Games on Slack: Seattle startup Polly looks to unite remote teams with shared interactive activities

Members of the Polly team, who are also now working from home, developed the new games for Slack to help boost morale among customers whose teams are suddenly remote. (Polly Photo)

Slack may be intended for productivity, but the communication and collaboration platform is increasingly a source of camaraderie and connection amid the sudden rise in remote work. Polly is looking to support that trend with its latest launch.

The Seattle startup this morning unveiled a suite of games for Slack. The interactive experiences are intended to help companies boost workplace morale even when teams are operating without a physical workplace. The launch adds real-time trivia contests, quick “hot take” polls, and quirky employee awards to Polly’s existing lineup of Slack surveys, polls, analytics and meeting tools.

Polly had considered launching something along these lines in the past, but with the COVID-19 crisis requiring many employees to work from home, the company has been hearing from many of its customers about the lack of social connection their teams feel.

Inspired in part by its own team’s experience holding a make-your-own-pizza party on Zoom, Polly scrambled to develop the new features.

“The world is different in how we interact with each other today than when we did two months ago,” said Samir Diwan, the 20-person company’s CEO and co-founder. “It was significantly more about business. It’s still about relationships. But there’s something more personal happening right now, or something more human.”

Polly’s new “games” for Slack include a quirky employee recognition activity.

While the company is calling the new features “games,” they are more about team-building and lighthearted interactions.

Polly made a conscious decision to make the games real-time, not asynchronous, to help boost engagement in the moment. Each question has a time limit, and the answers and winners are revealed in a comment thread in the Slack channel where the game is launched.

It’s not possible to customize the trivia questions or other content, for now, but that possibility is on the team’s radar.

The “hot takes” quizzes can be used for free, while the interactive trivia and employee awards games are available as part of a paid Polly subscription, which starts at $49/month for a plan that accommodates up to 50 participants.

Polly also builds surveys tools and other add-ons for Microsoft’s Teams software, and it has seen overall usage skyrocket on both platforms as more teams work remotely, but the new games are only for Slack, for now.

Polly co-founders Bilal Aijazi and Samir Diwan. (Polly Photo)

The startup was founded in 2015 by Diwan and Bilal Aijazi, both former Microsoft engineers. Polly graduated from the Techstars Seattle startup program in 2016.

The company raised $7 million in funding last year in a round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from investors including the Slack Fund, Amplify Partners, and Fathom Capital.

Although the games were inspired by the needs of remote teams, Diwan said the goal was to ensure they will continue to be effective for team-building and collaboration when people are able to work again in the same physical workspace.