What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?
That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.
Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.
Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL.
Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.
Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”
Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.
Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”
The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag.
“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”
Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.
Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.
“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”
Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.
Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.
The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia.
JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.
“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”
JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.
“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”
The customer section of this article was updated post-publication