Having launched Leeds Illuminate last year, we have led or co-led five publicly announced growth-stage investments to date, grown our investment team, and are excited to now publish our first Impact Report. Our portfolio companies have grown revenue over 86% on average in 2021 and have impacted over 1.8 million learners and workers to date.
Leeds Illuminate strongly believes that impact and investment success are inextricably interwoven in education and workforce development.
In this report we celebrate the strong results our portfolio companies are accomplishing for their stakeholders and beneficiaries. We hope that it further gives our community insight into our impact strategy and helps illustrate our commitment to investing in companies creating meaningful outcomes for learners and workers.
We are proud to partner with mission-driven companies and to help further scale their results. We welcome your feedback and engagement as we continue to grow our portfolio and impact in the months and years ahead.
The Leeds Illuminate Team
Leeds Illuminate focuses on solutions that expand, improve, and accelerate learning and quality job outcomes from the earliest of learners through adult working professionals. We believe that investing in companies delivering positive results for learners and workers will build long-term sustainable value for all stakeholders.
Simply put, this means we invest in companies with products and services that have data showing they deliver positive improvements from the status quo for learners and workers. We conduct thorough diligence on the evidence of efficacy and outcomes pre-investment, and then we partner with our portfolio companies to seek to further grow, improve and advance those outcomes during our investment period.
In addition to our team’s decades of experience in impact investing and in the education and workforce sector, our impact strategy is shaped by the principles of three leading frameworks: the IFC Operating Principles for Impact Management (OPIM), the Impact Management Project’s Five Dimensions of Impact framework, and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
Please see below for more info on various components of our impact strategy:
We evaluate each potential investment’s alignment with our overall impact objectives in education, workforce development, and workforce access. We also evaluate prospective investment alignment with generally accepted positive outcomes aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, including specific targets under the “Quality Education” and “Decent Work and Economic Growth” goals as well as several other SDG targets. See how the current portfolio aligns to SDG targets.
In our evaluation of company efficacy data, we utilize existing primary and secondary research conducted by the company or others pre-investment to validate demonstrated efficacy and as needed, depending on the rigor and credibility of existing results, will make plans for additional contribution to advance future efficacy evaluation and outcomes studies in partnership with management teams. Examples of efficacy evidence can include:
We also conduct rigorous information collection pre- and post-investment on the beneficiaries (e.g. who are the learners and the workers benefiting from the outcomes) and seek beneficiary viewpoints and satisfaction indicators whenever possible. Leeds Illuminate can also provide advice and technical assistance, when appropriate, to seek to further improve or advance the degree of change, scope or target beneficiary groups for achieved outcomes over time.
Overall, our impact measurement and management strategy is aligned with the IFC Operating Principles for Impact Management (OPIM). Specifically, Leeds Illuminate:
Our partners at Leeds Equity became a signatory to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investing in December 2019.
We have identified the following ESG topics as those we believe to be the most relevant and material issues for growth stage companies in education and workforce development:
Leeds Illuminate’s target impacts and portfolio-generated outcomes are well aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, including specific targets under the “Quality Education” and “Decent Work and Economic Growth” goals as well as several other SDGs.
Click a specific SDG Target below to see the Leeds Illuminate portfolio companies contributing to that target impact.
Emeritus partners with leading universities to offer online courses, credentials and degree programs to students around the world.
Emeritus has built a massive global upskilling platform that is designed to prepare today's professionals for tomorrow's rapidly-changing workplace, with over 250 professional learning programs developed in partnership with a network of more than 50 top tier universities and delivered to more than 250,000 individuals across 80+ countries. The company pioneered Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs), creating industry-driven certification programs, professional certificates and workforce leadership development initiatives in collaboration with its university partners around the world. Emeritus' programs are defined by personal engagement between faculty and students, course customization, mentoring, coaching and career counseling.
By 2025 half of all employees around the world will require reskilling and according to the World Economic Forum, upskilling efforts have the potential to create 5.3 million net new jobs by 2030. Moreover, the projected growth in key sectors such as healthcare -- projected to grow 14% by 2028 -- and technology – projected to grow 31% in the cybersecurity field in the next decade – amplify the demand for reskilling. 
