Seismic shift to remote work and an urgent need for leadership development drives $13.1M Series A funding for coaching platform Sounding Board

Seismic shift to remote work and an urgent need for leadership development drives $13.1M Series A funding for coaching platform Sounding Board

Canaan Partners leads Series A timed with the launch of a new AI-powered Coaching Enablement Platform for enterprises to develop leaders that drive business growth.

Foster City, CA – January 21, 2021 – Sounding Board, Inc, the premier cloud-based coaching platform, announced the close of an oversubscribed $13.1M 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).

During 2020, the overnight shift to remote work caused by COVID-19 accelerated enterprise demand for Sounding Board’s Coaching Enablement Platform™ and managed coach network.  The digital coaching market is estimated at $30B by 2025*, with explosive ‘hockey stick’ growth as enterprises move to virtual, scalable coaching solutions. Sounding Board’s unique approach and customizable platform focus on coaching for business outcomes versus individual health & wellness.  Sounding Board solves the most challenging problems facing companies today – the ability to quickly develop leaders for measurable business impact at scale in times of rapid change.  Their solution has attracted global enterprises including Bloomberg, Kraft Heinz, Intel, VMWare, Cloudera as well as rapid-growth startups such as Chime, Plaid, and Dropbox.

“Coaching broke through in 2020 as the go-to model for personalized leadership development.  Demand for digital-first coaching platforms like Sounding Board accelerated as companies scrambled to shift their talent development strategies online,”  stated Christine Tao, Sounding Board CEO who co-founded the company in 2016 with her coach Lori Mazan, President & Chief Coaching Officer. “Sounding Board saw record growth heading into 2021, pointing to the market’s urgent need for virtual solutions that are scalable and cost-effective. Our platform brings a systematic, data-driven approach to a traditionally service-driven industry –  with measurable impact on the business.”

Coaching broke through in 2020 as the go-to model for personalized leadership development.

Christine Tao, Sounding Board Co-Founder & CEO

“Coaching is at an inflection point – it’s a massive opportunity and the timing is right. Sounding Board is the only company providing leadership development designed to drive business goals, unlike the many companies providing coaching for health and wellness,” noted Maha Ibrahim, General Partner at Canaan. Ibrahim will join Sounding Board’s all-female Board of Directors effective immediately.

Beyond simply delivering coaching virtually, Sounding Board goes to the next level, providing a complete, end-to-end, cloud-based coaching platform that supports a dynamic coaching ecosystem for the enterprise.  Sounding Board’s solution allows enterprises to seamlessly manage, scale, and measure coaching on one unified platform.  Proprietary AI-powered tools remove the administrative burden around coach matching, scheduling, and program management to allow coaching to scale broadly.  Its clear competitive advantage is a scalable, adaptive approach to leadership development that is personalized to the learning style and cadence of each individual.  Clients saw major improvements across key capabilities, including a 173% increase in the ability to successfully interact with others across all functions.*

“Finding scalable and customizable solutions for developing leaders is challenging in the most perfect of environments; finding something that will work within a hypergrowth and dispersed tech organization is even harder”, noted Ashton Stockstill, Learning & Diversity Partner at Cloudera. Sounding Board has been that solution and I could not be more pleased with the outcomes. Since partnering with them, I’ve been able to execute quickly with two organizations to provide immediate impact without compromising efficiency and quality.”

“Because enterprise growth and innovation is driven by capable leadership, having a strong bench of leaders has become a sustainable competitive advantage.  Our clients appreciate that the Sounding Board Coaching Enablement Platform was purpose-built for coaching and solves their unique needs, including actionable data insights across all coaching programs.  This is reflected in our key capabilities measurements and high NPS score of 81. ” said Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer, Lori Mazan.

“Every company will be adopting a technology platform to enable coaching at scale over the next 5 years and Sounding Board plans to be the company to create the ecosystem around our unique coaching enablement platform, just like Salesforce did with CRM,” added Tao.

Sounding Board Logo - Sounding Board executive coaching and leadership development

About Sounding Board

Sounding Board disrupted a decades-long and well-established coaching business model that was costly, and in a domain exclusive to senior executives.  With the goal of democratizing access to coaching globally, Sounding Board was one of the first to market with a virtual 1:1 coaching program that achieved the economics necessary to expand access to leadership coaching throughout an organization with a specific focus on sustainable leadership capabilities that tie directly to business impact.  Sounding Board’s best-in-class coach network covers over 60 countries and 15+ languages around the globe. For more information please contact press@soundingboardinc.com

Learn More About Sounding Board

About Canaan Partners

Canaan is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs with visionary ideas. With $5B under management, a diversified fund, and hundreds of exits to date, we partner with entrepreneurs building the next generation of technology and healthcare companies that will transform how we live, work and thrive.  To learn more about our people and our portfolio, please visit canaan.com.

