Oct. 3, 2023

UCeed helps tech-driven leadership-development company take flight

UCalgary-based fund among those supporting technology-driven Monark
Monark Ceo Kelsey Hahn, second on the right, and CSO Amanda Julian, third on the right, with the rest of their team. Kelsey Hahn and Amanda Julian

A technology-driven company supported by the University of Calgary’s UCeed fund is poised to disrupt the traditional leadership development landscape.

Monark recently secured $1.5 million in seed fundraising from investors across Canada, including UCeed, and has also been selected to participate in the Google Accelerator Program.

Dr. Amanda Julian, MSc’15, PhD ’21, and Kelsey Hahn founded the company to fill a gap created by traditional consulting methods, which they felt often led to episodic and unsustainable leadership-development efforts. But seed funding is a must for most startups.

“We were incredibly excited for the partnership,” Hahn says of having secured investment from UCeed.


Amanda Julian

Kelsey Hahn and Amanda Julian

Partnership with UCeed and Google Accelerator programs

UCeed is a group of pre-seed/seed-stage investment funds that funds, trains, mentors and supports startup companies during the critical transition stage between innovation demonstration and commercialization. Its Social Impact Fund aims to help initiatives solving problems that affect our communities, such as alleviating poverty, growing financial inclusion, education and much more.

Monark's partnership with UCeed emerged from the company’s participation in a demo day at Plug and Play Alberta in 2022, a yearly initiative by the Government of Alberta aimed at helping connect startups, corporations, venture capital firms, universities and government agencies.

“After submitting our application, we successfully navigated through their selection process, which culminated in a pitch presentation to the board,” says Hahn. “They ultimately approved an investment into Monark.”

The alignment of Monark’s vision with UCeed's Social Impact Fund was evident. The company is focused on providing access to leadership development and growth to employees across an organization, regardless of their background or gender.

Monark's additional participation in the Google Accelerator Program has further accelerated Hahn and Julian’s journey. The 10-week program provides mentorship, technical project assistance, and workshops on product design, customer acquisition and leadership development to startups using or planning to use machine learning and AI in their business, aligning perfectly with Monark's goals.

“It was a selection of the top 11 companies across North America, all women-led,” says Hahn. “So, we are one of the three Canadian companies chosen, the only one out in the west. So, we are really excited about that, and to have the opportunity to represent kind of the Western Canadian sphere. And, frankly, we are trying to build a world-class product and we're on our way there.”


Kelsey Hanh, CEO and Co-Founder of Monark.

Kelsey Hahn and Amanda Julian

Monark formed to fill a gap in leadership development

The idea for Monark came to Julian and Hahn while they were operating a boutique consulting firm.

"We would come in and do a 360-degree behavioural assessment with an executive team, and then we would leave and, a year later, nothing had really changed,” says Julian.

Their realization that middle management is the heartbeat of organizations, and that there must be a better way to nurture leadership development at all levels, and in a more ongoing manner, led to the birth of Monark. They believed technology could offer a scalable solution to drive better leadership throughout an organization.

The company’s focus is on automating and optimizing individual leaders' development and performance, catering to the busy lives of middle managers. Its approach includes personalizing learning experiences and integrating machine learning to offer a comprehensive leadership-development solution.

Successful fundraising and future plans

Monark’s $1.5 million in seed fundraising marks a significant milestone for the company and positions it for rapid expansion, say its founders.

“We're really excited about this next phase of growth for us. Monark is, just now, three years old and we're really hitting our stride in terms of starting to see repeatability in our sales process and in our offering,” says Hahn. “We're now really ready to put the gas pedal down and charge into AI and ML but also move into the USA and into new markets. That's what this funding is really going to enable us to do.”

Monark’s journey from a small consulting firm to a technology-driven leader in the leadership-development space reflects Hahn and Julian’s visionary approach and commitment to diversity and inclusion. Their partnership with UCeed and the Google Accelerator have further solidified their position as leaders in this field.

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