Colaberry Talent Development Ecosystem
Pitch your solution.
Amongst the most pressing issues facing many countries across the globe is access of working-class adults to good jobs and availability of skilled talent. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the number of displaced workers in need of innovative training solutions. Existing education and training programs are often not nimble enough to respond timely to market shifts and needs. Consequently, millions of people are left behind while the lack of skilled workforce stunts business growth and inhibits economic development.
Colaberry offers a unique talent development ecosystem of people, processes, and technology to equip workers with in-demand tech and human skills for the future of work. We are transforming outdated educational models through skill-based learning and a highly curated support system to ensure career success. Different models of career entry are embedded into the program, such as internships, externships and virtual apprenticeships.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
“By 2030 as many as 375 million workers - or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce - may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work.” (The McKinsey Global Institute)
The unfolding COVID-19 crisis is accelerating this anticipated pace of technological disruption in the US and around the world. An increasing number of mundane jobs is becoming automated, workers are being displaced. Although new roles are being created, this transition is a challenge and poses a huge threat to the success of companies and employees if not executed correctly. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact every industry and profession across the world. The emergence of these technologies will increase productivity, customer satisfaction, and economic growth. However, it will also transform the workplace and redefine the roles and skills needed. This requires businesses to restructure their processes and reevaluate their talent, strategies, and workforce needs. The key challenge here is putting in place effective training programs to help millions of their workers gain in-demand skills quickly so they can shift to new occupational categories as new technologies are being adopted in the workplace at an increasing rate.
What is your solution?
Colaberry talent development ecosystem provides in-demand skills training programs with critical wraparound services to enable successful career transition. Our solution caters to any skill level and provides the pillars of support needed to grasp not only key data and tech skills, but also develop critical human skills such as communication, collaboration, confidence, critical thinking, perseverance, and time management.
We offer instructor-led and self-paced training in data analytics, data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Colaberry courses are designed from the ground-up to focus on the latest tools and approaches to working with data, and on developing integral human skills to assure long-term professional success in the field.
Our learners have access to a highly curated support system to ensure career success, and are supported by industry-seasoned mentors who provide interview practice sessions and personalized job coaching. Additional wrap-around services include job placement assistance and professional development opportunities. All supports continue for 12 months after program completion and are provided by staff and Colaberry alumni volunteers. Different models of career entry are embedded into the program, such as internships, externships and virtual apprenticeships.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Colaberry ecosystem has been designed to empower underrepresented minorities and those with limited career pathways and opportunities for economic advancement. Colaberry programs bridge the skills gap for mid-career, middle-aged workers, emerging students without market-relevant skills, and workers without degrees - those who are at the highest risk for displacement. Our inclusive ecosystem nurtures lifelong learners and provides them with the opportunity for ongoing retraining. This will be critical as the emergence of new technologies continues to create new career pathways. Colaberry tech platform Refactored AI enables life-long learning and an opportunity to explore, grow, strengthen, and expand their applied tech skills on-demand.
Colaberry has served thousands of individuals hailing from over 45 different countries, ethnicities, races, religions, genders, education, and income brackets.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Increase access to high-quality, affordable learning, skill-building, and training opportunities for those entering the workforce, transitioning between jobs, or facing unemployment
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge and your selected dimension.
Colaberry is committed to building a workforce for success in the future of work. Our ecosystem enables everyone regardless of age, race, education, or current occupation to pursue a sustainable, rewarding and successful career in a world powered by technology and AI. Colaberry programs build in-demand technical skills and facilitate the development of critical human skills. Our video assignments, facial recognition, real-time feedback, and ongoing mentor support promote effective communication for success in the workplace. Colaberry is positioned to play a vital role in bridging the opportunity and skill gap to meet new industry needs and the evolving market demand.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Dallas, TX, USA
In which US state(s) will you be operating within the next year?
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
Who is the team lead for your solution?
How many people work on your solution team?
Our team consists of forward-thinking, mission-driven technologists and data scientists with unique perspectives and backgrounds that have enabled the development of a dynamic and innovative future of work ecosystem.
Our full-time staff includes:
Ram Katamaraja, Founder and CEO
Ali Muwwakkil, CAO
Gautam Sarin, VP of Finance and Operations
John McBride, VP of Sales
Juliet Odima, AVP Admissions
Shemika Hopson, Program Success Manager
Kristina Alessi, Head of Programs and Partnerships
Sathwik Vangari, ML Engineer
Pawan Nandakishore, Data Scientist
Kevin Guisarde, UX Designer
Bala Krishna Chandana, Software Engineer
Our part-time staff includes 3 administrative assistants, 5 student support officers, and 25 mentors.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization?
At Colaberry, we intentionally focused on workforce diversity from the onset. It has resulted in an impactful, inclusive, and profitable business.
Promoting diversity in the workplace takes some work but is well worth the effort. Since every organization is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Diversity initiatives must begin with a clearly outlined target. The key to success, however, lies in the implementation and the alignment with the actual organizational practices: intentionally building diverse teams, creating diversity-friendly policies, adding employee benefits, diversity training and mentoring, and so on. People with different backgrounds tend to have different experiences and thus different perspectives. Exposure to a variety of different perspectives and views leads to higher creativity. Diversity in the workplace has also proven to increase the bottom line of organizations.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Nothing exists today that resembles Colaberry’s reskilling and career transition ecosystem needed to promote success in the future of work - one that facilitates seamless movements in and out of learning and work. We are on a mission to serve as the learning ecosystem of the future, teaching people how to translate key skills from one industry to another. Individuals will overcome AI-induced adversity by gaining future-ready skills and gainful employment – constantly retooling themselves for the future.
Technology dictates how we develop, grow, and scale our technology platform. Our tech platform Refactored AI uses Jupyter to enable AI and ML solutions that create more effective learning experiences through personalization. As the learner progresses in their training, the input creates a more tailored curriculum path to address specific needs. This technology provides real-time assessment data and a comprehensive analysis of their performance throughout the process - vital for both the improvement of the learner and evaluation of the employer. It also enables our training to be virtual, interactive, and on-demand, providing more flexibility and accessibility to increase the number of data-thinkers and solvers.
Describe the core technology, if applicable, that powers your solution.
The core features of the Colaberry ecosystem include:
Mentorship and Community: highly curated support system to empower our learners to perform better.
Learn-by-Doing: learners solve real-world challenges, and put theory into practice for immediate application and retention of skills.
Customized Content: training opportunities tailored to meet specific talent and business needs.
Real-time Data Assessments: comprehensive performance analysis and ongoing feedback loops enhance both the learner experience and performance management.
AI-driven Learning and Feedback: user input and assessments tailor curriculum to address specific learner needs and accelerate progress; includes gamification methods to help sustain motivation for continuous learning and application.
Human Skill Development: develops advanced cognitive capabilities (e.g. communication, collaboration, perseverance, and high-level logical reasoning) that enable individuals to adapt as workforce needs continue to shift.
Technical Skill Development: new jobs will require more advanced skill sets grounded in data literacy; specialized training is provided across for increased cross-functional collaboration, skill transparency, and performance outcomes.
Zero-install Skills Cloud: high-powered computing platform infrastructure cuts down investment costs, eliminates compatibility and multiple software frustrations, and allows users to immediately access training content from anywhere.
Skills Transparency: our digital credentials validate specific skills our learners acquired.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
Our proven impact has been recognized as a scalable solution to address the global future of work challenge. In 2018, MIT Solve selected our technology platform Refactored AI as the "Most Promising Work of the Future" solution from over 1,100 global submissions. Notably, Refactored AI also received General Motors' Prize for Advanced Technologies, McGovern Foundation's AI for the Betterment of Humanity Prize, and MIT Solve's Community Favorite Award. Last year, our solution was selected by JFF Labs supported by Schmidt Futures as a finalist for the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge out of over 90 submissions. This year, Inc. 5000 recognized Colaberry as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States. In addition, Course Report selected Colaberry training program as one of the best Data Science Bootcamps of 2020.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
There are a variety of established bootcamps that provide job-ready skills. However, their pre-screening of candidates and geographic locations severely limits scalability. There are also several online self-learning Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) options. However, they typically cater to the “top-learners” and require a strong foundational knowledge of data and technology – making this option non-accessible for the majority of individuals that will be directly impacted by automation and AI.
