When AceUp CEO Will Foussier transitioned his career as a financial analyst to working for a non-profit organization, he realized there were certain skills he was missing.
Clear communication, for one, was an area in which Foussier knew he needed improvement.
Begrudgingly, but at the suggestion of one of his colleagues, Foussier saught out a professional coach. And when he found the right one, the French-born, 28-year-old entrepreneur told Busines Insider in a recent interview, it was “life-changing.”
“I realized that when you work with the right experts, in the right environment, pursuing the right methodology, you can literally help anyone develop an entirely new set of skills and competencies,” Foussier said.
Emboldened over his own progress, Foussier wanted to encourage others to find a professional coach. But while researching the industry further, he found that the process of finding and hiring a coach was both difficult and expensive. The best coaches, Foussier said, were mostly found by word-of-mouth, and even then, some of them had incredibly high rates. One coach that Foussier came across, for instance, charged $25,000 for six months of services.
That’s when the idea for AceUp was born.
Launched in January 2017, AceUp is an online platform for professional coaching, connecting employees seeking professional development with coaches that have relevant, real-world experience. AceUp’s goal, the first-time chief exec says, is to make professional coaching more accessible with results that can be measured.
“We’re on a mission to bring this to the largest number of people possible,” Foussier says of his 17-person, Boston-based team. “This makes us happy to come to work, to do something that we really believe in.”
Companies who want to offer coaching services to their workforce will partner with AceUp. Those employees selected to get the perk will take a “behavior profile assessment” to help them select the right coach for skills they’re looking to improve.
AceUp has a network of over 500 freelance coaching experts, which Foussier says have “functional expertise,” as well as a background in professional development. The startup also employs full-time “professional coach supervisors” to help ensure a consistent coaching experience across the platform.
To date, AceUp has worked with over 40 companies, including GE Healthcare and the greeting-card company, LovePop.
As for funding, Foussier and his co-founders — Layla Lynn and Patrick Shreckengast — raised a $700,000 seed round earlier this year with participation from the likes of jtangoVC, Walnut Ventures, and TechStars. Currently, the company is closing a second seed round that will total $1.5 million.
When asked about any fundraising tips, Foussier said the key for him was to “connect with as many people as possible” and “create momentum.”
“When you connect with a lot of people, you build momentum,” Foussier said. “Creating momentum creates a sense of urgency. And then when you can secure a third, to half of your round with commitments, then you can impose a deadline [on investors] and keep people accountable to those deadlines. You rarely get momentum; you have to build momentum.”