Big Welcome to Autumn Manning and the YouEarnedIt Team Reply

youearnedit-logo-28129I’m delighted to announce a new addition to our portfolio: YouEarnedIt, an Austin-based SaaS HR company that helps drive employee engagement and company performance metrics. IDG Ventures co-led the $6.5M Series A round with Silverton Partners.

We often get asked what we look for in our investments. In many ways YouEarnedIt perfectly exemplifies our investment criteria: Series A, founder-led team, capital efficient, technology solving a real problem with a SaaS model, large and growing market, and great co-investor.

Let me elaborate:

YouEarnedIt was created three years ago as an ‘initiative’ to address a very specific business goal for digital marketing agency Rockfish Interactive: to increase employee engagement and satisfaction. The resulting product––a recognition and rewards program driven by peer-to-peer recommendations––was a huge success for the Rockfish team. What’s more, a viable and effective employee recognition platform was born.

Almost 90% of enterprises have some version of an employee recognition program, i.e., most enterprises have budget reserved for these programs, which we venture capitalists love. These programs are most commonly based on above-and-beyond performance, peer-to-peer recommendations, length of service, and other specific behaviors. And there’s a solid reason why enterprises are investing in employee recognition programs:  research shows that companies with higher employee satisfaction outperform competitors by 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent per year. Other studies demonstrate that clear goal-setting and the belief that a company is invested in employees’ individual growth have a dramatic effect on workplace motivation.

The research resonates with our own philosophical belief that a happy, rewarding workplace makes for a more successful business.

According to IDC, the Talent Management Applications market is over $4 billion a year, and the overall HR Tech market is almost $12 billion. So there’s a lot of money spent by enterprises, big and small, on software solutions.  We got excited about YouEarnedIt after an introduction by Silverton Partners’ Mike Dodd, a savvy SaaS operator and investor whom we’ve known for a long time.

autumn-manningBut what really sealed the deal for us was the team. YouEarnedIt is led by co-founder and CEO Autumn Manning, who is bright, super hard-working, driven, and passionate about the business of enabling people to perform their best. She is supported by standouts Jon Driscoll, chief revenue officer, and Kevin Dasch, chief operating officer. Autumn and her team have been incredibly capital efficient, using seed capital from Kenny Tomlin (CEO of Rockfish) and other angels to scale to over 300 customers, including Anheuser-Busch, Condé Nast, Dell, Kaiser Permanente, Pandora, Sony, Turner, Whole Foods, and dozens of smaller companies. This impressive customer roster is a rare exception to our typical early-stage investments in which we expect to see only a few customers. Even more impressive is the fact that YouEarnedIt has driven 80% employee engagement on a regular basis across all their customers.

I’m thrilled to work with Autumn and the entire YouEarnedIt team.

Pitching to CIOs, Part 2: Lessons for Software Founders 1

CIOs

If you’re in the enterprise software / SaaS business, then you know that the sales process almost always includes a conversation with the CIO. This is a conversation you want to nail for obvious reasons.

Pitching to CIOs has its nuances, as I was reminded during two recent CIO events,  a series that I host every few months. More…

CITE Panel on Upcoming Disruptions in the Consumerization of IT Reply

CITE 2014

Last week, I participated in a panel at CITE (Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise) with fellow VCs Arif Janmohamed of Lightspeed Venture Partners and Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia Capital. Aside from the humor we found in the trifecta of our first initials (the AAA panel!), our discussion on innovation and trends in consumer technologies for enterprises yielded some interesting insights. More…

Pitching to CIOs, Part 1: Lessons From IDG Tech Advisors 2

Recently, we hosted an IDG Ventures CIO Tech Demo Day to bring together founders, CEOs, and CIOs for discussions on technology and emerging trends. Attendees comprised a combination of founders from our portfolio companies, CEOs with whom we’ve had long-term relationships, and other VCs with whom we have co-invested. The founders and CEOs delivered presentations to CIOs from Akamai, Cox Communications, Credit Suisse, Hess, Gartner, IDG, Paypal, Vail Resorts, and Vertex. All that experience, leadership, and vision in the room made for engrossing and spirited conversations that led to some valuable insights.

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3 Overused Startup Terms Reply

The startup world — like any field — has its own lexicon.  Living in this world, I am guilty of overusing industry jargon myself. But there are several buzzwords that have become overused and misused to the point they are useless.

Here are three of the most annoying terms I hope will disappear from the startup lexicon soon.

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There Once was a Bunny Living in a Bubble Reply

We live in a bubble in Silicon Valley.  By this, I mean we often forget that outside of Silicon Valley, the larger population experiences technology differently from us and our neighbors.  And this we need to remember when investing in new companies and when starting new businesses focused on consumers, particularly worldwide.

A recent reminder for me was a conversation with my sister-in-law.  An East Coaster, quite intelligent, very educated,  she asked if I still use that “Errand Bunny” service I previously recommended. After some confusion, I realized she was referring to Task Rabbit, a service for outsourcing small jobs to people in your neighborhood. Sure, Task Rabbit, like Uber, may be a part of our everyday language, but it’s not necessarily familiar to people outside the San Francisco-based tech industry.

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My Favorite Business Productivity Apps Reply

Consumerization of IT is one of the areas I’m most excited about these days. The trend has two sides. First, there’s the consumerization of IT within an enterprise, in which employees access corporate data and business systems from their mobile devices. Second, there’s the “enterprise-ation” of IT among consumers, in which anyone with a smartphone can use apps with enterprise functionality.

Business productivity apps are examples of enterprise functionality in the hands of consumers. Here’s a sample of some of the more interesting ones I personally use:

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