Dave Wilkin, the founder of Ten Thousand Coffees, has a pretty lofty goal: for every single company in the world to offer mentoring and networking for all their employees. But right now, most of us don’t have a shot at getting a mentor–formally or informally.
Since its launch in 2014, Ten Thousand Coffees has amassed a roster of 250 organizations in 10 countries, from universities like McGill in Montreal and the University of Pennsylvania, to Fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo and RBC, to nonprofits such as United Way. Now, the platform is about to get juiced through a partnership with Facebook, specifically the social network’s business application Workplace.
Wilkin tells Fast Company that several of Ten Thousand Coffee’s clients “love Workplace” when he started thinking about creating an integration. Over a year ago, he says, they brought these clients together and saw the potential value and scale it could have. More than 30,000 organizations use Workplace by Facebook globally, according to the division’s spokeswoman Olivia Calvert. She says that the top five countries for Workplace are the U.S., the U.K., India, Brazil, and Norway, and that it’s actively used in 81 languages.
Ten Thousand Coffees first did a pilot test with five of its client organizations to see how the integration with Workplace would fare. Pilots often start with 20-50 employees and are now scaling, some as high as thousands of employees in over 10 countries, he says.
“We immediately saw thousands of employees in each organization accessing mentoring and career relationships that otherwise would not exist,” says Wilkin. “We also had clients receiving global recognition for the speed and effectiveness of launching a mentoring and networking program.” That speed, he asserts, is under 30 minutes.
The fact that Workplace could tap such a broad spread geographically, that its user base was so demographically diverse, and as Wilkin points out, “People know and trust Facebook,” was enough evidence to pursue the partnership.
It’s an interesting comment for Wilkin to make, as Facebook continues to try to restore its image following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s hearings in U.S. Congress. When pressed to explain why he forged ahead despite Facebook’s recent troubles, Wilkins said, “Every organization we work with continues to see amazing engagement through Workplace, it’s so simple, and mobile first.”
Well before these latest issues, Workplace by Facebook had issues. Even though it has integrations with Salesforce and Dropbox, it still doesn’t have as many as Slack. According to Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, while Workplace has nailed usability, it doesn’t have enterprise trust. In a report for ComputerWorld last October, Le Clair said that several companies ended their pilot programs with Workplace because of inflexible terms and conditions that enterprise companies expect. “Others do not trust Facebook with internal proprietary communication,” he added. “Still others have not overcome Facebook’s association with fun rather than work.”
Workplace’s spokeswoman Calvert points out that it is set up separately to consumer Facebook. “Think of us as a Software-as-a-Service startup, within Facebook, with a different business model, and with all the security certifications we need to serve the largest companies in the world, including banks and governments,” she says. Additionally, it’s not open to developers. “All integrations have been extensively reviewed by us and go through a robust third-party security audit before we offer them to our customers,” she says.
Wilkin remains undaunted. He adds, “We only see what happens from a networking and mentoring angle, and we have only seen the need for mentoring and networking rapidly growing.”
He’s also convinced that Ten Thousand Coffees is naturally going to help build bridges on the social network that has been criticized for providing the right conditions for users to segregate themselves into like-minded bubbles.
“Humans don’t naturally build diverse relationships on their own,” he explains, so it’s up to the employer to drive a culture of inclusion. The AI behind Ten Thousand Coffees is designed to match people who have similar goals for themselves and the organization.
“There’s no such thing as a career soul mate,” he muses, only what the potential matches are between what people want to learn and who would be able to teach them. Consistently and strategically meeting with these different people over time can change a career trajectory.
“Everyone is a teacher and a student,” he contends. The analytics from these matches, he says, prove that 100% of those who are matched are having conversations they otherwise wouldn’t have, even if they met naturally. Great outcomes like learning a new skill, or joining network vary from company to company, he says, but underscores, “Everyone needs mentoring and networking to be successful.”