Ceresa, a next-generation leadership acceleration platform that is fostering a new era of diverse leaders, today announced it has closed an early seed round over $1 million led by LiveOak Venture Partners and Next Coast Venture Partners. Ceresa's mission is to democratize access to truly transformative leadership development, making it available for all. The funds will primarily be used to expand product development of the data-driven, personalized platform, further deepening value to its user base of aspiring leaders and forward-thinking employers.
Ceresa, based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2018 by former McKinsey partner Anna Robinson and tech executive Nicole Tanzillo. Ceresa is radically rethinking leadership development and mentoring to help all stakeholders address a massive leadership access gap. The gap is prevalent across companies of all sizes and is profoundly illustrated by the persistent lack of leadership diversity across global organizations. In Fortune 500 companies, there are 33 female CEOs (~7%) and only 3 Black CEOs (less than 1%) – barely changing in a generation.
To address this gap, the 9-month, tech-enabled Ceresa Leadership Accelerator provides aspiring leaders with 100% virtual coaching, mentoring, and support, both at home and at work. The platform is grounded in a fresh approach to intentional career management, enabling future leaders to achieve their biggest leadership aspirations… and thrive while doing so. Since its recent full launch, Ceresa has attracted hundreds of users from top-tier corporations and is receiving industry-leading engagement rates (90%+) and excellent satisfaction ratings. The whole-person approach is particularly impactful in today's climate. One participant, a Senior Program Manager at a global tech enterprise company said,
"I am literally the poster child for Ceresa. I would buy the t-shirt if you sold them. I can't believe the match to my mentor and how transformative it has been during a really tough time.”
Ceresa offers employers a turnkey solution for affordable leadership development. This helps ensure their talent investments foster true diversity in leadership, bringing out the best in all talent and having a real and lasting impact. Trading off affordability and impact is no longer necessary. Ceresa was designed to serve the talent development needs of all companies, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. In all cases, Ceresa is committed to providing employers with an accountable and transparent platform that delivers measurable impact across multiple KPIs.
"We believe that the lack of diverse leadership in corporations today is not because of a skills gap, it's an access gap," said Anna Robinson, co-founder and CEO. "There is a lack of access to role models, mentors, coaches, and high-impact leadership resources for underrepresented groups. Companies need this more than ever – as they seek ways to support remote teams and offer rigorous support to diverse leaders. Ceresa is the solution to this massive challenge."
LiveOak Venture Partners' and Next Coast Venture Partners' investments in Ceresa are consistent with strategies focused on accelerating the growth of new-era companies that are helping our society to succeed during a period of heavy digital transformation and change. Their investments also align with national investment trends in women and minority-founded companies.
According to Krishna Srinivasan, Founding Partner at LiveOak Venture Partners, “Enterprises across the world are eagerly looking for scalable and efficient approaches to develop their employees into leaders of tomorrow. Ceresa, with a novel technology-enabled platform has quickly surged as a leader to tackle this vast, underserved market and already demonstrated evidence of huge business and cultural impact for some of the thought-leading corporations in this arena. With its impressive founding team that has both domain and deep product strengths, this investment matches the LiveOak thesis of backing strong entrepreneurs in emerging leaders that have incredible transformative potential.”
Mike Smerklo, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Next Coast Ventures shared, "Ceresa is changing the face of leadership development - bringing together a user-first platform with a modern leadership curriculum to transform how enterprises develop their talent. From our first discussions with Anna and Nicole, we saw the potential of their vision and, at the same time, how tightly it aligned to our investment theme of the Future of Work. We are excited about what's to come."
Ceresa uses technology and data to democratize access to truly transformative leadership development and career management. Grounded in a whole-person leadership approach, Ceresa combines research-based curriculum, focused executive coaching, expert instruction, and personalized external mentoring, all delivered 100% virtually via an engaging technology platform. Visit www.ceresa.com to learn more.
About Next Coast Ventures
Next Coast Ventures is an Austin venture capital firm that partners with bold entrepreneurs building innovative companies in big markets. It provides early-stage capital to high-growth startups in 'Next Coast' markets, using macro trends and themes to guide its investment strategy. Next Coast provides its growing group of portfolio companies hands-on, company building resources through its strong industry network, Entrepreneurs Council program and the founders' own experiences as entrepreneurs.
About LiveOak Venture Partners
LiveOak Venture Partners is a venture capital fund based in Austin, Texas. With 20 years of successful venture investing in Texas, the founders of LiveOak have helped create nearly $2 billion of enterprise value. While almost all of LiveOak's investments begin at the Seed and Series A stages, LiveOak is a full life cycle investor focused on helping create category leading technology and technology-enabled service companies headquartered in Texas. LiveOak Venture Partners has been the lead investor in over 30 exciting high-growth Texas-based companies in the last seven years including ones such as CS Disco, Digital Pharmacist, OJO Labs, Opcity and TrustRadius.