By Daria Kroupoderova
Northwest Asian Weekly
Getting burnt out from work can lead to great ideas.
Meet David Niu, CEO of TINYpulse, a company that helps other companies receive anonymous feedback from their employees by sending out a “pulse” or question on a weekly basis.
The idea for the company came from Niu’s “Careercation,” a word he coined, which is also the title of his book about his journey around the world and what he learned from the experience.
“I sold everything I owned, stuffed the rest of my belongings in storage, bought one way tickets to New Zealand…just started traveling around the world for about six months (with my family),” Niu said.
On his trip, Niu interviewed entrepreneurs ranging from a wine maker in New Zealand to a food trader in China. He asked them a series of questions and always ended with the same one: What one thing do the entrepreneurs have when it comes to managing people that, if it was taken away, they would gladly pay for?
Niu noticed a trend.
“Regardless of geography, regardless of the industry, regardless of the size of the company, one of the most haunting feelings for any business leader is when someone says ‘here’s my two week notice’ out of the blue,” Niu said.
This was the inspiration for TINYpulse. According to Niu, companies usually have end-of-the-year surveys asking employees to answer tons of questions, but people change throughout the year, so Niu came up with the idea of “dripping out one lightweight question on an ongoing basis to get a continual pulse on people’s emotions, the culture, the environment, and …continual change in the culture.”
TINYpulse has been officially live for 18 months, and the company has about 300 clients. Every time TINYpulse receives a new client, someone in the office will ring a little gong that is set up on a table.
Clients get to choose to either use a template set up with questions, or create custom questions for their employees. Some of the template questions include “How happy are you at work?” and “If your company was an animal, what would it be and why?” Using template questions offers clients benchmarks, showing them how the company is doing compared to others.
The answers to questions are completely anonymous unless the employee wants to give his or her name.
“(We) give them the safe harbor to be as direct as possible…we would rather retire a client than compromise anonymity,” Niu said. However, if something criminal is said, such as a threat to hurt someone or damage property, Niu said then anonymity would have to be compromised.
TINYpulse also donates 1 percent of the product to nonprofits. For every 100 clients, a nonprofit can receive TINYpulse for free for one year.
Niu has big plans for TINYpulse. In five years, Niu sees the company being “the Zappos of the Pacific Northwest… we’re striving to be top of the game.”
“We’re going to give tours to reporters, we’re going to give tours to our customers, and we’re going to give tours to our competitors,” said Niu. “This culture is the ultimate competitive advantage and I have no shame in opening it up and sharing it with our competitors, because you’ll never be able to copy us.”
This is Niu’s third company. He co-founded NetConversions, which was sold to aQuantive in 2004, and later BuddyTV. He graduated from UC Berkeley and received his MBA from the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.
Niu has a plan to “incubate” companies — basically show them the ropes of how TINYpulse operates, as long as they follow two guidelines: Don’t disclose confidential information from TINYpulse, and “incubate” someone else once the company is successful.
“I view it much less in terms of profit or growth…I’d rather be a great culture company and a great citizen of the community,” Niu said.
To learn more about TINYpulse, visit www.tinypulse.com.
Daria Kroupoderova can be reached at email@example.com.