Workera doubles AI for upskilling with $23.5 million infusion

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Worker, an upskilling platform aimed at corporate clients, today announced it has raised $23.5 million in a Series B round led by Jump Capital with participation from existing investors NEA, Owl Ventures, the AI ​​Fund and Sozo Ventures. CEO Kian Katanforoosh says the new capital will be used to expand Workera’s product offerings and expand its development team.

Upskilling, or helping employees develop new skills to advance their careers, is increasingly appealing to employers as macroeconomic pressures make hiring challenging. According to 2022 a PwC questionnaire40% of companies are actively engaged in upskilling because they want to automate or improve work through technology.

VCs have taken note of the opportunity to invest billions in an assortment of companies in the skill space over the past year. Workera unabashedly benefits from the boom.

“The technology landscape is constantly evolving, and new technologies appear on a regular basis,” Katanforoosh told gotechbusiness.com in an email interview. “That’s why I expect companies to spend more on upskilling and retaining their employees to build technology skills like AI. Skill half-life is also the lowest ever, so reinventing is the new normal for employees in the enterprise.”

Before Workera launched, Katanforoosh and his co-founder, Andrew Ng, taught AI classes at Stanford and DeepLearning.ai, Ng’s e-learning venture. (Ng previously headed one of Google’s AI research divisions, Google Brain, and was briefly VP and chief scientist at Baidu.) Katanforoosh says he came to realize that people weren’t starved for upskilling content — quite the opposite — but instead were lacking the guidance and mentorship needed to enhance their skills.

“Equal learning has always been close to my heart as my parents were students during the 1970s revolution in Iran and were unable to fulfill their education and career dreams,” said Katanforoosh. “When I started teaching AI at Stanford, I was motivated to explore how we can accurately measure people’s skills using modern technologies.”

Opened in 2020, Workera is Katanforoosh’s attempt to put this into practice by measuring workplace skills and offering personalized learning. With Workera, company employees receive role- and purpose-specific learning plans, while companies can measure skills and create tailored upskilling plans.

That’s no different than many of the skill platforms on the market, such as GrowthSpace, Scaler, and 5Mins. But according to Katanforoosh, what sets Workera apart is its data science-forward approach. Using a “skills dataset” with millions of measurements on more than 7,000 skills to train AI algorithms, Workera claims to be able to understand the relationship between skills and measure more skills in less time by inferring whether someone has a skill or not .

“We can measure a small number of carefully selected skills and iteratively update our predictions across an entire graph of skills,” said Katanforoosh. “Today we can measure about 50 skills in an hour and a half and use them to confidently predict between 200 and 500 skills, which is unprecedented.”

How accurate those predictions are is another matter, but Workera is all-in on AI anyway. The platform uses generative AI (no word if it’s GPT-4) to create questions for skill assessments — they’re vetted by human moderators before making their way onto the platform, says Katanforoosh. And it also taps AI summarizes information about a skill for users who have just enough skill that a full course is pointless.

Later this year, Workera plans to launch a skills and assessment writing platform embedded in AI technology to automate the process of creating new assessments.

“C-suite leaders have long relied on self-reported methods to analyze the skills of their workforce,” continues Katanforoosh. “Workera disrupts this model of skill intelligence by using AI to generate [richer] skills signals. A richer skill assessment experience with more frequent check-ins gives leaders an even better ongoing measure of their staff’s skills.”

Katanforoosh would not reveal the size of Workera’s customer base or annual recurring revenue. But he did revealing that Samsung, Siemens Energy, the US Air Force and Belcorp are among the company’s current customer base.

“We have been fortunate to raise a significant round of funding in a challenging environment – ​​largely due to our success to date and a growing number of Fortune 500 clients,” said Katanforoosh. “The pandemic and the current technology market have forced companies to reassess their operating costs, look internally at employee development and fill skills gaps in their business. This environment provides us with a market opportunity to drive sales of our precision upskilling solution as companies look to intelligently invest in and support their talent.”