Workplace parental-engagement platform Circle In has secured $1.5 million in seed funding, after securing big-name corporate clients and fielding interest from overseas.
The funding round is led by early-stage VC firm Our Innovation Fund.
Founded in 2017 by Kate Pollard and Jodi Geddes, Circle In is a platform helping employers to support working parents. It provides resources, articles from experts, online coaching and ‘nudges’ for managers, while also allowing parents to share their stories and experiences.
Different tools are aligned to different stages of parenthood, meaning there are resources for people planning on having a child right through to those with teenagers at home.
Already, Circle In is working with firms such as Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Medibank and Coca-Cola Amatil.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Geddes says the startup is “experiencing huge growth”.
While she’s tight-lipped about revenue figures, she does say the startup has grown from three people last year to 12 today.
On the journey together
Geddes and Pollard met when they worked together at NAB, before Pollard moved on to join RealEstate.com.au. They now have two children each, of similar ages.
When taking parental leave, the founders “both struggled from a career perspective”, Geddes says.
“We’ve been through the journey together.”
Both co-founders said they were left with diminished confidence, and it was this shared experience that led them to launch Circle In.
“We hit Google and found very little,” Geddes explains. So, they set out to create a solution.
Pollard has the experience of working at RealEstate.com.au when it was a growing startup under her belt, While Geddes’ background is in sponsorship, partnership and executive management.
“We bring that corporate experience to a startup,” Geddes says.
At the same time, having come from a corporate background, they know what their clients want and need.
“We’ve experienced it firsthand,” she says.
“We know what they need, we know how to service them.”
The conversation is changing
Geddes says the decision to accept investment from Our Innovation Fund was “a no-brainer”.
The founders were looking for a backer they felt aligned with both the business and the purpose, she explains.
“We wanted to make sure that whoever we went with from an investor perspective was very aligned with our bigger purpose, and helping us to achieve that.”
And Our Innovation Fund is “absolutely on board”.
The funding will be used to build on the tech platform, and to hire “amazing people” Geddes explains.
However, it will also go towards a push into international markets. Geddes herself will be heading to the US in a few weeks.
“In the US, the interest we’re seeing is quite extraordinary,” she says.
In the past month, the founders have also had conversations with companies in Israel, India, the UK and Austria, all looking to tackle the same problems.
“It’s a global need,” Geddes says.
Circle In serves to benefit the businesses, as well as the people working within them, she says.
For one thing, it removes some of the administrative challenges of managing parental leave and working parents.
However, what’s more pertinent is the effect it has on employee wellbeing.
“The engagement has really surprised us,” Geddes says.
Some 82% of parents using the platform report feeling more positive towards their organisation, and 73% say they would be more inclined to recommend the company.
“That shows the real opportunity there in terms of the engagement and advocacy piece.”
Equally, however, the co-founder says the conversation about working parents is changing.
“Supporting working parents is definitely shifting from a nice-to-do to a must-do,” she says.
“It’s now not just a talent retention piece, it’s also a talent attraction conversation … employees are looking beyond salary — they’re looking for really good benefits.”
And, to an extent, employers realise providing better support for working parents is “just the right thing to do”, Geddes explains.
“If we’re serious about addressing the gender pay gap and seeing more women in leadership, one of the things we truly believe is it starts with getting parental leave right.”