Despite making strides in recent years, women are still vastly underrepresented in venture capital or entrepreneurship. Out of all VC investment in the UK, all-female founder and mixed-gender teams receive about 1% and 10% respectively while the all-male teams get 89%. Yet, female-founded UK startups such as 1nhaler, Samudra Oceans, and ViaNautis bagged commendable investments this year.
Joining them is Blend, a London-based workplace training startup founded by two women and a male from the UK, South Africa and Ukraine. The startup just raised £350k in pre-seed funding from Antler, a leading early-stage VC who also recently invested in startups including Cedar, Quinky, and Getplace.io. Further, Ada Ventures, the inclusive venture firm and NoBa Capital, the early-stage VC firm specialising in the future of work also participated in the round.
In addition, the round included leading hospitality angel investors, like the owner of Prickly Pair, George Hallam, the founder of K10 Sushi, Maurice Abboudi and the founders of Bottomless Brunch.
The London startup will use the investment to bring its paid product to market across the UK.
How was Blend born?
The founders of Blend first met during an Antler residency in London in October 2022, bringing together experience from advertising, entrepreneurship and tech. Jonah Werth is a video-first advertising expert, having worked at agencies Wunderman Thompson the The Distillery where he developed major campaigns for the likes of HSBC, Microsoft and Okta.
Jules Smith is a British South African who has worked for some of the world’s most successful companies. She has held senior positions at UberEats Australia and CocaCola Euro Pacific as well as Katapult VC Norway. Helen Sydorenko, a Ukrainian now based in London, is the former founder of GreenBin, which provided sustainability training to the hospitality sector.
TikTok-style videos for workplace training
The lack of trained staff is costing the British hospitality sector £25 billion every year in unmet customer demand. Blend develops short, accessible videos to train deskless workers in hospitality. Eventually, it tackles one of the biggest demands of the hospitality industry, which is still struggling to overcome a shortage of frontline workers.
Current training techniques for hospitality staff have to be conducted in person and are time-intensive for managers. Blend combines TikTok-style content with workplace training to allow restaurants to rapidly scale their onboarding training.
Blend is creating video content to help the hospitality industry train deskless workers, introducing workplace training for the TikTok generation. The company has already completed successful pilots with leading hospitality brands.
Jules Smith, co-founder of Blend, commented, “Blend was built with the mindset that quality training and educational opportunity should not be limited by industry, income or learning ability. The outdated cookie-cutter ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to L&D just doesn’t work in our modern generations, and so many talented individuals get left behind. Our platform shakes things up by delivering learning in a style that champions the unique potential of every deskless employee out there on the frontlines.”
Helen Sydorenko, co-founder of Blend, said, “As a founder, I’ve always been learning new things – from low-code programming to UX/UI basics and project management, even if it’s something I’ve never done before. I truly believe in the power of continuous learning and self-improvement. Our project is here to help every team member learn new things and unlock new opportunities, no matter how you like to learn, what language you speak, or what generation you belong to.”
Jed Rose, Partner at Antler, said, “Blend is exactly the type of team that we get excited about at Antler. Their new mobile SaaS platform provides video-first onboarding for the deskless workforce. Enabled by AI, Blend provides hospitality owners with real-time analytics on employee progress, leading up to a 50% reduction in manager training time. We are delighted to have supported Blend from day zero and look forward to supporting them as they grow and continue to disrupt the market.”