Pathbrite Raises $2.5M, Looks to Become Academic Credentials 2.0

Online portfolio startup Pathbrite today announced a Series A funding round of $2.5 million, led by Rethink Education and including strategic investment from ACT, makers of standardized tests and testing material for high school and college admissions. The company plans to use the funding to continue building out product, in order to realize its vision of delivering the power of academic records and achievements into student hands.

“If you want to have a complete portfolio for an employer to review, it needs to have many different pointers or proof about what you’re capable of doing,” Pathbrite CEO and founder Heather Hiles told BetaKit in an interview. “We want to make sure that any user can get access to any kinds of evidence of what they’ve achieved and what they’ve learned, so that has to include empirical things like transcripts and test scores, as well as qualitative stuff.”

Unlocking the potential of transcripts won’t be easy; so far, the startup has partnered with Stanford’s registrar office to gain access to secure PDFs for its graduates, but arranging deals with other institutions will require negotiating deals with existing companies that manage e-transcripts (something the company is already working on), or going to individual schools directly. Still, Hiles and her team are up for the challenge, since ultimately their goal is to reaffirm the ownership of those records by the people whose actions they document.

In terms of what this round of funding will offer Pathbrite, which just launched to the public this week, Hiles says the focus will be on user experience and product. “The primary use of our funds is to continue with the development and refinement of our product,” she said. “We have a lot of engineering and product to be released, but we need time to assimilate user feedback before we decide what to put out there. We will be releasing shared portfolio, an improved user flow and various features around Facebook integration and embedded capabilities.”

“By January of next year, we’ll begin to release enterprise capabilities, so there’ll be walled communities of users who can share secure portfolios and feedback,” she explained about their near-term revenue opportunities and some of the product pipeline looking a bit further out. “We also in the fall launch with iStanford, which is a mobile community for Stanford students.” The company will also be launching apps for iPhone and iPad in the near future.

In terms of the competition, Hiles said that what Pathbrite is attempting is actually different from others like Zerply and Behance, since it’s not aimed primarily at creatives, and since it’s taking a less free-form approach. She compared Behance to a sort of Myspace, where you can “create a beautiful portfolio if you know what you’re doing,” but if you don’t, thinks could go very badly. Pathbrite, by contrast, is more structured and ordered, and better resembles Facebook in that sense, Hiles said.

Pathbrite also has ambitious goals of creating a big knowledge graph, by having its users knowingly contribute their experience and expertise to a larger database that will help the startup inform communities about where experts and skill sets are aggregating, around what geographies and in what organizations. That’s something that the larger crop of next-gen portfolio apps aren’t targeting, and a key difference for Pathbrite that could turn into major partnership and revenue opportunities down the road.

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