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October 4, 2017 in Education, United States

These two companies are helping solve the skills gap in the US

Every year Village Capital runs a program for entrepreneurs in the education sector. This year’s theme was bridging the skills and hiring gap in the United States.

The cohort of 12 companies, which are located all over the country and selected through a rigorous diligence process, traveled to workshops in Washington, DC, Phoenix, and Denver. They met with mentors and investors, and provided one another with constructive feedback. On the final day of the program, the cohort selected two companies to receive $75,000 in investment from Village Capital.

The program was sponsored by AT&T, with support from the Lumina Foundation, the Small Business Administration and Bisk Ventures.

Learn more below about the two peer-selected companies — California-based Qualified and Austin-based Upswing.

Qualifieda platform for effective engineering skill assessments

Nathan Doctor, co-founder of Qualified, speaks to other members of the cohort during the program

Demand for software developers has skyrocketed in recent years with tech companies competing for top talent but the hiring process has been slow to evolve.

Nathan Doctor and Jake Hoffner, co-founders of Qualified, found that companies waste an incredible amount of time interviewing engineering candidates. Even worse, the people doing the interviewing and assessment tend to be engineers, leading to tens of thousands of dollars in opportunity cost for every hire.

Doctor and Hoffner created a tool that allows companies to assess a developer’s coding skills and technical expertise automatically. Qualified’s tests mimic a real-world coding environment and evaluate skills that will be used on the job. The SaaS platform includes an assessment environment, tools for managing candidates, and guidance on assessment best practices. They currently have over 200 customers, including Apple, TrueCar, and Andela.

Qualified evolved from Codewars.com, which was also created by Doctor and Hoffner. Codewars is an online community where engineers compete in coding challenges to build their skills. Doctor and Hoffner built Codewars into an international platform with over 500,000 developers. After building Codewars, they created Qualified to help companies with engineering assessments and educators who can replace homework and tests with real coding assessments.

They recently added Solidity support, the main language used in the Ethereum cryptocurrency, to allow testing and training for smart contract and cryptocurrency developers.

Upswing: a platform for improving student success and retention

Alex Pritchett and Melvin Hines, co-founders of Upswing, take feedback during the program

There is no such thing as a “typical” college student.

Nearly one quarter of college students are enrolled in community colleges, and they tend to be older than average. Thirty percent of college students take online classes so they can balance pursuing an education with other personal responsibilities, from a part-time job to raising a child.

Online and community college students are more likely to experience isolation that impedes their success, and both groups graduate at much lower rates than the more traditional four year college graduate.

Upswing, founded by Melvin Hines and Alex Pritchett, partners with colleges to help them offer important student support services — tutoring, mentoring, and advising —to online and nontraditional students. Their online platform uses data science to help the colleges see a leap in student success and stem dropout rates.

To date, Upswing has partnered with over 70 colleges across North America, helping to provide services to more than 600,000 students. So far they’ve seen an average decline of 10% in each college’s student attrition rate.


All twelve companies in Village Capital’s cohort are focused on disrupting the labor market to match students with jobs they actually want, empower women to navigate their career paths, and retrain low income workers for sales jobs, among other areas of focus. Village Capital will launch its next education cohort in 2018.

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