How Five to Nine’s Jasmine Shells Uses Data to Power Employee Events
The Transparent Collective alum on helping employees stay engaged and connected
By Jessen O’Brien
If you’ve ever planned an employee event, you know that managing the logistics and tracking the results are surprisingly difficult. “There were a lot of great external event tools — but no really great internal ones,” says founder and Transparent Collective alum Jasmine Shells.
It’s that gap that motivated Shells to build Five to Nine, an internal event management platform.
“Our software enables organizations to manage all of their employee programs that are aimed at upskilling or connecting their talent,” says Shells. “The platform also gives amazing data back to the organization on how those programs are resonating with employees and, ultimately, how these programs are achieving the goals of the organization.”
We sat down with Shells to learn more about how Five to Nine is transforming the way companies approach employee engagement, the impact the pandemic has had on event planning, and what part of her cohort she found to be most valuable.
What inspired you to found the company?
I worked at Ernst & Young back in the day as a D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) leader. Being an ERG (employee resource group) leader is very hard. We were manually hacking together tools to do the job: Google Forms, Google Sheets, Word Docs — you name it.
And then I had this idea: “Well, our organization gives us a budget. Why are we doing this manually?”
Fast forward ten years, and guess what? I found that program leaders were still doing the same thing. That’s when we really felt we could leverage technology to help solve a pain point for the ERG leader who’s spending so much time putting together these programs, while also giving powerful data back to the organization.
How has the recent shift to remote and hybrid impacted the need for this type of internal event management tool?
Before we were doing hyper-local activations and events, where you were getting together with your Chicago or London office. That’s not really a thing anymore. What we’re seeing is that events are virtual, so what was a Chicago program is now a global one.
The infrastructure was lacking because none of the tools people were using were integrated into any of their people or communication systems. In a hybrid world, that becomes a much more complex problem.
Hacking together all these forms and tools is just no longer sustainable, especially when we’re talking about organizations that have over a thousand employees, who are all remote.
We actually grew over 10X over the last year because companies now are actively seeking solutions to solve this specific pain point.
What do your customers look like?
A lot of our customers are D&I leaders, ERG leaders, workplace leaders, or learning and development leaders.
We have seen a huge outpouring of investment by technology companies that are more innovative, are actively investing in their culture, and see talent as a way to differentiate themselves and compete. They care about diversity and inclusion, and believe that their employee programs are key to retaining top talent.
When one of our main users was at DoorDash, she was managing what went from a 1,500 or so to a 7,000 employee organization because the company IPO’d and grew so quickly over the pandemic. She managed eight ERGs. And it was her job to report on how all of them were doing at the end of the year.
She told us that before Five to Nine, she was going off memory alone to create this aggregated report. Across the board, there was no benchmark data or go-to procedure for gathering feedback.
When the ERG leaders started using Five To Nine, everything became streamlined and standardized. Surveys were sent out automatically. All the data — who attended which event, what office they were from, etc. — was synced into one system.
She got a promotion because her boss was so impressed. There is real power in being able to provide data to an organization to drive your strategy.
Do organizers also use that data to shape the success of the events themselves?
Yes. We helped one of our customers, Jellyvision, increase its employee net promoter score by 4X just by taking in the data on what employees thought about its events and how they could be improved.
Another company, Brex, saw a 10X increase in its event registrants because Five to Nine integrates with Slack. We make it easy to meet employees where they’re at. No matter where an RSVP comes from — whether it’s on Slack or a calendar invite — or what platform the event is being hosted on, we have integrations that ensure you won’t miss any of the data along the way. Whereas before, program managers couldn’t keep up because none of these systems talk to each other.
What drew you to Transparent Collective?
Back in the day, I was speaking at a conference, and I ended up meeting James and Rohini. They encouraged me to apply. It was great to come out to the Bay, go through different workshops on how to pitch, and meet other founders whose businesses were at a similar stage.
It’s so amazing to see where those founders are now. A lot of the people who were in the cohort that I was in have raised multiple millions of dollars.
What was one of the most valuable lessons you learned from the cohort?
One of the things I appreciated most from the program was learning about storytelling and how to really own your message. We all worked together on our pitch and learned how to make sure what you do is really understood by your audience.
That was super helpful because, at that time, we were working through that language. It was a huge win for us in terms of being able to do a pitch during a Demo Day in front of investors and our peers.
Why do you think Transparent Collective’s mission is so important?
There needs to be more focus on and space created for those founders who have historically been overlooked within venture capitalism. Transparent Collective is great at identifying top talent, top founders, and top companies.
The community aspect of bringing together like-minded founders who are underestimated is incredible. And then, too, having access to that capital. The Transparent Collective team has built a great pipeline of excellent talent that then gives back with funding down the line.
What advice do you have for other founders who might be considering applying to Transparent Collective?
Part of what’s great about what Transparent Collective has built is that the relationships extend beyond the cohort. You’re joining a community of people who want to help one another however they can and celebrate each other’s wins.
Now that I’m connected to Transparent Collective, every time I go out to the Bay, they say: “Come meet up. Come to this event. I’ll help you with your product — I’ll introduce you to investors.”
What’s next for Five To Nine?
We are hiring a ton of folks. We’re looking to double headcount by the end of the year, which is really exciting. We also just launched a revamp of our event editor, which was really cool.
[Note: Depending on when this is published, Jasmine might be able to announce a funding update as well.]