with a redesigned heat shield made out of stainless steel, rather than aluminum, “designed to carry the reentry loads as well as the ascent loads,” Beck said. Electron must endure temperatures as high as 2400ºC during reentry, conditions the original equipment wasn’t intended to handle.
The company is also introducing what it’s calling the Ocean Recovery and Capture Apparatus, or ORCA, a dedicated system to help lift the rocket stage out of the water and onto the deck of a ship. Rough seas in November presented a challenge to the recovery effort, though ultimately the booster was not damaged.
The mission will also reuse components from the recovered booster, which (although the booster itself was dismantled) were subsequently inspected and requalified for flight. “From here on in, we should be able to reuse this system on every single launch vehicle that we’ve been bringing back,” Beck said.
Rocket Lab is pursuing a unique route to reusability. As opposed to the approach from SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rockets use powered decelerations and landings, Rocket Lab’s approach with Electron is to decelerate the vehicle passively using the atmosphere and a parachute.
The reentry method is constrained by the size of the launch vehicle, Beck explained. “You don’t really have that ability to carry extra fuel to do maneuvers or deceleration burns or anything like that,” he said. Instead, the vehicle enters engines-first and propagates a massive shockwave on its journey back to Earth, carefully managed to reduce peak heat on its vulnerable parts. This results in a nearly negligible payload reduction: about 10%, as opposed to the 30-40% required for a propulsive landing. These are very tight margins, Beck acknowledged:
“This is not a simple thing to do. It sounds pretty basic – let’s just bring the stage back and put it under a parachute and splash down – but actually, doing it with no significant reentry elements and just using the atmosphere to do all the work is really challenging.”
The final splashdown recovery mission will take place before the end of 2021, Beck said, and will include improvements to the decelerator and a more general block upgrade. Once these missions are complete, Rocket Lab will turn to its ultimate goal: to do away with splashdown recovery altogether and to retrieve the booster mid-descent under its parachute using a helicopter.
Looking ahead, the company’s next rocket will be the Neutron, “a vehicle designed for reusability from day one,” Beck said. The Neutron will be much larger than its predecessor and capable of lifting heavier payloads to orbit. He estimated that Rocket Lab will construct one Neutron rocket per year and aim to operate a fleet of four to begin with.
Subaru’s first electric vehicle is called the Solterra and it’s due out in 2022
For Subaru diehards holding out for an electric vehicle, the wait is almost over. The Japanese automaker just announced new details about its first ever EV, which is set to hit the streets in 2022.
Subaru will call its first EV the Solterra, a fitting name for a brand synonymous with outdoor adventures and you know, the sun and the Earth. Also fittingly, Subaru’s first full-fledged EV will be an SUV thats ships with the manufacturer’s well-regarded all-wheel drive capabilities.
The Solterra is built on a new platform the company is developing in partnership with Toyota, which the latter company will use for its impossibly named BZ4X crossover (BZ stands for “beyond zero,” apparently).
Subaru has only released two teaser images so far, but given that the new SUV will share DNA with the Toyota BZ4X, Subaru’s offering will likely look like a toned-down, less aggressively styled version of Toyota’s forthcoming futuristic electric crossover.
Other than that, we don’t know a whole lot. If the Solterra winds up looking a lot like the BZ4X, you can expect a sort of squashed RAV4, maybe somewhere between a Crosstrek and a Forester in size.
Subaru’s first proper EV will join the plug-in hybrid Crosstrek, which the company began selling in 2014 — currently its only option for climate-conscious drivers. The Solterra will go on sale next year in the U.S., Canada, China, Europe, and Japan.
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