A Chinese woman who studied in the US shares 4 tips for international success
Business leaders frequently champion international experience. Whether that's studying or working overseas, they argue it can give you th...
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Our higher education system leaves students with $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, but only a trace of their tuition is funneled into career placement services. According to The Atlantic Monthly, only 17% of students found their school’s career office to be very helpful.
Roughly 85% of freshmen said getting a good job was a major reason they went to college, and roughly 60% weighted a college’s ability to help them do so when deciding where to attend. This contrasts sharply with the priorities of universities. For instance, U.S. News and World Report considers seven factors when ranking a school. But none of them relate to job placement or employability.
In addition, curriculums are designed in an academic vacuum. As a result, companies encounter computer science graduates who can’t program, liberal arts graduates who can’t write, and a general population of students who are clueless about how to behave in an interview or write an effective email. And some of them spend as much as $200,000 for their degree.
Paragon One’s CareerMapper 1.0 is a multi-step software-driven process. It systematically takes students through a process that progresses from receiving career guidance, to learning how to source interviews, to learning how to ace interviews. Along the way, CareerMapper 1.0 gives students access to career coaches, crowdsourced advice from over 500 industry insiders at top companies, and tools to track progress toward landing an offer.
With the help of CareerMapper’s advisor network, coaches, improved application materials, and professional network, our students and graduates have landed internships and jobs at:
We will soon offer financing and scholarship options for students who meet certain criteria with the option of paying back tuition from their first year salary. This is part of our long-term vision of bringing Paragon One to a wider network of students in the US and around the globe.
Students can also purchase a trial version of CareerMapper for $295.
Our gross margin on delivery of the product is 80% after factoring in hourly time for coaching and advising. The margin after factoring in time the coach and operational team spend servicing a student internally is ~65%.
Our contribution margin after taking out customer acquisition cost is ~20%. Our net profit margin is currently negative due to investment in technology and operational processes.
Later in 2018, we will launch CareerMapper 2.0 to bring crowdsourced advisor and coach feedback to students’ application materials at a price that will be more accessible to higher education institutions.
Our Total Addressable Market of nearly $3 billion within this opportunity includes 6M students graduating each year from higher ed institutions and 3.5M white collar workers in their 20’s who want to switch jobs each year.
Until now, there have been four categories of career services solutions for students: job boards (WayUp), career services software (Handshake, Grad Leaders), career development content (The Muse), and mentor marketplaces (Evisors, LinkedIn). Career Mapping is a new category, created by Paragon One.
Career Mapping solutions deliver a student or recent graduate all the way to a job offer. Unlike other categories, Career Mapping is based on a multi-step process, which systematically moves students from receiving career guidance through to learning how to source interviews, and finally to learning how to ace interviews.
It’s ambitious, and it’s working.
The next chapter of Paragon One’s growth includes servicing higher education institutions, university program managers, and international student pathway companies.
Paragon One is in discussion with a number of B2B2C and B2B partners as CareerMapper becomes ready to service institutions.
On track to launch CareerMapper v.2.0 by Q4 of 2018
Version 1.0 was a success: We’ve collected a lot of valuable customer feedback with our early adopters, 98% of whom are international students studying in American universities. CareerMapper v2.0 will launch later in 2018.
Dear potential supporter,
I’ve been passionate about mentorship and career coaching for over a decade. Starting at MIT (where I met Co-Founder & CTO, Byron Hsu), I helped launch a student-alumni mentorship organization that is still growing today. In my first job out of college, investment banking, I developed tendonitis in my hands. I thought my career was over since an investment banking analyst who can’t type is pretty useless. So I began to sit next to the interns and coach them on doing their jobs better. Over the summer, I brought the full-time offer rate of interns from below 50% to 100%, so I did the same thing for the first-year analysts. The experience stuck with me. After working in VC and co-founding a luxury e-commerce marketplace, AHAlife.com, I turned my attention to bringing career coaching to college students and recent graduates.
Our mission became not just helping students land jobs, but to teach college students how to fish for themselves. Universities imply that students should just show up to career fairs and apply to online job boards. This is how students end up with just a “job” and not a career, wondering years later how they ended up where they are. We all know that launching a great career takes a great amount of research, mentorship, tenacity, and the right connections. Most students don’t have access to the right resources, or the right guidance that teaches them how to carve their own path.
