StarLeaf takes $40M to keep growing its videoconferencing as a service business

UK teleconference company StarLeaf, which sells cloud-based video and conferencing services to businesses, has taken on its first external capital close to a decade after first being founded, back in 2008. The $40 million round is co-led by Highland Europe and Grafton Capital.

StarLeaf, which was founded by three telecoms and video conferencing entrepreneurs who together previously founded and sold three other networking companies (Madge Networks, Calista and Codian), started selling cloud services to customers in 2013 — and says usage of its platform is now doubling year over year.

Its sales pitch is interoperability with “every” third-party meeting/conferencing technology, atop a fully owned and operated global video comms network, called the StarLeaf OpenCloud platform. It says this network has full redundancy and duplication across its eight points of presence across North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia; industry standard AES-128 encryption covering all video conferences and calls; “exceptional” quality of service and call quality regardless of network, via use of technologies such as resilient codecs and dynamic bandwidth management; a single dashboard-based management portal for granularly controlling deployments; and a focus on offering user-friendly, rich end-point features such as screen sharing; the ability to transfer video calls to other users; the ability to add more participants to a one-to-one video call; a centrally managed address book and so on.

With the pitch on the functionality front of its platform being its offering cloud-based capabilities that might otherwise only be available to businesses investing “hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive on-premise video infrastructure”.

Underpinning its platform architecture is a clear conviction that video communication is of growing importance to businesses — for example, it notes that two-thirds of its 100 million+ annual call minutes are ad hoc point-to-point video calls between users, rather than scheduled meetings. (Though of course the network also supports audio-only comms.)

StarLeaf says its platform is currently being sold into 50 countries worldwide, with what it dubs a “rapidly growing” enterprise client base in Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, “especially” over the past two years — noting for example that it’s signed up 150 new clients with 1,000+ employees in 2016 vs 65 in 2015. At this point it says it has more than 1,000 customers, including the likes of Travelex, Bose, and Dr Martens.

The new funding will be used to support this growth momentum — including by investing in its Asia Pacific business to step up activity there. It says it’s also intending to double its 130-strong headcount in the next 18 months — having done the same in the past 18 months.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Laurence Garrett, partner at Highland Europe, said: “StarLeaf has built its solution from the ground up which gives it a real advantage in ease of use and quality. It offers real interoperability between different vendors which is unique in this market place and is delivering really high quality calls and a brilliant level of service.”