We’ve raised $10m :)
Today, we’re announcing a Series A round of $10m for Front, led by Mamoon Hamid from Social Capital, with Slack’s Stewart Butterfield and Intercom’s Eoghan McCabe participating. Some founders see fundraising as a necessary evil, others can’t get enough of it. For me, this round was the opportunity to answer a difficult question that hardly fits into the day-to-day operations of a startup.
Why are we doing this? Startups are hard, and keep getting harder. Raising funds brings in cash, but also adds considerable pressure to an already stressful endeavor, so why bother?
When I was younger, growing up in France, it always struck me how so many people seemed to be dispassionate about their jobs. It felt so normal for everybody around me to dread the next Monday, to complain about the long hours and to resent their stupid boss. I understood the feelings, but couldn’t get myself to accept the idea. I thought: if I’m going to spend half of my waking hours doing one thing, I certainly hope I’m going to like it! That’s what I wanted for myself, and for the people around me. That was the goal.
That goal led Laurent and me to start working on Front in 2013. We wanted to make a difference in people’s professional lives, and Front was the perfect vehicle for 2 reasons:
- As a company, we could improve things locally, internally, by creating a work environment where employees could thrive.
- As a software provider, we could improve things on a much bigger scale, by working on the most critical tool people use to get work done: email.
#1 is self-explanatory: I believe that creating a good company is an end (if not the end) in and of itself. And I believe that a good company is something simple, a place where, in Ben Horowitz’s words, ”Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective and make a difference”
#2 requires some additional information about what Front is. Front started as a “team inbox”: it allowed teams to collaborate on “collective” email inboxes, like contact@, hello@, support@, etc. Those inboxes are easy to create and very convenient for customers, but they’re a nightmare to actually work with. Teams of twenty would share a single access to a Gmail account, login at the same time, use tags and stars to not step on each others toes and keep track of customers requests.
The whole thing was crazy and the only crazier thing was that, before Front, no software offered a good solution to what seemed like such a simple problem. When we pitched to Y Combinator back in 2014, I was almost embarrassed to say that we were “just” a team inbox product — yet today, 1000+ companies (including LVMH, Mailchimp, Hubspot, etc.) use it daily and are happy to pay for it. But what’s coming next is even more exciting.
Team inboxes are a great wedge into the company email workflow. The email client, a critical tool for all knowledge workers, hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years. It’s hilarious that the primary collaboration feature for a digital format is called “carbon copy”. We have a shot at fixing that. We know what the next generation of email client for companies will look like:
- Email will be multiplayer: the collaborative features are nonexistent today, this has to change. Ccs and Bccs will disappear and give way to a “share” feature, forwarding an email will be replaced by a “comment” function, reply-all will give way to subscribe/follow mechanisms.
- Email will be smarter: since spam filters became the norm, intelligence in email has been lagging behind. It’s time to deliver AI-assisted emails. Picture it as a virtual personal assistant who’s learning not only from your own behavior, but also from the collective behavior of millions of other email users, inside and outside your organization.
- Email will be integrated: it’s incredibly hard to build apps on top of email. Today, using new tools within a company leads to a more fragmented communication (think CRM, bug tracking, marketing automation, etc.). But with the right set of integrations and APIs, it will be possible to get a truly unified view of a company’s communication.
If we can make a difference here, with so many people using email so much everyday, the impact will be unreasonably high.
The two drivers I mentioned, building a good company and building a good product, are equally important to me: without one or the other, indeed I wouldn’t bother. Raising our Series A is just a means to do more of both. More resources to hire great people and provide them with the best conditions to achieve their potential; and more resources to build and distribute a great product for the broadest audience.
Startups are made of many highs and lows. I still haven’t figured out how to properly deal with the lows, but I find it best to use the highs to be grateful. In the spirit of transparency, I’d like to be specific in my gratefulness and name the people who made it possible for Front to get to where it is today.
- Laurent Perrin, my co-founder, for trusting me since day one and working so hard literally every day, including right now as I write these lines and you’re figuring out how to roll out that feature before the end of the week. To younger entrepreneurs who want to know what to look for in a co-founder: go for mutual respect and unshakeable trust. It worked for us.
- eFounders for setting the highest standards of product quality for the team. We never settle for “good enough” and we owe this mindset to you.
- Y Combinator for giving us both the ambition to see the greater opportunity and the platform to seize it — while remaining humble at all times.
- Jeff Clavier for taking a chance on Front so early, yet with so much enthusiasm; and then putting up with me each week for the past year and a half.
- Patrick Collison for being so bullish about what we’re doing, and allowing me to use that sentiment as a source of inspiration and confidence.
- Our early customers, for giving us a try when you had few reasons to believe that we could beat the status quo. I know we’re moving fast, shipping a lot features and fixing many bugs, which also means that, when you started using Front, the product was way worse than it is today. Thank you for having faith in us back then.
- And last but certainly not least, my team. You are the real makers of Front, I’m proud to work with you and can only hope that things remain that great in the coming years. That said, the more merrier: this team must grow!
It’s probably a bit early to add Mamoon Hamid and his team at Social Capital to this list, but considering how they helped Yammer, Slack, Box & Intercom before, I’m confident that they’ll give us plenty of reasons to be grateful soon enough, as they help us take Front to the next level :)