A new startup called NextStep Interactive has spun out of Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs and raised $3.15 million to help people who have been displaced by advances in artificial intelligence and automation learn new skills and land jobs in the fast-growing healthcare industry.
NextStep’s platform aims to recruit, train and place workers at entry-level, in-demand healthcare positions, like community health worker, home health aide and medical assistant. The startup plans to use the money to roll out its first training initiatives, build out its technology stack and start hiring a sales and marketing team.
“We believe we are tackling the most important problem facing our country over the next dozen years,” said NextStep co-founder and CEO Chris Hedrick. “Tens of millions of workers will be displaced by automation, and we need inexpensive, effective online retraining solutions to place them into important new work.”
The round was led by JAZZ Venture Partners, with participation from Pioneer Square Labs, Learn Capital’s LearnStart fund, and Springrock Ventures. NextStep is the eighth startup to spin out of Pioneer Square Labs.
Hedrick previously led a higher education program in Rwanda called Kepler and a learning technology and outsourcing company Intrepid Learning. He co-founded NextStep with healthcare industry veteran Charissa Raynor, the former executive director of The Benefits Group, where she led the development of the nation’s largest home care training initiative.
The company cited a McKinsey & Co. study that found up to 30 percent of U.S. workers may see their jobs disrupted in the next dozen years. NextStep is focused on funneling people into healthcare because it is among the fastest growing industries. It is also unlikely to be taken over by robots any time soon.
Today, the company has approximately 20 employees and contractors. The software team is based in Bozeman, Mont., where Hedrick lives, and Raynor and the team building the curriculum are based in Seattle.
The co-founders had actually worked together in the past and were re-introduced by Pioneer Square Labs Managing Director Greg Gottesman. Gottesman served on the board of Intrepid Learning, and the idea for NextStep came out of conversations between the startup veteran and Hedrick.
Pioneer Square Labs has invested in a number of companies that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce labor needs and increase efficiency. Gottesman and Hedrick talked about how “somebody needed to do something to retrain the tens of millions of workers who will be displaced,” as a result of the technology, Hedrick said.
“Then we started talking with Charissa Raynor about how best to meet the workforce needs of the healthcare industry, and we married the two notions to attract people who will be displaced, train those that are a good fit, and place them into promising, high-demand healthcare careers where they can grow,” Hedrick said.
Pioneer Square Labs launched in 2015, using the concept of rapidly testing and validating new ideas before recruiting an executive team to build out a spinoff company. The firm earlier this year expanded, raising a $80 million venture fund called PSL Ventures.