Sounding Board, which started out as a platform to connect leaders with coaches via a marketplace, realized early in the pandemic that mentoring needed a refresh.
“We have always offered coaching in this traditional service format,” said Christine Tao, CEO and co-founder of Sounding Board. “Well, we’re not in the office anymore, so we have to talk differently about how we develop our talents and our leadership. The information led to the launch of a software platform that allows users not only to connect with coaches, but also to track goals on an ongoing basis.
Now, nearly a year after landing a Series A with that vision, Sounding Board has closed a $ 30 million Series B led by Jazz Venture Partners and joined by Gaingels as well as angel investors such as Sukhinder Singh Cassidy from TheBoardlist, Deb Liu of Ancestry.com, Yvonne Chen of Udemy and Tammy Aguillon of DocuSign. The company’s previous investors include Canaan Partner and Precursor Ventures.
The tour also saw John Spinale of JAZZ Venture Partners join the board, an addition to the all-female team at Sounding Boards (and all-female board). “The joke is we actually had to add diversity to our board… a man,” Tao said with a laugh.
Fundraising stems from solid growth for Sounding Board, which claims to have experienced sequential growth over the past seven quarters. Although Tao would not share revenue details, the company said revenue has been in the “multimillion” range in the past, and annual bookings have grown more than 350% year over year. When it comes to rigidity, Sounding Board says net revenue retention is over 200%, which means existing customers continue to pay for the platform over time.
BetterUp, one of Sounding Board’s biggest competitors, has embarked on a recent wave of acquisitions that illustrates a similar shift in focus on the software behind coaching. She bought Motive to help BetterUp customers understand the emotional context behind the data they already aggregate, through engagement surveys or polls. The unicorn also picked up Impraise, which uses technology to help managers better support their direct reports, through real-time performance reviews and more transparent feedback channels.
Tao believes BetterUp’s growth has helped heighten the importance of executive education for investors, but still sees room for more leadership-focused services instead of a large-scale coaching tool. Over the past year, the co-founder said she has seen many solutions aimed at helping individuals manage their abilities by supporting their mental and emotional state (e.g. BetterUp care).
“But next to that, you also need to have real skills and abilities to be able to manage and communicate effectively,” she said. Sounding Board is more interested in addressing the capacity aspect of executive education and, at this time, does not intend to focus on the mental health aspect. Of course, this could lead the competitors to gain market share from Sounding Board if they offer both sides in a rich manner. So far, Sounding Board customers don’t seem to care.
“If you think about the benefits of your business [with mental health], it’s a little more free… it’s a bit there and then you choose whether to join or not, but it’s really meant to be there for the employees, ”she said. “While I think for capacity building there is this business need, the investment they want to make and a level of responsibility they have. “
Sounding Board currently has 100 clients, including Plaid, Chime and Bill.com.