Contending with a worldwide pandemic certainly was not on Austin-based SocialTech.ai’s radar when they began designing their first public project in late 2019. As it became clear that COVID-19 would disrupt original plans, the SocialTech.ai team pivoted to optimize design, development, and communications to continue on plan while staying connected to key stakeholders. As members of SocialTech.ai’s team are located in multiple cities across the country, they were modelling a new future and building it at the same time.
While staying on the fast track for a late 2020 launch of the Unmudl.com Marketplace---an innovative online marketplace of job training, skills development, and certification courses from a proprietary network of community colleges---the pandemic created unforeseen challenges for SocialTech.ai as well as their community college partners. Notably, community colleges in the Unmudl network found themselves needing to adjust almost all of their standard operations including adapting to completely virtual platforms and reconfiguring internal and external protocols to meet health and safety requirements.
So, when Travis County (TX) announced they were accepting applications from local businesses for their Travis County Thrive Grant program, SocialTech.ai CEO Dr. Parminder Jassal and her team jumped at the opportunity to compete. In September, they learned that SocialTech.ai was among the 225 businesses (from over 1,000 interested companies) selected to receive a Thrive Business Grant. The funding from the Thrive Grant invests in SocialTech.ai’s scaling efforts to reach more employers and working learners.
The Thrive program was administered by economic development nonprofit organization Business and Community Lenders (BCL) of Texas. Through the Travis County Thrive program, BLC provided 225 small businesses with a total of $9 million in funding, as well as one-on-one business continuity coaching with trained small business experts. BCL of Texas CEO Rosa Rios Valdez said, “BCL was founded during a recession to help small businesses. We’re here today to help strengthen small business during this challenging time. We know how important it is to get funding into the hands of small business owners so that they can stay strong and keep their doors open.”
“Being named a recipient of a Travis County Thrive Grant is an incredible milestone for us here at SocialTech.ai,” noted Dr. Jassal. “It’s the first grant we’ve received at SocialTech.ai, and we are especially honored that our hometown has confidence and belief in the work we’re doing. I couldn’t be more grateful for their support, especially being a woman-owned, minority-owned, and military-spouse-owned business, the competition is a bit more difficult among funders. ”
The SocialTech.ai team achieved their first major milestone for Unmudl.com in November 2020 --- opening the marketplace to the public on schedule. Unmudl is now gaining visibility and involvement from working learners, employers, community colleges, and strategic partners. “As a result of the Travis County Thrive Grant,” Dr. Jassal shared, “SocialTech.ai has been able to continue advancing their mission of helping America’s community colleges become the life-long choice for working learners and businesses domestically and internationally.”
Unmudl.com currently offers more than 250 courses from an expanding coast-to-coast network of seven partner community colleges: Bellevue College; Central New Mexico Community College; GateWay Community College; Pima Community College; San Diego Continuing Education; San Juan College; and SUNY Broome.
About Business and Community Lenders (BCL) of Texas | www.bcloftexas.org
The mission of BCL of Texas is Building Strong Communities. BCL of Texas supports communities of color to acquire wealth-building assets such as homeownership and entrepreneurship, with the financial tools and education necessary to optimize positive economic returns. They serve low and moderate income individuals, families, and small business owners, with an emphasis on diversity and underserved communities.