Hi5, from side-project to servicing 1700 companies across five countries

Featured image: Hi5 founder Gary Willmott

Hi5, a cloud-based platform that allows employees to rate each other, was initially a side-project that Gary Willmott started in 2015 after he noticed the complexity of HR in small businesses.

Two years later, Hi5 services around 4500 users from over 1700 companies in Australia, New Zealand, UK, the USA and South Africa.

The Hi5 app is available on Android and iOS. It currently has two pricing plans: Hi5 Basic which is free and Hi5 Business, which is $7 per person monthly. Willmott did not wish to divulge how much revenue the startup has generated since launch.

Hi5 allows people to grow within companies without the hassle of laborious admin and traditional HR

When Willmott began working on Hi5 he was a managing partner at Urbian, an award winning digital production studio. “We built something to scratch our own itch,” Willmott (pictured) told Ventureburn.

“Primarily it started out as a solution to cut down on admin and the effort required to manage staff,” he said.

“I found myself being intrigued in growing and managing people. I noticed there are various styles and methods of company structure, from holacracy to bureaucracy. None of them are right or wrong, it depends on the culture, staff and the company vision,” said Willmott.

Hi5’s five-step process

Hi5 has aims to keep engagement levels between 70 and 90%, relative to other employee engagement platforms that instead focus on surveys and data collection — which is usually of interest to managers.

Willmott, who managed Urbian for 10 years, believes that “HR complicates the task of managing people”. Instead, he subscribes to the belief that if people grow, companies grow, leading to Hi5’s five-step process.

The five-step process requires that each staff member be given five goals, peer-review five co-workers, five times a year, and high five — praise five colleagues. In addition, the whole system is set up in a way that allows reviews to be carried out in five minutes.

“Most companies that use Hi5, actually appreciate the model just as much as the software,” said Willmott.

Driving product development through listening

This is not Willmott’s first time at the startup rodeo. The entrepreneur dropped out of school at the age of 15 to pursue software development, starting off with games development and websites. Thereafter, he co-founded Urbian, from which he got funding for Hi5 (he did not disclose how much was invested).

Even though Willmott has all this experience as an entrepreneur, he said the main challenge Hi5 has faced is around finding the right product market fit.

“Finding product market fit is a tough journey and often feels like we are wasting time and money,” he said.

Willmott places a lot of importance in listening to customer feedback, consequently he can be seen out and about holding on-boarding sessions with clients. This, he said, he does to better listen to customer feedback and grasp what companies want.

“We were initially a peer-review platform, however since listening to customers, we have pivoted a few times and realised the core usage and desire that people want is appreciation. If I wasn’t on the ground listening, we would never get the 70-90% engagement we have today,” he said.


Willmott said Hi5 has been well received and made an impact mainly around better engagement and improvements of cultures centred around appreciation.

“I heard the other day that one of our larger clients are hosting Hi5 braais at the end of the month, that gives me goose bumps,” said Willmott.

In addition, the startup has also gleaned some insights from its users. Willmott said a recent report shows that most Hi5 users interact with the platform during lunch breaks and on Saturday mornings.

“The insight is that most employees do not have time in a day to fill in long arduous forms or surveys, however if you create something that people want, they will make time to use it,” he said.

Featured image: Hi5 founder Gary Willmott

Disclosure: Ventureburn parent company Creative Spark is a Hi5 client.

Daniel Mpala


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