Colaberry inclusive talent development ecosystem is designed to empower underrepresented minorities and those with limited career pathways and opportunities for economic advancementand, and help them take the digital leap. Our technology platform Refactored AI caters to any skill level and provides the pillars of support needed to grasp not only key data skills (technical) but also develop advanced cognitive capabilities (human skills) such as communication, collaboration, confidence, critical-thinking, perseverance, time management, etc. Finally, Refactored AI provides access to projects and jobs to enable successful career transition.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many people did your solution serve in 2019? 2018? 2017?
This year, so far we have served 815 individuals. In 2017 - 513; in 2018 - 553; in 2019 - 703.
What percent of the people you served in 2019 were between the age of 15 and 30?
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Colaberry will focus on scaling and collaboration. We’ll partner with companies who have/will be deploying AI solutions to seamlessly guide them through this transition. As we organically grow our corporate partners, we will grow our career development and talent pipeline offerings; which has proven to be extremely effective for existing partners such as Facebook, YearUp, Bayer, and Freddie Mac. Our Refactored AI Marketplace will connect qualified candidates to employers, at scale. We have also partnered with JNTUniversity, CARE Inc, and a private education organization in India and will use the data and success of these engagements pilot to continue growing and amplifying our impact in the US and across the globe. We plan to expand our reach to other areas where educational infrastructure is poor and educators are unable to teach advanced data science concepts. Colaberry will empower students and teachers and serve as the “last mile” training provider to close the opportunity/skill gap. We will expand our corporate training and Data Challenges that will provide companies with a vetted, qualified pool of candidates, and students will receive highly-coveted internships and full-time positions.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Our key challenges to scaling up are developing and executing on a growth strategy, and our revenue generation.
Another barrier we face is ensuring that our society’s future data professionals have access to technology. Colaberry solutions can provide the tools and resources needed to transform individuals into data thinkers, but accessibility is integral to becoming adaptable, lifelong learners.
Finally, shifting employer mindsets around their training, hiring, retaining and advancement talent practices, especially around non-traditional talent pools is critical to scaling our impact. We promote skill-based hiring, which is still not embraced by a large part of the US economy. Under-resourced communities generally do not belong to a traditional talent pool because they either lack higher education degrees or have degrees that are not recognized in the US.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
We will expand corporate training and AI workshops to ensure skills meet the new industry standards and our partners can find, assess, develop and hire better talent through Colaberry. Our success within Agtech and Healthcare to date (and advanced data analytics/algorithm transparency obtained from these partnerships) will enable us to expand across all industries. Refactored delivers open source, AI/ML powered JIT learning which is accessible and easily consumable for all levels of expertise. We will also leverage our relationships with Roxbury Community College, Year Up, and Texas Refugee Council to increase accessibility for low-income and underdeveloped communities.
We continue to partner with Strada Education Network in adopting their on-ramps to good jobs framework to provide our learners with promising career pathways.
What outcomes data would you like to be collecting that you are not yet able to collect?
As part of an ongoing development of our ecosystem, we would like to better understand the challenges our graduates encounter once they enter their new careers. We also would like to collect data to measure the social impact of our training programs that extends into communities and local economies.
What type of organization is your solution team?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people are on your leadership team? (Of these, please provide the number of individuals from your leadership team that are full time, part time, and volunteer)
Currently, we have 6 full-time employees on our leadership team.
What is the number of individuals from my leadership team that attended community college for at least one year?
In what year was your organization founded? How many years have you worked on your solution?
Colaberry beginnings go back to 2012. It all started with training one veteran, at no charge. Eventually, there was an opportunity to help veterans and others enter the growing field of data analytics, and so the Colaberry story began. We have been working on our solution for 7 years.
