Reflections on Lessonly

To commemorate Lessonly's acquisition, High Alpha Partner Kristian Andersen shares their origin story and his own connection to the company.

8.16.21
Article by
Kristian Andersen
Product screenshot of Lessonly product on yellow background

Today is a special day for High Alpha as Lessonly, one of our very first High Alpha Studio companies, has been acquired by sales and marketing enablement leader Seismic. To commemorate the occasion, I thought it might be interesting to share their origin story and my own personal connection to the company.

What today is known as Lessonly first emerged during a conversation with my friends (now partners) Mike Fitzgerald and Eric Tobias. We were sitting in a conference room at Studio Science, the design consulting firm I founded prior to co-founding High Alpha, discussing the democratization of teaching. At this point, Mike and I co-founded a handful of other startups together (most notably Octiv, Visible, and Gravity Ventures). We had a rhythm of kicking around new ideas, prototyping products with my team at Studio Science, and then commercializing them in a capital-efficient way. We believed there was a big, albeit undefined, market to empower teachers and learners in a B2B context – by using software to unlock institutional knowledge and help employees become more productive. Our business thesis was simple: people need affordable, easy-to-use software to build, distribute, and track learning materials.

By July of 2013, we had officially launched the product and approached Max Yoder to join the company as co-founder and CEO (joined soon after by Conner Burt, who joined as co-founder and President). Within their first ten months, Lessoly grew its revenue 245 percent month-over-month and was experiencing early traction and consistent growth. 

I first met Max when he joined Studio Science as an intern. During his initial interview, I quickly knew he had an entrepreneurial spirit. As we talked, he shared compelling stories like fundraising the money to bring computers to his high school so that he could learn computer science and developing his own major at Indiana University so that he could graduate with a degree in Advertising. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I’m certain that even back then, I knew Max was special and likely to have a big impact on any venture he touched. 

Upon launching High Alpha a couple of years later, one of our first moves was to invite Lessonly to join the High Alpha Studio. As one of a handful of companies that we grandfathered into our new model for entrepreneurship, our team provided Lessonly with the critical infrastructure, talent, services, and capital they needed to scale quickly. Not only did we invest capital, but we also surrounded them with experts in every discipline, including brand and design, product and engineering, talent and HR, sales and marketing, and finance. 

Now, eight years later, more than 1,200 companies and four million learners worldwide rely on Lessonly to deliver meaningful training, coaching, and enablement. Max, Conner, and the Lessonly team have entirely redefined the corporate training and LMS industry. Their success can be attributed to both their unique, learner-first approach as well as their commitment to building a company the right way, putting their people first through every milestone.

Today, Seismic, the global leader in sales enablement, announced its acquisition of Lessonly to deliver the world’s most powerful and comprehensive sales enablement platform. 

This significant acquisition is not just a major milestone for Lessonly but yet another strong signal of the ascendancy of the Indianapolis tech ecosystem. In the last eight weeks, High Alpha has seen four of our Indy-based portfolio companies acquired by global technology companies, all of whom plan to maintain and grow their company’s footprint in this city. This is yet another signal of the vitality of Indianapolis and further bolsters its reputation as one of the best cities in America to launch and scale a SaaS company.

In addition to the impact on the Indy tech ecosystem, this financing is another proof point that the venture studio model is capable of building world-class, high-growth startups in any geography. We continue to be excited about what we’re building here at High Alpha and the impact we’ve been able to have on companies like Lessonly.

Max, Conner, and the entire Lessonly team deserve a hearty congratulations for reaching this tremendous milestone. But more importantly, I want to acknowledge that they built Lessonly the right way – with a strong culture that puts people first. It has been a beautiful experience to watch the story unfold as the business (and the individuals within it) continued to mature and excel. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Lessonly and the team now that they’ve joined the Seismic family. 

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