Dec 10th 2020

Super Startups Spotlight: Impala

SUPERPOWER: Creating a better world of travel through data

From modern healthcare to smart FinTech and everything in between, we recently pulled together a list of the London startups raising the tempo in 2021. The Tempo team researched hundreds of companies, each with their own stand-out superpower.

And galloping into second place we have the exciting tech startup Impala – creating a culture of people first. To get a better look at what makes Impala such a great place to work, we spoke to Tilly Firth – Head of People Operations at the company.

Hi Tilly, as you might be aware, here at Tempo we are always telling our candidates that work should be an adventure and that’s exactly what you have proven to do. Can you tell us a bit about how you create a great work environment at Impala?

Funny you should say the word adventure as it’s definitely something that’s a part of our culture. When it comes to culture we strive towards an environment that is high performing as well as creative, innovative, and adventurous. Coupled with this, we put our people first – making them feel that everyone matters.

Our “secret sauce” to maintaining this great work environment is to focus on expectations surrounding workplace tension. For example, encouraging a good work-life balance and encouraging people to clock off.

But we are also realistic that at times people will need to put in the hours if there is a big project. Once we have clarified this, we then go about supporting each other. Yes, we want to succeed but we also care about focusing on employee happiness.

If you had to pick the number one thing you’re most proud of that your company does for employees, what would it be? 

That’s actually really hard! There are loads of things I’m genuinely proud of, and loads of things we celebrate that no other company does.

One of the big things is that we have always been remote-first, so even before COVID-19 we had a Remote Experience Manager whose role is to support people remotely and create fun in novel ways. This ensures we have a culture where people can forge genuine connections.

Our people have always come first at Impala and I’m proud of the time and money we invest in them for a good employee experience. We have a loved one’s budget where every remote employee has £750 per year to visit their friends or family, and we offer over £5,000 per person per year on benefits such as learning and development and growth opportunities.

How did you go about defining your values? 

It’s always been my job to lead the charge on defining our values. But we’ve always sought to encourage collaboration and insight into that process, to ensure the values capture the things that the wider team also cares about. The easiest value to see though, as a people-first company, was our value to “Keep it Human”, which we instill in a number of ways as we maintain a culture of caring. One of the ways we embed “keeping it human” so well is thanks to our strong focus on wellbeing and flexibility. Also, all thanks to Ben our CEO, we have a very generous budget towards flexible benefits, well above the average for our size.

We also place a big focus on diversity and inclusion. After we got our Series A funding, we really pushed towards achieving a 40:60 female to male split – and this was led heavily by Ben our CEO. Since then, we’ve not stopped pushing for that split, and have fluctuated between 40:60 and 50:50 over the past year.

Alongside this, we also focus on more grassroots efforts. All of this is made easier by the fact that caring about diversity and inclusion is something we encourage and has always been ingrained in the team.

“We’ve always thought: we’re not too small and we’re not moving too fast to ever care about this, and that has trickled down to everyone.”

You have grown a lot in a short amount of time. How would you say that has impacted your culture and how your employees have adapted? 

That’s a really good point, we have grown quickly from twelve people when I started to now fifty. I did a lot of research into culture and fifty can often be the point where companies start to break and earlier employees can become flight risks.

So to try and prevent this, we did a deep-dive into our current culture, aiming to establish stronger core tenets defined by our employees that we could grow around. Then we worked on how we could strengthen those core tenets and scale that out – with the most talked-about one being “caring”.

How have you made sure to keep employees engaged and happy throughout the pandemic? 

We’ve always been remote-first which has given us foundations for a super-strong remote culture. Over the pandemic we have definitely focused our energy on management practices, adapting our onboarding, building connections, and making sure there is a scalable core culture.

Using our HR team we asked ourselves questions such as: What does inclusivity mean? What does an inclusive meeting mean when you’re remote? We then built on topics such as these very explicitly. We also recently rolled out flexible hours, which was a by-product of the recent pandemic. But I think all these things are beneficial to the team as a whole.

We can see from your employee reviews that your people rate you very highly. What would you say makes someone a good fit at Impala?

What’s always going to be really important for someone coming into a startup is that they have to be someone who is excited about wearing lots of hats and mucking in. Startup companies, like Impala UK, have a fast-paced environment so people should be agile in their role, doing things they’ve never done before. And finds that exciting. This is vital for making someone a good fit for us.

They also need to have a creative mindset in a small business, thinking about how to approach things in different ways. But someone who is also highly collaborative over competitive and doesn’t take themselves too seriously – keep it human.

What does 2021 look like for your company and your people? 

We have plans to almost double our team size by around mid-2021, scaling out our culture and processes at the same time.

We want to fully establish ourselves as leaders in the travel space, so we’re doing a lot of exciting work behind the scenes which will be shared later in the year.

Thanks so much for speaking to us, Tilly. Things are looking exciting for Impala next year with strong core foundations to maintain the great work environment you have established. We can’t wait to see it take off!

If you want to check out the other top startups to work for then head over here. Otherwise, stay tuned for our next deep dive into one of the top five of London’s “Top Startups to work for in 2021”.