Humanyze Snags $4M to Push Wearable “Fitbit For Your Career”

Smartphones and wearable devices enable people to monitor health metrics like heart rate and how many steps they take in a day, information that can help them take charge of their physical well-being. Humanyze is trying to accomplish something similar with devices and software that track work habits and, in theory, boost job performance and corporate well-being.

“The platform really acts as a Fitbit for your career,” Humanyze co-founder and CEO Ben Waber says. “You tell the system what you want to achieve, and we help you get there.”

And today, the Boston-based startup says it has picked up $4 million in venture funding to help deliver its “people analytics” technology to more big businesses and their employees around the world. The Series A money comes from previous backer Romulus Capital, and it brings Humanyze’s total venture capital haul to $5 million since the company spun out of the MIT Media Lab in 2011.

Humanyze has developed “sensor badges” equipped with a microphone and location/proximity sensor. Customers’ employees wear the devices to track different types of data like tone of voice, when and how quickly people speak, where they are when they interact face-to-face with co-workers, and so on. The startup’s software combines that information with digital data from e-mail and phone communications.

Humanyze says the software can correlate these behaviors with performance indicators (like sales data) so a company can see what a top performer is doing differently from the group or how often the best sales teams talk to engineers, for example. It’s not about tracking bathroom breaks or micro-managing employees’ work days—employees must consent to wear the badges, and their behavioral data get anonymized and aggregated before being shared with their bosses, Humanyze says.

Companies such as Bank of America and Deloitte have used the technology to make data-driven decisions on the layout and growth of their offices, to improve employee engagement, to reduce staff turnover, and more.

But Humanyze’s system isn’t just a tool for executives and managers. It’s now being used by thousands of employees to get daily feedback about the way they communicate and work.

If an employee aspires to become the firm’s top sales person, Waber says, Humanyze can share data and insights from high-performing sales staff members, presented in digestible graphics. “You actually get to see, if I just talk 10 percent more to a customer, here’s how much more I’ll sell,” Waber says. “If you do this you will make more money, you will get promoted more quickly, and we can show you those results very quickly.”

Humanyze is helping power companies’ increased interest in data-driven human resources and real estate decisions, a trend that has picked up steam in the past few years with the emergence of mobile technologies and big-data analytics. There are now business conferences dedicated to people analytics, and at least 60 of the biggest companies in the U.S. have created internal teams tasked with watching and making recommendations based upon metrics like those produced by Humanyze, Waber says.

For example, a large energy company that Humanyze declined to name has created a 14-person department that uses the startup’s software to measure the impact of multi-billion dollar investments in new workspaces companywide. Waber sees such initiatives as a sign that customers aren’t just buying “pretty graphs,” he says—they’re wringing tangible value out of Humanyze’s data and making changes based on what they learn.

“A big reason for the failure of analytics platforms and management consultants is they give good recommendations, but they never get implemented,” says Krishna Gupta, Romulus Capital’s founder and managing partner. “People building teams around the [Humanyze] technology, dedicating resources from day one, is very encouraging.”

Waber wouldn’t share how many companies Humanyze has signed up, but he says more than 10,000 people are using its system. They’re located in places like the U.S. and Canada, as well as Japan, Waber says.

The interest in Japan makes sense. Japanese corporate culture has long emphasized using data to measure the impact of business decisions—Toyota’s influential lean manufacturing methods are the most famous example. Furthermore, Japan’s struggling economy and shrinking population mean that the “only way for companies to really grow their business is through increasing productivity,” Waber says.

“That is fundamentally what our technology is about,” he continues. “Really showing companies and individuals—here are the things that will make you more productive and happier at work.
By using data, putting hard numbers on these things, companies don’t have to spend years thinking about what sort of org chart should we use, how to lay out this office, what sort of computational system should we use.”

Humanyze will use the cash infusion to continue improving its product. It’s making its sensor badges more compact and incorporating radio-frequency identification and near field communication technologies, so the badges can double as keycards for unlocking office doors, Waber says.

He also wants to invest in software and staff to ensure Humanyze has the capacity to manage the influx of users and data it expects to take on if it keeps signing up clients as planned. (Waber wouldn’t share specific figures, but he says the company’s sales in the first quarter of this year almost surpassed last year’s total.)

Humanyze currently employs 16 people, double the size of its staff in February 2015. The startup says it will continue hiring, but the pace will (unsurprisingly) depend on what the numbers say. “We use our own data to ensure we’re integrating people appropriately,” Waber says. “We’re very data-driven in how we do things.”

Trending on Xconomy