Further, high quality professional education through leading universities has historically required professionals to travel to campus which can be costly and unattainable for global professionals.
 Eruditus Executive Education does business as Emeritus.
Since its founding, Emeritus has built a massive global upskilling platform that prepares professionals for tomorrow's rapidly-changing workplace, with over 250 professional learning programs developed in partnership with a network of more than 50 top tier universities.
Over 250,000 individuals across 80+ countries have completed courses powered by Emeritus.
Mursion is an online virtual reality training platform that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human actors to deliver scenarios for learners to practice essential human skills. Examples of simulation scenarios’ focus include clinical soft skills, leading through crisis, management communication and sales skills.
Mursion is an online virtual reality training platform that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human actors to deliver scenarios for learners to practice essential human skills. It provides an immersive platform for practicing these essential skills so adult learners can perform better in the real world.
Mursion simulations are designed for the modern workforce, staging interactions between learners and avatars to achieve the realism Mursion believes is needed for measurable, high-impact results. Drawing upon research in learning science and psychology, Mursion harnesses leading technology and human interaction to deliver outcomes for both learners and organizations.
Organizations turn to Mursion for a safe place to practice human skills, such as emotional intelligence, adaptability and resilience, in an authentic risk-free environment where the danger of harming the individual’s performance and company’s reputation is eliminated. Examples of simulation scenarios’ focus include clinical soft skills, leading through crisis, management communications, reducing racial bias and sales skills.
97% of employers surveyed said that soft skills were either as important or more important than hard skills. However, 46% of new employees fail within 18 months and of these, 89% fail because of a lack of soft skills, such as professionalism or the ability to get along with others. 
Additionally, the need for training on diversity, equity and inclusion is apparent in the falloff of diverse talent in senior company management and leadership positions. According to McKinsey’s study, women represent 48% of the entry-level workforce but only 35% of mid-level managers and 24% of Executive and C-Suite level leadership. For people of color, the numbers for these roles are 34% for entry-level roles, 24% of mid-level managers and only 17% of Executive and C-Suite level leadership. 
10,000 simulations in 50+ counties and 20+ languages are conducted each week on Mursion’s platform. >15,000 individuals have completed at least one simulation. Each simulation has a specific use case and target outcome with teacher training, management training and diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) corporate training as top use cases.
89% of individuals who completed Mursion simulations report the experience to be a valuable use of their time, and 86% found the scenario authentic to real-life situations. 80% report they learned something they can use within the next 3 months.
The following are examples of Mursion’s demonstrated outcomes for various use cases of its platform:
“Our company was founded on the basis that traditional degrees and MBA programs simply don’t equip Product Managers with the real-world skills they require on the job.”
– Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, CEO and Founder
With over a million-strong community of PMs, Product School’s certifications are a leading standard in the industry. Aside from certificates for individuals, the school also provides employer training and upskilling programs.
Product School is a global leader in Product Management training with a community of over one million product professionals. The company’s certificates are industry-recognized credentials by employers hiring product managers.
Product management jobs are in high-demand and involve flexible positions that connect consumer needs and interests with product development and delivery. Unlike traditional graduate school business programs designed for students seeking roles within the finance and consulting fields, Product School’s certificate programs are highly relevant for the next generation of software product leaders, and offered at a fraction of the cost.
Students can select part-time course offerings on weeknights or weekends or fast-track their education with an intensive full-time course of hands-on training. Product School’s instructors are real-world Product Leaders working at top Silicon Valley companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber and Amazon.
Traditional MBA programs can be costly, lengthy and often lack the application of real-world skills, particularly in newer and dynamic job categories, like product management. Meanwhile, jobs in Product Management command strong salaries and are in high demand with employers seeking to find applicants with relevant training and skills.
