Toward the end of his freshman year of college at the University of Virginia, Shreejan Gupta applied for a bunch of summer internships.
“I didn’t hear back from any of them,” said Gupta, expressing the same frustration heard from many college students who haven’t had time to build up a résumé yet.
Instead, Gupta — a computer engineering student — enrolled for the summer of 2018 in a skills-building program offered by Radify Labs, a startup company whose mission is to help college students or recent college graduates get internships or full-time jobs by providing training in technical fields along with professional skills coaching.
During the multiweek, online program, Gupta worked with other students on projects in web design and software development.
“I give them a lot of credit,” he said of the Radify Labs program.
“I do have an internship with a satellite communications company for the summer of 2019,” he said, adding that he thinks having completed the Radify Labs program helped him get the internship.
Radify Labs was founded in Charlottesville by Allison Garrett and Andy Page, who both graduated from U.Va. in May 2018.
Inspired by volunteer work they did at HackCville, a Charlottesville nonprofit that helps college students learn technical skills, Garrett and Page developed an eight-week, online program designed as a self-guided curriculum for students to gain knowledge in such fields as graphic design, user experience design, product management and marketing.
“We are filling a big need that we see right now because these fields are very popular,” Garrett said. “There are a lot of internships and jobs being added every year. All these industries are rapidly growing.”
Radify Labs also has contracted with mentors to provide online coaching for its students, covering such professional skills as interviewing and résumé writing. Each participant is matched with two mentors.
Participants have included undergraduates such as Gupta who are looking to land internships, or recent grads who have had trouble finding the jobs they want.
“What we are finding, more often than not, is these students are usually totally qualified and more than prepared for the types of jobs they want,” said Page, who studied business. “They just lack the ability to communicate their experiences or how ready they are for these positions.”
“Building confidence is one of the things we do that is very important,” added Garrett, who studied psychology and creative writing in college.
Radify Labs provides a needed bridge for students, said Daniel Autry, a 2018 computer science graduate from U.Va. who is one of the Radify Labs mentors.
“I think college is more geared toward teaching the theory behind a lot of things, which is really important,” Autry said. “It does not do as good of a job at teaching industry-level skills. That’s understandable because the skills change all the time.”
“I think what Andy and Allison are trying to do is bridge that gap,” he said.
Radify Labs was one of several companies in an emerging area called EdTech — short for educational technology — that participated in last fall’s cohort of Lighthouse Labs, a nonprofit business accelerator in Richmond that provides mentoring for startup companies.
Since completing the Lighthouse Labs program, Garrett and Page have remained in Richmond and are running the startup from shared office space in the 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom.
“We got into Lighthouse Labs, fell in love with Richmond and moved here,” Garrett said.
So far, about 170 college students or recent college grads have gone through the Radify Labs program. Ten students from seven universities are enrolled in the current cohort.
Radify Labs has been “bootstrapping” so far, operating without taking any external investments. The founders want to expand the number of students enrolled and introduce new curricula tracks.
Students can pay tuition up front ($1,500 for an internship and $2,500 for a job) to enroll in the Radify Labs program.
But the company also offers an alternative model in which students agree to share 10 percent of their first-year income if they land a full-time job, or 20 percent of their earnings if they get a paid internship.
“We do that because we want to make the program accessible to people who do not have the ability to front the tuition for the program,” Garrett said.
The income-sharing agreement applies only if students get a job making at least $50,000 a year or an internship paying at least $12 per hour. If not, the company takes nothing. That deal incentivizes Radify Labs to provide students with the skills they need, the founders said.
“We think if we make that investment and accept you to the program, we can help you get an awesome job,” Page said. “If not, we will take the loss on that.”