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Edtech Startup Upkey Raises $2.6 Million, Launches Career-Readiness Platform to Connect Diverse Gen Z and Millennial Talent With Leading Companies

Customers include Purdue University, Southern New Hampshire University and Guardian Life

Upkey, a Chicago startup that offers students free online career readiness tools, announced it has closed $2.6 million in seed funding and signed Purdue UniversitySouthern New Hampshire University and The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian Life) as customers of its platform that helps transform students into confident professionals.

S3 Ventures led the seed round funding, joined by Tensility Venture Partners, Bronze Valley, Lofty Ventures and other angel investors, including Steve Schaffer, the founder of Offers.com. The funds will be used to grow and scale Upkey’s operations to serve more students and give companies access to a bigger pipeline of diverse talent. As part of this expansion, Upkey plans to open a second office in Austin, Texas.

“There has never been an effective and remote professional development service focused on assisting students from underrepresented communities and schools. The product’s viral growth in such a short time has highlighted a significant gap in the market. We are excited to partner with Upkey to fuel their next stage of growth,” said Charlie Plauche, partner at S3 Ventures, who will join Upkey’s board of directors.

Similar to driving to an unfamiliar destination, working towards career goals can be confusing and stressful without directions.

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Upkey offers an arsenal of free professional development navigation tools that provide students ranging from high-school to university level with individualized, self-paced support. These tools include everything from resume-building, pitch development and interview prep, to virtual classes and internships at leading universities and companies—resources that until now have only been available to students in elite educational institutions.

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Starting today, these tools also include Upkey’s newly launched Dashboard, a customized career map tailored to students’ individual needs and goals. The Dashboard features interactive, gamified modules that allow students to earn ranks and badges, providing support and encouragement along the way.

Currently, 70% of Upkey users are minority and first-generation students. According to recent surveys, 96% of those who completed one of Upkey’s professional development tracks said they felt more confident pursuing their career goals.

“As is the case with many university career centers, we find value in offering students smart technology platforms in support of their job search efforts,” said Timothy B. Luzader, Executive Director of Career Success and Director of Center for Career Opportunities at Purdue University. “We’re especially excited about the Upkey product. Upkey is a particularly great fit for freshmen and other students who have never before created a resume. The hands-on elevator pitch feature also resonates well with students. In our efforts to more effectively serve first-gen and low income students, Upkey is a phenomenal partner and offers a multi-use platform to address these needs.”

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In addition to its student-facing benefits, Upkey’s tools and approach also allow enterprises to invest in their future workforce through multiple touchpoints and build a diverse pipeline of polished candidates. One example is Upkey’s virtual summer internship program (VIP), an 8-week “master class” where students work with professionals in various areas to complete projects for college credits. Upkey has already received interest from students in more than 70 countries.

“Upkey allows students to consider various career options and provides businesses with a new avenue to engage, connect and select future talent,” said Caitlin Pemble, director of Agency Growth and Development at Guardian Life. “Working with Upkey reinforces our commitment to investing in the future workforce, diversity and developing the next generation of accomplished professionals.”

“Over the past year, nearly 100,000 students have benefited from Upkey career preparation tools,” said Amir Badr, founder and CEO of Upkey. “Our mission is to level the playing field so that every student has the opportunity for support and training to reach their goals while giving organizations access to qualified candidates ready to take on new and varied challenges.”

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