Learn More About Canaan Partners

Media Contacts

Carol Levey, Sounding Board, Inc. carol@soundingboardinc.com 
William Nevius, Canaan Partners  wnevius (at) canaan dot com

* Source – Human Resources Today – 2025, Coaching and Trends
*Source – Survey results from client-coach, management, and stakeholders

The Principals

Seismic shift to remote work and an urgent need for leadership development drives $13.1M Series A funding for coaching platform Sounding Board 1
Christine Tao
Sounding Board Co-founder & CEO

Christine’s extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.

Seismic shift to remote work and an urgent need for leadership development drives $13.1M Series A funding for coaching platform Sounding Board 2
Lori Mazan
Sounding Board Co-founder, President & Chief Coaching Officer

Lori spent more than 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.

Maha Ibrahim Canaan Partners
Maha Ibrahim
Canaan Partners General Partner

Maha spots technology trends early and partners closely with her companies to drive growth and exits. She focuses on e-commerce and enterprise / cloud, and was one of the first investors to recognize the potential of social gaming. She was also the first investor in The RealReal (REAL) and sat on the company’s board through the 2019 IPO. A champion of women in technology, Maha is passionate about funding and raising the profiles of female entrepreneurs and is a founding member of All Raise.

Q & A Regarding the Deal

On the momentum Sounding Board has created in the industry:

Lori Mazan: “Canaan told us that an early indicator for investment was speaking to our current customers and how thrilled they were about the service and results we provided.  We have democratized coaching by bringing it to a much larger group of talent in an organization and at a much earlier stage in an employee’s career.”

On the ‘tipping point’ that led to investing in Sounding Board:

Maha Ibrahim: “The tipping point for the Sounding Board investment was really an accumulation of experiences that we’ve (Canaan) had within the portfolio and outside the portfolio.  Certainly Covid-19 accelerated the need for coaching to provide talent the tools to excel at their jobs and meet demanding business objectives.  More and more, as we talk to enterprise companies, they are recognizing that retention of talent is about supporting their skills growth…”

On the expectations for a Sounding Board Series A investor:

Lori Mazan: “Maha saw our vision, asked questions that provided more clarity for our vision and even provided us with referrals after our first meeting.  We waited for a long time to have an investor on our board, and we could not have asked for a better representative to help us achieve our vision…”

Christine Tao: “We’re thrilled to be one of the first investments in Canaan’s 12th and most recent fund, given their experience in scaling some of the most endearing companies across every vertical.  Beyond that, we really appreciated getting to know Maha during the process and the perspective she has about the potential of this industry and the leading growth role we can assume…”

On the short and long-term impact of the investment:

Maha Ibrahim: “It’s about accelerating through the Fortune 5000 and 1000.  Sounding Board is perfectly-positioned for large companies, or fast-growing pre-public companies.  Thanks to Sounding Board, Chief People Officers are not having to ask what the ROI of coaching is because they are seeing in real-time how employees at all levels can do their job better, making this product’s growth infinite…”

On the assets and industry experience Sounding Board brings to the Canaan portfolio:
Lori Mazan: “Our customers choose us because of our consistency in scaling coaching that creates impactful leaders at every level of an organization.  We can bring the same thought leadership to Canaan and its portfolio to help them accelerate the development of their most critical resources – their leaders.”

On how the funding will be used by Sounding Board:
Christine Tao: “The funding will be primarily used to grow the product and engineering functions, as well as our enterprise go-to-market strategy.  We are accelerating development against the platform given the demand for a unified solution for enterprise. We will invest in deeply developing the next iteration of our ability to democratize coaching and develop the world’s most impactful leaders.”

Further Questions?

Contact press@soundingboardinc.com and we will be happy to provide a brief demo or answer any other questions you may have.

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Piyush Gupta

VP of Product and Technology
Piyush Gupta is VP of Product and Technology at Sounding Board and champions the voice of customers and users with deep empathy. Piyush envisions Sounding Board to be the first window of coaching experience for professionals and leaders worldwide. His approach is deeply rooted in proven scientific research, modeling human behaviors, and data-informed insights to deliver mindset shifts and desired business outcomes for organizations at scale. He believes that a world-class UX is key to drive simplicity that will lead to millions of professionals to access coaching for their development. Piyush co-invented the world’s first ‘landmark intelligent driving directions’ technology that led Google to redesign their routing algorithms for the Asian markets. For the next decade, he led two disruptive FinTech companies to the market leadership positions and delivered two award-winning products that serve more than 70 million users worldwide. His teams filed 20+ patents while he himself authored three patents. He is an active startup investor and advises selected AI-driven startups on business and product strategy. He is the recipient of the World Summit Award, one of the most prestigious international honors for product innovators. In addition, he is a James Swartz fellow, the most prestigious fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University funded by the founder of the iconic venture firm, Accel Partners. Piyush holds an MS in Software Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Tommy Perkins

SVP OF SALES, PARTNERSHIP & CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

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Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

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