OpenView Backs Corporate Training Software Startup Lesson.ly

As companies grow, employees naturally amass a treasure trove of useful habits that help them do their jobs better. But spreading that tribal knowledge across the company isn’t always easy or efficient.

That’s one of the problems Lesson.ly has been trying to solve with Web-based learning automation software that centralizes a company’s policies and best practices and presents that information to employees in step-by-step training lessons that include quizzes, feedback, and more. Founded in 2012, Indianapolis-based Lesson.ly’s software is currently used by more than 200,000 employees of 250-plus companies, including Microsoft, NBC News, Lyft, Intuit Workforce, and Trunk Club.

Today Lesson.ly got a boost from a $5 million Series A investment led by Boston-based OpenView Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Indianapolis-based High Alpha Capital and Allos Ventures, which has offices in Indianapolis and Cincinnati. OpenView partner Ricky Pelletier will join the Lesson.ly board.

“One of the greatest challenges companies face as they grow and scale is ensuring their employees have the information and context needed to be successful in their jobs,” Pelletier says in a press release. Lesson.ly has “created a powerful solution that overcomes the challenge of employee learning by democratizing and automating the process.”

Like much of Indianapolis’s emerging tech scene, OpenView’s investment in Lesson.ly can be traced back, in a way, to ExactTarget, the Indianapolis-based digital marketing firm acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion in 2013. OpenView’s founder, Scott Maxwell, was an early investor in ExactTarget, Pelletier says in an e-mail. High Alpha—whose managing partner is ExactTarget co-founder and former CEO Scott Dorsey—was an early backer of Lesson.ly.

“It was a natural fit,” Pelletier says of OpenView’s investment in Lesson.ly. OpenView associate Brian Carthas has been building a relationship with Lesson.ly CEO and co-founder Max Yoder since late 2014, Pelletier says.

Beyond personal connections, OpenView sees a big market opportunity with Lesson.ly, Pelletier says. “Not only is the global corporate e-learning market growing (expected to reach more than $31 billion by 2020), but the space where they play—the mid-market—is greenfield and historically underserved. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 500,000 companies with between 20 and 500 employees.”

Plus, OpenView was impressed with Lesson.ly’s team and the momentum and customer references it has gained from its easy-to-use software, Pelletier says.

“Unlike traditional learning software, Lesson.ly does not require a dedicated learning and development department to create lessons,” Yoder, the CEO, says in the press release. “More than 80 percent of lessons are created by employees who do not have backgrounds in learning and development.”

Trunk Club’s sales team uses Lesson.ly in part because its software easily integrates with the company’s customer relationship management system and product catalog, which enables Trunk Club to “use business data to drive the right learning at the right time,” says Teresa Ferguson, Trunk Club’s director of training, in the press release. The result, she says, is better employee engagement and retention, as well as higher sales.

Lesson.ly says it has raised $6.1 million from investors to date. It intends to use the new money to expand its 30-person staff and to invest in its products.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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