Traction Watch: BetterWorks Is ramping up to get your ducks in a row

Goal-setting startup BetterWorks has increased its headcount nearly sevenfold in the past 12 months as it rolls out a better way for businesses to set and track goals for each employee.

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Editor’s note: Traction Watch is a new column focused obsessively on growth, and is a companion to the DEMO Traction conference series, which brings together high-growth startups with high-potential customers. Companies can apply here to showcase, or those similarly obsessed can register here to attend.

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Looks like the quantified workplace is paying off in spades. Known as FitBit for employee-related goals, Palo Alto-based BetterWorks has doubled their workforce in the last six months. They’re on a hiring spree, shopping for technical writers, product managers, support techs, and everything in between. A year ago, they had only six employees. When the app debuted in September, 2014, they had 27 employees. Since acquiring funding from Kleiner that same month to the tune of $15.5 million, they have jumped up to 40 employees.

One of them happens to be Jonathan Cheyer, the former Senior Director of Engineering for Apple's Siri on the iPhone and iTunes Radio. He is now the Head of Engineering working on making the app one of the first to support the new Apple iWatch.

The main reason for growth has to do with an increased emphasis on goal tracking as a way to boost productivity and increase sales. According to a Bersin report on workplace dynamics, only 54% of companies have their employees revise goals once per year. If they wrote down weekly goals, employees would be 42% more likely to achieve them, according to a Dominican University of California study. That number jumps up to 78% more likely if the employee also shares that weekly goal list with a manager.

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As a result, several high-profile startups have signed on to use the dashboard, which helps employees set goals and executives track their progress using the Web or a mobile app. Nasty Gal, Edmunds.com, Zynga, and many others are using this approach. As Kleiner partner John Doerr has explained in the past, these execs know that goal-setting is the easy part of running a new company. Tracking goals and making sure employees stay on track is the hard part.

“There hasn’t been an easy way to track the progress at work, deliver powerful insights about your people and have a source of truth for the work being done,” writes BetterWorks founder and CEO Kris Duggan, in a recent blog post. “When we see the various measures of health (steps, calories, hours slept, saturated fats, and minutes active) tracked by Fitbit we think of the siloed work tools. They aren’t being measured yet. We’re out to change that, " he says.

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Company sales are off to a strong start. While Duggan won’t share specific revenue figures, a rep confirmed they had sales in the seven figures in 2014 (after launching the product). The number of active users are doubling every quarter—and a healthy 26 percent of all users are active on a weekly basis, creating more than 2,000 new goals per week. On the company blog, Duggan points to a future where companies track goals on a smartwatch as easily as a runner tracks a workout. The same basic theories apply. In fact, there's an interesting stat from FitBit that says their customers are 43% more likely to count steps. Employees can follow a similar self-quantification mechanic.

Another reason for the rapid employee ramp-ups and quick sales? The company says they are targeting an interesting market segment. Many startups use an ad-hoc approach to goal setting, often keeping nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet or a shared Google doc, but BetterWorks adds some meat, some accountability, and some tracking to the process. So far, it seems to be working. Goals set by employees at companies using BetterWorks are about to hit 50,000, and are climbing steeply. Now, if just a fraction of those goals are actually met, BetterWorks will actually achieve its own goal of helping customers work better.

This story, "Traction Watch: BetterWorks Is ramping up to get your ducks in a row" was originally published by CIO.

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