Praxis Labs, a virtual-reality-based (VR) diversity and inclusion platform startup led by Elise Smith, announced its launch as well as raising $3.2 million in a seed round led by SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund. Investors also included Norwest Venture Partners, Emerson Collective, Ulu Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Firework VC.
In the press release, Praxis Labs reiterated its mission to “redefine work cultures, develop inclusive leaders and drive sustainable change for individuals and organizations.” Their founder and CEO, Elise Smith, is a Dartmouth and Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) graduate.
“Praxis Labs is changing the way clients train employees on and measure D&I through research-backed VR experiences. The platform simulates first-hand incidents of bias and discrimination in the workplace from the perspectives of either an employee who encounters bias or discrimination firsthand, or of a co-worker who is complicit in the encounter. Unlike traditional, static one-way diversity training programs, Praxis Labs’ platform enables employees to practice responding in the moment, reflect on the incidents and provide anonymous feedback on his or her experience in the workplace, which Praxis Labs subsequently shares with clients so that they can make positive changes to their organization that increase equity and fosters a greater sense of belonging,” the press release elaborated.
This milestone positions Elise Smith as one of the few Black women who’ve been able to raise $1 million in venture funding. According to ProjectDiane, only 93 Black women accomplished this in 2020 while the national median seed round was $2.5 million.
The platform, which offers six and 12-month programs for clients, has been in beta for the past year with several tech giants including eBay, Amazon, Google, Target and Uber.
“We’re beyond thrilled to announce the official launch of Praxis Labs and introduce our impactful learning platform to companies of all shapes and sizes. Given the current climate and the deep divisions apparent in society, we believe that building empathy and understanding of others’ perspectives, as well as a knowledge of how to intervene in the moment, is vital to taking steps toward increasing inclusion and belonging in the workplace. We believe our platform provides a strong foundation from which employees can make their workplaces – and ultimately, society – more equitable,” Smith said in the press release.
Shu Nyatta, Managing Partner of the SB Opportunity Fund and co-lead of the SoftBank Latin America Fund, also said in the press release:
“Praxis Labs is combining two powerful secular themes in a very unique way. The first theme is discrimination and equity, which should be front and center for all companies today. The second theme is immersive learning technology, which is uniquely suited to this particular problem. Praxis Labs was the Opportunity Fund’s first investment, and Elise and Heather couldn’t be better representatives of what we’re all about. We’re very excited to be their partner as they build a company for this important moment in history.”