Core AI Profile

Core AI logo.

Core AI combines the power of AI with a digital coaching platform to help managers better support and lead their teams.

Founder(s): Ed Ross, James Lackland

Industry: Software (SaaS)

Founded in: 2020

Location: Cary, North Carolina

Interview With Ed Ross

Describe your product or service:

“Core Ai is a digital coaching platform that provides managers with curated insights to lead their team with confidence.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“Core AI’s mission is to influence, inform, and inspire world-class performance through leadership development. Our mission is to create fanatical experiences that empower 30,000 everyday managers to become game-changing coaches.”

How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.

“Pre-Seed/Friends and Family.”

How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!

“Our team’s balance and passion is a reflection of our careers leading, developing, and minimizing risks for global organizations. We are supported by some of the most successful leaders across companies such as Broadcom, Microsoft, and Kraft Heinz.”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“While managing a team of 186 direct reports, I realized that organizations were (are) setting managers up to fail, and most new managers are demoted within 20 months. 

We developed a coaching framework, then validated its strength and outcomes which secured $21M in revenue for our client. 

Core Ai is positioned to claim its stake of a $960 million annual costs lost due to lack of employee engagement, low morale, and high turnover.”

How did you come up with your startup’s name? Did you have other names you considered?

“Managers are at the epicenter of organizational performance, and the name says we are centered, balanced, and in the middle of every client.”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“Yes, after I was downsized from Corporate America, I vowed to build and own a business for my family, so we never worry about financial security.”

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?

“Our biggest challenge has been securing funding to continue to implement our product roadmap expeditiously. We are focused on enhancing our platform based information and insights gained from users.”

Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?

“Enterprise- to medium-sized companies with a minimum of 15 employees, a sales process, and a progressive spirit.”

What’s your primary marketing strategy?

“Word of mouth.”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“Current strategy — word of mouth.”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

  • “CAC
  • Churn Rate
  • Time to first result 
  • Revenue growth
  • Coaching compliance”

What’s your favorite startup book and podcast?

“‘Delivering Happiness.’”

What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?

“Jay Z — anything.”

Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?


What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“The lack of VC investments in Black founders.”

How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?

“Building our platform with the love and support of my family. Investing in rest, rejuvenation, and good diet.”

When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?

“When I was downsized from Corporate America.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

“Sales — the more value I create, the easier I gain new customers and increased revenue.”

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