VoloMetrix Raises $12M to Market ‘People Analytics’ Software

Seattle startup VoloMetrix is helping large companies answer one of the most fundamental questions a business faces: How do the most effective employees spend their time?

The company has raised $12 million from Split Rock Partners and prior investor Shasta Ventures to build a sales and marketing organization to get its “people analytics” software into the hands of more customers.

VoloMetrix software works by sourcing data from a company’s e-mail server, meeting calendars, instant messaging, and collaboration tools to determine what exactly employees or groups of employees are doing: How much time do they spend in meetings, and with whom do they meet? Who do they email most frequently? How strong are their internal networks? How fragmented is their work day?

“People analytics allows you to better instrument and measure all of those employee activities and draw a straight line to connect which activities lead to which outcomes,” says co-founder and CEO Ryan Fuller. “Now I can better understand what is it that my entire go-to-market organization does in the several weeks leading up to a large enterprise sales deal getting closed, or not closed. What is it that my R&D teams are doing, and how do they collaborate with the rest of the organization that leads to a new product being launched on time or not.”

VoloMetrix’s approach is one of several new methods of studying and hopefully improving organizational behavior. Other examples include the sociometric badges—wearable devices that record sounds and movements—that some companies issue to employees in an effort to measure their in-person interactions with co-workers.

It’s taken some work for VoloMetrix, formed in 2011, to convince companies to allow a third-party software vendor access to such sensitive, mission-critical pieces of their IT infrastructure as the e-mail server, Fuller says.

Fuller

Fuller

“Even before we could have our first beta customer, we had to live up to large enterprise security standards on one of the most locked-down datasets around and be audited by third-party auditors on security and deal with EU privacy law,” he says.

Over the last nine months, VoloMetrix has apparently cracked that code—ensuring data can be properly anonymized and providing opt-ins for employees where required—and made other refinements to its product, which is already being used by the likes of Genentech, Seagate, and Symantec, Fuller says.

“There’s a lot to be done still, but we’ve just passed a massive inflexion point where we’re getting inbound calls from some of the biggest companies in the world,” he says, explaining why now was the right time to raise more capital. This Series B round brings total funding for VoloMetrix to $17 million.

Fuller says the company has about 20 employees in its downtown Seattle offices and plans to triple over the next 12 months.

Businesses use the data and insights VoloMetrix unearths in a variety of ways, starting with how they handle the question of employee privacy. “Every company’s culture is different and some companies don’t care,” Fuller says.

Others take a more bottoms-up approach, allowing employees to opt-in to this activity tracking with the promise of data that will give them better visibility into how they spend their time, and how that compares to peers in the organization.

“Within big companies, there are people that really do have five bosses or really are spending 20 hours a week at midnight on calls with India, and that’s not easy for management to actually see, and that’s not easy for employees to bring up in a way that doesn’t sound like complaining,” Fuller says.

In addition to helping individual employees manage their time and priorities, VoloMetrix can reveal broad trends across large organizations. VoloMetrix is best suited to companies with at least 1,000 employees.

For example, VoloMetrix has found that the average attendance at meetings in some large companies it works with is 50 people. “That’s really expensive,” Fuller says. “The labor time that gets pulled into that—to havean hour meeting with 50 people is just massive—and it’s really hard to imagine how you can get any decisions made quickly, and it’s hard to imagine how you can really develop good ideas and innovate in settings that are perhaps a little bit overly collaborative.”

Tracking the corporate social graph.

Tracking the corporate social graph.

Early on, VoloMetrix focused on helping customers understand why certain behaviors by employees lead to certain results. Why do salespeople who have more one-on-one meetings with their managers beat their quota targets, for example?

While the company still offers to help answer questions like that one—or works with consulting firms that do—Fuller says more often, senior executives want data to validate their own management instincts: A senior vice president in charge of a 10,000-person field sales organization might think that employees in certain poor-performing regions are not spending enough time with customers, or are not getting enough training from their managers. “But the [senior vice president’s] problem is, ‘I don’t have the data to prove where people are doing that and where they’re not, and I can’t hold people accountable to it if I can’t measure it,’” Fuller says.

As part of the funding, Split Rock Partners managing director and founder Jim Simons is joining the board of VoloMetrix.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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