News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

BigCommerce cofounder Mitch Harper launches new startup PeopleSpark

In a Medium post on October 1st, BigCommerce cofounder Mitchell Harper announced that he and his cofounder had stepped away from daily-active roles within the business they created together after hiring a good CEO. The pair will remain on the company’s board.

In the same post, Harper announced that back in April he had launched a new venture by the name of Capital H Labs, an umbrella project for all of his future software projects. Harper stated that he intends to use this ‘vehicle’ to generate ideas, conduct market validation, take successful projects through initial funding to prototype, beta, and onwards to final launch. He said he was sticking with the same mantra he had when creating BigCommerce, to build ‘cool shit’ – and that is the heart and soul of this project.

Today marks the first software venture to come out of Capital H Labs, with Harper announcing the launch of his new team communication platform PeopleSpark.

The startup helps improve communication, trust and transparency between managers and their teams. The entire product is based on Harper’s experience scaling BigCommerce to 500 employees and 100,000 customers in a period of just five years.

“At my last company we sent out quarterly ‘mojo’ surveys to know how everyone was feeling and to get their feedback on what was going well and what wasn’t,” said Harper. “The feedback was excellent, but we had to hack together lots of different tools and we only surveyed once a quarter.”

“I wanted to take those same concepts and build them into a product that any company could use to improve their culture and communication. I also wanted to shorten the feedback loop to give managers weekly insights from their team instead of quarterly, which is too slow – especially if you’re growing quickly.”

PeopleSpark aims to solve three issues for teams. The first is retention, and one of the main reasons why employees leave a workplace is because they feel like they are not being heard by their boss. The platform creates a private, weekly feedback loop between managers and their team members.

The second is culture. The platform has been built to enable managers to get ahead of issues before they turn into problems. Teams where an action occurs in hours as opposed to weeks end up being more productive as they maintain that company culture that is core to its success.

The third issue being solved is speed. Annual and quarterly surveys of staff are usually large and time consuming to roll out. This new platform instead gives managers insightful feedback from their teams every week, whether they are physically with them or not.

PeopleSpark currently starts from a price point of $49.00 per month for up to 10 users after a 14 day free trial of the product.

It should be noted that PeopleSpark is not the first startup to enter this industry. In fact, companies like 15five, waggl and TinyPulse are all growing technology platforms that offer pretty much the exact same solution and similar pricing structures. Even recently acquired Australian startup WooBoard, which places an emphasis on recognition in the workplace, has some similarities in that the systems are designed to increase employee engagement.

Obviously Harper has the knowledge, the cash, and the connections to be less worried about those competitors than the average startup founder. But in order to become the market leader, PeopleSpark will need to move fast. This is a growing sector, which means soon it will be incredibly cut-throat.

“We’re really looking to replace the quarterly and annual performance review process most companies put up with,” says Harper. “They’re too slow, no one really likes doing them, and by the time you act on the feedback you’ve received, it’s too late. Our mission is to make one million people quantifiably happier at work, and we feel we’ve got a good shot at doing that.”





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