Boston startup aims to help international students land jobs

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As a Boston University undergraduate student, Jashin Lin hated networking. But now, she’s teaching other international students how to do it as the focus of her Boston-based startup, Growbie.

Lin is a participant in the newest J.P. Morgan and StartOut Growth Lab cohort, a five-month program which launched at the beginning of March. The accelerator aims to help LGBTQ+ founders gain access to resources, funding, and community.

Lin started Growbie in 2022 while pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School. Growbie is a bootcamp-style course that helps international students network and find jobs that will allow them to stay in the U.S. under H-1B visas.

The idea came from somewhere personal, Lin said. She’s been in the U.S. for about 15 years since college, and faced a number of barriers while job searching beyond the visa cap. Cultural differences made networking feel like an imposition. 

She got her first internship after working through those feelings. She sent out hundreds of networking emails, recognizing that it’s the key to getting the kinds of roles she wanted.

“I realized I needed to do so much more,” Lin said. 

She decided she needed to share that knowledge with her friends, many of whom were also international students.

Growbie is an extension of this idea. Since its launch, Growbie has had 500 paying customers, with the going rate at $500 for participation in the bootcamp. The model has three branches: skills training, networking advice and opportunities, and assistance moving through hiring processes. In January, Growbie reached $100,000 in revenue.

Networking is especially important for international students, Lin said, because it can help applicants get past jobs that might otherwise immediately reject applications that indicate requiring visa sponsorship.

Through Growbie, of the 250 students who have already graduated the bootcamp, about 60% have found a job that allows them to stay in the U.S. within three to six months, Lin said. While no one showed her the ropes as a Chinese student, the bootcamp aims to do that for its participants, many of whom are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs. 

So far, Lin says she’s spent zero dollars on marketing and has experienced organic growth. But through the StartOut accelerator, she hopes to build out marketing campaigns and take next steps for the business.

The accelerator cohort has already been helpful in connecting Lin with a mentor, as well as being a place to connect with other members of the LGBTQ+ community who have faced similar challenges getting their ventures off the ground. According to StartOut, less than 1% of venture capital dollars went to LGBTQ+ founders in 2023.

Lin said she’s had a difficult experience as a diverse founder, especially in pitching to venture capitalists. 

“They just don’t know my audience,” she said. “It’s been heartbreaking.”

The 2024 cohort has eight other startups participating from around the country. Four are in New York.

Growbie is a BostInno 2024 Startup to Watch.

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