What It Is
LearnUp.me, an online job placement and training platform, enables job seekers to bone up on specific skills required by prospective employers. Companies post their open positions, ranging from bakery clerk to technology associate, then add links to training videos on YouTube or other approved material. For example, Staples candidates might be asked to watch the YouTube video "How to Make a Business Card." Once users complete the training, their LearnUp résumés are automatically updated to reflect their efforts, and they can be considered for the open slot.
How It Started
After her startup Valence Energy was acquired in 2010, Alexis Ringwald became interested in the unemployment problem. She spent six months interviewing people in the unemployment lines in the Bay Area, trying to determine what was keeping them from landing work.
"It seemed a lot of people's skills were out of sync with the labor market needs of today," Ringwald says. "There was a sense of confusion by the job seekers, a paralysis over what they needed to learn to be qualified."
In September 2011 Ringwald met Kenny Ma at the education-themed Mega Startup Weekend at Microsoft's campus in Mountain View, Calif., and the two joined together to launch LearnUp, which was announced in June at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago.
Why It Took Off
"Even employers with entry-level positions are having a hard time finding skilled workers," Ringwald says. Her vision was for LearnUp to bridge the gap, giving job seekers the expertise they needed and companies an educated employee pool from which to choose. Staples and Safeway were on the board of the San Jose, Calif., unemployment office and signed up immediately. Gap, KPMG, TeleTech, Whole Foods Market and others came on shortly thereafter.
The Business Case
Backed in part by venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, LearnUp recently received $1.9 million in funding, enough to build the team and expand throughout California. The company's revenue model is based on a finder's fee for successful job placements. Job seekers are not charged to access the listings or to complete any required training.
Still in startup mode, Ringwald won't divulge the number of positions LearnUp has filled so far, noting that the company is using San Jose as a test case.
LearnUp is working with community colleges in California to help guide curriculum development that will give students the education that prospective employers are seeking. The company is also working with its national clients to expand job placements for positions across California by the end of the year.