Jul
13
2021
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Remote raises $150M on a $1B+ valuation to manage payroll and more for organizations’ global workforces

For many of us, going to work these days no longer means going into a specific office like it used to; and today one of the startups that’s built a platform to help cater to that new, bigger world of employment — wherever talent might be — is announcing a major round of funding on the back of strong demand for its tools.

Remote, which provides tools to manage onboarding, payroll, benefits and other services for tech and other knowledge workers located in remote countries — be they contractors or full-time employees — has raised $150 million. Job van der Voort, the Dutch-based CEO and co-founder of New York-based Remote, confirmed in an interview that funding values Remote at over $1 billion.

Accel is leading this Series B, with participation also from previous investors Sequoia, Index Ventures, Two Sigma, General Catalyst and Day One Ventures.

The funding will be used in a couple of areas. First and foremost, it will go toward expanding its business to more markets. The startup has been built from the ground up in a fully integrated way, and in contrast to a number of others that it competes with in providing Employer of Record services, Remote fully owns all of its infrastructure. It now provides its HR services, as fully operational legal entities, for 50 countries (it has a target of growing that to 80 by the end of this year). The platform is also set to be enhanced with more tools around areas like benefits, equity incentive planning, visa and immigration support and employee relocation.

“We are doubling down on our approach,” van der Voort said. “We try to fully own the entire stack: entity, operations, experts in house, payroll, benefits and visa and immigration — all of the items that come up most often. We want to to build infrastructure products, foundational products because those have a higher level of quality and ultimately a lower price.”

In addition, Remote will be using the funding to continue building more tools and partnerships to integrate with other providers of services in what is a very fragmented human resources market. Two of these are being announced today to coincide with the funding news: Remote has launched a Global Employee API that HR platforms that focus on domestic payroll can integrate to provide their own international offering powered by Remote. HR platform Rippling (Parker Conrad’s latest act) is one of its first customers. And Remote is also getting cosier with other parts of the HR chain of services: applicant tracking system Greenhouse is now integrating with it to help with the onboarding process for new hires.

Indeed, $150 million at a $1 billion+ valuation is a very, very sizable Series B, even by today’s flush-market standards, but it comes after a bumper year for the company, and in particular since November last year when it raised a Series A of $35 million. In the last nine months, customer numbers have grown seven-fold, with users on the platform increasing 10 times. Most interestingly, perhaps, is that Remote’s revenues — its packages start at $149 per month but go up from there — have increased by a much bigger amount: 65x, the company said. That basically points to the fact that engagement from those users — how much they are leaning on Remote’s tech — has skyrocketed.

Although there are a lot of competitors in the same space as Remote — they include a number of more local players alongside a pretty big range of startups like Oyster (which announced $50 million in funding in June), Deel, which is now valued at $1.25 billionTuring; Papaya Global (now also valued at over $1 billion); and many more — the opportunity they are collectively tackling is a massive one that, if anything, appears to be growing.

Hiring internationally has always been a costly, time-consuming and organizationally challenged endeavor, so much so that many companies have opted not to do it at all, or to reserve it for very unique cases. That paradigm has drastically shifted in recent years, however.

Even before COVID-19 hit, there was a shortage of talent, resulting in a competitive struggle for good people, in companies’ home markets, which encouraged companies to look further afield when hiring. Then, once looking further afield, those employers had to give consideration to employing those people remotely — that is, letting them work from afar — because the process of relocating them had also become more expensive and harder to work through.

Then COVID-19 happened, and everyone, including people working in a company’s HQ, started to work remotely, changing the goalposts yet again on what is expected by workers, and what organizations are willing to consider when bringing on a new person, or managing someone it already knows, just from a much farther distance.

While a lot of that has played out in the idea of relocating to different cities in the same country — Miami and Austin getting a big wave of Silicon Valley “expats” being two examples of that — it seems just a short leap to consider that now that sourcing and managing is taking on a much more international slant. A lot of new hires, as well as existing employees who are possibly not from the U.S. to begin with, or simply want to see another part of the world, are now also a part of the mix. That is where companies like Remote are coming in and lowering the barriers to entry by making it as easy to hire and manage a person abroad as it is in your own city.

“Remote is at the center of a profound shift in the way that companies hire,” said Miles Clements, a partner at Accel, in a statement. “Their new Global Employee API opens up access to Remote’s robust global employment infrastructure and knowledge map, and will help any HR provider expand internationally at a speed impossible before. Remote’s future vision as a financial services provider will consolidate complicated processes into one trusted platform, and we’re excited to partner with the global leader in the quickly emerging category of remote work.”

And it’s interesting to see it now partnering with the likes of Rippling. It was a no-brainer that as the latter company matured and grew, it would have to consider how to handle the international component. Using an API from Remote is an example of how the model that has played out in communications (led by companies like Twilio and Sinch) and fintech (hello, Stripe) also has an analogue in HR, with Remote taking the charge on that.

And to be clear, for now Remote has no plans to build a product that it would sell directly to individuals.

“Individuals are reaching out to us, saying, ‘I found this job and can you help me and make sure I get paid?’ That’s been interesting,” van der Voort said. “We thought about [building a product for them] but we have so much to do with employers first.” One thing that’s heartening in Remote’s approach is that it wouldn’t want to provide this service unless it could completely follow through on it, which in the case of an individual would mean “vetting every major employer,” he said, which is too big a task for it right now.

In the meantime, Remote itself has walked the walk when it comes to remote working. Originally co-founded by two European transplants to San Francisco, the pair had firsthand experience of the paradoxical pains and opportunities of being in an organization that uses remote workforces.

Van der Voort had been the VP of product for GitLab, which he scaled from five to 450 employees working remotely (it’s now a customer of Remote’s); and before co-founding Remote, CTO Marcelo Lebre had been VP of engineering for Unbabel — another startup focused on reducing international barriers, this time between how companies and global customers communicate.

Today, not only is the CEO based out of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, with the CTO in Lisbon, Portugal, but New York-based Remote itself has grown to 220 from 50 employees, and this wider group has also been working remotely across 47 countries since November 2020.

“The world is looking very different today,” van der Voort said. “The biggest change for us has been the size of the organization. We’ve gone from 50 to more than 200 employees, and I haven’t met any of them! We have tried to follow our values of bringing opportunity everywhere so we hire everywhere as we solve that for our customers, too.”

Jun
23
2021
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Pequity, a compensation platform designed for more equitable pay, raises $19M

Diversity and inclusion have become central topics in the world of work. In the best considerations, improving them is a holistic effort, involving not just conceiving of products with this in mind, but hiring and managing talent in a diverse and inclusive way, too. A new startup called Pequity that has built a product to help with the latter of these areas, specifically in equitable compensation, has now raised some funding — a sign of the demand in the market, as well as how tech is being harnessed in aid of helping it.

The San Francisco-based startup has raised $19 million in a Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners. First Round Capital, Designer Fund, and Scribble Ventures also participated in the fundraise, which will be used to continue investing in product and also hiring: the company has 20 on its own books now and will aim to double that by the end of this year, on the heels of positive reception in the market.

Since launching officially last year, Pequity has picked up over 100 customers, with an initial focus on fast-scaling companies in its own backyard, a mark of how D&I have come into focus in the tech industry in particular. Those using Pequity to compare and figure out compensation include Instacart, Scale.ai and ClearCo, and the company said that in the last four months, the platform’s been used to make more then 5,000 job offers.

Kaitlyn Knopp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Warren Lebovics (both pictured, right), came up for the idea for Pequity in much the same way that many innovations in the world of enterprise IT come to market: through her own first-hand experience.

She spent a decade working in employment compensation in the Bay Area, with previous roles at Google, Instacart, and Cruise. In that time, she found the tools that many companies used were lacking and simply “clunky” when it came to compensation analysis.

“The way the market has worked so far is that platforms had compensation as an element but not the focus,” she said. “It was the end of the tagline, the final part of a ‘CRM for candidates.’ But you still have to fill in all the gaps, you have to set the architecture the right way. And with compensation, you have to bake in your own analytics, which implies that you have to have some expertise.”

Indeed, as with other aspects of enterprise software, she added that the very biggest tech companies sometimes worked on their own tools, but not only does that leave smaller or otherwise other-focused businesses out of having better calculation tools, but it also means that those tools are siloed and miss out on being shaped by a bigger picture of the world of work. “We wanted to take that process and own it.”

The Pequity product essentially works by plugging into all of the other tools that an HR professional might be using — HRIS, ATS, and payroll products — to manage salaries across the whole of the organization in order to analyse and compare how compensation could look for existing and prospective employees. It combines a company’s own data and then compares it to data from the wider market, including typical industry ranges and market trends, to provide insights to HR teams.

All of this means that HR teams are able to make more informed decisions, which is step number one in being more transparent and equitable, but is also something that Pequity is optimized to cover specifically in how it measures compensation across a team.

And in line with that, there is another aspect of the compensation mindset that Knopp also wanted to address in a standalone product, and that is the idea of building a tool with a mission, one of providing a platform that can bring in data to make transparent and equitable decisions.

“A lot of the comp tools that I’ve interacted with are reactive,” she said. “You may have to do, say, a pay equity test, you do your promotion and merit cycles, and then you find all these issues that you have to solve. We’re flagging those things proactively with our analytics, because we’re plugging into those systems, which will give you those alerts before the decisions need to be made.”

As an added step in that direction, Knopp said that ultimately she believes the tool should be something that those outside of HR, such as managers and emploiyees themselves, should be able to access to better understand the logic of their own compensation and have more information going into any kind of negotiation.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see whether modernized products like Pequity, which are tackling old problems with a new approach and point of view, find traction in the wider market. If one purpose in HR is to address diversity and inclusion, and part of the problem has been that the tools are just not fit for that purpose, then it seems a no-brainer that we’ll see more organizations trying out new things to see if they can help them in their own race to secure talent.

“Compensation reflects a company’s values, affects its ability to hire talent, and is the biggest expense on its P&L. And yet, most comp teams run on spreadsheets and emails,” said Parker Barrile, Partner at Norwest, in a statement. “Pequity empowers comp teams to design and manage equitable compensation programs with modern software designed by comp professionals, for comp professionals.”

Jun
23
2021
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Pequity, a compensation platform designed for more equitable pay, raises $19M

Diversity and inclusion have become central topics in the world of work. In the best considerations, improving them is a holistic effort, involving not just conceiving of products with this in mind, but hiring and managing talent in a diverse and inclusive way, too. A new startup called Pequity that has built a product to help with the latter of these areas, specifically in equitable compensation, has now raised some funding — a sign of the demand in the market, as well as how tech is being harnessed in aid of helping it.

The San Francisco-based startup has raised $19 million in a Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners. First Round Capital, Designer Fund, and Scribble Ventures also participated in the fundraise, which will be used to continue investing in product and also hiring: the company has 20 on its own books now and will aim to double that by the end of this year, on the heels of positive reception in the market.

Since launching officially last year, Pequity has picked up over 100 customers, with an initial focus on fast-scaling companies in its own backyard, a mark of how D&I have come into focus in the tech industry in particular. Those using Pequity to compare and figure out compensation include Instacart, Scale.ai and ClearCo, and the company said that in the last four months, the platform’s been used to make more then 5,000 job offers.

Kaitlyn Knopp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Warren Lebovics (both pictured, right), came up for the idea for Pequity in much the same way that many innovations in the world of enterprise IT come to market: through her own first-hand experience.

She spent a decade working in employment compensation in the Bay Area, with previous roles at Google, Instacart, and Cruise. In that time, she found the tools that many companies used were lacking and simply “clunky” when it came to compensation analysis.

“The way the market has worked so far is that platforms had compensation as an element but not the focus,” she said. “It was the end of the tagline, the final part of a ‘CRM for candidates.’ But you still have to fill in all the gaps, you have to set the architecture the right way. And with compensation, you have to bake in your own analytics, which implies that you have to have some expertise.”

Indeed, as with other aspects of enterprise software, she added that the very biggest tech companies sometimes worked on their own tools, but not only does that leave smaller or otherwise other-focused businesses out of having better calculation tools, but it also means that those tools are siloed and miss out on being shaped by a bigger picture of the world of work. “We wanted to take that process and own it.”

The Pequity product essentially works by plugging into all of the other tools that an HR professional might be using — HRIS, ATS, and payroll products — to manage salaries across the whole of the organization in order to analyse and compare how compensation could look for existing and prospective employees. It combines a company’s own data and then compares it to data from the wider market, including typical industry ranges and market trends, to provide insights to HR teams.

All of this means that HR teams are able to make more informed decisions, which is step number one in being more transparent and equitable, but is also something that Pequity is optimized to cover specifically in how it measures compensation across a team.

And in line with that, there is another aspect of the compensation mindset that Knopp also wanted to address in a standalone product, and that is the idea of building a tool with a mission, one of providing a platform that can bring in data to make transparent and equitable decisions.

“A lot of the comp tools that I’ve interacted with are reactive,” she said. “You may have to do, say, a pay equity test, you do your promotion and merit cycles, and then you find all these issues that you have to solve. We’re flagging those things proactively with our analytics, because we’re plugging into those systems, which will give you those alerts before the decisions need to be made.”

As an added step in that direction, Knopp said that ultimately she believes the tool should be something that those outside of HR, such as managers and emploiyees themselves, should be able to access to better understand the logic of their own compensation and have more information going into any kind of negotiation.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see whether modernized products like Pequity, which are tackling old problems with a new approach and point of view, find traction in the wider market. If one purpose in HR is to address diversity and inclusion, and part of the problem has been that the tools are just not fit for that purpose, then it seems a no-brainer that we’ll see more organizations trying out new things to see if they can help them in their own race to secure talent.

“Compensation reflects a company’s values, affects its ability to hire talent, and is the biggest expense on its P&L. And yet, most comp teams run on spreadsheets and emails,” said Parker Barrile, Partner at Norwest, in a statement. “Pequity empowers comp teams to design and manage equitable compensation programs with modern software designed by comp professionals, for comp professionals.”

Jun
17
2021
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Gusto makes first acquisition, buying Ardius to expand into R&D tax credits

Free money from the government sounds like winning the lottery, but the reality is that most tech startups and even local retail businesses and restaurants can potentially qualify for tax credits related to research and development in the United States. Those credits, which is what helps tech giants keep their tax rates to near zero, are hard for smaller companies to receive because of extensive documentation requirements and potential audit costs.

So a number of startups have been launched to solve that gap, and now, larger companies are entering the fray as well.

Gusto, which started off with payroll for SMBs and has since expanded into employee on-boarding, insurance, benefits and other HR offerings, today announced that it is acquiring Ardius, a startup designed to automate tax compliance particularly around R&D tax credits.

The Los Angeles-based company was founded by Joshua Lee in 2018, who previously had worked for more than a decade at accounting firm EY. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Ardius will run as an independent business with the entire team transitioning to Gusto.

The strategy here is simple: Most R&D credits require payroll documentation, data that is already stored in Gusto’s system of record. Ardius in its current incarnation was designed to tap into a number of payroll data providers and extract that data and turn it into verifiable tax documents. With this tie-up, the companies can simply do that automatically for Gusto’s extensive number of customers.

Joshua Reeves, co-founder and CEO of Gusto, said that the acquisition falls in line with the company’s long-term focus on customers and simplicity. “We want to bring together technology, great service, [and] make government simpler,” he said. “In some ways, a lot of stuff we’re doing — make payroll simpler, make healthcare simpler, make PPP [loans] and tax credits simpler — just make these things work the way they’re intended to work.” The company presumably could have built out such functionality, but he noted that “time to market” was a crucial point in making Ardius the company’s first acquisition.

Tomer London, co-founder and chief product officer, said that “we’ve been looking at this space for a long time because it kind of connects to one of our original product principles of building a product that is opinionated,” he said. In a space as complicated as HR, “we want to be out there and be an advisor, not just a tool. And this is just such a great example of where you can take the payroll data that we already have and in just a few clicks and in a matter of a few days, get access to really important cash flow for a business.” He noted that tax credits is “something that’s been on our roadmap for a long time.”

Gusto works with more than 100 third-party services that integrate on top of its platform. Reeves emphasized that while Ardius is part of Gusto, all companies — even those that might compete directly with the product — will continue to have equal access to the platform’s data. In its release, the company pointed out that Boast.ai, Clarus, Neo.Tax and TaxTaker are just some of the other tax products that integrate with Gusto today.

