If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year for a bold resolution, perhaps for finding your purpose in work, this company wants to help.
Seattle-based startup Imperative assists people who want to identify their professional raison d’être, providing a sort of Myers-Briggs test that instead of exposing personality traits will reveal what would make you happy punching the clock each morning.
Before launching the company, co-founder Arthur Woods worked at Google as an operations strategist and then head of operations for YouTube Education.
“My ‘aha moment’ at Google was when I realized that my average colleague was not fulfilled in their work. They had a great deal of comfort, but not a lot of purpose and meaning at work,” said Woods, who was experiencing his own discontent. “I had this existential crisis.”
It seemed that Google’s now abandoned motto “don’t be evil” wasn’t exactly inspirational. Woods was early in his career, and wanted something more. A fellow Georgetown University alum connected him with Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit that helped create a national pro bono marketplace, and author of the book “The Purpose Economy.”
They met in New York and clicked immediately. Hurst wanted to take the mission of pursuing satisfying endeavors beyond volunteerism and into the workplace. Woods was on board.
Imperative launched in 2013 with Hurst serving as CEO. The business provides an assessment tool that helps people discover what gives them meaning, and how they can take steps in their current job to increase their sense of purpose. Imperative trains and certifies coaches, including HR employees within a company or external coaches working with multiple organizations. The company also does research, releasing a 2016 Global Purpose Index in partnership with LinkedIn, in which they studied more than 25,000 LinkedIn users.
Imperative has 17 employees and more than 100 clients, such as Sony Music, Campbell’s and MetLife, as well as medium-sized enterprises and nonprofits. This year the company expects to reach 100 external, certified coaches, and more than 200,000 people on their platform.
The company has raised $2.8 million and just finished an oversubscribed strategic investment round from angel investors including San Francisco-based Sand Hill Angels, Orlando’s FAN Fund, healthcare consultants FutureSense and New York-based Gaingels. This is Imperative’s third round of funding and the cash will help them expand and scale their channel partner model, Woods said.
We caught up with Woods for our Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We are a digital coach in your pocket helping people find greater fulfillment at work and take action to make their work more meaningful.”
Inspiration hit us when: “It was really when I first met Aaron at his office at Taproot. I had just left my job at Google. We shared the realization that the average person is unfulfilled and disengaged at work — where they spend the majority of their time. We immediately shared a desire to help every person, regardless of age or income, connect to purpose in their work. We built a company to make meaningful work accessible to the masses.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We bootstrapped out of the gate, and then went the angel investment route without focusing on VC. We’ve had a solid and growing cash position since we launched. We found Angel to be a good mix of capital and value-added involvement without losing control.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Imperative stands on a proprietary framework on purpose based on the largest set of global research and data on intrinsic motivation. Most importantly we’ve set up Imperative not just as an organization, but as a movement. The clients are leaders in this movement with a sense of ownership as much as ours.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Creating a strong certification model where the application and evangelization of Imperative doesn’t just stem from us, but from our community.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Early on, we would mistake a learning experience for a failure and not follow through to the next iteration. There were a few instances where we rejected something that just needed a new iteration.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? “I’d rather have Gates because in many ways, he really was the earliest pioneer in the information economy. He managed to nicely build something and hand it off, and after such achievement he found his encore initiatives to create new value for the world.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “We go around at the end of the week and everyone on the team has to ring the bell and share a new meaningful relationship they built, one way they created an impact, or one way they grew in the last week. This makes what we celebrate not just about hitting our numbers, but where we each are fulfilled as human beings.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Hunger and tenacity. It’s not necessarily expertise and it’s not necessarily pedigree. It’s a real burning desire, strong work ethic and truly caring.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “What seems to set the most successful entrepreneurs apart is they don’t give up. By nature as an entrepreneur you are treading on unmarked territory. You are inevitably going to hit resistance and face challenges. When you hit the first few speed bumps, you can react like many and throw in the towel or you can keep pushing. The most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs I’ve met didn’t necessarily have the most brilliant ideas or strongest skill-sets. They would not give up.”