RALEIGH – Born and raised in New York’s Bronx, Patrick Sullivan didn’t grow up with ready-made business connections.

Instead, he had to make his own luck.

Turns out he was quite good at it, founding a pair of IP-management startups – one of which sold to Google, and the other to Facebook.

These days, however, he’d like to offer a boost to others just starting out.

Enter Bonsai, a new online platform that launched out of private beta today connecting individuals seeking career advice with professionals doing relevant work through 1:1 video chats.

Headquartered in Raleigh, the startup recently raised $1.5 million in pre-seed capital from various high-profile angel investors, founders and executives across Google, Facebook, Amazon, Sony Music, and Columbia University.

Patrick Sullivan

“This time around, I’m building a company to make an impact,” says Sullivan, who co-founded the company with his friend Jake Rosenfeld, former senior associate at NY-based venture capital firm Correlation Ventures.

“We believe that social capital is the key to career success, but the playing field is very uneven,” Sullivan adds.

“If you don’t have access to a network with the right information, you’re never going to get past the network access that job entry point.

“Our entire team has benefited, professionally, from relationships we have built over our careers, and we want to scale our efforts and deliver the ability to properly build a network to millions of people — no matter who they are, where they live, or where they graduated from.”

1:1 video chats

How it works is simple: Bonsai learns about the professional interests and goals of advice-seekers, pairs them with relevant experts in the workforce, and facilitates affordable 1:1 video chats centered around specific career topics.

Those experts are able to set a price for their 30-minute sessions, approve or deny booking requests, and host paid 1:1 video chats that fit into their schedules.

After each 1:1, experts follow up by sharing industry resources, re-booking subsequent 1:1s, or making referrals to job openings or other professionals in their networks.

Jake Rosenfeld

“So far, we have grown our waitlist to hundreds of users and have facilitated hundreds of 1:1s,” says Sullivan.

“We are actively working with young professionals and college students at schools across New York and North Carolina, and just launched our partnership with The City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban campus in the US, which involves us providing our platform to CUNY students, free of charge, during these trying times.”

The company is also working on launching a number of pro bono offerings for under-resourced advice-seekers such as its “Virtual Fireside Chats,” which will connect industry executives to groups of knowledge-hungry college student audience members, via live stream video interviews and interactive Q&As.

Why he chose Raleigh

Sullivan recently relocated to Raleigh from New York to set up the company’s headquarters.

He said he decided on the move after setting up a satellite office at HQ Raleigh with his previous company, Source3.

“Through that, I began to learn about and love Raleigh.  Additionally, my son Colin is autistic and we wanted to provide him a better quality of life than New York City.”

He plans to work out of Carolina Exotic Club Car offices. The rest of his team – around seven employees, including his cofounder Rosenfeld – will be based out of an office at Industrious in New York.

“Frequent visits to Raleigh allows us to both escape from the chaos of New York City, be present, and brainstorm in creative ways,” he says. “The Raleigh area is a great place to build a company from scratch and provides us with a totally different world of energy.”

As for the name, he said he chose “Bonsai” because it is a tree that requires very deliberate attention, care, and sculpting to reach its full potential — “just like each and every learner that will use our platform.”