The labor market took a generational hit in 2020. Millions of people have seen stable careers disappear or change beyond recognition. Before COVID-19, retraining was a popular career choice. Now it is increasingly becoming an essential one.
That’s the premise behind why investors are betting on companies like Career Karma, which helps people find reskilling opportunities in technology fields. Today, the San Francisco-based startup has announced it has raised a $10 million Series A funding round led by Initialized Capital.
The company, founded in 2018, saw early growth linking job seekers with the myriad coding bootcamps and tech-education opportunities that have emerged in recent years. It claims the platform now attracts more than one million people every month, and in the last year it has placed over 3,000 people into training programs leading to jobs at companies including Gemini, Stitch Fix and Tesla.
“The main reason why we raised the Series A is to hire a team that takes the platform beyond just matching people to bootcamps … making sure that entities that have career advice to share are empowered to do that on our platform,” said Ruben Harris, Career Karma CEO and co-founder.
The goal for Career Karma, he added, is to become more than a static repository and create a pathway that increases opportunity to access a well-paid career.
“Even if you’re already employed, and you want to understand how to negotiate your salary or you want to get promoted, or build your personal brand, we want to have a platform where you can always get career advice to increase your earning potential or accomplish deeper things,” Harris said.
Initialized Capital is joined in the Series A by some of the biggest names in venture capital including SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, Emerson Collective, Imaginable Futures, Kapor Capital, Unshackled Ventures and 4S Bay Capital. Other investors include Sander Daniels (Thumbtack), Bangaly Kaba (Instagram/Instacart/Reforge), Jack Altman (Lattice), Amira Yahyaoui (Moz), Iman Abuzeid (Incredible Health), Nick Soman (Decent), Jewel Burks (Google), and Liz Fong-Jones.
The diversity of these backers echoes Career Karma’s $1.5 million seed round that featured 25 investors and also speaks to the type of company Harris and his co-founders, brothers Artur and Timur Meyster, are trying to build.
“It’s important for me to have a cap table that reflects the world,” Harris said. “That means people that care about impact, people that are diverse, women. But also people that have created $100-billion dollar companies. And it was important for me to have people with deep pockets that could invest with us all the way up until IPO.”
In 2016, Harris, together with the Meyster brothers, started the “Breaking into Startups” podcast, which interviews CEOs about their tech careers and covers many of the questions that Career Karma now addresses. The company graduated from the Y Combinator accelerator in early 2019 and has experienced rapid growth over the last 12 months.
Career Karma currently has a directory of 450 bootcamps, 7,000 trade schools, colleges and universities. The listings are rigorously reviewed (with at least one critique for each), and ranked accordingly. The platform has a growing list of career specific material catering to aspiring coders and other tech-related roles such as sales, social media and marketing .
The funds from the Series A will be used to grow the team, Harris said. The company, currently 50-strong, has a burgeoning content arm that publishes upwards of 500 articles a month, ranks training programs and offers broader career guidance catering to wider audiences.
Career Karma doesn’t charge for its services, but receives a slice of the tuition fee when users enroll in a training program through the platform. The coding bootcamps on its platform charge anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 for their programs.
The pandemic widened already significant social disparities, and as education and training have shifted online fears about the “digital divide” have intensified. Recognizing these pressures, Career Karma, through sponsorship from the Kapor Center and support from other partners, launched a campaign to raise $500,000 and donate 5,000 laptops to communities in need.
“When the pandemic hit, a lot of things that people didn’t realize are that problems for adults that are transitioning their careers were made apparent,” Harris said. “Out of the 55 million Americans that have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit, most of them are women and people of color. And many of them don’t have access to a laptop.”
For Harris, the response from investors, many of whom have donated funds and hardware, underlines the relationship Career Karma has with its backers. “Some investors would see that as a distraction to building a billion-dollar, venture-backed business. But the investors that think that is a distraction, are not the investors that we want at our cap table,” he said.