Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Interview with Paige Craig, Betterworks
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Los Angeles area entrepreneurs, investors, and startups have gotten to know Paige Craig fairly well over the last few years, as he's made many investments in the local ecosystem. Craig has recently uncloaked his stealth startup, BetterWorks (www.betterworks.com), focused on helping companies to manage and offer fringe benefits to their employees. We sat down with Paige to get more details on what exactly BetterWorks is doing, and why--plus why he's focused in on the B2B area.
Tell us the story behind Betterworks and what you're trying to do?
Paige Craig: At the high level, we're making work rewarding. The two key tenets of that are real time recognition, and real time rewards. What we're giving companies, is a platform to create, manage, and measure perks for all of their employees. It only takes five minutes to setup, and it saves them an average of 20 percent on deals on things like gym membership, yoga, and dry cleaning--all things they'd normally buy to reward employees or take care of them. Beyond that, it's really about real time recognition. We're not talking publicly about that yet, but the idea is to get away from the annual review, away from the quarterly review, and give everyone within and outside a company the ability to recognize people, up and down the chain, for doing great things in the workplace.
What drove you move from investing to starting up BetterWorks?
Paige Craig: It was a couple of things. Being an investor, that gave me insight into just a ton of needs out there. Part of being an investor is questioning the ideas of founders. It forces you to think very deeply about the problem they are solving. I have a number of investments tackling the SMB space, including InDinero and Postling, all creating platforms to help small and medium sized businesses in some distinct way. I spend about twelve months before starting BetterWorks thinking about the SMB space, and the lack of tools and software for companies. It hit me that one of the first things companies need is talent, and I began to research the benefits space, and found that companies are spending 3 trillion dollars a year on benefits of all shapes and sizes. I began looking at first at traditional benefits, like life insurance, health insurance, 401Ks, and while doing so I was reading a report and saw how much companies spend on fringe benefits. Those are fun things like yoga, massage, gym programs, coffee. I also found out that no one had tackled this problem. So, I got on the phone, and I talked with over 50 companies about their perceptions and needs around perks and employee rewards. It ends up it's a massive space, and I loved the idea around recognizing and rewarding employees in a cloud based solution. I wanted to give companies a tool to recruit, retain, and optimize their existing workforce.
You've got some pretty big firepower on the software side at BetterWorks -- what is it about benefits that would require that software and talent?
Paige Craig: It's software intensive, because even though on the surface giving perks to employees might seem like an easy things, in fact, it's not. When you want to order something from a catering service, or order gym membership for all of your employees, or you want to go out and pick up your drycleaning or set up daycare, each relationships falls into a unique framework. You've not only got to build a budget and allow that to be administered, you need to let people do all of their ordering, fulfillment, and redemption on our platform. To actually set up a schedule for catering, to order food into the office, to have a masseuse come in, you have to handle that complete fulfillment process. In addition, for merchants, we donít charge anything, and in fact have to handle payments, provide them with reports on what they're getting, handle authentication, and make sure you're delivering the right services at the right time to the right people. There's a fairly complex platform we've patented. At the same time, to make all that complexity work, we had to make it simple. Our product and engineering team has spent hundreds of hours to take that complexity, and distilled it into a very simple interface. We know that business owners don't have time, that folks are very busy, and they don't have time to go through windows and drop down menus. We've taken a complex process, and made it incredibly simple for everyone.
I know you've talked about this before, but how did you end up in Los Angeles?
Paige Craig: In 2007, I stepped back from a company called the Lincoln Group. I sold a small piece of the firm, and traveled for awhile. I was traveling and in San Francisco, and at the TechCrunch conference in 2007 I ran into a group of folks from LA. One person there was Nicole Jordan. She planted the seed into my head that LA was an up and coming tech scene. For me, even though working was important, living in a place I loved, and being outdoors, was great. So, I stopped back into LA on my travels, later went on to Africa and the Caribbean, and came back to the U.S. in October of 2008 with the intention of coming here to explore the tech scene and have some fun. I picked up a beach house, and started throwing parties and getting to know people and the market. I found out what Nicole said was true. There was an interesting, growing, startup ecosystem. I also found that it was much more open unlike San Francisco, where things are much more established and it would be difficult to break into. So I stayed here, and it's been a great experience, and I've been an investor in over 40 companies over the last few years.
Finally, where are you now with BetterWorks, and when can people sign up?
Paige Craig: We're just about to open up self serve features so that any company can sign up. For the last three months, we've been working very closely with people in technology, finance, media, entertainment and consumer goods. We have people like Hulu, Shoedazzle, Docstoc, and a ton more signed up already. We also have companies asking for this from Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boulder, New York city, and Chicago. Although we're not quite ready to see everyone, we will be opening up self serve in a couple of weeks.
Thanks, and good luck!