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Matt Tucker, co-founder and CEO, Koan (Koan Photo)

Two former Jive Software colleagues have teamed up to launch a new business-productivity service, betting that business managers are looking for new tools that help them be more productive and give their employees much-needed support.

Portland, Oregon-based Koan will emerge from stealth mode on Tuesday, two years after it first got started with a seed round from prominent tech executive Maynard Webb’s Webb Investment Network and several other angel investors. The service, which runs on Amazon Web Services, gives managers a dashboard for tracking goals, providing feedback, and other people-management tools that often wind up as a pile of emails and spreadsheets, said Matt Tucker, co-founder and CEO of Koan.

“This is how you get your work done as a manager with your team,” said Tucker, who previously served as CTO at Jive Software.

The idea for Koan was born from a late-night discussion between Tucker and co-founder Arend Naylor about entrepreneurial opportunities in enterprise tech. There are lots of tools for almost every aspect of the business world, but relatively few modern tools that make the day-to-day process of managing direct reports easier, he said.

An overview of Koan, which helps managers gather feedback on projects and progress. (Koan Image)

Koan (“a paradox to be meditated upon,” according to Merriam-Webster) is a web application that can also integrate with Slack, where an increasing number of business teams spend the majority of their time. Managers can set reminders to solicit feedback at the end of a long week, or at the beginning of a new project, and track that data over time.

There are lots of workplace collaboration tools, and there are lots of software tools for human-resources departments, but there are relatively few tools that help leaders of small to medium-size teams be more productive, Naylor said. The product and the company are taking a cue from Slack, he said, by designing the user experience for those smaller teams to adopt on their own, as opposed to trying to force a new workplace collaboration tool on employees from the upper ranks of management.

It’s a good time to be in the enterprise software-as-a-service business, according to Redpoint Ventures partner Tomaz Tunguz, a prominent SaaS watcher. Valuations of SaaS startups are nearing ten-year highs,” he wrote Monday, as investors realize that pretty much all software will be delivered as a service in the future, especially in the market for enterprise software.

Tucker co-founded Jive Software back in 2001, and the company became one of the more prominent fixtures within Portland’s technology community. However, most of Jive’s management team moved to the Bay Area as it geared up for a 2011 IPO, and just last week announced it would close its Portland office following its acquisition by Aurea last year.

Tucker and Naylor are still based in California, but they plan to travel to Portland regularly as the company hires additional employees for its downtown Portland office. The company plans to add additional management features to the basic product, and a native mobile app is in the works.

The decision to start Koan in Portland “was really at its core access to talent; our ability to hire great engineers in Portland versus competing with the likes of Facebook and Google in the Bay,” Tucker said. Portland is also significantly cheaper for young startups trying to stretch seed funding rounds while hiring engineers, he said.

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