Meet Visionary Founder Elise Smith, CEO And Co-Founder Of Praxis Labs, A Virtual-Reality-Based Diversity And Inclusion Platform Startup

Meet Visionary Founder Elise Smith, CEO And Co-Founder Of Praxis Labs, A Virtual-Reality-Based Diversity And Inclusion Platform Startup

Elise Smith is helping to create better outcomes for diverse employees.

She is the co-founder and CEO of Praxis Labs, a virtual-reality-based (VR) diversity and inclusion platform startup, as previously mentioned by AFROTECH™. The platform offers immersive learning to companies like Google, Uber, and ServiceNow to help achieve benchmarks that boost engagement and lead to retention, enhance company culture, and increase equity and inclusion.

“For me, it’s how do we use technology to help us become even better humans, to help us be able to give feedback across differences, to navigate difficult conversations, to provide performance feedback and expectations with accountability and care in a way that actually serves us all better, that creates more value for everyone, doesn’t cause harm,” she told AFROTECH™. “We’re seeing our workplaces need that more than ever.”

To date, Praxis Labs has raised $18.7 million, per digitalundivided. As AFROTECH™ previously reported, Praxis Labs raised $15.5 million in 2021 in an oversubscribed Series A round led by Norwest Venture Partners and Emerson Collective. Penny Jar Capital (anchored by Steph Curry), Precursor Ventures, Concrete Rose Capital, Ulu Ventures, SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund, and Firework Ventures also participated in the round.

AFROTECH™ Future 50

Smith was recognized among the AFROTECH™ Future 50 list, which was created to amplify Black leaders in the tech industry. Smith is listed as a visionary founder, joining the ranks of Partake Foods Founder Denise Woodard, Eastside Golf Founders Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl Cooper, and UnitedMasters Founder and CEO Steve Stoute.

Check out the full list here.

“AFROTECH™ is such a mainstay in the Black community, in the Black tech community, I remember I went to some of the earliest conferences, and it was a time where I felt like I belong, where I could see leaders who I aspired to be like, and wanted to follow their journeys and their careers and learn from them. To be honored as a part of the 50 means so much,” Smith told AFROTECH™. “I definitely am surprised that I would be honored in this way, and among so many leaders I admire and respect… [I’m] grateful to be recognized for the work we’re doing at Praxis Labs and the impact we’re making. There is a lot more work to be done, but [I’m] grateful for the contribution to have made it to this list of 50 incredible leaders.”

Smith credits her family, lived experiences, and those within her community for her interest in building systems that aim to level the playing field among diverse workplaces. These factors drove her mission to become a visionary founder.

“I think this notion that systems and structures haven’t been set up equitably for everyone is definitely a part of those stories and those experiences,” Smith said. “I’ve always sought to think about how can technology be used at scale to overcome some of what we’ve seen has held so many in our community back, and really, all of us. I think this idea of how do you scale access, how do you scale opportunity, is something that is really inspiring to me.”

Praxis Labs Launches New Product

Praxis Labs recently launched a new product: a Generative AI-driven, immersive learning experience for people leaders. It includes an extended collection of experiences and practice simulations, each lasting five to seven minutes, covering topics such as navigating divisive conversations, leading performance management, and managing cross-team and cross-cultural conflict, a press release mentioned.

Photo Credit: Praxis Labs

“Some of our practice simulations that we just launched as part of Pivotal Practice are really focused on these critical kinds of power skills, things like asking open-ended questions, reframing, affirming… with your team daily can help people who may not typically feel included, that they belong, or feel seen, can help them feel like their contributions are valued, that their perspective is helpful, and that could be the difference or the unlock between arriving at the best solution or missing it completely,” Smith explained.

The Pivotal Practice simulations help people leaders navigate potentially polarizing, divisive topics in the workplace, such as the upcoming U.S. elections and wars throughout the world, Smith explained.

“How do you hear people’s perspectives, respect them, and also align a team that may have differing perspectives? We have a whole suite on that, and how you practice that, and how you build confidence and comfort in navigating that, realigning the team and really driving towards collective outcomes,” she said. “The work we’re doing is incredibly timely. It’s incredibly powerful. And with GenAI, we’re able to leverage faster development time. We’re able to leverage embedded measurement. We’re able to leverage personalized coaching and generated simulations to help people create space to practice, build those skills, and apply them in their daily life.”

Already, companies and their workforce are reaping the benefits of the latest feature. Smith told AFROTECH™ that one of Praxis Labs’ clients state 68% of learners on the Pivotal Practice platform are more likely to stay at its organization, with the impact being even more pronounced among underrepresented talent. She also shared that 75% of Black and Latino team members at that company said that they were more likely to stay.

“What we’re doing is valuable and helpful for everyone, but might have even better outcomes for those who maybe historically haven’t felt included, haven’t felt like they belong, haven’t felt like they have an opportunity to continue to grow and thrive at the same rate as their peers, and so this is, again, really powerful work we’re doing,” Smith said.

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