Lessons from Coronavirus, Lambda School Controversy, Techlash & Late Stage Journalism |Austen Allred and Katherine Boyle with Jason Calacanis

Check out the Episode page and show notes

Key Takeaways

  • Potential cultural and business changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic:
    • Greater acceptance of remote work 
    • End of handshaking/hugging as standard forms of greeting
    • Review of what the US needs to manufacture domestically and not abroad
    • Elimination of wet markets
  • “The end game of journalism today is taking the side of the extreme left or right because it’s all about clicks” – Jason Calacanis
  • Old school investigative journalism holds government responsible and is an important force for democracy
  • “Podcasting has helped bring more thoughtful, nuanced conversations to light with a multitude of voices.” –Katherine Boyle
  • One solution for encouraging better journalism – pay for it! Journalism is a craft – it needs to be supported
  • Many primary roles of government have been out-sourced to Silicon Valley and people find this shift unsettling = Techlash
  • Techlash is also the result of a people blaming tech -mostly Facebook- for helping Donald Trump become president
  • If you think you’re addicted to Twitter  put a buffer on your phone so that you can post, but not view tweets

Intro

Austen Allred (@Austen) is co-founder and CEO of Lambda School.  He co-authored the growth hacking textbook Secret Sauce.

Katherine Boyle (@KTmBoyle) is Principal at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm with $5 billion raised to date, where she co-leads General Catalyst’s seed platform and a former staff reporter for The Washington Post

Host: Jason Calacanis is a technology entrepreneur, angel investor, and the host of the podcast, This Week in Startups

Longterm Changes Caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic  

  • Increase in productivity – remote work facilitated by Zoom will reduce commute time
  • Greater acceptance of remote work 
  • End of hand shaking/ hugging as the standard greeting in favor of hands-free greetings like The Wuhan shakewhere two people greet by tapping their foot against each foot of the other person
  • Greater scrutiny over decisions to shift manufacturing overseas to reduce supply chain fragility. 
  • Elimination of wet markets

Late-Stage Journalism                              

  • “The end game of journalism today is taking the side of the extreme left or right because it’s all about clicks” – Jason Calacanis
  • If a reporter doesn’t want nuance, there won’t be nuance – nuance doesn’t get clicks
  • Jason believes founders of startups shouldn’t talk to journalists on the phone or at events- rather they should communicate via email
  • Influencer institutions have turned investigative journalism into opinion journalism
  • Old school investigative journalism is important to hold government responsible
  • “We need journalists – they are an incredibly important force for democracy” – Katherine Boyle
  • One solution for encouraging better journalism – pay for it! Journalism is a craft – it needs to be supported
  • “We’re entering a golden age of journalism. I’m optimistic. Podcasting has helped bring more thoughtful, nuanced conversations to light with a multitude of voices.” –Katherine Boyle

Techlash

  • Many primary roles of government have been out-sourced to Silicon Valley and people find this unsettling
  • There is also a sense of blame on tech -mostly Facebook- for helping Donald Trump become president
  • Private companies need to invest and innovate where the government hasn’t especially in the fields of transportation and education
  • Tech has shown it can solve some of the biggest problems in society- i.e moving people, (Uber) or eliminating student debt, (Lambda School)
  • “Any way we can give access to education and make it affordable is a good thing”- Katherine Boyle
  • To critics of the movement of public institutions becoming privatized –  Consumers can opt-out of any of these choices!

Investing in Defense – why Catherine likes it

  • For the last fifty years, the US Department of Defense has not had access to the type of software regular consumers have
  • “A next generation defense contractor that can sell directly to Department of Defense is a noble mission – Google didn’t want to work with the Department of Defense” – Katherine Boyle
  • Tech founders can solve problems that government can’t because they’re not caught up in the gridlock in Washington

The Lambda School Controversy

  • Lambda is a 9 month, 40-hour-a-week online curriculum that teaches people how to code
  • Lambda School doesn’t require students to pay tuition up-front. Instead, the school signs an Income Share Agreement (ISA) with students. Specifically, students pay $20,000 up front or 17% of income for two years up to a maximum $30,000, but only if they’re making more than $50K in a job they were trained for
  • So, if a student gets a job which pays less than $50K or a job outside of tech, it’s essentially free
  • This counters the for-profit school model, where you might wind up with a degree and, a debt but no job
  • New York magazine printed an article a few weeks ago challenging the accuracy of Lambda’s advertised graduation numbers
  • Lambda corrected the graduation numbers, but the experience left a bitter taste for CEO Austen Allred about journalists – he felt the reporter walked into the interview with an ax to grind
  • Other educational institutions are taking notice of the ISA model, but with an average college’s graduation rate around 50%, it is unlikely they could afford to implement it do this
  • “Lambda has an incentive to educate – if a person doesn’t get a job, we lose a ton of money” – Austen Allred CEO
  • Schools, like the University of Phoenix, don’t have that incentive – they get paid whether a student gets a job or not

Other Good Stuff

  • Are you addicted to Twitter? If you wake up, and look at Twitter within the first hour—or first ten minutes—you probably are addicted!
    • Give yourself a break like Austen Allred did during the Lambda controversy  – put a buffer on your phone so that you can post, but not view tweets
  • Did DoorDash miss their window for filing an IPO?
    • Austin believes that UberEATS and Grub hub are massive competition for the start-up, but DoorDash will “get there” – Coronavirus complications could slow their progress
  • Robinhood , a pioneer of commission-free investing, had their stock trading app down for an entire day – the best way to handle this from a PR standpoint is handling it like they did – by being transparent about the problem
  • Katherine’s Investment Picks
    • Military tech
    • Highly-regulated industries like aerospace and computational biology
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