Seed synergy

Seed synergy

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Above: Sheetal Dube and Daniel Clancey participate in the regular roundtable of seed fund members. Dube founded AudioName and Clancey started Homeschool Snowboarding.
Below: The seed fund process has brought an infusion of money, ideas and connections. Another purpose of the fund is to develop a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration to invigorate the startup scene. 
// Photos by Anthony Pidgeon
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The market for these niche software businesses seems infinite when you consider how much inefficiency still exists in the business world. Hively CEO Jason Lander started his  first company in 2001 with his business partner Ross Barbieri after suffering through a job in the staffing industry based on “a horrible process centered around fax machines.” Their solution to that problem became ShiftWise, a Portland business that raised $10 million and employed 56 people at its peak. Their new business focuses on improving the clumsy attempts by businesses to gather feedback from customers.

“Customers don’t want to answer a whole bunch of questions,” Lander says. “Companies will send out surveys to 100 customers and maybe three fill them out.”

Hively simplifies the feedback process into a few clicks: a smiley face for good customer service, a frown for frustration. The customer can offer more information but doesn’t have to. Employees can compete for higher customer satisfaction rates and managers can get a clearer sense of performance levels.

Two weeks after launching the beta version of the Hively site, Lander signed up an early partner: Expedia. It was such a surprising win at that stage that he called to make sure it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t. Hively’s 1.0 version came out in September, and the seed fund cash has led to further investor interest. But Lander, who served as a heavy machine gunner with the Marines before he got into software, says he will only accept investments on his terms.

“When I started ShiftWise, I was 28 years old,” Lander says. “I was raising money off PowerPoint slides. That was cool, but I didn’t realize how much of my company I was giving away.”

This time around he intends to keep control over what he builds.