Of course, Ardius is just one of a number of competitors that have popped up in the R&D and economic development tax credit space. MainStreet, which I last profiled in 2020 for its seed round, just raised $60 million in funding in March led by SignalFire. Meanwhile, Neo.tax, which I also profiled last year, has raised a total of $5.5 million.

Reeves was sanguine about the attention the space is garnering and the potential competition for Ardius. When it comes to R&D tax credits, “whatever creates more accessibility, we’re a fan of,” he said. “It’s great that there’s more awareness because it’s still under-utilized frankly.” He emphasized that Gusto would be able to offer a more vertically-integrated solution given its data and software than other competitors in the space.

While the pandemic particularly hit SMBs, who often lacked the financial wherewithal of larger companies to survive the crisis, Gusto actually expanded its business as new companies sprouted up. Reeves said the company grew its customer base 50% in its last fiscal year, which ended in April. It “turns out in a health pandemic and in an economic crisis, things like payroll and accessing health care are quite important,” he said. Gusto launched a program to help SMBs collect the government’s stimulus PPP loans.

The company’s main bases of operation are in San Francisco, Denver and New York City, and the company has a growing contingent of remote workers, including the Ardius crew, who will remain based in LA. While Reeves demurred on future acquisitions, Gusto’s focus on expanding to a comprehensive financial wellness platform for both employees and businesses would likely suggest that additional acquisitions may well be in the offing in the future.

 

Jun
17
2021
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Beamery raises $138M at an $800M valuation for its ‘operating system for recruitment’

Online job listings were one of the first things to catch on in the first generation of the internet. But that has, ironically, also meant that some of the most-used digital recruitment services around today are also some of the least evolved in terms of tapping into all of the developments that tech has to offer, leaving the door open for some disruption. Today, one of the startups doing just that is announcing a big round of funding to double down on its growth so far.

Beamery, which has built what it describes as a “talent operating system” — a way to manage sourcing, hiring and retaining of people, plus analyzing the bigger talent picture for an organization, a “talent graph” as Beamery calls it, in an all-in-one, end-to-end service — has raised $138 million, money that it plans to use to continue building out more technology, as well as growing its business, which has been expanding quickly and saw 337% revenue growth year over year in Q4.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’), a prolific tech investor, is leading the round by way of its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP). Other participants in this Series C include several strategic backers who are also using Beamery: Accenture Ventures, EQT Ventures, Index Ventures, M12 (Microsoft’s venture arm) and Workday Ventures (the venture arm of the HR software giant).

Abakar Saidov, co-founder and CEO at London-based Beamery, told TechCrunch in an interview that it is not disclosing valuation, but sources in the know say it’s in the region of $800 million.

The round is coming on the heels of a very strong year for the company.

The “normal” way of doing things in the working world was massively upended with the rise of COVID-19 in early 2020, and within that, recruitment was among one of the most impacted areas. Not only were people applying and interviewing for jobs completely remotely, but in many cases they were getting hired, onboarded and engaged into new jobs without a single face-to-face interaction with a recruiter, manager or colleague.

And that’s before you consider the new set of constraints that HR teams were under in many places: variously, we saw hiring freezes, furloughs, layoffs and budget cuts (often more than one of these per business), and yet work still needed to get done.

All that really paved the way for platforms like Beamery’s — designed not only to be remote-friendly software-as-a-service running in the cloud, but to handle the whole recruiting and talent management process from a single place — to pick up new customers and prove its role as an updated, more user-friendly approach to the task of sourcing and placing talent.

“Traditional HR is very admin-heavy, and when you add in payroll and benefits, the systems that exist are very siloed,” said Saidov in the interview. “The innovation for us has been to move out of that construct and into something that is human, and has a human touch. From a data perspective, we’re creating the underlying system of record for all of the people touching a business. So when you build on top of that, everything looks like a consumer application.”

In the last 12 months, the company said that customers — which are in the area of large enterprises and include COVID vaccine maker AstraZeneca, Autodesk, Nasdaq, several major tech giants and strategic investor Workday — filled 1 million roles through its platform, a figure that includes not just sourcing and placing candidates from outside of an organization’s walls, but also filling roles internally.

The work that Beamery is doing is definitely helping the business not just pull its weight — its last round was a much more modest $28 million, which was raised way back in 2018 — but grow and invest in new services.

The company said it had a year-on-year increase of 462% in jobs posted across its customer base. A year before that (which would have extended into pre-pandemic 2019), the number of candidates pipelined increased by a mere 46%, pointing to acceleration.

Beamery today already offers a pretty wide range of different services.

They include tools to source candidates. This can be done organically by creating your own job boards to be found by anyone curious enough to look, and by leveraging other job boards on other platforms like LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned professional networking platform that counts “Talent Solutions” — i.e. recruitment — as one of its primary business lines. (Recall Microsoft is one of Beamery’s backers.) It also provides tools to create and manage online recruitment events.

Beamery also offers tools to help people get the word out about a role, with a service akin to programmatic advertising (similar to ZipRecruiter) to populate other job boards, or run more targeted executive recruitment searches. It also provides a way for HR teams to create internal recruitment processes, and also run surveys with existing teams to get a better picture of the state of play.

And it has some analytics tools in place to measure how well recruitment drives, retention and other metrics are evolving to help plan what to do in the future.

The big question for me now is how and if Beamery will bring more into that universe. There have been some interesting startups emerging in the wider world of talent IT (if we could call it that) that could be interesting complements to what Beamery already has, or provide a roadmap for what it might try to build itself.

