Kevin Nakao and Travis Pearl of MeritShare

Technology companies are pulling out all of the stops to recruit talented engineers, designers and developers. But that’s only part of the problem. While many companies spend countless hours finding the best and brightest minds, they often forget that they also have to work hard to retain the people they’ve worked so hard to locate in the first place.

Meritshare, a three-month-old upstart created by former WhitePages execs Kevin Nakao and Travis Pearl, is setting out to help in those retention efforts by recognizing and rewarding companies’ top performers.

“If you brought all of these people in, why not put some effort on retention,” explains Nakao, the former president and COO at Seattle-based WhitePages.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that companies spend more than $20 billion each year on recognition and rewards programs, everything from toasters and golf bags to achievement pins and trophies for those who stay with a company for 5, 10 or 15 years.

However, according to a study by Globoforce, 50 percent of workers aren’t satisfied with the level of recognition they get at work.

Meritshare thinks there’s a big opportunity to shake up the industry, which is led by established players such as O.C. Tanner and Terryberry as well as new entrants like’s recently launched and Achievers.

Furthermore, Nakao said that 85 percent of companies still use service-based awards, meaning the recognition is tied to one’s tenure of service.

“That’s great, but it doesn’t really connect anybody to performance or the values of the company, and reinforce the things you want to see in people,” said Nakao, adding that once someone earns the recognition they have to wait a long time for the next step.

With Meritshare, Nakao said that they are creating a way for employees across a wide variety of teams and roles to recommend someone for an award tied to specific actions within the company. Similar to LinkedIn’s endorsements, Meritshare’s awards will be publicly displayed on its Web site.

“One of the challenges with people getting rewards at work is that it is generally a private one-to-one thing,” said  Pearl. At Meritshare, he said the awards are designed to make the receiver “feel awesome” around building a team environment. They’ve also built in alerts to remind staffers to nominate co-workers.

“People generally want to recognize people, but they forget about it,” said Nakao, adding that the rewards will be tied into a point system that’s managed by Meritshare.

Meritshare is still in the process of building the product, with a launch expected by the end of the year. It plans to target companies with 10 to 500 employees, smaller than some of the established heavy hitters. It will offer products from a variety of vendors, though it plans to make its money by charging companies a monthly subscription fee rather than through product sales. Pricing has not yet been determined.

Nakao said that companies typically allocate about one to two percent of their budget to employee retention, so he thinks there’s a lot of room to grab market share.

“One of the burning questions … that executives have is: ‘Geez, is my employee engagement good or bad, and how do I tell that? This will allow them to do it because we will be able to provide metrics on how your company is doing in terms of people nominating for awards, the level of engagement of management and employees as it relates to other people in the program,” said Nakao.

Nakao said he’s excited about building a business that’s designed to help people feel good. “It’s like running an ice cream shop,” he said.

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  • Troy Morris

    Interesting idea. I hate bragging; this seems like a way to get publicly recognized without having to do it myself (which, let’s not kid ourselves, can look tacky).

    But solely virtual awards and recognition can feel kinda like lip-service. I mean, it’s great, but people really like physical gifts (gift cards, etc.). incorporates physical gifts, is MeritShare planning on also bridging the virtual and the real worlds?

  • Suryn Longbotham

    Sales reps are often publicly recognized and given amazing rewards for meeting goals, but that same system is rarely extended to everyone else. There must be a lot of people out there who think that’s unfair and would love something like MeritShare so behind-the-scenes work gets the cred it deserves.

    Yammer & LinkedIn do an OK job, but they could do a lot more. Maybe a partnership is in the future?

  • David Niu

    Great stuff Kevin – can’t wait to see the launch and results!

  • Dave Hanley

    Great to see Kevin doing another great project. Excited to see where you guys take it.

  • Virl Hill

    Congrats Kevin, looking forward to the launch!

  • algard

    Good luck Kevin and Travis with the new business!

    • Kevin Nakao

      Thanks Alex, you made WhitePages a great place to develop our entrepreneurial drive!

  • Kevin Nakao

    Thanks everyone for your comments & thoughts. We will allow our customers to tie in physical awards. Some of our competitors force you to use their gifts and prizes, we give our customers a choice. Right now we are selecting a couple of pilot customers to test this out with, go to the sign-up form on our site if you are interested.

  • Phuoc Do

    Congrats on the launch! Kevin/Travis, my team runs We help people accomplish tasks by connecting them to the right experts/mentors. Would like to see if our task/expertise matching engine can be used on other platforms. Please email me “phuocd at 1001mentors dot com”.

  • Phuoc Do

    Congrats on the launch! Kevin/Travis, my team runs We help people accomplish tasks by connecting them to the right experts/mentors. Would like to see if our task/expertise matching engine can be used on other platforms. Please email me “phuocd at 1001mentors dot com”.

  • Mark D. Walters – GC To Go

    I’m reminded of an old saying, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

    Meritshare will probably find easy (or easier) traction with those companies where the organizational culture already recognizes and rewards individual and team success, and companies who finally decide to improve their culture and elect to use Meritshare as a tool to recognize and reward individual and team success. If 50% of the workforce feels under recognized, that’s a huge market!

    Improving culture is tough, but it’s always worth doing!

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