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Redwood City-based WorkBoard was founded in 2013 and had raised $13.6 million before today’s round. Most recently, WorkBoard picked up a $9.3 million Series A led by M12 and Floodgate. That round closed in December 2017.
That makes the company’s Series B on time, even perhaps a little early. But today’s venture market is hot (anecdotally at least, we’ll have a first-quarter digest coming out in a few weeks), making rounds coming in a few months short of the usual 18-month timeframe unsurprising.1
But there’s more to this deal than just an interesting temporal interval from the preceding Series. The WorkBoard Series B caught our eye due to the company’s product focus, its growth rates, and Microsoft’s participation. Let me explain.
Talk OKRs To Me
If you’re familiar with OKRs, WorkBoard is simple to explain: the company’s software helps organizations manage and track their OKRs, providing what it calls “the source of truth for strategic priorities and key results.”
If you don’t know what an OKR is, I’ll talk you through it. “OKR” stands for Objective and Key Result. It’s a two-part way of thinking about business goals and planning. And Objective is something big that your company wants to do. Its constituent Key Results are focused, measurable targets that can be reached in a period of time.
So, if one of your company’s Objectives is to “Consistently delight our customers,” you might support it by attaching Key Results like “Grow our NPS score by 5 points” and “Cut ticket response time by 10 percent” for the next quarter. OKRs are, I hate to admit, a good way to set up goals for teams.
And they cascade. A startup or larger shop might have company-level OKRs, and then descending layers of OKRs down to the team, and even individual level. In theory, individual OKRs should support team OKRs, which should then stack up to the company-wide OKRs.
But what you need to execute that sort of effort are clear metrics. That’s where WorkBoard comes in. The firm’s software provides a way for OKR-using companies to keep track of their goals, and also keep all the data straight so that they can actually know if they hit (or miss!) key results, and thus meet or fail at working towards objectives.
We’re done with the boring bit. Now let’s talk about growth.
Growth + Microsoft
I didn’t pick WorkBoard’s round for us this morning simply because I wanted to show off that I read that John Doerr book.
Instead, what’s fascinating about WorkBoard’s Series B is the growth rate that powered it and the participation of Microsoft’s venture arm. We’ll take the two in order as they cascade as well.
On the growth front, WorkBoard told Crunchbase News that it “saw a 3.5x sales increase over the last year.” That caught our attention. Even better, the firm further broke down the results after we asked, telling us via email that it posted “3.1x total revenue growth [and] 3.5x new ARR growth” last year.
ARR growth will always lead revenue expansion as ARR is a forward-facing metric, while revenue itself lags.2 But both figures are quite hot for a Series A company. The obvious question of “from what base do those percentage growth figures stem from” is very pertinent here. But the listed growth pace is precisely what venture capitalists who are more into numeracy than vision look for when they are investment hunting.
And how is WorkBoard managing that quick growth? Microsoft has a little more to do with it than simply providing capital. I asked the startup about its Microsoft relationship, and it replied that its “platform is deeply integrated with Microsoft Teams,” an integration “40% of [its] enterprise customers use.”
(We’re tracking Microsoft’s Teams effort in a contra-Slack sense over time. More here.)
The smaller company also noted co-selling with Microsoft and some co-marketing “lift.” This is what I expected, and is also why I keep tabs on what firms Microsoft puts money into. Microsoft’s enterprise sales channel is huge. Access to it could be a big advantage to smaller companies looking to scale. And who better to work with on that front than companies Redmond has invested in? You get the point.
So, WorkBoard has $23 million more, and as Microsoft took part in the round, it still has a big friend up North. Provided that it can keep its growth rate at around 100 percent over the next 12 or 18 months, we’ll find ourselves back here talking about its Series C.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.