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Mentor Collective shakes off its boots to scale student support services – TechCrunch

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Mentorship is a crucial ingredient to a student’s success. The demand for a platform to make the art of advice more accessible is thus easy for entrepreneurs to identify then pitch, but the serendipity — or the chasm between what makes someone an effective mentor versus just a speed dial for questions — is harder for them to scale.

Startups that want to scale mentorship across different industries need to build up a supply of mentors diverse, and present, enough to click with the variety of students in today’s society: ranging from the part-time graduate student who is busy with parent duties, to the burnt out, first-generation Ivy League star, to the engineer who just broke into tech but is struggling with work/life balance.

For Mentor Collective, a Boston-based startup founded in 2014, answers to the challenges and opportunities within scaled mentorship have taken time to figure out. The startup, founded by Jackson Boyar and James Lu Morrissey, began by pairing up students with mentors virtually, and over time has added more structure and management to its marketplace. It approaches the human questions of “how do you support intrinsic motivation” through participant surveys and algorithmic matching — while tackling diversity of student needs by building different curriculums for first-generation individuals, adult learners, veterans, BIPOC and others.

To date, Mentor Collective has 165 institutional, higher-education customers, including University of Colorado Denver, Penn State and Dartmouth. It also works with corporations such as Wells Fargo. On the supply side, Mentor Collective says it has trained more than 50,000 mentors since first launching.

While companies and competitors, including BetterUp and Sounding Board, have cumulatively raised hundreds of millions of dollars, Mentor Collective decided to bootstrap for the past seven years. CEO and co-founder Jackson Boyar believes the long game was necessary so they didn’t take too much money too early, like some other early-stage edtech companies he’s seen launch fast, and fail faster.

“Even though it took a really long time to get to where we are, we feel confident to spend this money and know it won’t negatively impact students,” Boyar said. “It did take us half a decade to figure this out, and if somebody thinks that it takes half a year, it’s a little audacious and not realistic…if your mission is about doing good, you probably need to adapt that mindset.”

Boyar announced today that his company has raised $21 million in a Series A round led by Resolve Growth Partners and continued investment from Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based foundation focused on making lifelong learning more accessible.

Boyar initially started the company thinking that it would be a nonprofit. While that has since obviously changed, he thinks that starting a company by aggressively focusing on “product efficacy with the expectation that maybe it wouldn’t make that much money” helped build a key foundation.

“If you’re trying to convince a college dean or provost to buy something and you don’t have a randomized control trial that shows the impact on students, it’s kind of ridiculous that you’d ask me to spend $100,000 on your product,” he said.

The founder decided that it was time to take serious money when the company doubled in revenue last year, now nearing $10 million in annual recurring revenue. The more important milestone? Mentor Collective finally began offering more predictable outcomes for students, he claims.

According to an analysis conducted by Dr. Jenna Harmon, mentorship research lead and Dr. Joe Sutherland, head of data science, Mentor Collective helped power a 3.84% increase in student retention and a 14% increase in sense of belonging.

“These numbers might initially appear low, but even just 1% retention is significant in education…4% across a class of 5,000 students is 200 fewer students dropping out of school,” said Boyar. The magic metric for the company, as he just explained, is how it lowers drop-out rates for schools through giving students more subjective-based support. In money terms, if Mentor Collective can prove that a mentor increases a student’s likelihood of graduating, it cloud show that the university will gain more tuition revenue by using its service.

Another company, EdSights, has raised millions for a chatbot that connects students to resources or support services. “In a perfect world [where] we somehow had a magic wand that allowed us to collect the data on whatever we want on our fingers, what would we want to know to prevent [college] students from dropping out?,” co-founder Claudia Recchi said in a previous interview.

“Our form of mentoring is finding someone who does, or at least can, relate, and connecting them to you at the right moment in that journey, so that you can build a greater sense of belonging, that you’re more likely to graduate, that you get all the social mobility that college promises, but ultimately isn’t delivered to students who don’t look like the traditional college student,” Boyar said.

Currently, more than 50% of Mentor Collective’s mentor cohort is non-white, and 36% identify as first-generation college students. For now, the company is relying on volunteer mentors to support its mission, but now, with venture backing, could be under pressure to start paying the people it makes money off of. The COVID-19 pandemic helped the company secure 83,000 mentorships in 2021, double the year prior and up from 19,874 in 2019.

Looking back, Boyar thinks that his company could have been even more disciplined in focus during its earlier days. The demand for mentoring means that there are dozens of use cases for the platform, and the company often gets inbound from a variety of customers, from libraries to the military. While saying yes could work for short-term growth, the true efficacy of mentorship in those fields looks very different from person to person.

Now, with new incentives laid atop the company, Mentor Collective will need to make a series of choices on how to stay thoughtful and ambitious on the way it grows.

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Identity in the metaverse: Creating a global identity system

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With the advent of the metaverse, the need for a global identity system has become apparent. There are many different ways to create an identity in the metaverse, but no single system is universally accepted. 

