VR for HR: Startup Raises $8 Million from Impact Investors to Tackle Workplace Bias Through Simulations
LinkedIn, Ebay, and Coca-Cola have already tapped Mursion’s unique VR platform to close soft skills gaps for managers, mitigate unconscious bias at work
Mursion, a startup that provides immersive VR training for essential skills in the workplace, announced an $8 Million Series A, led by impact investor New Markets Venture Partners, along with the Schusterman Family Investment Office, Zoma Capital, New Schools Venture Fund, Propel Capital, Figure 8 Investments, and the Strada Education Network. Already used by a cross section of more than 150 leading employers including Comerica, LinkedIn, Ebay, Coca-Cola, and Nationwide, Mursion is pioneering the application of VR to improve emotional intelligence, and reduce unconscious bias in the workplace.
“Soft skills present a complex challenge for organizations because they require authentic opportunities to practice and improve. Mistakes, failure, and reflection are part of the process. What makes these essential skills rare and valuable is also what makes them difficult to obtain,” said Mursion CEO, Mark Atkinson. “VR enables us to create a safe, anonymous space to practice difficult conversations. Learners experience emotional ‘danger’ and stress, but they do so within the safety and anonymity of the simulation.”
In LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trend Report, which surveyed over 5,000 HR professionals, 92% report that soft skills are as important or more important than technical skills. At the same time, the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission closes more than 100,000 cases of workplace discrimination each year, which doesn’t account for offenses that go unreported, or bias that happens in the recruiting process.
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Research suggests that in-person role play and traditional means of soft skill training have limited outcomes, and provide little data to quantify employee progress over time. Mursion’s technology blends artificial intelligence with live human interaction to deliver training that prepares learners for challenging interpersonal moments on the job. Simulations engage both the emotional and cognitive faculties for transformative, ongoing learning that is also scalable and cost-effective for organizations. “Owing to years of research, we may have finally achieved the right balance of artificial intelligence and human-reasoning to create effective training. We now have the potential to evoke changes in human behavior through virtual reality experiences,” said Mursion Co-Founder and CTO, Arjun Nagendran.
By using trained professionals who orchestrate the interactions between learners and avatars, Mursion simulations achieve the realism needed to deliver measurable, high-impact results. Applicable to any situation requiring high stakes interpersonal skill, the approach has demonstrated impact in leadership development, sales enablement, customer service, and diversity and inclusion, across industries, including retail, hospitality, and professional services. The technology is also available in 2D and is lightweight, seamless, and hardware agnostic.
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Mursion’s existing immersive soft skills training programs are already demonstrating highly valuable results. According to Bruce Weinberg of Best Western Hotels and Resorts, “Results from the program are staggering. Hotels that received Mursion training experienced the highest short-term gains in customer satisfaction that Best Western has ever measured.”
Delivered directly to Best Western’s 2,200 properties in North America and integrated into an onsite training delivered by regional coaches, Mursion provided live virtual simulations to help the hotel chain tackle one of its biggest customer service challenges: problem resolution. As a result of the training, Best Western experienced an average increase of 5% on problem resolution, the focus of the simulations, and 2-5% gains for other areas of customer satisfaction.
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“The potential for realistic simulation to achieve significant breakthroughs in emotional intelligence was a driving factor behind our decision to invest in Mursion,” said New Markets Venture Partner, Jason Palmer,who previously led higher education investments for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “They’re tackling a set of challenges that are tightly coupled with our social impact mission, using technology that is both novel and increasingly scalable.”