I’m excited for our team to continue the journey as we begin to formally work with higher education institutions.
We're creating an entirely new way for students to get jobs. We call it Career Mapping. If we keep doing our job right, we'll look back and wonder why we ever taught students the old way of finding jobs at all — by going to career fairs and applying to online job boards in the dark.
In the future, students will truly be able to build their professional networks in a real and helpful way. And Paragon One will evolve way beyond transactional solutions such as LinkedIn. In contrast, we’ll provide a micro-community of experts that surrounds a student and truly wants to help, driven by advisors and coaches who are incentivized by a student’s success. Many other solutions will be trying to build their own communities by that point, but we'll have the strongest one in which colleges and alumni networks are brought in to turbocharge their own students’ success. College career offices can become 10x more amazing with this type of approach and technology. We will have learned best how to create the right kind of micro-community to help a student, and that's how students will get jobs most effectively.
Co-Founder & CEO
The educational system today has failed students badly. Together, we can give young people access to expert guidance and, ultimately, the chance to realize their potential, building lives and careers they can be proud of. I invite you to join us. - Matt
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The maximum valuation at which your investment converts
into equity shares or cash.
If a trigger event for Paragon One occurs, the discount provision
gives investors equity shares (or equal value in cash) at a reduced price.
The smallest investment amount that Paragon One is accepting.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
$25,000 – $1,070,000
needs to raise
before the deadline.
The maximum amount
is willing to raise is
Paragon One needs to reach their minimum funding goal before the deadline
If they don’t, all investments will be refunded.
All of our growth so far has been from direct-to-consumer channels such as Facebook or B2B2C partnerships with college prep agencies where we do content marketing. The next phase of growth will target bringing CareerMapper into higher ed institutions, either directly, or via channel partners such as Online Program Managers and International Student Pathway Programs. We are already in discussions with several of these channel partners and expect a couple of pilots in the fall.
Roughly 50% of our customers come through parent channels and 50% through student channels.
We found a lot of our early adopters in the international student community, including those studying in the US from China and India who found that career resources and support were severely lacking for them. We also skew about 2/3 female and 1/3 male. About 75% of our students are undergraduates, 20% are graduate students, and about 5% have already been working. Among the undergraduates, we are fairly evenly represented between freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior years. So most of our students are looking to land internships first.
Our tuition tends to be on par with Princeton Review premium pricing for college prep, but we know that it's not feasible for most families. We have a few initiatives to tackle this and enable growth to a broader set of students: (1) we soon plan to offer Income Sharing Arrangements for students which allows for a pool of investment capital to finance students and then be repaid after the student has earned enough income from their first job. It doesn't act as a loan, but rather an investment in the student's future potential; (2) we will offer scholarship arrangements for students who meet certain criteria; (3) CareerMapper 2.0 should be able to achieve similar outcomes of CareerMapper 1.0 but at a sub-$1,000 price due to crowdsourced feedback which will also fit the pricing model of most institutions.
Please see the below transcript from Paragon One's pitch at the LAUNCH festival.
Matt: I'm Matt and I'm from New York City.
Jason: Okay. Matt, you have three minutes on the clock. Three two go.
Matt: Hi. I'm Matt, co founder of Paragon One. We're simplifying the process from college to career. Now, as we all know, this is not my slide. But this one is. It's really hard as a student to get a job out of college. Job boards suck and career boards, career fairs suck. So what's a student to do? Well, 97% of our students are getting job and internship offers. How is that happening? Let's take Shelley. She's an industrial engineering student who's interested in product management. But she's worried about how do I get interviews and how do I do well at them? Colleges don't teach you this stuff.
Matt: First, she takes an assessment on our platform. Next, we offer up advisor recommendations. These are experts in different fields. She picks June, who's a senior product manager at a tech company. Then June gets on a video call with her, reviews her resume, gives her feedback and recruiting advice. June submits this feedback, which then goes into Shelley's progress report. The fun doesn't stop there. She gets assigned to a career coach, who then goes into more depth on how the career mapper process works. Essentially, Shelley can check off goals toward her eventual landing of a job. Along the way, advisors are giving feedback on each of these steps. She can watch training content and ask for more help from advisors on things like: How do I source interviews? How do I ace them?
Matt: Shelley was a student of ours and she landed jobs with Tesla and Hitachi. Other students are getting jobs at other top companies like you see here. Career Mapper starts at $300, but the average tuition we're seeing right now is about $3,000. We're already starting to bring the cost down with our next version. And we're starting to offer income sharing arrangements to defer the costs. Now the secret sauce here is that we have this dedicated advisor network that's kind of like a personal career advisory board for students. We marry that with workflow software, custom workflow software we've built so that coaches and counselors have access to data and intelligence that allow them to drive outcomes at scale.
Matt: We're defining a new category called career mapping. It's basically career services turbo charged. If you look at 6 million graduates in the US every year, three and a half millennials looking to switch jobs every year, could be a three billion dollar opportunity. However, we're already seeing early adoption from the international student pathway market, which is a big market here in Australia. We're already seeing 240 percent year over year growth last year, and similar this year in revenue.
Matt: My co founder and I met at MIT, we're very passionate about solving this problem for helping students redefine how they're getting jobs. And our mission going forward is to make sure that we're doing this in a way that universities can also adopt. Our investors who are backing us are very dedicated to this mission as well. And they're looking at the next stage when we start working at institutions.
Matt: So in summary, Paragon One is growing about 240 percent annually, a 97 percent success rate, and a 3 billion dollar market opportunity. Please join us in helping students fish for their own jobs, not just rely on their university. Thank you.
Jason: Okay. Well done. I just wanted to know, to be clear, how much you're charging students? Is it 300 or 3000, it was going a little bit-
Jason: No no no! Wait. You gotta get all the questions at once. So I just wanted to know exactly what the price was. And then, if it is 300 or 3000, how you came to that pricing and if you've done any pricing experimenting. So more thoughts on pricing would be great. Matthew.
Matthew: Are you marketing direct to the students to pay for it or are you partnering with universities?
Jason: Okay. Andrea or Stonely.
Andrea: You just asked my burning question, thanks.
Jason: Okay. Good. Sometimes that happens.
Stonly: How do you recruit and retain your advisors and coaches?
Jason: All right.
Matt: All right. So starting with pricing, this is ... We actually started off experimenting in a lot of different models. The idea with the $300 product is basically it's a trial. So you get essentially three coaching sessions, one with an industry expert, two with a coach. But the tuition programs have multiple sessions. And they actually take you along this career learning plan. So you're assigned a coach. They follow you from beginning to end. And you might have five, ten, twenty advisors on different topics along the way.
Matt: For the next stage of pricing, what we're doing is we're trying to bring the cost down below $1000 per student, to land you with interviews, and hopefully a job offer, because we're starting to talk to institutions. And obviously, they're much more price sensitive, because we see the opportunity where career service offices can use our product. So the next question is how do we market? We've been marketing B2C or B2B2C so far, two channels. We have a Facebook channel, a funnel that we've been basically getting a cost of customer acquisition about 40 percent of our lifetime value. And the other channel has been small boutique, study abroad, and test prep companies, a number of which are actually in China for international students who come here.
Matt: So we work with the international students when they come to the US, but we market to the parents there. Recruiting and retaining advisors. It started off with my personal network from a lot of different careers I've worked in. We started getting referrals. We get a lot of inbounds. And we target on LinkedIn. We haven't done any broad marketing yet though. We do have a bit of training to go through.
Jason: Have people asked for their money back ever, and how do you handle that? 'Cause it seems pretty pricey and if I don't get a job, I would think some of the people you get is negative signaling where you're getting the people who have a hard time getting a job, therefore, some of them might not succeed. And then, do you give them their money back or do they sue you or write something nasty on the internet.
Matt: Correct. Everyone who has asked and there has been five people out of about two hundred that have gone through our tuition based programs, if they ask for their money back, we will give it to them. And so, we understand that having unhappy customers is not a good thing.
Matt Wilkerson: Hi, I'm Matt Wilkerson. I'm the cofounder and CEO of Paragon One. My inspiration came from my experience in college. I felt lost. Didn't know which career path to pick. A year in, from typign so much, I got tendonitis in my hands. I though what am I going to do here. A vice president came to me and said, "Look, the interns, they don't know how to do their jobs. Nobody has time to teach them anything." So I taught them how to do their jobs. By the end of that summer, all of them had full time job offers, which is rare. That had a huge impact on me.
