Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with CareerPath Mobile Founder/CEO Richard Portelance and Managing Partner Ben Grinnell in May 2017. (Read: Social Impact Startup Engages Students in Career Development.) At that time, the startup was participating in the reSET Impact Accelerator, which helped the company define its mission.
IDH Website Curator Nan Price reached out to Richard for an update about the startup.
NAN PRICE: What’s new?
RICHARD PORTELANCE: CareerPath Mobile is gaining traction. We ended up winning 2017 the reSET Venture Showcase, and this year we have launched at several new partner schools (including Wheaton College, Capital Technology University, and Western Connecticut State University) and started a new employer engagement program to bridge the skills gap between learning and doing.
We’re working with Westchester Publishing and CohnReznick to pilot programs at Western Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut.
Additionally, we’ve begun assembling our own milestone sets for career preparedness (explore, discover, prepare and launch—based on the NACE competencies), financial literacy, path to Wall Street, Path to entrepreneurship, and more.
We also see growth in our ability to connect Connecticut employers to our community college and technical school students to help them recruit and retain better fitting employees.
NAN: Have you experienced any major pivots since we featured your story?
RICHARD: Yes! Engaging employers was a lightbulb moment for us. On-campus recruiting is so challenging, and students have difficulty gathering as much information as needed from job fairs, while employers cannot possibly go to each college they would like to recruit from, especially the smaller ones.
Our solution builds a bridge of career readiness from learning to doing—articulating the soft and hard skills students need to be qualified candidates, along with other needed information so the student can make informed and smart choices.
Because school career services offices are traditionally underfunded and understaffed, our revenue-sharing model helps schools receive a financial boost from our employer partner program. No other company I know of in this space has anything like this—and our school partners have responded positively.
NAN: Have you been involved with any entrepreneurial resources in the region?
RICHARD: I’ve personally been involved in helping Connecticut Technology Council by volunteering for the Engineering Challenge Committee.
The program is underway, helping companies in the state find engineering talent through a hands-on program. Students have a chance to showcase solutions to a prompt we developed to prospective employers, competing for selected internships and jobs.
There are obvious ties to what we are doing as a company, but I like the opportunity to share what we have learned to help this type of program grow stronger; it ties nicely to our mission and ethos as a company.
Additionally, we have been hanging out in Boston at Learn Launch, an EdTech Accelerator, by going to their programs and growing our presence in the EdTech community. Many terrific companies are finding their legs in the space, and Learn Launch is the epicenter. We now have desk space there to maintain presence and continue our growth.
NAN: How are you building a customer base?
RICHARD: We’ve been leveraging referrals, some cold calling/appointment setting and letter writing. It’s a very old-fashioned approach, but that’s what’s been needed for this particular stage.
We’re in the process of ramping up our marketing program to companies that want to participate in our pilot program at specific schools, or schools they already have relationships with, but would like to expand presence. This program will include a revamped website, social media, digital marketing (Google Ad words), case studies, blogging, and even advertising with industry associations and publications. We’re getting set for a big push and couldn’t be more excited!
NAN: Aside from funding, what do you need most to move your company forward?
RICHARD: Exposure. We now need to get the word out, gain support from our state officials, and grow our base here in Connecticut. We plan to build our new “learning to doing” model here in Connecticut by engaging all students, working with every technical school, community college, private and public college and university.
We’re bringing our employer recruitment community together to help them find the talent they need right here in our state. From there, we’ll roll forward and show the rest of the country and world how Connecticut is leading the charge in the education revolution.
NAN: Where do you see the entrepreneurial landscape heading?
RICHARD: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I will say this, it’s a super exciting time to be an entrepreneur, whatever is next is going to be big!
Here in Connecticut, it continues to be challenging, but there are plenty of folks who are living up to the challenge.
We love what’s happening at reSET and within the burgeoning InsurTech community with initiatives including InsurTech Hartford, founded by Stacey Brown. There is also alternative learning in New Haven, and generally within our own EdTech marketplace. The investors are starting to really dig in here and put their money to work as the face of education rapidly changes. Keep an eye out, because education as we know it is undergoing a transformation, and I predict that in 10 years it won’t look anything like the school model we grew up with.
NAN: Tell us about the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship in Connecticut.
RICHARD: From my perspective, and that of many of the people I encounter, entrepreneurism will buoy the economy by providing new types of jobs and unique opportunities that attract young, eager minds.
Here in Connecticut, our location between Boston and New York, natural beauty, and quality education provide a sound underpinning for growth. Finding new sectors to invest in other than bio-tech is essential—we need to diversify and find another stake to build around. By investing in our entrepreneurs, we will give rise to a new era of economic prosperity that will drive our economy and put Connecticut back in the lead, where we belong.