Two University of Georgia Ph.D students have come together to create a successful startup business based in Chicago, ultimately raising $3 million in seed funding.
Their platform, Anthill, is a talent software created with the intention of providing deskless workers with the necessary support and communication that knowledge workers and those who do work at a desk tend to receive.
“We would always see that it was 80% of the workforce that is deskless,” said Muriel Clauson, co-founder and CEO of Anthill, of the research she and fellow co-founder and CTO, Young Jae Kim, did. “We were really inspired through all of the experiences we had working with this population to build a technology that’s custom built for their needs and that style of working, and that’s really where the idea was born from.”
Clauson said “deskless” work refers to jobs in manufacturing, distribution, retail or any other job in which the employee doesn’t work at a desk with a computer.
The software includes services such as talent mapping, which provides insight into important information such as development pathways, potential ability, skill sets, and more in an easy to understand, organized format. Additionally, Anthill offers an SMS-based communication channel which allows employers and employees to communicate to improve both the efficiency and success of the business, as well as the workplace environment for the employees.
“It's more about the communication between employees and employers,” Kim said. “So we need to provide professional insights for their employees, but at the same time it needs to also provide the same information for employers.”
This idea, which was only amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic greatly increasing the number of remote workers, caught the attention of several investment companies. The primary investment partner, Rethink Education, was drawn in by the positive impact Anthill promised as their mission is to promote companies who look to do more than simply turn a profit, according to Clauson.
Other investors include BBG Ventures, Origin Ventures, The Fund, Jobs for the Future and more. In total, the co-founders and their team were able to raise $3 million in seed funding after only a year and a half.
Seed funding is when outside investors choose to invest in a startup or new business that they find promising in its early stages of development, often in exchange for equity in the company.
Clauson said the money is being used to expand Antill’s workforce. Using these funds, they were able to double their team and broaden their reach to encompass more workers.
Clauson and Kim both emphasized that UGA was instrumental in the creation of Anthill. The two met as graduate students in the industrial-organizational psychology masters program at the university, and their bond grew from there.
“There were four students in our cohort when we joined, so we spent a ton of time working together, doing research together, and in classes together over the years,” Clauson said of Kim.
Clauson credits much of their positive working relationship to these years spent working together before a company was ever introduced. The ability for the two to explore ideas together eventually led to this idea, which Kim says that they were on the same page about from the beginning.
“I met Muriel and she was, you know, thinking the same thing that I was, in terms of how we can actually apply the things that we have learned from school to the real business,” Kim said.
However, Kim gives a great deal of credit to UGA for not only introducing him to Clauson, but also for providing him with much of the knowledge and guidance necessary to begin upon this journey in the first place.
Kim’s advisor has been instrumental in taking Kim’s passion for human resources and helping him combine it with the classes he took through the psychology department. Furthermore, research opportunities, courses and seminars along with other faculty connections helped Kim gain the necessary experience to then launch a company of his own.
Despite the success Clauson and Kim have already seen, they are nowhere near completion, instead looking to continue to expand Anthill to reach and aid as many employees as possible.
“We are really excited to continue to develop our technology to make sure that it is meeting and surpassing all of the standards of our enterprise customers, but then also just an incredible experience for the actual workers themselves,” Clauson said.
Kim also said that they are looking to expand globally as much as possible. Practically, this means offering languages beyond the English and Spanish that are currently offered. Additionally, he hopes to add the software to other mediums so that the maximum number of people can utilize these services, especially those without access to computers.
“We already have so many great customers that we get to work with today, but we’re excited to continue to expand into more companies and continue to grow,” Clauson said.