Minneapolis-based GradStaff, a college-student recruitment and job-placement firm that has accelerated its growth in recent years, has been acquired by University Ventures, a private equity firm that says it is the leading education-to-employment private equity firm.

“It’s a great time to sell the company,” said CEO Bob LaBombard, 61, also a founder of Gradstaff in 1998. “We developed what I think is a unique business model, a national business. We felt we’d taken it as far as we could. And I felt there were other things that I was ready to do.”

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

GradStaff, located in North Loop with 50 employees, places about 2,000 college graduates annually and generates annual revenue of approximately $20 million. It has averaged 20 percent annual growth in recent years.

GradStaff has been renamed Avenica. A new CEO, Brian Weed, has succeeded the retiring LaBombard.

“Millennials are struggling under the weight of student loan debt and persistently high levels of underemployment,” said Aveneica CEO Weed, 54, a veteran business manager. “With the sponsorship of University Ventures, Avenica will expand its successful model to more cities, more colleges and more industries to provide clear pathways to meaningful career opportunities for tens of thousands of new college grads.”

Avenica says it makes the entry-level job market more efficient by recruiting recent graduates using relationships with 900-plus four-year colleges and its advanced digital marketing capabilities. Using a behavioral science-based interviewing process, Avenica helps candidates discover transferable skills and career interests, and coaches them for interviews and adapting to working in a professional environment.

Last year, Avenica filled nearly 1,500 positions with more than 250 clients in 37 U.S. states.

Market research shows that many hiring managers want to hire new grads for their entry-level job openings, but can’t find qualified candidates, LaBombard said.

Avenica does the work for them, and then provides employers with a multi-month “evaluation-to-hire” trial period – allowing them to evaluate candidates thoroughly before making the final hiring decision. That is designed to reduce the risk for both parties.

Avenica said it has an 85 percent-plus job-conversion rate after the evaluation period, as well as high retention rates of its placements two years into their careers that is twice the the average retention rates for all college graduates.

“Through our investments, including our acquisition of Avenica, University Ventures is continuing to demonstrate leadership in addressing the challenges facing recent college graduates,” Aanand Radia, managing director at University Ventures, said in a prepared statement. “For nearly 20 years, Avenica has helped bridge the gap to meaningful careers. We are excited to draw attention to this proven model, and to bring it to many more colleges, graduates and employers.”

University Ventures switched to the Avenica name, which derives from the French words for "future career," because it better reflects "the company’s approach to placing its candidates into career-track roles."

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