PTO Exchange Helps Workers Take Control of Their Paid Time Off

The startup’s platform lets employees trade in their accrued PTO for airfare, 401(k) contributions and more.
Written by Abel Rodriguez
June 16, 2022Updated: June 27, 2022
PTO Exchange’s platform lets employees trade in their accrued PTO for things such as airfare or 401K contributions.
PTO Exchange CEO and Cofounder Rob Whalen | Photo: PTO Exchange

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Seattle’s rising startups from last quarter here.

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When thinking about paid time off (PTO), people often ponder about taking a week or two off work and spending it on a secluded beach. However, it is a bit more complex than just taking time off work. PTO is the time that a worker accrues by working for their employer and after accruing time they can use it to take days off work. In some states, if the employee doesn’t take time off, those days must be paid out to the employee. 

Different states also have different PTO laws making it even harder to understand. Seattle-based PTO Exchange wants to help workers better understand their PTO but also give them flexibility on what to do with their accrued time. 

PTO Exchange was co-founded in 2013 by Rob Whalen and Todd Lucas but officially launched with a product in 2017 as the pair spent time researching PTO laws and securing patents. By integrating with a company’s HR, payroll or time-keeping software, the platform can track how much PTO an employee has accrued during their time with the company. Through the platform, the employee can also trade their saved time for cash or benefits, such as hotel stays, flights, donations to nonprofits or contributions to HSAs, retirement accounts or student loans. 

“We’re solving a real problem for the workers of the future. We see things turning flexible, and the ability to take this benefit that you already budgeted [for] and build flexibility around it is important for the employees and employers,” Whalen told Built In. 

PTO Exchange has different plans that a company can select from. For example, one plan might include the ability to cash out PTO for airfare while another might let workers cash out their PTO and deposit it into a retirement account.

We’re solving a real problem for the workers of the future. We see things turning flexible, and the ability to take this benefit that you already budgeted [for] and build flexibility around it is important for the employees and employers.”

According to Whalen, the platform gives workers flexibility at different stages in their careers and lives. Because the platform has different payout options, younger employees are able to use their PTO to pay off student loans while older employees can contribute to retirement savings. 

“We’re helping people and we’re meeting them in their transitions in life to help them support themselves with an already budgeted benefit that they already earned,” Whalen said. 

The platform also has a limit on how much accrued time an employee can cash out. According to Whalen, many companies — including PTO Exchange — reinforce that workers should take time off in order to reduce stress. 

Since launching, the company has raised $8.4 million in seed funding, including a $5.4 million in a seed II round in March, and has partnered with several notable employers such as Aon and Alight Solutions. According to Whalen, the platform has also begun to see adoption in the medical industry. This is in large part due to medical workers having large amounts of accrued PTO that they have not been able to use because of the Covid-19 pandemic which caused medical workers to be in high demand. 

“Clients really like our product and they really see the value that it’s delivering to their employees,” Whalen said. “It’s helping them retain and attract generational employees, not just the new gen. Because the platform is flexible it also helps retain some of the old generation.”

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