Canva backs hybrid work startup with $6.8 million raise

Calven co-founder Jeremy Pollak. Source: provided.

Sydney-based startup Calven has secured $6.8 million in seed funding, including from Australian unicorn Canva, to develop its work experience platform for a hybrid working world.

The increase marks Canva’s first foray into investing in startups and is an ongoing commitment to its own hybrid working 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 last year, Calven is led by Jeremy Pollak, who is also co-founder and director of technology integration company POMT, alongside co-founder Dan Jackson, who has 15 years of experience in transforming the workplace.

Helping companies navigate the transition to hybrid working was a big part of the founders’ wheelhouse, says Pollak SmartCompany. But they didn’t necessarily intend to launch a startup.

On the contrary, they were both looking for a solution that they couldn’t find.

Calven aims to “make the future of work work for everyone,” says Pollak.

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

The tool offers web-based dashboards for employees, showing who is working where and when, while giving employees access to all the resources and information they might need.

The future of work will be built around employee preferences, team goals and organizational politics, says Pollak.

While many companies are introducing policies around hybrid work, they don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to manage it, whether it’s real estate, office allocation, and the use of space. ‘space ; or employee experience and benefits.

“You have this dislocation happening, and right now it’s almost unmanageable.”

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

Calven’s first victories

The tool was developed with several leading companies including Canva, Afterpay, and Quantium to inform product development.

Although Pollak does not disclose any initial revenue figures, he does note that many of these partners have joined us as customers.

These clients include technology companies with 100 employees 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 the hiring of more tech talent.

The founders also have a three-year roadmap for product development and expansion, including in the United States, where co-founder Dan Jackson is based.

“Infinite Opportunity”

It’s a quintessential pandemic company, founded during lockdown and designed to ease the transition to hybrid working for employees and employers.

But for Pollak, it’s more about the future of work than a specific point in history. We’ve seen an evolution in how workplaces work, and while some may go back to five days in the office, it’s unlikely to become the norm again.

Many office workers have been working remotely for two years now, often with little supervision. Employers are now trying to put policies in place to manage them.

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

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

“He’s just going to keep evolving.”

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