It includes much more extensive work on internal job boards (such as what Gloat has built); digging much deeper into building accurate pictures of who is at the company and what they do (see: ChartHop); or the many services that are building ways of sourcing and connecting with contractors, which are a huge, and growing, part of the talent equation for companies (see: Turing, RemoteDeelPapaya GlobalLattice, Factorial and many others).

Beamery already includes contractors alongside full- and part-time roles that can be filled using its platform, but when it comes to managing those contractors, that’s something that Beamery does not do itself, so that could be one area where it might grow, too.

“The key reason enterprises work with us it to consolidate a bunch of workflows,” Saidov said. “HR hates having different systems and everything becomes easier when things interoperate well.” Employing contractors typically involves three elements: sourcing, management and scheduling, so Beamery will likely approach how it grows in that area by determining which piece might be “super core” the centralization of more data, he added.

Another two likely areas he hinted are on Beamery’s roadmap are assessments — that is, providing tools to recruiters who want to measure the skills of applicants for jobs (another startup-heavy area today) — and tools to help recruiters do their jobs better, whether that involves more native communications tools in video and messaging, as well as Gong-like coaching to help them measure and improve screening and interviewing.

It might also consider developing a version for smaller businesses to use.

Questions investors are happy to see considered, it seems, as they invest in what looks like a winner in the bigger race. TIP’s other investments have included ComplyAdvantage, Epic Games, Graphcore, KRY and SpaceX, a long run in a wide field.

“Leading companies worldwide are prioritising recruitment and retention. They are turning to Beamery for a best-in-class talent solution that can be seamlessly integrated with their business,” said Maggie Fanari, MD for TIP in Emea. “Beamery’s best-in-class approach is already recognized by top-tier companies. I’m excited by the company’s vision of to use technology to support long-term talent growth and build better businesses. Beamery is the first company to bring predictive marketing and data science into recruitment. They are a truly innovative company, building a vision that can shape the future of work — the company fits all the criteria we look for in a TIP investment and more.”

Jun
09
2021
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ChartHop raises $35M for its internal org chart and people analytics platform

Human resources is generally a salient cornerstone of any organization, but digitization has democratized a lot of the work that goes into HR, and that’s meant more people in businesses interested in, and using, the kind of data that HR people build and typically manage. Today, a startup called ChartHop that’s built a platform to cater to that trend is announcing $35 million in funding on the heels of strong growth.

The Series B is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, a past backer, with Elad Gil and previous investors Cowboy Ventures and SemperVirens also participating. We understand from sources close to the company that the round values ChartHop at between $300 million and $400 million.

ChartHop was founded in New York by Ian White, now the CEO, who first started building the tools to fill what he felt were gaps in his own knowledge when he founded, ran and eventually sold his previous company, Sailthru (which was acquired by CampaignMonitor).

He said he realized the company could build “all the tech we wanted,” but when it came down to thinking about how to run and scale the business, that was at its heart actually a people question, and also understanding how departments, and the entire organization, looked and worked as a whole.

Image Credits: ChartHop

“It was not as important as hiring, structuring a ‘single you’ of the organization,” he said. (Ian’s pictured here to the right.) Similar to the great analytics tools that have been built for developers, sales teams and others, “What I wanted was people analytics,” he said. “I wanted to understand my team.”

That’s actually a very multifaceted question. It’s not just a matter of an org chart — a big enough task in its own right that the very day that ChartHop came out of stealth in early 2020, another org chart startup, The Org, launched, too. It’s also retention strategy, employee satisfaction, turnover statistics, diversity statistics, predictive visualizations on finances if one area was compensated differently, or if hiring were frozen, etc. “All of those problems became mine and there was no great software out there to solve for it,” White said.

The ChartHop platform is built like all strong structures these days in the world of tech: tons of integrations to feed data into ChartHop to make it richer; tons of integrations also to export and use that data in more dedicated applications when needed; and an easy way for everyone to update data but also put in place easy and strong protections to keep confidential data as it should be.

And while HR still “owns” the platform, White said, it can be accessed and used by anyone in the organization, and it is.

It seems that others have found the talent management software market lacking for it, too. Since 2019 it went from a team of one — White himself — to 75, with 130 corporates now using its services. The list has a strong list of household company names with a heavy emphasis in tech, from what White showed me. Revenues in the last 12 months — a time when the spread-out nature of many of our workplaces has meant an even greater need for a platform to manage all the information has possibly reached a high water mark — have grown at a rate of 17% month-by-month.

“With HR and people functions so crucial to the growth and success of businesses, it’s unfortunate that most HR teams lack the critical people data to drive organizational decision making,” said David Ulevitch, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “ChartHop is the solution to this all-too-common problem, and is built by company leaders who have felt this pain personally. ChartHop’s visual approach to people analytics allows leaders to make organizational planning and strategy decisions with confidence. We’re thrilled to lead ChartHop’s Series B because of their impressive growth, the company’s vision, and the terrific, mission-oriented team they’ve assembled.” He also led the company’s seed round in February 2020.

“Since implementing ChartHop earlier this year, we’ve seen significant improvement in our engagement with talent routines as they’re managed via ChartHop,” said Sara Howe, vice president human resources at ZoomInfo, a customer of ChartHop, in a statement. “Our employees have found the simple user interface and the centralized view of their data as the most helpful features. Leaders across ZoomInfo have also leveraged ChartHop to ensure that their organizations are well structured to support our continued rapid growth.”

Feb
02
2021
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Oyster snaps up $20M for its HR platform aimed at distributed workforces

The growth of remote working and managing workforces that are distributed well beyond the confines of a centralized physical office — or even a single country — have put a spotlight on the human resources technology that organizations use to help manage those people. Today, one of the HR startups that’s been seeing a surge of growth is announcing a round of funding to double down on its business.

