Sphere, a career upskilling platform that trains employees in machine learning and data science, recently announced that it has raised $4.3 million in a seed funding round led by Felicis Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator, Uncommon Capital.
Several prominent angel investors including some of the founders of Go1, Lyft, BetterUp and Flexport have also participated in the fundraise.
With this new funding, the San Francisco-based company hopes to make new hires on the growth and engineering teams as well as source more bulk contracts with enterprise clients. It also plans to add more courses to its curriculum in the coming year.
Founded in 2020 by Nicholas Rudder and Adrian Sarstedt, Sphere, originally called ScholarSite, is a continuing professional education platform aiming to skill-up mid-career tech employees in new forms of software engineering. The teams are led by leading industry experts who understand what skills one needs to master in order to accelerate their career. It's live format allows one to get the most out of these experts through personalized engagement and Q&A.
Sphere cohorts are grounded in specific learning outcomes tailored to learners' job expectations. It's tracks are designed to give an individual the complete skill set needed to elevate the career. It offers countless opportunities to network both during live sessions and after.
Talking about the platform, Co-founder of Sphere, Nicholas Rudder, said:
"I was basically paying for what was effectively a very poorly run Zoom course while taking on a ton of debt. So I started working on Sphere right then because I felt we could build something far better, and a much more enticing learning experience for professionals."
Rudder further added:
"Sphere hosts instructors who are working professionals in machine learning and data science to conduct live-streamed, interactive three-week courses. The teachers have a large degree of independence and build out their own curriculum for the most part. By hosting the classes live rather than asynchronously, Sphere has seen completion rates of over 80%, compared to 4% on average for asynchronous classes."
The startup got a big boost in these contracts after getting accepted into Y Combinator’s winter 2022 cohort this year, which was the first to take place after the accelerator announced its new standard deal. Sphere used the connections it made during the program to meet with several VCs including the team at Felicis Ventures, who signed on to Sphere’s seed round as the cohort wrapped up in the spring. Some of these enterprise clients include Shopify, Tinder, Flexport, and Stripe.
According to Rudder, at the current stage, the course costs around $1,000 per student, and the company has been approved as a provider for 700 different tech companies to have their course fees covered for employees as a learning and development expense.
Ryan Isono, Vice President, Felicis Ventures, also commented on the latest move, saying:
"Sphere is tapping into a large, growing market but one that also has low satisfaction. They’ve been able to bring on an incredible, global customer base in a short amount of time."