Startups

Sona, a frontline workforce management platform, raises $27.5M with eyes on US expansion

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Sona co-founder Steffen Wulff Petersen flanked by Ben Dixon (left) and Oli Johnson (right)
Image Credits: Sona / Founders: Steffen Wulff Petersen flanked by Ben Dixon (left) and Oli Johnson (right)

Sona, a workforce management platform for frontline employees, has raised $27.5 million in a Series A round of funding.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce are reportedly in frontline jobs, which might be anything from customer service and healthcare to retail environments and hospitality. But managing this vast workforce, ensuring roles are filled and service is delivered, is resource intensive. That is where Sona has been setting out to help since its foundation three years ago.

“Sona intelligently deploys our customers’ largest cost base — frontline labor,” Sona’s co-founder, Steffen Wulff Petersen, told TechCrunch. “This not only optimizes their cost base, it also directly drives more revenue — you can’t sell food or deliver care without staff being scheduled correctly.”

Founded in London in 2021, Sona helps companies manage just about every facet of their frontline workforce, from shift scheduling, timesheets and soliciting feedback to absence management and connecting with agencies to ensure shifts are covered during staff shortages.

Managers typically access Sona via a web portal, while workers access the platform via a mobile app with which they can complete timesheets, view available shifts and communicate with managers. Companies integrate Sona with their internal systems to ensure all the data flows through and between the various departments and stakeholders.

Sona in action
Image Credits: Sona

As one might expect in this day and age, Sona says it uses AI to automate many of the processes involved in managing a workforce, including optimizing rosters using data gleaned from workers’ contracts, such as their terms of employment, working preferences and availability. So, less time-consuming manual admin is the name of the game.

“Running a business with a large frontline workforce is primarily about ensuring the right people are in the right place at the right time,” Sona’s co-founder and CTO, Ben Dixon, told TechCrunch. “Sona becomes the central jumping off point for a large proportion of our customers’ operations, which means we integrate with nearly all of their other systems — from care management and point-of-sale, to single sign-on and ERP (enterprise resource planning). It’s this deep level of integration that facilitates our AI product, because we’re the one system that can provide a unified, real-time view of data across the whole business.”

Besides legacy players such as PeoplePlanner in social care and Selima in hospitality, there is no shortage of well-funded startups targeting a similar space to what Sona operates in — there is ConnectTeam and Homebase for starters, the latter of which announced a $60 million fundraise just last month.

Petersen says that it’s setting out to differentiate from at least some of these companies by focusing on larger enterprises, meshing “consumer-grade design” with features required by more complex multi-site operations.

“Most newer, VC-backed players in the workforce management space are built for SMBs, with an easy and simple self-signup product,” Petersen told TechCrunch. “That’s a great approach for small businesses with 1-10 sites, and there’s millions of those businesses to target. We rarely cross paths with the SMB vendors because enterprise customers need the opposite product — one that handles deep complexity.”

Indeed, Sona’s pitch isn’t that it’s quick to deploy: Petersen states that the demo alone takes three hours, and implementation takes more like several months. “Think Salesforce versus Pipedrive,” Petersen said. “We pass leads on to some of the SMB vendors when customers don’t meet our enterprise criteria.”

Expansion

Sona is currently live across the social care and hospitality industries in the U.K., where it counts the likes of Gleneagles and Estelle Manor as customers. With another $27.5 million in the bank, the company is now gearing up to expand further afield — and a clue to its target markets lie in its new lead investor.

The Series A round was led by Menlo Park-based VC firm Felicis, which has previously exited investments like Ring to Amazon, Fitbit to Google and publicly traded Shopify. Other notable backers include Google’s Gradient Ventures, which led Sona’s seed round two years ago. Antler, SpeedInvest, Northzone and Bag Ventures also participated in the latest round.

Sona has now raised north of $40 million since its inception, and the company said it will use its fresh cash injection to “build more advanced AI capabilities” and accelerate its international plans, which will include its first U.S. foray.

“The U.S. will be an important market for Sona. We now have both Felicis and Gradient onboard, have hired our first two U.S.-based employees and have signed our first six-figure Alpha customer,” Petersen said.

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