Kona, the employee experience platform for remote teams, today announced it has closed a $4 million seed funding round led by Unusual Ventures with participation from Evolutionary Ventures, the venture arm of Silicon Valley executive coaching company Evolution, 2.12 Angels, Louis Beryl, David Carrico, James Beshara, Amazon exec Jeff Wilke, and more. As companies adapt to changes in cultural attitudes toward remote work, to the era of The Great Resignation, and to encompass more generations in the workplace, customers including Oyster, Buffer, Aircall, GoodRx, TeamSnap, Veriff and many more use Kona to get improve wellbeing and get real-time alerts related to culture and employee mental health.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of American workers experienced burnout, and companies lost $300B in 2020 due to productivity loss and burnout-related attrition. The tech industry – where workload demands increased during COVID – suffered in particular, as resignation rates reached nearly 5 percent according to Harvard Business Review. The most pressing challenge companies face in adapting to the global crisis is no longer maintaining business-as-usual, but establishing a remote culture and long-term remote wellness of employees. This responsibility falls on managers, nearly 40% of whom had no manager experience prior to the sudden shift to remote work. Today’s managers must now become stewards of trust and mental health, while meeting the expectations of Millennial and Gen Z workers who expect empathy from leadership as table stakes.
Kona helps managers build people-first leadership skills, enabling them to build daily habits to build trust and stay on top of mental health. The first Kona habit is sharing how you feel at work. Managers use Kona to conduct daily emotional check ins in Slack, allowing them to immediately identify and mitigate instances of burnout. Kona coaches managers on how to support team members in key moments of stress and work-related frustration. With Kona, companies gain nuanced, real-time data and analytics about why burnout trends occur that can be used to build culture, to take action to prevent attrition, and create a psychologically safe team environment.
“Today, employees expect a workplace culture that establishes wellbeing, trust, and belonging. These squishy skills–empathy, coaching, connectedness, and team culture–are rarely taught, but today, they are what great managers need. Companies can’t afford to neglect them,” said Sid Pandiya, CEO and co-founder, Kona. “We’re proud that Kona has helped more than 200 teams establish people-first cultures. We are building a platform to measure and embed soft skills into every aspect of running a company.”
Kona customers have seen impressive results – since using Kona, a 300-person fintech company reduced attrition from 13% to 0% over nine months, two SaaS companies boosted engagement scores by 25%, and a marketing technology startup used Kona to increase the pace of onboarding by 4x.
“Kona represents the best of what Unusual seeks in an investment, a talented, driven team that will raise the bar for customer and employee experience,” said Sandhya Hegde, General Partner, Unusual Ventures. “Attrition and employee engagement is an issue felt deeply across businesses of every age, size, and industry today. Kona brings a unique approach to solving this problem, and has a bold and achievable vision for bringing empathy into the workplace at a time when it’s needed most.”
“We can’t keep pretending that our personal lives are separate from work, especially when our pets and kids and kitchens are in plain view. This shift to remote work has created a reckoning for leaders. Companies that fail to show up for their employees lose them, simple as that,” said Corine Tan, co-founder, Kona. “We’re part of a generation that’s de-stigmatizing mental health and wellbeing. It’s incredibly exciting to usher in an empathetic future of work.”
“I’ve got some really strong manager reviews out of my 360 this year. Kona is my lifeline. We had a challenging year that I don’t think I would have mitigated as successfully without Kona,” said Laura Zinssmeister, Director of Design at Happy Money.
In 2021, Kona published The Remote Manager Report, an exhaustive investigation of the relationship between worker productivity and management and team burnout, finding that the best-performing companies created a culture of wellness from the ground up. In addition, Kona has established industry best-practices for remote culture, with thought leadership content being featured on GitLab’s handbook, Forbes, TechCrunch Sessions, Fortune, Entrepreneur, and several other major platforms.
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