Take big swings

Pathlight performance management platform – streamlines the management process

Please introduce yourself and the Startup Pathlight to our readers!

Hello everyone! My name is Alexander Kvamme. I’m the CEO and co-founder at Pathlight, a performance management platform built to help customer-facing teams achieve their professional best.

The analogy I often use is that Pathlight is like a weather app for your career. You shouldn’t have to look at reports to understand how you are doing, just like you shouldn’t have to read a barometer to check if it’s going to rain. Software should do that for you.

Pathlight streamlines the management process so that everyone automatically knows how they are doing and what they need to focus on. Managers and leaders can then send data-driven coaching and have impactful 1:1s with their team on the platform. Pathlight is backed by legendary VC firm Kleiner Perkins and is used by top companies around the world.

Why did you decide to start a business?

Pathlight is my second startup. Back in 2011, I started a restaurant management and online reservations platform called SeatMe. As the platform took off and our staff grew, I quickly realized how hard managing a lot of people can be. Just like every other manager, I reinvented the wheel, read the same books, and made the same mistakes. When we were acquired by Yelp a few years later, I saw that this problem only got harder and more important as a company grew. I’d be in strategy meetings where we’d spend only 5 percent of the time on an idea, and 95 percent on change management. My cofounder and I realized that there was software for every other “job to be done” at work except for day-to-day management. That’s when we started chatting about an app to supercharge managers.

Simultaneously, we recognized two distinct trends that presented a unique opportunity to build a platform that could address management. The first trend is that our work is becoming more and more digital. Every day more roles – from sales to service to logistics and shipping – are leveraging software to digitize their work. Today there is more than enough data for technology to fully transform management. The second trend is the fact that there is a new generation in the workplace that expects instant answers, feedback and recognition. They expect and demand more from both technology and their managers.

What is the vision behind Pathlight?

Our vision is to build technology that helps everyone achieve their professional best. We are doing that by democratizing and automating world-class management practices across every level within an organization. Pathlight gives managers more leverage, saves them time, and helps them streamline workflows. Using our platform, team leaders can manage more people and be even more successful by getting every new manager up to speed faster and have them following best practices and on top of everything from their first day.

Our digital platform basically allows you to manage yourself along with your team, and your organization. In simple terms, Pathlight allows you to automate the science (and the busy work) so you can focus on the art of managing. 

From the idea to the start what have been the biggest challenges so far and how did you finance yourself?

Starting a company is never easy. There are universal challenges like recruiting and financing, as well as challenges that are unique to each business. Our biggest challenge (and opportunity) is that we are building a new software category. That means that we need to educate our customers and our market to grow quickly, much like Salesforce educated the market on cloud software.

We’ve raised two rounds of funding to date for a total of $10 million. We’re extremely grateful for the financial support from our investors who include Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, Dylan Smith, co-Founder and CFO of Box, and Kleiner Perkins who led our latest round.

Who is the target group of Pathlight?

We’re currently focused on the most data-driven teams at work: customer-facing teams such as sales, customer support, and sales development. We have plans to expand to other functions – from staffing to logistics and healthcare – in the coming years.

How does Pathlight work? What are the advantages? What makes you different from other providers?

Our platform syncs and analyzes data from core business systems like Salesforce, Zendesk and Github to automatically show how everyone in the department is doing, no spreadsheets or browser tabs required. We are the system of record for performance and all coaching flows through the system. Our advantage is our focus. We are laser focused on this specific job to be done: managing people, both up and down. Our platform sits in the stack right where management sits in the stack – at the intersection of data, communication and people. As such, we can provide our users with a much more elegant, streamlined, and powerful solution.

How has your company changed with Corona?

If management was hard to do well when we were all in the same room, it’s nearly impossible when we are scattered around the globe. We’ve already experienced a drastic increase in user engagement as our customers increase their reliance on Pathlight.  The current crisis and work from home measures has also created greater demand for our platform, particularly from larger enterprises who historically have not been early adopters. Given everything that is going on, everyone is now a lot more open to trying and doing new things.

How did you adjust to it and what changes have you made?

Like many startups, a large portion of our employees were working in an office before the pandemic. As we rapidly transitioned to remote-first, we quickly set new guidelines to ensure that everyone stayed productive, connected, and happy:

Video calls as a last resort. At first, we moved all of our in-person meetings to video calls, and “Zoom fatigue” quickly set in. We quickly worked to move to a written culture to increase clarity of thought and minimize fatigue. Written discussion > Phone Call > Video Call.

Communication discipline. When you work in an office, it’s easier to put your phone down and silence your chat or email because you know that if there was a real emergency someone would come and find you. When you’re remote, you naturally feel the need to open every notification and read every chat and email for fear of missing something important. It’s even harder to focus. We quickly put together communication guidelines, so employees felt comfortable ignoring their email or chats and focusing on deep work.

Manage outcomes, not hours. This was already a core belief, but the move to remote encouraged us to double down. Many new leaders tend to micromanage inputs, instead of trusting the team and focusing on outputs. In this new world, each person’s schedule can be unique and unpredictable. We try to set concrete, objective goals and give our team the flexibility to achieve them however they see fit. I call it moving from “command and control” to “trust and verify”.

Where do you see the opportunity in the crisis?

The push to remote work has made people management more challenging. Even when we reach a point where we have established a flexible, hybrid arrangement — which is what I predict will become commonplace — it’ll still pose hurdles for managers. The fact is not having everyone in the same room means you can’t read their body language or visual cues – a skill some of the most effective managers possess. 

This is why data-driven management is more critical than ever. Not only that, but helping employees self-manage. The only way to achieve this is having real-time data at your fingertips that can instantly answer questions like How is my team doing? Who on the team needs helps and with what? How should I help them and are they responding to that help? This is what we focus on at Pathlight.

Pathlight, where does the road go? Where do you see yourself in five years?

If our goal is to elevate the manager and create the Management software category, then in five years we should have made significant progress towards that goal. The problem we solve is present in every single company, or any grouping of people for that matter, and we believe there’s an opportunity to build a massive company in this space. Personally, I’d hope that our work allows managers to be more celebrated. They are the unsung heroes and deserve much more recognition for the job that they do.

At the end: Which 3 tips would you give to future founders?

It’s all about people. Do not lower your standards to fill a position, regardless of how urgent it is. The team you build is the company you build.

Ships in harbor are safe, but that’s not why ships are built. Take big swings. Solve hard problems.

Don’t quit. 

More information about JJ Birden you will find here

Thank you Alexander Kvamme for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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