Product School also offers free career and training resources to a global audience, including:
The Mom Project is a digital talent marketplace and community that connects professionally accomplished women with flexible work opportunities and full-time positions with family-friendly employers. It has become the leading talent platform for working moms and a leading solution for companies seeking to improve their gender diversity and retain female talent. Women can sign up to join The Mom Project community and gain access to work, skills training, career development and networking opportunities at no cost to them.
The Mom Project is a digital talent marketplace and community that connects professionally accomplished women and mothers with family-friendly companies for both flexible, project-based work opportunities and full-time positions. The Mom Project has become the leading talent platform for working moms and a solution for companies seeking to improve their gender diversity and retain female talent.
Women can sign-up to join The Mom Project community and gain access to work, skills training, career development and networking opportunities at no cost to them. Companies have identified The Mom Project's suite of hiring, upskilling and retention solutions as an effective way to solve pressing labor shortages while also addressing longer-term concerns around attrition, skill gaps and the need for greater diversity and empathy in the workplace.
In addition to talent placements, the company’s offering also includes research and industry publications via its Werk Labs division and longer-term diverse talent pipeline building and contribution to RISE, its affiliate nonprofit, which offers upskilling programs for technology certifications specifically for women of color.
The Mom Project has a stated goal to connect moms on its platform with more than $1 billion in economic opportunity in the next two years.
An estimated 43% of women leave the workforce within a year after having a child, and many face significant challenges when seeking to re-enter.
More than 1.6 million women are still missing from the paid labor force in the U.S. following the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States now has the lowest levels of women in the labor force since the 1980s, prompting Vice President Kamala Harris to declare "a national emergency."
The Mom Project helps women remain active in the workforce in every stage of their journey by connecting women with employers who are committed to designing and supporting a better workplace. Today the company offers women the following free resources:
Wonolo is a leading on-demand staffing platform for hourly and frontline workers. Workers—called “Wonoloers”– can choose where, when and with what advance notice they book each shift of work, enabling more individuals to participate in the workforce on their own terms.
Wonolo is a leading on-demand staffing platform that connects hourly and frontline workers – called "Wonoloers"– to job opportunities. As a “gig economy” model, workers have total choice of what types of jobs, for what companies, where located, when and how frequently they work as they are presented with recommended opportunities in their local areas on Wonolo’s mobile application. Wonoloers have the freedom to select which jobs they want to work and choose their own schedule.
8.3 million of Americans are unemployed or underemployed and millions of workers are seeking more flexible work to better meet their lifestyle, family and income needs. 73% of traditional temporary staffing agency workers are still placed in full-time, longer term committed work versus offering flexible scheduling options and allowing workers to choose when, where and how often to work.
The unemployment rate of individuals with criminal convictions is about five times higher than those without.
Wonolo gives workers access to:
Wonoloers have no minimum shift commitments as well as total flexibility of when and how frequently to work. The company has direct access to job completion data and payments made to Wonoloers and therefore knows exactly what each Wonoloer works (in hours and number of shifts) and earns via the platform.
“I lost my corporate job due to loss of business from COVID-19. I had no income since then and my savings were drying up. I was starting to lose hope. I was on the edge of being homeless. Then my sister told me about Wonolo. I was able to sign up and start working immediately. Wonolo helped turn my life around. I was able to pay my bills and I believed in myself again.”
- Wonoloer Coy Nguyen
Click on a Wonoloer photo to read more on each’s personal story.
I relocated to the Bay area from Los Angeles in 2009 and struggled for a while to get on my feet. I’m an underground rap artist and I perform occasionally, but rely on contract work to make ends meet. I learned about the Wonolo app from a friend of mine in early 2016 while I was in between jobs. My first Wonolo job was at a startup jewelry company. The culture there was awesome and over the course of 5 months, I formed many lasting friendships with other Wonoloers. These friendships led me to my next Wonolo gig at the Korean cosmetic company.
I started there as a preferred Wonoloer and later began working for the Requestor as a part-time employee. Within a few months, I was offered a full-time role and transitioned from their HQ to their warehouse in the East Bay. Working there taught me a lot about the startup culture. Like many startups that are finding their way, this company decided to discontinue their product line and my warehouse role was eventually eliminated. Luckily for me, I started my job search early and I landed another job where I am now currently working full-time as a Returns Specialist alongside a fellow Wonoloer whom I had previously met.
