Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga has aimed to produce quick, intuitive surveys suitable for SMEs.
There’s a joke doing the rounds in Silicon Valley about a CEO who says to his marketing manager, “Tell me what my customers thought of me two years ago.” But that’s often what it’s like for Human Resources when researching employee sentiment.
Despite an explosion of marketing tools like Google Analytics, that enable companies to gauge their customer behaviour in real time, such expertise has been slow to make its way into the world of HR.
Melbourne-based start-up Culture Amp is hoping to change that, and in less than two years has become the HR tool of choice for Silicon Valley’s star tech companies.
The bootstrapped start-up counts as its clients companies including Box, ModCloth, Squarespace, 99designs, Pinterest, Hulu, Choicelunch, Klout, Gilt Groupe and Habanero. This month research group Gartner named Culture Amp one of 2013’s Cool Vendors.
Co-founder and CEO Didier Elzinga said companies previously had two choices if they wanted to understand what their employees were thinking.
“Either you go to a consultant – one of the big companies. They’re good at what they do but they cost a lot of money and it’s a very slow process. They ask a lot of questions, roll out a survey, and six months later you get a report.”
Or, he says, they were building surveys themselves using tools like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo. At the end they were left with a pile of data to analyse.
Customised, intuitive surveys
Culture Amp’s product Murmur is a customisable survey platform that employees can complete at work or on their smartphones on the way home. The results are analysed and represented in a one-page visual report. It can also send out regular surveys to random employees so the employer can monitor sentiment in an ongoing way and spot trends early.
Elzinga says he has tried to get around the hatred employees typically feel towards surveys and performance reviews by making them quick and intuitive to complete.
After pitching the idea to 10 Australian CEOs in October 2011 and “coding like crazy”, the company had its first paying customer four weeks later. It coded the reporting engine as the first surveys were run.
A trip to Silicon Valley – where finding and keeping talent is a constant battle – in early 2012 brought in new customers.
“We had a fantastic response,” Elzinga says. “In the valley now we have companies ranging from 50 employees to 13,500.”
He doesn’t release revenue figures, but says Culture Amp has been profitable since February and has been consistently growing in revenue by 50 per cent, quarter on quarter since launching.
The company now has eight employees, including two in the United States, but has no plans to relocate from Melbourne.
He says he has “no desire” to build an engineering team in Silicon Valley, where the war for talent means it is a “bloodbath”.
“I get asked constantly, why don’t you move to the US,” Elzinga says, speaking from San Francisco where he is on a business trip. “My answer is if we didn’t have the customers, we might. So far we don't need to move to the US to get customers – we are viewing ourselves as a global company.”
He sees small to medium-sized businesses, which often don’t monitor employee satisfaction, as an area for growth. Californian company Choicelunch, a Culture Amp customer which makes school lunches, is a good example of the type of customer he wants more of.
“It’s a company of chefs, blue-collar workers and drivers,” he says. “I look at that and say that’s the type of company we want, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of companies like that around the world that need this.”