Nishika De Rosairo, founder and chief executive of HumanQ, has a vision for employee coaching that contrasts with the biggest and most valuable startups out there. Instead of the one-to-one coaching that venture-backed companies like BetterUp and Sounding Board offer employees and managers, HumanQ Group wants to make coaching an effective alternative.
“We believe that the growth of organizations and individuals is not about the individual’s agenda and what they need — it’s about the organization’s agenda in relation to groups of people working together,” she said.
Betting on the collective mindset came in a $2 million seed round led by Kindred Ventures for HumanQ, with participation from angel investors including Toast CFO Elena Gomez, Natus Medical CHRO Lisa Paul and Google Head of Engineering Dinesh Chalia. Rosario declined to provide a valuation for the company, but said it was ultimately “really great and fair.” This is the company’s first tranche of capital after more than three years of construction.
Just two years ago, career coaching wasn’t necessarily a hot sector, but with the rise of remote work, the great resignation and the great reset all creating the perfect storm that has employees looking for direction (and employers looking for retention), it’s surprising to see another play in the space.
The biggest argument in favor of one-to-one coaching is personalization. If your employer can dedicate a coach focused on ways to better support and develop your career, that’s a powerful support mechanism that builds momentum — and a smart retention tool. Any contract has a time commitment of 6 to 36 hours per year.
“Although coaching companies have mushroomed, all of them [do] Same thing: one-to-one coaching and not addressing organizational needs the way we do,” Rosario said.
She argues that an organization’s bet on the group can help build mindset, break down functional and geographic spheres, and recreate the watercooler conversation — all of which help teamwork, inclusion, and innovation. The startup claims that 94% of participants in their programs are more engaged as a result. HumanQ delivered 16,000 hours of coaching to 2,000 users, claiming 280% growth from 2020 to 2021.
HunanQ is a structured marketplace, meaning that owners pay coaches after supporting customers. The startup says it has been generating cash flow since its inception, but when asked if it is profitable, it said, “The focus is on injecting funds back into R&D.”
A potential challenge for HumanQ is synonymous with any group-centered work: How do you create a safe space that balances vulnerability with buy-in and professionalism? Rosairo said the company is very specific with screening how it hires coaches to make sure they can navigate individual personalities, create psychological safety and support privacy.
They require “balancing individual needs with group and tension points as you work. [that can get] Hot and tough.” It’s a difficult balance to strike, but the startup is committed to scaling. Currently, all coaches work with HumanQ on a contractor basis — great for flexibility, but challenging when considering historical turnover with employment status.
While about 95% of coaches on the platform have some form of certification, Rosairo says they don’t need to be certified to join HumanQ. Instead, she says, they need to demonstrate that they have workplace and industry experience in a variety of scenarios to consider. The company has been testing a direct-to-consumer version of its product this year, but has begun selling directly to businesses because it identified several gaps.
This pitch is enough to earn the trust of companies like Microsoft, VMware, Chobani, Accenture and GoJek, all of whom are HumanQ customers.