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Slay squad goals, not just tasks, with Lattice

TechCrunch TechCrunch 12/05/2016 Josh Constine

You know what to do at work today, but do you know why? Goals. Having clear goals is critical to keeping productivity and morale high on any team. Whether it’s a launch date, level of traction, sales quota, or hiring objective, teams perform better with well-defined motives.

Lattice weaves goals into your workflow. Built by Y Combinator president Sam Altman’s brother Jack, Lattice is launching its enterprise collaboration app today.

There’s already plenty of task management software out there, from Asana to Jira to Salesforce to Zendesk. But these focus on the “nitty-gritty what”, not the “why we’re doing this”. Goal management could become another feature of these tools, but investors are betting $2.8 million on Lattice becoming a separate layer that cooperates.

The seed round was led by Thrive capital, with participation from Khosla Ventures, SV Angel, Marc Benioff, Slack Fund, and Fuel Capital, plus angels including Jack’s bro Sam, Elad Gil, Alexis Ohanian, Kevin Mahaffey, Daniel Gross, and Jake Gibson. 

Freshly graduated from YC, Lattice already has several dozen companies piloting it, including Reddit, Teespring, and WePay. Eventually, Lattice will charge $3 to $5 per team member.

Altman was formerly the VP of biz dev at Teespring as it grew from 10 to 500 employees. That rocketship taught him the the importance of company-wide goal-setting and the chaos that can ensue without it.

“The number one thing I tell startups to do as they scale is make sure the entire company is clear on the mission and goals” Sam Altman explains. “This is critical–if companies can get this right, things will move in the right direction, and if they don’t, no amount of management seems to fix it.” 

Teams try emails, spreadsheets, Powerpoints, meetings, and end-of-quarter heckling to try to keep members on track. Jack thought they deserved dedicated software, so he set off with Eric Koslow to build Lattice.

The Lattice web app (mobile app coming) lets customers lay out their org chart, set team- and company-wide goals, and have employees and managers fill in progress over time. The focus is on transparency, the idea being that there is less inefficient one-to-one communication if everybody can instantly see what their colleagues are driving towards.

Investor Keith Rabois explains “If you ask anyone at a well-run organization what the company’s top goals are, not only can they tell you what they are, but they can tell you exactly how their own work feeds into them. Lattice is designed to help more companies run like this.”

Lattice is meant to be used on a weekly basis or whenever teams need a reminder of their mission. The app can build weekly digests of company progress, though there’s also an activity feed for immediate status checks.

The question is whether there’s room for Lattice. Big HR systems like Workday, SuccessFactors, and BetterWorks already have goal tracking features, though they’re a bit buried and clumsy. And task management systems seem well-poised to integrate higher-level goals, even if Jack says Lattice will work “in conjunction” with them.

It’s hard not to see Lattice facing off against task-focused software like Asana…which is also funded by Jack’s brother Sam…and lets you track co-workers and collaborate with them…and was built by two guys inspired by management troubles at a big company they helped grow (Facebook). How many ~$5 per seat progress-monitoring SaaS subscriptions will companies pay for? [Disclosure: Asana’s founders are friends of mine.]

What’s the true enemy, though, is the status quo: email. A constantly churning feed is not the way to stay focused on overarching goals. Lattice will have to trick people into two uncomfortable activities: changing behavior and tracking their progress — or lack thereof. It will take some clever design to stay sticky, but the benefit is clear. Before you strain yourself hiking, you need a compass.

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