Blackbird-backed job simulations edtech Forage exits to US merger

- April 9, 2024 3 MIN READ
Pasha Rayan, Tom Brunskill
Forage cofounders Pasha Rayan and Tom Brunskill
Sydney startup Forage, which helps students move from study to the workforce with virtual job simulations, is being acquired by US education firm EAB.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Forage was founded in 2017 by Pasha Rayan and Tom Brunskill as InsideSherpa. They set out to help students from less advantaged backgrounds a chance to discover and land jobs they never thought possible, having experienced their own challenges with Brunskill growing up in the country and Rayan in a single-parent household.

It began as a student mentoring platform before realising that giving them a taste of what work was actually like was the best way to tackle disadvantage and they created job simulations.

An early example gave budding founders a virtual taste of startup life as an online intern.

Forage went on to be part of Y Combinator, and the UNSW Founders 10x accelerator program in 2020 receiving seed funding from both before going to to raise US$9.3 million in a Series A supported by Lightspeed Venture Partners and FundersClub.

Within 12 months, Forage banked US$25 million (A$35m) in a series B in mid 2021. The round was led by Blackbird Ventures, with participation from Telstra Ventures, and Citi Ventures, among others.

Forage has gone on to work with 125+ companies, including Citibank, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, and Lululemon, to help more than 6 million students to experience what its like to be an accountant, investment banker, software engineer, and other roles in free online courses designed by the companies such as

Students who’ve used Forage are 2.16x more likely to receive and accept a job offer.

US firm EAB has been working in student recruitment and enrolment for four decades and works with around 2,600 institutions from kindergarten to college to career.

EAB CEO David Felsenthal said Forage was the solution their corporate partners needed having shared how challenging and time-consuming it is to hire interns and recent college graduates, especially students from historically underserved groups or campuses.

“By joining forces with Forage, we can connect employers to a robust pipeline of diverse students—and provide the 10 million college students we work with better access to career opportunities and a deep understanding of what those options look like in the real world,” he said.

Forage cofounder and CEO Tom Brunskill said Forage will connect employers with a vast network of future candidates through EAB.

“I am especially excited to embed Forage’s virtual job simulations in Navigate360 and Starfish, EAB’s student success technologies, which will connect millions of students from a wide variety of schools with the world’s leading companies,” he said.

His cofounder Pasha Rayan said that after nearly eight years, he can’t believe Forage has been acquired.

“When I wrote up the code that invented the first virtual job simulation – we called them virtual internships back then – we couldn’t have imagined the reach, impact and success we’d have,” he said.

“Who knew you could make a dent in large chunks of hiring cohorts, diversity outcomes, and impact so many personal lives with technology? It’s exciting to be able to prove out that you’re able to help people, do something unique and make a great business.”

Rayan paid tribute to Brunskill for driving Forage’s success.

“This journey has been crazy, and it hasn’t been an easy or free ride getting here – but we wouldn’t have gotten here without the fantastic team we’ve had – from exceptional engineers, product people, growth and marketing, to sales and more – with too many names and stories to share in this one post at the moment – thank you,” he said.

“The future of Forage is bright, and we are excited to see it move forward with EAB!”

UNSW Founders director of entrepreneurship David Burt, who invited Rayan to deliver the keynote address at the annual dinner last year  thanked him for his ongoing support. UNSW Founders invested $140,000 in Forage four year ago.

“In addition to recognising the fantastic business outcome of this acquisition, it’s also important to celebrate how Pasha has continuously shared back his insights with the UNSW Founders community,” Burt said.

“Every year Pasha’s advice is a constant boost to the next generation, and he is a great example of how a disposition to care combined with a strong will towards tangible results can create amazing outcomes.”

NOW READ: Forage’s Pasha Rayan on why founders don’t have to be the best – just the best they can be


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