BridgeU raises $5.3m to close the gap between education and industry needs

Students deciding on their next phase in higher education face a daunting choice and an array of options. Most schools have zero capability to deal with sifting 40,000 undergraduate courses in the UK, alone. Why not apply big data to the problem and create an ‘adaptive learning platform’ which actually helps students make these crucial decision, based on real data.

That’s effectively what BridgeU does. Its university preparation and careers guidance software uses big data and management tools to allow secondary schools to offer much smarter university and careers guidance service to their students.

This London and Hong Kong-based startup has now closed a $5.3m/£4m Series A investment round led by London’s Octopus Ventures. Existing investor Fresco Capital also participated, and new investor Downing Ventures joined the round.

Its main careers guidance competitor is Naviance (owned by Hobsons, who have done some serious company wide reshuffling recently). On the ‘careers – readiness side’, there are a few small players, including most notably in the UK Morrisby.

The latest round of funding brings the total raised by BridgeU to £6.4m since the company was founded in early 2014. BridgeU’s team has grown to 40 and works with schools in over 50 countries. The new funding will cover new hires and product development.

“We invested in BridgeU because there is a clear need to bring efficiency and transparency to the university application process,” says Allison Baum, managing partner at Fresco Capital. “BridgeU is a very compelling opportunity sitting at the intersection of a micro customer need driving short term adoption, and a key macroeconomic trend.”

Rebecca Hunt of Octopus Ventures says: “Education has changed more in the last twenty years than in the previous two centuries, and edtech has played a central role in this change. We invested in BridgeU because we see a massive opportunity in the rapidly growing education and student market.”

Students frequently make higher education decisions in a vacuum, leading to high dropout rates and poor skills alignment with emerging labour market opportunities.

Underemployment amongst recent graduates – whereby young people graduate with degrees or skills which leave them with employment opportunities that don’t fully exploit their potential – is on the rise. Meanwhile, McKinsey predicts that by 2020, there could be a shortage of 40 million employees with the right qualifications. So global demand for skilled workers is outstripping supply and there’s a huge discrepancy between what business looks for in graduates, and how we prepare them.

“At BridgeU, we’re dedicated to building a solution which empowers schools to prepare the students of today for the world of tomorrow” says Lucy Stonehill, BridgeU’s co-founder and CEO. “In a world where 65% of studentsin primary school will eventually find employment in jobs that don’t currently exist, helping young people to make informed decisions from the ages of 14-24 is critically important.”

With BridgeU, students build a personal profile, incorporating data on subject interests, grades, social, professional and learning preferences. The BridgeU matching algorithm cross-references a vast database of historical admissions data points to generate university and course recommendations that are personalised to the preferences and strengths of each individual. BridgeU’s application tools help students build university applications, and enable teaching staff to manage and track progression throughout the guidance process, assign tasks, collaborate on references and submit applications and supporting files for students.

In May 2017, BridgeU announced a partnership with ManageBac, the world’s leading Curriculum First learning platform, which serves 4 in 5 International Baccalaureate Diploma students worldwide. Next, it will launch a new Careers planner to enable students to discover and explore a vast array of job families and industries, produced in partnership with Burning Glass Technologies, a big database of jobs and talent.