My journey through Wonolo has given me access to many companies, networks, and friends that are priceless. From the “O.G.” Wonoloers who I met during my early days who gave me invaluable insight into the process, to the newly onboarded Wonoloers with whom I now help whenever I see them on a job. I can truly say I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the Wonolo app. Having Wonolo as a secondary and sometimes primary income source has given me the freedom and flexibility to work on my dream while maintaining a good standard of living. Last year I was able to visit Los Angeles multiple times and spend time with my immediate family. That really meant a lot to me. This year I am on track to grow my savings and become even more skilled in my job, while also expanding my musical presence throughout the Bay Area. You can catch me performing around the Bay under Ale-Jhay.
Wonoloing allows me to focus more on what makes me happy and less on the daily stresses of life.
My name is Sophia and I am a Wonoloer in the New York area. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. My passion is food and I’m a chef here in the city. This time last year, I was on track to open a restaurant or food truck, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit that all changed. I had to put my dreams of opening a restaurant on pause, so I could find work and support myself.
That’s right about when I heard about Wonolo and downloaded the app. I was able to still do some chef work on the side and fill the other free time with jobs I accepted on the app. I have previous experience in warehouse jobs and demo work, so it was a smooth transition for me.
I have so much gratitude for Wonolo. Being able to find consistent work during a pandemic has been tough for a lot of people. Being able to open the app, pick a job, and make money right away gives me so much hope.
I’m still saving to open my restaurant and plan to one day work with Wonolo as a customer. I would love to support other Wonoloers in their journeys and provide work for more people. My dream is going to be a reality one day and Wonolo will play a big part in it!
My name is Riffiale and I am a Wonoloer in the Dallas Fort Worth area in Texas. I was born in Louisiana, but have lived in Texas since I was a little girl. You could definitely call me a church girl. I’ve been in the ministry for 22 years.
When I heard about Wonolo, I was working a job that was offering less and less hours. I needed to make up those hours elsewhere, and a friend told me to download the Wonolo app. That was September of last year. Now, one year later, it’s been the best working experience I’ve had in a really long time.
I love trying new things and keeping variety in my life. I’ve been able to accept Wonolo jobs at Fossil, Crestone, Six Flags, Dickies, and more!
The biggest perk for me is meeting new people. Everyone comes from different walks of life. I’m naturally a learner, so I observe people’s actions, get feedback, and try to improve myself. For me, it’s about gaining different experiences, not necessarily the money. I prefer being challenged in new environments like Wonolo offers, rather than a traditional 9-5 job. The Wonoloer community I’ve built is like my family. We see each other at different jobs. We share new work opportunities on the app. It’s awesome, because we’re looking out for each other and have each others’ backs.
I’m in a place now where I accept Wonolo jobs consistently every week. It’s been a lifesaver, especially now during this pandemic. I always tell people about Wonolo, because the work is out there! You just have to be looking in the right places.
Outside of Wonolo, I am going to school for ministry work, I run a business, and I also help my husband run his own business. I definitely keep busy whether or not I’m working a Wonolo job. If it wasn’t for the flexibility, I don’t think I could do it all. I make consistent money with Wonolo, but I also make room for other things I’m passionate about. I am my own boss, and as my business grows, I want to maintain that independence and ability to do what I love with determined focus.
Leeds Illuminate believes diversity is a strategic and moral imperative. It seeks to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in its internal team of investment professionals, portfolio company management and board leadership, and student and workforce beneficiaries served.
We believe this priority of diverse perspectives and equitable access throughout our work enables long-term advantages and enhancement of our investment strategy.
*Data available only for companies that collect employee demographic data
Having invested in companies with demonstrated outcomes for learners and workers, we work with our portfolio companies to seek to further scale, improve and advance those outcomes during our investment period.
Hover over each company to see its 3-5 year impact goal: