Seattle startup vet raises cash for stealthy AstrumU, looks to bring efficiency to higher education with machine learning

Adam Wray

Adam Wray sees plenty of inefficiency in the $600 billion higher education arena. And the Seattle entrepreneur — who previously served as CEO of Tier 3, a Bellevue cloud computing company that sold to CenturyLink in 2013 — thinks he can do something about it.

Wray recently raised $3 million for AstrumU, a Kirkland-based startup that’s using machine learning to help students find impactful careers. That’s not an easy task, in part because Wray said many students enter college without a clue as to what they want to do. Oftentimes, universities are ill-prepared to guide those students once they arrive on campus.

Astrum is the Latin word for “star” and Wray said his company’s goal is to be the “true North Star for students and universities.” In the process, AstrumU wants to help large corporations — the company’s end customers — find top-notch employees. It also is partnering with universities, though Wray declined to disclose partners at this stage.

“We are specifically trying to quantify higher education,” said Wray, adding that the technologies also could be used to possibly solve socio-economic issues related to education.

A graduate of the University of Kansas and the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, Wray told GeekWire that efficiency and transparency are lacking in the higher education market. In his view, machine learning is the best way to solve that issue.

“There’s enough data to break down this problem now,” said Wray, who prior to starting AstrumU served as CEO of Basho Technologies. That company was broken into pieces and sold off last year.

Backers of the new company include Bellevue-based Ignition Partners — which also invested in Tier 3 — and Correlation Ventures — a San Francisco-based firm with more than $350 million under management. It also has a number of “high-profile” angel investors, which Wray declined to disclose. John Connors, the former CFO at Microsoft and a partner at Ignition, has joined the startup’s board of directors.

Wray said he plans to share more details about the new startup later this fall. Until then, he plans to keep additional details close to the vest. The company employs six people.