It’s hard to ignore the difficulties that recent college graduates have in securing their first “career” job. According to the Atlantic, 44 percent of young twenty-somethings are underemployed, spinning their wheels at a local coffee shop or grocery store. That’s the problem that education startup Koru aims to solve, and it has closed a $4.35 million in a round of funding led by Maveron to make it happen.
“We think there’s a gap between the education and skills in college and what is being asked of them from employers,” said Josh Jarrett, co-founder of Koru and former head of Higher Ed Innovation for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We help provide hands-on training and development to top off college careers.”
The round also included participation from Battery Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital. Jarrett and cofounder Kristen Hamilton see Koru as supplementing career services departments at universities, which can often offer little resources to students. In addition to offering online resources to help educate pending and recent graduates learn the intricacies of applying for big companies, Koru is focusing on its offline efforts — intensive camps that help students build and focus on the skills that employers want and roles available to them.
“You can support with online learning, but at the end of the day, you need more,” Jarrett explained. “That’s where the hands-on face-to-face comes in, where major employers who are hiring can tap into this resource. You can come spend a summer, spend spring break, and not only be supported by coaching and feedback but work with some companies.”
The startup is also working with a handful of big name companies to provide insight into the world of the employer, including Zulily, Nordstrom and REI. The first camp, a short course that will last a couple weeks, is scheduled to begin in Seattle next month and will include the participation of Zulily. Jarrett said that in interacting with grads, employers get better insight into how to find the right young candidate.
“I think that, over time, there is an opportunity to educate employers,” Jarrett said. “I do hope that, over time, we’re able to have a time connecting the dots between generations.”
Koru is an interesting startup that addresses the unique need of helping millennials find the jobs their networks failed to uncover, like a grad-focused job incubator, but the big question now is whether the idea will scale to all students. While Jarrett spoke of the startup’s expansions to new cities and a built-in scholarship program to help students in need take advantage of the program, Koru’s impact may boil down to the effectiveness of its online presence.