Oyster, a startup and platform that helps companies through the process of hiring, onboarding and then providing contractors and full-time employees in the area  of “knowledge work” with HR services like payroll, benefits and salary management, has closed a Series A round of $20 million.

The company is already working in 100 countries, and CEO and Tony Jamous (who co-founded the company with Jack Mardack) said in an interview that the plan is to expand that list of markets, and also bring in new services, particularly to address the opportunity in emerging markets to hire more people.

Currently, Oyster does not cover candidate sourcing or any of the interviewing and evaluation process: those could be areas where it might build its own tech or partner to provide them as part of its one-stop shop. It has dabbled in virtual job fairs, as a pointer to one potential product that it might explore.

“There are 1.5 billion knowledge workers coming into the workforce in the next 10 years, mostly from emerging economies, while in developed economies there are some 90 million jobs unfilled,” Jamous said. “There are super powers you can gain from being globally distributed, but it poses a major challenge around HR and payroll.”

Emergence Capital, the B2B VC that has backed the likes of Zoom, Salesforce, Bill.com and our former sister site Crunchbase, is leading the funding. The Slack Fund (Slack’s strategic investment vehicle) and London firm Connect Ventures (which has previously backed the company at seed stage) are also participating. The investment will accelerate Oyster’s rapid growth, and support its mission of enabling people to work from anywhere.

Oyster’s valuation is not being disclosed. The startup has raised about $24 million to date.

One of the great ironies of the global health pandemic is that while our worlds have become much smaller — travel and even local activities have been drastically curtailed, and many of us spend day in, day out at home — the employment opportunity and scope of how organizations are expected to operate has become significantly bigger.

Public health-enforced remote working has led to companies de-coupling workers from offices, and that has opened the door to seeking out and working with the best talent, regardless of location.

This predicament may have become more acute in the last year, but it’s been one that has been gradually coming into focus for years, helped by trends in cloud computing and globalization. Jamous said that the idea for Oyster that came to him was something he’s been thinking about for years, but became more apparent when he was still at his previous startup, Nexmo — the cloud communications provider that was acquired by Vonage for $230 million in in 2016. 

At Nexmo we wanted to be a great local employer. We were headquartered in two countries but wanted to have people everywhere,” he said. “We spent millions building employment infrastructure to do that, becoming knowledgeable about local laws in France, Korea and more countries.” He realized quickly that this was a highly inefficient way to work. “We weren’t ready for the complexity and diversity of issues that would come up.”

After he moved on from Nexmo and did some angel investing (he backs other distributed work juggernauts like Hopin, among others), he decided that he would try to tackle the workforce challenge as the focus of his next venture.

That was in mid-2019, pre-pandemic. It turned out that the timing was spot on, with every organization looking in the next year at ways to address their own distributed workforce challenges.

The emerging market focus, meanwhile, also has a direct link to Jamous himself: He left his home country of Lebanon to study in France when he was 17, and has essentially lived abroad since then. But as with many people who move from developed into emerging markets, he knew that the base of technical talent in his home country was something that was worth tapping and nurturing to help residents and the countries themselves improve their lots in life; and he thought he could use tech to help there, too.

Related to that wider social mission, Oyster has a pending application to become a B-Corporation.

Jamous is not the only one that has founded an HR company based on his personal experience: Turing’s founders have cited their own backgrounds growing up in India and working with people remotely from there as part of their own impetus for building Turing; and Remote’s founder hails from Europe but built GitLab (where he had been head of product) based on a similar premise of tapping into the talent he knew existed all around the world.

And indeed, Oyster is not alone in tackling this opportunity. The list of HR startups looking to be the ADPs of the world of distributed work include Deel, Remote, Hibob, Papaya Global, Personio, Factorial, Lattice, Turing and Rippling. And these are just some of the HR startups that have raised money in the last year; there are many, many more.

The attraction of Oyster seems to come in the simplicity of how the services are provided — you have options for contractors and full-timers, and full, larger staff deployments in other countries. You have options to add benefits for employees if you choose. And you have some tools to work out how hires fit into your bigger budgets, and also to guide you on remuneration in each local market. Pricing ranges from $29 per person, per month for contractors, to $399 for working with full employees, to other packages for larger deployments.

Oyster works with local partners to provide some aspects of these services, but it has built the technology to make the process seamless for the customer. As with other services, it essentially handles the employment and payroll as a local provider on behalf of its customers, but can do so under contract terms that reconcile both a company’s own policies and those of the local jurisdictions (which can differ widely between each other in areas like vacation time, redundancy terms, maternity leave and more).

“It has a few well-funded competitors, but that’s usually a good signal,” said Jason Green, the Emergence partner who led its investment. “But you want to bet on the horse that will lead the race, and that comes down to execution. Here, we are betting on a team that’s done it before, an entrepreneur experienced in building a company and selling it. Tony’s made money and knows how to build a business. But more than that, he’s mission driven and that will matter in the space, and to employees.”

Jan
17
2021
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Personio raises $125M on a $1.7B valuation for an HR platform targeting SMEs

With the last year changing how (and where) many of us work, organizations have started to rethink how well they manage their employees, and what tools they use to do that. Today, one of the startups that is building technology to address this challenge is announcing a major round of funding that underscores its traction to date.

Personio — the German startup that targets small- and medium-sized businesses (10-2,000 employees) with an all-in-one HR platform covering recruiting and onboarding, payroll, absence tracking and other major HR functions — has picked up $125 million in funding at a $1.7 billion post-money valuation.

The Series D is being co-led by Index Ventures and Meritech, with previous backers Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Northzone, Global Founders Capital and Picus all participating.

