What are the chances of going from an intern to COO of a $US50 billion company, and then getting to launch your own startup — with the financial backing of a billionaire CEO who hired you in the first place?
Welcome to the life of George Hu, the former Salesforce COO who made his startup called Peer public for the first time on Thursday.
“I don’t know if I’m Salesforce’s very first intern,” Hu told Business Insider. “But I hope I’m the most successful one.”
During his 13 year career at Salesforce, Hu was involved in nearly every aspect of the business. He never held a single position for more than 2 years (except for the COO role which lasted 4 years), and his work spanned from application development and data analysis to marketing and operations. Over the past year, he’s been on unpaid leave, working on his new startup.
Through all those years, Hu saw Salesforce grow from a scrappy startup to one of the largest cloud software companies ever. But even with all the success, there was one area he felt lacked a more standardised approach: employee feedback.
“I didn’t have anything that told me how happy or engaged a particular person was on my team,” Hu said. “All these companies are trying to move to a continuous feedback model, but there’s no technology out there that’s the standard to do it.”
That’s why he’s built Peer, a workplace feedback app that lets employees send real-time comments and performance reviews directly at one another.
The way it works is pretty straightforward. The app links to the user’s calendar and starts prompting them for individual feedback.
You get to choose if a recent “interaction,” like a meeting or phone call, select if it was good or bad, and then leave private comments that show up in individual timelines. This gives a full database of feedback that’s tied to your calendar events, giving more context around the set of interactions.
Also, users can view feedback from others only if they leave feedback for someone else, which incentivizes more activity. Companies can also turn on the anonymous option to allow for a more private environment, and flag comments that are deemed inappropriate.
“Peer’s trying to build the standard for that next generation of feedback and performance review. It’s really a private feedback system focused on your growth and professional development,” Hu said.
On that note, Hu sees a future where Peer evolves into a more robust professional training tool, offering personal advice and even online learning courses. With all the data it gathers about employee behaviour and workplace culture, it could even move into predictive analytics for hiring and career development.
“It could eventually be almost like your built-in career coach,” he said.
Peer is only available in beta yet, as it only has about a dozen employees working on it. But Hu put together a pretty strong team comprised of ex-Salesforce people, such as its former EVP of Legal David Schellhase, and engineers from consumer apps like Square, Yelp, and Zynga.
But the biggest contributor just might be Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff, who’s the largest investor in Peer, according to Hu. He didn’t disclose the exact amount of the investment from Benioff, only saying it’s a personal investment and that he’s “really excited about it.”
“It would have to be something exciting for him to actually let me leave Salesforce,” Hu said with a smile.
Although he’s just getting started, Hu seems confident that he’s on to something huge that could potentially change the way work is done. He calls it the “feedback revolution.”
“In every aspect of our lives, we share opinions and demand feedback in real-time,” Hu said. “I see a huge opportunity to bring the feedback revolution to the workplace — I believe the world is ready for something like this.”
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