UPDATED 12:25 EDT / FEBRUARY 06 2019

charu-sharma-cloudnow-2019 BIG DATA

Startup puts hard numbers on mentoring with novel software product

Mentorship programs for women in tech may strike some as all fluff. They may ask, where’s the beef? Do they actually improve employee performance or retention for companies that implement them? In reply, one young founder set out to serve the beef sizzling hot with analytics.

Charu Sharma (pictured), founder and chief executive officer of Next Play Inc., started a women’s mentoring program when she worked as a campaign planner for LinkedIn Corp. Two years ago, she decided to take what she learned from the experience and essentially productize it.

“Mentorship is not an established product category,” Sharma said. “Frankly, I got mixed opinions, but I chose to focus on the people who saw the big vision and who cared about the story and the impact something like this could have.”

Those people included LinkedIn execs, a former TechCrunch (female) chief executive officer, and 500 startups. Sharma poured their investments into what became NextPlay.ai.

Sharma spoke with Lisa Martin, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the CloudNOW “Top Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards event in Menlo Park, California. They discussed Sharma’s CloudNOW award and the challenges and benefits of making mentorship a product.

Analytics measure mentoring

NextPlay.ai helps match employees with willing and able mentors within their organizations. Today, the tool is used by the likes of Splunk Inc., Lyft Inc. and The Coca Cola Co. “We not only connect their employees internally for mentorship, we also have robust analytics to show the ROI on retention,” Sharma said.

Those analytics reveal some interesting stats.

“After six months of working with us, employees are 25 percent more likely to recommend working at their company, which actually when you do the math is huge. It saves millions of dollars for companies,” she said.

Sharma shared a number of anecdotes on bonus benefits users stumbled upon. One user — a new product manager — connected with a relative stranger in their company. Together, they wound up identifying a multi-million-dollar market opportunity for the company.

Sharma nabbed a Top Woman Entrepreneur in Cloud Innovation award and spoke alongside Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg at CloudNOW.

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the CloudNOW “Top Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards event:

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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