Something I share with my team at PeopleGrove is that I could have never predicted my career path. In return, I hear many stories like mine, and yet we all ended up here, working together toward a common goal.
Four years ago this month, after traveling along a more “traditional” post-college path working in finance and tech, Reilly Davis and I took a chance on a new venture. Our first few years as entrepreneurs were nothing glamorous. We were working out of a trailer in Mountain View, California. The first startup we created — an app for finding jobs — never took off.
We learned several lessons along the way, but two in particular stand out.
LESSON 1) No one gets it right the first time.
LESSON 2) A company should start with a problem they intend to solve.
Our second venture, now known as PeopleGrove, set out to fix this problem:
Only 39% of college graduates feel satisfied with their first job out of college.
PeopleGrove’s mission is to ensure every student and professional has access to the community and connections needed to succeed. We want to help everyone unlock the social capital of their networks, in a human way. We empower universities to take mentoring, advising, and community engagement to the next level.
We are proud that some of our first university partners include Stanford, UMUC, and Penn State. Building on our early success, we soon added BYU Hawaii, University of Michigan, University of Calgary, and Macquarie University to the list of institutions that we partner with. Today, PeopleGrove is the only solutions provider who can list more than 50% of the Top 100 Universities as partners.
To support students and alumni around the world, we raised $550,000 from top angel investors, including the former president of Qualcomm. Our growing team moved PeopleGrove to a larger office in the heart of San Francisco and expanded our mission. Our latest Series A round closed in October 2019, backed by 10 investors including Reach Capital University Ventures and GSV Ventures. To date, PeopleGrove has raised a total of $7.2M in funding in four rounds. We are using this latest round of funding to expand our product, engineering, education, and marketing teams. We will expand and optimize our platform across the entire student lifecycle including Enrollment, Academic, Career and Alumni Success.
Since PeopleGrove opened its doors, we have grown to a team of more than 70 passionate people (and we’re just getting started).
In 2018, we hosted our very first PeopleGrove Innovators Conference. This event brought together more than 100 current and potential partners in San Francisco for presentations, panel discussions, and training sessions. The event was a great success. In 2019, we doubled in size and welcomed a world-class list of speakers, including Brandon Busteed (President of Kaplan University Partners) and Dr. Farouk Dey (Vice Provost for Integrated Learning and Life Design at Johns Hopkins University). Planning for the 2020 Innovators Conference is already underway. This year’s event will be bigger than ever.
We believe in giving back to the community we serve. In May 2019, we introduced our inaugural PeopleGrove Scholarship. This essay competition was open to full-time college or university students. We received many fantastic responses. Choosing a winner was not an easy task. I am pleased to announce Tyler Frazier of DePaul University as the winner and first scholarship recipient.
To round out an amazing year, in December, Reilly and I were honored to make Forbes 30 Under 30 list of innovators who will change the world in 2020. We remain humbled and grateful for this honor.
Finding a career path that follows your passion isn’t easy, especially on your own. Many of us learned this the hard way. Reilly and I never would have predicted that we’d be here, with this team, helping colleges and their alumni build meaningful, lifelong relationships.
All students, regardless of their background or experience, deserve access to the network and support necessary to access opportunity and achieve their goals. We will make the powerful, social capital networks that are often available to only a select few, open and accessible to all students. As we head into the new year, we will remain dedicated to our mission. And, we will continue to bridge the gap between education and meaningful careers.