Last week I invited entrepreneurs to share the story of their startup (see below) and the first response came from “family.”
Matt Weeks is an occasional contributor here and member of my company’s board; he’s co-founder and CEO of WorkersCount, an advisor to two startups, volunteers for several other organizations in his “spare time, is an involved dad, all around family guy and makes time for friends.
Someone asks me what I do. “I make workers count.” Here. Have a cookie. Smile.
WorkersCount is a direct-to-consumer mobile service that anonymously measures worker sentiment at the workplace. Using a simple mobile “check-in” experience, workers can safely express their sentiment, discover what’s happening at their company and track other companies. They can easily see what workers in their roles or with similar backgrounds are saying and experiencing. Using a simple set of radio buttons, workers check-in several times daily and respond to “How are you doing at work right now?” and one “Question of the day” (such as “my boss values my contributions” or “I am proud to tell friends where I work and what I do.”
WorkersCount is not a typical silicon valley start-up, and we’re fine with that. Most start-ups fail, and that is neither good nor bad, but just a statistic and a reality of life. Pack a lunch, bring extra water and a power bar. Because it’s a long run in the desert.
So we began with that vision in mind—that we had to be very different to survive. We knew that we would have to build it, launch it, develop traction and users before we would raise dollar 1. That’s the new reality in consumer software and services.
Who cares about this? We arrived at WorkersCount as a pivot from a much more complicated and difficult-to-scale concept. That was an important epiphany and a valuable lesson. Once you get your team and your concept into what we call the “information corridor” and begin the product and market validation process to find “product-market fit” you start down the path to success.
It was during these “getting-hit-over-the-head-lessons” (for Monty Python fans) that we became disabused of our preconceived notions, and landed on the real problem that needed solving.
I call this the “market invalidation process”—meaning that we needed to push ourselves to explain why our assumptions and the monetization and engagement models we had built were NOT invalid.
Most people do it backwards—they attempt to find data points that validate their preconceived notions. As a result they often get the answer they were looking for, instead of a new and more powerful answer. Even if it is “start over, this one won’t work.”
Great entrepreneurs don’t drink their own Kool Aid. Even if it looks great on a pitch deck for investors. Building a company and holding a team together through extreme weather is tough enough when everybody is being authentic and honest. It falls apart fast if everyone is agreeing to tell the same fantasy bed-time story.
Yes, your mom will love your idea (even if she doesn’t really understand it), and your dog will love it (especially if there is a treat involved). But real users only care about their own experience and their own problems. Not yours.
Through this painful process we found our market—where there was huge chaos, pre-existing spend by large entities, and an already connected and established set of communities of end users. We discovered that there was very little dependable and valid data, and even less information that end-users (of various types) could act-upon. The perfect storm for disruptive innovation.
Now all we had to do was build an engaging and meaningful mobile consumer experience and create habitual use, shake up some of the existing assumptions and build a trusted brand. On a shoestring budget. Ha! Welcome to start-up land.
Why are we doing this? We are a values-driven band of 5 workers with decades of work experience under our belts at large enterprises and startups alike. We have personally felt the pain of being a worker and of trying to be a great boss or supervisor. The experience is frustrating coming from both directions. We think we can fix some of that, and create a little bit of fun and lots of smiles along the way.
We are passionate about enabling workers to drive a better workplace. To discover where people like them are thriving and where they are struggling. To enable workers at all levels to validate that they are in the right job in the right role in the right company for them, now. And where they might look (with a little help from their friends at other companies) for their “next hop” now or sometime in the next 30 to 40- months (the average duration of the “gig” in a career these days).
We are making it fun, simple and easy, and we are rapidly introducing a fun game aspect and lots of cool rewards to build traffic and encourage people to share the experience. We want them to keep coming back to see new fun facts and get deeper vision into their own company and those of their friends. But it’s damn hard.
The pay-off is when our early beta users (please become one, by the way, at www.workerscount.com, and help us shape the features as they are brought live) say “where have you been all my work life? This is something that I’d use all the time!” “This is something my son/daughter/spouse/best friend needs to know about!” And when, as one beta user shared
“I would just be relieved to know that I’m having a bad day or a bad week, but that I’m really much better off here at this company with it’s imperfections, than people like me appear to be at those other two other companies I’ve been watching. Now I can relax and get on with my job knowing that, at least for now, I’m in the right place.”
For our friends not working or actively looking, not to worry. You are more than 8% of the workforce and we respect that. We are soon to launch insights and features for you, as well as for our college and grad school friends who want to get the same insights so that they can be smarter and more informed about where to consider for their “next hop.”
What about the “next hop?”
Are careers a series of “gigs” and short stints? We think that this may be the new reality. So even if you stay at the same company, your world will in all likelihood change radically every 30 to 40 months anyway. Having a handle in real time on what’s happening inside and outside of your company is a new type of power and knowledge that every worker can now have.
By the way, in case anyone is asking: we don’t work for employers or HR departments. This is a direct-to-consumer service, delivered on mobile, tablets and laptops.
Yes, we’re looking to scale rapidly when we exit beta, and with broad engagement we aim to change the way workers communicate with one another, with their companies (via our public indices and reports) and with friends at other companies.
WorkersCount. Your voice counts. Come along with us and join the community.
We will soon have cool schwag, tee shirts, hats, mugs and yummy cookies. Naturally. It’s a startup.
Thanks for asking what I do. “I make workers count.”
ATTENTION FOUNDERS, FRIENDS OF FOUNDERS AND STARTUP EMPLOYEES
SUBMIT YOUR STORY
Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup (not a product pitch) along with your contact information.
I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.
Flickr image credit: WorkersCount