There was a disturbance in the Force when Google shut down Moderator. That’s why I started Niko.

Creating a habit of listening to employees, and helping other companies do the same.

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”―Obi-Wan Kenobi

This was originally publish on Stripe’s Built on Stripe Medium Publication but we decided to bring it here for visibility.

Too many organizations don’t have the tools in place or the habit of listening to their employees. It is a silent culture killer and stifles success. Listening to employees should be as easy as listening to customers.

I started Niko to solve the problems bulky HR software can’t. Niko enables everyone at any level in a company — from interns to the CEO — to submit, vote on, and respond to questions and suggestions. It includes advanced features like organizational predictive insights, sentiment analysis, and employee engagement tracking and analytics.

Niko’s takes the traditional concept of the employee engagement survey and transforms it into an always-on, frequent event, happening in real time. Some of the limitations of surveys is that they are confined to the past, suffer from biases, are bound to the questions asked in the survey, and the results are often not actionable. Niko’s always-on approach captures employee sentiment, questions, ideas and suggestions as they happen and provides a place to take action in real-time. Niko enables a new trend in employee engagement — engagement measurement — to facilitate the frequent, even continuous measurement of employee engagement.

I founded and built this company from the ground up. That said I couldn’t have gotten this far without help. While we’re based in Berkeley CA, I work with an amazing freelance engineer for things I can’t or don’t have time to do. Laura Nelson, Marketing and Communications guru extraordinaire, has been a huge support. And I couldn’t have done it without countless advisors — including those at Stripe Atlas.

What moment or experience inspired you to start your own company?

I was working at a company where the leadership team actively covered up problems and blocked the flow of information. I watched the health of the company decline, and the culture followed suit. It felt like my team and I had no power, until a new director of engineering showed up who understood the impact of giving employees a voice. She set up Google Moderator for the entire company to use. Moderator was a Google service shut down in 2015 that used crowdsourcing to rank user-submitted questions, suggestions and ideas.

The effect was remarkable and indelible. Almost overnight, people felt confident sharing their questions, ideas, and suggestions. My teammates’ voices were heard, valued, and relevant. We combined our talents and our strengths with those of our co-workers, and worked to do amazing things.

When I read the following quote by Ben Horowitz, the deal was sealed:

“A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. A company that covers up it’s problems frustrates everyone involved. The resulting action item for CEOs: Build a culture that rewards — not punishes — people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.”
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Google Moderator validated the concept. Companies large and small used it for employee engagement. It is clear that healthy organizations need Niko because there was a disturbance in the Force when Google shut down Moderator. That is why I started Niko.

Did you ever doubt yourself or face significant challenges starting out?

I’ve had many false starts, but with Niko I had no doubts. I know companies need ways to build strong culture so they can attract and retain the best and brightest people. It comes down to building something you know people need.

What does “success” look like for your company five years from now?

We already know that people need Niko because it is making employee engagement better for some of the best and brightest teams including a group at Airbnb, CircleCI, Getaround, Segment, Amplitude, Munchery, Transcriptic, Benchling, and ClassPass to name a few.

With the current cultural shift in Silicon Valley and beyond, the need to retain and attract top talent is increasing. We get feedback from Niko companies that one of the best ways to keep employees engaged and happy is to create a safe space for meaningful, productive conversations.

At organizations and teams of all sizes, distributed across time zones and around the world, we hear from customers that Niko has been fundamental in getting feedback on things like OKRs, rounds of funding, hiring plans, office redesigns, how teams work together, diversity in the workplace, office security policies, codes of ethics, employee equity, benefits, and more.

Niko is the first in the list of channels I monitor for feedback from our team.
— Jim Rose, CEO at CircleCI

Our 5 year goal is to engage 1,000,000 users in about 8,000 to 10,000 organizations. We want to see employees working at SMBs, to companies in the Fortune 500 benefiting from Niko. Once competitors (for talent) see employees gravitating to companies with the highest Niko Engagement Scores, they will be fast followers to compete for and retain the best talent.


If you want to make your company a great(er) place to work and want to know what is important to the people you work with, you should try Niko.

Learn more and get started here: https://www.getniko.com/
We would love for you to try it out. 
It’s easy to
create a group. You can even connect it to Slack.

Questions? Get in touch @get_niko or niko@getniko.com.