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Launch HN: InsideSherpa (YC W19) – online courses to train then hire students
100 points by pasharayan on Nov 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments
Hi HN community! We’re Tom and Pasha, co-founders of InsideSherpa (https://www.insidesherpa.com/). Our website hosts online courses (which we call ‘virtual experiences’) that allow any college student to learn from companies for free, and then get hired by them. These courses are created by companies like JPMorgan Chase [1], General Electric [2], Deloitte[3], Citibank [4] and Latham & Watkins [5].

There are many talented and determined college students who get overlooked during the hiring process because of arbitrary measures like what university they went to, how their resume was written, or by not having any connections into a company.

Tom and I saw this in our corporate careers—we used to work in law and big 4 accounting—and spent a lot of free time helping disadvantaged students improve their resumes. We found that with a bit of editing, skill-building and some exposure to people from big companies, we could increase the likelihood that someone would get an interview and land a job at a big organization. After doing this process manually day-in and day-out we thought there had to be a way to improve employment outcomes for students, at scale!

So we started InsideSherpa and decided to take a student-centric approach to understanding the recruitment process. To do this, we talked to tons of students and found consistent anxieties arose: 1. Students were anxious about choosing a career for the next 5 years of their life (and do it in a risk-free manner) 2. Students weren’t sure if they had the skills to be useful to employers (usually when they actually did have the skills) and 3. Many students felt like the big companies were so inaccessible to them they didn’t even consider applying at all.

On top of this, we’ve found many large companies tend to only visit a tiny percentage of the campuses in the US. This meant many talented students we met, in more isolated or non-target universities, weren’t even getting a shot to apply for a job.

To solve these problems, we created our “Virtual Experience Programs”. These are like an online course, but instead of teaching you theory, like they do at college or in MOOCs, you receive tasks that simulate what professionals do in industry. For example, one task in our JPMorgan Chase Software Engineering program is to quickly update a Python script to find the average of two financial data feeds—something junior software engineers actually do with traders. Other tasks on our platform allow students to build practical skills in law, mechanical engineering, management consulting and investment banking.

By doing the Virtual Experience Programs, students can get their name and profile onto a CRM that our partner clients are using for early-talent reachout and hiring. JPMorgan Chase prioritizes its Virtual Experience participants for review in the application process for software engineering summer internships and full-time roles. Students can always opt-out of sharing their data with any firm at any time as well.

Our programs are free for any college student to do. We make money by charging employers rather than students. Employers love what we do as it allows them to reach out and find college students who genuinely want to pursue a career in their field, no matter who they are or where they are.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can make the hiring process better for college students!

[1] The JPMorgan Chase Software Engineering Virtual Experience: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/R...

[2] General Electric Program: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/E...

[3] Deloitte Program: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/F...

[4] Citibank Program: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/i...

[5] Latham & Watkins (Law) Program: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/j...

I did the JPMorgan Chase Internship a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed it! Some bits (last 2 tasks) I was guided a bit too much through the PDFs but I definitely couldn't have done the tasks without them (maybe there should be a middle ground, give me the basics and let me finish the task?).

In terms of hiring, InsideSherpa mentions that I can give permission for recruiters to look at my work. This kind of put me off submitting an application for their internship. I guess it's the feeling of that they will look at my code and see that it's identical to the PDFs. I don't feel like my code will be able to differentiate me against other people. Also, since I followed the guide too much, if I was questioned on anything about the virtual internship in an interview, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to answer it. Maybe it's just me and not InsideSherpa, and a sign that I should be solving the problems on my own without their guides.

Despite this, it is a good program. It gave me insights on what I would maybe be working on at JPMorgan. The reply rate/time of InsideSherpa's software engineers was high/quick and I was able to get assistance quickly. It exposed me technologies that I've heard of but never used before.

I actually got a job after completing the modules for https://www.workatastartup.com, the last module asks you to apply at ycombinator companies.

Would recommend to others. The tasks aren't very difficult, there are PDFs that hold your hand pretty well.

Also completed the JP Morgan Chase one recently for fun. Wonder what the law ones are like.

Wow we didn't even know this happened! That's great to hear!

