In an unprecedented work environment defined by distributed teams and virtual communication, two founders believe that their 2018 efforts rule more truly than ever: mentors also need mentorship.
Christine Tao and Lori Mazan, the brains behind Sounding Board, wants to train all leaders in an organization to become a better leader. The San Francisco startup connects everyone from first-time executives to C-suite executives with coaches through a marketplace.
Revenues have doubled or tripled every year since 2016, which the company says is hovering in the “multi-million” area. But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sounding Board has seen demand for its platform grow even more. Quarterly bookings have increased 3.4 times from the second quarter of 2020, and in the last five months, monthly revenues have doubled.
On the heels of this growth, the co-founders say that the Sounding Board’s next step as a start is to grow beyond coaching services and to a platform that can show leaders how the newly acquired skills affect business development. The new product is intended to function as a hub and a roadmap where a participant and trainer can track insights, progress and behaviors.
Within the platform, a user can schedule sessions with a trainer, match with someone, and view resources and complete tasks assigned to them. In addition, there is a feature that allows the coach and manager to measure goals continuously, similar to OKR-related software.
“The content is great, but unless you can apply that content, it’s not very useful,” Mazan said. “So this coaching is a way to help people apply the insights and learning they’ve gained from some kind of content and really use it in the workplace.”
The new product takes the monthly personal summit that your organization used to call leadership coaching and turns it into a living, breathing part of a manager’s workflow.
In addition to helping its users gain better temperature control on their progress, the product will help the Sounding Board scale its services. Now all supervisors on Sounding Board have more ways to get into the user’s mind and workflow, so not all calls are synchronous and can be handled more smoothly.
The co-founders see that their long-term differentiation lives on in this function. Anyone can create a marketplace, but seamless, easy-to-use technology is needed to track the effectiveness of what happens after coaching.
Tao admits that the start is not for everyone. The Sounding Board has seen early assumptions about companies that are in a late growth thinking on the way to an IPO. That level of maturity is a sweet spot for a third party like them to come in and scale leaders across teams. Customers include VMware, Uber, Plaid, Chime and Dropbox.
That said, within organizations, 60% of Sounding Board users are first-time managers, 30% are intermediate and 10% are C-suite. The co-founders believe that these figures indicate a broader demand for mentorship beyond what their competitors offer, which often clings to C-suite life coaches or stress management.
“Everyone is starting to realize that we need to offer coaching more broadly than just the C suite, and sometimes they do not really know what that means,” says Mazan.
The realization, together with COVID-19 tailwind, has helped Sounding Board attract new millions in venture capital. The startup tells TechCrunch that it has raised $ 13.1 million in Series A led by Canaan Partners. Other investors include Correlation Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures, as well as Degreed founder David Blake and Kevin Johnson, the former CEO of Udemy.