AI-Enabled Upskilling Startup Esme Learning Raises $15 Million From Hercules Capital


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  • Workforce transformation pioneer marks the third anniversary with new investment partner bringing total investment to date hitting $38.5m
  • A new round of growth funding sets up Esme’s AI platform for further global expansion

On the third anniversary of the founding of the company, AI-enabled workforce transformation pioneer, Esme Learning Solutions has announced $15 million of venture finance from Hercules Capital (NYSE: HGTC). This new investment brings their total investment since incorporating on Valentine’s Day 2019 to $38.5 million from Hercules, Adit Ventures and ThriveDx.

Esme partners with top tier global education leaders to offer an array of technology and digital transformation classes online including MIT, Sȁid Business School, University of Oxford, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and Imperial College Business School.

Esme co-founders David Shrier and Beth Porter are edtech veterans who respectively created the four most profitable online classes in history for MIT and Oxford, and launched open edX, the largest global open source edtech community with 55 million students. Esme was founded at the request of the #1 and #2 universities in the world in order to drive innovation and improve outcomes for students.

“I am proud Hercules has recognized our leadership in transforming careers, organizations and eco systems, enabled by our revolutionary AI coaching platform and online classes,” said Esme CEO David Shrier.

“Esme demonstrates the kind of entrepreneurial spirit married to strong fundamentals that we look for in our portfolio. It is ideally positioned to grow its footprint in the online Higher Education market, which has grown exponentially from $100 billion in 2009 and is expected to reach over $370 billion by 2026.” added Hercules Managing Director Roy Liu.

Since 2019, the company has grown from 2 to over 160 people, struck contracts with four of the world’s top ten universities, and served learners in over 100 countries. Esme has seen revenue grow 500% year over year, and expects to reach an annualized revenue run rate of more than $80 million by Q4 2022. Management anticipates raising Series B financing later in 2022.

Esme’s adult learners are guided by AI-enabled coaches that provide personalized feedback and insights into their progress. Courses emphasize experiential engagement to apply knowledge through live simulations and group exercises that simulate real work scenarios.

The company has more than 100 full-time employees and over 60 contractors and has a novel benefits plan that includes unlimited paid time off, generous employer health insurance subsidy, a fully remote work environment with an in-office option, and an education credit that enables its employees a $3,500 annual allowance to take any kind of class or classes they choose – even those unrelated to their daily work.

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