Jeff Fernandez

Grovo co-founder and CEO Jeff Fernandez thinks he's created a better way to learn at work.

Grovo empowers companies with the technology and content "to align, educate and inspire" their teams, he said.

The New York City-based company creates 60-second microlearning videos that "teach everything 21st century employees need," from on-boarding to professional development.

Some of the most popular Grovo learning tracks include Using Google Drive & Apps, Email Communication & Efficiency, Boost Productivity at Work, Attention Management Fundamentals and Transitioning to the Cloud.

Growth Spurt

Fueled by "a platform that learners and trainers love," the five-year-old company is growing fast. Within the past year, it's doubled its workforce and signed contracts with 200 clients in the first half of 2015 including Major League Baseball, Return Path, Compass, Chop't Creative Salad Company and the Kansas City Chiefs.

It's also moved to new offices in Midtown Manhattan — one more perk of working at a company that was voted Best Place to Work in NYC Tech by Internet Week last November.

Fernandez said he's created a unique company by hiring for culture fit more than competency. He strives to hire people who are open, honest, smart, ambitious, playful and team-oriented.

Teamwork is a big deal to Fernandez: he played semi-pro football for the New York Rebels during the 2008 season and likes to describe Grovo employees as friends in addition to co-workers.

Before Grovo, the Harvard grad was a Product Manager at Clickable.

Acquired by Syncapse in 2012, the company helped businesses to buy Facebook ads. During his tenure, Fernandez worked on the Clickable flagship product, and helped integrate Facebook advertising and launch the American Express OPEN partnership. From 2006 until 2009, he was Head of Business Development and Sales at Doostang (which was acquired by Universum Global).

CMSWire caught up with him to talk about his career, company culture and how on-the-job training can help close the talent gap.

Connecting with Bill Sobel
Sobel: How'd a Harvard grad with a degree in psychology end up running a company specializing in workforce training?

Fernandez: After college, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do.

But then I got invited to a private-invitation-only jobs website called Doostang. The jobs were really exciting and different — all startups.

I began inviting all my friends to join it, which led to the founder reaching out to me to come help them grow the business. I became the second employee there. I drove out to Palo Alto (Calif.), slept on a mattress in the office while we raised our Series A funding and then came back to New York to build out our East Coast operations.

After that, I transitioned to the advisory board and joined Clickable, where I was the 20th employee. That’s where I met Nick Narodny, my cofounder.

We became buddies. We’d go to lunch every day, and we were both sort of entrepreneurial.

I introduced him to Surag Mungekar, my best friend from childhood, and the three of us started hanging out. One night at dinner in 2010, I got a text from a friend asking how to connect Google Analytics to WordPress. That was the start of Grovo.

Sobel: What do Clickable, Doostang and Grovo have in common, if anything?

Fernandez: By industry they’re very different. The common thread is the business model.

Doostang was arguably, at one point, a B2B SaaS business. Clickable is absolutely a B2S SaaS business. And Grovo is a B2B SaaS business.

Sobel: Your said your goal at Grovo was to create a transparent, all-inclusive culture. Can you elaborate?

Fernandez: We recognized early that culture was important.

At previous companies, we’d all seen lots of really talented people who weren’t able to be themselves when they walked in the office.

And we saw that as a mistake: To get the most out of people and give them the best work experience, you have to let them be themselves.

When we got started, we put $60,000 — all the money we had in the world — into the company.

We wanted to make people feel special, but we couldn’t do that monetarily. So we outlined what we cared about, decided to be authentic about who we are and set out to make this a really special place to work.

We’d have gatherings and ways for people to connect and fostered respect for the different roles and people at the company. Our culture has evolved, but we’ve stayed true to that foundation.

Sobel: In June, at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, Grovo announced a partnership with Capital One called the “Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge.” Can you tell us more?

Fernandez: The Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge is designed to provide more low-to-moderate income Americans with the digital skills they need to fill jobs that typically require less than a bachelor’s degree and pay above the national living wage.

Together, using our microlearning approach, we're going to deliver the program to 15,000 people in low- to moderate-income communities in the next three years. We’re all very excited about the project and can’t wait to see how it progresses.

Grovo exists to help people get the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce. Right now middle-skill jobs that require digital skills proficiency are growing twice as fast as those where you don’t. And on average, they pay 18 percent more.

We believe investment in effective digital training and education is not only critical, but also often transformative.