Interplay Learning Raises $18 Million for Skilled Trades Training

By Bruce Harpham Sunday, February 28, 2021

With $18 million in Series B funding, Austin-based Interplay Learning is poised to grow quickly. The startup company provides digital training to skilled trade workers in HVAC, plumbing, solar, electrical, and facilities maintenance. Established in 2016, the business has also won the AI Breakthrough Award for Best Use of Virtual Reality for Enterprise Applications.

Interplay founder and CEO Doug Donavan.

300% Year-Over-Year Growth

The training startup business has 110,000 users from over two thousand customers. Over the past year, the company has reported a 300% year-over-year (YOY) increase in growth. In the same period, customer usage of the company’s training platform increased by over 400%. The company's customers include the Lincoln Property Company, Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Johnson Controls (stock ticker: NYSE: JCI), One Nevada Credit Union, and Anderson Commercial Plumbing.

In addition to business customers, Interplay Learning also offers courses to individuals interested in learning HVAC and solar energy-related skills. The startup business offers 3D simulation training that works with or without a VR headset. Interplay offers training at $25 per team member per month paid annually (i.e., $300 per year). The enterprise version of the training platform includes the option to provide custom content.

The Investors Who Are Betting on the Startup

As of late February 2021, Interplay has raised $24.5 million in total funding. The business’s critical investors include Owl Ventures, S3 Ventures, and the Central Texas Angel Network. Following the Series B funding round, Ian Chiu, Managing Director of Owl Ventures, will join Interplay's Board of Directors.

Owl Ventures, based in San Francisco, has invested in more than forty startup companies. It is best known for successful company exits such as LearnZillion (an edtech startup), Thinkful (a 1-on-1 learning company), and RaiseMe (a financial aid business acquired by Campus Logic). S3 Ventures. Austin-based S3 Ventures is a venture capital investor with a portfolio of more than sixty companies. S3 Ventures has invested in Upkey (a career training startup business), LeanDNA (an analytics startup business for factories), and BrainCheck (a cognitive health startup company).

The Startup Company Is Growing

Armed with millions of dollars in its new company funding, Interplay Learning is hiring new employees. As of February 2021, the startup business is hiring for sales, engineering, finance, customer success, IT, and other roles. The startup company has seventy-three employees as of February 2021.

The Skilled Trade Training Market Is Worth Billions

According to an IBIS World estimate, the trade and technical schools industry is worth $15 billion. Over the coming decade, tens of thousands of skilled trade positions are expected to be created. From 2019 to 2029, the US government estimates that the US economy will create 62,200 more electrician jobs. As of 2019, there are 739,000 electricians in the United States (US). There is also significant demand for other skilled trades like HVAC contractors. According to Indeed, a job posting website, there are more than twenty-three thousand HVAC job openings in the US as of February 2021.

About the Author


Headshot of Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book, "Project Managers At Work," shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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