Founder: Sandi Lin, Co-Founder and CEO
Venture Name: Skilljar (https://www.skilljar.com)
Skilljar, based in Seattle, is an LMS in the corporate world. However, the LMS is focused on customer training (rather than employee training). Skilljar started in 2013 and pivoted a few times in the following years – landing on their current model around 2015. They currently have about 100 employees. Angel, Seed and Series A funding have been secured (totaling $20M USD). Their mission:
“At Skilljar, we believe that education is the key to unlocking technology’s benefits for individuals, organizations, and society. We’re obsessed with helping companies around the world transform their customers into product experts and evangelists. We’ve built Skilljar to be the best customer education platform in the world.”
Bio: Sandi left Amazon to start her own ed tech company. She had two-partners that helped co-found Skilljar, however, one of those partners ended up returning to Amazon. As noted above there were a couple of years of pivoting involved before landing on the model that has worked for Skilljar. Time at Amazon is an impressive credential to have on a C.V. and brings exposure to SaaS related challenges and approaches to address those challenges. In reviewing interviews and articles, I encountered the expected references to ambition. However, what jumped out most were topics such as leadership style and personal challenges. For leadership, Sandi was influenced by leaders at Amazon; leaders that were not just smart, but also thoughtful, innovative, accessible and kind. Leaders that engaged with the team in their daily ceremonies and empowered the team. A major challenge in building up Skilljar was acquiring funding and this leads to the challenge of taking care of oneself and finding balance. There’s a joke that a benefit of starting your own business is that you can set your own hours. When asked about which hours you work, the answer is typically “all of them!” As Sandi progressed through the fund-raising process, she had to take a step back and find better ways to take care of herself with better focus on sleep, exercise and nutrition. The other thing that jumped out is Sandi’s willingness to focus on technology itself, knowing how to code and the foundations of technology is key to success.
Sandi was also recognized by GeekWire as one of eight women leading firms in their top 200 startups in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a firm believer that diversity and inclusion lead to better teams and in turn better companies. Sandi has led Skilljar to have an employee base that is 40% female and has a board that is split 50/50 between men and women – a rarity in industry.