The challenge is usually two-fold: first, how to create an identity that is accepted by all the different platforms and services in the metaverse, and second, how to keep track of all the different identities a person may have.

There are many proposed solutions to these challenges, but no clear consensus has emerged. Some believe that a single, global identity system is the only way to ensure interoperability between different platforms and services. Others believe that multiple identities are necessary to allow people to maintain their privacy and security.

The debate is ongoing, but it is clear that the need for a global identity system is becoming more urgent as the metaverse continues to grow.

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In this article, we will explore the various options for creating a global identity system in the metaverse. We will discuss the pros and cons of each option, and try to identify the best solution for the future.

Option 1: A single global identity

The simplest solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to create a single, global identity system. This would be a centralized system that would be responsible for managing all identities in the metaverse. 

The advantages of this approach are obvious: It would be much easier to keep track of identities, and there would be no need to worry about different platforms and services accepting different identities. In addition, a centralized identity system would allow for better security and privacy controls, as well as the ability to track identity theft and fraud.

However, this approach also has several disadvantages. First, it would be very difficult to create a global identity system that is accepted by everyone. Also, a centralized system would be vulnerable to attack and could be used to track people’s movements and activities. Third, it would be difficult to protect the privacy of users in a centralized system.

Option 2: Multiple identities

Another solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to allow each person to have multiple identities. This would mean that each person could have one or more identities that they use for different purposes. 

One of the main advantages of this approach is that it would allow people to maintain their privacy and security. Each person could choose which identity to use for each situation, and they would not have to worry about their entire identity being exposed. In addition, this approach would be more resilient to attack, as it would be much harder to take down multiple identities than a single one.

The limitations of such an approach would be that it could be difficult to keep track of all the different identities, and there would be no guarantee that different platforms and services would accept all of them. In addition, multiple identities could lead to confusion and could make it more difficult for people to build trust with others.

Option 3: A decentralized identity system

A third solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to create a decentralized identity system. This would be an identity system that is not controlled by any one centralized authority but rather is distributed among many different nodes. 

This might seem like the ideal approach, since decentralization is a common theme in the metaverse. However, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome. For instance, it would need to be ensured that all the different nodes in the system are properly synchronized and that the system as a whole is secure. In addition, it might be difficult to get people to adopt such a system if they are used to the more traditional centralized approach.

One solution would be to get the nodes in the system to be run by different organizations. This would help to decentralize the system and make it more secure. Another advantage of this approach is that it would allow different organizations to offer their own identity services, which could be more tailored to their needs.

Another would be to incorporate an edge computing solution into the system. This would allow for more decentralized processing of data and could help to improve performance. It would also make the system more resilient to attack since there would be no centralized point of failure.

The best solution for the future of identity in the metaverse is likely to be a combination of these approaches. A centralized system might be necessary to provide a basic level of identity services, but it should be supplemented by a decentralized system that is more secure and resilient. Ultimately, the goal should be to create an identity system that is both easy to use and secure.

The ideal identity standards of the metaverse

Now that we have explored the various options for identity in the metaverse, we can start to identify the ideal standards that should be met by any future global identity system. 

It is no easy task to create a global identity system that meets all of the criteria, but it is important to strive for an ideal solution. After all, the metaverse is still in its early stages, and the decisions made now will have a lasting impact on its future. 

Current iterations of the metaverse have used very traditional approaches to identity, but it is time to start thinking outside the box. The ideal solution will be one that is secure, private, decentralized, and easy to use. It will be a solution that allows people to maintain their privacy while still being able to interact with others in the metaverse. 

Most importantly, it will be a solution that can be accepted and used by everyone. Only then can we hope to create a truly global identity system for the metaverse.

The bottom line on identity in the metaverse

The question of identity in the metaverse is a complex one, but it is an important issue that needs to be addressed. 

The challenges associated with creating an implementation that is secure, private and decentralized are significant, but they are not insurmountable. For one, it will be important to get buy-in from organizations that have a vested interest in the metaverse. These organizations can help to promote and support the adoption of identity standards. 

It is also important to keep in mind that the metaverse is still evolving, and the solution that is ideal today might not be ideal tomorrow. As such, it will be critical to have a flexible identity system that can adapt as the needs of the metaverse change. 

Ultimately, the goal should be to create an identity system that is both easy to use and secure. Only then can we hope to create a truly global identity system for the metaverse.

Daniel Saito is CEO and cofounder of StrongNode

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How to Eliminate Scheduling Inefficiencies in Your Business

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What do salons, consultancies, and home service providers all have in common? This question may seem like the prime setup for a joke, but there’s no punchline to look forward…

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Why You Should Start a Business Only While You Have a Job

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many people that I meet tell me that they dream of starting their own . I always ask them, “Then why don’t you?” They typically respond by saying that they have so many financial and personal responsibilities, that they can’t just quit their job to start a company, etc. Then I tell them my story …



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Related: How to Use Your Current Job to Start Your Next Business

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