founder

Athyna Founder Bill Kerr on Building a Strong Brand and Culture

Introduction

Telecommuting has become increasingly popular in the last few years, opening up more opportunities for work that aren’t limited by geography. With that has come the challenges of running remote businesses — sourcing talent in the ever-expanding market, managing payroll and taxes… not to mention the challenge of keeping business practices sustainable. 

Athyna has become a one-stop shop for hiring global talent, as well as managing the other aspects of remote business like payroll, benefits, and taxes. The company has also made a sustainability pledge. We got in touch with founder and CEO Bill Kerr to learn about his team, the company’s commitment to making an impact, and future goals for Athyna.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Olivia Strobl

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Bill Kerr

Athyna is a global employment platform helping companies hire, manage and retain world-class global talent. We have an internal talent marketplace and the ability to manage your own contractors and employees on the platform. 

Olivia Strobl

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Bill Kerr

I am a two-time founder and have been building and managing global teams for years. A few years ago, I was introduced to a business consultant who ended up bringing me in to help him and his clients with systems, tools, and strategies for asynchronous work and global teams and from there we saw an opportunity.

The advent of the internet meant the world of work as we knew it was due for a shake-up. We knew that talent was the same all across the world and we saw an opportunity to jump in and help build the future of work.

Olivia Strobl

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Bill Kerr

We have built an all-star team that includes former employees of Amazon, Uber, Oracle, WeWork, Meta, Darktrace, and more. I believe it’s because we have over-indexed on two things: brand and culture.

When you have a really strong brand, you attract all-star talent to come and join you, and when you have a really strong brand, that talent is motivated to do their best work.

Our team is about 60 individuals and we have more than 50% female representation, including our leadership team.

Olivia Strobl

What are some regulatory hurdles that your company has to face and how do you overcome them?

Bill Kerr

We haven’t faced any real regulatory hurdles as of yet. We originally set up Athyna as an Australian company (proprietary limited) but decided after a year that the US was our biggest market and it made more sense for us to incorporate in the US. This was a pretty smooth process and now we are a C corp out of Delaware. This was probably the biggest hurdle we have faced as yet.

Olivia Strobl

What does your product pipeline look like in the next few years?

Bill Kerr

Over the next few years we have a lot of exciting features to roll out. Firstly, our talent pool grows by 22% a month historically, so it is going to be important and exciting for us when we can start adding machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Olivia Strobl

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Bill Kerr

We sit at the intersection of global employment platforms and talent marketplaces. This gives us a unique advantage in being able to build 360-degree, world-class global teams. Think Andela meets Deel.

Olivia Strobl

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Bill Kerr

We plan to double our capacity for growth of our talent product (through partnerships, headcount, and digital) while driving adoption of our new contractors and employees products.

This should allow us to grow revenue aggressively while also giving us the lead indicators for which entities we plan to open first to serve our EOR (employees) product.

Olivia Strobl

As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Bill Kerr

We have multiple paths to exit. Depending on how the market conditions play out over the next few years, we can either push toward an IPO in five to six years’ time or alternatively look for a suitor for Athyna via mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

We already have more than a handful of parties who have reached out that want to stay in touch with Athyna for a possible acquisition in the future. This isn’t of interest at all right now but we will continue to do amazing things in the future. That will mean, considering how hot the talent acquisition market is and will continue to be for years, that we will be a great M&A option for many firms.

Before worrying about any of that, though, we want to establish ourselves as the leader in global talent acquisition. 

Olivia Strobl

Can you elaborate on your carbon offset and impact investing pledge?

Bill Kerr

In mid-2021, we ran two sessions as an entire organization — the first to realign our values after three years of operations and the second to decide on what type of impact we wanted to achieve as an organization. 

We looked at models like 1% for the Planet, Who Gives A Crap’s 50% of profit pledge and a few others and we decided as an organization that we wanted to make sure that we diverted a meaningful amount of our revenue to impact and, in this case, sustainability. 

Also, aside from the fact that we think it’s a great thing to do, studies show that companies that are mission driven have a number of benefits afforded them that other companies don’t. To list a few, mission driven companies usually:

  • Attract better talent
  • Increase innovation
  • Appeal to your market
  • Create a community
  • Help employee engagement
  • Outperform the market.

Obviously, when you look at our Form C, it can look irresponsible or strange that we have this pledge. But it was built into it and we want to stand by it. We take the 5% from our net revenue, so it’s not as large as it may seem. Our annual recurring revenue is inclusive of talent salaries (so it could be thought of as gross merchandise value), so it comes from our net revenue, our take rate. 

Before making the decision, I spoke with a number of other successful mission driven founders with similar pledges, all of whom think their companies actually make a lot more than they give via their pledges, donations, investments, etc. 

We also studied the leading reports on all of the things I mentioned above. 

Olivia Strobl

What are your criteria to select the impact companies you invest in?

Bill Kerr

We want to invest in early stage companies that are building to solve our sustainability issues. We don’t have much more in-depth of an investment mandate than that currently, although as we mature and have more money to invest we will build out a more defined impact and investment thesis.

Olivia Strobl

Why did you choose to invest in impact companies instead of donating to nonprofits?

Bill Kerr

Firstly, this decision was made by the entire organization, when we were at around 35 people. We had a four-hour session to plan what “impact” we wanted to have as a company.

We came up with around 100 amazing ideas, which we separated into a matrix of: low impact + low effort, high impact + low effort, low impact + high effort, and high impact + high effort. Once the ideas were organized, we voted on them as to which we liked the most.

This matrix now serves as our “impact road map” for the future. It was my job to then go and decide on what we would do. As much as I love some other companies that pledge to nonprofits (Who Gives A Crap and memobottle are a couple of my favorites), I believe the biggest impact can be made by the biggest companies. And that is “for profit” companies.

We look forward to seeing where Bill and his team take the company. Athyna is currently raising on Wefunder.

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About: Olivia Strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

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