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deal for the app, rather than curriculum tools. Their students receive free, full access to the PathSource app—branded with the school’s name—if the college promotes the app through its website, career fairs, social media channels, and other means. College students also get access to the PathSource job board and job search tools.
Over the past year, PathSource has been exploring various forms of monetizing its free mobile app and. College students using the app see a “a limited amount of advertising for services that we think are relevant for them,” Michel says.
Although most of the app’s resources are available free, enhanced features such as extended video interviews are available to buy through the app. But PathSource doesn’t want to raise many paywalls for individual users.
“Generally, we are trying to avoid building the business on the backs of our users. Instead, we charge the institutions and companies that want to connect with our users,” Michel says.
The company is evolving into a matchmaker between the app’s users and online learning providers, as well as potential employers, Michel says. Revenues would come to PathSource for making successful referrals.
This practice is known as “lead generation,” and Michel acknowledges that it has a dodgy history in the online education field. It’s been associated with for-profit learning companies that have low graduation rates, such as the University of Phoenix, and the Corinthian Colleges, which closed its dozens of campuses this year after government probes.
PathSource doesn’t refer students to such providers, Michel says. Instead, it links them to a curated selection of the best options in online education from sources such as Udacity and U.C. Berkeley, he says. The startup is in the process of refining its methods of assessing digital learning programs. The standards will include factors like employer recognition of the value of course content.
In January, PathSource will start charging employers a $99 fee for posting a job listing that can stay on the startup’s job board for a year while the company takes in resumes. Other job boards charge substantially higher fees, Michel says. On PathSource’s career pages, employers will also be able to display branded photos to build their name recognition with young job-seekers.
PathSource is keeping its staff lean at 15 employees. It has raised $1.4 million from foundations, angel investors and venture firms. Its backers include Ironfire Capital, the Yat Sen Foundation, and Wasabi Ventures.
By early January, the company expects to release a new version of its app, which will include a resume builder. PathSource also has a standalone resume builder app awaiting approval by Apple.
Although government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics offer valuable information for career exploration, Michel says there’s an open niche for edtech companies that can make the user interface much more accessible to young people. The need for career guidance is greater than ever for students these days, he says. For a long time, schools haven’t been able to afford enough guidance counselors, and college career centers are often underfunded. On top of that, young people today face mounting college costs and a job market with fast-changing requirements for technology skills and networking savvy.
While in past decades, an undergraduate degree from a good college was often a ticket into the middle class, now many graduates are not only struggling to find work but are also burdened with college debt. The choice of a college, a major, and a career goal are now “major life-changing decisions” for students. But too often, they hinge on insignificant factors, Michel says.