By Kaitlin Aquino
A new Irvine-based software firm, whose productivity platform rewards employees that meet their performance goals with gift cards and other perks, just closed a nearly $600,000 pre-seed round.
The company, SocialCrowd, has attracted a host of investors, including Anand Gala, founder of Costa Mesa-based, restaurant-focused private equity firm Gala Capital Partners LLC.
Other backers for the company that’s gamifying workplace productivity include VC 414—a firm that supports entrepreneurs who are people of color, LGBTQ, veterans and people with disabilities—and several angel investors.
“It’s been a trickier market for startups to raise money compared to two years ago,” SocialCrowd CEO Raphael Akinsipe told the Business Journal.
“There were definitely a number of ‘no’s’ along the way, but we were able to partner with really strategic investors in the end.”
SocialCrowd’s current clients range from restaurant chains to car dealerships.
“You can use our platform for any type of work,” Akinsipe said. “It’s really allows any manager to boost employee performance by setting up automated incentive programs.”
One of the startup’s earliest customers was Sonic Drive-In, which signed a deal with the company before its platform was even built.
SocialCrowd, which Akinsipe calls the “Fitbit for work,” measures employees’ productivity and reminds them to meet their performance goals.
“It sends them texts and emails to say ‘hey, right now you’re averaging six minutes an order, and we need to get you down to four,’” Akinsipe said.
The timing of the reminders is determined by an algorithm that launched this spring in SocialCrowd’s latest version update.
Once a user hits their productivity goal, they earn points, which they can redeem for rewards such as gift cards, company merch, free meals and PTO.
The most popular type of reward among SocialCrowd users, which include the startup’s own sales and engineering teams, has been gift cards. It provides them through partnerships with retail aggregators that offer gift cards from hundreds of stores, such as Amazon, Sephora and Pizza Hut.
SocialCrowd also features a real-time leaderboard, which is popular among naturally competitive departments like sales teams.
“It keeps everyone motivated and on track,” Akinsipe said.
SocialCrowd’s latest round of funding will allow the company to grow its customer base and small team of six, Akinsipe said.
He founded the company last year while working as a senior VP of marketing and strategy for ambulatory surgery software company HST Pathways, which in 2020 merged with Irvine-based surgery coordination app Casetabs, where he worked as chief growth officer.
As a senior VP who was leading his team’s expansion, “I realized in my role that I was spending more time managing people and trying to keep everyone on track than actually doing my job,” he said.
“That’s how I came up with the idea for SocialCrowd, which could automate this work of keeping everyone on tracking, sending out reminders to employees and rewarding them in a timely way when they hit their goals,” Akinsipe said.