What is education actually worth? AstrumU raises $7.6M to help graduates and employers find out

AstrumU CEO Adam Wray.

A college grad who studied philosophy might make a great finance exec. A liberal arts major could excel as a product manager at a tech company.

The potential to succeed at a given job in today’s working world is no longer so tied to a university degree or name brand. So how can companies assess talent, and how should universities adjust to train their students for careers?

AstrumU wants to answer both questions with technology. The Seattle-area startup just reeled in a $7.6 million round to fuel growth of its platform that aims to calculate the value of educational experiences in the labor market.

Kingdom Capital led the funding round, which included participation from Heidrick Struggles chairman Adam Warby and DocuSign founder Court Lorenzini. KC Rise Fund and City Light Capital also invested. Total funding to date is $13.2 million.

The 3-year-old company crunches data from colleges and employers to help students find careers based on specific skills, courses, and extracurricular activities.

AstrumU makes money from both institutions and employers. It helps colleges and universities figure out how coursework translates into jobs after college.

“They’re seeking an understanding of which skills are most relevant in the labor market and how those skills connect back to educational offerings, and they need that information in real time, not just through annual surveys,” said CEO Adam Wray.

Companies use AstrumU to identify talent when trying to fill positions and fulfill a hiring strategy that is “more inclusive” and supports diversity pipelines, Wray noted.

The Series A round comes as more employers put less value on college degree requirements. President Trump also signed an executive order in June requiring federal agencies to use skills-based hiring versus a degree focus.

The cash infusion will also give Astrum financial cushion amid the economic crisis. Many colleges are making budget cuts due to the pandemic and shift to remote learning. But Wray isn’t too worried.

“Whether it’s a tough economy or a booming economy, talent strategy is ultimately what’s going to drive our long-term recovery, and the same is true for the large employers and universities who work with us,” the CEO said. “Investing and reinvesting in education and lifelong learning is particularly important at a time when jobs are scarce and workers need assistance to retool for new careers.”

Wray previously served as CEO of Tier 3, a Bellevue-based cloud computing company that sold to CenturyLink in 2013.

AstrumU employs 33 people and plans to hire additional staff this year. Ignition Partners, Correlation Ventures, the University of Kansas, and ASU ScaleU previously invested in the company, which originally incubated at the University of Kansas.

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