Talespin became famous for a virtual reality demo designed to teach managers how to fire a hapless worker named Barry. Now the company has raised $15 million to further develop extended reality (XR) — using technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality — for enterprise training.

Cloud-based learning software provider Cornerstone OnDemand led the funding round and has announced an ongoing partnership with Talespin to deliver the latter’s XR training solutions to customers. HTC also joined the round as a new investor, with participation from existing investors, including Farmers Insurance Exchange.

Talespin has figured out that companies are willing to pay for VR and AR training because it’s often cheaper than sending poorly prepared workers into real-life situations with expensive enterprise or industrial equipment.

“More and more organizations are using XR solutions to train employees,” said Talespin CEO Kyle Jackson in an email. “With advancements in AI and NLP, we predict this technology will be utilized across the employee life cycle to practice and measure key skills. Soft skills like communication and leadership, in particular, are increasingly needed in workplaces, yet harder to test and train.”

Companies face massive reskilling challenges as they seek to transform their workforces to keep pace with rapidly changing technology, evolving workforce expectations, and growing talent gaps. Soft skills like leadership and communication are at a premium in an increasingly digital world, and process-oriented jobs are changing faster than people can train for them using traditional methods.

Talespin said it addresses these challenges by empowering companies to systematically prepare their workforce for a new, skills-based economy with spatial computing. Talespin’s Runway platform accelerates learning for soft and hard skills and offers advanced skills data to enable purpose-driven career decisions for employees and better talent decisions for organizations.

Talespin’s VR learning content will be made available to customers through Cornerstone’s product offerings. And Talespin’s Runway platform will be integrated with Cornerstone’s Learning Management System to power XR training deployment and skills matching analytics at scale.

One of Talespin’s early customers, Farmers Insurance, also invested in Talespin after seeing good results training its insurance claims adjusters.

Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin, at OC6.

Above: Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin, at OC6 in 2019.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

This new funding brings Talespin’s total raised to $20 million. The company will use the money for  Runway, as well as to expand research and development and continue growing its VR learning content library.

Jackson cofounded Talespin in 2015, and the company currently has 100 employees.

Farmers Insurance has been investing in virtual reality and other technologies to gain a competitive advantage and has opened a new training facility in Phoenix, Arizona, equipped with the latest in VR and AR hardware.

“We started working with Talespin in 2017 to help develop VR training modules specific to home damage assessments for claims employees,” said Tim Murray, head of claims shared services for Farmers Insurance, in an email. “More recently, Farmers worked with Talespin to develop a soft skills program with an AI-powered virtual human, with a focus on simulating collaboration with third parties to empower claims employees to provide a high level of customer service.”

He said this results in a stronger connection to customers and generates more empathy.

“This technology offers Farmers employees a safe place to practice their most critical workplace skills and improve as they go, while making the development of those skills measurable and repeatable,” Murray said. “Ultimately, the VR and AR training, especially the new virtual human training modules, are intended to help improve the overall customer experience by focusing on the moments that matter most.”

Sign up for Funding Weekly to start your week with VB's top funding stories.