Founder Spotlight: Sarah Touzani, Waggle

Transform Founder Spotlight Series: Sarah Touzani

Welcome to the kickoff of our Founder Spotlight Series, an exciting journey into the minds of innovative leaders who are disrupting the now and next of work.

In each Q&A-style article, we’ll introduce you to founders like Sarah Touzani, Co-Founder & CEO of Waggle, who are redefining the boundaries of their industries with forward-thinking ideas and transformative approaches.

About Sarah

Sarah Touzani is the Co-Founder and CEO of London-based Waggle, founded in 2022, an AI co-pilot for people who manage people. With a background in scaling startups, Sarah has a knack for turning start-ups into places with successful managers. Her expertise lies in leveraging AI, data, and behavioral science to enhance managerial effectiveness and team performance.

About Waggle

Waggle is an AI-driven co-pilot for managers, designed to automate routine tasks and provide real-time, actionable feedback. It transforms meetings into well-structured, productive discussions by preparing custom agendas. At scale, Waggle has a mission to enable better decision-making within organizations by aggregating and analyzing data from managerial interactions, therefore replacing biased employee surveys with continuous, honest data from the front lines.

Let’s dive into Sarah’s founder story, learn firsthand about her inspirations, challenges, and breakthroughs that marked her path to success.

The Startup Journey

Q: What gave you the idea to start Waggle?

A: The idea for Waggle came to me when I stepped into a managerial role in a fast-growing startup. I went from being good at my job to suddenly finding myself needing to figure out how to manage people instead. This wasn’t just my story; it resonated with many managers we interviewed while building Waggle. There’s a clear issue: managers are responsible for their team’s performance and have a huge impact on their mental health. However, the ways we train managers haven’t evolved in 30 years. Various research studies reinforce the critical role managers play in both employee well-being and organizational success. This glaring gap in effective managerial training and the real-world challenges managers face fueled the creation of Waggle, aimed at modernizing how managers learn and grow in their roles.

Product Development

Q: Who benefits from Waggle?

A: Waggle is here for managers, helping ease their task load and giving actionable insights to sharpen their skills. But it doesn’t stop there; teams and the whole organization get a boost with better communication, more focused meetings, and data-driven decisions.

Q: Why is this so important?

A: Improving how managers operate and how teams engage with each other is fundamental to cultivating a culture of continuous improvement, which is a driver for organizational success. A culture of continuous improvement often stems from enhanced employee engagement, which has been found to be integral to organizational success. Managers play a significant role in fostering this engagement; their actions and the relationships they build with team members have a direct impact on teamwork and employee satisfaction. Research by Gallup emphasizes that managers can significantly enhance teamwork, which is foundational for achieving higher levels of organizational productivity and success. Moreover, Harvard Business Review notes that proactive managerial actions in promoting engagement are crucial in retaining a motivated and productive workforce, as engaged employees tend to perform better, experience less burnout, and remain with organizations for longer durations.

Furthermore, the relationship between employees and their managers is a key determinant of job satisfaction, which, in turn, significantly affects overall employee well-being and organizational health. Waggle’s real-time feedback and data insights are crafted to address these fundamental aspects of managerial operations and team engagement. By providing managers with actionable insights and a continuous feedback loop, Waggle facilitates better decision-making, enhances communication, and promotes a more collaborative and engaging work environment. This is crucial in today’s fast-evolving work landscape where adaptability, continuous learning, and effective communication are paramount for success.

Q: What are some examples of companies leveraging Waggle?

A: A number of fast-growing scale-ups and established Tech enterprises have hopped on the Waggle train to enhance their managerial practices. Notable mentions include Datadog, GoCardless, Stuart, and Qantev​​. It’s exhilarating to see Waggle bridging managerial gaps across a wide array of company stages, underscoring the universal appeal for refined managerial workflows and communication.

Q: What have you learned from your users and customers so far?

A; The dialogue with our users has been a revealing journey. It was through their candid feedback that we discovered the crux of the managerial hustle – a relentless race against time. Managers often found themselves sprinting from one task to the next, with scarcely a moment for deep, focused work. This insight was a beacon, guiding us to pivot Waggle towards aiding managers in time management as a precursor to fostering a conducive learning environment. Moreover, our users highlighted the necessity for immediate applicability of the learnings, pushing us to mold Waggle into a tool that delivers instantly actionable insights. This way, not only do managers find value from the get-go, but they also carve out the mental space required for continuous learning and improvement.

Scaling & Growth

Q: How do you build a strong company culture while scaling the business?

A: Building a strong culture while growing hinges on open communication, valuing feedback, and promoting a learning mindset—core values of Waggle. It’s crucial to keep a close-knit feel where everyone is heard.

We use Waggle for regular check-ins to keep communication flowing and understand team sentiment. It also helps align everyone’s efforts towards shared goals, track progress in real-time, and celebrate both big and small wins, fostering a sense of collective achievement.

Feedback is key to improvement, and Waggle’s feedback features facilitate a culture of continuous learning. Additionally, Waggle helps maintain transparency and connection, keeping our goals aligned and the spirit of our culture strong as we expand.

Fundraising

Q: How do you maintain strong relationships with your investors and optimize their contributions?

A; Communication is the cornerstone. We keep our investors updated with regular briefs on our progress and hurdles. However, it’s not a one-way street. We actively seek their advice and ask for specific help when needed, be it strategic insight, introductions, or feedback on our plans. Engaging them in strategic discussions and valuing their expertise not only strengthens our relationships but also ensures their contributions are precisely channeled to benefit Waggle’s journey significantly.

Team Building & Leadership

Q: What are your strategies for attracting and retaining talent?

