Simon Rakosi, David Mendlewicz and Marcus Perezi-Tormos saw a problem: New leaders, promoted early in their careers, lacked the training in leadership and soft skills to prepare them to manage teams and people effectively.

“We saw leadership training as a huge white space in the market,” says Rakosi. That’s why they created Butterfly, a management coaching platform that uses artificial intelligence to collect real-time feedback from employees. Managers use that feedback, according to Rakosi, the COO, “to gain insight on factors that can enable them to make better people decisions, have a bird’s eye view of the mood of their organization, and show employees that happiness is a top priority.” The feedback, which is anonymous, is collected weekly or biweekly through a pulse survey based on engagement factors identified by advisors from The University of Oxford and Columbia University. Alex, the platform’s artificial intelligence (AI) leadership coach, “gets to know managers over time and provides custom and ongoing leadership training via digestible content.”

Butterfly, which was named a top-five messaging app by the Webby Awards last year, announced a $2.4M seed round in October, led by venture capital firm Daphni, to “evolve Butterfly’s platform and expand the team to support increased client and product demand” based on current partners, who Rakosi says “represent Fortune 500 organizations across various industries and regions.”

Adaptive Leadership Coaching for Millennial Managers

“Education is really only powerful to the extent that it’s relevant,” says Rakosi. Effective manager coaching should be relevant, personalized, iterative and ongoing. AI helps organizations meet these coaching needs at a scale previously impossible.

Artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer or robot to perform tasks like identifying patterns in data, speech recognition and decision-making, which previously needed a human to complete. It’s used in adaptive learning platforms to personalize content based on individual learner data, such as team member feedback or answers to assessment questions.

Butterfly’s platform is especially targeted at millennial managers, who are entering leadership ranks at increasing rates as baby boomers retire. Those millennials are used to real-time communication like texting and instant messaging, and looking to use those tools in the workplace. They also value immediate feedback and are very coachable – but they want their coaching to be based on data. However, according to a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, the average manager becomes a supervisor around age 30 but doesn’t receive leadership training until age 42.

A 2016 study by PDT and leading Dimensions Consulting found that millennials tend to prefer a coaching style in their own leadership. They enjoy collaborative cultures and succeed at gaining consensus among stakeholders and, according to PDT managing director Paul Findlay, “may cultivate a more transparent culture with leaders who are more inclined to seek feedback and buy-in.” However, Findlay also says, “Millennial leaders may risk settling into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to leadership” due to their ability to adapt to the fast pace of business. Using a platform like Butterfly may help by providing instant feedback and teaching leaders how to make adjustments based on that feedback.

Ultimately, a recent Life Meets Work study found, no generation of employees feels they get what they need from their leaders. That includes millennials but also Generation Z, Generation X and baby boomers. It’s clear that we all need better managers who understand their employees and know how to lead them well. Perhaps by using new technologies like artificial intelligence to provide feedback and adapt learning, we can enter 2018 with leaders who are better prepared to guide employees and organizations to a successful future.