Front, an email collaboration startup, announced this morning it has closed on a $59 million Series C that quadruples its valuation.
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While the San Francisco-based SaaS provider would not disclose just what that valuation is, we do know that Front has now raised a total of $138.3 million since its inception in 2013, according to Crunchbase data.
A couple of things are unique about this raise. First off, a VC firm did not lead it (although Sequoia did lead its $66 million Series B two years ago). Instead, a group of CEOs and founders of companies also focused on the future of work led the financing. That impressive bunch includes:
- Atlassian co-CEO and co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes (who also invested in 1Password’s $200 million Series A in November)
- Atlassian President Jay Simons
- Okta COO and co-founder Frederic Kerrest
- Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith
- Qualtrics co-founder and CTO Jared Smith
- Zoom CEO Eric Yuan
Sequoia Capital, Initialized Capital, Anthos Capital and other existing investors also participated in the round. And, Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO and founder, participated in Front’s $10 million Series A. (It also is a YCombinator company.)
Other than its unusual lineup of lead investors, Front also chose a different path to its raise, closing on fewer dollars– $7 million fewer to be exact – in its Series C than in its Series B.
The company didn’t necessarily need to raise more money now, as co-founder and CEO Mathilde Collin explained to me. The decision was more about scaling.
Also, it “optimized for minimal dilution,” Collin said.
Front must be doing something right. The company counts Mailchimp, YCombinator, Stripe and Shopify among its 5,500 customers. Its ARR doubled year-over-year, and (like its valuation) quadrupled since its last raise nearly two years ago to the day, according to Collin. She declined to provide more specifics other than to say Front is intentionally not profitable, choosing instead to put what it makes back into the business.
“As we make more money, we re-invest, given how big our market opportunity is,” Collin said. “Could we reach profitability with the money in our bank account? Yes, definitely. But we want to keep scaling our product and go-to-market capabilities.”
Front now has 170 employees, compared to a headcount of 54 at the time of its Series B in January 2018. They work out of Front’s offices in San Francisco, Phoenix and Paris.
How it works
Founded by Collin and Laurent Perrin, Front is out to make email less of a pain and more of a tool. It also aims to take on Gmail and Outlook with its team-based email for work.
French-born Collin said she was inspired to start the company after growing up in a family where “no one liked their jobs.”
“I wanted to create a place where people were happy to come to work every day,” she said. “So I set about trying to create a product to improve how people work.”
The main problem with email, Collin believes, is that everyone’s inboxes have historically been siloed.
“If you want to collaborate, you have to cc or bcc, and that only creates more emails and duplicates of the same information in everyone’s inbox,” she said. “The reality is that the way the companies work is highly collaborative but their inbox is not.”
With Front, a user can see who is responding in real time and assign tasks and emails. For example, a reporter could move an email into his or her editor’s inbox to assign it to them.
Front also has a rules engine that gives users the ability to do things like automatically route emails, set up response-time warnings or even auto-assign certain emails to specific people. With Front, people can also collaborate with coworkers on shared drafts of emails, provide comments directly beneath the email and work together in shared inboxes. They can also access their direct messages or text messages via their inbox by connecting with those apps.
“It’s collaborative with any tool someone is using, whether it be a CRM or a project management tool,” Collin noted. “And I believe we’re doing so well because our users can see that by better managing their inboxes, they can make more money.”
Seventy-two percent of its monthly users check the app daily, according to the company, up from 64 percent at the time of its Series B.
As we mentioned, Front plans to use its new capital to further build out its offerings and scale its go-to-market functions. In October 2018, it acquired its first company, scheduling platform Meetingbird.
So this year, Front plans to launch a calendar product, acknowledging that “email and calendar are very intertwined.”
It also plans to spend some of its fresh dollars on raising awareness about its existence.
“One of the biggest issues when you’re creating a new category of software is a greater need to evangelize,” Collin told Crunchbase News. “So we plan to create way more awareness around this category we are creating, and our mission of making work more human and simply having people happier at work.”
Indeed, Sequoia Capital Partner Bryan Schreier believes “Front is creating an entirely new category and rebuilding corporate email from the ground up — turning the inbox into the central hub for work.”
Collin also hopes her company’s success will inspire other female entrepreneurs.
“My biggest responsibility,” she said, “is to constantly share my journey so that other women starting companies can hopefully be inspired by it.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias