Rajeeb Dey is the founder and CEO of Learnerbly, a workplace learning marketplace for upskilling employees.
Dey, who received an MBE at the age of 30 for services to entrepreneurship, founded Learnerbly in 2016.
The edtech startup curates personal and professional development resources from over 250 suppliers in the form of e-learning, books, coaching, courses and more.
In December the London-based company secured $10m (£7.35m) in a Series A round, bringing its total funding to $12.1m.
In the latest in a weekly UKTN series called Founder in Five, Dey explains why founders should “always be raising”, reveals how Learnerbly tackles Zoom fatigue and shares his tips for improving diversity in the workplace.
1) What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?
Rajeeb Dey: Always be raising. Start building up your network with investors – angels and VCs – early on in your journey. Investors like to develop a relationship with entrepreneurs before you actually need funding rather than being approached ‘cold’ at the point you’re raising.
They can be a good source of advice and like to be kept updated on your progress too. At the same time, when you are raising, leverage your network – look through the investors’ existing portfolio of founders and ask for introductions.
Warm intros are always more likely to lead to a meeting than cold outreach.
How do you prevent burnout for yourself and your staff?
RD: Achieving balance in a fast-paced environment is hard. As a remote-first company, Zoom fatigue is real. So in addition to a generous vacation policy – which we encourage people to avail – we have ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ at Learnerbly. Everyone is encouraged to avoid internal meetings enabling people to focus and do deep work. We have “Wellbeing Wednesdays” at Learnerbly where we avoid company meetings to enable people to focus and do deep work.
We also offer “Seasonal Hours”, so in the Winter (Dec-Feb) we provide longer two-hour lunch breaks on Tuesdays and Thursdays to encourage people to go outside (and finish at 2 PM on Fridays in summer months) to exercise and get some fresh air.
We also provide wellbeing benefits such as free therapy and healthcare cashback schemes to enable people to look after themselves and be their best selves at work.
What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?
RD: It’s important to embed diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DE&IB) into your company rather than it being a side ‘initiative.’ For us ‘include intentionally’ is one of our four core values and permeates everything.
Think about your job adverts – is your language inclusive? A very powerful statement we add to descriptions is: “Research shows that some people are less likely to apply for a role unless they are 100% qualified. Your experience, skills and passion will set you apart so tell us about your achievements, irrespective of whether they are personal or work-related, tell us about your journey, and about what you learnt. So, if this role excites you, don’t let our role description hold you back, get applying!”
We’ve found out from our female colleagues in particular that adding this sentence gave them the confidence to apply. Without a diverse candidate pipeline, you won’t have a diverse workplace. So review your language, descriptions and where you advertise to ensure roles are being promoted proactively within communities where diverse talent congregates.
What’s a fact about yourself that people might find surprising?
RD: I featured in a couple of Nickelodeon adverts as a child! Fortunately, it was during the pre-YouTube era so I suspect they’re nowhere to be found online.
Excluding your own, what’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption?
RD: I’m pretty interested in the health and wellbeing space. It’s clearly been massively disrupted by Covid-19 in terms of remote medicine. However, I think there’s a lot more to come in this space.
With an ageing population, as well as increasing health consciousness, I’m personally interested in more holistic wellness solutions emerging as well as ‘age-tech’ propositions targeting the older demographic.
Founder in Five, a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and tech companies, is published every Friday.