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  • Writer's pictureDarya Zakharova

Range: Professional Development for the Modern Workforce

The Market:

Would you be more likely to stay with an employer that invested in helping you learn and upskill? If so, you’re in good company: 94% of employees surveyed in the Linkedin’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report would agree. Modern employees believe that their employers’ support for their professional development and upskilling is necessary. As such, certain learning and development (L&D) initiatives have become low-hanging fruit for HR and People teams to offer their employees as a benefit. For reference, roughly $75B is allocated to professional development stipends on an annual basis in the US alone.

By increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, these intangible benefits have quite tangible effects on metrics like talent acquisition, retention and workforce competitiveness. As an example, referring back to the 2019 Workforce Learning Report, investments in employee upskilling can reduce employee turnover – an increasingly acute problem especially in the age of the Great Resignation and the war for talent. According to Gallup, employee turnover costs US companies $1T a year and finding a replacement for an individual can cost 150-200% of that employee’s first year salary. Compare this to the 2-3% of an employee’s salary that companies usually earmark for professional development stipends and the winning strategy becomes clear.

To match the demand, the supply of training options has skyrocketed, especially with the recently accelerated adoption of digital learning. In addition to the traditional categories like executive education, industry conferences, leadership retreats, and content subscriptions, online course options have become ubiquitous. Additionally, 1:1 coaching (virtual and in person) have come in vogue as employees are looking for mentorship from experienced coaches. For many of these providers, the goal is to target employees that can get reimbursed through their companies, validating the market opportunity.

The Problem:

Despite the growing strategic importance of professional development programs, HR and People teams lack the tools to enable their employees to take advantage of these benefits. Most L&D technologies in the market today focus on HR compliance and internal training. They do not provide an effective platform to administer individualized development and upskilling programs. There are several key areas that are particularly difficult without proper tooling:

  1. Inability to customize: structuring effective development programs customized to each employee/team

  2. Process: tracking budgets and approvals

  3. Metrics: benchmarking and understanding the ROI of professional development investments

In turn, these challenges negatively impact the employee experience, which is at the core of these initiatives. Employees are forced to navigate unclear policies, confusing approval and reimbursement processes and ambiguity around discovering the most career-relevant educational options. All this obscurity has translated to shockingly low professional development stipend utilization which hovers around 10%.

These are the challenges that Steve Gilman, Houtan Fanisalek and the team at Range are addressing.

The Solution:

So what is Range? Range is a B2B learning & development platform for the modern workforce focused specifically on professional development. Range’s goal is twofold:

  1. Enable employees to better utilize the professional development resources offered to them by their companies via individualized pathways

  2. Help employers increase the ROI of these types of policies through higher employee retention and upskilling

The platform enables a streamlined and automated process for employers (the customers) to set up and track their professional development policies on the backend. On the frontend, employees (end-users) interact with a marketplace that allows workers to customize and track their professional development journeys. The team prides itself on giving the power back to the employee, in what is traditionally a one-size-fits-all process.

When an employee logs into the platform, they can truly customize their training experience in one place. Range provides a marketplace where employees can browse through the hundreds of learning resources that exist in the market today and pick the ones that are most applicable to their interests and career objectives.

Users can choose courses from digital vendors (and official Range partners) like Masterclass, Udacity, SkillShare, Data Camp or consider more unique options like cohort-based learning via vendors like Brunchwork. Alternatively, if a user already has a resource in mind, they can simply add it to the marketplace and their personal training roster. Regardless of what path they choose, Range allows users to easily seek approvals, track their development and earned credentials, benchmark their progress to their promotion schedules and even share/recommend resources with other users.

For employers, Range becomes a digital extension of the company’s professional development policies. Range helps HR/People teams create better structured and centralized programs that are intuitive. Additionally, the platform helps with streamlining the budgeting and reimbursement. Lastly, the platform provides the company with visibility into employee usage data, informing them on what their employees want, what they're interested in and what worked and what didn’t.

The Team:

Range is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs, former employees of the Department of Defense and Columbia alumni: Steve Gilman (CEO) and Houtan Fanisalek (CTO). The two met while working on their respective businesses in 2015 after graduating from Columbia, Steve from the Business School and Houtan from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In fact, the two really ended up bonding when Houtan noticed that Steve would be the perfect beta tester for a smart-watch project that he was working on at the time. The rare person that was in great shape and somehow owned a Samsung smart watch in the era before that was cool.

Prior to Range, they were building other businesses. Steve has worked on and advised several early concepts, including founding BlockParty while in business school, which curated live event packages for professional and college sports. Houtan was working on the e-commerce eyewear concept called Felix Gray as the CTO.

The two decided to team up to build Range after both experienced the complexity and inefficiency of the professional development process while in the corporate workforce.


Range is going into 2022 with great momentum after having a successful first launch and raising a Pre-Seed round in 2021. In terms of traction, the team has been busy. They have already built out integrations with over 25 HRIS platforms, spend management platforms and around a dozen official content partners on their marketplace. They are actively onboarding new customers and are already managing hundreds of thousands of dollars of allocated individual professional development stipends.

The team is looking forward to an exciting new product release in mid-February and is planning to raise a Seed round in Q2 to fuel their growth. Any and all talent teams that need a professional development program or need to up-level their existing one – you know exactly where to go!

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