When you live in Silicon Valley, it feels like nearly everyone works in tech and that entry into the industry is wide open. Of course, the reality is very different. Even as software eats the world, not everyone has the training or connections to land a high-paying job in either the traditional tech industry or with a company that’s actively embracing its digital future.
In fact, it would be challenging to interest an executive recruiter in someone who doesn’t have a tech background and didn’t go to college, yet a company called SV Academy is doing just that. According to cofounder and CEO Rahim Fazal, the nearly two-and-a-half-year-old, Bay Area company is currently helping 100 people every 30 days — or 1,200 per year — land jobs at companies like SurveyMonkey, Palo Alto Networks, and PayPal.
Very notably, it costs these job candidates nothing. Employers pay SV Academy between $12,000 to $15,00 per hire; all the prospects really need to do is convince SV Academy that they have the drive required to take a 12-week, training program that teaches the skills necessary for tech-based sales roles, plus a year of ongoing training and mentorship for a year after they graduate.
It sounds like a great deal, and it is, which is why SV Academy says it has more interest than it can handle. Fazal tells us that the company, which received 1,000 applications over eight months in its first year of operations, is now receiving 1,000 applications a week from people who’ve largely heard of the company through word of mouth.
Because it’s focused on grooming candidates who are serious about developing new careers (and will stay in their jobs), SV Academy is loath to scale up to accommodate that kind of demand. Still, a new round of funding should help widen the funnel a bit. Until recently, the company was backed by $2 million that it raised a couple of years ago from Bloomberg Beta, Rethink Education, Precursor Ventures, Uprising Ventures, 500 Startups and WTI.
The money was enough for SV Academy to achieve profitability and get to the point of placing employers on a waiting list. But with demand beginning to more seriously outpace its supply of candidates, SV Academy recently hit the market again, sharing exclusively that it has just closed on $9.5 million in Series A funding led by Owl Ventures with participation from Kapor Capital, Strada Education Network, and several earlier backers participating, namely Bloomberg, Rethink, and Uprising.
It isn’t the first time that Fazal has started a company that has taken off. He cofounded a company a decade ago that sold to Oracle, where he spent the next two and a half years. But SV Academy is even closer to his heart, given that he is exactly the kind of person the SV Academy wants to lift up — someone smart but lacking resources. Fazal himself grew up in government housing. He didn’t go to college. He knows firsthand that with determination and right amount of guidance and support, apparent obstacles like a lack of financial stability or a fancy degree can fall away.
Fazal also recognizes the importance of having the right cofounder, which he seems to have landed on with Joel Scott, who is also the company’s COO. A Stanford-trained lawyer, Scott was previously VP of operations at Hewlett Packard, and according to Fazal has trained upwards of 500 SaaS salespeople since college.
Indeed, Scott played a major role in creating SV Academy’s curriculum, which is very focused on training people for SaaS jobs (for now) and that is entirely virtual, from the 12-week-training period, to the coaching that comes afterward. The reason: it enables it to reach students in the U.S. wherever they may be, and whatever their experience might be.
Though some of the applicants who it accepts are college graduates, many are also “working full-time jobs, or they’re caretakers, and it’s impossible for them to drive into the city several times a week for classes,” Fazal explains.
Whatever the case, it seems to be working. Fazal says that 100% of the individuals who complete the program are not only receiving median job offers of $79,000 plus benefits and, in many cases, equity, but 70% of them are also receiving promotions within their first year. Yes, the law of small numbers is a factor, but it’s also easy to understand investors’ enthusiasm for what they are seeing — including the cautious approach SV Academy is taking to expanding.
“Real transformation is difficult,” says Fazal. “You can’t create outcomes like this by throwing software at the problem.”
Above, left to right: Joel Scott and Rahim Fazal of SV Academy