After officially launching a little over a year ago, 15Five, the cloud-based employee feedback platform, has surged in both visibility and funding receiving a VC infusion of $1 million to grow it’s platform. In a hot market where HR/SaaS related software platforms are gaining traction by targeting people productivity strategies in organizations, CEO David Hassell shared some personal insights about how his background and the basis for the company’s vision.
Q: How did your background influence your view of business?
A: Throughout my business experience I have seen people look at other successful people and say they want to copy what they are doing. I disagree – I think that the ethos and soul of a company follows the people starting the venture. It is based on their unique path of experience. Trying to copy others won’t generally result in the same outcomes. Think of Steve Jobs – he achieved what he did as a direct result of how his life experiences molded his worldview, approach, and business thinking.
In that spirit I looked back at what I was exposed to. Both of my parents worked hard for forty years in a mostly predictive linear fashion. I wanted something different. I wanted to create my own course and design a different career path so being an entrepreneur was the right fit for me.
Q: How did you start down your business path?
A: I started a company in 1999 called AdClip Networks with the primary objective of making money. At the time I was focused on this because I felt this was the one main objective to strive for. After seven years, however, I lost my passion for what I was doing and my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I completely switched gears and followed a different passion. I created a small adventure travel company called Kite Adventures.
The experience of the sport itself coupled with meeting great people and getting their feedback about their kite boarding experiences re-ignited a new passion inside of me. Eventually when I came to San Francisco, I had in my mind the concept of a business that would blend profitability and passion. When the 15Five opportunity emerged I knew I found something that aligned with my concept of what a business could be.
Q: How is 15Five fulfilling your business vision?
A: Ultimately I envisioned creating a business that acted as a positive beacon in the world. I saw a structure that embodied a platform for a sustainable business but also an environment that allowed people to engage, connect, and collaborate. Some of the context of 15Five comes from working with remote teams and understanding that strong personal connections require an emotional component like you have with face-to-face communication. As a result, my focus with the product emphasizes an aesthetic design that creates a more personal experience when people interact with it.
In addition to great design, the team got clear early on about the fact that the company itself had to embody passion and strong personal connections. We achieve this sense of purpose anchored to a strong a set of solid values which can be seen on our website. The result of taking this view is that we have a stellar team of people who are passionate about the vision and are empowered to make an impact. This is exactly what I wanted in a business culture – great people building a great product.
Q: How do you measure the success of the product’s impact?
A: The simple concept behind 15Five is employees take fifteen (15) minutes to write reports and managers only need to spend five (5) minutes reading them. Based on this simple workflow we have built a great platform and looking at adoption rates, I have been very pleased with the results. We have a very high conversation rate from trial to full version. We have grown 5X in the past year with virtually no marketing.
One of the main reasons for this is a rigorous focus on product development to ensure that people get the simple concept and want to use it. This fixation on design leverages what we believe in as a vision of providing effective feedback and a foundation to better organizational effectiveness.
Q: Related to employee engagement, what do you think of gamification?
A: Figuring out a way to psychologically compel someone to do something is great idea because I believe as human beings we are hard-wired for achievement and accumulation (e.g. badges, points, etc.). I think before this step, however, you need to start with an understanding of what is valuable to an employee. With 15Five while it's a great tool for managers, we don’t want it to be a chore for employees. Similar to certain gamification initiatives out there, we want to offer a product that an employee wants to use and also offers value.
Q: What are your plans for company growth?
We will remain focused on product development but will start expanding more in a variety of areas that highlight our thought leadership around good communication and collaboration. Aside from these efforts, the team and I continue to engage with companies who are building businesses with similar values and who want to enhance their culture with a tool like 15Five. I am very excited about the future and encouraged by the great discussions we can help generate around collaboration and engagement practices.