If you ever do want to switch careers and trade code for contracts you should give it a go haha! If anything working on these programs gave me a better appreciation of the jobs and tasks of other careers.

What modules? No one reaches out to me via that site. Is it because I'm European?

Possibly because you're european, most companies are US based and would need a to apply for a visa right?

This is the actual virtual internship I did, which doesn't actually seem accessible from the workatastartup website: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/o...

There's are frontend, backend and analytics modules.

Very cool! At RedCarpet we have been hiring this way for years. The same problem exists in India..but 1000x worse. The ROCKS program (https://www.redcarpetup.com/rocks/) trains people and we hire from them. In fact, we have close to a 100% hire rate for people from the ROCKS program at other places.

Kudos for building this. I hope you find much success.

Oh wow that's so cool! I didn't know anyone was doing the model end-to-end like that in India - there's alot of improvements to employment to be had with this mindset I think.

This is great! Just recommended rocks to a friend looking for an entry level position.


10000% relevant. I’m a new grad and although I’m a startup founder now, I spent a good part my college years growing white hair while recruiting. The idea of shining a light in the corporate black box of recruiting and democratizing access to those nebulous “skills” that are so important to career advancement is, frankly, life changing. I genuinely genuinely wish I had this in college. Best of luck.

All the testimonials are of incredibly fantastic looking people. It almost feels like a crypto ICO were the CTO was just a random picture from Instagram. Feels fake or maybe you just tossed up people you found attractive that were actual clients.

Unfortunately looks are important so it might not be terrible to add people where I think "this could be me" instead of, "this seems fake".

Hey johnpowell thanks for the feedback! Are you referring to the student testimonials on the bottom of the homepage? We'll look into this.

I have just recently completed the JPMC virtual software engineering experience on InsideSherpa and I must say it is really a nice platform. First, you get warm reminder emails to remind you that someone is always available, should you run into any issues and also to push you to continue putting in the effort. Next, the platform is quite easy to navigate. The modules were clearly explained, with intro videos and next module is unlocked as you complete the current one. Finally, the documentation/instructions for each of the modules in the virtual experience were very detailed and helpful. I ran into some issues for missing a crucial part of the instructions. So do not ever miss a line of the documentation or instructional materials, you never know how much time that may cost you.

[1] I went through the JPMorgan Virtual Internship Experience, and honestly, at first, I watched the videos, got interested, then closed out the tab. I delayed and procrastinated for weeks before truly diving into it.

Over two days on and off in between classes, I got personal support from the team at InsideSherpa and completed the program. The guides were incredibly helpful, and I felt like I learned a lot from the modules. It was great seeing a finished product in the end with a live price ratio graph. Highly recommend the program!

I found the JPMorgan Chase Software Engineering Virtual Experience very useful. I learned a lot about JPMorgan Chase's framework and how to utilize my background in software with industry tasks. I believe the Virtual Experience was nicely structured as it gives guidance on how to complete each task with an element of freedom to add things you may find useful into the given files. I really appreciate the support given in completing each module and I would like to thank InsideSherpa for this wonderful experience!

Um... this is really good actually.

How many internships/jobs do you have total.

If you can scale this, it will be amazing for students.

I know someone who would be a perfect candidate in London. Is there a way to focus the virtual internships by location?

We're working on a way to focus programs by geography! Currently we have 25+ programs live; I've just listed some of our ones with a direct UK alignment here:

JPMorgan Chase [Software] [We talk to their UK team]: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/R...

White & Case UK [Law]: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/H...

Linklaters [Law]: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/x...

Pinsent Masons [Law]: https://www.insidesherpa.com/virtual-internships/prototype/P...

I really like this idea, its a super nice and relevant way to recruit. Rather than solving an obsolete algorithm question, this approach really enforces some pragmatism towards solving interesting and `relevant` problems.

Thanks for the kind words abhinuvpitale! Yes, this is exactly what we found - there's an irrelevance to some hiring processes because they tend to ask obsolete or academic questions.

One problem with asking pragmatic questions is that not everyone has had a chance to do practical work - hence why we also tackled that problem with an educational lens too.

Hi, I enjoyed the Inside Sherpa program i learnt a lot from doing it.

