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Skiller Whale raises $2.9M to grow on-job tech training offer

Skiller Whale Co-Founders Hayley McCarthy, Hywel Carver and Dave Millican.
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Skiller Whale, the online live training platform that marries skills assessment with small expert-led classes tailored to upskill tech teams, has raised a $2.9M seed round to scale up their on-job learning offer. This approach allows a high degree of flexibility and an easy integration with tech teams’ schedules.

The round was led by Brighteye Ventures (@BrightEyeVC), along with a group of VCs and angel investors, including Playfair and RLC.

Bad software can be the death knell of start-ups before they even get off the ground, and the quality of software is only as good as the team building it. According to Glassdoor, hiring a software development engineer takes approximately 41 days, making it the sixth-longest hiring cycle of any position globally. On the other hand, it’s clear that developers are hungry for opportunities to learn. The 2018 HackerRank skills report asked ~39,000 developers what they want most in a job. Professional growth and development opportunities were ranked the second most important, just behind having a good work-life balance.

Tech team skills are clearly fundamental to the success of organisations, and developing those skills within teams is positive for attracting and retaining great people. But how to develop those skills is a problem that has been hard to solve. This is because traditional models of training are maladapted to the needs of tech companies (think: long days with everyone out of the office, expensive, lots of wasted time). According to Axonify’s State of Workplace Training study, 85% percent of learners want training to be flexible on time and location, and even more — 90% — want it to be personalised.

Founded in 2018, Skiller Whale takes a new approach to training that is designed for learning during employment. 

Hywel Carver, Co-Founder and CEO says:

“In founding Skiller Whale, I wanted to offer CTOs a real alternative to hiring for skill gaps. This means the kind of learning that has a ~100% completion rate, gives people immediately usable skills, and guarantees that nobody wastes a single hour learning something they already know.”

Benoit Wirz, Partner at Brighteye Ventures said:

“The extraordinary pace of growth in tech means that developers need to constantly upskill to keep up, even while juggling ever expanding demand for their time — a challenge that will only become more acute in the coming years. We are impressed by the Skiller Whale founders who have experienced this problem first-hand and have built a personalised solution for developers to learn efficiently, and for companies to enhance their team capabilities reliably and at scale.”

Joe Thornton, Partner at Playfair Capital said:

“The current pace of change in our digital economy, coupled with the sudden shift to hybrid work environments, is putting tech leaders under increasing pressure to offer better ways of upskilling their engineering talent. Unlike the passive approach taken by existing solutions, SkillerWhale offers a far more personalised and engaging experience to its learners, resulting in clearly superior outcomes.”

Adopted by rocketing scale-ups like PensionBee and Drizly, Skiller Whale was founded to quickly & sustainably transform tech teams’ skills acquisition 

“It’s a very affordable alternative to expensive personal training when online courses won’t cut it.” says Jonathan Lister-Parsons, CTO and Co-Founder of Pensionbee, the 2014 startup that went public last year.

The Skiller Whale Founders, both CTOs defined 4 things that need to be true for tech training to work when upskilling experienced developer teams: 

  1. It must be personalised to what each individual does or does not know. 
  2. It must be hands-on, active learning (no video lectures!)
  3. It must be challenging, with feedback from an expert – this means it has to be live.
  4. It must be sustainable – they deliver remotely in 1 hour micro-coaching chunks twice a month. 

Skiller Whale currently focuses on tech training, with a growing offering in Python, Go, Javascript, Typescript, React, React Native, and PostgreSQL. With a team of 11 people based in 6 countries, the company has been a remote-first organisation from the outset. 

About Skiller Whale: Skiller Whale does live, hands-on micro-coaching for developers, with topics targeted at individuals’ skill gaps. Led by experts in React, Python, Postgres, Typescript, Go among others, dev teams get fast knowledge of advanced features in 2 hours per month. As a team, we strive to be intelligent, playful learners – principles that define who we are, not only as a company providing a product, but also as a group of people working together. Our tech team is 40% female, the company is based across 6 countries, and the executive team are all parents (so work/life balance is a necessity rather than a perk!).

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