Why we invested in Peakon

JAN 28, 2021

As Peakon enters into an agreement to be acquired by Workday, our Managing Partner, Bernard Liautaud, looks back at why we initially loved the business

We first met the Peakon team just over three years ago in October 2017. My partner, Daniel Waterhouse, had known Peakon CEO Phil Chambers for a while and thought I’d be interested in both the idea and the team. He was right – and by the start of 2018, Balderton was leading a $22M round in the company.

It was a relatively quick turnaround, but the decision to invest in Peakon had been an easy one for us. Firstly, we were really impressed by the four founders. They had a great track record and had previously worked together at another Danish company called Podio. They all had complementary skill sets so the senior team already felt quite complete – Phil had great product affinity, Kasper Hulthin focused on business development, Christian Holm was the engineer and Dan Rogers was the marketeer.

Peakon CEO and Co-founder Phil Chambers at the Balderton CEO Collective Summit in 2018

We also really liked the market. The employee engagement market was very nascent at the time, but its importance was obvious. I had spent fifteen years as CEO of Business Objects, which had close to 7,000 employees, and had witnessed employee behaviour changing. Employees were becoming more demanding, and expectations for the workplace were increasing.

The Peakon team had realised that businesses needed a better way of understanding what really mattered to their employees. To solve this issue they had created best-in-class survey technology, rooted in psychology, which would provide companies with the feedback they needed to make better people decisions. The idea was to collect continuous feedback to get a real-time pulse of how a company was operating, rather than just surveying staff once a year.

By standardising the questions, they could also provide industry benchmarks and comparisons with other teams of similar size and makeup. The product was simple, clean and really intuitive to use, with an attention to detail and design that was very Scandinavian.

Peakon's employee engagement platform

We all felt they really had shot at becoming a global leader

We all felt they really had shot at becoming a global leader. They were a small team, but had great momentum and were growing fast, with ambitions to triple in size within the next year. Neil Ryland, who was recruited very early on as head of sales (now Chief Revenue Officer), drove a really strong U.S. style sales culture, and they had already amassed an impressive client list, with companies like Delivery Hero, BMW, and Capgemini adopting the platform early on. Importantly, customer satisfaction was also really high.

Despite their rapid growth trajectory, Peakon maintained a huge emphasis on culture and values. They believed in radical transparency, which raised a few eyebrows with investors but was reflective of the kind of leadership values that Phil and the team strongly held – and still hold today. And of course, it helped that they were using their product on their own team from the early days of the company.

The full Peakon team back in 2017

We've seen the benefits of Peakon first hand. It's helped us give everyone a voice.

At Balderton, we’ve seen the benefits of using Peakon first hand. What's interesting is the impact it can have on a firm of any size. Our team is small, so it’s easy to believe you have a sense of how everyone feels about the business. Of course, in reality, many people aren’t comfortable opening up to their colleagues. Peakon helps us to give everyone a voice.

Having this type of feedback loop in place has been particularly invaluable this year. With everyone under pressure and working from home, it has been much harder to get a sense of how the team is coping. Peakon gave us a much clearer picture of what we could do to support our team through this difficult period. It has led us to take direct action to address concerns and provided us with a platform for new ideas to help with team cohesion.

While a portfolio company being acquired is always bittersweet for us as it means parting ways, we couldn’t hope for a better home for Peakon. Not only is Workday one of the leading enterprise software firms in the world, but they are known for having an extremely strong, people-driven culture. Workday has a vast customer base and a global footprint. They have everything that’s needed to take Peakon to new and extraordinary heights.

Congratulations to everyone at Peakon. Thank you for an incredible few years. We look forward to watching your journey!

Watch Bernard interview Peakon CEO, Phil Chambers 

Bernard sits down (virtually) with Phil Chambers to talk about the genesis of Peakon, the agreement to be acquired by Workday, and how he sees the future.

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