It definitely can give your CV a little edge by having a big company there.

Yet to hear anything from JP which is the virtual internship i completed, but i never expected it to be an instant entry ticket. Its only been around a week since completion so perhaps they may reach out to me. Afterall spending time doing an internship specific to their company should at least mean they contact me.

Other than this I feel that doing an InsideSherpa program is worth the cost of your time. I will keep this post updated if i receive and contact.

It is very good that you guys are doing this. OK here is what I think.

It would be good to have more programs, in particular programming related programs. I have recently completed 1 of the programs, it did stimulate and provide some insights, but it did not have too much room for me to think, (not as 'interactive', as everything is given, I guess the participant can try to solve the problem by themselves first, but then they would need to learn more about a particular library or framework)

The support was also great



I participated in the JPMC program and the Deloitte program. Both were pretty great for getting my feet wet in software engineering and technology consulting in a real way. I'd recommend them as a free experience. They're pretty representative of what I imagine working for each company is like and were useful to gain some experience in each field.

I finished the JPMrogan Chase Software Engineering Virtual Experience program.I love it! It's very helpful for CS students who look for industry experience. I learned a lot of practice coding skills from this program.It's sliently easy than I expected.But I think the idea is absolutely Coo1!!

Completed the JP Morgan program, really enjoyed it! Definitely recommend for anyone looking for experience and a leg up in the market. The contents were straight forward, maybe a little easy but still help you learn.

The JP Morgan virtual internship was very helpful and had a very detailed guide. Although there were some minor compliance issues they were easily solved. Pasha also answered all my questions quickly and efficiently.

IMO there should be more information for international applicants. It's obvious that the outcome might not be the same if you live in certain regions.

Thanks for that feedback! One of the reasons we settled on an online course system is because they allow anyone, including international students on visas or students from other countries, to have a chance to upskill with these big firms.

We do take your point though about slightly different outcomes for people in different regions. We'll look to make that messaging clearer!

Really cool. Wish I had this when I was in college. Makes sense to learn before hiring, rather than the other way around.

We had started InsideSherpa wanting to build something we wished we had in college!

I think InsideSherpa quickly gives a student what sort of skils are required in big companies, what sort of person a company is looking for. This is definitely something praiseworthy. I am grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to see the job environment.

“While Sherpas became famous in the Western world for their service to climbers, they are no more synonymous with a porter (the actual profession) than say, Americans are to cowboys.”

Excellent post by someone else who made the mistake of using "Sherpa" in a company name, learning about cultural respect, and rebranding.


Why not hire, and then train your workers?

That's a great question! Feedback from employers about graduates have always been around new graduates and hires not being 'work ready' - and we've found many colleges aren't flexible enough to solve this problem quickly.

So our solution was why not give that training that makes everyone 'work ready' accessible to the world? That way when people do hire, they won't have that complaint anymore and people will know if they'd like the actual job itself!

It's a consequence of at-will employment. Everyone is afraid that the worker they just trained will immediately decamp to some other company that offers higher pay for trained workers than for untrained ones.

Love it! Congrats

Super neat.

I ACTUALLY got fast-tracked in JPMC Software Engineering after completing the program!

Love this idea! Students rarely have a meaningful opportunity to understand the scope of work they would do on the job until they do an internship. And depending on the uni/individual it could be the case you only intern at one company before locking in a graduate offer.

From a student perspective, I think it would be so valuable for students to do actual tasks to test for personal engagement, and also get recognised by the company for taking initiative to get to know them and the role.

Unless you’re a member of the Sherpa ethnic group, you are not any kind of “sherpa”. This is culturally insensitive to the 18 Sherpa clans.

Educate yourselves and rebrand:



There are about 5,000 English loan words that have other meanings to other cultures. It's not even slightly realistic to stop using them.

Sherpa was the name for an ethnic group long before English speaking people decided to reduce a culture to a single job.

:popcorn: as Americans appropriate anything for a few pennies.

neither of the co-founders are American

Australian actually, and in this way I think they mean it as "a guide" is that the wrong use of the word?

Yes, it’s problematic. It’s reducing an ethnic group to one job.

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