Meet the co-founder behind the remote team productivity tool that’s taking global enterprises by storm

Written by
Content Team
Last Modified on
May 30, 2024

Sometimes, an entrepreneur’s calling can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Just ask Zelia Leong, who stumbled into it after a serendipitous trip to Europe. There, not only did she realise the importance of exploring the unknown without being shackled by an itinerary, she returned with an idea for an innovative travel curator platform, Anywhr, in 2017.

However, the pandemic-induced lockdown didn’t bode well for those in the travel industry and it forced the Anywhr team to think of new problems to solve. The idea for an internal recognition channel 一 one that’s compatible with team collaboration tools 一 took on a life of its own when they found that overused virtual team bonding activities didn’t seem to cut it anymore.

Word quickly spread and it became clear that there was a demand for a tool that celebrates small wins among teams. Turns out, remote working woes are universal. Startups and large enterprises alike are eager to find a solution to a problem that has reared its head when team members find themselves scattered across continents.

Simply put, how do teams stay connected and motivated despite not sharing an office space anymore? With that in mind, the Anywhr team launched RewardNation in January 2021 and the rest was history. In fact, the platform proved so effective that it even improved engagement within their group of investors by 10x.

From the co-founder herself, we caught up with Zelia to hear her vision for the product, why it’s important for teams to feel part of a larger cause and what are some quirky things team members have redeemed with their RewardNation points.

What made you decide to start RewardNation?

During the lockdowns, every team (from small startups to global enterprises) was doing the same thing to stay engaged and connected such as virtual games, activities, sending gift boxes, virtual drinks, etc. However everyone, including our team, still did not feel motivated and connected. After all, a gift box with coffee and t-shirts are nice gestures, but it does not make anyone want to work harder or stay longer at a company. It was then that I realised that although our team members are in different continents and come from different backgrounds, age, and culture, we all share the same desire to make an impact in the company with our contributions, and learn more from each other even across departments and hierarchy.

Reward Nation Platform

That was when we got inspired to start RewardNation一enabling our remote team members worldwide to recognise each other for their contributions, celebrate small wins, and stay connected through the public recognitions feed where everyone knows what's going on even from miles away. This created immediate connection, engagement and motivation at work because people are more productive when they collaborate and when they feel part of a larger cause than themselves. This doesn't happen just by everyone taking turns to share "what I did over the weekend" during Monday morning virtual calls.

What was the moment you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

There wasn't a particular moment一more of a journey of stumbling into entrepreneurship. I knew the problems I wanted to solve, and there were no good solutions available. So, I decided to try and solve them myself and make an impact with my work.

How did RewardNation achieve such accelerated growth within a short period of time?

We started out by targeting smaller tech startups like us as we can see the immediate impact of using RewardNation within our own team一employee engagement and motivation skyrocketed within the first few weeks of use. But soon, larger enterprises came knocking and started to inquire about RewardNation, as they’re able to recognise how their remote-based teams can benefit from it. In hindsight, it makes sense that a recognition tool will be useful for international companies as well since they face the struggles of remote global team engagement on a much larger scale. Both small and large companies face the same challenges of engaging their employees, improving productivity and making them feel appreciated for the work that they do, regardless of where they are.

Since then, our team has been focused on implementing RewardNation with many large global enterprises and startups to great success. Seeing the traction of a product we’ve pivoted to in response to the pandemic makes us feel very grateful for the opportunity to solve this pressing problem. Especially on a scale that helps so many more people stay connected and find meaning in their work. At a time where the remote workforce is being seen as the future of work, we’re happy that we’re able to move quickly and find the right solutions to help build stronger companies一not only by giving team members credit when its due, but to ultimately ensure that each employee is driven in delivering the most impact.

What’s next for RewardNation?

We’re constantly experimenting and learning from our users, on how to make work better and more meaningful for both leaders and their team members. This includes having Nir Eyal, award-winning author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products as our formal advisor to make sure we build not only a useful product, but one that keeps our users engaged while making teams and businesses better.

Can you share some fun stats about RewardNation?

Team members can turn their recognition into gift cards from over 1,000 brands worldwide. We’ve also noticed many guys redeeming gift cards from female fashion brands such as Love, Bonito一probably for their partners.

Besides gift cards, companies can add customised Company Rewards. These are usually fun and unique to their culture.

Reward Nation Platform

Everyone’s favourite reward is “Use 200 points to redeem 1 day of no internal meetings”!

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Content Team
at Aspire is a society of seasoned writers & experts specialising in finance, technology and SaaS space. With 50+ years of collective experience, they help make business finance more profitable for readers. They write about finance tools, finance insights, industry trends, tactical guides to grow your business & also all things Aspire.
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