Ceresa Aims to Bump Underrepresented Workers Into the C-Suite

The edtech platform gives early- and mid-career professionals the tools they need to grow into leadership positions.

Written by Jeff Rumage
Published on Sep. 19, 2022
Ceresa Aims to Bump Underrepresented Workers Into the C-Suite
Ceresa co-founders Anna Robinson and Nicole Tanzillo
Ceresa co-founders Anna Robinson (left) and Nicole Tanzillo (right). | Photo: Ceresa

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last quarter’s Austin round-up here.

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After more than a decade at McKinsey & Company, Anna Robinson decided to branch out and start her own business. As she was plotting her next steps, though, her world was shaken by a health scare that left her unable to move, talk or understand what was being said to her. 

Robinson recovered after a couple of days, but the doctors never figured out what was wrong with her. That experience shifted Robinson’s perspective, inspiring her to make an impact while she still could.

“You’ve got to figure out what it is you care the most about, and just go do it,” she said. 

Robinson decided to focus on an issue that she felt was of utmost importance: the lack of diversity and representation in management positions.

“I don’t want my kids to look back in another 20 or 40 years and say, ‘How come you all didn’t fix this? Why is it still white men at the top,’’’ she said. 

In 2018, she launched Ceresa, an edtech platform that companies purchase to give early- and mid-career professionals the tools they need to grow into leadership positions. The program starts with a self-reflection, a 360-degree feedback process and vision and goal-setting exercises that will set users on a personalized career development journey. This journey includes a mix of training, on-demand mentoring videos and peer learning programs.

Recognizing that professional success is more than just workplace skills, the platform helps users with self-awareness, goal-setting and relationship-building skills that provide the foundation for higher-level leadership skills, like communication, giving feedback and managing up.

We have very carefully designed the experience, the tools, the content and who is featured so that [it] is very inclusive. I always say that you feel that you belong from the first click.”

The platform also offers companies a premium group coaching service, as well as an accelerator that offers one-to-one mentoring.

Ceresa launched a more scalable version of its platform last year. Robinson said the company is currently generating more than $1 million in annual recurring revenue, with big-name clients like Nordstrom, Walmart and Blackstone. In August, the company raised $3 million in seed funding.

Robinson said Ceresa has been a valuable tool for midsize to enterprise companies that are invested in the development of their employees, with an emphasis on diverse professionals. 

Although the program is not limited to women and people of color, Robinson said it was built with that population in mind.

“Everybody’s welcome to use Ceresa,” she said. “No one has to check some kind of diversity box to be part of what we do, but we have very carefully designed the experience, the tools, the content and who is featured so that [it] is very inclusive. I always say that you feel that you belong from the first click.”

Robinson said women and people of color are often lacking feedback and mentorship in their careers, which can thwart their professional development.

“It’s harder for them to know what they’re supposed to be doing because no one’s there looking out for them and guiding them and pushing them,” she said. “So we’re kind of creating that awareness and that access, and then the resources to help them build that.”

Over the next year, Robinson said she hopes to explore opportunities to “deepen shared journeys” with Ceresa.

“We’ve got individuals going through these programs … but how do we bring that back into a relationship with your supervisor or someone within your company to help you bring these other people through your learning journey,” she said. “So at the same time as you’re working and getting access, you’re building your support network and grounding that with a peer, a supervisor or whoever it is that you want to go on the learning journey with you.”

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