When Sandi Lin and Jason Stewart left Amazon to start their own company, they noticed one common thread between software companies in construction, retail and business: they all needed help getting employees at their customers to actually use their tools.
“It surprised us how universal the experiences are,” says Lin. “We can all relate to the experience of getting frustrated with a piece of software.”
The answer to making software easy, according to Lin and Stewart, is more software. Their startup, Skilljar, tackles the onboarding process when employees start using a new tool. With hundreds of customers, the Seattle-based startup is now raising a lot more money to grow faster. The latest is a somewhat unusual co-led $16.4 million Series A raised from both Mayfield and Shasta Ventures.
Skilljar got going in 2013 after Lin and Stewart struck out on their own, and had previously raised a $1 million angel round the following year and a $2.6 million seed round in 2015. That investor, Trilogy Equity Partners, is returning in the new raise. What makes Skilljar’s funding somewhat unusual is that Lin put together her own preferred duo of investosr across firms. In tapping Mayfield and Shasta, she’s working with Rajeev Batra and Doug Pepper, two investors who worked together in the past as co-investors in Marketo. To a first-time founder like Lin, getting go-to market advice from the Marketo VC team was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. So she asked them to share. And in a lesson for entrepreneurs with a hot product: the VCs couldn’t resist.
The startup plans to grow its headcount from 40 people to more than 100 in upcoming months, while starting to build out its sales and marketing. Lin says Skilljar has about 150 customers today, including MapR, Procore and Zendesk, which typically pay five-figure and occasionally six-figure contracts based on their size. At Mercado Libre, an online marketplace in Latin America, employees use Skilljar to train third party sellers on how to use their platform, with about half completing a two-hour-plus training program. More typical completion rates would be one-tenth of that, says Lin.284