Lambda Sees Talent & Potential in India: Austen Allred

San Francisco-based Lambda School, an online coding platform that pioneered the income share agreement (ISA), anticipates big demand in India, said its co-founder Austen Allred. In an email interview to ET, he said the school is in the process of working out the finance structure of ISAs for India. Under the ISA, students promise to pay a percentage of their future earnings instead of borrowing money at a certain interest rate. Edited excerpts:

What makes ISAs work for Lambda?

Lambda works because of the ISA, which 98% of our students opt for. Unlike student loans, ISAs mitigate the risk of pursuing post-secondary education by aligning the economic incentives of school and student. Like any financial mechanism, ISAs have the potential to be predatory if mismanaged.

But unlike student loans, if regulated responsibly, ISAs power a risk-averse path to higher education. Responsible ISAs – which typically require zero upfront cost, repayment only if and when the graduate lands a job earning a sizeable income and an ethical repayment cap such as $30,000 total – offer unprecedented financial freedom and opportunity because they eliminate cost as a barrier to entry. But it’s the way that ISAs align incentives of school and student that makes the model paradigm-changing.

What are your plans for India?

There’s demand, there’s talent and there’s potential. The opportunity to bring Lambda to this huge population of talented students in India, give them a path to higher incomes and see the transformations that come out of it are jaw-dropping. The financing structure of Indian ISA is yet to be determined.

Will the concept work in India?

We get dozens of emails a day from students. Given the demand we’re seeing first-hand and the market of talent that we know exists, it’s fully realistic to have tens of thousands of India-based students within a couple years.

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How receptive are companies/employers to Lambda’s plans for India? What have been your conversations like with potential employers?

We have companies eager to hire Lambda students before they even complete the programme. The demand for this talent is there, as is Lambda graduates’ reputation of being highly skilled developers.


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