A startup helping students land jobs after college: LearnLaunchX grad uConnect

UConnect chief executive David Kozhuk spoke at the LearnLaunchX demo day last week (Photo by Kyle Alspach)
UConnect chief executive David Kozhuk spoke at the LearnLaunchX demo day last week (Photo by Kyle Alspach)

Last week Boston edtech accelerator LearnLaunchX held a demo day for its second session, and Dennis Keohane noted how far the program has come in two years — including the quality of the companies coming out of it.

One of the cohort’s startups with the most traction is uConnect, which is targeting a crucial area of higher education that has been largely ignored by software companies: The college career center.

Though the goal is to help students find ideal post-college employment, many students don’t reap any benefits, according to uConnect founder and chief executive David Kozhuk. But it’s not because college career centers have nothing to offer — it’s mostly that the centers have been clueless about how to communicate with students, he said.

“They’re doing the same thing they’ve been doing for the last 20 to 25 years — a blanket email newsletter to students and posting stuff on a bulletin board,” Kozhuk said.

That has led many students to look to third-party job boards instead of campus career centers and has hurt the relationship between many alumni and their alma maters, he said.

Kozhuk launched uConnect to develop a set of software options that would aim to engage students in a more modern fashion. The software enables automated marketing by career centers to students including custom email alerts that students can opt into, a news and events feed for the career services website, and a feed of a center’s content to its social media accounts.

Overall, uConnect aims to let career centers “speak to students the way they want to be spoken to,” Kozhuk said — and ultimately get them connected with the best job opportunities.

“Employers want to recruit through the college career centers,” he said. “But if (the centers) don’t have their students’ ear, then employers are not going to waste their time.”

Kozhuk initially connected with the career services head at his alma mater, UMass-Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, which became the company’s first customer. The school was followed by Bentley University, Boston College, and the University of Denver. MIT will launch in the fall. All are paying customers.

What the schools have found is a major increase in students attending job fairs and other career center events, along with a spike in website and college job board traffic, according to Kozhuk.

During demo day last week, Kozhuk was introduced by Susan Brennan of the Bentley career center. The college had been “struggling with how to engage students in our programs, and how to use tech in our efforts,” she said. Since launching uConnect, “we have incredible metrics” for the increase in student engagement, Brennan said.

Ultimately Kozhuk aims to scale to 50 paying schools by 2015.

“We’re a real company, with real revenue, and we’re on the verge of explosive growth,” he said during the demo day pitch.

See related: The LearnLaunchX 2014 demo day in photos

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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