Melbourne startup Mentorloop raises $725,000 from Blackbird, Rampersand as it gears up for growth
Melbourne-founded Mentorloop, a platform making it easier for companies to run and measure internal mentoring programs, has raised $725,000 in funding from venture capital firms Blackbird Ventures, Rampersand, and Tempus Partners, and a number of angel investors.
Bringing the total raised by the startup to date to $1 million, the raise will go towards further development of the Mentorloop platform and expanding the team to help support its growth, with the company boasting clients including the Australian Olympic Committee, Monash University, and TAL Insurance.
It comes after a big 2017 for Mentorloop, with the startup having participated in the Startmate accelerator program earlier this year.
Lucy Lloyd, who cofounded the startup with Heidi Holmes, said the accelerator was “formative” for Mentorloop, helping the team focus on its customer experience in particular. Interestingly, with the program renowned for the expertise of its mentor network, Lloyd said it also helped Mentorloop better understand mentoring itself.
“We had a lot of hunches about mentoring before we did the program, and Startmate taught us to be more data-driven, so we surveyed the Startmate mentors to find insights as to why they do it,” Lloyd explained.
“A lot of businesses assume mentoring is something they will offer to their high performers, but mentoring can favour those who are already putting themselves forward for development opportunities. There is obviously then this vast expanse of your employee base that’s not putting their hands up or don’t know how to put their hands up, and people are left on the sidelines.
“For us, Startmate really helped us to tease out the reasons why people want to be mentored, so that we could start talking to companies and make it clear to them how much latent demand they’re ignoring.”
With 28 clients on board across a variety of industries – most based in Australia but a couple signing on from the US, Canada, the UK, and Asia – Mentorloop stated that its revenue has grown by 500 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, 92 percent of mentors and mentees using the platform want their organisations to continue using it.
“There’s something really universal and eternal about mentoring; we all recognise that that right connection can change your life, but finding that right connection comes more naturally to some than others,” Lloyd said.
“The platform we built in particular services that Instagram generation: it needs to be something that can just be picked up and used really easily, so the platform makes repeatable, high quality mentoring relationships happen, but we’re not as prescriptive about what those relationships look like. We’re measuring the quality of those mentoring relationships, but we’re not dictating what mentoring is and we don’t tell people how to engage, it’s more we want to give them the opportunities to engage.”
The platform works by allowing clients to create custom, branded programs. The program coordinator then send out a recruitment form with survey questions customised around their organisation’s goals, with mentors and mentees then matched based on the organisation’s chosen criteria, such as experience, skills, interests, location, and desired outcomes.
Clients can also choose to give their people access to the My Match option, which allows them to browse and connect with the mentor or mentee of their choice. Users can log into a private portal at any time to chat, set goals, share files, and keep track of their personal development.
As an example of how wide the definition of ‘mentoring’ can be, the Australian Olympic Committee is using Mentorloop to connect athletes to mentors as they come to the end of their time as an elite athlete and begin the transition to their next career.
For Lloyd, there is one simple thing Mentorloop’s clients have in common, no matter the industry or language.
“What ties them together is that they put their people first, and they’ve recognised how hungry people are for development opportunities,” she said.
The benefits for organisations themselves can also be significant. A 2013 study from Vestrics, which looked at responses from more than 830 mentees and 670 mentors participating in a mentoring program across seven years, found employee retention rates rose by 69 percent for the mentors, and 72 percent for the mentees.
As more companies recognise the benefits, Lloyd said she and Holmes felt the time was right to look for funding in order to grow the Mentorloop team, currently a team of nine, to support their clients.
“These investors could all see the inevitability of what we’re doing. We feel like tech has been used to remove skills from people, tech has been removing what makes us human in a way, and we feel there’s now a swing in the other direction where we’re using tech to make our career development more human and our relationships more human, and our investors really jumped on board with that,” she explained.
Paul Naphtali, partner at Rampersand, said, “Not only is [Mentorloop] a great team and product, but it also taps into major and unfurling trends that are transforming the future of work already. Both the startup and its clients are positioning well for the huge changes we can anticipate over the next decade or so.”
Blackbird partner, Samantha Wong agreed, “We know from our experience running Startmate that accessing the right people can provide the tailwind to make you go further, faster. We’re excited to back Mentorloop to spread this revolution to organisations everywhere.”
As it looks to grow further in 2018, Lloyd said Mentorloop is keen to keep developing close relationships with its customers.
“They’re giving us the best insight into how to build the best possible product.”
Image: Lucy Lloyd and Heidi Holmes. Source: Supplied.