After funding many of the world’s top cloud software suppliers, U.S. venture capital giant Bessemer Venture Partners is backing a Montreal startup that has created a way for that throng of platforms to talk to one another.
Unito Inc. is announcing on Tuesday it has raised $10.5-million in venture capital led by Boston-based Bessemer – one of the oldest venture capital firms in the United States – and backed by current Canadian investors Mistral Venture Partners, Real Ventures and angel investor and entrepreneur Tom Williams to fund the growth of its workplace collaboration tool.
Unito enables users of 12 popular enterprise cloud software project-management tools for engineers, product developers, marketers and customer service specialists – including Asana, Basecamp, GitHub, HubSpot, Jira, Trello, Zendesk – to collaborate cross-functionally without leaving the programs they already use. The plan is to double that “fairly quickly” by getting enterprise software vendors to build connectors to its middle-layer software, chief executive officer and co-founder Marc Boscher said.
With thousands of easily adopted cloud-based subscription software programs now in use – up from dozens just a decade ago – users’ systems of choice are increasingly getting balkanized because their colleagues use a range of tools. “It’s harder to get work done," particularly on cross-functional projects where each department in an organization has its own software tool, requiring cumbersome actions such as cutting and pasting between programs, Mr. Boscher said. “The tools are getting in the way."
Bessemer partner Jeremy Levine – whose firm has financed several multibillion-dollar cloud enterprise software firms, notably Shopify Inc., Twilio Inc., DocuSign, Inc. and Box Inc. – said backing Unito “is another way to take advantage of the trend” of users flocking to cloud software tools. “There’s an opportunity to build a platform company in this domain” that focuses on integration.
Large companies have the money and time to build specialized integration systems using a tool such as Salesforce.com’s Mulesoft program. Mr. Levine said Unito’s software “gives you most of the benefit of the really expensive high-end integrations,” but at the cost of simpler tools that allow only one-way movement of data between programs, compared to Unito’s two-way capabilities.
Unito started as a basement project for Mr. Boscher, a veteran technologist who built websites during the dot-com boom and then led systems and product development for MicroSigns, a Montreal provider of digital advertising and pricing technology for retail stores.
Working with disparate teams in product development that used their own software to manage projects, he and co-founders John Espinoza and Eryk Warren developed what he calls an “unsexy" tool that invisibly links programs. For example, an engineer working in GitHub, a marketer in Hubspot and a customer service rep in Zendesk can collaborate seamlessly while continuing to work within their tool of choice. “[Mr. Boscher] had the right background” to develop Unito, Real partner Sylvain Carle said. “People are looking for something like this.”
Mr. Boscher wouldn’t disclose the number of Unito customers, but the company has more than 45,000 individual users and thousands of inbound signups each month; single users pay $10 a month for the service, which drops to a couple of dollars per user for companies of 100 or more people. Revenues are in the low single-digit millions. Its customers include Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., The Washington Post and Wix.com Ltd.
Bessemer, an early backer of LinkedIn, Yelp and Pinterest, has been a prominent U.S.-based venture capital investor in Canada. In addition to funding Ottawa’s Shopify – now worth twice as much as Twitter Inc. – a decade ago when it was a fledgling e-commerce software provider, it was also an early backer of Eloqua Inc., which moved its headquarters to the United States from Toronto and was purchased by Oracle Corp. in 2012 for US$870-million. Bessemer has also backed Themis Solutions (which operates as Clio), Ada Support Inc. and Buildscale Inc. (better known as Vidyard).