LearnOps platform Cognota raises $5.5 million

Steven Loeb · September 27, 2023 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/571c

It brings workflows from disparate systems into one platform so L&D teams can show their value

Corporate learning and development teams have been lagging behind other other business functions: while sales teams, revenue teams, and development teams, for example, all have purpose built operating systems dedicated to helping them streamline their operations and show their value, L&D teams are still using disparate IT systems, meaning basically anything they can get their hands on.

They just don't have the right tools to connect the data flow, said Ryan Austin, CEO of Cognota, a LearnOps platform that lets corporate learning and development teams manage end-to-end operations and measure ROI.

"L&D has just been lagging behind. And it's fundamentally one of the last business functions that does not have a purpose built operating system," he said.

"HR has Workday, sales has Salesforce, marketing has HubSpot, the development teams have Atlassian or GitLabs, and so on and so on. But L&D teams are using three to eight disparate tools to do their jobs."

Now the company will have the chance to expand operations as it announced a $5.5 million Series A funding round on Wednesday. Led by Grotech Ventures with participation from IDEA Fund Partners, BDC Capital, Generation Ventures, CEAS Investments, Tyton Partners and notable investors Neal Dempsey and Jay Steinfeld, this follows a $1.9 million round from FedDev Ontario earlier this year.

Cognota's software streamlines L&D processes such as training intake, project and capacity planning, and content design, allowing L&D teams to work more efficiently and effectively while providing access to data and insights about their operations. The company brings workflows from disparate systems into one platform, meaning it helps the L&D team understand what the most important initiatives happening in the company are, so that they can prioritize their work around that.

The way that they get their work is through a feature called Training Request Management, which factilitates partnerships with the heads of those business units across the business, such as health and safety, procurement, and sales. Whenever the heads of those business units have a problem that they think training will solve, they can use Cognota to make a request and the platform will auto route the request to the right L&D team, and then help them benchmark how to prioritize that based on company objectives.

"From there, we help them convert those requests into programs and break down programs into learning projects and tasks. We help them to manage budget and team resources, so capacity tracking. We help them to manage their inventory behind those programs. And then we give them data and analytics around this whole workflow that is for the first time happening in one system versus those disparate systems, so that they can generate reports and show the impact that they're having on the money that's being spent," Austin explained.

Currently, Cognota's focus area is on companies with at least 1,000 employees; it has just under 200 enterprise customers, including General Mills, Trust Bank, Ernst and Young, and Dow Chemicals. For SMBs who may not need as much help, the company offers its software for free. 

"The value for us is that they go to all the same conferences as where our actual ideal customer profiles attend, so they'll talk about us, they'll be value add by talking about us and helping to spread the education of LearnOps in the marketplace," Austin explained. 

Many of Cognota's customers are seeing upwards of 200% ROI in the first year. The company has seen a payback period under four months, and about five times the dollar saved. One metrics that Cognota is starting to measure is how much of L&D spend is being managed inside of the company as a way to measure market share.

The company plans to use the new capital to meet accelerating demand from enterprise customers, drive product development, and launch the world’s first LearnOps certification program to its community members, free of charge. 

"Because it's such a new category, we've learned that we have to build the ecosystem around LearnOps, so we're building something right now called the LearnOps Academy where people can get certified in how to become better operators as an L&D team, and the whole industry is behind us. We have Chief Learning Officers and the most famous thought leaders in our industry all supporting the concept of LearnOps, which is really cool," said Austin.

Ultimately, he said he sees Cognota as the front end system for these L&D teams and believes there's an opportunity to build a big business while helping these teams better operate, become better stewards of how to invest capital that they're getting access to, and to show their impact on the business.

"When you think of L&D, it's not very sexy, it’s very esoteric, you would never think that this is a problem. But when you think about the impacts that it can have, on all the employees across companies, it starts becoming sexy, it starts becoming mission driven. You wake up every day with a purpose and that's why our team works so hard every single day: it's because we are creating this category. We were the first to come up with the term 'LearnOps,' believe it or not, and we're pushing on this to help shift the market to mature them in areas so that they can become those more strategic business catalysts," said Austin.

"One day, I want to look back and see that every organization has implemented Cognota to power their LearnOps." 

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