Skills training startup Forage has raised US$25 million (A$35m) in a series B.
The round was led by Blackbird Ventures, with participation from Telstra Ventures, Citi Ventures, Gaingels, Cap Table Coalition, ETF@JFFLabs and existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and FundersClub.
The raise comes less than 12 months after the four-year-old Y Combinator graduate, previously known as InsideSherpa, landed a US$9.3 million series A.
Forage partners with employers to create open access online training courses called ‘Virtual Experience Programs’ for college students. The programs simulate real work that employees would undertake, enabling tertiary students to build the skills and the confidence to land their first job.
It seeks to address what the company sees as a fundamental mismatch between the skills that candidates possess, and the skills that employers identify as being critical to job success.
The venture counts General Electric, SAP, JPMorgan, PwC and HSBC, among its clients and now has more than 100 courses on the platform, with over 1.5 million enrolments across the globe.
The remote-first, globally distributed company, co-founded by Pasha Rayan and Tom Brunskill, has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, London, San Francisco and New York.
The new funding will allow Forage to invest in its core product, virtual experience programs, as well as focus on expanding its curriculum of programs. The company is looking to expand its offering into sectors such as healthcare, biotech, life sciences, retail and media.
CEO and co-founder, Tom Brunskill said Forage provides an affordable, scalable way of flipping the traditional recruitment method of ‘hire then train’, with the startup’s students four times more likely to be offered a role than their non-Forage counterparts.
“The current recruitment system is broken. The reality is that seeking to start a career at most post-tertiary employers is not a journey that is equal for everyone,” he said.
“We need to level the playing field so that all candidates, no matter where they come from or what their background is, have an equitable opportunity to build skills and kick-start their career.”
Blackbird Ventures partner Tom Humphrey, who will join the board, said Forage is solving a huge problem.
“By positioning itself as the glue between the futures of education and work, Forage is defining a completely new and exciting market category,” he said.
Courses take an average five hours to complete and simulate projects or tasks that employees at a particular company would complete, allowing students to build real-life, tangible skills and truly understand what their career could look like.
Forage also partners with over 350 universities globally to embed virtual experience programs in coursework and their careers centres, including with Macquarie University, Maynooth University, UCLA, University of Westminster, and National University of Singapore.