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Upkey: The Key to a Successful Career


A helping hand is always welcomed, but a key to a successful career is something else!

Online learning is a growing industry, and about 43% of college students in the US believe that e-learning resources are tremendously helpful for boosting knowledge.

A high 49% of students globally said that they had taken an online course or used e-resources in the last 12 months. Since these numbers were lower a few years ago, Amir, Mark, and Mo must have had a crystal ball predicting the future when they launched Upkey.

Upkey is a company that provides online educational resources suitable for high-school students and university-level students. By using gamified modules, Upkey’s goal is to offer equal opportunities for all students across the board and deliver underrepresented students the e-tools necessary for them to be fruitful in their career paths.

Keep reading if you want to learn how Upkey managed to serve over 100,000 hungry-for-knowledge students over the years.

The Wheel of Fortune

Born in Iran, Amir Badr was a curious child looking for something better. After high school, at the age of 17, Amir decided to leave Iran. Unfortunately, he learned that only a 2-year military term could open the doors toward the world for him. However, the wheel of fortune was on his side, and Amir left Iran thanks to his grandmother, who helped him escape the military term. As soon as his generous grandmother gave him $5.000, Amir started the journey that brought him to the United States of America. With only $100 in his pockets and an address in his hands, Amir stepped into the American airport without knowing a single word of English.

Since “fortune favors the brave,” a kind stranger helped him by offering to pay for his taxi ride and providing direction, as he noticed that Amir was lost. What’s even more interesting, just a few months after he arrived in the USA, Amir ran into the same good Samaritan that helped him at the airport, but this time the stranger became his mentor and offered him a great job at Exelon.

Feel the Thrill

Contrasting Amir’s youth journey, Mark Pawloski's adventure was more like a road tale. In 2005, Mark graduated and gained a degree in economics from Loyola University in Maryland. He started working in a bank, and everything seemed great, but only on paper.

Mark couldn’t feel the thrill of working in a bank as he wanted to make a social impact instead of just sitting in an office moving the needle on boring balance sheets. He wasn’t wasting time, and in 2009, Mark said goodbye to his analyst’s desk to feel the smell of the teacher’s desk while working as a math teacher in Houston. He picked challenging schools with children from economically-challenged families, and he was happy to be able to give something back to society.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

Mo Bitar is a Chicago native who holds a degree from the University of Illinois. Mo didn’t have an adventurous life as he was mainly focusing on improving his people skills and boosting his knowledge. He is a highly talented person, an excellent self-educated tech guru, and the third link of the powerful Upkey chain.

Perfect Timing

Amir, Mark, and Mo shared the same interest, and they all wanted to change students’ lives by creating more chances for marginalized students. The perfect timing and great connections played a vital role in the birth story of Upkey. Namely, a mutual friend who was a former roomie of Mark’s brother matched Amir to Mark in 2015. Since they had aligned interests, they began a long conversation that turned into something super productive.

As soon as Amir and Mark teamed up with the tech guru Mo in 2015, the three enthusiastic young men created Upkey. The trio headquartered their business in Chicago’s River North area, and Amir became CEO, Mo took the position of CTO, and Mark was COO. The three “musketeers” launched the Upkey Lens, a multi-dimensional methodology for measuring and evaluating students.

From a Caterpillar to a Butterfly

Amir, Mark, and Mo were happy to have been able to establish their own company, but 2016 was a pretty challenging year for them. They still tеsted the waters of offering online career development programs that can help high school students to prepare for the relentless professional world.

Finding and evaluating students wasn’t easy, but the team was happy to see the transition process of their users. Seeing the high school students turn from caterpillars into beautiful butterflies was priceless.

2017 and 2018 were quite beneficial for Amir, Mark, and Mo, as their company was recognized as an excellent platform by many clients. Students fell in love with the learning tracks that Upkey offers. They were an interesting, fun, and engaging way to lead them while building their first professional resumes and boosting confidence for upcoming interviews and numerous networking events.

Amir and his team spent each second improving their services, implementing modern features and extra services following the latest trends and their users’ needs. Even when more than 10,000 students lost their positions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amir found a way to improve and modernize the Upkey program.

Encouraged by the pandemic situation, in 2020, Amir launched Upkey’s unique signature program. While the world was at the beginning of a long and exhausting pandemic, Upkey was launching a new e-learning program for its staff and interns.

Over 1,000 interns benefited from a specially designed curriculum that mainly focused on the most demanding 21st-century skills, including leadership, finance, consulting, communication, and artificial intelligence, to name a few.

Amir and his never-dozing team were happy that the bright futures of many students that were suddenly on hold at the beginning of the pandemic were reactivated again. Upkey started building a coalition with some leading companies to ensure a more significant number of young people grow professionally, despite the crisis.

Passion Turned Success

Today, Amir is proud that Upkey is partnering with various universities, including Southern New Hampshire and Purdue Universities. The Upkey platform is free for students but partners with corporations, such as Exelon and McKinsey & Co., as they can improve their talent channels and generate revenue for Upkey.

The company works on a revolutionary invite-only basis to enrich the student incubator and offers top employers profile access but only on a subscription basis. Even though Upkey successfully withstands the competition coming from powerful rivals such as Field Nation, DesignCrowd, and Beeline, the company only sees them as an additional reason for becoming even stronger and more engaging!

Upkeeping the Financial Stability

As a successful provider of modern remote career readiness and talent engagement tools for high school and university students, including companies and universities, Upkey has managed to raise total funding of $3M over 2 rounds. The first round was on May 1st, 2016. During this round, Upkey raised $2.4M. The second round happened on the 2nd of February 2021 and brought the company an additional sum of $400K.

It’s Only Uphill from Here On

Over 100,000 students have felt the benefits of Upkey since 2016, and this number is constantly increasing.

With more than 280 employees, Upkey, an extremely beneficial e-learning platform, will continue to provide distant learning and career preparation tools for every student who needs support to meet their goals.

Upkey’s plans revolve around scaling the platform to more institutions and users and launching some new career development tools, too.

The company is enlarging its team all the time and doing its best to open new offices. Slowly but surely, Upkey is turning into an absolute beast in the e-learning industry, and from what we’ve seen so far, there’s no stopping Amir, Mark, and Mo.