Founder Feature: Reetu Gupta
September 19, 2022
Meet Reetu Gupta (she/her), Co-Founder & CEO of Cirkled In. Reetu had an early start at discovering her passion for the education space. Not only was it through her own educational opportunities, but also having first hand experience of helping start and run a school in India. The value of education was only solidified in her beliefs while raising two of her own children.
We interviewed Reetu and you’ll get to hear in her own words about what Cirkled In does to help empower Gen-Z youth, the impact that she’s hoping to have on the community, and advice for new tech startups entrepreneurs.
Tell us about your startup:
Cirkled In is a young professionals’ platform, empowering Gen-Z youth to showcase their professional identity holistically and authentically and connecting them with the best-fit educational and employment opportunities like colleges, employers, trade schools, service providers etc. creating win-win.
Cirkled In is a unique marketplace, at the intersection of EdTech, HRTech and Consumer SaaS. It is a category defining students’ Information Highway transforming students’ data into useful and actionable information for the whole ecosystem. Cirkled In empowers youth to showcase themselves through a modern, social-media style, student-centric professional profile, putting them at the center of whole eco system’s circle and connecting them to all educational and employment opportunities. With the superpower of these data-rich profiles, Cirkled In enables organizations like colleges, employers and service providers to market to and recruit the best-fit candidates, reducing their cost and improving outcome.
In a COVID ridden world, the education system is being disrupted radically by the minutes, requiring 21st century tools to serve and engage a digitally native Gen-Z and Cirkled In is emerging as a leader.
We are thrilled to share that almost three quarter million Gen-Z students are loving Cirkled-In to showcase their professional identity and are getting connected with endless opportunities.
Starting with over a dozen paying universities, we are modernizing $10B college recruitment market, followed by $24B fresh grad campus recruitment, towards our vision of becoming a de-facto platform for students to tell their story and a go-to place for all youth recruitment while leveling the playing field for ALL youth.
Cirkled In is a perfect double bottom line company on its path to billon dollar business along with making a dent in the universe. It has seen amazing growth and has garnered national awards, including “Grand American Business Awards” (Top 10 companies in US). It has been featured in major regional and national media as well. Recently, Cirkled In was inducted in “Elite200” – 200 global companies disrupting education and workforce by GSV (Global Silicon Valley) and also list of “EdTech200- North America” by HolonIQ.
What inspired you to start this startup?
I had a very humble beginning in a small town in India. One thing in my favor was a teacher mom who started an elementary school in our home during my childhood. I helped her start and run that. Through that experience, value of education went deep in my DNA. I learned that education changes lives.
I completed my master’s in engineering with full ride scholarship and started my career in software engineering. Later, I immigrated to US and also graduated as the Valedictorian for my MBA from the University of Washington, Seattle. From starting with nothing to now running a startup, it’s a growth path I want every child to have access to.
After raising two kids, I saw massive opportunities to modernize the education system with technology and also fix major inequities prevalent in our education system today. Cirkled In is a social enterprise looking to close the opportunity gap for underrepresented youth.
Lastly, I have been influenced by Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”. I believe that the 100+ year old education industry is ready for disruption and with Cirkled In, I will leave a lasting legacy.
What ONE thing would help you out the most with moving your startup to the next step?
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness was only partially right. Money for sure can buy progress. We have been seeing amazing growth completely organically and on a shoestring budget. I have so many ideas about what an infusion of capital could do for our growth.
With capital, we could accelerate our path to a household name for students’ professional identity. With that, colleges and employers will be lined up outside our door to connect with these Gen-Z youth. We could get more at-risk youth connect to educational and employment opportunity and narrow the opportunity gap. Yes, capital could help us to accelerate our growth and meet our mission of making youth and opportunity matching a much bigger reality with a much bigger societal impact.
What was your biggest mistake (aka learning opportunity) when you VERY first started?
I strongly believe that there are no mistakes, rather they all are learning opportunities. My first big learning was – I need to show my vision to stakeholders. I had a vision of transforming youth’s lives with a powerful professional identity platform, and I assumed that everyone would see it. K-12 schools will adopt it overnight and investors will pump money in. I was wrong.
As a founder I have the vision, but I need to be able to show that vision to substantiate my claims. I needed to show the vision with numbers and proof points to earn stake holders’ trust and confidence. Today we can do that three quarter million student users, acquired completely organically. We can show that with over dozen paying universities. We can show thru awards and accolades.
What impact on your community are you hoping that your startup has?
There is a huge opportunity gap in our society for at-risk youth (low income, first gen, immigrant families etc.). For example, at-risk youth go to colleges at 30% lower rate than typical kids. More than half of kids born in poor families stay poor at age 35. And we also know that a college degree (2 year or 4 year) helps people earn $1-$3.5 million extra in lifelong wages. So, if we can narrow the gap of college going, we can narrow the income disparity in our society.
By giving these students a platform to showcase themselves and help them get discovered by colleges and employers, we hope to narrow this gap for at-risk youth. We are humbled to report than 52% of the student population on Cirkled in belongs to underrepresented communities. 59% of that student population has household income less than $60K. We believe – where there is a will, there is a way. If we WANT to make a change, we CAN.
Name your biggest motivator/inspiration to continue doing the work that you do.
Adam, he’s an 11th grader in South Seattle. He’s from a low income family and a first gen kid. He was completely scattered and didn’t know what he wanted to do. Unable to pinpoint his interests resulted in struggling to find any internships, a requirement for his high school graduation, jeopardizing his high school diploma. After learning about Cirkled In from his internship director at school, Adam put together his Cirkled In profile. He came back and told the director “I didn’t know I have done so much. I have new confidence now. I know what I want to do next”. Within four weeks of putting his profile together, Adam got an internship and he’s now doing a design course at a 2-year college. Adam and students like him are my biggest motivator. Even if we changed one life, my life spent on Cirkled In was worth it.
One piece of advice that you would give to a budding tech startup entrepreneur.
Don’t do it because you think entrepreneurship is sexy. Do it because you can’t NOT do it. Your passion for your idea should be irrational and uncontrollable. Only that passion can carry you through roller coaster of entrepreneurship.
During your entrepreneurial journey, you don’t know what you don’t know. The only thing you should know is that you are so madly, deeply, crazily in love with your idea that you can’t breathe without it.
Anything else that you’d like to share with the Find Ventures and tech startup community? (Promote an event, a partnership, new employee, a press release, ANYTHING!)
If you have kids or nephew/nieces in middle school or high school, have them sign up on Cirkled In. Then see the bright light in their eyes as they see how much they have done! See them glee with confidence after seeing themselves holistically. See them gain clarity in their next steps after high school. Help us help students!
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