Zach Blumenfeld is changing workplace culture through ThirdSpace

The startup tries to keep employees engaged
Zach Blumenfeld is changing workplace culture through ThirdSpace
Photo by Kaia Calhoun

Zach Blumenfeld is part of an emerging generation for whom entrepreneurship is a genuine state of mind. It isn’t something passed down by parents or born of a passion for technology or food or the need to invent a new and better widget. Being an entrepreneur is a way of life, like surfing, farming or the priesthood. It’s a calling. Either it’s in you or it’s not. And if it is what drives you, your parents are probably OK with it, as long as you remain healthy and well fed.

Blumenfeld is also among a proactive generation of workers who easily reject traditional workplace conventions, such as top-down management, lack of financial transparency-slash-accountability and all-work-no-play atmospheres. Those workplaces, he says, are broken, and he is on a mission to either fix them or find viable alternatives.

Blumenfeld cites startling statistics about all-time high turnover and all-time low engagement rates of employees. Seventy percent of employees are disengaged at work. And millennials are willing to give up $7,600 in salary each year to work for companies that have a good culture, according to a study by Fidelity Investments.

So Blumenfeld is working on solutions. The startup ThirdSpace, which he co-founded with Scott Jens and Scott Kohl, is a cloud-based software platform designed to reform workplace culture. It’s an employee engagement tool on steroids. The current product has three key aspects: 1) an enterprise social network called Spaces, 2) a skills-building feature called a Journey Map and 3) The Brain, which captures and retains critical company information — 25 percent of which walks out the door when an employee leaves, according to Blumenfeld.

He describes The Brain as “revolutionary.” It’s a collective brain of sorts that allows employees to set and achieve skills and talent goals, document career successes and connect with a company’s culture and vision.

ThirdSpace also offers a proprietary chat tool along the lines of Yammer, Slack and Workplace by Facebook. But Blumenfeld says none of those tools incorporates anything like Journey Map or The Brain, which utilizes user feedback.

Speaking of users, the earliest adopter was Rev360, which delivers business and software services to eye care providers and was founded by ThirdSpace co-founder Scott Jens. Before Rev360, Jens co-founded RevolutionEHR, an electronic health records software platform used by 5,000 eye doctors in the U.S. and Canada. (Yes, the Epic Systems Corp. of eye care.) Before that, Jens was a full-time optometrist.

While ThirdSpace is built for any business in any sector — Blumenfeld says a Middleton accounting firm is a client — it is particularly suited for companies like Rev360, a virtual workplace of 300 software developers, salespeople and customer service reps who all work remotely. With telecommuting on the rise, ThirdSpace offers a tangible way to keep employers connected to their workforce, and employees connected to one another.

ThirdSpace is a natural place for Blumenfeld to land after several years as a sales rep at the Madison-based human resources company TASC.

A Madison native, Blumenfeld hopes ThirdSpace’s growth and success will eventually lead to an IPO (initial public offering) and boost the local economy. In fact, he’s bullish about his hometown, which is why he is launching another venture called CultureCon on June 6 and 7. It will bring the local business community together and attract regional and national interest in Madison as a “culture hub of the country,” he says.

Blumenfeld says the idea for CultureCon grew out of executive roundtables ThirdSpace convened to “pressure test” its business model. “They were almost like therapy sessions about the good, bad and the ugly of their cultures,” says Blumenfeld. Last November, he spun off CultureCon as a nonprofit. CultureCon will feature presentations, panels and breakout sessions, an Innovation Hall trade show and a hackathon on philanthropy, where attendees will workshop ideas and solutions on behalf of area nonprofits.

“The goal is to give people actionable items to go back into the workplace and make things happen,” says Blumenfeld.

Brennan Nardi is communications director at Madison Community Foundation and a former editor of Madison Magazine. Reach her at brennannardi@gmail.com.