Christine Tao runs Sounding Board, a business founded in 2016 that offers executive coaching services to leaders at major companies like Kraft and Heinz. But not long ago, she was the one in need of a coach.
But prior to that, Tao found herself in a new high-powered position at the mobile advertising company Tapjoy. Although she had plenty of sales experience, she was now working in an executive role leading the company’s entire sales staff. It was a tough learning curve. But the company’s board paired her with an executive coach, Lori Mazan, who ultimately helped Tao succeed.
“That really had a profound impact, not just on my professional development, but my personal development as well,” Tao said.
Show investors that you’re committed to following through. That makes all the difference.
Later on, Tao and Mazan teamed up to launch Sounding Board, a service with a proprietary algorithm that matches participants with coaches. Its capabilities-driven model can even measure the impact of the coaching.
At the beginning, Tao didn’t have many resources. Ultimately, she raised $15 million in a pre-seed and Series A round. An impressive group of investors got in on the action, including Roy Bahat of Bloomberg Beta, Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan.
On an episode of the “How I Raised It” podcast, Tao talked about raising money quickly, honing your strategy and getting back on your feet after all you hear is “no.”
Start out scrappy
From the very beginning, Tao had big ideas.
She wanted to make coaching accessible to all sorts of executive leaders. The service wouldn’t just be for correcting bad behavior, as coaching had been in the past, but about helping executives grow and develop so that they could lead their businesses with their best foot forward. Tao also aimed to make coaching available through remote technology.
The problem was, Tao didn’t quite have the resources to get started. Initially, turning those ideas into a functioning business seemed about as realistic as climbing Mount Everest.