Samir Diwan’s Tech Helps Businesses Gather Employee Data Better

A creative online surveying solution for employees

The average response rate for surveys is only 26 percent. That’s why Samir Diwan built a tech solution to help businesses gather employee data more efficiently. 

Diwan is the co-founder and CPO of Polly, developer of a workplace tool and engagement software.

Headshot of Samir Diwan, co-founder and CPO of Polly

Samir Diwan

Founded in 2014, Polly's platform is an employee experience solution. It's an engagement application built for communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams. The company is on a mission to help businesses gather data from employees quicker, provide real-time results, and automate repetitive tasks. Approximately 720,000 workspaces are using Polly's platform, the company's website reads, and they've sent over 10 million pollys and gathered more than 64 million responses. 

"Our vision is a world where every voice has the power to transform work," Diwan told Lifewire in a phone interview. "Rather than sending surveys in email, we try to send light, fun, engaging questions right in Slack, Teams, Zoom, and other surfaces of work."

Quick Facts

  • Name: Samir Diwan
  • Age: 41
  • From: Montreal, Canada
  • Random delight: He picks up a brand new skill every few years. Recent pick-ups: ice hockey and photography. 
  • Key quote or motto: "Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt."

An Eye for Entrepreneurship

Diwan's parents are from Pakistan; they moved to Montreal in the 70s. Diwan's neighborhood became more diverse and immigrant-friendly over the years, he said, but it wasn't that way when his parents first emigrated to Canada. 

"By the time I was born and old enough to recognize stuff, there were immigrants everywhere in the neighborhood," he said. 

"I’ve been trained in my life to accept that things aren’t always fair."

During his undergraduate studies senior year, Diwan took his first entrepreneurship class. He was studying to be a computer engineer, but hearing from different entrepreneurs piqued his interest. After graduation, he worked for a few tech companies before moving to Seattle 13 years ago to work for Microsoft. While living close to the US has always made it feel familiar to him, he said living here and going through different immigration processes has made him feel more like a foreigner. He worked at Microsoft for eight years before taking that leap into the startup world. 

"I always wanted to, but in the beginning, it felt counterintuitive. My family would tell me I had a great job and often asked me why I would give that up to make no money," Diwan said. "It was so much stress, but eventually, I felt like I needed to do something."

Diwan said he always knew he wanted to start a company, but he didn't know what it would be or who would launch it with him. It wasn't easy for him, especially since he left a job that felt safe and stable. Diwan said it took him and his co-founder Bilal Aijazi a year before landing on and investing in the idea of Polly. Ultimately, the pair wanted to create alternative ways for employees to answer surveys and share ideas through structured questions and exercises.

illustration of the results from a simple Polly survey

Polly

"By making it instant and fun, we make it easy for people to express and share their voice," Diwan said. "And for the other side, we make it easy for people to get to the voices within an organization." 

Focusing on Empowerment

Diwan said empowerment is the main driving point for Polly's work. He hopes the company's tech helps amplify voices that need and want to be heard, especially underrepresented employees. Polly has a team of 30 remote employees. When the company's team is hiring, Diwan said they like to look for the best workers wherever talent exists, so they don't limit their team to a specific region. 

As a POC, Diwan said he's always felt like things are unfair, so he focuses on things he can change, like impact through his work. Airport staff has detained him for no reason in front of his group of diverse friends in the past. He has tough skin and has accepted that this is how the world is after 9/11. 

"I've been trained in my life to accept that things aren't always fair," Diwan said. "Part of that is just, you grow up being a little different. I grew up knowing or feeling like I was second class. But the way I've been mistreated hasn't impacted my life so severely. They're inconveniences."

"Our vision is a world where every voice has the power to transform work."

As for venture capital, Polly has raised $8.3 million to date, including a $7 million Series A led by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Diwan said raising funding wasn't easy, especially for the first round since they pitched to 70 venture capital firms before receiving their first significant investment. Growing Polly since raising venture capital has been more challenging, Diwan said, because the expectations are higher.

Over the next couple of years, Diwan wants to grow Polly's team with high-quality leaders and expand the company's platform to more businesses. He's grateful for the progress he and his partner Aijazi have made; now it's time to focus on growth and help companies to communicate more effectively.

"People interact differently; they work differently," Diwan said. "Finding new channels and new ways to get to a voice is critically important for us."

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