Hone raises $30M to grow its corporate learning platform • TechCrunch

One of FanDuel’s co-founders has raised $30 million to fund a startup: Whetstone — that provides a platform for “enterprise-scale” executive-level learning and development. On the heels of a $16 million Series A round in November, Hone closed its Series B today, which featured contributions from 3L Capital (which led the round), F-Prime Capital, Cowboy Ventures and Slack Fund. The new capital will go toward experimentation with “smart” recommendations and reinforcement, CEO Tom Griffiths said, to “enhance the learner experience” and “drive even more successful learning outcomes.”

After co-launching FanDuel and helping grow the sports betting team to hundreds of employees, Griffiths tells TechCrunch that he was inspired to reinvent the training experience for today’s workplaces. He connected with Hone’s second co-founder, Savina Perez, at a conference about the shared belief that improving leadership skills should be widely available.

“Given [Perez’s and I’s] complementary skill sets, their expertise in business-to-business marketing and mine in business-to-consumer products, we decided to work together to make our vision of democratizing executive-quality people skills education a reality,” said Griffiths. “[W]We set out to democratize access to executive quality training, making it available to all employees of a company. To do that, we had to make it scalable and accessible, which is why we were online from the start.”

Hone offers live, small group, executive-focused instruction with modules to reinforce concepts through practice and real-time feedback. In content verticals such as management, team dynamics, and wellness, the platform provides instructor-led, curriculum-based training, including time set aside for peer-to-peer discussions.

New Hone students enter a four-week bootcamp, with topics selected by the company. From there, they have unlimited access to classes throughout the year.

Corporate learning platforms are practically a dime a dozen (see go1, EduMe, better up, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, etc.), but Griffiths says Hone stands out because its content isn’t pre-recorded and it emphasizes skill-based courses rather than one-on-one coaching. Beyond this, Hone offers automation tools for HR managers, such as automatic scheduling and training attendance tracking.

Instructors are paid “hundreds of dollars an hour,” Griffiths said, which increases with expertise and experience with Hone. She claims it’s four or five times what they normally earn on one-on-one coaching platforms, justified due to Hone’s increased responsibility and joint budget structure.

Future plans include in-person events where executives can connect and exchange ideas, Griffiths says.

“We have implemented integrations with [platforms] such as Workday, Rippling, and SAP SuccessFactors. We are also enhancing our elective offerings so that students can choose from an even wider range of masterclasses in the student-led part of their experience,” said Griffiths. “From a content standpoint, we’ve enhanced our core manager training offerings with live hands-on labs and team classes. [and] additional learning pathways for individual contributors and emerging executives.”

When asked about growth prospects, Griffiths says the pandemic was a “big tailwind” for Hone, leading its client base to expand to brands like Indeed, ConocoPhillips, Pacific Sunwear, Allscripts, TomTom and Aramark. While he doesn’t disclose revenue, Griffiths says Hone is actively hiring, with a goal of adding about 30 employees by the end of the year (the company currently has 70).

“We were extremely well positioned for the challenges that the pandemic posed for learning and development. And our people-skills-focused training is so universal across industries that we haven’t seen a huge slowdown, despite the cooling we’ve seen in the tech industry,” Griffiths said. “In fact, there is a false impression that training budgets are the first to be cut in a down economy. That’s not what happens at companies that focus on retaining their best talent. Whether you’re laying off staff or freezing your workforce, smart companies understand that learning and development is critical to retaining your best people and getting more out of them in a smaller environment.”

Hone’s total raised is $52 million.

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