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David Niu.
David Niu.

TINYpulse has struck a chord with companies who want a better way to assess employee morale.

The Seattle-based startup today announced a $6 million funding round to help fuel growth for its employee happiness platform. Arthur Ventures led the round, which included participation from Varenne Partners, Baseline Ventures, Harrison Metal, and High Alpha Capital.

Founded in 2012, TINYpulse gives leaders a pulse on how happy, burnt out or frustrated their employees are. More than 500 companies both big and small — including Airbnb and HubSpot — use the service to ask their employees one anonymous question a week, like, “How happy are you at work?” or, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our on-boarding process?”

TINYpulse analyzes the responses and then provides information that helps executives gauge the happiness levels of people at work. In addition to the continuous feedback loops, employees can also give peer-to-peer recognition to colleagues that deserve appreciation. Bosses have the ability to send back all this information to employees so they know their opinion matters.

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The startup, which has raised $9.5 million to date, saw 100-percent year-over-year growth in 2015 and will use the fresh funding to hire more employees — it has nearly 100 now — and invest in its product. TINYpulse CEO David Niu told GeekWire that the $3.5 million seed round his company raised one year ago is still in the bank.

“Given our growth trajectory, I felt it was prudent to have extra rocket fuel in case we need to scale faster,” said Niu, previously co-founder of Seattle-based companies like BuddyTV and Net Conversions.

Niu noted how today’s managers realize that keeping employees happy is more important than ever — not just for retention, but for revenue, too.

“People do it on one hand to feel good, but it’s also great for bottom-line results,” he said.

The funding will also help the startup pursue new projects, like a performance review product. Here’s what Niu had to say about the potential new offering:

“Basically, it’s the number one request we get from our clients. They love how we re-imagined employee engagement surveys, and want us to do the same for performance reviews. It’s no surprise, because most people loathe doing performance reviews — it’s up there with going to the dentist or doing your taxes. The process sucks for both the manager and the employee because data is siloed, there’s the recency bias, and there’s the surprise factor with little mutual transparency. Our offering will fold in all the learnings from our current offering and customer needs to deliver a truly delightful experience for both the manager and employee. The easiest conversation should be the one at the end of the year with no surprises.”

Niu admitted that when he started TINYpulse, he underestimated how fast the company would grow, both from a hiring and revenue perspective. He shared three key learnings from the past three years of running his company:

Build a “customer success” group sooner

“I was fortunate enough to hire someone who was perfect to lead that function, but it was more serendipitous than strategic. The reason why I would prioritize this sooner is because they’re an invaluable lifeline to our customers’ happiness and needs. Plus they help with on-boarding, product engagement, churn, renewals, and loyalty.”

Scale and test sales sooner

“Until recently, our sales processes was mainly self-service and customer success driven. This is one area that I’m learning a tremendous amount about, how world class sales teams are built. For example, I would have definitely started hiring and testing outbound sales initiatives much sooner. At the end of the day, the keys to success will be different for every company and product, and I believe that we need to have accelerated ‘at-bats’ by trying out new initiatives to see if they stick. And if our pace of testing is faster internally than externally then we’ll win in the long run.”

Investing in building a bench

“Every CEO knows that if they can out-talent the competition, then they’ll outcompete the competition. It’s been a hectic year of fast growth and changes, and I haven’t focused on this as much as I would have liked. What I learned is that I need to think 1-to-3 years out about the key roles I need to hire and then to invest time in outreach to find the people who are the best in those roles and build bridges — so that when the time is right, at least, I can start with a short list of great folks who may be the A player we need. Otherwise, companies get caught in a knee-jerk reaction to hire someone because they just need to fill that role versus finding a top talent that fits both on a performance and cultural perspective.”

Here’s a video of Niu speaking at a recent Arthur Ventures event about his entrepreneurial journey, which included a unique “careercation” in 2012 with his family around the world, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that inspired the CEO to start TINYpulse. Niu later wrote a free book that detailed all the lessons from his trip.

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