- Tech training startup Career Karma has raised $40 million in Series B funding.
- CEO Ruben Harris told Insider many of his startup’s investors initially turned him down.
- He described how he tweaked his pitch to get into Y Combinator and win over other VCs.
In the space of three years, Ruben Harris went from working as an investment banking analyst in Atlanta to leading sales at a startup in San Francisco and hosting a podcast about tech startup careers.
So after a few people encouraged him to launch his own startup, Career Karma, and apply to the renowned accelerator Y Combinator, he did just that, with cofounders Artur Meyster and Timur Meyster.
They were rejected.
But through that initial setback, the three found their first angel investor . A year later, in 2019, they were admitted into Y Combinator’s summer batch of startups.
The same thing happened with many of Career Karma’s investors, Harris told Insider. “Pretty much everyone I’ve asked has told me no the first time,” he said.
Now, the company, which provides resources for finding tech training programs, has raised some $52 million in total funding. Its investors include Initialized Capital, GV, SoftBank, Emerson Collective, and Backstage Capital. On Monday, Career Karma announced $40 million in Series B funding led by Top Tier Capital Partners.
Harris, Career Karma’s CEO, told Insider how he has managed to turn nos from investors into yeses.
Have a big vision
Career Karma’s rejection from Y Combinator in 2018 came with a silver lining. Michael Seibel, the accelerator’s group partner and early-stage managing director, found their pitch compelling and became the company’s first angel investor, Harris told Insider.
Seibel also clued the cofounders into why they got rejected: They were too fixated on the here-and-now.
“When we pitched YC we had the same exact idea as we do now, but instead of focusing on our 10-year vision, we were focused on what we were doing today,” Harris said. The next year, he and his cofounders made sure to present longer-term goals.
Harris added that at the time, he was also loath to discuss competitors, and he tried to steer conversation away from the topic when Y Combinator’s partners asked about them. That ended up not working in his favor, he said.
Ditch vague taglines
Harris used to tell investors that he wanted Career Karma to be the “front door to the tech industry.” They often responded with a simple question, he said: What does that mean, exactly?
So Harris and his cofounders revised their pitch. They now describe their startup as the “easiest way to find a training program online,” Harris said.
Being clearer about the company’s function also made it easier to lay out the milestones Harris has set out to accomplish. Recently, that’s included partnering with bootcamps from schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Miami and launching enterprise programs.
Don’t get angry
Harris described being “pissed” at some of Career Karma’s early rejections. But he realized that shutting down further conversations with investors who passed wouldn’t be a good idea.
In fact, Harris said, he’s won over some investors who passed the first time around after they saw that he had, in fact, achieved specific goals he’d laid out for them before.
For instance, the company says it now has an annual run rate of more than $10 million in revenue. It has more than 3 million monthly visitors to its site and matches 25,000 of them with job training programs each month.
One investor Harris initially pitched for the startup’s seed round ended up funding a significant chunk of the company’s $10 million Series A.
“I’d say, ‘Remember when I told you what I was going to do? Well, I did it,'” he said.