The chance that I am ever willing to commute on a regular basis again in the future is zero. It’s too inefficient. And while workers and employers are somewhat split on where they stand on the question of remote toil, the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently shaken up the working world; we’re not going back to the pre-COVID normal.
To support what could be droves of workers sticking to distance-labor instead of returning to offices, Firstbase is building a software-and-hardware solution to quickly get remote workers the tools and support they need. And today the company announced that it closed a $13 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz. B Capital Group and Alpaca VC also put capital into the round; TechCrunch first caught wind of Firstbase when it took part in an Acceleprise accelerator cohort in mid-2020.
Notably Firstbase didn’t start with its current product focus. As is common amongst startups, it was born as something else entirely. With an original fintech bent, the company went remote back in 2018. But the experience wasn’t stellar, Firstbase co-founder and CEO Chris Herd told TechCrunch. It was hard to get workers the technology they needed, and hard to get it back if they left the company, he explained.
Later, with the fintech effort low on capital and time, the company realized that some internal tech it had built to help support remote staff’s hardware and software needs might have broader application. Firstbase pivoted in late 2019, and by March of 2020 Herd told TechCrunch that his company had 600 companies on its waitlist. That number has since multiplied.
The company’s product is two-fold. It’s a software service that helps companies track and manage their hardware assets that remote workers use. And it’s a hardware service that can pre-install software on hardware and ship it to employees, and provide remote IT support. Notably customers can either use Firstbase’s software alone, which they pay for on a SaaS basis, or both its software and hardware offerings.
Firstbase has two sources of gross margin. Its software business will generate obvious software incomes, and the company can extract gross profit from its hardware business, Herd explained. The hardware part of the startup’s model appears more nascent than the software component. Firstbase only began onboarding customers last November, making it a yet-nascent startup that is allowed to still be figuring things out.
TechCrunch asked Herd what it costs to kit out a remote worker today. He said that it varied, but could land between $2,000 and $5,000, though he added that Firstbase will allow customers to pay those costs over time as a series of flat payments.
What’s ahead for the company? Per its CEO, the merely 10-person company, three of whom are part-time, would like to grow its staff by four or five-fold this year. And unsurprisingly, Firstbase intends to hew to its remote roots, meaning that it won’t be looking for workers in a single geographic region. Some of the staff it intends to hire will be in its sales org, a focus that Herd mentioned during our interview. The company will also build out more enterprise-friendly software features with its new capital, allowing it to target larger customers.
Let’s see how far Firstbase can scale with its Series A. And if it gets pre-empted before the year ends.