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
We are a team of forward-thinking, mission-driven technologists and data scientists with unique perspectives and backgrounds that have enabled the development of a dynamic and innovative talent development ecosystem. Every individual has the chance to succeed if given the opportunity has led to the ongoing success of our programs.
Our solution offers a unique ecosystem of people, processes and technology to develop in-demand skills for the future of work. We aim to radically transform outdated educational models through skill-based learning to provide a more direct pathway between education and employment.
Our ecosystem creates and nurtures an active community of students, instructors and mentors. We ask graduates to become mentors and help the next generation of students. These mentors function as role models because they have similar backgrounds and have gone through the program successfully.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We partner strategically with like-minded organizations to bring additional value to our community and to scale our impact:
YearUp: data training for underserved young adults to enter sustainable, data-focused careers; as a result acceptance rates have increased from competitive industry leaders (e.g. Facebook, Tesla, Google).
Credly: recognize our learners’ achievements through a digital credentialing program.
Indigo Education: offer human skills assessment and development to our learners.
AWS DeepRacer: teach AI, ML and robotics through engaging, hands-on workshops.
MIT SOLVE: advance and scale career development ecosystem solution to address the global “Work of the Future” challenge by utilizing MIT’s resources (expertise, human capital, and technology).
Strada Education Network: measure the social impact of our programs and platforms.
Texas Refugee Council: accelerate data science skill development and job-readiness. Veterans Coalition of North Central Texas: help veterans transition into civilian careers as data analyst experts, reenter the workforce and advance in their existing careers.
Colleges and universities: test the utility and ability of its platform to upskill data science skills, including JNTU, University of Texas Dallas, Saraswathi Pandian Engineering College.
Bayer: onboard and upskill data scientists and data engineers having strong academic backgrounds but lack industry-relevant skills and make them job-ready.
CARE Inc: cumulatively control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing a carefully designed academic and certification program embedded seamlessly in the CARE Inc internship model. It includes includes working on live, practical projects with application of Data Science principles and tools.
What is your business model?
B2C: training and career services for individuals with Income Share Agreements (ISA).
B2B: corporate training, staff augmentation, consulting and tech platform licensing.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Over the next decade, every industry will be transformed by AI and ML. The emergence of new and unconventional career paths will ensure Colaberry solution is positioned for long-term sustainability due to skyrocketing demand and untapped market need. We continuously develop tech solutions and mold our programs and skill offerings to fit the workplace needs. Our platform Refactored AI provides the tools for ongoing career development.
We have created revenue models that solve for the existing opportunity and skill gap. Individuals looking to build and develop advanced data science skills can sign-up with no initial payment. Refactored AI then receives a small percentage of salary throughout the first year of employment. Companies have various options that will strengthen the on-boarding process and upskill existing talent. Organizations can choose from the following options:
Access fee to the talent database
Pay-per-employee subscription fee for courses that we offer
Pay a licensing fee and we design/create custom course offerings and specific learning pathways
If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.
So far we have been self-funding this solution through internal means. We are ploughing back profits from our other lines of businesses to fund this solution.
What are your estimated expenses for 2021?
We are expecting to spend $1.5M in 2021 on our Colaberry talent development ecosystem. These costs are primarily associated with the resources and technologies needed to continue developing and offerings this solution.
Why are you applying to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge?
Colaberry mission is to promote upward mobility through training and by providing career pathways to individuals of all backgrounds. We are committed to building a world of data thinkers who embrace technology, and ensuring that individuals are equipped to succeed in the future workplace. Winning the challenge would enable us to leverage the Challenge partners resources and use prize funding to accelerate our global reach and scale our impact.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We want to partner with organizations who believe in our mission and are committed to leveraging technology to achieve economic mobility and empowerment for all through workforce training and career advancement. Ideal partners include government organizations, local workforce organizations, academic institutions, and enterprises.
In addition, we would like to partner with MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to advise us on our implementation of AI technologies on Refactored AI. We can use their expertise and incorporate their learnings and innovation into our platform in order to maximize our impact and reach.