People have been asking me about the origin of Strety - and not just about the name - but how the idea came to fruition and why we started a People Management product. It's been asked so frequently lately that I figured a public blog post with the details would be a great idea! So here we go...
It was nearly two years ago, in May 2018, that a few different situations converged together that led to the original idea. At that time I was CEO of BrightGauge Software, a 35 person SaaS product that my brother and I founded in 2010. My brother was CEO of Compuquip Cybersecurity, a 20 person cybersecurity consulting firm founded by our father in 1980. Two small but growing businesses!
Managing Growing Teams
BrightGauge was growing very fast in 2016 and 2017 - from 7 employees to 35 with no end in sight. To handle all the growth and keep our unique culture going, I promoted the best people from within our teams to become managers. As you might imagine, many were first time managers. Meanwhile, my brother was managing a regrowth in our cybersecurity firm with an established culture and experienced management team. But that leadership team required some shuffling to prepare for this next phase of growth.
As CEOs, we were both (and still are) very focused on efficiency and productivity among ourselves, our management team, and entire organization. Meaning, we did not want any time wasted in meetings, in communication problems, or mis-alignment. We wanted everyone focused on their work and getting sh*t done, including managers. To us it came down to having the right people in the right jobs, a basic requirement, but on top of that it was about keeping everyone fired up about their work and focused on the right priorities. We did this by communicating (1) constantly about everything, (2) being authentic and transparent with the company, and (3) leading by example.
We realized that no matter how much we did as CEOs, a lot ultimately came down to the management team leading employees day to day. And that’s where things, for us, became a bit unclear in how that was progressing. Though we had tools to manage our projects, our support tickets, our pipeline, and dashboards to manage KPIs... we had no tools to manage our employees or to ensure our managers were doing the same. Much of that visibility came through conversations in management meetings, hallway run-ins with employees, during annual performance reviews, or random private slack messages. All over the place and undocumented (except for reviews).
To me, that was terribly inefficient. Surely, I thought, there was a system out there built for companies like ours. I looked around and… not really. Many of these “soft” management jobs are built into HR systems but were not given much thought to by the vendors. Or they were built in big performance management products that were very “heavy” to use and enterprise focused. Neither was ok for us.
We wanted something that integrated into our day to day communication tools, that was easy to use, while still having all the power of an enterprise toolset. And if we wanted a tool like this, we knew there were many others that wanted this product just like us!
We were looking to find "what's next" at the same time
At that time BrightGauge, the product, was starting to feel a bit too bloated in its feature set. We reached a point where we were just cluttering the user interface to add things for the sake of adding things. In analytics, which is what BrightGauge was all about, it was easy to get sucked into building more spreadsheet-like features. Just look at Microsoft Excel, it has a TON of features and is quite a bit cumbersome to use... not what we wanted out of BrightGauge.
We were so stuck that we actually had been planning to re-write BrightGauge from scratch...just to give it a new take. After working on the proof of concept for a rewrite we felt it was too risky of a project. It would have been two years of a whole development team for potentially little gain. The feeling around our management team was that it was time to find something new to build!
Keep in mind, BrightGauge was a dashboard and reporting company that was used by managers to manage teams by KPIs. Think to do list counts, profitability numbers, response time averages, etc. It was (and still is) an incredibly helpful product to manage people by the numbers. But all the important people/soft stuff was missing. The soft stuff like how were the employees feeling about their work, about the company's vision, how did their peers perceive them, what things were they working on to advance the company’s mission, or their own careers. These were all the questions that went unanswered by BrightGauge.
I felt this was something we could build a product around. And sell to the same audience who bought BrightGauge because they liked the type of easy to use, purpose built for small businesses product we liked to build.
Our market was asking for this type of system… in a roundabout way
Lastly, and the most impactful situation converging, was that our BrightGauge customers were asking for these types of features already!!! Just not directly. At BrightGauge we only marketed and sold to Managed Services Providers (MSPs) of which there are about 20,000 worldwide in english speaking countries. At the time of our sale of BrightGauge in late 2018, we were fortunate enough to call 2,000 of them customers. Every quarter we would lead workshops with customers on how to run a company (primarily using BrightGauge). I would personally lead these workshops and at some point in each workshop, the conversation would break down into "how do you manage talent and keep them engaged and productive”. And this conversation was totally outside the KPI world and more about 1:1 meetings, performance reviews, and that soft stuff I was feeling was so important as well.
As I talked to these small business managers and my friends who also ran companies, I realized this product idea had a broader appeal outside then the MSP market. Therefore this couldn’t be part of BrightGauge, it had to be a separate product all together.
And off we went to build Strety!
We started building Strety in July of 2018 not knowing BrightGauge would be sold 5 months later. Though we started building a foundation of a product, we put a hold on building the entire system until after the sale.
Once the sale was announced in early 2019, off we went to build Strety as an independent product and company. We (re)started in February 2019 and released a beta version in October of that year. Here we are 4 months later with 25 companies using Strety and providing amazingly important feedback on what’s critical to manage their people. And soon we will launch for all companies to use!
Ready to Strety in 2020!
If this story resonates with you and you’re interested in trying out Strety, contact us. We’ll get you in the product as soon as possible!