Employees in industries like retail, manufacturing, and healthcare typically do not have a corporate email address or easy access to important company information. Red e App, an enterprise messaging startup, offers a way to privately send sensitive information and score employee engagement by providing the metadata around the messaging - who read the message, when they read it, and if they accessed the attached file or content.
Tribe Inc, an internal communications agency, called lack of communication with non-desk workers a lost opportunity. In a 2012 survey they did with non-desk workers they found that lack of communication is common and is often interpreted as a lack of respect. This is especially true when it comes to communicating changes in an organization, with nearly 75 percent reporting that company communication of major changes was inadequate.
Red e App founder and CEO Jonathan Erwin felt the need for a private communication platform when he was trying to protect his own personal contact info. That evolved into the idea for a platform for employers to privately communicate with employees. Company-wide blast emails are obnoxious and mobile apps offer employers a way to reach workers on their own terms.
"The idea is one platform, single workflow, complete visibility and transparency, and a single window for all of the employees as they come into an organization," Erwin said.
How it works
Companies set up a private network within Red e App and the app then connects to a company's existing HR software like Peoplesoft, ADP, or a point of sale system and pulls employee information from there. Companies can set this up as an automatic pull or they can manually supply the employee information. This creates an SSO experience so each individual user can authenticate with their preexisting corporate ID, not their email.
This authentication system allows users to be categorized into predefined groups, such as a regional sales team. Employers can then delegate workflow to certain teams or regions. This helps to flatten organizations, to a degree, and encourages two-way communication. Wireless Zone, a company that sells Verizon products, has been piloting Red e App for a few weeks. Kevin Downs, their Director of Marketing, said they're seeing good results.
"So far it seems like a great way for us to push information quickly, safely, and effectively without going through the layers," Downs said.
For companies like Wireless Zone that have many non-disclosure agreements in place and need to send proprietary information the safety features of Red e App are the most important. The challenge for them is how to disseminate timely information that is not easily shareable. Downs said he likes the ability to push information at different levels of hierarchy and he wants to use Red e App to "empower their frontline sales associates."
Another unique feature of Red e App is the administrative dashboard. Employers can see what time of day a message was read, what day of the week it was read, how long employees spent on it, and even what mobile carrier they used to access the message. This data helps managers see how close they are to 100% compliance on people reading a message or completing a training.
Red e App is free for one network with up to 50 users. For unlimited networks and users customers pay a one-time setup and a monthly fee for active users. The fee starts at $5 a month per user, but it scales based on network size. One company we spoke with thought Red e App would be a great solution for their business, but said it was too expensive for them.
Why the Midwest?
Red e App's first official round of funding came from the Yearling Fund in June 2012 and they are currently raising their next round to focus on marketing resources and continued innovation. They are rounding off their first year in the market and they currently have over 5,000 users and monthly recurring revenue. In the coming year they want to focus on retail and healthcare. They have 10 customers they are hoping to roll out in the next 90 days and 10 other global customers they are courting. Red e App's office is located in Louisville, KY, in a building that Muhammad Ali used to train in. Visitors can even see marks on the floor where the boxing ring used to be. Louisville is Erwin's hometown, and he said that keeps Red e App close to the industries they are targeting.
"A lot of people, especially in the valley, are in incubation or stealth mode for years before they really figure out what the heck they're doing or what the hell their market is, and I think that's comical," Erwin said. "Because, here in the Midwest, in the heart of the U.S., we don't have time for that junk. We need to execute now. In fact, I would say, the reason we're so successful is because we're here, in the middle of the U.S. This is the market."
By measuring data on employee communication, the hope is that you can see if that data informs the customer experience. Many companies take great pains to make sure they have consistent messaging across the board for both customers and employees. Companies measure click-through rates and engagement for customer messaging and Red e App is hoping to provide that same data for employees.
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is Enterprise Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.