Business COVID-19 Startups Venture

Guru Raises $30M From Accel, Slack & Others As Philly Startup Scene Heats Up

Guru, a Philadelphia-based collaborative knowledge management software provider, has raised $30 million in a Series C funding round led by Accel.

Existing backers including Emergence Capital, FirstMark Capital and Slack , and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital also participated in the financing. The new capital brings the company’s total raised to nearly $71 million, according to Crunchbase data. Thrive Capital led its $25 million Series B in December of 2018.

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Guru CEO and co-founder Rick Nucci notes that the digital transformation has been accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing so many people to work remotely.

“Companies of every size and category are transitioning to remote work, changing their services to meet needs, and seeing sudden drops (or increases) in demand,” he said. “Given recent events, we are increasing our commitment [to customers] to make sure that collaborative knowledge management feels easy and is attainable for all teams.”

Guru claims to have pioneered the software category of knowledge management operating under the premise that “the information you need to do your job should find you.”

The company delivers its offering via a browser plugin that surfaces data sitting across a worker’s distributed cloud apps directly into whatever workflow tool a user is in. It operates as a SaaS (software-as-a-service company) and is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

“We think it is the next big thing in collaboration software,” said Accel Partner Miles Clements. “From our experience as early investors in Atlassian, Slack, Dropbox and other foundational productivity apps, we can see that Guru is the underlying thread that ties them all together.”

“In a COVID setting, Guru has proven to be ‘a major enabler’ of remote work,” he added.

Customers include the likes of Shopify (here’s a video on how it uses Guru), Spotify, Slack, Zoom, Glossier, Sweetgreen, GitHub, Airtable and Noom.

Launched from experience

Nucci and co-founder Mitchell Stewart had previously worked together at Boomi, a cloud computing company founded by Nucci that ultimately was acquired by Dell.

“There, we lived the pain Guru now solves,” Nucci told Crunchbase News. “We wanted to figure out how you provide employees the knowledge they need to do their jobs, bring it into their workflows and make sure it doesn’t go out of date and stays accurate.”

So they launched Guru in early 2014.

In the second half of 2018, the company launched both AI Suggest Text and AI Suggest Voice, which aim to deliver knowledge proactively to revenue teams in real-time and eliminate the need to search.

The company has been doubling ARR (annual recurring revenue) year over year. But earlier this year, the company tried a new tactic that proved wildly successful.

“We launched a free version of Guru in January, and immediately saw a spike in the daily rate of new customers signing up,” Nucci told Crunchbase News. “It was pretty amazing.”

In three months, Guru has tripled the number of customers it’s had in its entire history, he said. By giving people the opportunity to try its offering for free, it’s opened up to even more potential users.

“They can upgrade to a paid plan,” he said. “We design the plans to be appropriate as a team grows. Customers, for example, can convert to a paid plan when they want more robust permission capabilities, or access to extensive analytics.”

Customers are industry agnostic but Nucci told me he sees some common themes.

“They tend to really want to provide a very strong customer experience, and want to be very responsive,” he said. “Customer service really matters to them.”

Philly growth

Guru has a growing presence in San Francisco, where it’s hired away folks from companies such as Zendesk and UserTesting. Of its 160 employees, about 110 work in Philadelphia, 30 in the Bay Area and the remainder are remote. Anne Raimondi serves as the company’s chief customer officer out of its San Francisco office.

“Imagine an account executive looking for a customer case study while typing notes into Salesforce, a product manager searching for a roadmap document while working in Jira, a support rep in need of product FAQs while resolving tickets in Zendesk, or any worker at any company searching for the wifi password, building access code or benefits enrollment tutorial,” Clements wrote in a blog. “Guru surfaces the knowledge you need without disrupting your work.  By creating the unifying meta-layer to serve up the right content from the right data store at the right time, directly into a user’s workflow, Guru is shaping the market for content collaboration.”

Meanwhile, we’ve noticed that the Philadelphia startup scene is heating up. In 2019 alone, the city saw a number of large deals including a $750 million SoftBank Vision Fund-led round for goPuff; a $250 million Series A for Century Therapeutics; a $115.5 million Series A and a $110 million Series B for Passage Bio.

Overall, venture funding in the Philadelphia region more than tripled in 2019 to $1.7 billion compared to $515.2 million in 2018, as you can see in the chart below. That is up eight times compared to the $210.7 million raised in 2017, according to Crunchbase data.

“There is a very special movement around reinvestment in the community and giving back,” Clements told Crunchbase News. “We see a lot of founders in the ecosystem spending a lot of hands-on time with the local business incubator. That level of involvement and intangible passion is unique to Philly, we believe.”

In 2018, I took an in-depth look at Pittsburgh’s startup scene, which you can check out here.

Blog Roll Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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