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High Alpha unveils employee-engagement startup

May 9, 2017

When High Alpha's four business partners launched the venture studio in 2015, the quartet said they would create portfolio companies by tapping their own ideas.

One of their earliest ideas dealt with software that would better connect employees and employers. It took quite a bit of time and money, but that idea is now an employee-engagement company called Structural Inc. that High Alpha debuted Tuesday.

Structural's product is a mobile-first software application aimed at unearthing employee insights for the benefit of managers and co-workers. It features employee profiles fed by internal and external data sources, as well as advanced-search and targeted-messaging capabilities.

Unlike some employee-engagement applications, Structural is not a destination for tasks like filling out digital time-cards or expense reports. Rather, the software aims to aggregate disparate information about an employee's skills, working style and more for others in the enterprise to see and engage with.

This can help rank-and-file workers at a large enterprise find internal expertise, for instance, or help managers decide whom to tap to open a new international office.

"Any person at any time can say I need somebody who knows design and speaks Spanish, and up pops all of the people in your organization who have those skills," Structural CEO Scott Burns said in a phone interview.

"No more Sherlock Holmes work trying to find the right person ... ."

Structural is the fifth announced portfolio company from High Alpha, preceded by Sigstr, Clear Scholar, Zylo and Doxly. It's led by Burns, 41, and Chief Marketing Officer Chip House, 51, both of whom are based at Structural's headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The company has three employees in Minnesota and three Indianapolis-based employees. It anticipates growing to 10 employees soon and then doubling that number by year end.

Burns is the former CEO and co-founder of St. Paul-based GovDelivery, which was sold to Vista Equity Partners for $153 million and merged with Granicus in 2016. House was an early employee of ExactTarget who helped build its marketing organization and most recently served as chief marketing officer of Minneapolis-based Four51.

Burns and House each had business relationships with High Alpha managing partner Scott Dorsey, principally through Dorsey's role as ExactTarget CEO. Conversations about taking the reins at Structural began in earnest late last year, and Burns and House joined the company in April.

Structural's software targets enterprises with about 50 employers or more. The profile pages in the app display people's experience, work anniversaries, direct reports, social media feeds and more—if the employee choses to showcase that.

It also integrates personality and working-style information, if applicable, which yields suggestions on the best way to praise, critique or interact with an employee.

For managers, Structural can display both granular data—like an individual's skills or performance metrics—and broad enterprise data—like a geographical, departmental and even demographical breakdown of all their workers.

"Leaders of fast-growing businesses may want to understand things like 'how are our numbers in terms of gender dynamics?'" said High Alpha managing partner Kristian Andersen. "'Are we trending up or down in terms of women in sales in Southeast Asia.'"

Structural spent about a year in beta and today has about 10 customers representing more than 1,000 employees. Andersen said compared to its other portfolio companies, High Alpha spent the most time and money—about $1 million—on Structural.

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