Working these days is not what it used to be. To enforce social distancing and slow the spread of the COVID-19 health pandemic, many of us have decamped from our offices to our homes, we only connect with colleagues and others virtually, and it’s all too easy to lose sight of our focus and strategy in the midst of it all.
But in the grand tradition of enterprise IT, that creates an opportunity, and today, a startup called Lattice, whose platform helps track, reward and set goal achievement in the workplace, has closed a round of $45 million to help address some of those issues.
The funding, a Series D, is being led by Tiger Global with participation from Frontline Ventures, Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Thrive Capital Partners, Fuel Capital, and Y Combinator. It values the company at around $400 million, CEO and co-founder Jack Altman (whose brother Sam used to run Y Combinator and is now at OpenAI…) said in an interview. It doubles Lattice’s valuation since October 2019, when the startup closed a Series C of $25 million, also led by Tiger Global.
The healthy bump in valuation is a sign of the times: while the novel coronavirus spread has led to a lot of strain on certain sectors of the world of tech (and more generally certain industries like travel), others have found themselves seeing big surges of demand. Lattice has bumped up its own customers numbers to 1,900 businesses, from 1,400 in October (with their size in the 50-1,500 range generally) and Altman says that Lattice’s employee count, which now numbers around 200, has grown at the same rate.
The reason for the good growth? Lattice, along with companies like it, have taken on a key role — that of providing structure in an organisation — at a time when we have lost a lot of that.
“In March and April our customers were transferring to remote and business slowed down, a lot,” he said. “Now, it’s picked up.”
Indeed, “workplace” has taken on a very different meaning for many of us in these COVID-19 days, but some might argue that as the workplace concept stretches and is tested, it’s more important than ever for individuals to have a sense of how they are doing within it.
Lattice’s product covers a spectrum of tools that both tap into the idea of proactive usage, and more passive data flow, both to help build up a picture of how employees are doing, and also to help provide better communication of goals achieved between those employees and their managers.
It includes software to give and get feedback and run reviews, set goals for employees, deliver praise, and get updates on what people are working on. It also features integrations with other platforms like Slack that help communicate “wins” but also track these milestones so that they can feed into an analytics engine to help facilitate the process of taking stock during review time, both for employees themselves as well as their managers.
All of these are great, but even so probably still only scratch the tip of the iceberg in terms of how productivity can be better managed longer term using new innovations such as artificial intelligence.
Altman (Jack, not Sam) says that he believes we are at least five years away from realistically building AI platforms that can seamlessly track all our work activity, both within our work apps and in a wider network of digital activity — to provide us with real time updates on how we are doing, what we’re doing well but also how we could be doing better.
That’s before considering whether we are ready to accept that kind of concept as helpful and not dystopian. Lattice, he added, is definitely interested in that long-term goal even as it continues to build products that can address performance management as it’s known and identified as a business area today.
The challenges of today, in any case, are no less massive and already a big shift, considering the move many of us have made to new work environments, which for some will take a long time to return to “normal” or at least start to feel “normal” and routine again.
That’s the bigger opportunity for companies like Lattice, which compete not only against other pure-play platforms like BetterWorks or 15Five, but also those that integrate performance management into wider human resources platforms like Workday. While the two may co-exist for a long time, it means that for a company like Lattice, it has both opportunities to continue and grow as a standalone service, as well as one that might potentially get snapped up in that wider consolidation trend.
“In the migration to a more remote world, the tools for organizations to help manage, engage, and develop their teams are more important than ever,” said Miles Grimshaw, Partner at Thrive Capital, in a statement. “We’re excited to further advance the impact of Lattice’s employee success platform.”