Louisville-based startup Red e App, a real-time private mobile messaging platform for enterprises with a high proportion of mobile workers that lets them send secure, trackable internal communications, has closed a $750,000 Series A round led by early-stage Louisville-based VC fund Yearling Fund II.
It may sound a little dry on the surface but Red e App is the latest example of ongoing upheaval in the enterprise space, as the consumerisation of IT powers product-driven innovation — blowing the dust off developing for business and driving shiny new tools into the hands of workers so they can actually get stuff done.
The Red e App platform uses push notifications to power company-wide broadcasts, group messaging and one-to-one communications sent direct to smartphones and tablets, bypassing — so its pitch goes — fusty old VPNs and tediously clogged email inboxes. The startup is specifically targeting employers who need to reach staff who probably don’t have an email address and even if they do, certainly don’t have time to be checking it all the time. These are workers in customer-facing roles, with only their mobile device to hand — so healthcare workers, restaurant and retail staff, teachers, blue collar workers and the like.
We’ve looked at Windows, we’ve looked at BlackBerry but we’re concerned about both
Red e App argues that enterprise social network tools such as Yammer are also not best suited to this type of worker, while SMS is too basic and incurs carrier fees so also falls short. Its biggest competitors are “traditional comms”, says Erwin — meaning the dog-eared paper leaflet pinned to staff notice boards. Or the quarterly corporate email that languishes unread in an overlooked inbox. Better, quicker, faster corporate communication is the problem its setting out to solve.
“We connect employers to employees via their mobile devices. We’ve taken the cool stuff from email and texting capability and then layered on the management, the control, the measurement and the security and privacy for the corporations that they request,” explains Red e App CEO Jonathan Erwin. “We’re not text, and we’re not email. So it’s a dedicated inbox from employer to employee… We also delegate workflow and messaging capabilities to field-based management.”
Examples of corporate comms that can be sent out via the Red e App platform includes schedules, rotas and timetables, plus real-time company-wide or group-specific notifications. The app also supports multiple networks being created within the app, so users can segment communications to different corporate divisions or by topic (professors sending specific content to different groups of students is an example Erwin gives).
The platform encrypts data both in transit and when at rest on the device, to comply with healthcare compliance requirements, and also includes the ability to remotely wipe an employee’s device — so that’s the mobile device management check-box ticked, too. Red e App, which launched its product to the market last June, has more than 20 enterprise customers at present — each with between 40,000 and 200 employees apiece — and is seeing around 20 downloads of its app per day, according to Erwin.
“What we do is we open up this direct communication link to the employees,” Erwin continues. “We’re also able to drop content like a mobile intranet on their device, so there’s no more of this VPN tunnel back and forth, or none of this onerous management console and parameters and feature sets of the MDM [mobile device management] companies.”
Red e App said it will use the Series A funding to scale its operations, boost product-development efforts and expand sales and marketing initiatives over the next six to nine months. “We’re really trying to take a smart approach to utilizing the money to secure relationships, to get people who have a louder voice than we do the understanding of what we do, and the methodology to our market,” says Erwin.
“We’re just initiating relations with PR companies, with Gartner — we’ve just signed on with Gartner to share with the analysts in the space what we do and what our methodology is all about,” he adds. “We need people to understand the methodology, the existing problem and then keep them talking about it.”
Red e App has raised just shy of $1 million in total funding to date, since the company was founded in 2011 — having been bootstrapping and taking a “thoughtful” approach to the market, says Erwin. Its Series A round was oversubscribed (not an unusual story for an enterprise startup in the current business-friendly investment climate) and it intends to pursue a Series B round “right after,” he adds. “We have very little time to rest.”
Its two priority markets are healthcare and retail and the restaurant industry, which both have a plentiful supply of mobile workers for Red e App to tap into, and in the the latter case also have relatively high staff turnover. “Those are our big markets to start, and that’s where we’ve had the most traction but we think civic organisations are very big, too… because they have so many people and constituents and audiences to talk to. Even corporations that have events — we can be a great event app.”
The platform supports iOS, iPad, Android (smartphones and tablets) and Kindle Fire at present — but does not support Windows or BlackBerry yet. “We’ve looked at Windows, we’ve looked at BlackBerry but we’re concerned about both,” says Erwin. He adds that he can envisage adding support in future, should a large enough customer request it, but for now the startup’s resources are being concentrated on the consumer platforms du jour: iOS and Android.