Milwaukee-based The Way Out, a company that offers an anti-bias software platform, has raised $400,000 in seed funding. The lead investor for the funding round was Milwaukee-based Gateway Capital Partners, a venture capital fund dedicated to investing in pre-revenue startups.
Past Gateway Capital investments include Milwaukee-based Geno.Me, Racine-based Houstrand Milwaukee-based Tip a ScRxipt.
In launching The Way Out, co-founders Eli Riveraand Ruben Gaona have leveraged their experience as formerly incarcerated job seekers with their respective business management and social services expertise to create a comprehensive platform that brings employers, job-seekers, and service providers together in one place.
For “justice-impacted” individuals, those who were formerly incarcerated, The Way Out connects them with potential employers, re-entry service providers, training programs, and even transportation to and from work.
"There are so many tremendous organizations and resources for the justice-impacted, but they can be hard to find and difficult to navigate because they're not in one place," said Gaona, co-founder and executive director of The Way Out. "We intend to be the single source for the justice-impacted to apply for jobs and access the services and support they need to rejoin society. This not only helps individuals overcome the stigma of incarceration, but also lowers the rates of recidivism, which benefits the community as a whole."
The primary users of The Way Out’s software are employers seeking to fill positions. The platform gives employers access to hundreds of job seekers, provides connections to resources that may help offset the cost of training, and provides a way to monitor, incentivize, and reward their employees' progress and performance. The Way Out protects against biased hiring practices by creating a blind, contextual profile of each justice-impacted job seeker, which allows hiring decisions to be made based on qualifications, certifications, and work experience.
The Way Out has matched more than 300 formerly incarcerated individuals with more than 1,000 supportive services including employment, housing, transportation, health care, technology training, and legal services. The platform has a retention rate of 90% for job seekers who have been matched with an employer.
"Employers across all industries are currently having an incredibly difficult time attracting and retaining employees," said Rivera, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Way Out. "Our software is connecting American employers to a significant pool of untapped talent and helping to solve their workforce shortages. But not only that, we're working with these job seekers on personal and professional development to ensure their focus, engagement, and productivity meets or exceeds the employer's expectations."
Earlier this year, The Way Out also partnered with Milky Way Tech Hub to launch a program called Bridging the Technology Gap for Returning Citizens (BTGRC).
BTGRC has the goal of introducing formerly incarcerated individuals to the necessary technologies that will play a role in their re-entry and employment journey.