Article By: Lloyed Lobo | Article Source: The Calgary Herald
Research from human resources experts such as Gallup, Towers Watson, Aon Hewitt, and others indicate that in North American organizations, 71 percent of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their work. This converts to $370 billion per year in lost productivity. The same research also shows that companies whose employees had received recognition or praise for their efforts in the past seven days alone had 10-20% higher productivity results. In fact recognition is consistently listed as one of the top four ways to engage your team and is the easiest to implement.
This week we talked to Tom Short and Muni Boga, Cofounders of Kudos®, a peer-to-peer recognition platform and private corporate social network designed to engage your teams via enhanced communication, collaboration, appreciation, recognition, and rewards. Using Kudos, you can send messages and thank your peers in real-time, measure the quality of your character and how you work with other people, redeem Kudos Points for eGift Cards to a huge selection of retailers, restaurants, and charitable organizations, and more.
Organizations such such as Johnson & Johnson, Lush, Dynamite and World Health are already using Kudos to drive employee engagement. Here’s more from our conversation with Tom and Muni
How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?
Tom: I was looking at ways to better engage employees at my previous company, which was an interactive agency. Silos were forming, there weren’t open lines of communication and the culture was deteriorating. Upon reading books such as First break All The Rules and 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team, it became apparent that employee recognition and building trust was the key to enhancing communication. We looked at various tools out there, but they were all very expensive. So we started to build our own tool to enable people to just thank one another. Everyone loved it so much that they started to tell our clients. And then our clients started asking for it. I realized it was a big opportunity and decided to leave to pursue this full time with Muni. Service businesses are not scalable, products are!
What’s different about Kudos than others in the space?
Kudos is highly customizable – you can design it to match your brand, incorporate, eGift cards, badges, awards, feedback etc. The platform is easy to implement and use, so you don’t have to call support if you want to make a change. We also have integrations with LinkedIn, Yammer, ZenDesk, Skype, Gmail, Office365, Sharepoint – we want to eliminate any friction to giving recognition. You factor all this in and you get more value for money compared to anything else on the market.
What has been the biggest challenge so far? What have you done to solve it?
Raising capital at the appropriate valuation in the early stages was a challenge, but that changed as we got customer traction. Then the challenge became onboarding and converting clients from free to paying customers. Upon talking to customers we realized that they were too busy and kept pushing off implementation as Kudos is a “Do It Yourself” platform. So we introduced a concierge service where our staff would help implement Kudos. The conversion to paying customers improved drastically.
Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup?
We’ve been very fortunate to have a great group of customers, advisors and investors. We’d also like to thank other successful local startups who’ve been very kind with their advice and support – particularly Shelley Kuipers of Chaordix, Derek Ball of Tynt and Cam Prockiw at Cornerstone Technologies.
What’s new with your startup that we can share?
We’re excited about one of our newest customers, a multinational bank with presence in over 70 countries. We are also launching Kudos Personal and an Android app next month. Stay tuned!
Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent? Any suggestions to make it easier?
They’re two sides of the same coin, but finding people is more difficult. To raise money, you need to network and work with all opportunities made available via local groups such as A100, Innovate Calgary etc. However, when you’re just starting out, the number one place is friends and family. People don’t invest in ideas early on, they invest in people. Having a well thought out business plan and pitch is key. Prove that your product works on a small subset of customers and use their feedback to make it better – essentially you want to work in small rapid iterations when starting out. When it comes to finding talent, having a great culture that excites people is key because excited people will evangelize your startup and bring in their talented friends.
What has contributed to your success to this point? What advice would you like to share to early stage or new entrepreneurs?
Believe in your vision and put in the time and effort. If you don’t, you will not attract customers, talent and capital. As a founder, you need to be the hardest working person and lead by example. Do a budget, figure out what it’s gonna cost and then double it… and make you have a person to keep you on track. Reach out to experienced people who you can trust and will point you in the right direction when you need help.
What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?
We’ve always been entrepreneurs because we wanted to make our own way. The opportunity at Kudos was significant and so we decided to drop everything else to make it happen.
What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup ecosystem?
The community has grown significantly in the past 2 years. Groups like Startup Calgary, A100 and various others are very supportive. However, it’s still difficult for early stage startups to raise money locally and that needs to change.
What do you and your startup need help with?
If you’re a company that wants to drive employment engagement, improve culture and increase productivity, check out kudosnow.com