Originally published by Geekwire, October 2021

Seattle’s Tribute raised $1.5 million over a two-part seed round, allowing the mentoring app to hire former Amazon AWS architect Ian Ma as its chief technical officer.

The gist: Tribute, which integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams, is trying to solve the fear-of-commitment hurdle that prevents mentor-mentee relationships from ever getting off the ground. The app limits a mentoring interactions to a month, with the option of both parties agreeing to renew for additional 30-day stretches.

The cost: There’s a free version with limited functionality for teams of up to 50 people, and costs $5 per user per month for up 5,000 people and $7 per user per month for up to 50,000 people.

The backers: Portland Seed Fund, Tapas Capital, DNX Ventures, Avalanche VC, Mastersfund and ScoutFund.

The deets: Founder Sarah Haggard was at Microsoft for a decade before launching Tribute in 2018. Customers include Microsoft, Sonos, Zillow, Remitly, Reckitt and the University of Washington. At AWS, Ma helped startups utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. He previously co-founded Decide, the Seattle online shopping product research site that eBay acquired in 2013 and promptly shut down. The startup was recently selected to partner with Microsoft Viva, the company’s employee experience platform.

The take: It’s become increasingly challenging for teams to connect, collaborate and build meaningful work relationships, especially during the pandemic. A number of new work collaboration tools are looking to solve this problem, and just this week we saw Microsoft buy Seattle startup Ally which also is looking to bring teams together in a more cohesive manner. As an example of the money flowing into this space, check out OwnTrail below.