Jeff Freund is a seasoned-entrepreneur who is applying the learnings from his previous 14-year run at a startup to Akoonu, his latest venture where he is CEO and Founder. Not only is Akoonu building a world-class product, they are focused on fostering a strong company culture.
Why did you start Akoonu?
In a world where content is king, Akoonu was founded to take on the challenges of using content as the foundation of modern marketing. Akoonu provides products and processes for developing a comprehensive, data-driven content marketing strategy that gives B2B marketers clear direction for more efficiently creating quality content that motivates and inspires buyers, is valued organizationally, and fuels long-term business success.
So you are doing this a second time. What do you enjoy about being a small business owner?
Getting to start a company again with a breadth of experience and knowledge and be able to apply those learnings from the start is great.
It’s just an amazing time to start a company. There are so many more services and infrastructure and products to support starting a business thanks to technology.
What is at the heart of your company culture?
My team joined Akoonu because we are truly about supporting our people. I find that when you have a strong set of core values as a company and you are people-centric, then even when times are bad, people stick with you because they feel respected and part of something significant.
In high tech right now, a strong culture that people can identify with the moment they walk through the door is important to attracting and retaining people.
Akoonu provides some “big-company” benefits. How have you been able to do that?
Putting together the right working environment from the beginning is really important to me. I think about the well-being of my team in and out of the office and try to support that in their lives. I’m asking a lot of people on the team. If there’s something like providing a 401(k) plan that allows them to further their financial objectives then that’s a big deal.
Why did you decide to offer a 401(k)?
As I mentioned, doing this the second time around it’s all about finding efficiencies. We had a traditional 401(k) at my previous company, and I have been the treasurer of a pension plan for my kids’ pre-school. I know how complicated the traditional way of doing it is.
We wouldn’t have provided a 401(k) right now if it didn’t work seamlessly with our other systems, like Zenefits and ZenPayroll. We needed a 401(k) that plugged into our ecosystem of tools and removed all of the usual burdens of having a 401(k) from the company. I’m happy that I’ll never have to see a form 5500 again!
How have your employees reacted to the news of getting a 401(k)?
Past the initial round of benefits — getting paid and health insurance — it was the next request people had. The team is thrilled about having a 401(k), especially this early in the company. It also has given me something that helps paint the picture of a truly employee-centric company as we’re out recruiting.
The ability to have a 401(k) plan this early and to have it effectively be zero burden and in no way a distraction to our business was key. Anything that drops seamlessly into our ecosystem is fantastic.
What do you want to do when you retire?
I’m going to become a cartoonist.