Marin County startup Waggl enjoys fast growth for engaging employees in management decisions

The founders of Sausalito-based workforce-engagement software developer Waggl - CEO Michael Papay, development lead Drew Batshaw and product lead Adam Tanner - started the company five years ago from an idea that employees could provide firms with key actionable intelligence, if they were brought into the management conversation more effectively.

That concept attracted $7 million in series A funding in May 2018 led by First Analysis. That has allowed the company to recruit and retain talent, which is set to expand in sales, product development and customer success late this year, according to Alex Kinnebrew, chief marketing officer.

With three-year revenue growth of 2,482% to $4.4 million last year, Waggl debuted at No. 151 on the Inc. 5000 list, and placing No. 10 among San Francisco Bay Area firms on the list, No. 19 among software companies overall and No. 26 in California. The company is anticipating 50% revenue growth this year, Kinnebrew said.

“We’re focused on building a company focused on vision,” she said. “That’s why we started in Sausalito and why we’re still in the North Bay.”

Waggl currently employs 50. The company may pursue a larger funding round sometime next year, but no target has been set so far, she said.

Some of the roughly 130 customers use the service for a more practical, more frequent company town hall, particularly when teams are spread around the globe in different time zones, according to Kinnebrew.

“We describe Waggl as a digital focus group at scale,” she said.

One consumer packaged goods company with nearly 250,000 employees used it so a relatively new CEO could set a new path for the organization and revitalize it, asking employees for ideas on how to streamline processes and eliminate bureaucracy.

“A CEO can disseminate information one way or, instead, find the best way to engage employees around values at the organization and how it lives out those values,” Kinnebrew said.

In an interview with, Papay likened Waggl to Survey Monkey on steroids, saying it is a more interactive and inclusive approach than that popular online polling platform provides. Rather than private responses, employee input on Waggl is seen by all the employees then voted on to prioritize action.

The founders of Waggl met at the Sausalito office of Fort Hill Company, maker of on-demand employee training systems. Papay worked there for 14 years and was that company’s second employee. He opened its West Coast office in 2006 then rise to president and CEO in the two years before he left.

Waggl has been benefitting from rubbing shoulders entrepreneurially in southern Marin County with fast-growing job and company review startup Glassdoor, whose co-founder Robert Hohman has been an advisor. Glassdoor was acquired about a year ago for $1.2 billion, and the company is shifting many of its Bay Area operations to a large new office in San Francisco.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Contact him at or 707-521-4256.

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