One month after entering the spend management space, Rippling goes after global payroll


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When Parker Conrad founded Rippling in 2016, the HR company initially focused on the process of onboarding employees. It has since evolved  to manage all aspects of employee data, from payroll and benefits, to the apps employees use, to a device management platform that enables Rippling’s customers to retrieve, wipe clean and store employee computers when staffers part ways with a company, as TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos reported last year.

Today, at TechCrunch Disrupt, Rippling unveiled what Conrad describes as the “biggest launch” of his career — its new global payroll product.

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in remote work with companies who had previously resisted hiring employees globally suddenly being forced to embrace the concept. One of the reasons companies resisted the move for so long is the myriad compliance and administrative headaches that come with paying people in other countries.

In the past couple of years, a number of startups have emerged to tackle the problem — including Deel, Remote and Remofirst. 

And now, Rippling is out to take on all those startups — including Deel, which is actually a client of Rippling’s — with its new global offering. He says it will give U.S.-based companies a way to pay workers all over the world — whether they be full-time or contract — more “seamlessly.” Conrad claims his startup has an edge on its competition because its payroll product is integrated with its existing workforce platform — making it easier for companies to integrate it with all of their existing data. This full-stack approach is intentional, the executive says.

An employee graph, which houses all employee data, sits at the bottom of Rippling’s tech stack. Then on top of that, the company has what it calls middleware components, such as reports and analytics, custom policies and permissions such as role-based permissions workflow automation. 

“Companies can now hire, pay and manage a workforce across the world in one unified system, with the same powerful automation, policies and analytics no matter where employees are based,” he said.  

Conrad also touts the speed at which businesses can move — saying that companies can onboard employees and contractors in 90 seconds, run payroll “in minutes” in everyone’s local currency and automate global compliance.

The executive also makes a lofty charge — that other players in the space are “actually payroll aggregators.”

“They’re companies that are sitting on top of a series of other local partners in terms of the actual payroll systems that they’re using. And so they’ve got these different systems in different countries, and that creates this sort of like shitty experience for clients,” Conrad charges. “Rippling is the first one that’s actually built a single payroll system that can pay people around the globe. I swear this is the world’s first global payroll system.”

Conrad is no stranger to the HR tech game. He previously founded Zenefits, which actually launched on the Disrupt stage at Battlefield in 2013. The entrepreneur resigned after that company faced compliance issues, and just months later, he founded Rippling. His return to the space has thus far proven to be more successful than his first venture. Exactly one year ago today, Rippling raised $250 million in a round that valued the company at $6.5 billion. As TC’s Loizos pointed out, that deal made Rippling more valuable than Zenefits ever was before it sold a controlling interest earlier this year to a private equity firm. Then in May of this year, the startup raised an additional $250 million at a staggering $11.25 billion valuation, officially propelling it to decacorn status.

And now, with Rippling’s expansion into new verticals, the startup is branching out its offerings — and revenue streams. Just last month, Rippling unveiled its new spend management offering, putting it in direct competition with the likes of Brex, Ramp, TripActions and Airbase, among many other players in the space. By adding global payroll, Conrad believes Rippling’s product suite is stronger than ever.

I think that a lot of the advice around how to build technology companies is wrong. I think that people have for 20 years told startup founders that what you want to do is to build something extremely narrow. And so people have been building hundreds of these little, extremely narrow, like point solution SasS businesses,” Conrad told TechCrunch. “We’ve sort of forgotten about the benefits of deep systems integration and bundled contracting and pricing because 20 years ago, you could count the number of business software vendors on one hand.”

In his view, the shift to the cloud changed that and created an opportunity for entrepreneurs to turn individual features from companies such as SAP and Microsoft and rebuild them into standalone SaaS services. The founder is confident about Rippling’s multi-pronged approach of building multiple products in parallel.

“The shift to the cloud is largely complete and now we’re seeing a shift back to all-in-one, cloud native systems, where I think, Rippling is going to dominate,” Conrad said.

Parker Conrad’s Rippling is now valued at $6.5 billion — more than Zenefits at its peak

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