Interview Kickstart attracts maiden investment for tackling tech talent crunch


Interview Kickstart, a profitable startup helping tech professionals acquire career-advancing skills, has raised $10 million in its maiden funding from Blume Ventures, the companies said on Monday.

The San Francisco-based startup, founded in 2014, assists engineers learn from employees of top tech companies or their alumni. Though always profitable, 2023 was pivotal for Interview Kickstart after the startup found immediate wide-adoption in its newly launched AI vertical aimed at engineers looking to switch to advanced roles, co-founder Ryan Valles told TechCrunch in an interview.

Interview Kickstart‘s offerings also help engineers learn to appreciate large-scale challenges sought by Big Tech and perform better in interviews, he said.

“Large tech companies are doing unbelievable and world-changing work and they need exceptional talent. But the education system hasn’t kept up with it,” he said. “A way to understand the void that exists today is the acceptance rate at these top companies. It’s 2-3%.”

Valles, who previously worked at venture firm Accel, and co-founder Soham Mehta, who built Box’s interview process, drew on their experiences in shaping the startup.

Interview Kickstart’s learners have received job offers topping $250,000, with the highest over $1.2 million. Many professionals have doubled compensation after taking courses taught by some 550 Big Tech instructors. The startup counts Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Netflix among alumni instructors, many of whom see their association with Interview Kickstart as a way to give back to the community, said Valles.

Interview Kickstart founders, from left, Ryan Valles and Soham Mehta. (Image credits: Interview Kickstart)

“In 2023, we refactored the business. We launched AI as a completely separate vertical and many uplevel courses and a switch-up course,” he said. 

Remote work and layoffs have made opportunities scarcer. “There is a power law in jobs. The top jobs pay 2-3x for the same level. So one can have a disproportionately lucrative career and you can take your entire family up with you,” Valles said, adding that the shortage of resources for engineers to progress makes the challenge more acute.

The $2,500-10,000 programme includes live classes, mentoring and performance reviews. Over 20,000 professionals have enrolled to date, with over 2,000 in last year’s AI course. Half signing up will apply for new jobs or promotions within 12 months.

“We are the only platform in the world that exists where you can get top companies-centred knowledge taught by top company instructors, delivered fully remotely for the best engineers and product people,” Valles added.

The startup avoided raising venture money in the past because Valles said Interview Kickstart has always been profitable and focused on sustainable unit-economics. “We avoided many of the bad habits that many startups in the sector picked up because we were always focused on our customers,” he said.

Interview Kickstart is finally raising external capital because it plans to focus on two to three new areas aggressively. It plans to actively invest in its AI offerings and expand its approach at levelling and switching up curriculums to more domains, including product management and design. The startup is also evaluating offering its programmers to businesses, Valles said, though he cautioned that the startup hasn’t yet made the decision.

For Blume Ventures, the investment in Interview Kickstart is its largest opening check in its decade-old history.

“Interview Kickstart presented a unique opportunity,” said Karthik Reddy, Managing Partner of Blume Ventures, in a statement. “The investment is a testament to our belief in Interview Kickstart’s mission and track record of delivering career-shifting impact to professionals. They’ve had a huge impact on professionals arming themselves with new skills and opportunities to thrive in the fiercely competitive tech industry. Soham and Ryan are well placed to scale this to become the one the greatest scale stories of the decade.”


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