Instead of hiring, skill up your employees with Modal

Why SignalFire led a $6.8M seed for Modal‘s data scientist training platform from the ex-CEO of Udemy


The gating factor to software transforming every type of business continues to be talent. You can’t build, grow, analyze, or sell without the right humans. Unfortunately, they’re all quitting. Over 4 million workers left their jobs every month during the second half of 2021. This “Great Resignation” is leaving companies vastly understaffed, spurring a domino effect. If your teammate leaves, their work doesn’t disappear, it gets dumped on you, which makes you want to leave…

Perhaps the biggest talent bottleneck today exists around data scientists. Product, marketing, operations, and sales teams are constantly asking “Can our data scientist look at this?” only to hear back, “maybe next quarter…if ever.” Decision-making velocity is slowed down by a backlog of these requests to a centralized team of data analysts and scientists.

Enabling teams to be self-sufficient in answering their own data questions would be a massive unlock for data-savvy organizations, and one of the reasons we invested in Unsupervised to let business teams perform their own data analysis. But most companies still need dedicated data talent, not just technology. And for all but the best-branded tech giants with tons of cash to burn, recruiting them is remarkably difficult. It’s tough to compete with Google salaries

Training > Recruiting

Luckily, we’re at an inflection point for learning systems. Beyond traditional universities and on-the-job training, we’ve seen an explosion of online courses and free YouTube tutorials on YouTube. It’s never been easier to pick up a new hobby, soft skill, or craft. Yet humans remain mediocre at self-directed learning. With no schedules, tests, grades, classmates, or one-on-one help, it’s no wonder online course completion rates average around 15% for apps like Coursera, and only 20% to 30% for classes offered by Harvard and Stanford. And even those that make it through all the lecture videos won’t necessarily have learned a skill well enough to do it as their job.

If there was a more reliable way to teach skills, companies could shift from unsuccessfully trying to hire expert talent like data scientists to skilling up their tens of thousands of existing technical and IT employees. These staffers want the challenge, career development, and compensation of learning more hardcore skillsets. Training them and giving them a raise is still far cheaper than recruiting. Plus, companies would end up with proven talent that knows where the technical bodies are buried. 

Modal turns your team into data scientists

This is exactly why Modal is building a better approach to corporate training for Fortune 500 companies. Modal replaces those boring and ineffective training videos with deep cohort-based courses. Students collaborate directly with coaches, work on group projects with co-workers and colleagues from other companies, practice using real-world scenarios, and complete technical assessments that measure their mastery.

Modal delivers 15X more engagement than traditional corporate training and helped 87% of beta customers’ students meet their learning objectives. Meanwhile, it helps companies save money on recruiting, improves employee retention through career development, and ensures roles get filled so businesses can keep building. Today, Modal’s skill assessments help employers measure progress on skill-building and route talent into the right roles. But soon, its data on employee skills and career pathways could enable Modal to assess an organization’s open technical jobs, and find the right employees who could fill them.

Modal was founded by Dennis Yang and Darren Shimkus, the former CEO and the former enterprise President of $2.2 billion education giant Udemy. Together they scaled Udemy’s enterprise business to 9 figures in revenue, and precisely understand what employers need from education. Dennis and Darren pioneered the last generation of online learning, recognized the opportunities to improve it, and are now the perfect people to launch the definitive corporate edtech business. 

SignalFire invests more than money

As a deeply technical firm ourselves, we are hugely bullish on democratizing the power of data science across the Fortune 500 by enabling these companies to train their own. That’s why we’re leading Modal’s $6.8M seed round, and equipping them with our own Beacon recruiting technology and other value-adds. They join our portfolio of startups fighting The Great Resignation including Praisidio’s employee attrition early warning system, Included’s diversity and inclusion data platform, and Candidate Labs’ AI-assisted recruiting firm. We at SignalFire couldn’t be more excited to partner with the Modal team to help more employees skill up for the job of their dreams.

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