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The Power of Offsites: Building Culture and Community in the Remote Work Era

With the distinct rise of remote work, virtual interactions, and distributed teams, organizations face the challenge of maintaining a strong sense of company culture, community, and collaboration. For the third episode of SeerCast…

With the distinct rise of remote work, virtual interactions, and distributed teams, organizations face the challenge of maintaining a strong sense of company culture, community, and collaboration.

For the third episode of SeerCast, Adwait Joshi interviews Lauren Marturano, the founder and CEO of Zinnia, a software platform helping companies bring their remote teams together for in-person, concentrated moments of human connection. In their conversation, they explore the significance of building culture, the benefits of offsite experiences, the challenges and successes of the startup journey, and the future of Zinnia.

The Importance of Building Company Culture in the Remote Work Era

“The future of work is changing.”

Adwait and Lauren highlight some of the difficulties in fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and human connection. Many of the same difficulties that in-person offices face is magnified by remote work. With 74% of companies now being hybrid or completely remote, companies must adapt their strategies of ensuring strong and cohesive company cultures.

Regardless of whether teams work in an office or remotely, proactive leadership is key in driving culture and collaboration within their organizations. Management’s efforts must be intentional and clear.

The Benefits of Memorable Offsite Experiences

“If you’ve never had an offsite before or an event before, it’s hard to really quantify what an ROI looks like on the event.”

Offsite retreats and team meetings are effective solutions for overcoming the cultural challenges of remote work. Marturano contends that offsite experiences can be vital for sparking creativity within teams. Unique activities like ropes courses or adventure parks advance camaraderie among team members. She notes that such experiences “helps kind of give you something to bond over, like, hey, I’ve never done this before”.

Team-building activities can establish trust in teams, and problem-solving activities can encourage innovation. Stepping out of the office setting and traditional routines presents opportunities for teams to collaborate and build resilience for their future challenges.

Company offsite experiences are also becoming increasingly important for employee retention. 87% of Millennials and Gen-Z look for adventure in their travel. Marturano notes that culture-building experiences like offsites may be the deciding factor for some job-seekers. The Millennial and Gen Z workforce are asking, “What is my opportunity to have new experiences in new places?”

The Role of Zinnia in Facilitating Offsites and Events

Zinnia is a one-stop shop for team events and plays a pivotal role in facilitating offsite experiences and events for companies. Zinnia’s extensive platform and suite of services contribute to their success.

A popular tool of Zinnia’s is their flight aggregator, helping distributed teams average out travel times and reduce CO2 emissions.

“We actually aggregate real-time flight data from all of your departure destinations and say, hey, here’s our recommendations on your top three places, where to go and give you the information to actually make that informed decision”.

By providing thorough flight information and recommendations, Zinnia enables organizations to plan cost-effective and sustainable offsite events. Zinnia’s support extends beyond travel logistics, helping book private dining experiences and arranging ancillary events.

“With Zinnia’s platform, you can actually just go in and book a private dinner in a matter of clicks and then tie it back to a customer record in CRM.”

The comprehensive approach to travel and experiences allows teams to focus on building connections and strengthening collaboration.

Challenges and Successes in the Startup Journey

“It’s such a good point saying, if I don’t do this, will I regret it forever, right?”

In her journey as a founder and CEO, Lauren Marturano experienced the rollercoaster of challenges and successes that are familiar to many in the startup world. Transitioning from a corporate career at Microsoft and Salesforce, Marturano was driven to the path of entrepreneurship by a desire to create something meaningful. After accomplishing many of the goals she set for herself and still missing a sense of satisfaction, she took a step back to consider “…what fills my cup and makes me passionate.”

Even as a repeat founder, Lauren had a steep challenge as an underrepresented entrepreneur. In 2022, 1.9% of all venture capital funding went to female founders, down 0.5% from 2021. Lauren highlights the unique and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Southeast region, particularly in cities like Atlanta and Charlotte. She expressed special gratitude for the support she received from organizations like Atlanta Ventures, which played a crucial role in the success of her startup.

“I can’t say I would change a thing. Every experience, every failure.”

Reflecting on her experience, Marturano acknowledged the startup journey is not without its challenges, sharing, “realistically, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.” But she emphasizes the importance of resilience and learning from failures. She reported than one of the values at Zinnia, “Fail fast, learn faster.” `

The Future of Zinnia

Looking ahead, Zinnia has ambitious plans for growth and development. In the interview, Marturano shared that the company was in the process of raising its seed round of funding to further fuel advancements in their software platform. She shares, “We’re going to continue to grow and build out product and drive up that revenue so that we can continue to serve more companies”. In June, Zinnia completed its funding round with $765k from leading venture capital firms, Atlanta Ventures, Gray Ventures, CreativeCo Capital and strategic angel investors.

Zinnia aims to expand its product offerings and serve a larger client base, catering to companies seeking to build strong cultures and enhance team connections. By empowering companies to create memorable and impactful offsite events, Zinnia paves the way for building stronger team dynamics and fostering a sense of belonging.

Written originally for the DataSeers blog by T. McLauchlin based on an interview of Lauren Marturano by Adwait Joshi. Edited by Robert Klasen.

About DataSeers

DataSeers is an Atlanta-based B2B SaaS company that helps banks and fintechs take control of their data via onboarding, ACH processing, BSA/AML and consumer compliance, anti-fraud, reconciliation, and analytics. Its flagship product, FinanSeer® is a global enterprise solution that can help organizations across 150+ countries operate efficiently remain in compliance and have global oversight into their data.

DataSeers was built with a team of experts that understand the value that clean and homogenized data brings to enterprises to increase operational efficiency through workflow automation machine learning and AI.

DataSeers is a “One-Stop Shop” that allows API connectivity for growth, innovation and movement. “DataSeers has thought of everything. They’re kind of like a Goldilocks solution for banks, credit unions and fintechs.​” The enterprise nature of DataSeers solutions uniquely empowers BaaS banks and community banks branching into payments innovation.

Since its founding in 2017 at the humble beginnings of Adwait Joshi’s home, DataSeers is now in its fifth office in the US with nearly 100 employees worldwide.

DataSeers has 25 recognitions from their six short years in business, some of which are listed below:
2021 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies (Atlanta Business Chronicle)
2021 12 Best and Most Innovative Alpharetta Payment & Fintech Startups (Daily Finance)
2021 Most Innovation Payments Tech Company (IPA)
2021 Best Data Aggregator/Bank Partnership (Tearsheet Data)
2023 Top 10 Innovative Technology Company in Georgia (TAG)
And with a three-year revenue growth of 427%, DataSeers received ranking No. 1503 among Inc.’s list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in 2022.

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