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Why I Built ChartHop

Feb 24, 2020| Reading time: 5min

BY Ian White

Founder, CEO, and CTO

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Building software, building a team, or building anything worthwhile is a process of continual change. Where you are, is not where you were, is not where you will be.

Before I founded Sailthru, a personalized-email platform, I’d managed small teams at a handful of tech companies. I wasn’t hung up on titles, reporting lines, formal reviews, or indeed much of any kind of structure at all. Great software, I thought, came out of small high-trust teams working together to accomplish big things, without too much ceremony or formality.

After all, wasn’t this the great advantage that startups had over big slow incumbents? Our ability to move quickly without letting organizational politics get in the way? Titles, structures, and processes all seemed like some kind of relic of the pre-internet world — the one that our brave new tech culture had rendered obsolete.

But then, the company I’d founded quickly changed a lot faster than I’d imagined. We hit #29 on the Inc 5000 (that day was fun!) and went from two founders to 200 people and $100k to $20m, all in only three years.

By the time we reached 50 people or so, our early processes started to break down. I learned the value of organizational structure the hard way.

It turns out that organizing a company fairly — creating a great place where talented people can do their best work — means, more than anything, giving everyone clarity.

When you don’t give people clarity or transparency — when you cover up bad numbers, conceal that someone left the company, deliver confusing and inconsistent messages on organizational goals, compensate in secretive or biased ways, or fundamentally break peoples’ trust — people fill in the gaps with their own (often worst) assumptions.

When people have the full context— know what they are trying to achieve together, know their roles, know the rules, and fundamentally trust that managers and leaders are going to stick to those rules fairly — you can achieve great things.

I learned that, if designed correctly, structure can help build that context and trust.

There was one problem, though: the software for creating, managing and communicating that structure was so mediocre.

We’re living through an era where the enterprise software experience is being reimagined. Clunky payment processors were replaced by Stripe’s beautiful developer interface, asynchronous work was reinvented by Slack and reaction gifs, and engineers built amazing collaborative tools like GitHub for understanding the state of code.

But great software for understanding and managing people didn’t exist.

Why was it that I could go into Datadog to get a dynamic real-time visualization of the state of our servers, but to get basic information about our organization, I had to spend all day pulling information from our HRIS and building pivot tables in Google Sheets?

There had to be a better way, and now there is — ChartHop.

How an organization functions largely depends on its structure, and this affects everyone. ChartHop is the platform I wish I had back when we were rapidly scaling our team. It’s the platform HR, Finance, and exec leaders need to replace the time-consuming spreadsheets and Powerpoints that make it so hard to create intentional structures and transparent cultures.

ChartHop Scenario

We’ve developed a platform that utilizes visualization mechanisms (org charts, maps, dashboards) to bring People data to life. ChartHop then empowers organizations to take that data and collaborate on plans for the future — all in the same place.

We’re solving a problem that goes beyond HR and org charts. ChartHop is for any organization that needs to more thoughtfully manage change.

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