Online School

Online coding school Treehouse, formerly based in Portland, lays off most of its staff

Treehouse, which launched in Portland a decade ago in an ambitious effort to teach software development online, plans to lay off most of its staff by the end of the month.

CEO Ryan Carson didn’t answer emailed questions about the cutbacks, but said in a brief reply Tuesday that “we are going to continue to serve our students and customers.” Carson, who moved to Connecticut last month, said Treehouse is no longer based in Portland and that its remaining staff now works remotely.

In an announcement sent last week over the company’s internal Slack messaging channel, later viewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Treehouse notified employees that their jobs and benefits would end on Sept. 30, without severance.

“A small team will be remaining, along with Ryan, to continue to support students,” the company wrote to staff.

Workers later posted an online spreadsheet with the names of 41 employees looking for new jobs. Treehouse has a geographically distributed workforce and the company’s employees live in cities across the country.

Treehouse attracted national attention in 2013 and 2015 with two unorthodox management strategies: The company eliminated all layers of management and it moved to a 32-hour-work week.

Neither experiment worked.

Treehouse rolled back the no-boss workplace in 2015, saying employees felt they were “lonely islands with no support” without a management structure.

And the company returned to a five-day workweek the following year, saying it couldn’t afford the reduced hours after it laid off 22 staff members.

Treehouse had reported nearly $12 million in outside investment, most recently in 2013.

It’s not clear what triggered this week’s cutbacks. Online education has been booming during the pandemic. In July, Portland e-learning company OpenSesame raised $50 million in investment to support its business offering online workplace training programs.

Update: This article has been updated with detail about the layoff notification process.

— Mike Rogoway | [email protected] | twitter: @rogoway | 503-294-7699