Canva backs hybrid work startup in $6.8 million raise

Calven

Calven co-founder Jeremy Pollak. Source: supplied.

Sydney startup Calven has secured $6.8 million in seed funding, including from Aussie design unicorn Canva, to build out its workplace experience platform for a world of hybrid work.

The raise marks Canva’s first foray into startup investing, and is a continued commitment to its own hybrid work culture.

Led by AirTree Ventures, it also included backing from strategic investors including Michael Gonski, a partner in the employment law practice at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Founded just last year, Calven is headed up by Jeremy Pollak, who is also co-founder and director of tech integration firm POMT, alongside co-founder Dan Jackson, who has 15 years of experience working on workplace transformation projects.

Helping businesses manage the transition to hybrid work was very much in the founders’ wheelhouse, Pollak tells SmartCompany. But they didn’t necessarily set out to launch a startup.

Rather, they were both looking for a solution they couldn’t find.

Calven is about “making the future of work work for everyone”, Pollak says.

“Work, in our eyes, has changed forever.”

The tool offers web-based dashboards for employees, showing who is working where and when, while allowing employees to access any resources and information they may need.

The future of work will be built around employee preference, team objectives and organisational policy, Pollak explains.

While a lot of companies are introducing policies around hybrid works, they don’t necessarily have the means to manage it, whether that’s considering actual real estate, desk allocation and use of space; or employee experience and benefits.

“You‘ve got this dislocation occurring, and right now it’s almost unmanageable.”

The goal is to reduce friction in the hybrid work process — removing the need for employees to book desks, for example — while also boosting engagement beyond work-from-home surveys.

Calven’s early wins

The tool has been developed with several high-profile companies, including the likes of Canva, Afterpay and Quantium, to inform development of the product.

While Pollak doesn’t disclose any early revenue figures, he does note that many of those partners have come on board as customers.

Those customers include anything from 100-employee tech companies to global giants with thousands of staff members.

The startup already has a team of 25 people on board, and the additional funding will fuel hiring of more tech talent.

The founders also have a three-year roadmap of product development and expansion, including into the US, where co-founder Dan Jackson is based.

“An infinite opportunity”

This is a quintessential pandemic business, founded during lockdown and built to make the transition to hybrid work easier for employees and employers alike.

But for Pollak, this is more about the future of work than one specific point in history. We’ve seen an evolution in the way workplaces operate, and while some may go back to five days in the office, that’s unlikely to be the norm again.

Many office-based workers have been working remotely for two years now, often with little oversight. Employers are now trying to bring in policies to manage them.

“We’re going to need to meet in the middle, and we don’t have enough information about our people to actually do it,” Pollak explains.

“It’s an infinite problem, it will always be an infinite opportunity,” he adds.

“It’s just going to keep evolving.”

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