The COVID-19 pandemic, with its by-product of social distancing to help reduce the spread of infection, led to many organizations working in a far more distributed way than they had in the past, and that put a big spotlight on how well companies collaborated and communicated — not just under the circumstances, but as part of their deeper culture. Today, one of the startups building communications tools that saw a big boost in business as a result of that trend is announcing a large round of funding, underscoring its success in filling that need. Staffbase, which helps internal teams craft, send out and measure the impact of their communications with their organizations, has raised $115 million in funding, a Series E that catapults the company’s valuation to $1.1 billion.
The funding comes on the heels of the company reaching 2,000 enterprise customers, covering some 13 million workers in all.
General Atlantic led the round with Insight Partners also participating (the pair respectively led and participated in the startup’s previous round a year ago). Staffbase will be using the funding to continue building out more integrations and functionality across its product — with a specific focus on integrating Microsoft’s full 365 suite — as well as continue expanding its business overall from its base in Chemnitz, Germany.
There are dozens of tools in the market today built in the name of workplace communication and collaboration — which itself has quickly become a huge and somewhat nebulous category in the area of enterprise IT. They include the likes of Slack and Teams for chatting or sharing files, Asana for project management, Zoom or Google Meet for video collaboration, Airtable for sharing and collaborating around spreadsheet-style templates, dozens of apps aimed at frontline workers (one recent biggie on the fundraising front is Connecteam, which raised $120 million earlier this month) and more.
Staffbase sits both alongside but distinctly separate from these various tools. Martin Böhringer, its co-founder and CEO, tells me that part of its unique selling point lies in the fact that its primary customer target is the internal communications team, which is not typically the primary focus for any of those other tools.
Staffbase has built a platform for constructing and sending out communications, and measuring their impact, and in itself it offers a full suite of communications products — it provides an email app, tools to build and manage an intranet and an employee app that workers can use to communicate with each other and hear announcements and more from management (this last one looks very similar to Workplace from Meta) — but it also provides a way for its users (the internal comms teams) also to integrate and leverage whatever tools an organization might already be using for any of these functions if their intention is not to reinvent the wheel.
“We integrate existing apps, or we can also provide a replacement for them,” he said. “One thing that makes us stand out is that we are not a point solution.”
Internal comms often gets the thin end of the attention wedge in the workplace: you may be head-down working on whatever project you need to complete, or goal you need to meet, by a certain deadline; or you may simply be busy with the immediate demands of your job. In any case, all those in themselves will come with a lot of communications noise and distraction. In that context, internal comms might often feel less urgent or immediate to what you need to do.
That’s not the full story, of course, and that issue has become ever more acute in recent years as companies need to move into different modes of working, or have undergone huge transformation projects. Keeping in touch with staff becomes more critical, but the messages you are sending out might actually carry more information and weight than previously, too. All this has given a new imperative to internal comms teams to use better tools to reach people and approach their jobs with more focus, leveraging technology that other departments like marketing have used to measure impact and reach, for example.
Böhringer believes that “internal comms has become a business-critical area. If they can reach hearts and minds, they really can change behavior, and that is important in times of change or transformation, where you have hybrid teams, newer or younger employees, or if you are working with products that have had to completely evolve. Sometimes these need to be super-fast, significant shifts. And so teams are looking for solutions to elevate that.”
That shift also potentially opens the door to a wider set of use cases around what an internal comms team might develop, and how it might deliver that information to employees and other staff. Workplace training and education has yet to be an area that Staffbase has explored, Böhringer said, although it is an obvious evolution for the platform, given that gamification has long been seen as one way of engaging staff around new policies and news. For now the traction it has seen and the gap it’s filling in the market have helped it step into the big leagues of communications tools.
“Staffbase’s significant growth demonstrates the global resonance of its mission to enable deeper engagement between enterprises and their employees. As the world continues to adapt to new modalities of working, and as enterprise workforces become increasingly international, connectivity and communication will become more valuable than ever before,” said Achim Berg, operating partner at General Atlantic, in a statement. “We are proud to back Martin and the Staffbase team as they develop solutions that have a positive impact on organizations worldwide.”