Transfr, an I-Corps alumni focused on virtual reality job training, raised $35 million in a Series B funding round led by Lumos Capital Group. Former Udemy CEO Dennis Yang and former Upwork CEO Fabio Rosati also participated in the round.
The New York City-based startup was founded in 2017 by Bharani Rajakumar, after a virtual reality conference inspired him to apply the emerging technology to education.
“I tried a virtual reality experience for the first time and I just thought, holy cow, I cannot believe this is not widespread in teaching and learning,” Rajakumar said.
Using virtual reality, Transfr provides an affordable job education curriculum for highly technical workplaces. The company’s trainings help workers quickly and efficiently learn new manufacturing skills.
“We started in manufacturing because what we learned is that there are a lot of jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage, and there were employers that had this huge demand for job-ready candidates,” Rajakumar said.
The virtual reality platform reduces the traditionally high cost of technical education, making it more accessible for employees to broaden their skillset.
“There are a lot of people who do not have a four-year degree, but yet they are certainly interested in and in need of training,” Rajakumar said.
On the other hand, Transfr’s software helps employers address a critical shortage of skilled workers.
“Employers are looking for undiscovered talent — but high potential workers often are unaware of the on-ramp to in-demand and high-paying careers,” Rajakumar said in a recent press release. “VR allows us to deliver on-the-job training at a massive scale to meet the economic development needs of states, communities and employers. Together, we are creating pathways from classroom to career that can help workers and learners access new skills — and better jobs.”
Transfr mainly works with workforce development companies, selling them a Transfr “lab” comprised of five Oculus Quest headsets that contain the virtual reality trainings.
Within the system, a virtual coach guides workers through 10- to 15-minute mini lessons on the worker’s choice of topics, such as advanced manufacturing, automotive, construction, or aviation training. Students work on the trainings at their own pace, with the coach evaluating their performance as they go.
Currently, Transfr has approximately 300 customers — including Fortune 500 companies like Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Altec, and Nikola — in 36 states.
Rajakumar plans to use the new funding to expand the company into more states and industries, as well as to develop its healthcare training curriculum.
Earlier this year, tech startup outlet Built in NYC included Transfr on its exclusive list of “22 Startups to Watch,” which highlights promising, impactful tech startups.
In 2020, Transfr raised $12 million in Series A funding from Firework Ventures. The same year, the national education and workforce nonprofit Jobs for the Future named the startup an “Innovator to Watch.”
Transfr participated in an SBIR Phase 0 pilot program led by the UNY I-Corps Node in 2018. The program recruited eight early-stage tech startups, helping them hone their product-market fit and assisting them in applying for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grants.
After going through the intensive, seven-week I-Corps Teams national program, teams participated in 10 weeks of workshops to prepare them to launch their startups and apply for SBIR funding.
Additionally, each team received $25,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation for travel to national cohort training, registration, and customer discovery.
Learn more about Transfr’s latest funding milestone.
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the UNY I-Corps Node blog. On January 1, 2023, the UNY I-Corps Node will transition to the Interior Northeast I-Corps Hub.