When Lori Mazan and I started Sounding Board back in 2016 our mission was simple: to develop the world’s most impactful leaders. We came together determined to bring coaching to leaders at all levels, earlier in their career, when we felt they actually needed it most.
Although our mission hasn’t changed since then, pretty much everything else has.
Today, we’re excited to share that Sounding Board has closed $13.1M in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners. Canaan is joined by Correlation Ventures, existing investors Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures, and learning luminaries David Blake (Chairman & founder at Degreed), Kevin Johnson (former CEO at Udemy), Ed Miller (former CEO at NovoEd), and Brett Queener (former President at SmartRecruiters). We are grateful to be on this journey with investors who’ve led transformations in learning and believe in the ambitious goal of democratizing access to impactful, personalized development at all levels in an organization.
And during a week of a change in leadership at the highest levels in our country, I’m reminded that leadership is more critical than ever before.
My cofounder Lori was my coach — and our work together is what helped me develop the critical leadership skills I needed to build and lead a global team as an executive in a high-growth startup that successfully scaled to over $100M in less than 3 years. Lori obviously didn’t need convincing — she was one of the first of 300 coaches certified in the profession.
If you can believe it, the most important initial hypothesis we had to validate was whether companies and users would be open to a virtual coaching experience instead of an in-person experience.
Fast forward to today and the question itself feels dated. Our entire economy and workforces have gone remote. Prior to the pandemic only 3.4% of the population in the U.S. worked remotely. Now, 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely in 2021, hitting 36 million remote workers by 2025.
Alongside this shift to remote work has come a corresponding corporate crisis. CEOs and HR leaders have realized how urgently they need to develop new skillsets in their teams to meet modern business challenges. One of the biggest struggles has been the ability to manage and lead teams effectively. This is leading to record levels of employee burnout and stress, compounded by worries and loss of confidence from leaders on their teams’ ability to achieve business goals. From CEOs to executives to frontline workers, no one is immune.
In these times coaching has emerged as a go-to-model of development. The personalized approach, blend of skill development and real-time application lends itself well to times of rapid change. And employees themselves are clamoring for it. At Sounding Board we saw usage spike overnight in March, more than doubling over 136% from the prior 3 months.
But the coaching industry is still in its early innings. While companies may have used coaching in the past, it has typically been designed and delivered through expensive service models. Anyone can call themselves a coach, creating confusion around coaching qualifications and quality. Finding coaches requires manual, lengthy processes. Measurement, engagement and ROI are still challenging to report consistently. Technology and data have been an afterthought.
We set out to change that. It started with combining best-in-class coaches with a tech platform that is scalable, cost-effective, and outcome-oriented. We’re further expanding our platform to seamlessly manage, scale and measure coaching across the entire organization. The platform incorporates unique data models, coaching tools and dashboards that were all built with one goal in mind — enabling coaching at scale.
It’s no longer just about what you learn, but how quickly you can apply that learning to create successful teams and business impact.
This is especially critical today given the big unknown of what work looks like today and in the future . Research shows that 53% of organizations said that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next 3 years. Many companies today talk about coaching behavioral change. We think about it even deeper than that — Sounding Board coaching creates mindset shifts. This shift in thinking is what creates deeper, lasting change in behavior that sticks even under stress.
At Sounding Board, we call this “The Sounding Board Way”.
At the crux are a few core beliefs, such as:
- Development is a shared responsibility of the organization and the individual
- Personalization and adapting to how people learn drives deeper insights and development
- The importance of an engaged community of highly skilled, closely managed coaches in creating consistency at scale
- A focus on coaching towards leadership capabilities, outcomes and business impact drives outsized value
Every company will be adopting a technology platform to enable coaching at scale over the next decade. Sounding Board will be the company to create the ecosystem around our unique coaching enablement platform, just like Salesforce did with CRM.
We couldn’t have gotten here without our dedicated, passionate team and Sounding Board coaches. We appreciate the customers, partners and investors who have supported us through this journey.
We know this is just the beginning. We’re grateful and excited at the opportunity to transform how companies develop their talent to meet the challenges ahead. And we’re growing — so come join us!