Connecting Company Employees – No Matter Where They Are

Marco CEO Suman Siva.

If there’s one thing everyone has had trouble with during the pandemic, it’s connecting with others. That’s been especially true in the business world, where companies around the globe suddenly had to figure out how to manage whole teams remotely while still maintaining a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.

Although pandemic restrictions have eased somewhat in many parts of the world, most companies are still trying to manage and build teams from afar, at least in part. Many of them also want to resume in-person team-building experiences. Marco facilitates virtual get-togethers and in-person corporate activities and retreats to help employees establish trust, build teamwork, and just have fun together.

Experiences to Get Excited About

CEO Suman Siva, an ex-SoftBank investor, got the idea for Marco after seeing entrepreneurs help “tons of high-growth companies work through unique challenges.” His investment in a travel firm provided further inspiration. “I found that there seemed to be a lot of room for an experiences platform that appealed to the modern consumer with experiences people are actually excited about,” he says. “I thought that the step for me was to take my learnings and apply them to building a company in the experiences space.” 

Although the subsequent pandemic complicated his plans, to say the least, Suman successfully pivoted to offering virtual experiences that could bring companies together remotely. Now, no matter what sort of experience a company wants for its employees, Marco has something to offer.

Something for Everyone

Marco divides its offerings into four categories: virtual, in-person, retreats, and bespoke. Virtual experiences cover a wide gamut of interests. Marco facilitates them by delivering the necessary supplies for each activity to participants’ homes in specialized kits. (Perishable ingredients need to be picked up in person.) 

For example, for its “Global Culinary Ice Cream Tour,” the company will deliver to each participating team member five pints of its own branded ice cream, offering “a world tour of diverse cuisines through unique, international ice cream flavors.” There’s sushi-making 101, a floral workshop, a tea tasting, candle-making lessons, and even a virtual comedy hour featuring multiple comedians performing on Zoom. Prices range from around $30 to $130 a person.

In-person experiences can cost up to hundreds of dollars per person or thousands for a group. They can be anything from roller skating lessons to a concert by a local artist to dinner with a Michelin-trained chef. (All local COVID-19 regulations and safety measures are followed.) 

If you’re looking for a corporate retreat, Marco can hook up your employees with multi-night trips featuring farm-to-table dining, Airstream glamping, or a getaway at an estate in the Catskill Mountains. Experiences in any category can be filtered by lead time, budget, subject, and/or location (currently New York or San Francisco).

If none of the pre-planned experiences piques your interest, Marco can be your “full-service experience designer and executor for large scope, bespoke, time-zone inclusive events.” Services include curating exactly what the experience entails, designing a communications plan, and “working with you every step of the way to bring your virtual vision to life.”

Although other companies offer some of what Marco does, none provides such a complete range of activities. “There isn’t a platform that enables people to get together in whichever way makes the most sense to them: virtually, in-person, or in company retreats,” he says. “Our vision is to be able to create a comprehensive plan for employee engagement through experiences that take place outside of the office. We then can enable companies to book these experiences and then measure the results of these culture investments in terms of employee engagement and connection. We haven’t seen competing services that can own this full cycle.”

Challenges All Along the Way

Founding a startup is never easy, but Suman’s journey was especially difficult because of the pandemic, considering that his company’s entire purpose is getting people together. “We’ve encountered new challenges at nearly every step,” he says. 

For example, when Marco first started, it was focused primarily on in-person experiences for consumers. After the pandemic hit, Suman began to focus on virtual experiences for company employees. “When the world began opening up, we decided to launch in-person experiences in New York and San Francisco, as well as retreats,” he says. “Each of these products has its own complexities and challenges, so we’ve had to learn quickly.” Of course, like every other startup, Marco also faced the challenges of building and scaling a remote team during COVID. It now has 18 full-time employees, up from three a year ago.

Expansion Plans

In the short term, Suman wants to grow his team and expand the company’s activities to other US cities. He also wants to expand his current client list of around 350 companies. To that end, Marco recently launched a membership enterprise “culture as a service” offering that includes customized programming, dedicated account management, exclusive experience access, and insights to measure the return on investment in employees. Through this offering, Marco hopes to become “the embedded culture partner for leading companies,” Suman says.

Marco’s longer-term plans are even more ambitious. “We hope to be the leading company to help build company culture and help define the future of work,” he says. “While offices aren’t going away, the future of work is more distributed. In order to have a cohesive culture in this new world, companies will have to invest more in culture and employee experience. We hope to be the go-to company that businesses turn to to build culture.”

Learning by Doing

Suman says that at some point, young entrepreneurs have to start practicing everything they’ve been learning. “There’s no better way to learn than by doing,” he says. “You can sit in an MBA class academically learning how to do something, but oftentimes the most helpful thing to do will be to go out and build and sell something – anything!”

In addition, it’s important to keep a long-term perspective. “You’re often surprised how hard it is to accomplish certain things in the short term like days and weeks, but you can be wildly surprised as to what you can accomplish in the long term like months and years,” he says. “Find something you’re passionate about to work on, but also something that makes business sense. If you can work on something at the intersection of those two things, that’s gold.”

Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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