How do you retain the intimate, close working environment associated with a startup venture when your company begins doubling and tripling the number of employees on the team, mushrooming from 10 employees up to 75 in a matter of months?
The answer for one small San Jose, Calif., startup -- organic cosmetics company 100% Pure -- was to turn to a enterprise social network, one of its own making.
The platform it developed over the course of a year, called Incville, was intended for employees to more easily collaborate and understand each others' roles, while creating a set of checks and balances for keeping projects moving forward, said Susie Wang, co-founder of 100% Pure.
"We were growing so fast and there are always so many things going on that it becomes chaotic, unorganized and messy," Wang said. "We had some people who were dropping the ball." Elsewhere, there were decisions being made without the proper input.
That's when Wang and her co-founder, Ric Kostick, began looking around for tools and systems that could help 100% Pure define and act on processes being put in place across the company. Dissatisfied with their options, they decided to develop their own platform, and Incville was born organically. "I sketched out in my mind what was needed," Wang said.
Its primary features include a Wall, where company news, updates and announcements are shared; a Tasks list that shows both your own priorities, as well as those you've assigned to others; a Projects component that lets teams see where everyone stands on a mutual timelines (no more dropping the ball or unfair fingerpointing); a Teams section that lets employees learn more about each other; and a Documents section where up to 1 gigabyte of information can be stored (for a start).
The platform is used across the company's 156,000-square-foot, eight-acre campus in San Jose, as well as by the company's four retail locations in California and its distributors in places like Germany. "You can assign a task to anyone, they can be outside the company. You can have a project that includes your vendors, for example," Kostick said.
Incville was rolled out very quickly, with very little training, and 100% Pure saw an immediate positive impact in the form of quicker project turnaround, more efficient communications and far less turnover among new employees. "We started inviting people and let it roll out. If one person is using it, the others have to jump on board to stay updated," he said.
For now, Incville -- which resides in the Amazon cloud -- is being offered for free to companies with fewer than 10 employees. The service costs $5 per month per employee above that; if your organization wants more document storage space, you can get up to 5 gigabytes for the company and then 5 gigabytes per employee, as part of a paid plan.