Professional development platform Everwise lands $16 million, led by Sequoia

Everwise, a startup focused on how to make professional development scalable, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by earlier backer Sequoia Capital, with participation from two other earlier backers, Canvas Ventures and Webb Investment Network.

The three-year-old, 80-person, San Francisco and New York-based company is also taking the wraps off a social learning software platform that aims to connect professionals with the people, resources and experiences that Everwise thinks they need at each stage of their careers.

It’s been an interesting evolution for Everwise, which began as a kind of matchmaking service for mentors and protégés. Indeed, its primary focus has long been connecting online executives willing to volunteer their time with people looking for mentorship — from new entrepreneurs, to budding sports coaches, to people looking to rise through the ranks of Fortune 500 companies. The cornerstone of the technology works by plugging data from a user’s LinkedIn profile and a personalized questionnaire that he or she answers into an algorithm that points that person to a more experienced executive from another company.

More than a year ago, the company began layering in more software features. One feature provided curated content from around the web to protégés based on the recommendations that Everwise mentors have made in the past, including which books to read and TED talks to watch. Another enabled users to establish development goals — or import them from their company’s HR system after a performance review — and track their progress against them.

Today — and part of what Sequoia is excited about, says cofounder and CEO Mike Bergelson — the company is shifting into a full-spectrum, SaaS-based learning experience that enables employers to pay a monthly fee in exchange for access for their employees to mentoring and coaching and peer learning groups.

There are two elements to the business: a private-label SaaS platform that can be configured to align with each customer’s specific goals for the year, and another part of the business, which is  that community of mentors, one that now purportedly spans 170 different industries across 70 different countries.

The time commitment of these people — who volunteer their time — is roughly 10 hours over six months. Why they’re bothering, says Bergelson, is “they learn a ton through the process, including how to be better coaches for their own teams and within their own companies.”

He says they like it so much, in fact, that 90 percent tell Everwise they would like to be “immediately matched” with another protégé when their six-month commitment to someone on the platform is drawing to a close.

Either way, the expanded model includes three tiers of service that, on average, cost Everwise’s customers $150 per employee per month. The most basic commitment to Everwise involves its software modules alone, which can run from $10 to $40 per user per year, depending on which are being used. A step up from that basic service includes Everwise’s software plus access to mentoring, along with a so-called experience manager who acts as a kind of personal trainer for an employee’s career. (Everwise has employees on staff who did this.) Last, companies can pay for a “premium” third tier of service, which includes the software, along with in-person events, training, access to peer groups, a mentor, and an experience manager.

Everwise doesn’t break out which tier is producing the most revenue, but it says it now has more than 250 customers, from corporate giants like Visa, Microsoft and T Mobile, to the still-privately-held concerns Lyft and Zendesk. That’s two-and-a-half times the number of customers that Everwise had nine months ago, says Bergelson, who adds that Sequoia was so keen on its growth that it “asked for us to come in and have a conversation and talk with them them before talking with the market” for its next round of funding.

The venture firm, which requires a yes from each investing partner to move forward on an investment, unanimously voted to lead the deal.

Now Everwise just needs to convey that it’s a new category of software for learning and development to HR buyers who keep trying to force the company into a more traditional category. Says Bergelson with a laugh, “People are often like, ‘Wait, what’s this most like? I don’t know which Gartner magic quadrant to consider.”