In among all the cloud, security and mobile tech startups attracting venture funding so far this year, new companies focused on hiring, education and career development are pulling in big bucks.
By our count, based on our 2015 timeline of more than 3 dozen enterprise network & IT tech investments so far, nearly $300 million has been pledged to those companies essentially focused on building and improving the workforce -- and an increasingly technology-based workforce at that.
Most of these companies are just a few years old, though relative graybeard Lynda.com, which organizations (like ours) use to provide employees with online courses, recently scored a tidy $186 million. Lynda.com has been around for 20 years.
The courses I've taken on Lynda.com over the years (HTML, Excel, social media techniques, etc.) have generally been chunked up into short-to-medium length videos, plus exercises, and might take a few days to a few weeks to complete. A newcomer targeting those who are hungry to learn -- but have shorter attention spans -- is called Coursmos.
This company was founded in Russia in 2013 and has since moved its headquarters to San Francisco, delivering mobile apps for Apple and Google devices. The company encourages anyone to create and make money off videos through its "micro-learning platform" that supports courses that generally run no longer than 3 minutes.
A Coursmos spokeswoman points to the plethora of online courses from Coursera, Khan Academy, TED and YouTube that so many users start but never finish. While Coursmos began as a business-to-consumer product company, a B2B version is on the way, fueled in part by a fresh $600K in seed funding from Russia's Altera Capital Group as well as Imperious Group.
"We now have a request from one bank to provide a SaaS solution based on the effectiveness of the micro-format courses," the Coursmos spokeswoman writes.
Coursmos now has more than $1.2M in seed funding and offers more than 11,000 courses, including lots of tech courses on subjects from Red Hat Enterprise Linux to creating an Android virtual device.
Like Coursmos, a New York-based startup called Grovo is all about "micro-learning," but in its case, it has already gone aggressively after large enterprises. Grovo has been growing its revenues 20% per month of late, and recently bagged $15 million in Series B funding.
Grovo enables businesses to smarten up their employees by offering 60-90 second videos on everything from IT security to digital etiquette. Customers include Chevron, Pitney Bowes and Six Flags.
CEO Jeff Fernandez wrote recently on the company's blog that Grovo plans to invest heavily in "engineering, product and content teams. Clients are already experiencing performance and security upgrades and wider content coverage. That said, we intend to continue leading the educational technology industry in R&D..."
While venture dollars are flowing to companies focused on training employees, others are going toward prepping people to enter the workforce. Among these investments is Koru, a Seattle-based company that just garnered $8M to back its intensive in-person and online program for training college students to get hired at high-growth companies like LinkedIn and
Wayfair. Koru initially offers programs in Seattle, San Francisco and Boston.
Koru's pitch: "Build a foundation of skills and relationships that will launch your career. In less than a month, learn what most people are lucky to get in their first three years of a job. Every Koru participant gets an interview at the end of the program. Guaranteed."
Calling Sausalito-based Glassdoor a start-up would be pushing it -- the online jobs/careers marketplace filled with reviews of companies by current and past employees has been around since 2007. But it did just receive a hefty $70 million in funding to expand its reach, including to non-English speakers.
Glassdoor is particularly savvy about crunching the data from its marketplace and spinning it into lists that are ripe for the media to pounce on (Best Places to Work, etc.).
InterviewJet, a small New York-based company that recently attracted $750,000 in funding, differentiates itself via a portal that connects select employers with vetted technologists looking for work.
The company's members-only program, which launched into beta last year, includes a website countdown clock showing how long New York-based employers have to make an offer to the pre-screened candidates who sign up through InterviewJet to make themselves available (recent candidates included a data scientist and a senior Java software engineer). Employers pay a set fee only if they hire someone through the program, which you can expect to see expand beyond New York before long.
Another start-up, Shapr, looks to help people further their careers or collaborate with others via what it calls a professional social discovery platform that you can access via free iOS and Android apps.
Three million dollars richer since receiving a new funding round in January, the Paris- and New York-based company was inspired by CEO and Co-founder Ludovic Huraux's experiences trying to make connections as an entrepreneur (he previously started a French dating site called Attractive World). Shapr's network is built on users' trusted connections, or Inner Circle, and friends of friends, or Extended Circle. and allows collaboration via its Shapeline forum. And while Shapr might appear to be a sort of LinkedIn alternative, it actually works in conjunction with the more established professional connections platform.
Finally, as I was compiling this collection of startups, I literally had to change the headline mid-course from "6 hot career-oriented..." to "7 hot career-oriented.." when a press release from a New York- and San Francisco-based startup called Greenhouse entered my inbox touting Series B funding of $13.6 million led by Benchmark. That's on top of $7.5 million collected last summer.
Greenhouse has gone the SaaS route for optimizing the recruiting process, from organizing hiring teams to streamlining the interview process. The company counts Pinterest, Airbnb and Evernote among its clients.
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