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Mentor-guided online training platform Springboard has raised $31 million in a series B round of funding led by Telstra Ventures.
The raise comes amid surging demand for online learning, with Udemy recently reporting that course enrollment had risen 425% during the pandemic lockdown and Udacity disclosing that its annual recurring revenue (ARR) had grown 260% for the first half of 2020. Founded in 2013, San Francisco-based Springboard aims to plug the technology talent gap, offering a range of courses across coding, analytics, design, data science, and AI.
Prices vary, but the Data Analytics Career Track costs $5,500 when paid up front and offers students around 400 hours of coursework that must be completed within six months. It also comes with a job guarantee. There are also monthly payment plans or the option to defer tuition until the graduate starts a new job. As another example, the UI/UX design course costs around $10,000 when paid up front.
Traditional universities and online education platforms have often been criticized for not equipping students with the skills needed to thrive in the workforce, something Springboard specifically targets. Its data analytics program, for instance, was designed in partnership with Microsoft after the duo announced a tie-up last December as part of Springboard’s $11 million series A round. The program aims to train 5,000 students for analytics jobs in the coming years and includes important non-technical skills such as problem-solving, communication, and strategic thinking.
Every Springboard student is allocated a personal mentor, who works in a field related to the course and provides one-on-one feedback each week. Mentors hail from companies such as Oracle, Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb. This program is one of Springboard’s major selling points, as its links with technology companies have led to job offers from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Zoom, and Verizon.
And while many companies have had to pivot their business models to support social distancing during the pandemic, Springboard has always facilitated remote education, which puts it in a strong position to capitalize on the “new normal.”
Springboard had previously raised around $22 million, and with another $31 million in the bank it’s well-financed to “double down on student employability” by creating stronger partnerships with employers and building new products to help students enter the workforce.
“With this new capital, we see an opportunity to double down on our industry-leading human-centric approach to delivering career outcomes — [to] not only better support our learners, but also partner with universities and employers, enabling them to navigate this online-first economic reality,” Springboard cofounder and CEO Gautam Tambay told VentureBeat.
Among the new products is a “hireability forecaster,” which offers an early indication of how likely a student will be to find a job based on the progress they’re making. This feature is already being offered to prospective students. Additionally, Springboard is developing a “student-job fit recommender,” which it touts as an AI-driven job matching tool that automatically recommends open roles at Springboard’s partner companies based on each student’s background and skill set.
Springboard is also developing a new tool called “Springboard introductions,” a browser plugin designed to give students “targeted introductions and job referrals” from its community of mentors and alumni. For example, if someone is applying for a job through LinkedIn, Springboard could surface individuals already working at the company to provide a referral.
Both the recommender and introductions products are currently in development and are expected to launch around mid-September.
Tambay said Springboard saw 54% growth in student enrollment between March and June of this year, a figure that rises to 352% when comparing the year-on-year figures of June 2019 and June 2020. These are the kinds of numbers that attract investors. “In addition to increased student demand, we are also seeing a ton of inbound investor interest in our space,” Tambay added.
The surge in demand for remote learning and upskilling platforms has kicked countless VC investors into action, with Coursera recently securing another $130 million at a $2.5 billion valuation and India’s Toppr locking down $46 million. That Springboard has managed to raise a sizable round less than nine months after its previous raise underscores investors’ interest in remote learning as people scramble to train for in-demand industry roles.
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