Jul
21
2021
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Yoobic raises $50M for its chat and communications app aimed at frontline and service workers

Slack set the standard in many ways for what knowledge workers want and expect out of a workplace collaboration app these days, but a lot has been left on the table when it comes to frontline workers. Today, one of the software companies that has built a popular app for that frontline crowd to become a part of the conversation is announcing a funding round that speaks to the opportunity to do more.

Yoobic, which provides an app for frontline and service workers to manage tasks, communicate with each other and management, and also go through training, development and other e-learning tasks, has picked up $50 million.

Highland Europe led the round, a Series C, with previous investors Felix Capital, Insight Partners and a family office advised by BNF Capital Limited also participating. (Felix led Yoobic’s Series A, while Insight Partners led the Series B in 2019.) Yoobic is not discussing valuation, but from what I understand from a reliable source, it is now between $300 million and $400 million.

The funding comes at a time of strong growth for the company.

Yoobic works with some 300 big brands in 80 countries altogether covering a mammoth 335,000 locations in sectors like retail, hospitality, distribution and manufacturing. Its customers include the likes of the Boots pharmacy chain, Carrefour supermarkets, Lancôme, Lacoste, Logitech, Lidl, Peloton, Puma, Vans, VF Corp, Sanofi, Untuckit, Roots, Canada Goose, Longchamp, Lidl, Zadig & Voltaire and Athletico.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s estimated that there are 2.7 billion “deskless” (frontline and service) workers globally, accounting for no less than 80% of the world’s workforce. But here is the shocker: only 1% of IT budgets is currently spent on them. That speaks of huge opportunity for startups to build more here, but only if they (or the workers themselves) can manage to convince those holding the purse strings that it’s worth the investment.

So to that end, the funding will be used to hire more talent, to expand geographically — founded in London, the company is now headquartered in New York — and to expand its product. Specifically, Yoobic plans to build more predictive analytics to improve responsiveness and give more insight to companies about their usage, and to build out more tools to cater to specific verticals in the world of frontline work, such as manufacturing, logistics and transportation, Fabrice Haiat, CEO and co-founder of YOOBIC, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Yoobic started life several years ago with a focus specifically on retail — an area that it was concentrating on as recently as its last round in 2019, providing tools to help with merchandizing, communicating about stock between stores and more. While retail is still a sizeable part of its business, Yoobic saw an opening to expand into a wider pool of verticals with frontline and service employees that had many of the same demands as retail.

That turned out to be a fortunate pivot as the pandemic struck.

“COVID-19 had a big impact on us,” said Haiat, who co-founded the company with brothers Avi and Gilles. “The first two months we were in panic mode. But what happened was that businesses realized that frontline employees were critical to the success of their operations.”

Since COVID hit last year, he said that activity on the platform rose by 200%, and earlier this year it passed 1 million activities per month on its platform. “We are growing like crazy,” Haiat said.

There are a number of reasons why building for frontline workers is important. Roaming around without a fixed desk, spending more time with customers than looking at a screen or in meetings, and generally having different business priorities and practices are just a few of the reasons why software built for the former doesn’t necessarily work for the latter.

There have been a number of companies that have aimed to build services to address that gap — they stretch back years, in fact. And there have been some interesting moves to consolidate in the market among those building some of the more successful tools for people in the field: Crew recently got acquired by Square; ServiceMax acquired Zinc; and Facebook’s Workplace has been on a march to amass some of the world’s biggest companies as customers of its own communications platform with a strong play for frontline workers.

Haiat argues that while all of these are fine and well, none of them understand the full scope of the kinds of tools that those in the field really need. That ranges from practical features (such as a way to handle inventory management), through to features that companies would love to have for their employees as long as they can be delivered in an easy way (such as professional development and training). In that context, the basic communications that all of the current crop of apps for frontline workers offer feel like basic table stakes.

That close understanding of the gap in the market and what is needed to fix it is one reason why the company has seen such strong growth, as well as interest from investors.

“We’re excited to partner with YOOBIC, which, thanks to the highly impressive team led by Fabrice, Avi and Gilles, has clearly established itself as a leader in the digital workplace space with demonstrable market traction and impressive growth,” said Jean Tardy-Joubert, partner at Highland Europe, in a statement. “While companies have historically focused on digital investments for deskbound employees, the world is becoming distributed and decentralized. We anticipate a seismic shift that will see huge resources, technology, and capital shifted toward frontline teams.” Tardy-Joubert will be joining the Yoobic board with this round.

Jun
20
2019
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Slack opens at $38.50, a pop of 48% on its first day of trading on NYSE as WORK

Slack, the workplace messaging platform that has helped define a key category of enterprise IT, made its debut as a public company today with a pop. Trading as “WORK” on the New York Stock Exchange, it opened at $38.50 after setting a reference price last night of $26, valuing it at $15.7 billion, and then setting a bid/asking price of $37 this morning.