Matt Wilkerson: I've never done anything like this on television. Being here, pitching to the Drapers, I'm feeling thrilled right now.
Jesse Draper: Welcome to Meet the Drapers. So give us your pitch.
Matt Wilkerson: I'm Matt. I'm the cofounder and Ceo of Paragon One. We're simplifying the path from college to career. This is done through a network of professionals. Advisors who help students and guide them along the right path. The idea here is that colleges and universities as we know can be quite expensive, but students are coming away not knwoign how to land a job. We have Leo, and international student. He wants to break into consulting, but he has two problems. First, he doesn't know how to actually get interviews. And second, if he gets and interview, he doesn't know how to do well at the interview.
Matt Wilkerson: So with Paragon one, he takes a short assessment, we then guide him through what we call a career learning plan. He goes down each checkpoint, and he checks off goals towards eventually getting a job offer. We've already seen 240% year over year growth. 97% of our students are getting job and internship offers in the fields that they care about. We're actually seeing an opportunity for a 3 billion dollar total adjustable market in the United States. China and India, we're already looking at as target markets down the road.
Matt Wilkerson: Now the business model is tutioin based and subscription. I started this company because I've been passionate about career education all my life. So there's ...
Tim Draper: See, it's not hard to create a platform for mentors to reach students. So what's special about you guys?
Matt Wilkerson: So just getting a resume fixed, having an hour coaching session, that's easy. But how do I take someone from resume to cover letter to LinkedIn profile? How do I do a mock interview. That's a very complex path and so we've actually built custom workflow software that is tailored around the experience of advisor and student. And it's put in the seat with a coach. So the coach monitors the entire process from beginningn to end.
Jesse Draper: Could you use that software for other verticles?
Matt Wilkerson: We actually see the opportunity now to go eventually to institutions. We're already talking to companies that work with universities.
Abishek Punia: So I think the reason why these type of models haven't been able to get massive traction is because they're and to as individualized as clubs and career centers on campus. But the information they provide isn't as scalable or as generalizable as like Google search or a Wall Street Oasis for finance.
Matt Wilkerson: When you actually have this crowdsource network of information and you have data behind that, and you provide a rally good match, that's where magic happens.
Abishek Punia: Yeah, but then you encounter like a two sided market problem, whereas how do you get quality advisors how have [inaudible 00:30:52] existing careers to join your platform of mentors.
Matt Wilkerson: We actually manage that problem in two ways. There's actually a concept of what we call a coach. Their job is to make sure the student si staying on track. The industry advisors are people who work in different fields. They have an expertise, but they don't have to worry about am I pushing the student forward, am I tracking them in the right way.
Abishek Punia: The coach sounds almost like a virtual mom making sure you do your [inaudible 00:31:13].
Matt Wilkerson: Sometimes it is. It's that support network.
Tim Draper: I want to hear about the conversation you had with your cofounders when you decidded to do this.
Matt Wilkerson: Byron, my cofounder and CTO, we've known each other 15 years. And together between us, we've started, run, and exited three internet companies. We both went to MIT, great school, but we were both wanderign aimlessly. Years later, I kept talking to him about how the students I was coaching on the side, they were just like we were.
Tim Draper: Further in debt probably than you were.
Matt Wilkerson: Much further in debt right.
Tim Draper: Yeah.
Matt Wilkerson: 1.5 trillion, and they're doing the same things. Going to job boards, going to career fairs. You wuoldn't tell a friend of yours who is working today, hey go to this job board or got to a career fair. We know that's outdated. I realize that my success today has been completely through the network of people that I've met along the way. 100%. It wasn't what I learned at MIT. I don't remember any of that stuff, quite frankly.
Matt Wilkerson: Students have this opportunity to pick the first few steps of their life, and the profesional world out there is potentially closed off to them. There's all this knowledge that people have, and people actually want to help. So if we can unlcokt hat knowledge, suddenly students are now picking a life that's meaning for them, and they're not joining the workforce saying, "Okay, now what do I do?"
Jesse Draper: So you really don't remember anything from MIT?
