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Kona scores $4M to help managers build people-first leadership skills

Image credits: Kona

Kona, a San Francisco-based employee experience platform for remote teams, announced that it has raised $4M in seed funding led by Unusual Ventures. 

Other investors, including Evolutionary Ventures, the venture arm of Silicon Valley executive coaching company Evolution, 2.12 Angels, Louis Beryl, David Carrico, James Beshara, Amazon exec Jeff Wilke, and more, participated. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of American workers experienced burnout, and companies lost $300B in 2020 due to productivity loss and burnout-related attrition. 

The most pressing challenge companies face in adapting to the global crisis is no longer maintaining business-as-usual but establishing a remote culture and long-term remote wellness of employees. 

This responsibility falls on managers, nearly 40% of whom had no managerial experience prior to the sudden shift to remote work. Today’s managers must now become stewards of trust and mental health while meeting the expectations of Millennial and Gen Z workers who expect empathy from leadership as table stakes. 

Here’s where Kona comes into the play!

“Today, employees expect a workplace culture that establishes wellbeing, trust, and belonging. These squishy skills–empathy, coaching, connectedness, and team culture–are rarely taught, but today, they are what great managers need. Companies can’t afford to neglect them,” said Sid Pandiya, CEO and co-founder of Kona. “We’re proud that Kona has helped more than 200 teams establish people-first cultures. We are building a platform to measure and embed soft skills into every aspect of running a company.”

Help managers with leadership skills

Founded by Andrew Zhou, Sid Pandiya, and Corine Tan, Kona helps managers build people-first leadership skills, enabling them to build daily habits to build trust and stay on top of mental health. 

Managers use Kona to conduct daily emotional check-ins in Slack, allowing them to identify and mitigate instances of burnout immediately. 

The platform coaches managers on how to support team members in key moments of stress and work-related frustration. 

With Kona, companies gain nuanced, real-time data and analytics about why burnout trends occur that can be used to build culture, take action to prevent attrition, and create a psychologically safe team environment.

The company had tremendous early-stage growth, including 100% customer retention, 70% organic customer growth, and strong daily product engagement. 

“Kona represents the best of what Unusual seeks in an investment, a talented, driven team that will raise the bar for customer and employee experience,” said Sandhya Hegde, General Partner, Unusual Ventures. “Attrition and employee engagement is an issue felt deeply across businesses of every age, size, and industry today. Kona brings a unique approach to solving this problem and has a bold and achievable vision for bringing empathy into the workplace at a time when it’s needed most.”

“We can’t keep pretending that our personal lives are separate from work, especially when our pets and kids and kitchens are in plain view. This shift to remote work has created a reckoning for leaders. Companies that fail to show up for their employees lose them, simple as that,” said Corine Tan, co-founder of Kona. “We’re part of a generation that’s de-stigmatizing mental health and wellbeing. It’s incredibly exciting to usher in an empathetic future of work.”

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