Everwise raises $16M to go beyond mentoring

Everwise launched the second phase of its plan with the Enterprise Social Learning Platform

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 11, 2016
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Talent development company Everwise is known for its mentoring platform, helping aspiring professionals define development goals, and connecting them with the right mentors to help them achieve them. Not everyone can take advantage of this program, though, given the time and demands that such a relationship requires.

That's why the company is going beyond its mentoring program, launching its Enterprise Social Learning Platform on Wednesday, along with $16 million in new funding. 

Everwise was founded in 2012 to match employees directly to the people and resources that can help them be more productive and successful at every stage of their career. Employees on the platform were paired with a concierge who would them match them to the right mentor. Once the right people are matched, Everwise guides 10 hours over six months at a minimum. 

Until now, that was the only service that Everwise offered, but it required a big commitment from users, Mike Bergelson, co-founder and CEO of Everwise, told me in an interview. That had prevented some people from getting the full benefits of the platform. 

"When we started this business we created a 10 year strategy. The end goal was help to professionals reach their full potential. We recognized we couldn't get everything done on day one, so we started with the hardest part: connecting people with others from whom they can learn. That was mentoring," he said.

"The first three years that was our singular focuses, helping to make mentoring work at scale. Now, we want to augment that experience for our platform users, with curated content. We want to be smarter about identifying goals, tracking progress, and looking at other modes of social learning."

The platform has been given a more embellished onboarding experience, has become smarter about which questions to ask, and has the ability to compare users to others to more successfully figure out their needs. Most importantly, it now offers much more than only mentoring as a resource for its users. 

"We are no longer a one trick pony. Before, mentoring was our only answer. Now, if you don't have time, you can design a lower energy experience, with things that last for weeks or months, before you're ready to engage," Bergelson explained. 

"Instead of connecting everyone with a mentor, we can suggest peer groups, executive coaches, training classes, along with different kinds of content, like videos or articles. We can suggest a book for you, and also connect you with other people who are also reading, so you can learn how others are applying those ideas. Importantly, we've extended the number of resources available to each learner so, instead of six months and then you're done, it's ongoing, it's flexible. It's customized to the needs of each learner."

With the expanded platform Everwise can now include people who didn't have time for mentor relationship, or weren't the right fit for one in the first place. It also allows the company to rethink how it sees success for its users. While it used to measure that by how many people entered into mentor relationships, it now wants to see both behavioral changes, and business results, from those that use the platform.

Getting mentoring right was the first phase of the company's plan, and this launch is the beginning of phase two, said Bergelson.

"I don't know when we hang our mission accomplished flag, but we'll mark success when we feel we are the, or one of the, learning systems of record for the majority of people-centric organizations," he said.

"When I say 'of record,' I mean that organization have HR systems of record, like Workday, which tracks payroll, and benefits and performance reviews. They also have recruiting systems of record, using Applicant Tracking Systems. What companies don't have is a learning system of record, a thing that record whats each employee is doing, and what the outcomes are of those activities."

He also defined for me what he meant by "people-centric."

"Some companies don't view people as a strategic asset, so they’re not high on our list. Tech, pharma, financial services, those are industries where innovation comes from people, and that's our target market," he explained. "We are really focused on organizations that are heavily invested in seeing their people succeed."

As for the next phase, that would include incorporating the other side of the marketplace. 

"If we are successful in becoming the learning system of record, the number of folks using the platform would be in the millions, across thousands of organizations. That would put us in an interesting position to match those professionals with the right resources at that moment. It would be things they never had access to before,"he said.

"Like what iTunes has done in the music business, making music available to people who wouldn't have had access to it before by giving independent musicians a platform, we can make a market for thought leaders, who have historically struggled to get those resources."

While he couldn't say when the company would be in a position to start phase two in earnest, the company is already laying the groundwork, partnering with thought leaders. It will spend at least the new few quarters testing out the model.

Since raising its Series A funding last year, Everwise has grown to more than 250 enterprise customers. Market leaders such as Genentech and Oracle, as well as high-growth companies like Lyft and Zendesk are among the organizations already using Everwise.

Everwise's new round of funding was led by Sequoia Capital with "significant participation" from prior investors Canvas Ventures and Webb Investment Network.

The company had previously raised $10.3 million in funding, most recently an $8 million Series A in December of last year. Other previous investors have included Webb Investment Network, IronFire Capital and a number of angels, such as Scott McNealy and Andre Haddad. This round gives it  $26.3 million in venture funding

Everwise will use the new funding to further develop the capabilities of its software platform, accelerate team growth and expand marketing activities.

That means adding to its current 80 employees, with the comoany in engineering/product and sales and marketing, as well as building out our operations team.

We have a reasonably long list of capabilities that we’d still like to build into the platform. We think about going broader, building our more modules, and deeper, extending the capabilities of the existing modules. Our longer term ambition is to be the system of record for every progressive organization in the corporate, social and public sectors. To accomplish this goal we need to offer the key capabilities required for truly impactful career development. We feel the capabilities we offer today, goal setting and tracking, curated content, mentoring, peer learning, etc., cover a decent portion of those required but have a list of others that we’ll be building - and announcing - in the coming months," said Bergelson.

"We also have a long list of capabilities and enhancements on deck for the existing modules. These are based on feedback from existing customers using the platform. In short, we want each module on our platform to be feature competitive with stand-alone applications that are more narrowly focused on a specific capability. For example there are a handful of software companies that offer product focused solely on, say, mentoring or content aggregation. "

In conjunction with the financing, Joe Dobrenski of Sequoia Capita will join the Everwise Board of Directors.

"We are a learning organization, and we want to surround ourselves with people who have been there, done that. When the inevitable curveballs come our way, these folks have seen a lot. They can offer experience and can provide sage advice. Sequoia brings a level of resources, people and connections like nothing I've ever seen," Bergelson told me. 

"Joe is the guy in Sequoia who is responsible for the human capital space. He's been there more than a dozen years, and has been watching all the startups Sequoia has seen in the human capital space. He knows when things are going well and when they're not going well. He also know, as a user of these services, what works and what doesn’t. Also, he's just a good guy. He cares about people. That's Joe in a nutshell."

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