Praise successful business leaders, and they will invariably gush about influential mentors who guided the way. That idea helped inspire entrepreneur Mike Bergelson in founding his latest software company, Everwise, almost four years ago.
Too many fast-growth businesses promote high-performing employees into management roles with very little guidance other than giving them a library of recommended reading. “It’s like trying to train for a marathon over the weekend,” jokes Bergelson, Everwise's co-founder and CEO. “Yes, we learn from content, but we learn more by being paired with others and trying things.”
San Francisco-based Everwise, an online mentoring site, disclosed an $8 million round of venture financing on Tuesday. In keeping with Bergelson's comment, the company sees itself as a bridge for business advice of every kind.
As part of its service, the company certainly curates videos, books, and other training materials to help customers navigate a promotion or career change. However, its primary objective is to match volunteer mentors—many from Fortune 1000 companies—with employees who could benefit from coaching.
Mentors and protégés are matched using data gleaned from their LinkedIn social network and other sources along with information they disclose in questionnaires. Then, Everwise uses algorithms based on research into successful "mentorship partnerships" to identify appropriate mentors (they don't necessarily have to be employed by the same company).
The mentors are volunteers: more than 76% hold director-level or above titles, and more than half work for Fortune 500 companies. The average time commitment is about 10 hours over six months, and many mentors have volunteered more than once, Bergelson said. The company doesn't disclose how many there are, but they hail from more than 75 countries.
Everwise is used by more than 100 businesses including established tech companies like Genentech and Oracle (orcl). Fast-growing startups such as ride-sharing business Lyft, and software upstarts Twilio, and Zendesk (zen) are also customers.
Companies use the site for onboarding employees by matching new hires with peers who can show them the ropes. It has also helped with addressing workforce attrition by giving workers advice about how to handle specific problems and challenges. Another use to support corporate diversity programs by giving women and ethnic minorities a chance to share (and compare) experiences.
Why would someone opt for this approach over a two-day management class? For now, this is the biggest benefit: they cost about the same. But an Everwise membership provides year-round mentorship. That translates into more opportunities to reshape behavior.
The Series A infusion from Canvas Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Webb Investment Network will be used to fund more person-to-person encounters and expand the site to handle more members and mentors.