Partner Spotlight: Escalate

by adeptidstg 07/14/2023

We sat down with Sean Segal and Sienna Daniel, the founders of Escalate, to get the inside scoop on their work improving frontline worker retention. We’re proud to be their partners, and are happy to feature them here! Here’s what we asked them:

What is your founding story? Why did you decide to start Escalate?

Sienna and I (Sean) were part of the founding team at Generation USA, a great non-profit that rapidly grew over four years. We came to realize that, unfortunately, businesses see non-profits as charity more than business solutions, so we were not going to get to the scale we needed to drive real system change in the non-profit space. Generation was all about the mission— helping black and brown folks and people without college degrees find better jobs— and while large businesses care about this mission, they are focused primarily on making profit and benefiting their stakeholders. So, when founding Escalate, we were thinking to meet businesses where they come in, working as a for-profit helping solve business problems. We still wanted to do the same work— helping frontline workers get into better jobs— but in a way that solves a real challenge or business need for the company. Escalate is aiming to get more people into better jobs by reducing turnover and that saves companies.

What are the values and missions of Escalate?

We have five values that drive us here at Escalate:

  • We put people first. 
  • We believe that interpersonal connection and community matters. 
  • We are committed to equity in all work and interactions. 
  • We take responsibility for ourselves and hold each other accountable. 
  • We are focused on results and are striving to make a positive impact in the world.

Our mission is two-fold. We are a for-profit company, and we really want to help companies decrease their turnover cost and increase retention by getting them to invest in their employees. For employees, we want to take people out of low-wage, dead-end jobs and put them into careers where they have the ability to support their families, aiming to see frontline workers double their salaries in 12 months.

How did you find AdeptID?

We wrote and received a big grant from Verizon which we used to help get more people into Generation’s program. We spent a lot of the money trying to attract people to our free bootcamp leading the funnel to a large opening but a really small end— we weren’t filling our cohorts enough.

As a non-profit leader, I felt like the one thing we needed was more data. Around the same time,  Brian and Fernando were launching AdeptID, and they partnered with us to figure out how, where, and why students were getting stuck. This partnership with AdeptID and Generation allowed us to tighten our recruiting, and increase our conversion rate— which we ended up doubling through the partnership.

How is Escalate planning to partner with AdeptID?

For Generation, our single largest cost was user acquisition, which we didn’t want to face again with Escalate. To figure out how to eliminate user acquisition, rather than going out and recruiting people, with the partnership of AdeptID, we will help businesses identify who is at risk of turnover and who might benefit most from Escalate’s program.

What milestones or achievements has Escalate reached or is aiming for?

We just signed our first contract, which is a win. The next milestone will be launching with users, which we hope to do this fall. Within five years, we want to be upskilling hundreds of thousands of frontline workers each year and so that’s what we’re excited to grow.

View Escalate’s Product Demo Here!

About Sean and Sienna

Both Sean and Sienna worked as teachers at one point in their life. We asked about their transition from the classroom to being founders, and what skills they found were most transferable from their teaching days.

Sean Segal

Sean taught middle school in Texas and Miami, Florida for five years before transitioning out of the classroom. He loved teaching, but was exceptionally disheartened by the effects of poverty on his students and their families, as many were not earning a living wage. Feeling like he couldn’t make a strong enough impact in the classroom, Sean transitioned into workforce development, which he has been doing since because he believes the best way to drive change in the US is to get people into better jobs. Here’s what Sean had to say about the most relevant transferable skill he gained from teaching: “When you’re facing those 50 little angels, you have to get really good at thinking on your feet and improvising and making it up as you go. I feel like being a startup founder is exactly that.”

Sienna Daniel

Sienna completed graduate school with a Master’s in Business Administration before transitioning to Teach for America, knowing ultimately her goal was to find ways to change some of the systems in America that hold back marginalized populations. As a high school teacher in Houston, Texas, she saw students thinking about their futures, but knew college was not in the cards for everyone and saw, firsthand, the cycle of hopping from frontline role to frontline role. Quickly realizing there was little support for frontline workers, Sienna left Texas and briefly taught at a community college in Ohio before transitioning to the Business Manager role at a charter school, combining her degree with her love for teaching and passion for entrepreneurship. 

Ultimately moving into non-profit management, Sienna stresses the importance of having a deep understanding of the issue at hand from the bottom up and remaining passionate. She explained how in both teaching and in the non-profit space, being far removed or disconnected from those you are trying to serve isn’t ideal, so it’s necessary to really understand their perspective and the challenges that they are facing. “If we don’t have that lens on and aren’t thinking about that, [companies] could very easily push us to go a different direction, which ultimately would not get us to the goals that we’re trying to achieve.”

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