Photo courtesy of Jackie Loubriel for MassChallenge
In the United States, there are approximately one million international students every year, representing a pool of talented, motivated, and highly skilled individuals, particularly in the STEM fields. Despite their desire to stay in the country after completing their education, around 80% of these students end up leaving. The reasons behind this exodus are numerous, including cultural differences, lack of network, inadequate career readiness skills, and regulatory challenges, all of which hinder their access to potential employers.
It is to help address this pressing issue, that now CEO Jashin Lin founded the startup Growbie in 2022. Growbie derives its name from “growth mindset newbies,” embodying the idea of unleashing, transforming, and thriving for every individual under their guidance.
Growbie was accepted to MassChallenge’s U.S. Early Stage accelerator in May 2023, participating in the Social Impact track.
Growbie’s mission is to unlock career success for first-generation immigrants, like international students and working professionals. Its first phase is to teach people how to network through cohort-based courses, coaching, and community.
Mentorship is the cornerstone of Growbie’s mission, focusing on an overlooked approach for international students: networking. Remarkably, experts suggest up to 80% of job positions in the US are filled through networking, while many students still spend significant time submitting resumes online.
However, networking can be an intimidating prospect for most international students due to language barriers and cultural gaps. Despite this, the Growbie team has made it their sole purpose to master the art of networking, guiding students through the process step by step, from goal setting to follow-ups.
Mentorship, Community, and MC | INNOVATE 2023
It was with Growbie’s emphasis on mentorship that they stood out in MassChallenge’s premier of MC | INNOVATE — a two-day conference that convened global innovators and entrepreneurs to expand the innovation and social impact hub in North Texas, and boost local biotech, nonprofit, and corporate innovation. The conference was held at Pegasus Park in Dallas, TX, in collaboration with the nonprofit, Lyda Hill Philanthropies.
Lin and three more Growbie team members attended the conference hailing from Boston, Toronto, and Dallas. Living Growbie’s mission to build meaningful and valuable connections through active networking and community building, Lin was even awarded #1 networker by the end.
“It’s super on brand for what I am preaching as the most effective way to advance one’s career: networking,” Lin, naturally, responded to the award. In a more detailed LinkedIn post, Growbie’s CEO summarized her experienced and her team’s goals for attending the conference:
WHAT A BLAST at MassChallenge‘s MC INNOVATE in Dallas!! What did I take away:
1. Power of Community: it’s not so much about the # of followers, but the engagement. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about conversion. Growbie has gathered 4000+ in our community with $0 marketing but we can up that awareness to community conversion. Thank you Bryetta Calloway Fahad Khawaja
2. Love the problem: are we drilling the best hole, or helping one to best express themselves (through art)? Often, we are too obsessed with solutions and fall into traps of confirmation bias. Customer discovery (AGAIN) sounds scary esp when we thought it’s already done. But we are going back to the drawing board and challenging ourselves with “why?” Thank you Ash Maurya Darshan Dave
3. Handshake pitch: use 7-9 words to express essence and generate interest in your company. Ours is: “Empower international students to network into their dream jobs.” Any suggestions to make it even better? Thank you Will Magruder Kirk L. Barnes Michaela Keady
4. Meet our Social Impact founders! From financial literacy Dana Fry, well-being & happiness Xuan Zhao, PhD, hiring & education Ankur Kapadia Brianna Brazle, M.Ed., LPC Noah Sorin to empower small artisans Nathalie Llorente-Lim and many more!
Growbie and MassChallenge’s Shared Mission: Mentorship and Building Community
MassChallenge and Growbie share a number organizational values: providing lesser heard voices support, building lasting community, and the power of mentorship.
We were able to catch up with CEO Jash Lin after her and her team’s experience at INNOVATE and ask a handful questions. We remain inspired by Lin’s enthusiasm and value for driving inclusive progress.
There’s a such an interesting correlation between Growbie’s mission and MassChallenge’s mission when it comes to mentorship. Was mentorship the primary component you were looking for when you applied and joined MassChallenge? Or was there a different component?
There are few reasons why MC was appealing to Growbie:
- Zero equity. It allows us to take the venture in the direction that we want without getting distracted by others’ expectations. Venture independence is key for a mission driven company like ours.
- Community. We want to join a global community of innovators and entrepreneurs. MC is exactly that – diverse, energizing, and talented!
- Mentorship. MassChallenge has amazing mentors. Upon joining, three mentors from the ed-tech industry already reached out to me and expressed their desire to help. We have established a cadence to meet, and we have made great progress on the business issues that we want to solve.
- Resources. Partners network, Residency Programs, perks and discounts, and so much more. It’s important to note that the MC brand has open doors for us, especially here in Massachusetts.
Community is a big part of Growbie’s mission, I’m wondering how you think about the role of community, specifically right after finishing undergraduate or graduate school and losing that university community? How do you think it’s unique for first-generation young adults?
Community is HUGE, and this is one of the top priorities at Growbie as well. We want to create a community where our members are heard and seen, and most importantly, elevated.
I graduated from Harvard Business School in May, and I was definitely a little sad because I am leaving this community that I loved so much. I literally still remember the acceptance to MC came DURING the commencement. I was so thrilled to join another community of movers and shakers to continue to make a difference together. Community is especially important for first-gen because of “hidden capital”: the accumulated cultural and social knowledge and context that confers power and status. Being a part of a network where everyone is eager to help is keen when the resource is limited for first-gen and first-time founders.
How do you think an organization like MassChallenge can help other entrepreneurs or experts either establish a community or re-engage with a community if they haven’t for a while, like say career transitioning for example?
I think bringing like-minded people together by itself is already HUGE. The next step is to create a space – physically, functionally, and mentally. I enjoy going to the MC office in Boston to chat with other entrepreneurs, and attending Social Impact track sessions with our mentor Kelly, and finally getting to know each other through WhatsApp (that I created) is helpful!
For a large and resourceful incubator like MassChallenge, you get what you put in. So, engage, lean in, and contribute. Trust the process and invest in the process!
Was there a moment from INNOVATE that has lingered in your thoughts?
The composition and number of the Social Impact track. I think this might be the smallest track, and the track that has the most underrepresented founders. I am so inspired by all of us who are eager to unleash and uplift the marginalized community that we come from. However, we are probably not the most favorable in the traditional investment sense. As an incubator that supports DE&I, I suggest MC send even more support, including funding, events, and mentors to the Social Impact track.
What were some other standout components of your experience at INNOVATE?
- We got a great understanding of MassChallenge’s resources and how it can supercharge Growbie’s growth. We appreciate the opportunity to connect with MC staff in person, what a great team!
- Lovely to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and partners, the community at MC is amazing! Great to meet other changemakers in the Social Impact track.
- It’s a great “excuse” to get our team together IN PERSON. We use this conference to strategize our H2 planning and talk about how we can better work together as a team. We did a bunch of team building activities such as bbq hopping and karaoke!
More About Growbie
At Growbie, we help international students master networking skills to thrive in a new culture. Inspired by the Chinese proverb “teaching you to fish”, our teaching philosophy is grounded in helping you turn networking theories into actions.
LinkedIn: Jashin Lin
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