Several years ago, entrepreneur Dhiraj Sharma’s first company, a software consultancy, was hired by an HR technology company to develop an app to improve the employee onboarding experience. Rather than create a one-off, ad-hoc solution, Sharma ran a platform, Simpplr, which later grew into its own company.
Today, Simpplr sells what is essentially an internal corporate social network — a network that allows employees to create profiles, share content, follow users, and participate in polls or surveys through a custom intranet. Managers can create an employee directory, as well as social workspaces that can be customized for different teams and departments.
Business is booming, that’s for sure. Simpplr announced this morning that it has raised $70 million in a funding round led by Sapphire Ventures with participation from Norwest Ventures, Tola Capital and Salesforce Ventures. The tranche, which adds to Simpplr’s previously raised $61 million, will be used to grow the company’s workforce and support ongoing product R&D, Sharma says.
“Simpplr is built for business owners so they can own it — with limited to no reliance on IT,” Sharma, who is the company’s CEO, told MinRegion in an email. “Simpplr delivers an engaging and reliable source of truth by enabling effective communication, collaboration, connection and productivity, including seamless access to content, resources and tools for every employee of a company.”
The market for employee experience software has proved relatively resilient to the macroeconomic challenges of recent years. As the world transitioned to remote and hybrid work, IT decision makers prioritized technology that improved employee experience and engagement, despite budget constraints.
Space startups benefited. One of the more successful examples, Culture Amp, which aims to help employers turn the data they collect from anonymous employee surveys into insights, raised $100 million in July 2021 at a valuation of $1.5 billion.
Intranets in general are terribly unpopular, with data from Workvivo showing that 57% of employees see no purpose in their company’s intranet. But Simpplr still seems to have successfully weathered the aforementioned wave of investment, growing its customer base to more than 700 companies, including Moderna, Penske, Snowflake, and AAA.
Over the next 12 months, Sharma expects Simpplr’s annual recurring revenue to grow 70% year over year – or higher.
How did Simpplr perform so well against competitors like Workday and ServiceNow? Sharma praises the company’s AI-first approach. He points to the ways Simpplr uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT for its “SmartWriting” feature, which helps customers automatically write and refine corporate content intended for employees.
“AI is at the heart of our platform,” said Sharma. “Simpplr’s AI-powered employee experience platform empowers IT to give business users ownership of their content and the digital experience users need.”
Simpplr also uses AI for sentiment and emotion analysis – a somewhat concerning fact given that biases tend to creep into the algorithms trained to detect sentiments and emotions. A 2017 story in Vice revealed that a Google API for determining whether text had positive or negative sentiment consistently labeled sentences about religious and ethnic minorities as negative.
“[Simpplr] combines active and passive listening to analyze millions of data points on the platform to detect emotions, sentiments, and language patterns and trends over time. “Rapidly understand, adapt and respond to changing trends and attitudes before they become larger issues that can impact a broader base of employees.”
That second piece raises questions about which ‘trends’ Simpplr is keeping an eye on. Messages about work policies? Emoji reactions? It’s not entirely clear.
Looking beyond the lack of transparency, Simpplr appears to have a bright future, with a workforce of 450 people and plans to expand in the coming months.
“The wider slowdown in technology has fortunately not had a major impact on Simpplr,” said Sharma. “We serve more than 30 industries, so while some technology organizations have understandably delayed decisions or cut budgets in some cases, this has not impacted our growth rate. . . In addition, Simpplr has been disciplined in our operations and in the management of our investments from the start, which serves us well no matter what happens in the broader economy.”