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Canada’s Poka Raises US$4.7M To Connect Factory Workers

Poka, a Quebec-based connected worker platform built specifically for manufacturers, has raised US$4.7 million in a new investment led by SE Ventures, the venture capital arm of Schneider Electric.

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The latest round brings Poka’s total raised since its 2014 inception to about $17.3 million, according to Crunchbase data. Existing backers Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Groupe Leclerc and CDPQ also participated in the financing.

Poka is a web and mobile app built for manufacturers that aims to empower workers “to learn continuously, share important updates and collaborate to solve problems on mobile tablets, right from the production floor,” according to Poka’s CEO and co-founder Alexandre Leclerc.

It’s different from other applications in that it is purpose-built for factory workers, in comparison to other tools designed for office workers that fail to address the unique needs of a production environment, according to Leclerc.

He also describes Poka as a comprehensive platform that brings together typically disparate applications.

“Communication, knowledge management, training and electronic forms come together in a single hub for operational knowledge, reducing the number of apps that need to be deployed, learned and managed,” he said.

The company declined to reveal any growth metrics. But Leclerc told me that Poka has 65 customers that are primarily “Tier 1” global food, consumer goods and industrial companies. They include Kraft Heinz, Tyson, Stanley Black & Decker, Johnson & Johnson and Bosch. Poka has tens of thousands of users in hundreds of factories across 26 countries, Leclerc said.

Poka describes itself as being built by manufacturers for manufacturers.

The idea behind the company was inspired by the challenges that Leclerc experienced while working as a CI Director at a global food manufacturer. There he saw firsthand “how inconsistent performance across the company’s operations can lead to waste, quality issues and safety risks.”

Leclerc then solicited the help of Antoine Bisson, a lifelong friend and former engineer at Microsoft and Ubisoft, to help him co-found the company. Their mission was “to build a modern solution to help factory workers collectively learn from their mistakes and build knowledge that leads to continuous improvement.”

Relevance

The coronavirus pandemic has only served to raise the importance of digitally connecting frontline workers in light of physical distancing and work-from-home measures, according to Poka. The company’s platform helps by offering alternatives to on-the-job shadowing, in-person meetings, and paper forms and documents. It also ensures production staff across shifts and sites have real-time, remote access to experts as issues arise.

Poka plans to use the new capital to help accelerate its international growth. It currently has 61 employees compared to 54 at this time last year.

Grant Allen, general partner at SE Ventures, said that the tools and systems used to communicate, capture and share knowledge in commercial production facilities “are largely outdated, leaving workers without the necessary information to be effective and safe.”

“Poka is bringing us into the digital age and, together with Schneider Electric’s unique expertise and global reach, will be an agent for much-needed worker connectivity,” Allen said in a written statement.

Blogroll Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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