New Zealand Employee Experience Design startup Excellent has raised NZ$2 million in a pre-Seed round.

ANZ VC Blackbird Ventures led the way, supported by Icehouse Ventures, Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1), and several other founders, including Sharesies founders Brooke and Leighton Roberts, Phase One Ventures CEO Mahesh Muralidhar, Joyous Co-Founder Mike Carden, Groov CEO Adam Clark, and Justine Smyth, chairman at Spark NZ.

The money is earmarked for international expansion.

Excellent helps corporate people managers collaborate with their employees to redefine what a modern workplace looks like using the emerging discipline of Employee Experience (EX) Design.

The Kiwi startup makes it easier for organizations and leaders to co-design experiences with employees, as a community-led platform that provides learning and design tools tested in real companies, as well as an accreditation path and networking opportunities.

Co-founder and CEO Samantha Gadd founded and ran people-centric HR and EX consulting firm Humankind for over a decade before starting Excellent with her business partner and co-founder, Jenny Busing.

Gadd said the pandemic of the past two years has accelerated a shift in mindset for workers seeking more meaningful and enjoyable work experiences — and companies are struggling to keep up.

“Excellent grew out of this movement where we believe that employee experience isn’t something leaders should decide alone — it’s the people in the company who can best understand and design the ideal work experience,” she said.

“Companies that embrace this shift will ultimately retain the best talent and enjoy the most success.”

Busing, Excellent’s chief growth officer, Jenny, said people who love their job achieve more.

“Like the customer experience and user experience, EX is about ensuring that employees derive meaningful value from their relationship with work so that they are retained, developed and most importantly thrived within the organization,” she said.

Phoebe Harrop, director of Blackbird, said the VC has invested in multiple founders to create a fairer, happier and more engaged future of work: from Culture Amp to Applied.

“Our investment in Sam and Jenny is the next chapter in this story. They combine expertise in matter and energy being overthrown, which we believe will enable them to create a thriving global community of EX designers,” she said.

“We are excited to lead this round and can’t wait to see what they and the Excellent team build from here.”

Spark NZ’s Justine Smyth said that as the chairman of a publicly traded company, she knows the challenges faced by employees and organizations when navigating a post-covid world.

“Excellent is leading the way in giving people leaders access to the global expertise, skills and support they need to deliver quality employee experiences to their workforce,” she said.

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