Austin-based EmPath’s employee training and re-skilling service snags seed funding from B Capital

By the time Felix Ortiz III left the Army in 2006, the Brooklyn, NY native had spent time taking classes at the City University of New York and St. John’s. Those experiences led him to found ViridisLearning, which aimed to give universities a better way to track student development to help graduates land jobs.

Now he’s taken the learnings of that attempt to reshape education into the corporate world and raised over $1 million in financing from investors including B Capital, the investment firm launched jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and Subversive Capital.

The goal of Ortiz’s newest startup, EmPath, is to provide corporate employees with a clear picture of their current skills based on the work they’re already doing at a company and give them a roadmap to up-skilling and educational opportunities that could land them a better, higher paying job.

The company has an initial customer in AT&T, which has rolled out its services across its entire organization, according to Ortiz.

From starting out in a shared apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Ortiz’s family history took a turn as his father became assistant speaker of the house in New York’s legislature and his mother operated a mental health clinic in the city.

When Ortiz enlisted in the Army at 17, he continued to pursue his education, and served as a Judge Advocate General for the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. From there, Ortiz launched his first education venture, a failed startup that attempted to teach skills for renewable energy jobs online. The Green University may no longer exist, but it was the young entrepreneur’s first foray into education.

A road that would continue with ViridisLearning and lead to the launch of EmPath.

Along the way, Ortiz enlisted the help of an experienced developer in the online education space — Adam Blum.

The creator of OpenEd, the largest educational open resource catalog online, which used machine learning to infer skills from the online activity of children, and the founder of, a toolkit to bring machine learning and predictive modeling to skill development, Blum immediately saw the opportunity EmPath presented.

“Inferring skills for employees using their corporate digital footprint and inferring those skills for potential jobs… where you identified skill gaps using inferred skills for courses to suggest remedial resources to plug education gaps,” just makes sense, Blum said. “It was a much more powerful vision.”

Blum still holds an equity stake in, but considers the work he’s doing with EmPath as the company’s chief technology officer to be his full time job now. “Building this out with felix was more exciting in terms of the impact it would have,” Blum said. 

EmPath already is fully deployed with AT&T and will be adding three Fortune 1,000 companies as customers by the end of the month, according to Ortiz.

The young startup also has a powerful and well-connected supporter in Carlos Gutierrez, the former chief executive officer of Kellogg, and the Secretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush White House.

“Lacking a college degree throughout my career, I had to develop my own skills to enable my climb up the corporate ladder. The technology didn’t exist to help guide me, but in today’s world, professionals should not have to upskill blindly,” said former Commerce Secretary and EmPath co-founder Carlos Gutierrez, in a statement. “We created a technology platform that can help transform an organization’s culture by empowering employees and strengthening talent development. This technology was a game changer even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and now that corporate budgets are tighter, it is even more important for companies to accelerate skills development and talent growth.” 

The NFL launches its first standalone voice app with ‘A Rookie’s Guide to the NFL’ for Alexa

The NFL is giving voice assistants a go. Earlier this year, the organization had tested the waters with the launch of a flash briefing called “NFL in :60,” but today the company is debuting its first standalone voice-enabled app. The new Alexa skill, “A Rookie’s Guide to the NFL,” is designed to serve as companion that guides fans through the 2019 NFL playoffs and postseason, the organization says.

The skill itself was built in-house over the past several months by the NFL’s Digital Lab, an area within the league’s media group that develops tech products and features to advance the fan experience. Voice technology is currently an ongoing area of focus for this group.

And today’s launch of the “A Rookie’s Guide to the NFL” voice skill for Alexa is only the first phase of the NFL’s larger voice strategy, the league notes.

Fans who enable the skill will have access to over 1,000 football and NFL-related terms, across areas like the rules, positions, formations, equipment, players and key personnel. This aspect of the skill is aimed more at getting newcomers up to speed with football jargon, like “pistol,” “screen pass,” “nickel,” and other terms.

Fans can also ask for general information about the players, like “Who is Tom Brady?” or “Where did Lamar Jackson go to college?” or “How tall is Russell Wilson?,” for example. And they can ask for game schedules, matchups, game times, TV network, scores, as well as about the stadiums, which teams are in a given conference or division, who the head coaches are, and much more.

The skill is able to recall Super Bowl history, too, offering the score, location, and date of any of the past 52 Super Bowls, as well as the Super Bowl MVP and the halftime act from every game.

When responding to questions, the skill can return answers in a variety of forms including both as short and longer (“Go Long”) definitions, or as videos and images on Alexa devices with screens.

The skill additionally includes a five-minute podcast called “Game Plan” that preps fans for each round of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. The audio program is hosted by former New York Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora and other NFL talent. The game previews will offer player and coach audio, key stats, and audio from a great historical play, among other things.

The podcast will add new episodes every Monday during the postseason through the Super Bowl, the NFL says.

The previously launched NFL flash briefing is now integrated as a part of this skill, and is updated multiple times per day with news from the NFL Network’s news desk. To access it from the skill, fans can just say, “give me the news.”

This isn’t the first time that Alexa has been able to offer NFL news and information to fans, however.

Last fall, an Alexa update allowed the smart assistant to answer questions about the major NFL teams. Alexa can also answer sports trivia, give predictions on games, provide updates on team transactions and injuries, recap NFL games, and more.

The Alexa skill store is also filled with a number of unofficial third-party skills, like trivia apps, quizzes, flash cards, Q&A apps, news readers, countdowns, and more.

It seems the NFL now wants to more directly own that customer experience, rather than leaving it up to Alexa or other developers to handle.

The NFL says the new skill is launching today, January 3, but it’s not yet showing in U.S. Alexa Skill Store. The organization tells us the skill has rolled out to the U.K. and other countries, and it still anticipates a U.S. launch today.

Image credit: NFL via