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Unlocking the potential of learning tech — a VC's perspective

Sandra Malmberg
Principal at EQT Ventures

Following the announcement of Sana’s $34m Series B raise, early investor and board member Sandra Malmberg reflects on the evolution of HR and corporate learning software, and explains why she and her colleagues at EQT Ventures believe Sana is the one to unlock the true potential of the market.

“By changing the way the world learns, we change the world”

In today’s fast-paced and constantly changing business environment, organizations must continuously learn and adapt to remain competitive. Learning is the foundation of progress, and the more people we can empower through world-class learning, the more game-changing innovation we’ll see. Since the beginning of EQT Ventures, we’ve been on the lookout for highly innovative ed-tech companies, but we didn’t meet “the one” until we met Sana.

The messy world of corporate learning tech

Let’s go back to the beginning. In 2020, a few of us at EQT Ventures started deep diving into corporate learning. We spent countless hours talking to HR & L&D departments and other stakeholders engaging in learning. We quickly learned that:

  1. “HR has many doors”- referring to the stack of 5+ tools to cover the need for corporate knowledge management and learning.
  2. The learning experience is poor, “one-size-fits-all”, and thus inefficient, while L&D teams are evolving and want to see more modern solutions.
  3. Meanwhile, in various parts of the organization, managers need help to deliver courses for onboarding, upskilling or reskilling. Best case, they can work with central HR and internal or external course developers to get them into the learning system. But in many cases, they are forced to invent their own solutions, involving various tools.

Our research showed just how messy and fragmented the corporate learning technology stack had become.

Our early attempts to make sense of the learning stack

Learning stack glossary

LMS - Learning Management Platform
An LMS is the e-learning software that manages, distributes, and tracks online learning.

LXP - Learning Experience Platform
Where traditional LMSs focus on assigning and tracking learning, LXPs are all about discovering and choosing learning.

LRS - Learning Record Store
Required if you’re working with xAPI, an LRS collects data from a range of learning experiences to enable tracking.

MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a type of e-learning content. The most common format is on-demand, recorded videos. They may come with a defined syllabus program.

Authoring tool
Authoring tools enable organizations to create their own learning content without writing code. Think of them as a website CMS but for learning instead of marketing.

So many acronyms. So many tools. All stitched together just to deliver one course to a learner. And this was before the pandemic forced companies to move their IRL training online, which added video conferencing and other digital collaboration tools into the mix. We knew there had to be a better way.

The untapped opportunity

“The biggest opportunities for startups are markets where the incumbent still has engineered major friction that’s holding back the true scale of the market. Devise a better solution, and you also unlock a much larger market,”

Aaron Levie, CEO, Box

Imagine our excitement when we discovered the vision and early product of Sana: consumer-grade, focusing on the authoring experience to turn everyone into learning creators while leveraging artificial intelligence to make the experience seamless, personal, and smart.

Fast forward two years and Sana has built an end-to-end learning platform (yes, you no longer need an LMS, LXP, etc., but if you want to keep them, Sana works with them too) that decreases onboarding time, improves sales efficiency, and grows and retains top talent. The numbers speak for themselves. With 7x year-over-year growth in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Sana has become the home for learning for pioneers ranging from Svea Solar to Kry.

Corporate learning can take many forms, from employee onboarding to sales training, customer education and leadership training — Sana is the home for all things learning.

This is just the beginning

When you get to know Joel (founder and CEO of Sana), you quickly realize that this is just the beginning of what team Sana has set out to achieve. Joel’s visionary leadership and rare combination of technical skills and exceptional ambition have enabled him to assemble a world-class team from some of the foremost tech companies.

Learning being the foundation of human progress, we believe Sana will play an important role in reimagining learning as we know it. On December 13, Sana announced the close of their $34m Series B round of funding led by Menlo Ventures. After leading their Series A in 2020, EQT Ventures also joined the round alongside some operator and founder friends.

We can’t wait to continue being part of Sana’s journey alongside J.P. Sanday from Menlo and amazing people like Anna Nordell-Westling, Mattias Miksche, Sophia Bendz, Fredrik Jung Abbou, Erik Engellau, John Lindfors, Sven Hagströmer, and Fredrik Strömsten. And thanks again, Sana, for even making the compliance courses fun at EQT 🤗

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