As the jobs market stays tight (mass layoffs and hiring freezes in tech aside), companies are laser-focused on retaining staff. One of the areas they’re investing in is upskilling, which aims to teach employees new skills in departments with which they’re unfamiliar. For example, Walmart announced in 2021 that it would invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years to provide its employees with access to higher education and training.
Unsurprisingly, “skilling” platforms have benefited enormously from these investments. to Crunchbase, upskilling and reskilling startups raised $2.1 billion from VCs between early 2021 and 2022. One of the winners is GrowthSpace, according to Omer Glass, which leverages algorithms to match individual employees and groups of employees with experts for development sprints. The company today announced that it raised $25 million in Series B financing led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund) and Vertex Ventures, bringing GrowthSpace’s total raised to $44 million.
GrowthSpace was founded in 2018 by Dan Terner, Izhak Kedar and Glass. A former management consultant, Glass was approached several years ago by Terner, who was then the COO of Signals Analytics, a company with a significant churn problem.
“Terner realized that there was no effective, outcome-driven employee development platform to enable companies [including his] to better invest in their employees,” Glass said. “This led to the creation of GrowthSpace … during the pandemic and amid the current economic uncertainty, companies have realized that they needed to double down on talent development.”
GrowthSpace combines a software-as-a-service platform with a marketplace of experts — providers of mentoring, coaching, training and workshops. Drawing on a taxonomy of professional backgrounds and skills, which includes tags across expertise areas, industries and roles, the platform’s AI model attempts to predict the right programs and coach-student matches with the highest probability of achieving desired development outcomes.
Of course, AI doesn’t always get it right. Biased datasets can lead to unreliable predictions, and — as the case may be — coach-student matches. Upskilling already suffers from a human bias issue, with research from PwC showing that companies focus too much on upskilling postgraduate degree holders at the expense of almost all others. Workers are often passed over for training on the basis of their ethnicities and genders, PwC also found, with women twice as likely to report gender discrimination as men.
When asked, Glass didn’t provide a detailed account of GrowthSpace’s debiasing efforts. But he said that the AI system tries to mitigate bias by presenting a “mirror data image” of each user that excludes personal characteristics like race, gender and age.
“GrowthSpace has developed a unique algorithm that eliminates 90% of users’ personal data from its platform within three weeks of user onboarding, once the data is no longer in frequent use,” Glass said. “[This enables] it to reduce to a minimum its exposure to user personal data.”
The GrowthSpace platform can be implemented modularly to address the requirements of larger corporations or set up as a comprehensive solution, Glass says, allowing executives to allocate resources between different types of programs. All of the startup’s services are mapped to business KPIs to provide management with reports by which to measure the impact of upskilling programs on business performance.
“The industry needs to evolve significantly to meet company growth and professional development demands in the next decade,” Glass said. “The Great Recession accentuated the importance of measuring growth more accurately, offering more scalable and consistent means for employees to upskill and reskill at a much faster pace. Learning and development also needs to be more agile and accountable.”
GrowthSpace competes with platforms like GOMYCODE, Worker.ai and Scaler, the last of which topped a $700 million valuation in January. But Glass claims that GrowthSpace has seen substantial growth over the past year, now reaching 3,000 active users across 200 paying customers, including a US government agency, Microsoft, Siemens, EY and Johnson & Johnson.
In fact, Glass says that he wasn’t actively looking to raise capital.
“Once investors became aware of the recent growth … they approached [me] to invest,” he said. “GrowthSpace will use these funds to expand globally to meet rapidly growing demand and to continue to expand its competitive edge through tech innovation.”
The startup — which has $44 million in the bank — also plans to expand its 70-person, New York City-based team, with the goal of reaching 100 employees by the end of the year.