LA’s New AI Student Chatbot Faces Turmoil as Tech Firm Furloughs Staff Shortly After Launch

The future of LA Unified’s much-touted $6 million Artificial Intelligence chatbot became uncertain following the departure of the tech firm the district engaged to develop the tool, as most of its staff and the company’s founder stepped down.

AllHere Education, based in Boston and founded in 2016 by Harvard alum and former educator Joanna Smith-Griffin, played a significant role in LAUSD’s introduction of Ed on March 20, an AI-powered online platform intended to support classroom learning and aid families in navigation.

Nonetheless, on June 14, AllHere made the decision to furlough a majority of its workforce due to its “current financial situation,” as mentioned in a statement released on its website. According to a communication from LAUSD communicated to The 74, the status of AllHere is now up for acquisition.

Prior to the unexpected declaration, AllHere was reportedly encountering difficulties fulfilling its commitments to LAUSD, according to a former senior executive at the company.

The small firm was ill-prepared to create a “proper product” for the nation’s second-largest school district, with its rushed rollout of Ed in March being a prime example of this issue.

A spokesperson for LAUSD acknowledged the departure of Smith-Griffin and stated that “several educational technology companies are interested in acquiring AllHere.”

“The educational technology domain is dynamic, and acquisitions are not uncommon,” the spokesperson mentioned via email. “We will ensure that any acquiring entity continues to provide this unique resource to our students and families.”

Efforts to reach Smith-Griffin and AllHere for comments were unsuccessful. The former CEO has removed her LinkedIn profile, and sections of the AllHere website, including the company’s “About Us” page, are no longer accessible.

James Wiley, a vice president at ListEdTech, an education market research company, expressed concerns regarding the turbulence at AllHere potentially affecting LAUSD’s AI program if adequate safeguards have not been implemented to counter changes within the firm.

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