Wyatt Smith—the former head of business development for Elevate, Uber’s aerial rideshare unit—says his newest venture is on a mission to combat America’s skilled worker shortage. And after successful pilots, UpSmith has unveiled new funding to help it scale.
The Dallas-based startup announced it closed on a $3.3 million pre-seed funding round earlier this year led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Boston’s Asymmetric Capital Partners.
“Employers need talent to fill critical roles as they invest in advanced manufacturing, construction, home services industries,” Smith said in a blog post. “To serve them and meet growing demand, we must expand skilled worker talent pools—that’s where UpSmith’s technology platform comes into play.”
‘Breaking the status quo’
Launched earlier this year, UpSmith’s platform—aptly called UpSmith.com—helps employers find, train, and retain skilled workers. Currently focused on the manufacturing, construction, and home services spaces, the company sources potential talent, screens and verifies candidates, then partners with businesses to offer paid eight-week “training accelerators” to candidates. It does all this to create what it says are the three important determinants of career routes: purpose, pay, and accessibility.
UpSmith says it focuses on targeting candidates that are underserved by the current sourcing system, including veterans, immigrants, recent high school graduates, and “stuck workers,” which Smith describes as workers in their mid-20s to early 30s in positions with little upward mobility.
“By collaborating within existing systems, and breaking the status quo to create even better ones, UpSmith’s technology has the potential to help millions of people across America and around the world,” Katherine Boyle, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and leader of the firm’s American Dynamism Fund, said in a statement.
Funding will help UpSmith add new job sectors, geographies
Since launching, UpSmith says it has seen “promising signals” from its pilot programs—one in Tennessee working with Associated Builders, the other in Dallas working with American Residential Services to train HVAC technicians for jobs in Dallas and Houston.
UpSmith’s pre-seed raise was joined by GSV Ventures and Accel, along with “strategic” angel investors, including former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, Thumbtack co-founder Sander Daniels, and “dozens of other leaders in the global technology, construction, and advanced manufacturing sectors.”
With the new funding, UpSmith plans to expand its platform. The company said in a blog post that it’s seeking to work with businesses in areas like advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, aerospace and defense, and construction. In a podcast interview on “The FORT with Chris Powers” released last month, Smith said his company intends to focus on “moving into adjacent markets” and “moving into new geographies.”
“We’re really focused on helping people tell them their stories in a more compelling way than they could tell themselves and really helping them shine, because often, if you’ve operated in the builder economy, you don’t always have the most compelling, traditional resume to point to and say, ‘This is why I’m right for this job opportunity,’” Smith said on the podcast. “Our goal is to use technology to do that in a more compelling way.”
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