2018: Year in Review
2018 was a landmark year for CultureHQ. It feels like we were trying to build a car, and now we’re speeding down the road.
The year began with our closing a first round of investment in January. Half came from angels, and half from Accomplice’s syndicate, BOSS. Many of the angels are well-known HR leaders, which gave us a great sense of early validation. Overall, we were so grateful and encouraged by those who believed in us and wanted to buy stake in the company.
We Moved Offices from WeWork to GSVlabs
By January, we had been in our WeWork office near South Station for a few months. We had really settled in and gotten to know the place and our neighbors. After months of working from cafes, hotels, and dining rooms, it was inspiring to have other startups around us. With our name on our office door, we felt like a bona fide company.
We moved offices at the end of November to GSVlabs in Downtown Crossing. The office is designed for technology startups that have raised at least one round of funding. Right away, the open floor plan allowed for more interaction with the startups around us — particularly those also selling into HR. Of course, our business’s focus on the power of connection aligns well with the natural social environment of an open floor plan. GSV also gave us a good deal financially, and quickly increased our connections to investors.
Our Team Changed
At the beginning of 2018, our team consisted of four employees:
1. Co-Founder and CEO
2. Co-Founder and COO
4. Software engineer
We also added an intern, who was a college senior on summer break. He focused on prospecting, market research, and design. He proved a great addition during those months, and brought a youthful energy to our office. A fierce Mario Kart rivalry ensued.
At the end of the spring, we let our software engineer go. We felt that we had to, in order to save money and streamline efficiencies. Having to put emotions aside and address something as strictly a “business decision” was difficult, and we were averse to it. However, there was much sensitivity given to the situation, and things went smoothly for all parties. It was a learning experience.
Our Roles Evolved
There were a million small things to do in the early days of 2018, and it felt like all hands were needed on deck. But, with clients signed on for our beta, getting to a functional product quickly was the top priority. These efforts involved research, feedback, design, and then the coding of the features. There were also many operational things to do for the first time.
As clients began to use the platform, our team started to break into more specific roles. There was so much to do that we had to group tasks together and then assign them to individuals. Employees still worked together by helping one another, but there was more designated ownership by role.
We Released Alpha and Beta Versions
The first functional version of CultureHQ was released in March to several clients. It was a definitive moment when we had client users in the platform for the first time. Feedback and questions started flowing in right away through our chat box run on Intercom. We felt like we had climbed a mountain, albeit an early one.
Having user feedback changed everything. Before that, we had been getting feedback on our prototype from HR admins. Getting feedback from users of the real thing was much more significant. It gave us more confidence in every subsequent decision.
We Iterated on Our Product
User feedback requests entered the growing list of product features to be completed in Trello. There were small, specific tasks like, “Increase photo upload time” and “Add advanced event filtering.” And then there were bigger projects like, “Create an onboarding flow” and “Allow users to post updates to homepage.”
All the while, we were paring down the culture solutions that our platform fixed. It was tricky to optimize the platform for the needs of both HR admins and employees. As much as we wanted it to, our platform couldn’t solve every issue. We needed to arrive at a narrower problem solve. To this day, we continue to refine the list.
Our First Paid Clients Came in
Spring and summer brought more features, fewer bugs, and increased functionality. We became more and more satisfied with the product. We didn’t focus on selling, but achieved our first revenue through interested clients from our network.
A challenge arose when trying to reset the expectations of the existing alpha and beta clients. They had been using an earlier version and were used to CultureHQ working in a certain way. The platform now had increased capabilities, but these users proved hardwired to think of it as they always had. In some cases, we realized we just had to move on to find new clients. With these, we would establish the wider expectations right off the bat.
We also had honest conversations with companies about our pricing strategy. We looked at tangential platforms for reference, but didn’t know how to price a new type of product like ours. These open conversations proved helpful and directive at our early stage.
We Were Joined at a Conference Vendor Booth by Our Newest Advisor
2018 saw our vendor debut at an HR conference – the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA) conference in September on Cape Cod. We met a great number of people and learned a lot about their backgrounds, experiences, and challenges in HR. We also had a raffle for items related to personal interests in the platform, which increased foot traffic at our booth. Ultimately, it was a great showcase to provide brand awareness. Another highlight of the conference was watching our newest advisor, Michael Messier, present on executive-level training.
Michael joined us in late summer and became our first team member who is exclusively an advisor. We were impressed by his interest, network and clout, and commitment to helping us. He brought the NEHRA conference to our attention, and made a plug for us at the end of his presentation. Later in the fall, he also introduced us to key members of the Human Resource Leadership Forum (HRLF). Read more about Michael here.
We’re Stoked for 2019
We learned a lot in 2018, and we made great progress: we closed a round of funding, launched our platform, bolstered our team, and learned so much along the way.
Our plan for 2019 is to put our foot on the gas and make a far-reaching impact across businesses. We know we can do it, with the universal appeal of culture across company sizes and industries. We’re going to boost our number of clients, user engagement, and product development. We’re also planning for another round of funding to help us scale our sales and marketing, expand the team, and execute on our mission. New opportunities abound in how we can support diversity and inclusion, and the need for employee connection continues to grow. We know where we’re going, and we can’t wait. Here’s to a successful 2019 campaign for all.