The $1.7 billion valuation is a big jump on the company’s $500 million valuation a year ago, and it comes after a year where the startup has doubled its revenues and was not on the hunt to raise, with much of its previous fundraising still in the bank.

Personio currently counts some 3,000 SMEs in Europe as customers.

In an interview, Hanno Renner, the co-founder and CEO of Personio, said that the startup would be using the funding to continue building out the product — which operates a little like Workday, but built for much smaller organizations — as well as expanding its presence in Europe.

Although SMEs can be a notoriously challenging customer segment, Renner said that a new opportunity has emerged: A new wave of people in the SME sector have started to realise the value of having a modern and integrated HR platform.

“We started Personio in 2016 wanting to become the leading HR platform for midmarket companies, and we knew it could be a great company, but we realize it can be hard to grasp what HR really means,” he said. “But I think what has driven our business in the past year has been the realization that HR is not just an important part, but maybe the most important part, of any business.”

It may take one magic turn to convert users, he said, by providing (as one example) tools to recruit, sign contracts and onboard new employees remotely. Still, he acknowledges that the midmarket — especially those companies not built around technology — has been “lagging for years,” with many still working off Excel spreadsheets, or even more surprisingly, pen and paper. “Supporting them by helping them to digitize in a more efficient way has been driving our business.”

Personio is not the only startup hopeful that the shift in how we work will bring a new appreciation (and appetite) for purchasing HR tools. Others like Hibob have also seen a big boost in their business and have also been raising money to tap into the opportunity more aggressively.

Hibob is looking to build in more training tools, underscoring the feature race that Personio will also have to run to keep up.

But given the sheer numbers of SMBs in the European market — more than 25 million, and accounting for more than 99% of all enterprises, according to research from the European Union — the fact that many of them have yet to adopt any kind of HR platform at all, there remains a lot of growth for a number of players.

“SMEs are the backbone of the European economy, employing 100 million people across the continent, but it is also a sector that has been neglected by software companies focused predominantly on large enterprises,” Martin Mignot, a partner at Index who sits on Personio’s board, said in a statement. “Personio changes that, having created a set of powerful tools tailored to address the needs of small businesses.”

“We have had the pleasure of working with some of the most successful SaaS companies in the world, and given Personio’s success over the past five years and the immense market potential, we strongly believe in Personio’s ability to build an equally successful and impactful business,” added Alex Clayton, general partner at Meritech Capital, in his own statement. “After many great discussions with Hanno over recent years, we are now excited to be joining the journey.” Clayton is also joining the board with this round.

Dec
10
2020
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Hibob raises $70M for its new take on human resources

Productivity software has been getting a major re-examination this year, and human resources platforms — used for hiring, firing, paying and managing employees — have been no exception. Today, one of the startups that’s built what it believes is the next generation of how HR should and will work is announcing a big fundraise, underscoring its own growth and the focus on the category.

Hibob, the startup behind the HR platform that goes by the name of “bob” (the company name is pronounced, “Hi, Bob!”), has picked up $70 million in funding at a valuation that reliable sources close to the company tell us is around $500 million.

“Our mission is to modernize HR technology,” said Ronni Zehavi, Hibob’s CEO, who co-founded the company with Israel David. “We are a people management platform for how people work today. Whether that’s remotely or physically collaborative, our customers face challenges with work. We believe that the HR platforms of the future will not be clunky systems, annoying, giant platforms. We believe it should be different. We are a system of engagement rather than record.”

The Series B is being led by SEEK and Israel Growth Partners, with participation also from Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, Eight Roads Ventures, Arbor Ventures, Presidio Ventures, Entree Capital, Cerca Partners and Perpetual Partners, the same group that also backed Hibob in its last round (a Series A extension) in 2019. It has raised $124 million to date.

The company has its roots in Israel but these days describes its headquarters as London and New York, and the funding comes on the back of strong growth in multiple markets. In an interview, Zehavi said that Hibob specialises in the mid-market customers and says that it has more than 1,000 of them currently on its books across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including Monzo, Revolut, Happy Socks, ironSource, Receipt Bank, Fiverr, Gong and VaynerMedia. In the last year Hibob has had “triple-digit” year-on-year growth (it didn’t specify what those digits are).

Human resources has never been at the more glamorous end of how a company works, and it can sometimes even be looked on with some disdain. However, HR has found itself in a new spotlight in 2020, the year when every company — whether one based around people sitting at desks or in more interactive and active environments — had to change how it worked.

That might have involved sending everyone home to sign in from offices possibly made out of corners of bedrooms or kitchens, or that might have involved a vastly different set of practices in terms of when and where workers showed up and how they interacted with people once they did. But regardless of the implementations, they all involved a team of people who needed to be linked together, still feeling connected and managed; and sometimes hired, furloughed, or let go.

That focus has started to reveal the strains of how some legacy systems worked, with older systems built to consider little more than creating an employee identity number that could then be tracked for payroll and other purposes.

Hibob — Zehavi said they chose the name after the person who owned the bob.com domain wanted too much to sell it, but they liked “bob” for the actual product — takes an approach from the ground up that is in line with how many people work today, balancing different software and apps depending on what they are doing, and linking them up by way of integrations: its own includes Slack, Microsoft Teams and Mercer, and other packages that are popular with HR departments. 

While it covers all of the necessary HR bases like payroll and further compensation, onboarding, managing time off and benefits, it further brings in a variety of other features that help build out bigger profiles of users, such as performance and culture, with the ability for peers, managers and workers themselves to provide feedback to enhance their own engagement with the company, and for the company to have a better idea of how they are fitting into the organization, and what might need more attention in the future.

