The growing trends in hiring and managing a remote workforce and the recent upheaval of restructuring in a number of industries have redefined and disrupted the concept of work teams. Even when some return to the office, many of us don’t see each other face-to-face, and even if we’ve checked in together virtually or in person, our peer groups can shift quickly. Now, a startup that built an event platform to help work teams feel more connected is announcing some funding amid strong demand for its services.
Teamraderiewhich provides short, live virtual classes and other content led by experts in a variety of categories used in team-building events, along with software to manage experiences and deliver feedback on event impact, has raised $7 million in funding that will use to expand its platform with more content and to more customers.
The startup’s star-studded roster running 45-minute classes includes icons like former gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor, Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Chatelain and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov; and that counts Google, IBM, Twitter, Cisco, Microsoft and Intuit among its 200 clients and says it has held classes reaching about 50,000 people so far in about 50 countries. (Price for the service starts at $300 and varies depending on content, number of users and whether the company is a subscriber or using Teamraderie a la carte.)
Founders Fund is leading the round, and Teamraderie said a group of more than 12 “Chief HR and Chief People Officers” are also participating (which speaks to who it’s targeting as customers). The company has now raised about $9 million, and from what we understand, this Series A values the company at about $60 million.
The rise of Teamraderie comes at a time of rapid evolution in the world of work, subject to the forces of Covid, layoffs and changing consumer habits.
The broader “productivity software” category has definitely gotten a boost to address the shift in how we work today—Zoom has become a kind of palimpsest for a wide range of video collaboration tools; Slack is one of dozens of virtual chat platforms; workflow and project management have gone beyond Asana and Trello; and so on. But even with all the other productivity boxes checked, Teamraderie speaks to another challenge that exists in the workplace, specifically the knowledge worker workplace, is to improve our relationships with each other as a way to work better together.
At its heart, Teamraderie is a bit like Masterclass-meets-LinkedIn Learning, but focused only on business users and potentially used with physical props used as part of the session.
As with other team building concepts, the idea is to put people in an unfamiliar environment and away from discussions related to their actual work, to redirect their attention to working together, thinking together, and getting to know each other better. (One example: a Nascar host who — in the words of Michael McCarroll, CEO and co-founder of Teamraderie — “reinvented the tire change” will lead a team through changing tires on a model car.)
“Our reason for existing is to ensure that teams can really collaborate effectively,” McCarroll said in an interview. Teams have a whole range of relationships, and it can be challenging to really get to know people and understand different perspectives when either your team is moving around or you’re not working directly with everyone in a physical environment, he continued: “We want to bring teams to a point where each member sees each other as human. If you feel more connected and understand and care about what other people have to say on your team, you get more value.”
Along with the media and content aspect of its platform, Teamraderie also provides technologies to measure session performance. McCarroll said this, as well as the core concepts behind Teamraderie, were built from research from Harvard Business School, Stanford University, MIT and the University of Chicago on productivity, support and inclusion in the workplace. But since it will be those, in our quantified workplaces and world, who will need to know the impact and ROI of all this, the idea will be to invest in building more tools to help improve these measurements are also used to continue developing Teamraderie.
“We use data to customize and develop the product,” McCarroll said. “We’re not just a content company.”
There may also be more investment to help scale it all. Today, the “sweet spot” for the most effective class sizes is 15 or fewer participants, McCarroll said, with larger groups generally prone to what he calls “social idleness” — that is, no longer engaged. This presents an interesting challenge for Teamraderie (and really any technology product aimed at improving remote productivity): how can you achieve the same impact while delivering your product to larger groups than this?
Keith Rabois, who leads the investment for Founders Fund, said in an interview that the funding environment for startups, whether early or late stage, is definitely tightening. He said that in 2022 he had so far offered “only two terms to new companies” (not including those already in the portfolio), compared to “twelve or thirteen” by that point in 2021. However, Teamraderie was an easy investment, not simply because it does something different and sees traction with remarkable customers, but because of the economy of the unit. “It’s essentially a no-brainer, which is unusual for a company at this stage of growth,” he said.