Wavy raises $2.5 million to combat remote work, burnout, talent churn

Beer tastings? Yoga? Wellness workshops? There’s a Wavy experience for that.

In today’s increasingly digital workplace, Wavy wants people to connect.

The startup just raised a $2.5 million CAD seed round to continue the ongoing development of its culture management platform. Wavy also plans to use the new funds to put together an engineering and product team, as well as hire on the sales and customer success side of the startup.

Laconia Capital led the round, with participation from Garage Capital, Two Small Fish Ventures, Archangel, Backbone Angels, and others. Among the latter were12 undisclosed angel investors. The round closed in November 2021.

Wavy’s platform offers collaborative experiences meant to build company culture and team engagement. The experiences range from beer tastings, to stand-up comedy with improv games thrown in for good measure, to wellness workshops and yoga classes. The experiences can be delivered digitally or live.

“With over 80 percent of companies choosing remote and hybrid work for the future, the challenge of establishing culture and community has never been clearer,” said Geri Kirilova, managing partner at Laconia Capital. “Every company is searching for ways to combat a lack of connection, increased employee burnout, decreased morale, and talent churn. Wavy’s holistic approach tackles the problem head-on, bringing a fresh approach and a big vision to an underserved category.”

Wavy is Laconia’s first investment in a Canadian company. Kirilova will join Wavy’s board as part of the investment.

Wavy claims that its culture management platform helps companies attract new hires, create a sense of community, increase employee satisfaction, and ultimately, improve retention over time. The startup also provides companies with tools needed to measure the long-term impact of culture initiatives, for team building, learning, wellness, or social good.

“When people get together, magic happens. Human connection is so important and it’s at the center of everything we do. In a remote or hybrid work environment, that can get lost,” said Shawn Hewat, CEO and co-founder of Wavy. “With this funding in place, we are incredibly well-positioned to bring our vision to life for a solution that enables every company to build intentional culture and plan meaningful initiatives, regardless of where people are located.”

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For its marketplace, Wavy works with strategic partners that it believes offer the best-in-class content in each category, whether it’s culinary or wellness. Hewat said a lot of the technology Wavy is building into its platform makes it easier for its customers to plan, manage, and measure the events.

The startup offers automated order management, RSVPs, shipping and tracking, all of which cut down on a lot of the back and forth that typically takes place between organizers and hosts, according to Hewat.

Wavy generates revenue from both one-off bookings of experiences, and a platform SaaS fee and experience plan, which is a budget that companies can allocate across their business and redeem in the Wavy marketplace.

Wavy claims it has worked with hundreds of companies around the world including tech companies such as Wattpad, FundThrough, Guusto, Relay Financial, and Achievers; and large enterprises such as Intuit, Shopify, Deloitte, and Intact.

“Wavy is the new operating system for culture and is tackling the biggest uncertainty at work right now – people, “said Brittany Forsyth, founding partner at Backbone Angels and former chief talent officer at Shopify. “It’s a solution that creates intentional connection and belonging in a world of work that’s rapidly evolved to become digital by design.”

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Neshay Ahmed, Peter Kotzeff, and Hewat founded Wavy in 2018, working at the startup part-time. That same year, Wavy took part in Connection Silicon Valley’s Canadian Women’s Network cohort, at which point it was still known by the name of Wavy Travel Inc.

By the time the startup was a runner-up at the 2019 Fierce Founders Bootcamp Pitch Competition, the founders were working at the startup full time, and had shortened its name to Wavy – but were still offering an app that provided local travel recommendations from local experts.

Wavy soon found as it curated local experiences that its community expressed interest in team-building experiences, with companies asking if they could have particular events booked for their team. Wavy plunged into the company culture and team-building space at the end of 2019 and began thinking about creating a Wavy for work. At that point, the startup raised a $160,000 CAD pre-seed round.

“A couple of months into that, COVID-19 hit, and the problem became 10 times bigger,” Hewat recalled. “Our mission has always been to help people build relationships for shared experiences. The how, like how we’re delivering on that mission, has evolved over time.”

As the startup changed, so too did its team. Kotzeff is no longer with the startup, transitioning out of the business at the end of 2021 according to Hewat. “The business had just changed quite a bit and we decided that made the most sense,” she said.

During the pandemic, Wavy created and ran Stay Home Fest Canada Day, a virtual culture and arts festival that included live music, wellness classes, cooking classes and games. They charged $25 a ticket and donated $5 from each ticket to the nonprofit Swim Drink Fish in support of initiatives to help protect local waters.

Currently, Wavy employs 15 people, but expects to grow to 25 with its new funding.

Hewat said that the moment Wavy began helping teams come together through meaningful experiences, “we just knew we were working to help solve a really big problem.”

Photo courtesy of Wavy.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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