Good employees are sometimes hard to keep.

YouEarnedIt, an Austin, Texas-based employee-engagement app, aims to make it easier for companies to reward and retain employees who matter. The startup raised $1.5 million in a seed round Wednesday.

Launched last October, YouEarnedIt spun out of Rockfish Digital, an incubator. The platform gives companies a creative outlet to virtually shower employees who deserve it with gifts and peer recognition for a job well done, click by click.

What makes YouEarnedIt distinct from, say, Globoforce or Achievers, is that clients can customize the platform to specifically suit individuals at small or large enterprise outfits. This means moving beyond your standard Starbucks gift certificate and offering money, in the employee’s name, to a favored education charity, for example.

Chief executive Autumn Manning said engaging individual employees, or signaling them out for the good they’ve done, is crucial to building company morale. The gift menu bar also contains off-beat congratulations: a haircut from a professional at your home or your lawn mowed.

“Whatever the demographic,” Manning said, referring to her potential client base.

You can smirk at a startup that focuses on virtual employee rewards programs, but YouEarnedIt has 115 paying customers thus far, and it is quickly adding more. Publishing giant Condé Nast is onboard, and so is the Motley Fool. Numerous tech firms have signed up.

Incredibly, it was some of the startup’s clients themselves who ponied up cash for this seed round, which the company will use to help build out infrastructure and hire more engineers and marketing experts, Manning said.

According to YouEarnedIt:

“Through YouEarnedIt, employees are encouraged to engage with their colleagues and recognize the positive in their every day — fostering a happier, more productive work environment through appreciation. Additionally, YouEarnedIt brings a company’s values to life by allowing employees to tag a specific company value when sending the recognition — keeping company values top of mind, socializing them publicly across the organization and reinforcing strengths that employees exhibit.”

We spoke to Manning as she sailed the Caribbean with her husband on a long-overdue vacation, something she hasn’t done in three years. She assured us the seed round was still in Texas.

As for her startup, Manning said that she “saw something was missing.”

“The customers,” she said, “customize the catalog.”

Manning declined to give revenue figures.


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