Imagining a world without spreadsheets

Populate is a software solution at the very sexy intersection of HR & Finance. Every growing company has a hiring plan, no matter their size. Small companies often visualize their headcount plan with an org chart to work towards but as they grow they start to use spreadsheets. Many will agree these spreadsheets become quite complex, getting duplicated for different stakeholders and are really hard to scale long term. New year, new spreadsheet and no insight into what you originally said you were going to do and what you actually did.

When you are growing a company you all need to be on the same page. People are most often a company’s largest expense. You need to be able to accurately track how employees are coming into your business, how they’re moving around and then how they’re leaving. All that information helps you make good decisions around what roles to hire, when to hire them and how much it should cost.

Headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, our five-person team at Populate centralizes organizational people data to make headcount planning simple, accurate and intuitive.

What moment or experience inspired you to start your own company?Those spreadsheets we talk about above, well — I lived in those spreadsheets as VP Talent at Vend — a high growth, global tech company. I was either in those spreadsheets or in meetings about those spreadsheets. The team was growing fast, across six different countries and there was a focus on keeping our costs under control while still growing quickly. Out of frustration I started imagining a world without these spreadsheets. A world where managers could have access to the information they needed and have accountability over their budgets in a meaningful way. A world where recruiters could get an accurate picture of what they needed to deliver in advance which would help achieve even better results for their managers. A world where workflows and processes between Finance & HR/People Ops were seamless and numbers could be trusted. When I finished at Vend I felt a responsibility to try and make this a reality.

Co-founders Kirsti & Lance

Did you ever doubt yourself or face significant challenges starting out?
Of course! There weren’t any particular challenges starting out, we actually had a good run. But, we came into this with a bit of experience and equipped with potentially unrealistically high expectations of ourselves. Naturally we have had times where as a result of those high expectations we’ve felt really disappointed in ourselves. We knew it’d be hard but nothing prepares you for the realities. And that is exactly the point, this stuff is hard but we’ve built a product that companies all over the world pay to use. That’s a big deal so when things feel hard we remind ourselves of that. We also make a real point of spending time with other founders who have become good friends. We share the struggles, we try and learn from one another’s hard lessons and we ultimately support one another.

What does “success” look like for your company five years from now?
Our thinking on this has evolved a bit since we started. We would rather have a smaller number of customers who love us and can’t imagine life without Populate than a lot of customers who are indifferent. 
We would love to stay quite lean when it comes to our team. We will grow as much as we need to grow to provide the best experiences for our customers and we also love the idea of being able to take the team away with their families to somewhere amazing once a year. 
Ultimately want to be happy and having fun still!