​Bigcommerce co-founder spearheads new startup PeopleSpark

Bigcommerce co-founder Mitchell Harper has launched his fifth startup, PeopleSpark, in the hope to help businesses improve communication between managers and their teams.

Mitchell Harper is onto launching his fifth startup since co-founding his first, Bigcommerce, nearly six years ago.

Harper has launched PeopleSpark in the hope of improving communication between managers and their teams.

Speaking to ZDNet, he said the idea for the latest platform came from his own experience at Bigcommerce, and something he wished he had when scaling the company from two people to 500 employees.

"I've been really big on culture and making sure we build a great culture at Bigcommerce. As we grew the company ... we built a really great cadence around listening to our employees across three different offices in Sydney, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas. I wanted to take what I learnt there and build it into a product that other companies could use," he said.

"Even though as big as we were, we were hodge-podging together Survey Monkey, Google Forms, and Tableau. There wasn't a product we could take off the shelf that would essentially let us do what I wanted us to do from a culture perspective, and that was getting a weekly pulse on how everyone feels in the company; not a quarterly survey, not an annual survey like most companies do -- that's too slow."

Harper added that companies such as the National Australian Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers are examples of businesses that are changing the management culture of their businesses, but believes there are many others that still need help.

"I definitely think the companies that are led by innovation are moving to weekly feedback but there is a lot of data coming out of Gallop that looks at the correlation between feedback, employee happiness, and retention; it's starting to go mainstream," he said.

"Tech companies have always known innovation is key to success; they've innovated in their product, and the way they manage and grow their business."

Harper stepped away from the operational role of Bigcommerce earlier in the year, and admitted that all he has been focused on since has been PeopleSpark.

"Essentially I've been unemployed for the last seven to eight months while I've been building this company. PeopleSpark is me working day and night at the moment," he said.

On the point of whether Harper hopes to raise as much funds as Bigcommerce did -- at one point the company received $40 million from AOL co-founder Steve Case -- he said it's still early days, and it will be a medium-term goal when the company reaches a stage of "hyper-growth".

He did reveal, however, that he was approached by investors initially but rejected their offer.

"Some investors I knew reached out and wanted to learn a bit more, and really they wanted to back to the jockey, not the horse, and to me they wanted to back the founder, not the idea," he said. "I think that's the premise in which they were interested, and saw the founder had success before and believed there was a great chance they could do it again."