Pathrise, a Career Accelerator ‘By Students, For Students’ Raises $1.2...


Pathrise, a Career Accelerator ‘By Students, For Students’ Raises $1.2 Million

By Tony Wan     Aug 8, 2018

Pathrise, a Career Accelerator ‘By Students, For Students’ Raises $1.2 Million
Pathrise co-founders Derrick Mar (left) and Kevin Wu

Would you take career advice from a 23-year-old—and pay a chunk of your salary for it?

That’s the question that may surface when one first encounters the team behind Pathrise, a startup co-founded by a pair of early twentysomethings (who look even younger in pictures). But what the team may lack in age, it makes up for with a staff whose resumes are padded with stints at some of the most sought-after companies including Yelp, Facebook, Salesforce, GitHub and, of course, Google.

Those credentials are what co-founders Kevin Wu (age 23) and Derrick Mar (24) hope will attract interest in their “career accelerator for students,” which provides mentorship and training to help young people land jobs at tech companies. It offers a mix of career coaching support and interview preparation services for software engineering, data science, product management and design roles.

The team has also convinced funders to get onboard. The company recently raised $1.2 million as part of a seed round from GoAhead Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Long Venture Partners, Quero Education, Kutlu Kazanci and LetsVenture. Pathrise was also a graduate in the Winter 2018 Cohort of Y Combinator, which is also an investor.

“The first thing I tell my students is that I’m young and why that’s a great thing,” says Wu in an interview with EdSurge. “I understand what they’re going through but have a unique enough career trajectory where I can actually advise them.”

His hopscotch career, to date, has had more stops than most peers’ his age. He dropped out of UC Berkeley in 2014 to work at Salesforce. Eight months later he joined Leada, a data-science education startup. At the end of 2015, he left to work on a mobile app for a popular board game-maker. A year later, he returned to finish his degree at UC Berkeley, while also working as a product manager at Yelp. At Berkeley, he led a student group, Blueprint, that mentored aspiring engineers to work with local nonprofits. It was this experience that partly informed his decision to launch Pathrise.

Here’s how Pathrise works. Those interested in the program must first apply and pass a screening interview that tests them on their baseline technical competencies. Once accepted, students are paired with Pathrise mentors, and together they work through an eight-week curriculum that walks them through the ins and outs of applying, interviewing and getting a job. (The program could be longer if they don’t get a job during this timeframe.)

A big part of Pathrise’s program focuses on preparing applicants with problem-solving skills to tackle technical interview questions. But some weeks also focus on seemingly mundane matters, like brushing up one’s resumes by including effective keywords and relevant accomplishments. Another week might focus on how to research a company’s hiring needs and effectively craft cold emails to recruiters and hiring managers. There’s also the art of salary negotiation, once job offers come.

Pathrise touts its business model as another selling point: It charges students nothing until they land a full-time job, after which they pay 9 percent of their first year’s salary to Pathrise. (This form of deferred payment for educational services is commonly known as an income-share agreement. Pathrise uses Leif, a New York-based organization, to enforce and collect this payment.)

Pathrise launched in January 2018, and to get the word out the company resorted to a tip it teaches to students: cold emails. Over the next several months, they sent over 1,000 of these to computer science majors.

One of the recipients was David Wang, who graduated this summer from Virginia Tech. When he first received the email, he recalls, his first response was: “What the heck is Pathrise?” After some Googling, he contacted Wu and decided to apply. He passed and, a few days later, was paired with a Pathrise mentor.

As a non-native English speaker from China, Wang says communication was his biggest weakness. “One day before an onsite interview, I was supposed to have a chat with the [potential] manager at lunch. I had no idea then what people talked about at lunch interviews.” His mentor helped him prepare, and the lunch went swimmingly. At the end of June Wang accepted an offer from Oath, a digital and mobile media company.

Another recent computer science graduate, Conor Livingston, had been trying to land a job at Google ever since he graduated from Hope College in western Michigan in 2014. He credits his mentor, Pathrise co-founder Mar, with helping him passing the technical interviews, which had been his Achilles heel. When he spoke with EdSurge, Livingston said he was weighing offers from Google and Amazon.

Software engineering is a sought-after skill by many technology companies, and it pays well, too. But don’t assume that students who major in computer and data sciences are an automatic shoo-in for lucrative jobs, says Wu. Many of the students Pathrise has worked so far are graduates from lesser-known state schools, in parts of the country that lack a strong regional tech sector.

To date, the company has helped 50 students land jobs with starting salaries that range from $70,000 to $200,000, claims Wu. On average, he adds, these jobs pay $100,000. That suggests Pathrise currently makes about $9,000 per successful placement (based on its 9 percent cut).

The tech industry has spawned many other programs that specialize in helping aspiring software engineers navigate the job search process and pass technical interviews, including OutCo and Interview Kickstart. These programs charge anywhere from $5,000 upfront to 10 percent of a new hire’s first-year salary.

Pathrise will find itself competing with these services with a smaller—and younger—team. (The oldest person there is 32.) Wu says he’s heard plenty of comments about how odd it seems that young people are offering career advice. But “this is a company where it is important and relevant that the founders are young,” he tells EdSurge. Few competitors, he claims, approach this work from the perspectives of recent university graduates and the hiring managers who evaluate them.

As people get older, he says, “you do lose touch with what it feels like to be a college student graduating and being completely lost in the job market.”

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