Startup school is back in session and the rules are changing


TRS 80 Model 1 computer


Welcome to this week’s edition of Trending, the weekly newsletter highlighting the best of BI Prime’s tech coverage. I’m Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider’s West Coast Bureau Chief and Global Tech Editor. 

This week: Computer school has gotten cool

Computer programming was once an unglamorous practice. At least, that’s how it seemed to me as an incurious middle school student many years ago, pecking away in computer class on a TRS-80 and struggling to learn BASIC. It was tough to see how that kind of drudgery could make anyone’s life better — at least, beyond the brief thrill that came from making an obscene word scroll across a classmate’s monochrome screen.

But today, knowing how to code is a sexy superpower; it’s the special skill that can land you a job at Apple or Google. A variety of coding schools and boot camps have sprouted up to let anyone achieve the dream.

Austen Allred

Lambda School, based in San Francisco, is one of the most popular. In just nine months, the school promises to turn you into a programming rock star, fit to wear a Google badge on your belt and to ride a fancy shuttle to work everyday. And best of all, it doesn’t cost any money upfront. You pay after you get a job. 

As Rosalie Chan reports, however, not everyone who goes to Lambda leaves singing its praises. Some students complain that Lambda suffers from unqualified instructors, an incomplete curriculum and a cult-like atmosphere in which any criticism of the program is not tolerated.

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“Lambda School is not worth the life it takes from you, and it’s not worth the dollar amount you agree to pay them back,” one former student told Rosalie.

The school defends its record, stressing that its income sharing payment model has opened up access to education for students of all walks of life. For some students, that’s probably true. But based on Rosalie’s report, I get the sense that some alumni have a message for Lambda they’d like to make scroll across a screen.

Read the full story here:

Lambda School is Silicon Valley’s big bet on reinventing education and making student debt obsolete. But students say it’s a ‘cult’ and they would have been better off learning on their own.

Startup founders and startup investors are going through changes

A few inquiring minds have asked why we chose the title Founder Frenemies for our special report on the state of affairs in Silicon Valley’s startup scene. 

Brian Chesky Dick Costolo Sun Valley

Yes, it’s a play on the term “Founder Friendly,” which has been the law of the land in Silicon Valley for years. The evolution of this amicable arrangement between VCs and founders is, as we report, a vital force that will reshape the tech industry in the years ahead.

The relationship between tech entrepreneurs and VC investors is become more strained; the diverging nature of their interests more exposed. And that means changes in everything from IPO plans to startup share structures. 

Read all the stories in the special report here:

IPO flops and CEO firings have made it clear that Silicon Valley’s magic startup formula is about to change: Welcome to the age of Founder Frenemies

Help wanted: Oracle CEO

It’s one of the most high-profile jobs in Silicon Valley. And probably one of the toughest.

The CEO of Oracle must not only split duties with a co-CEO, they also need be comfortable with founder and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison looking over their shoulder. 

With one of the co-CEO jobs vacant, following Mark Hurd’s medical leave, speculation is rife about who will get elevated to Oracle’s top tier. Benjamin Pimentel has the info on the 5 candidates believed to be on Larry’s short list.

Read the full story here:

Meet the 5 execs that Larry Ellison and insiders say are on the short list to one day be the CEO of Oracle

Larry Ellison

Other recent tech highlights:

  • I spent a day at IBM’s mysterious research hub north of NYC, where I met some of the top AI leaders in the country. Here are 4 takeaways on where they think the tech is headed.
  • WeWork used massive discounts — in some cases, essentially giving away space for 2 years — to try to poach customers from rivals
  • VMware’s COO says that its $2.1 billion acquisition of Carbon Black is all about fixing cybersecurity, an industry ‘going through turmoil’
  • We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck this London startup used to raise $8.5 million from VCs to take on WhatsApp and Slack

And more from across the BI newsroom:

  • Inside the ‘awkward,’ ‘tense,’ and ‘heated’ private meeting between Elon Musk and Texans whom SpaceX is trying to buy out to fully realize its vision to reach Mars
  • How Jim Heckman — the slick businessman behind the mass layoffs at Sports Illustrated — became the most hated man in sports media
  • Nobel laureate Robert Shiller forewarned investors about the dot-com and housing bubbles. Now he tells us which irrational market behaviors have him most worried.
  • There’s a ‘revolving door’ at Amazon, where company insiders are ditching the retail behemoth to expose its inner workings and make a fortune

As always, I’m eager for your feedback, thoughts, and tips — you can email me at And if you like this newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues they sign up here to receive it.

Thanks for reading, see you next week,


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