The trading climbed up quickly in its opening minutes and went as high as $42 and is now down to $38.95. We’ll continue to update this as the day goes on. These prices are pushing the market cap to around $20 billion.

Note: There was no “money raised” with this IPO ahead of today because Slack’s move into being a publicly traded company is coming by way of a direct listing — meaning the shares went directly on the market with no pre-sale. This is a less-conventional route that doesn’t involve bankers underwriting the listing (nor all the costs that come along with the roadshow and the rest). It also means Slack does not raise a large sum ahead of public trading. But it does let existing shareholders trade shares without dilution and is an efficient way of going public if you’re not in need of an immediate, large cash injection. It’s a route that Spotify also took when it went public last year, and, from the front-page article on NYSE.com, it seems that there might be growing interest in this process — or at least, that the NYSE would like to promote it as an option.

Slack’s decision to go slightly off-script is in keeping with some of the ethos that it has cultivated over the last several years as one of the undisputed juggernauts of the tech world. Its rocket ship has been a product that has touched on not one but three different hot growth areas: enterprise software-as-a-service, messaging apps and platform plays that, by way of APIs, can become the touchstone and nerve center for a seemingly limitless number of other services.

What’s interesting about Slack is that — contrary to how some might think of tech — the journey here didn’t start as rocket science.

Slack was nearly an accidental creation, a byproduct that came out of how a previous business, Tiny Speck, was able to keep its geographically spread-out team communicating while building its product, the game Glitch. Glitch and Tiny Speck failed to gain traction, so after they got shut down, the ever-resourceful co-founder Stewart Butterfield did what many founders who still have some money in the bank and fire in their bellies do: a pivot. He took the basic channel they were using and built it (with some help) into the earliest public version of what came to be known as Slack.

But from that unlikely start something almost surprising happened: the right mix of ease of use, efficient responsiveness and functionality — in aid of those already important areas of workplace communication, messaging and app integration — made Slack into a huge hit. Quickly, Slack became the fastest-growing piece of enterprise software ever in terms of adding users, with a rapid succession of funding rounds (raising over $1.2 billion in total), valuation hikes and multiple product improvements along the way to help it grow.

Today, like many a software-as-a-service business that is less than 10 years old and investing returns to keep up with its fast-growing business, Slack is not profitable.

In the fiscal year that ended January 31, 2019, it reported revenues in its S-1 of $400.6 million, but with a net loss of $138.9 million. That was a slight improvement on its net loss from the previous fiscal year of $140.1 million, with a big jump on revenue, which was $220.5 million.

But its growth and the buzz it has amassed has given it a big push. As of January 31, it clocked up over 10 million daily active users across 600,000 organizations, with 88,000 of them on paid plans and 550,000 using the free version of the app. It will be interesting to see how and if that goodwill and excitement outweighs some of those financial bum notes.

Or, in some cases, possibly other bum notes. The company has made “Work” not just its ticker but its mantra. Its slogan is “Where work happens” and it focuses on how its platform helps make people more productive. But as you might expect, not everyone feels that way about it, with the endless streams of notifications, the slightly clumsy way of handling threaded conversations and certain other distracting features raising the ire of some people. (Google “Slack is a distraction” and you can see some examples of those dissenting opinions.)

Slack has had its suitors over the years, unsurprisingly, and at least one of them has in the interim made a product to compete with it. Teams, from Microsoft, is one of the many rival platforms on the market looking to capitalise on the surge of interest for chat and collaboration platforms that Slack has helped usher in. Other competitors include Workplace from Facebook, Mattermost and Flock, along with Threads and more.

May
09
2019
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Against the Slacklash

Such hate. Such dismay. “How Slack is ruining work.” “Actually, Slack really sucks.” “Slack may actually be hurting your workplace productivity.” “Slack is awful.” Slack destroys teams’ ability to think, plan & get complex work out the door.” “Slack is a terrible collaboration tool.” “Face it, Slack is ruining your life.”

Contrarian view: Slack is not inherently bad. Rather, the particular way in which you are misusing it epitomizes your company’s deeper problems. I’m the CTO of a company which uses Slack extensively, successfully, and happily — but because we’re a consultancy, I have also been the sometime member of dozens of others’ Slack workspaces, where I have witnessed all the various flavors of flaws recounted above. In my experience, those are not actually caused by Slack.

Please note that I am not saying “Slack is just a tool, you have to use it correctly.” Even if that were so, a tool which lends itself so easily to being used so badly would be a bad tool. What I’m saying is something more subtle, and far more damning: that Slack is a mirror which reflects the pathologies inherent in your workplace. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Slacks, but in ourselves.

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