When it comes to helping CEOs and other executives stay on top of the big issues at their company, a startup called 15Five has taken inspiration from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Even though Chouinard is supposedly out of the office on outdoor adventures for several months of the year, he developed "5-15 reports" (weekly employee memos that should take no more than 15 minutes to write and five minutes to read) to stay up-to-date. That idea has been adopted at other companies, but 15Five CEO David Hassell wants to make it even more widespread, by turning the 5-15 idea into a simple product for submitting, reading, and acting on weekly reports. 15Five demonstrated at the Launch conference earlier this year, and today it's coming out of beta testing. To use the system, employees fill out a weekly report with updates on recent successes, challenges, ideas, and morale. Their managers can read and comment on those reports, then pass along any larger issues in reports of their own. Eventually, the reports make their way to the CEO, and if there's anything they want to discuss, they can start a conversation that goes all the way back down to the employee who first brought it up. 15Five customers already include GlaxoSmithKlein Consumer Healthcare USA, Ustream, Warby Parker, and Mahalo (whose CEO, Jason Calacanis, runs the Launch conference). ThinkFuse, another startup focused on weekly employee reports, was recently acquired by Salesforce. The product was shut down, and 15Five says many of former ThinkFuse customers migrated over. By taking the beta label off, Hassell says the 15Five team is signaling that it has built a product that's ready for wide adoption (although it's planning already planning a big update with the launch of version 2.0 this fall). It's also adding new features — managers can now remind employees from within the app that they need to fill out their reports, and they can manage groups and questions on their own (that was previously limited to a single administrator). In the future, Hassell says he'd like to see 15Five integrate with business conversation tools like Yammer. (In fact, Yammer founder David Sacks offered to invest while on-stage at Launch.) But is this really a standalone company, or is it destined to become a feature of a larger product? "We're just focusing on doing one thing and doing it really, really well," Hassell says. "We're finding that for a lot of our companies, our number one design value is elegant simplicity." 15Five has raised $200,000 in funding from friends and family.
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