Enterprise leadership training platform ExecOnline has raised a $45 million Series D, led by OMERS Growth Equity, bringing the company’s total funding to $87 million.
Cofounder and CEO Stephen Bailey wants to democratize access to leadership grooming within corporate organizations.
“We are moving away from a world where in order to gain access to Stanford, Wharton, Columbia or any of the schools we work with, you no longer need to be tapped on the shoulder for special privileges reserved for the few, which are often influenced by unconscious bias,” Bailey told The Plug.
“As you provide access for leaders to take control of their career journey you move to a world where you’ll see more women and more underrepresented minorities advance in the organization,” Bailey said.
After graduating from Yale Law School, Bailey experienced firsthand the lack of leadership development for underrepresented groups in elite institutions and white-collar professions when he began to practice law, noticing that the ranks of diverse lawyers thinned out as they advanced to the partner level.
“After I left law I joined a startup and I’d been raising capital for well over a decade and I think I’ve pitched three Black venture partners my entire career. Those experiences brought into the corporate sphere and seeing the lack of diversity motivated ExecOnline,” he said.
His experiences are aligned with data on racial and gender make-up of the C-Suite at Fortune 500 companies. As of February, only four, or 0.8 percent, of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. Gender representation is a little better—but not by much—with eight percent of Fortune 500 CEOs identifying as women.
Companies are clamoring for ways to increase diversity, especially at the leadership level, according to Bailey. The platform provides one to three-week online training for the most junior manager roles within companies up to the CEO. The average ExecOnline user’s rank is three seats from the C-Suite. The program’s completion rate is 90 percent and the majority of users report back that the training is immediately applicable to their job function.
The platform now incorporates training led by several Ivy League institutions, including Bailey’s alma mater Yale. Back in 2012, when Bailey launched ExecOnline, it took a lot of cold calling to get partners on board.
“I had no pre-existing relationship in the world of executive education,” Bailey said. “There were macro changes in the space at that time that were creating a recipe for our success.”
Bailey said there were online corporate training platforms like those facilitated through individual universities that came before ExecOnline, but his company helped pioneer the centralized online learning application targeted to the leadership level within the corporate enterprise.
“Back in 2012, the idea that you would develop a leader online was still very new. For the schools, customers were starting to ask them how they could leverage online through the schools, so they knew it was a need enterprise customers had but it was in this window where they didn’t yet know the solution. We stepped into that window,” Bailey said.
This right place-right time positioning has led to 20,000 graduates from ExecOnline programs from over 250 organizations. The investment will be used to ramp up sales and marketing, enhance the company’s technology and expand its content library.
For this latest round of funding, ExecOnline had its pick of mission-aligned investors and brought back on OMERS, along with several other firms who participated in previous rounds like Kaplan, ABS Capital Partners, NewSpring, and Osage Venture Partners.
“The ExecOnline team is driven by a vision that resonates strongly with our own to advance relevant solutions that change how organizations operate, specifically by transforming leadership development education and widening access to it,” Saar Pikar, OMERS Growth Equity Managing Director, said in a statement. “Stephen Bailey and his colleagues are truly ‘doing well by doing good,’ by facilitating this further evolution of executive development programs.”