Q&A: WIRL + MaRS

Q&A: WIRL + MaRS

Here are a few excerpts from a recent feature on WIRL by the folks at MaRS Discovery District.
The full original post can be found here:
http://www.marsdd.com/news-and-insights/everest-wirl-performance-reviews/

I sat down with Toronto-based startup WIRL for this month’s Everest showcase to find out: How is this Toronto startup making performance reviews less painful?

Q&A with Greg Pantelic, co-founder of WIRL

Nathan: Why did you start WIRL?
Greg: WIRL was born from personal experiences, as I saw the impact that employee empowerment had at a young age and throughout my career. Early on, I saw my mom work every job possible to provide for my sister and me. I saw the impact that working in an empowering environment had on her overall mood and, conversely, the impact that working in a toxic environment had on her well-being.

Fast-forward to my experiences in the workplace, where I saw how broken the performance review process was. For managers who didn’t care it was simple: just cut and paste from previous reviews and call it a day. As for managers who did care, I saw them pulling all-nighters the day before performance reviews were due, spending two to three hours per review and trying to remember what had happened throughout the year. Both managers and employees dreaded the process because it was time consuming, ineffective and contrived.

I saw that employees have a genuine desire to want to improve on a continuous basis and I understood that continuous feedback was the single most important way to achieve this. We created WIRL to help empower employees and, ultimately, to help them achieve fulfillment in their jobs.

Nathan: How is WIRL funded?
Greg: We were awarded Ontario Centres of Excellence SmartStart funding and have proudly bootstrapped. We never got lost in the “sexiness” of raising money—however, now is the time to attack untapped market segments and to raise funds to grow the company. We’re working mostly with companies that have a large millennial employee base, and also with companies that are powered by Holacracy. We solve real pains around employee feedback and really believe in the empowering structure of Holacracy-powered organizations, making them an attractive beachhead segment.

Nathan: How did you build your team?
Greg: When we started off we had your typical hacker, hustler and designer. Finding the right startup chief technology officer was a challenge because it was a matter of supply and demand. There are a lot of people who have ideas, but there are a lot less people who have the ability to bring them to life. We’re also competing with Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies, along with their ideas. To attract other partners, you have to have a very big idea and be able to communicate it with genuinely contagious passion. They have to share the same vision as you because, before the cheques come in, that is the only thing keeping the lights on.

Nathan: How did you build the brand?
Greg: WIRL stands for “What It’s Really Like.” We envisioned feedback on WIRL as the anti-LinkedIn endorsement. With WIRL, you’re getting real feedback from people who you actually work with and who actually know your skills. The feedback is both positive and constructive—it doesn’t get more real than that.

We also understand that feedback is a gift, but that it can be difficult to give and receive. To solve this, we’ve always emphasized simplicity in our product, process and brand identity. We had an awesome designer as part of our founding team who made this a reality.

Nathan: Where do you see WIRL in two years?
Greg: We understand ultimately why feedback is so important to employees: because it leads to fulfillment. We’ve developed a feedback value chain and in two years we want to move up the chain. Abraham Maslow said that only 2% of people ever achieve fulfillment. Looking beyond the two years, our end goal is to grow the 2%.

Nathan: What three words define WIRL and its team?
Greg: Humble. Hungry. Real.

One of our mantras is that “survival is insufficient.” That means a lot of different things to our people. First, it means that even though right now we are surviving, we can’t be content. We need to move to a state of thriving. It also means that we need to help people to not only survive and get by in their lives, but also to ultimately achieve fulfillment.

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