We’ve seen a monumental shift to remote work that’s also had a profound impact on workplace culture. The lack of face-to-face interactions has also impacted compliance and ethics as companies are no longer able reliant on observable behavior to isolate any potential issues. The renewed emphasis on inclusion has also come to the forefront for companies and how they manage, train, and monitor personnel. Robust systems for compliance training to meet today’s needs have become critical in the wake of today’s ever-evolving cultural shift. Ethena is a modern compliance training platform that delivers bite-sized training content via Slack or email as opposed to attending dull webinars or in-person seminars. Using digestible content, in places where an employee is already interacting, ensures that employees are not only engaging with the material but also actually learning and retaining it. Ethena focuses on a gamut of topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to anti-bribery with plans to expand the content offering to include timely topics such as Data Privacy & Data Security, Financial Crime & Anti-Money Laundering, Conflicts of Interest, HIPAA, and Insider Trading. The company’s infrastructure and novel delivery system allow it to easily adapt to accommodate any future topical needs. Presently, Ethena is assisting with the monthly training of 50,000 employees at organizations like Netflix, Notion, Cedar Zendesk, and Figma.
AlleyWatch caught up with Ethena CEO and Cofounder Roxanne Petraeus to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $50.4M, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a $30M Series B led by Lachy Groom, with participation from existing investors including Felicis, Neo, Homebrew, and others.
Tell us about the product or service that Ethena offers.
Ethena is a modern compliance training platform. We offer courses on a wide variety of topics–from Code of Conduct, to diversity, equity and inclusion to hiring and interviewing. Our big differentiator is not only in the content we provide, but in how we train. With Ethena, an employee receives bite-sized compliance trainings delivered over time via Slack or email — a strategy that’s proven to be more effective based on how adults actually learn.
From my time in the military to the offices of corporate America, it was fairly obvious that compliance training wasn’t working, and that no one took it seriously. What could be an opportunity to build a safe and inclusive workplace was reduced to a joke.
The point of compliance training seemed to be to knock it out—and cover legal bases–rather than to actually help prevent harassment or help employees actually learn. With Ethena, I wanted to change that check-the-box mentality, while also making compliance training more engaging and effective.
How is Ethena different?
Ethena is a completely different experience from what employees are used to. The old way of doing compliance training meant sitting in front of a television screen for several hours once a year. But it was evident that this approach wasn’t effective: According to Gallup, just 10% of employees learned something from their compliance training.
Ethena’s courses are employee-centric and designed for how people learn today–through bite-sized modules over time. And we’ve found that our innovative content and delivery method makes a real impact: Employees who took Ethena’s Harassment Prevention course said they were over 60% more confident in being able to intervene on behalf of a colleague.
What market does Ethena target and how big is it?
We’re in the HR/People space, but our market is much wider than just the HR and compliance industry. Ethena is for any company that’s looking to keep up with evolving compliance regulations, or any company that’s looking to improve culture. With that in mind, our market is almost limitless.
What’s your business model?
What are your post-COVID office plans?
Most of Ethena’s ‘coming of age’ was during the pandemic, when remote work was the norm. We’re a remote-first company but have a small office in Brooklyn for those team members, and host lots of local meetups and regular offsites for in-person interaction.
What was the funding process like?
Our business is a really strong one, and even in a downturn, compliance requirements remain. We’re thrilled with the outcome — especially the opportunity to deepen our alignment with like-minded investors who recognized right away the need for modern, effective compliance training and believed in our solution.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It’s always hard to “step away” from the business to fundraise, especially at our scale.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We have a great combination of factors that have created a massive market pull – the compliance requirements are complicated and vary by state, which means a seamless software experience like ours is needed more than ever. But we also tap into a strong desire from companies and employees to do more than just check a box – to actually build better workplaces.
These factors propelled our rapid growth to date. In terms of what’s exciting about our future, we’re one of those rare products where everyone at an organization has to use us. That gives us a tremendous opportunity.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re looking forward to continuing to invest in our tech platform and rolling out even more courses to meet the compliance needs of companies in 2022. Here’s a teaser of the topics you can expect to see this year: Data Privacy & Data Security, Financial Crime & Anti-Money Laundering, Conflicts of Interest, HIPAA, and Insider Trading.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Constraint breeds innovation. We were a very lean team in our early days and figured out ways to ship product quickly and charge for it. While I completely understand the frustration, I’d advise companies to think about the opportunity to focus on one key thing your company can be world-class at.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
In the near future, we’re excited to continue launching new trainings, building out additional compliance product lines, and expanding our core training technology.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Ume in Brooklyn. It’s just lovely.