Harris, 31, found that she needed help mastering the programming language and considered returning to school for a computer science degree. “I felt tech illiterate,” Harris says. “I was struggling.”
Earlier this year, she heard about an app that could help her find a coding bootcamp that might cost less and take less time than returning to college. Through that app, Career Karma, she found a group of about 10 like-minded aspiring programmers and career switchers to answer her questions and cheer her on. “Some had been programming longer than others,” she says. “They helped me with the stuff I was stuck on, and there were things I brought to the table, like my business experience.”
Harris is just one of the 18,000 users San Francisco-based Career Karma claims to have, with more than 100 people downloading the app each day. Giving it a boost is a new seed round of fundraising—$1.5 million from an extra large group of investors. Participants include Kapor Capital, 4S Bay Partners LLC, Halle Tecco, Unshackled Ventures, George Gund IV, Chingona Ventures, Caterina Fake, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Brice Nkengska and Combine VC.
Other investors in this round include Fern Madelbaum, Brianne Kimmell, J20, James Joaquin of Obvious Ventures, Lightspeed Capital, Rahim Fazal, Realist Ventures, 6ixth Event and James Cross from Workday. They are joined by Upfront Ventures, Laura Holmes, Romeen Sheth, Kai Stinchcombe, Christal Jackson, James Moss, Kelsey Mellard and Apurwa Pokhrel.
Career Karma traces its start to a 2016 podcast co-founded by Ruben Harris (no relation to Melanie Harris) and brothers Artur and Timur Meyster. Called “Breaking into Startups,” the show aims to educate listeners about bootcamps and offers interviews with a variety of tech company CEOs.
In 2018, the three men formed a company to provide a single source for information on the hundreds of coding bootcamps inexistence. With Harris as CEO, the company began tackling a handful of essential questions: What courses do bootcamps offer? Do they request tuition upfront? How long do they last? The company graduated from the Y Combinator accelerator earlier this year.
As CEO Ruben Harris puts it, schools may come and go, but there will always be aspiring programmers looking for a right fit.
“We focus on what’s not going to change, and what’s not going to change is people wanting to know what their options are,” says Harris, 32. “These people are taking control of their lives.”
Once users download the Career Karma app they take a quiz to match with relevant bootcamps and peer groups. Those peer groups may be people just learning or who have been programming for a while. It’s free for users but Career Karma gets part of the tuition money people pay when they accept an offer from a coding bootcamp, which usually charge between $10,000 and $40,000, Harris says.
About 70 percent of bootcamps are full time, which have a median cost of $13,500, according to a study by the nonprofit research organization RTI International published in February. Part-time programs were a bit cheaper with a median price of $7,500, though the study found that nearly 90 percent of bootcamps offered some financial aid.
Melanie Harris, the San Ramon, Calif.-based user of Career Karma, says she’s two months into a nine-month program with coding bootcamp Lambda School, a program she’s taking with people she met through Career Karma. That approach may boost her odds of completing the program. Supportive peer groups have been shown to help retain computer science students, particularly women, according to a paper from Simmons University in Boston.
Most of her Career Karma friends are located in the Atlanta area and will visit her in California later this year. It’ll be the first time they meet offline, but through video conferences and staying in touch, the group is helping her get through Lambda School.
“I wouldn’t have ever known about bootcamps” without Career Karma she says. “I’m so happy I found this.”