May 8, 2019

Paragon One: Accelerate Your Career

Paragon One is a career accelerator that connects professionals (or would-be professionals) with the coaching and tools they need to start the career of their dreams. I had the chance to catch up with Paragon One Co-founder & CEO Matt Wilkerson (left in the above image), who told me about how Paragon One came to be, where it's going next, and much more.

How did Paragon One come to be?

Paragon One was founded by MIT alumni & 3x entrepreneurs myself and Byron Hsu. The idea for the company originated from my experience mentoring interns at Morgan Stanley. Hundred-hour work weeks left me with a bad case of tendonitis that prevented me from typing, which is was an imperative ability for my role. As an alternative, I ended up coaching the class of summer interns. Instead of 50% of the class getting a return offer (as was normal), 100% of the interns got return offers, all due to having a coach. This is how Paragon One was born; we were founded to help students succeed in their careers through coaching, industry mentorship, and now project-based learning. 

For those who don't know, what is Paragon One?

Paragon One empowers students with college and career solutions founded in industry expertise and work experience simulations. Our network of over 700 professionals from top-tier firms like Bain & Co and Apple gives students access to coaching and resources specific to their unique challenges. In 2019, we started leveraging our network to provide international high schoolers and college students with differentiating work samples for college and job applications, through a unique blend of live support and online project-based learning. Our pilot programs feature 6-time CFO Jimmy Lai, and Netflix former VP of Product Tom Willerer.  

How does it work?

International high school students learn real work skills in four short live classes conducted online. Industry expert instructors from the Paragon One network guide students through the course material, supporting them through 1:1 office hours and providing expert insight into the subject matter. By the end of each program, students build a work sample project to demonstrate their industry interest and differentiate them on college applications. 

How big is the team? Any positions you're looking to hire for in the coming months?

Our core team consists of nine education, technology, and business development experts, but we are also supported by our awesome network of 700+ industry expert coaches. We are always looking for new coaches and instructors for our network, and would encourage anyone interested in mentoring ambitious students to apply on our website! 

What kind of success have you had?

The company is expanding our footprint quickly- we are already working with 8 universities in the US and soon 30 bilingual schools in Asia. We have mentored hundreds of students, with many landing jobs at top-tier companies like Google, Tesla, and Bridgewater. Our mentorship has made a huge difference in students' career journeys, with 97% reporting that they landing a job or internship offer in their target field after the program.

 Where does the company go from here?

We are already seeing traction with our work simulations in China and the US, and will continue to expand into markets and new industry subject areas. We have evolved our CareerMapper platform into a project-based learning approach and establishing partnerships with major international pathway companies such as Navitas. 

Any final thoughts?

Our mission is to become a global platform that connects students around the world with meaningful coaching, industry expertise, and project-based learning so that they can discover their best-fit career path.

Alexander Culafi is Editor and Producer at VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @culafia.