That then links into a bigger organizational chart and conceptual charts that highlight strong performers, those who are possible flight risks, those who are leaders and so on. While there have been a number of others in the HR world that have built standalone apps that cover some of these features (for example, 15five was early to spot the value of a platform that made it much easier to set goals and provide feedback), what’s notable here is how they are all folded into one system together.

The end effect, as you can see here, looks less like word salad and more interactive, graphic interfaces that are presumably a lot more enjoyable and at least easier to use for HR people themselves.

The importance for investors has been that the product and the startup has identified the opportunity, but has delivered not just more engagement, but a strong piece of software that still provides the essentials.

“This is certainly not a Workday,” said Adam Fisher, a partner at Bessemer, in an interview. “Our overall thesis has been that HR is only growing in importance. And while engagement is super important, that opportunity is not enough to create the market.”

The end result is a platform that has a significant shot at building in even more over time. For example, another large area that has been seeing traction in the world of enterprise and B2B software is employee training. Specifically, enterprise learning systems are creating another way to help keep people not only up to speed on important aspects of how they work, but also engaged at a time when connections are under strain.

“Training, a SuccessFactors-style offering, is definitely in our road map,” said Zehavi, who noted they are adding new features all the time. The latest has been compensation, sometimes known as merit increase cycles. “That is a very complex issue and requires deeper integrations finance and the CFO’s office. We streamlined it and made it easy to use. We launched two months ago and it’s on fire. After learning and development there are other modules also down the road.”

Sep
29
2020
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Papaya Global raises $40M for a payroll and HR platform aimed at global workforces

Workforces are getting more global, and people who work day in, day out for organizations don’t always sit day in, day out in a single office, in a single country, to get a job done. Today, one of the startups building HR to help companies provision services for and manage those global workers better is announcing a funding round to capitalise on a surge in business that it has seen in the last year — spurred in no small part by the global health pandemic, the impact it’s had on travel and the way it has focused the minds of companies to get their cloud services and workforce management in order.

Papaya Global, an Israeli startup that provides cloud-based payroll, as well as hiring, onboarding and compliance services for organizations that employ full-time, part-time, or contract workers outside of their home country, has raised $40 million in a Series B round of funding led by Scale Venture Partners. Workday Ventures — the corporate investment arm of the HR company — Access Industries (via its Israeli vehicle Claltech), and previous investors Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, New Era Ventures, Group 11 and Dynamic Loop also participated

The money comes less than a year after its Series A of $45 million, following the company growing 300% year-over-year annually since 2016. It has now raised $95 million and is not disclosing valuation. But Eynat Guez, the CEO who co-founded the company in that year with Ruben Drong and Ofer Herman, said in an interview that it’s 5x the valuation it had in its round last year.

Its customers include fast-growing startups (precisely the kind of customer that not only has global workforces, but is expanding its employee base quickly) like OneTrust, nCino and Hopin, as well as major corporates like Toyota, Microsoft, Wix and General Dynamics.

Guez said Papaya Global was partly born out of the frustrations she herself had with HR solutions — she’s worked in the field for years. Different countries have different employment regulations, varied banking rules, completely different norms in terms of how people get paid, and so on. While there have been some really modern tools built for local workforces — Rippling, Gusto and Zenefits now going head to head with incumbents like ADP — they weren’t built to address these issues.

Other HR people who have dealt with international workers would understand her pain; those who control the purse strings might have been less aware of the fragmentation. All that changed in the last eight months (and for the foreseeable future), a period when companies have had to reassess everything about how they work to make sure that they can get through the current period without collapsing.

“The major impact of COVID-19 for us has been changing attitudes,” said Guez. “People usually think that payroll works by itself, but it’s one of the more complex parts of the organization, covering major areas like labor, accounting, tax. Eight months ago, a lot of clients thought, it just happens. But now they realize they didn’t have control of the data, some don’t even have a handle on who is being paid.”

As people moved into and out of jobs, and out of offices into working from home, as the pandemic kicked off, some operations fell apart as a result, she said. “Payroll continuity is like IT continuity, and so all of a sudden when COVID started its march, we had prospects calling us saying they didn’t have data on, for example, their Italian employees, and the office they were using wasn’t answering the phone.”

Guez herself is walking the walk on the remote working front. Papaya Global itself has offices around the world, and Guez is normally based in Tel Aviv. But our interview was conducted with her in the Maldives. She said she and her family decided to decamp elsewhere before Israel went into a second lockdown, which was very tough to handle in a small flat with small children. Working anywhere, as we have found out, can work.

The company is not the only one that has identified and is building to help organizations handle global workforces. In fact, just when you think the unemployment, furlough and layoff crunch is affecting an inordinate number of people and the job market is in a slump, a rush of them, along with other HR companies, have all been announcing significant funding rounds this year on the back of surges in business.

Others that have raised money during the pandemic include Deel, which like Papaya Global is also addressing the complexities of running global workforces; Turing, which helps with sourcing and then managing international teams; Factorial with its platform targeting specifically SMBs; Lattice focused on the bigger challenges of people management; and Rippling, the second act from Zenefits’ Parker Conrad.

“Papaya Global’s accelerating growth is a testament to their top-notch executive leadership as well as their ability to streamline international payroll management, a first for many enterprises that have learned to live with highly manual payroll processes,” said Rory O’Driscoll, a partner at Scale Venture Partners, in a statement. “The complexity and cost of managing multi-region workforces cannot be understated. Eynat and her team are uniquely serving their customers’ needs, bringing an advanced SaaS platform into a market long-starved for more effective software solutions.”

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