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Toronto's Kira Talent raises $5 million Series A for academic admissions platform

Toronto-based higher education video admissions assessment platform Kira Talent has closed a $5 million Series A round, with participation from Relay Ventures, BDC Capital IT Venture Fund, Globalive Capital, and former Dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin.
More than 150 schools now use Kira’s platform, including Yale, Northwestern, Imperial College London, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, while more than 250,000 students from more than 110 countries are expected to have used the Kira platform by the end of 2016.
Kira has now raised $8 million to date, including two seed rounds, of $1.8 million in 2013 and $1.2 million in 2014.
“We’re proud that this group of investors continues to share our vision. Their contributions prove that Kira is earning a reputation as the most modern, easy-to-use holistic admissions tool,” said Kira Talent CEO Craig Morantz. “We don’t expect grades to be thrown out the window, but we are seeing a trend that test scores and essays are becoming less relevant, while competency-based assessments focused on fit and potential are becoming far more important. This is an essential milestone along the path to achieving our long-term vision of helping students find their place in the world.”
One problem inherent to the current academic admissions process for higher education is the challenge of removing bias and fraud, a problem that Kira believes can be mitigated by using technology to make the process more objective.
Another challenge is the wide gap between how schools believe they are preparing students for life after graduation and how prepared students actually are when they get out.
According to a Gallup poll, 96% of Chief Academic Officers believe that schools effectively equip students for life after graduation, while a mere 11% of business leaders believe that recent graduates are well-prepared for the workforce.
By allowing admissions team to use timed video and written responses, Kira believes that schools can admit students who optimally fit into a school’s culture, as well as evaluate intangible metrics like leadership and creativity, which are usually missed in traditional applications and testing methods.
Co-founders Konrad Listwan, a University of Waterloo math and computer science graduate, and Emilie Cushman brought Kira Talent through the Next 36 entrepreneurship program in Toronto in 2011, which led to their initial seed funding round.
By 2013, their platform was already being used by roughly 60 clients in more than 80 countries.
In 2014, Kira launched its recruitment tool for undergraduate programs and business school applicants, and has since expanded into the post-graduate space, with a personalized platform for law, medical and engineering programs.
“Hundreds of academic programs have come to rely on Kira’s platform and our methodology. With a proven track-record of improving classrooms, we look forward to continuing to be trailblazers in this space,” says Morantz. “Today, Kira is changing how higher education institutions assess applicants because the system is antiquated and schools are missing out on excellent students. Tomorrow, we plan to follow the entire student journey all the way through to employment.”

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