When you think about things that need to be disrupted, the entryway sign-in book is probably the last thing on your mind. And yet.
Having spent four years at Google and three years at Twitter as a backend engineer, Larry Gadea started building Envoy, an iPad-based, visitor-registration system, this past November. At Twitter, Gadea was part of the team that built “Murder,” a BitTorrent for the data center that decreased their deploys from hours to seconds. Basically, Murder killed the Fail Whale.
After he left Twitter, Gadea spent a lot of time visiting his friends at other tech companies. “I’d have to sign in on a clipboard at companies like Airbnb, whereas Google and Apple had built their own solution. ‘Google and Apple really have their sh*t together,'” Gadea thought. “Why isn’t there an Airbnb sign-in software? These companies [Apple, Google] whose core competencies are something different, have assigned someone to this. It must be really important.”
So Gadea gathered a team of four (Teng Siong Ong, Ben Angel, Kamal Mahyuddin and Wells Riley) and attempted to build a design-savvy, white-label, visitor-management system that initially launched in the App Store last year as a one-time, $19.99 purchase. The company now monetizes through a SaaS model, and there are two tiers of Envoy, at a $99 and $249 a month price point per building. Today it is opening up sign-ups to all.
The lower Envoy tier includes unlimited sign-in, NDA signing, photos, badge printing and SMS and email notification. The higher tier includes pre-registration, a security desk and custom badges.
A sleek, streamlined offering that aims to compete by being well-designed and cloud-based, as well as by integrating with products like Slack and Hipchat, Envoy stands on the shoulders of Consumerprise startups like Box and Zendesk. “Enterprise pays for it so we get the big bucks, but the users are consumers; that’s why we need to have a really good interface,” Gadea says.
There are a profusion of tablet visitor management apps, including “Sign In for iPad,” “Reception for iPad” and various skeuomorphic sign-in booklets. “There’s some other stuff out there, but nobody is taking it seriously doing only this,” says Gadea, who can be pretty blunt in person.
Off of the iPad, Envoy aims to unseat the incumbent HID Global’s software EasyLobby through usability and its elegant, mobile focused UI — a “Square Wallet” for the office.
There is a ton of growth opportunity for the product, and extrapolated to its fullest potential, Envoy could function as a sort of “TSA Pre” for your life. With the increasing prevalence of phone sensors, NFC, iBeacon products like Estimote and the Apple Watch, it’s plausible that users could one day have their own Envoy ID, which automatically logs them in as visitors wherever they visit, keeping track of those visits.
Gadea has his sights set on such a use case, and is as excited about Envoy as a big data and CRM play competitive with existing card-management systems. Perhaps it is telling that Marc Benioff is a seed investor?
In addition to Benioff’s investment, the company has raised $1.5 million from Adam D’Angelo, Jeremy Stoppelman, Razmig Hovaghimian, Yishan Wong, Harj Taggar, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Blake Krikorian, Semil Shah, Tobi Lutke, Yun-Fang Juan, Bobby Goodlatte, Kent Liu, Tammy Nam, Javier Olivan and Ali Rosenthal.
Gadea holds that companies that don’t have a receptionist or are fewer than 10 people aren’t the ideal customer for Envoy. In addition, doctors’ offices most likely need to wait until the product is HIPAA-compliant to fully leverage it.
“Close to profitable,” the company now has 250 paying customers, including the incredible “Big Ass Fans,” which at 200 employees was initially the largest business using Envoy. About 30 percent of their customers are non-tech. “We’re in use at oil refineries, churches, finance companies, advertising agencies, schools, factories, warehouses and, yes, tech companies,” Gadea says.
“Rather than spending time updating a home-brewed visitor registration app as a side project, we’d rather work with a company that’s laser focused on building the very best technology in this category,” raved John Allen, an IT systems engineer at Box. Box loves the product.
Other tech customers include Lyft, Pixar, Jawbone, Yelp, Palantir and, yes, Airbnb. Finally.