Another Techstars Seattle 2016 graduate is raising cash.
This time it’s Polly.ai, which just reeled in a $1.2 million seed round to grow its platform that utilizes chatbots to help managers assess employee happiness. Amplify Partners led the round, which included participation from SV Angel, Zhenfund, Tempo Ventures and others angel investors.
Founded by former Microsoft engineers Samir Diwan and Bilal Aijazi, the Seattle-based startup offers software that integrates with Slack, the popular enterprise communication app. It allows managers to automatically ping employees on their thoughts about the quality of internal tools, meetings, and other related processes directly within Slack on a one-time or recurring basis. The chatbot automatically collects feedback and data, tracking trends to provide insights for employers.
“We’ve really enabled different players within an organization to get feedback,” Diwan told GeekWire. “It’s really easy for an engineering manager, a marketer — anyone — to get input from a small number of users really quickly and easily, without going to a different site or registering for a new service.”
The fresh cash will help Polly keep up with demand. At Techstars Seattle Demo Day in May, Diwan said that more than 9,000 teams were using its software, representing more than 500,000 users. Polly is also the No. 1 most-popular bot in the entire Slack ecosystem. Early customers include Soylent, Auth0, and others.
“Our team hasn’t been able to support growth as our user base has increased,” Diwan said this week.
Polly seems to have found a sweet spot within Slack, which is also growing like crazy and has become a leading enterprise communication platform with nearly three million daily active users. As more and more employees move their work processes into Slack, it provides an opportunity for Polly to help create an automated feedback loop for a variety of topics.
“The culture in chat is a bit different than the traditional culture of enterprise,” Diwan noted. “We made polling and giving feedback more fun.”
Polly not only tries to make polling more fun, but more efficient. There is also back-end data that managers can access about what their employees are saying — not just about traditional HR topics, but also around products, meetings, documents, and more.
“With the new kinds of data making its way into Slack, there is a lot of potential to provide new kinds of data intelligence,” Diwan explained.
While Polly, which employs just two people, is very much connected to Slack, “nothing prevents us from building on other platforms,” Diwan noted.
“We are building for real-time chat-style communication and productivity,” he said.
Polly is the fourth startup from the most recent Techstars Seattle cohort to raise seed funding in the past few months; others include Shyft, Reflect, and Kepler. In addition, Beam was acquired by Microsoft earlier this month, and Validated was recently accepted into Jaguar Land Rover’s incubator in Portland.
“It definitely helped,” Diwan said of Techstars. “For us, the biggest thing that helped was the network — not just our mentors, but the alums and the Techstars companies in other cities.”