Outside the classroom and, increasingly, within it, students use all kinds of media platforms to express themselves and learn. But when it comes to showing off their achievements, it’s usually still just about test scores and text.
San Francisco-based startup Pathbrite, however, aims to change that with a digital portfolio platform that lets students and professionals collect, track and share a range of content showcasing their accomplishments — from videos and photos to transcripts and recommendations.
The startup, which launched earlier this year (and was a pivot from an earlier startup called Rrripple), on Wednesday announced that it has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from education-focused investment firm Rethink Education and standardized testing company ACT. Previous angel investors include David Rose of Rose Tech Ventures, Ben & Jerry’s founder Ben Cohen, Golden Seeds Angel Fund and others.
“We’re helping people put their best foot forward,” said Pathbrite founder and CEO Heather Hiles. “We’re the best tool for helping people showcase their achievements and talents.”
The e-portfolio idea isn’t new. It’s been part of the education world for about a decade, Hiles said. But while previous versions were more like blogs that connected to other education-specific platforms, she said, Pathbrite is a standalone, cloud-based product that can accommodate all kinds of media.
For students, Pathbrite hopes the “people portfolio” can be used from elementary school through higher education as a learning and assessment tool. In it, students can store traditional assessment materials, such as secure copies of transcripts, test scores and essays, but also digitized art projects, videos of presentations and plays or audio tracks of music they might have created or performed. Hiles said studies have shown that maintaining a long-term record of their educational experience can help students improve writing, course passage rates, critical thinking skills and higher job placement.
But the platform is also intended to help professionals store and share the artifacts of their own achievements.
“This is credentials 2.0,” Hiles told me. “Employers want to be able to quickly see all the evidence pointing to [a candidate’s] capabilities and skills in one place…. It not only expedites the process of reviewing applicants, it gives a three-dimensional perspective.”
For example, a Pathbrite portfolio could store secure transcripts from college and business school, as wells as videos of conference presentations, articles about career milestones and other documentation. For students and professionals, Hiles said, the company plans to use the information it collects and eventually analyze it to help users track progress and set goals.
Other companies, for example, VisualCV, have tried to “reinvent the resume,” but with little traction (LinkedIn(s LNKD) pages seem to be the closest competitor so far). Despite itself, the old school paper format continues to persist. But as we express more of our lives — and our accomplishments — through different kinds of media, we’ll inevitably want and need better tools to show them off. Sure, we can (and do) use a combination of video- and photo-sharing services, social networks and blogging platforms to get the job done. Tumblr blogs, traditional blogs, About.me pages, as well as Behance and Carbonmade for the creative set, are likely adequate for many people.
But I do think the idea of a dedicated digital locker that follows us throughout our educational and professional lives is compelling. It could not only remind us of the lessons and achievements we might sometimes forget, it could help students and professionals better integrate old experiences with the new. Importantly, it also gives people a way to showcase the skills and talents that are difficult to communicate on paper.
Given the various options people already have, it could be difficult for Pathbrite to make itself the standard among professionals. But the company has started to make inroads among educational institutions. It’s already working on pilot programs with high schools and universities, such as Stanford and the University of Illinois, Hiles said. She said she’s also talking to some universities about making Pathbrite an alternative to the Common Application.
Hiles said Pathbrite will always offer a basic service to consumers for free but will charge for special templates and other added value features. It also plans to charge organizations, learning communities and eventually enterprise clients for other premium services.