With Hundreds of Customers, 15Five Provides a New Spin on Progress Reports

In the past we’ve covered companies like iDoneThis and Thinkfuse (which has since been acquired by Salesforce), which try to help companies get quick updates on what their employees are doing each day. SaaS startup 15Five is entering that same productivity space with its platform designed to help managers get a snapshot of their team’s progress throughout the week. Since launching in private beta at the LAUNCH conference in March 2012 and in public beta this summer, the company has added hundreds of customers, including Warby Parker and Ustream.

15Five’s ask of employees is simple: take 15 minutes to create a report outlining your progress every week, which will in turn only take a manager five minutes to read. Founder David Hassell said the reports are designed to unearth successes, problems, and generally keep teams in the loop. He didn’t come up with the original 15 minute report/5 minutes to read idea, rather it’s the brainchild of entrepreneur Paul Hawken, who came up with the idea in the 1980s. Hassell decided to build a company around the concept after meeting Sundia CEO Brad Oberwager, who had built software to allow his employees to quickly put together reports.

“It’s actually a 25-year-old idea, and the reason I don’t think it really took off is because it’s very cumbersome to do without a tool,” Hassell said. He said typically managers have one-on-one meetings with employees, team meetings, or they send email updates, which aren’t efficient as soon as a company scales beyond a few people. “Yes, people are trying to gather this type of information on a regular basis, but a lot of times it just doesn’t even happen.”

In the weekly reports employees answer questions about their successes that week, any challenges that have popped up, and any ideas they have moving forward, and how they’re feeling about their work and workplace. Managers can then distill those reports into a few key points, and combine with reports from other team leaders. That snapshot is given to the CEO, who gets an idea of the most important activity in the company, and can take steps to improve employee morale or solve outstanding issues.

Hassell said they originally built the platform thinking that it would only be useful for companies or teams with over 20 people, but quickly amended subscription plans when he found that teams as small as three people were using it. Now the company offers a base plan of $49 per month for the first 10 employees, with the option to add employees for $5 per employee per month, and enterprise pricing available for companies with over 100 people. “I designed it for the CEOs who I knew and knew well, which are mostly small and medium-sized businesses, and the particular challenges they had, but knowing that this is a universal problem that we could eventually work into large organizations,” he said.

To date the company has only raised friends and family funding, despite Yammer CEO David Sacks offering to invest while the company was presenting at the LAUNCH conference. Hassell said first they wanted to figure out whether it was a product users were interested in and would use, and now are raising a round of seed funding. Hassell said they’re also working on adding updates to the platform, and though he couldn’t specify what features will be added, they will focus on allowing companies to have conversations about issues in the report and tracking things to follow up on.

As with other productivity apps, whether to-do apps or internal feedback tools, the key to making it useful is actually using it on a weekly basis, and not letting it fall to the wayside after a few weeks. Hassell said the level of engagement depends on the company and the employee, and that some employees fill them out every week, and the average employee fits it out 70-80 percent of the time. The company’s success with keeping customers engaged with depend on whether or not employees actually fill out the reports, and whether managers use them as a source of feedback, though Hassell said if a report slips one week it’s not a make-or-break thing. “It’s not a 100% thing and it doesn’t need to be.”



Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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