Investing in Progression

Posted: 24 Aug 2021

The future of careers

Progression belongs to the category of products that fix broken experiences. Turning a user experience that sucks into one that people love is one of the recurring themes that drive our investments. There are many broken experiences our portfolio companies are on the mission to transform through product love. To name a few: transiting from A to B (Citymapper), asking for information online (Typeform), hiring internationally (Oyster), seamlessly moving banking data and money (TrueLayer). Progression is on a mission to fix the planning and tracking of people careers.

“Progression’s problem was my problem”: during his time at Deliveroo, the founder Jonny Burch helped the design team grow from 4 to 40 designers. To be a better leader, he decided to develop a career framework for the whole team. He soon figured out that career frameworks built in a spreadsheet generate countless pain points and frustrations for everyone. For Managers and Heads of People, they are hard to write, impossible to change centrally and challenging to share both internally and externally. Plus they don’t integrate with other software, they don’t allow workflow automation, and they don’t capture data or generate insights. For employees, they are hard to read, painful to engage with, and impossible to export and share. Every scaling org hits this problem, but there’s no purpose-built product.

Put down the spreadsheet. There’s a better way! After realising that every design and engineering manager he knew was trying to solve the same problem with the same bad spreadsheets, Jonny spotted a product opportunity capable of delivering a 100x superior customer experience. He turned a static matrix of content into smart and user-friendly software. Progression was born: the first and only no-code platform that helps companies build, measure, and scale their career frameworks in record time.

How we crossed paths

I was already switched on to the space: the Future of Work has long been a focus for me as one of my core SaaS areas. Therefore we have several work-tech startups in our portfolio already. But to say that I was attuned to the career framework problem would be a lie. To the contrary, at first glance, I dismissed the framework builder as a feature vs. a product — a classic VC mistake in deal assessment.

What was instrumental to build conviction instead was the opportunity to create a new Category, beautifully summed up in this slide of the pitch deck👇

Progression’s ambition to own the People category through product love was music to my ears.

Employee-centric SaaS that users love are the future of HR and work-tech. No one has gone straight after it — yet.

The consumerisation of HR Software in fact has yet to happen. Despite what they claim, most SaaS for people engagement are still fundamentally built for the HR function and not for the users. They don’t care about the end-user experience or what the employee gets.

Beyond presenting a category-defining opportunity, the calibre of Progression’s co-founders sealed the deal for me: Jonny and his co-founder Neil Cameron are each one-of-a-kind: I was immediately blown away by their 20-year vision, opinionated product thinking, devotion to scale and authenticity.

I also loved dogfooding the product as I built a mini framework for our small team at Connect.

Honestly, the hardest part of this investment story was convincing Jonny and Neil to abandon the bootstrapping route sooner than they expected and raise from a VC now. They were concerned that involving VCs at this early stage would push them to pursue short-term revenue over product development. I explained that having Connect on board meant more focus on Product, not less. I have sweet memories of that conversation: it was a rare IRL meeting, on a rare, sunny autumn day in London. We had brunch outdoors at Caravan followed by a stroll on the canal.

Eventually Sitar, Rory and I successfully made the “Connect is the product VC” case and won the deal. We led the pre-Seed round, with the participation of Village Global Team. I joined the board, stayed loyal to our product-first promise and enjoyed every moment I got to work closely with the team.

How Progression fits our investment thesis

Opinionated Products

Progression is a product that reflects the founders’ opinion of what the market needs to solve, not what the market asks for. Jonny and Neil have created something that doesn’t exist in the market. You need a strong point of view to do that. Progression’s product is also extremely focused: it wants to do a few things extremely well, and it is doing them with strong opinions:


  • Opinion #1: Spreadsheets for frameworks suck => Career frameworks as a software.
  • Opinion #2: HR software is still not YET consumerised. => Shelfware rolled out by HR to an organisation is the antithesis to what Progression is building.
  • Opinion #3: GTM follows the same opinion: bottom up/product-led, not top down/sales-led.

Crafted with Love

Without a doubt, Jonny and Neil are crafters. They bootstrapped the MVP and built every single bit of the product themselves. They are passionate about the problem and want to solve it at scale. As ambitious young professionals and managers, they have a great affinity with the career problem and keen affection for what the users need and aspire to.


Progression provides team managers with superpowers and makes them internal heroes — like Typeform, AirTable, Notion. And everyone loves superpowers. Employees finally have a place to track their personal growth. Their customers love it and say it best: “Progression has helped us hire better and manage more effectively, but crucially it’s a tool the team genuinely likes to use, which for HR apps I think is a first.”

Finally, customers are proudly publishing their career frameworks with “Powered by Progression” links. See an example here.

By many

First of all, Progression is as much a team productivity tool as it is an HR tool. In tech history, the companies that brought the first generation of smart productivity tools to the cloud have all seen massive adoption and created outliers. Trello for kanban boards; Notion for page editors and note-taking; Airtable for spreadsheets; and LinkedIn for digital CVs (though they could make them smarter still).

The TAM is, simply put, large and fits the venture scale. The power balance at work is switching. A new generation of workers demands career growth above all else. Keeping employees happy matters. That’s why nearly 50% of companies are now prioritising skills and career frameworks.

Our take on what the future holds

Progression frameworks represent a strong product innovation, the wedge into team workflows and the content backbone. That being said, career progression is bigger than career frameworks. In fact, the category opportunity goes beyond the frameworks and there is still much more value to deliver.

Jonny and Neil believe that in the future, the JTBD of “career progression” will be delivered in a different form: more bite-sized, fluid, embedded, and eventually portable: since professionals want to own their career, they will take their Progression profile with them as certification of their growth, a.k.a. their new actual Curriculum Vitae. The adoption of Progression at scale will create a new career graph for professionals: a network of connected talents, profiled by their career progress, linked together by the feedback and endorsement they have given each other.

In short, if they get this right, to quote the Matrix:

P.S. Progression is hiring: check out their team frameworks and open roles here: