Startup for tech apprenticeships founded by Michelle Rhee raises $2.4 million

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The company’s software provides end-to-end workplace monitoring, learning and task management, and feedback services for training programs. According to a company release, 40,000 people already use the platform. The company’s founders also offer their own training services through an 80-member IRL class made up entirely of people of color who are either in or aspiring to a technical profession, according to BuildWithin’s statement. The company did not immediately respond to Technical.ly’s request for comment.

BuildWithin, which launched today, is a software platform that helps employers create apprenticeship and workplace training programs. Founded in 2021 by Hartsock and Rhee, the company received $2.4 million in pre-seed funding and nearly $9 million in government grants in a funding round led by Dundee Venture Capital. Black Capital also participated in the capital raise.

Hartsock and Rhee are both familiar faces in and around DC. Hartsock is perhaps best known for co-founding civil tech company Phone2Action with Jeb Ory in 2012. She left her role in January 2021 to start a new company, which has not yet been announced. Rhee, meanwhile, was the former chancellor of DC Public Schools, whose personnel and issues management left a controversial legacy before she founded the education organization StudentsFirst in 2010 and stepped down as CEO a few years later.

Hartsock said Phone2Action was having trouble filling technical positions and launched an apprenticeship program to address the problem. The founders quickly realized that many employees could be trained quickly in the technical field; several of those employees went on to work at companies like Google, Uber and Amazon. Some even became members of the BuildWithin team, she says.

“It was this experience that inspired us to start BuildWithin and create an accelerated path to well-paying tech careers for people of any background, geography, demographic group or age,” Hartsock said in a statement. “The beauty is that our platform both solves a major talent problem for employers and creates access to new opportunities for job seekers.”

In addition to the seed funding, the company received $7.9 million in grants from the Department of Labor through its Apprentices Building America program. With these funds, the startup will establish centers in five jurisdictions across the country in hopes of increasing the number of apprentices in technology and advanced manufacturing. The centers will offer both apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. The pre-seed money, on the other hand, will go toward expanding the team and developing products.

The company has already seen strong growth in its short existence. In the first nine months of 2022, BuildWithin reported 300% revenue growth, according to Hartsock and Rhee, and similar numbers are expected for the year ending. Customers cited include Cyangate Technologies, the DC Downtown Improvement District, George Washington University and the Northern Virginia Tech Council. The company also maintains a relationship with the Department of Labor as an approved national intermediary.

“Employers overlook huge talent pools because they operate in an outdated framework that assumes candidates must have a college degree and 3 to 5 years of experience to be effective,” Rhee said. “By helping companies implement apprenticeship programs, we’re changing the way they look at candidates. In this new construct, companies are not only prioritizing potential over credentials, but also building an increasingly loyal employee base.”

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