Worklete: Turbocharging a multi-generational quest for workplace safety

Trinity Ventures recently led the $6.5 million Series A investment in digital health platform Worklete. Lead investor and Trinity partner Karan Mehandru sat down with Worklete founder and CEO Ben Kanner for Q&A on the investment and what lies ahead for the company on a mission to eliminate workplace injuries.

Worklete co-founders — Ben Kanner and John Post. Great form, guys.

Ben, let’s start with your founder story. Why did you create Worklete?

Before I was born, my father was a professional athlete. Once I came along, he needed to find a “real job.” He had several firefighter friends who were getting injured frequently at work. Rather than smoke inhalation and burns, the majority of their injuries were musculoskeletal due to the physically demanding nature of the job. Several said to him, “You know how to use your body. Can you teach us?” So he did, and he built a business out of it. Over 30 years, he taught 10,000 firefighters to default into stronger, more stable positions, even in the most stressful situations when they are completely concentrated on saving lives, to help them reduce pain and avoid injury.

Ben’s father Jack Kanner training firefighters in 1987.

When I was in business school, I worked closely with my dad on his business. Some of his larger clients would say that they loved what he was doing, but in order to reach their employees at scale, they needed a product, not a person.

Together with my co-founder John Post, we realized we could apply my dad’s approach to safety through better human movement by teaching folks how to use their bodies correctly, and leverage technology to infinitely scale our impact. Instead of reaching 10,000 people with in-depth training over 30 years, we can deliver similar impact to millions of people in just five minutes every week.

Worklete’s digital platform is available on any device.

I’ve done a lot of things in my career — sales, finance, tech entrepreneurship — but what we’re doing with Worklete comes from deep in my past and straight from my heart.

Karan, what appealed to you most about Worklete?

Three things: the founder, the market, and the business opportunity.

#1 — Ben was literally born to create this company. I look for founders who express empathy for their customers, who exude founder/market fit, and who are exactly the right people to create their businesses. Ben isn’t just utterly devoted to Worklete’s mission; it’s beyond that. Worklete is a labor of love, an homage to his father who spent three decades developing best practices that helped thousands. Now Ben is not only carrying his father’s torch forward — but modernizing it in order to help millions.

#2 — This is such an important market. Construction, utilities, nursing, transportation, and logistics drive our country’s economy. We rely so heavily on these workers, yet historically the tech sector has done little to address their needs.

#3 — The platform gets fantastic engagement, with compelling incentives for both employers and employees. Employees love Worklete because it improves their lives. Employers love it because it reduces their costs — US companies spent $100 billion last year in direct workers’ compensation costs alone.

Ben, what made you choose Karan and Trinity as an investor?

The first time we met, Karan told me that what differentiates Trinity is their level of dedication to helping entrepreneurs realize their vision, grounded in deep respect for what it takes to get there. That was pretty appealing in itself, but what really caught my attention as we continued to meet was how much effort Karan made to get to know me and my team on a personal level. Given how closely investors and founders work together for years, it’s important to have a solid relationship built on trust and mutual understanding of our mission. We were fortunate to have a lot of interest in our funding round, but Karan and Trinity’s personal approach made a huge difference for us.

Trinity General Partner Karan Mehandru with Worklete Founder and CEO Ben Kanner at Trinity’s San Francisco office.

Equally as important, we were excited by Trinity and Karan’s track records of working with companies at our stage and helping them get to the next level. We want a firm and a partner who can help us predict potential landmines and see around the corner, so we can lay the right foundational elements early on and ensure we’re poised for success.

Karan, what did you find most compelling about the platform?

I was amazed by how quickly and how well Worklete wins trust. We spoke with a number of customers who told us that any initial skepticism quickly melted away into belief that the product was making a measurable difference. End-users realize the improvements right away; there’s an immediate feedback loop. They can operate machinery pain free. They can go home and lift their kids pain free. They go from being potential skeptics to raving evangelists.

On-site training at Empire Distributors, Inc.

Over time, there’s so much the company can do with this much trust and 5–10 minutes of users’ attention each week. This is just the beginning — value-added training, education, courses….they may do none of these things, but as long as they maintain this level of trust, the options are practically limitless. Meanwhile, their trust and immediate value are driving the 87% engagement rate.

Ben, how did you end up with a product that only requires 5 minutes of engagement per week?

Our customers taught us early on that they don’t have a lot of spare time to implement new programs on top of their day-to-day jobs which are labor intensive, often with highly regimented timetables based on hourly pay structures. When we started out, we asked customers for 20 minutes per week, but they let us know that there was no way they could spare that much time and 5 minutes was much more realistic. Fortunately, we also learned that 5 minutes per week can have far more impact than the same 20 minutes once per month. Human beings learn through repetition, so the consistency of weekly activity builds positive habits and long-term results. Thanks to technology, those 5 minutes of practice can happen anywhere — in a warehouse, at home, in the field — and on any device.

We’re able to make it all work in 5 minutes and drive tremendous engagement because our application delivers personalized programming, specific to the industry, language, and context of the user’s role. The in-person training component during the on-boarding process is also key: We train client champions as who act as team captains and help facilitate in-person, partner or group practice. Our coaches are amazing so they come out of that training fired up and ready to drive cultural change in their organization, which is important in sustaining any safety initiative.

Onsite training with Nestle Waters and Empire Distributors, Inc.

What’s next for Worklete? How will you use the cash infusion of this funding round?

We want to go in two directions — broader and deeper.

Broader by bringing this kind of thinking to more people, more verticals, and more companies.

Deeper by investing further in the product, to amplify the sophistication with which we change habits, to increase personalization, to develop forward-looking injury indicators, and to keep the platform fun and engaging. Overall, to have a more lasting impact on more people.

For all of this, we need to hire. A lot. Today we have more customers than employees. We’re super capital efficient. Now that we have successful, engaged customers, we need to recruit smart, collaborative, mission-oriented colleagues who want to help us build a company that uses tech to improve lives. We’re hiring in sales, marketing, customer success, operations and engineering. Anyone interested can check out our open listings here.