A: We cultivate a culture of growth, innovation, and inclusivity, offering challenging projects and continuous learning. Externally, we leverage our network, especially introductions from our angel investors, and build our employer brand to attract top talent. Mission alignment is key in both attracting and retaining individuals passionate about our impact. By soliciting team feedback, we continuously improve our work environment, making Waggle an engaging place to work and grow.

Q: What leadership skills do you believe are critical in the current environment? 

A: In today’s work scene, being adaptable is key for leaders. It’s easy to say, “Here’s how I work, now adapt to me,” but that’s not how great leadership works. As managers, our job is to support our team in doing their best work. That means we need to adapt to what our team members need. This is something that bugged me about the whole ‘Manager ReadMe Docs’ trend. It’s kind of a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s not what people are about. Everyone’s different and needs different things to thrive. That’s a big idea behind Waggle. It’s not a rigid tool; it’s designed to help managers tune into their team, understand what they need, and adapt their style to bring out the best in everyone. It’s about making adaptability a regular part of how we manage, which in the long run, creates a better work environment and stronger teams.

Marketing & Branding

Q: How do you differentiate your brand from competitors?

A: Waggle stands out with its mix of AI, data analysis, and behavioral science, delivering real-time, actionable insights right where managers need them. Unlike the usual static learning modules out there, Waggle is dynamic and fits right into the daily workflow. Besides, we’re all about the user. Our go-to-market strategy, our tone, our content – it’s all crafted in a language that managers get. We’re not just another tool; we’re a companion that speaks your language, understands your challenges, and is here to make your managerial journey smoother and more effective.

Challenges & Lessons Learned

Q: Can you share any specific lessons or mistakes you made during the startup journey and how you overcame them?

A: One significant learning curve was understanding that the optimal solution morphs from extensive customer interactions. Initially, the focus was primarily on the problem, but it was the customer-centric approach that sharpened our vision and molded Waggle into a tool that provides immediate value.

Q: What advice do you have for other founders?

A: Speak to your users!

Industry and Market Insights

Q: What is one significant trend or prediction that you believe will drive the transformation of work?

A: The trend of AI augmenting rather than replacing human capabilities is paving the way for a new work paradigm. It’s like having an extra set of hands that remember, analyze, and offer fresh perspectives, moving beyond just saving time to enhancing cognitive capacities. It proactively brings up relevant information when needed, challenges inherent biases like the recency bias, and unveils trends from vast data, which could be overwhelming or time-consuming for individuals.

Moreover, AI’s ability to offer alternate viewpoints encourages a culture of continuous learning and reflection, which is critical in today’s fast-paced work environment. At Waggle, we’re channeling the power of AI to provide real-time, actionable insights, making the shift from a generic to a personalized, adaptive learning approach. This not only elevates the managerial experience but also creates a more responsive, supportive, and growth-oriented work environment. 

This AI-led transition is more than just a shift; it’s about creating workspaces that are more in tune with human needs, fostering a culture of growth and innovation. As AI continues to evolve, the realm of possibilities to further enhance human capabilities and reshape the work landscape is boundless, embodying a promising future where AI and humans collaborate for higher productivity and personal growth.

Company Vision

Q: What’s next for you and Waggle?

A: The journey ahead is thrilling for both me and Waggle. We’re envisioning Waggle evolving into a company’s operating system, a central hub that aggregates and analyzes data from all managerial interactions. This evolution will replace the outdated, often biased employee surveys with real-time, honest data, enabling leadership to make well-informed decisions. We believe Waggle will become an indispensable tool for companies, providing a clear lens into team performance and organizational culture, thereby significantly impacting how decisions are made at every level.

Currently, we’re in the midst of our pre-seed fundraising round which is an exciting phase of amplifying our resources to accelerate growth. We’re also onboarding new clients, with a robust aim to grow 10X over the next 12 months. This growth will not only validate our solution but also bring us closer to our vision of redefining the managerial landscape. Each new client brings fresh insights, helping us to continually refine Waggle to better meet the evolving needs of managers and their teams. With the infusion of funds and the expansion of our client base, we’re well on our way to manifesting our vision and making a substantial impact in the realm of managerial development and organizational success.

Q: What would you like to say to People leaders who are thinking of using Waggle? 

A: I would encourage People leaders to embrace Waggle as a robust ally in enhancing managerial effectiveness and team collaboration. In a landscape where the demands on managers are evolving rapidly, having a tool that not only simplifies managerial workflows but also provides real-time, actionable feedback is invaluable. Waggle is designed to be that intuitive, user-centric platform that seamlessly integrates into the daily routine, providing managers with the insights they need to foster a culture of continuous improvement and high performance within their teams. By leveraging Waggle, you’re not just adopting a tool, but partnering in a journey towards creating more empathetic, responsive, and effective managerial practices that will resonate across your organization, driving a tangible impact on your team’s engagement and overall organizational success.

On a Personal Note

Q: Describe your perfect day when you aren’t working.

A: A perfect day off for me starts without an alarm buzzing at the crack of dawn. I’d wake up after a full 8-hour sleep, kick-start the day with a good breakfast, and then walk over to the gym for some weight lifting. After a good workout, I’d meet up with my husband and we’d grab lunch at our favorite little Japanese coffee shop in East London. The rest of the day, we’d stroll through different neighborhoods in London, making the city feel new every time. As the day winds down, I’d curl up with a good book before hitting the sack.

Q: What is your personal mantra?

A: My go-to mantra is “Everything is figureoutable.” It’s how I deal with imposter syndrome. When there’s something I don’t know how to do, I trust in my ability to figure it out. This belief keeps me going, no matter what comes my way.

See Sarah as a speaker at Transform 2024 . Join us for engaging conversations and community as we transform the now and next of work, together.

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