Impro.AI has raised a $2.25 million CAD seed round, with plans to use the fresh funds for more research and development for its platform, AI, and methodology, as well as for expansion globally.
Impro offers a platform that provides executives, leaders, and employees with an AI-augmented coaching and consulting solution. The startup uses what it calls coaching algorithms and a client-centered platform to make high-performance human coaching more affordable and effective.
“Impro’s ability to enable these executives is what impresses us the most.”
The startup claims over 20 corporate clients across North America and Europe, who pay them on a per employee per month basis. Those employees use Impro’s micro-coaching service delivered by an Impro coach.
Impro claims its five-minute per day micro-coaching app helps leaders and employees adopt new work habits, while executives can optimize their company’s overall performance by making use of organization-wide insights that the Impro platform provides.
“We have been very impressed by the level of professional and personal growth that managers and employees experience through the Impro platform,” said Patrick Lor, a managing partner with Panache Ventures. “They see rapid improvements via just a few minutes of daily interaction with Impro, and companies benefit from increased overall team engagement and performance.”
The fully subscribed round closed at the end of May. Panache Ventures, Good New Ventures, and Epstein Enterprises Inc.(EEI) led the round. A number of angels participated, including Sheldon Elman, chairman at Esplanade Ventures; Stuart M. Elman, managing partner at Persistence Capital Partners; Irfhan Rawji, managing partner at Relay Ventures; Rich Osborn, managing partner at RecapHealth Ventures; Blayke Hale, managing partner at BC Growth Equity; and Rasool Rayani, venture partner at Inovia Capital.
Other angels included Jason Smith, CEO at the software company Klue; Ryan Benn, CEO at Alive Publishing Group, which puts out the health and wellness publication, Alive; and François-Pierre Chevalier, past co-president at Bio-K+ International, a probiotic manufacturer.
While Impro is clearly pleased to have raised the funds, it became one of the first startups to allude to the fact that marshalling the money wasn’t easy.
“The successful and full closing of our seed round, in a challenging fundraising environment, is a testament to the commercial traction that our Impro team has achieved to date as well as our compelling vision for the future,” said Josh Blair, Impro’s co-founder and CEO.
With rising inflation, and the potential of a recession looming, startups have begun laying off staff.
Blair characterized the current fundraising environment as “brutally difficult,” he told BetaKit. He said two things allowed them to carry out a successful raise. One was the startup’s commercial traction with Impro claiming that they are on the way to earn over $500,000 CAD for 2022. The other was what Blair called the exceptional feedback Impro’s VC investors received from the startup’s customers.
“In good times or in bad, the executives who action data-driven insights will win,” said the president of EEI, Oded Levi. “Impro’s ability to enable these executives is what impresses us the most.”
Blair left what he refers to as “big company world” at the end of 2019. Before forming Impro with his co-founders, Blair worked as the chief learning officer at Telus, and then subsequently as its chief human resources officer, and group president.
Blair met his co-founders, Opher Brayer and Maya Liberman in 2020. They had previously founded a not-for-profit startup, Stages Global, that used games, visualization and pattern recognition techniques to help children become gifted students.
Impro launched in 2021 with its micro-coaching, and then added consulting. Blair said the idea for the mentoring platform came from several of Impro’s clients who were keen to become in-company “Impro mentors.” That service will launch later this year.
Headquartered in Vancouver, the startup has 18 employees. Blair provided Impro’s pre-seed round, which covered the startup’s first one-and-a-half of operations, but he declined to disclose the amount.
Outside of Impro, Blair currently holds positions as the vice and human rights council chair of Telus International, the NGC Chair of Neighbourly Pharmacies (TSX: NBLY) and is a partner at Esplanade Ventures.
Impro is not alone in the digital mentoring space. Together, a software company that pairs mentors and mentees, raised $6.2 million CAD in January.
Blair credits Brayer and Liberman with the initial idea for Impro. After carrying out extensive research before launching the startup, Brayer and Liberman moved from Israel to Toronto to pursue the startup with Blair.
“Together, the three of us are proud to be building a Canadian company that already has a global client base,” Blair said.