If you've worked at large tech companies, you've probably seen that a bunch of groups show up, whether officially or unofficially. Google calls 'em Employee Resource Groups (ERG), Facebook has its internal version of Facebook with groups, and other orgs have systems that range from listservs that have been running since the 1990s, to internal Slack groups, or perhaps a Mighty Network or two. Heylo just raised some money to bring these types of special interest groups to startups and companies of all sizes, giving employees a way to help each other in novel ways.
"After working at Google and other corporate jobs for a decade, a sense of purpose was missing in my life. I tried new activities -- running, reading and even teaching myself how to do a backflip. But after years, I still felt empty because I was pursuing these activities alone," said Eric Winters, Heylo's CEO & founder, in an interview with TechCrunch. "I tried to join groups, but struggled to belong. After years of searching, I finally found the right group. It changed my life. I had experiences I could never imagine and met people I never knew existed. Too many people feel the way I did -- a little lost, a little lonely. I found my calling by helping people belong to great groups."
Heylo was founded in 2019, by Xooglers (that's ex-Googler) Eric Winters and Brandon Pearcy. They bootstrapped the company to profitability, and today announced they raised $1.5 million in a round led by Worklife Ventures to bring their product to the whole world.
One of the core problems the group solves is payments; if you're arranging an outing at work, receiving payments in cash or Venmo is possible, of course, but that gets messy once you scale your event past 30 or so; who has paid, who hasn't, what-have-you. In addition to payments, the software streamlines group chats, event details, DMs among members, booking and waitlist features, etc.
The lead investors are Charles Hudson from Precursor Ventures and Brianne Kimmel from Worklife.
"Before the pandemic, millions of people had much simpler lives. They went to an office every day and their co-workers were often their most important relationships. Now, with remote work, people have lost that workplace camaraderie and must proactively cultivate relationships based on common interests," said Brianne Kimmel of Worklife Ventures. "New kinds of social groups are on the rise: running groups, kayaking groups, book clubs, roller skating, volleyball, it's endless. I see Heylo as being the glue and toolkit that makes these groups easy to organize and manage. More importantly, I see Heylo as a catalyst for the creation of groups that wouldn't otherwise exist."
"Charles has been a seed investor for over 20 years. He has seen all the pitches and advised companies large and small. Moreover, he’s a sincere and genuinely good person. He knows everyone, and you can’t find anyone to say a bad thing about him. We are huge beneficiaries of his expertise and network," said Winters. "Brianne is a leader herself. Worklife brings people together, literally, in their community spaces. Brianne has been instrumental in hiring and go-to-market strategy. She encourages us to think big and make a meaningful impact on the leaders we support."
By day, Josh Goldman is a doctor at UCLA. By night, he is the co-founder of the Electric Athletic Club, a social fitness group. He has grown EAC to multiple cities throughout the US and unites his members through active, social lifestyles. Image Credit: Heylo / Michael Rodmaker
The company's near-term goal is to help group members get so much value from their group that they are happy to pay for it, in turn using that as leverage not only to provide resources for leaders, but it increases participation and engagement from members. Under the mantra "We value what we pay for," Heylo has helped groups launch memberships, host paid events and receive donations. The company claims that in many cases, its platform offered the first time for leaders to receive meaningful money from their group.
"Heylo has collected over $500,000 for our initial cohort of leaders, and their groups are growing and engaged more than ever," says Winters, He explains his longer-term vision: "Heylo will change the paradigm for leaders. No longer will leading a group be a cost center in their life. It can become a financially viable pursuit -- one that is equally fulfilling and entrepreneurial. We want to inspire the next generation of creators to lead groups. The world doesn’t need more content or online products. We need more leaders who can build community and make a positive impact on their members."