Silicon Prairie News

Four investors back Briefcase’s mission to find careers for grads

Kansas City January 10, 2014 by Fred Bauters Only 21 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

It's no secret the first months after graduation typically are a grind for college students eager to land a career that puts their degree to good use.

How schools and students can change that trend, however, has eluded just about everyone.

Briefcase, a Kansas City startup that completed the 90-day SparkLabKC accelerator last year, believes its software is an answer, and recently announced funding to make its vision of happily employed graduates a reality. Dundee Venture Capital, Nelnet, Saturday Capital and KC angel investor Jon Bentz provided the seed round investment. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Park University, Rockhurst University, University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri-Kansas City currently use a beta version of the white-label software, which aims to give students and their school's career services office effective tools to conduct job searches and learn from the results.

"It gives schools real-time metrics to gauge the plans they're using and evaluate the entire process," CEO and co-founder Christian Fisher told Silicon Prairie News. "They can see how they stack up against local and national averages."

Briefcase mass aggregates job openings from around the web, then, using its own technology, cleans up the information to fit a form that shows only the essential information—"aggregating, centralizing and simplifying job search for students," Fisher (right) said.

It tailors and constantly refines searches to the student's interest areas, education background and desired location—Kayak.com, but for job searching, Fisher said—while schools follow along. If students in a specific program keep getting hung up at a certain point in the interview process, the school can learn from the situation and install programming to understand what is holding them back. If a large percentage of students are applying to a particular company, the school can reach out to find if there are ways to coordinate a relationship that matches students better with the company.

At its core, Briefcase is trying make sense of why students are or aren't getting the jobs they want, and put actionable steps in place so the results don't remain the same.

As of now the product is about 80 percent complete, Fisher said, and the team expects to produce revenue this year. This investment will help them hire more staff, complete development and launch Briefcase at campuses nationally. The plan is to take its paid staff from seven to 20-30 by the end of 2014.

It may have been a long haul, but Briefcase found the right mix of investors to make it happen, Fisher said.

Nelnet is a major player in student resources, and wanting to extend its reach in education, found a natural fit in a solution for the post-college job hunt—Fisher said they'll be a partner in long-term business strategy. Dundee provides a personal relationship and day-to-day connection, with principal Michael Wetta as the only investor serving on Briefcase's board. Fisher said the investment is the earliest one St. Louis-based Saturday Capital—which he met at iKC in October—has ever made. Jon Bentz also is a lead investor in KC-based startup RAZ Mobile.

Fisher said it came together quickly after Dundee got on board.

"It took about nine months of pitching before Dundee," he said, "then only three weeks after they came on to wrap up the rest of the round."

And though Briefcase was courted by a west coast investment firm to move operations there, Fisher said from day one they wanted to stay and grow in Kansas City.

"We know this is exactly the place to build and scale," he said.

From here, Fisher said a lot of doors could start to open. The focus has been on university relationships, but they've had a number of conversations that would take that scale to new heights, including talks with the Obama Administration and an unnamed state government.

He couldn't go into much detail, other than that the Administration sees a lot of value in aligning careers with degrees, and that the state wants to engage a younger audience with its workforce tools.

We'll just have to follow along.

 

Credits: Photo courtesy of Fisher.

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