First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Pola Henderson: Thank you for asking. We’ve been fortunate to stay healthy and keep working.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Digicoop.
Pola Henderson: I joined Digicoop as an English-language Content and Community Manager in early 2019 after learning about the company in an online community. I dropped everything I was doing, sent my application, and luckily received a phone call a few days later.
When I met the team in person, I knew that I had found my place. Coming from a freelance background, and having experienced burnout in the corporate world, I was drawn to the cooperative aspect of the startup: collaboration, autonomy, and shared ownership.
How does Digicoop innovate?
Pola Henderson: Our product development is driven by what I just mentioned, i.e. being one of the first employee-owned (cooperative) startups. Digicoop was founded by a team of engineers fed up with work tools available in their former jobs. Instead of building a cookie-cutter solution, they wanted one that would allow any other teams to get organized how they see fit. They also wanted to empower employees, not just managers, to reflect the changing workplace.
Kantree, our flexible collaboration and work management platform, allows companies of all sizes to manage their projects on their own terms without the need for IT assistance. It introduces a new ecosystem that helps teams to unleash their collective intelligence and where processes and methods are not already decided by upper management.
We have a public roadmap on our website and innovate by further developing Kantree with the input from our customers, tapping into that collective intelligence I talked about earlier.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Pola Henderson: While we’ve seen a slight drop in Kantree Cloud users, i.e. those who use the platform to manage one or two projects (that were likely halted by the pandemic), our Kantree Enterprise offer has seen a 30% increase.
These are customers that have put Kantree at the heart of their organization as their go-to platform for organizing and managing cross-functional projects. For them, Kantree has been an integral part of the switch to remote work during the crisis.
As a result, we are putting together a new Kantree Business offer to meet the changing needs of the post-coronavirus workplace.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Pola Henderson: When you’re a cooperative, funding can be tricky. In a co-op (known in France as a SCOP), 51% of the capital is held by staff members and you cannot sell a share for more than the purchase price, which means you cannot make a profit from shares. As a result, finding investors is difficult. We had to make do with smaller fundraising amounts and other types of investment.
But after five years in operation, we are profitable and continue to expand internationally while staying true to our cooperative roots. As one of the first startups to be employee-owned, we have proven against all odds that it’s possible to stay afloat without compromising our values and giving up ownership.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Digicoop in the future?
Pola Henderson: Working for a remote-first co-op, which by definition is un-corporate, helps to keep the stress levels under control. Knowing that my colleagues have my back and they trust me enough to manage my work – wherever I connect from on a given day – gives me a peace of mind I didn’t have in most of my previous jobs.
Also, taking breaks and having some quiet time has been great for my well-being at work. I like to start my day with a few minutes of energizing yoga, I make sure to take a real lunch break to avoid the afternoon crash (luckily, it’s encouraged in France), and go for an evening walk to unwind. And not having a commute means more work-life balance.
We’re likely to keep going like this, because we truly believe this is the future of work.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pola Henderson: The work management market is a crowded one and many people know the big players like Microsoft, Trello or Jira. But we know that name recognition doesn’t necessarily mean the best features.
Since launching in 2015, we have been trusted by major enterprise customers in Europe and beyond, plus numerous SMEs and startups. The number of users, which is currently at 20,000, keeps growing due to Kantree’s flexibility and easy onboarding (no IT help needed).
As mentioned before, developing the platform with input from our users has always been our modus operandi as a cooperative, and we will continue down this path. Kantree is developed by business users for business users, and we have a public roadmap where they can see what we are working on and submit feature requests.
Your final thoughts
Pola Henderson: We offer a 30-day free trial of Kantree and I’d like to encourage you sign up and make the most of it with your team. We have lots of work management resources on our website, including a template library, which will help you transform the way you communicate and work together on projects. Ever since I joined Digicoop and started using Kantree, I’ve worked virtually paper-free, without email and meeting overload. There’s no turning back.