Matt Wilkerson: Look, I mean my 6002, 6003 EE classes, those are probably ones I want to forget, but I remember the relatiosnhsips. I remember my mentors. The very few that I had when I realized I should start doing this very late.
Abishek Punia: One would imagine that like valuable mentors come out of broader interpersonal interactions. It almost seems like paying for it would cheapen the experience and make it a little bit more comemrical.
Matt Wilkerson: We're going to be soon launchign what's known as income sharing arrangemetns. Until a student gets a jbo with a salary, they don't have to pay us anything. And they only have to pay a small percentage back over a fixed about of time and after that, it goes away.
Sanjay Nath: Quick question. You talked about India and China. It's an interesting problem out there because you've got a huge drop between the top teir end students and then you have a lot of people graduating, but don't have jobs, so there is a pain point, but what's the stickiness and why do they come and why will they stay on your platform because essentially it's the same market. It's the job seeking. So what's the ...
Matt Wilkerson: Sure. We look at the advisors as just imiportant as users on our platform, as students. Because if they're not engagted, they're not gonna stick around. The payment that we give them is there to help them understand that this is important. They take it seriously. But when you do things like provide them with agendas and content so they don't have to do a lot of preparation up front. And most importantly, we make sure that the students, their feedback, especially the positive feedback, comes to them often, and they feel gratitude for that.
Tim Draper: This is interesting because I've been focused on this a lot at [inaudible 00:33:39] Univeirsty. The same group of people. I know you've got an interesting problem. Thank you so much for coming to Meet the Drapers.
Jesse Draper: So nice to meet you.
Matt Wilkerson: Thank you.
Matt Wilkerson: Which Draper is most likely to support my company? I think Jesse could because, as I undestand, she's a new mom. I'm a new dad and I'm already thinking about what world will my children go in the next 10 to 20 years? What will education look like? How will they enter workforce? What careers will they be developng? This idea around career education is on my mind with regards to my children.
Matt Wilkerson: On the other hand, I understand that it's very possible that Bill Draper could see a lot of the potential for what we're building. We attracted a lot of international students as our early adopters, from China and from India. And so I'm already seeing a lot of potential to bring Paragon One into markets like China and India.
Jesse Draper: It's funny, Punia, that you said it cheapens the experience if you have to pay for it. I don't believe you should have to pay for mentorsihip. There's a difference between tutoring and proviidng mentorship, and I feel like we should just encourage a society that wants to help each other.
Abishek Punia: Yeah, and I think the confusion that people have when picking their career path, it's not just al lack of knowldege. It's also how our education is structured in the first place I don't think such a solution really hits the core, which is why they're never able to scale or grow or become prevelatn.
Jesse Draper: Right.
Sanjay Nath: I think it is an interesting pain point. In India, for example, if you looked at it, you've got the [inaudible 00:35:10] that all of us went to, and then you've got a huge drop between the next university. These days kids are coming out and many ofthem don't have jobs. I see the problem. I see the market size. What I didn't see is how compelling, how different this was.
Tim Draper: I actually think it's okay to pay for mentorshsip. It's just in definitioni thing. If you called it a trainer or a tutor, you would expect to pay. I actually think that this is gonna be a big breakthorugh for a short time, but then the education system is gonna catch up. I mean at Draper University, we are trying to lead the way toward a new way of looking at education. Create your own jobs. A bunch of other schools are tryhgin to get education to job to be a closer match. And so I think that this might just be a temporary phenomenon. Putting my 15 year hat on, I'm not so sure this is gonna be a big winner.
Jesse Draper: So should we vote?
Tim Draper: Let's listen to the crystal ball first. Paragon One. What do we thin?
Jesse Draper: It sounds like an airline.
Tim Draper: It is. For a financial organization. I've got mine.
Jesse Draper: Okay. Thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs all around. But he was really great.
Tim Draper: Whenever people say, I am really passionate about this, it makes me feel like they've heard from me saying we like to back people who are passionate about what they do. But then the second time I asked the question, the real passion did come out.
Jesse Draper: I do think he was passionate about it.
Tim Draper: I think he got in to it. I think he was into it.
Jesse Draper: He was passionate about it. That's his life path and good. Was this the company for you? Do you want to back mentorship? Go to MEETTHEDRAPERS.com and you can invest. You should stay tuned to listen to my dad's crypto chat up next.
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