Work Week | Infrastructure and Ultrastructure
| Funding: Mural, Asana | Slack: The Netscape of Work Chat? | Tech Resistance |
Visual collaboration startup MURAL raises huge $118M Series B | Alex Wilhelm reports on workboard platform Mural new round, which has seen strong growth since its $23 million series A in 2019.
In emails with TechCrunch, MURAL disclosed that it has tripled its annual recurring revenue (ARR) in the last year. And, the company has added “over a million” monthly active users (MAUs) thus far in 2020. How many MAUs did MURAL have before? The company declined to share, but did say that “prior to 2020” its monthly actives were in the “hundreds of thousands.”
MURAL has therefore seen rapid revenue growth and rising usage in 2020.
The startup has plans for its new capital, including spending more on its global go-to-market capabilities, product work, and “community engagement initiatives.” The first two planned efforts are standard-fare for startup funding news, while the last is a bit different. To understand it, recall that MURAL works with consultants who, in turn, use its product. The stronger that network is the longer the startup may be able to sustain its current revenue growth, as having a network of in-market product evangelists isn’t a bad way to get the word out.
Mural is very focused on customer success, and building out an ecosystem of partners will play well in the rapidly expanding market for workboards.
In the press release, Mural points out that they
Doubled headcount in the last 6 months; we expect to be at 300 employees by year-end
Added over a million monthly active users around the world so far this year
Tripled annual revenue year over year
Expanded enterprise memberships where brands such as IBM, Autodesk, Intuit, and Atlassian have up to tens of thousands of MURAL members collaborating with the product each month
Gigaom will be releasing my report on workboards — profiling Mural, Miro, and long list of others — in the coming weeks.
The visual collaboration metaphors of workboards — an outgrowth of digital whiteboards — represent the creation of a new ultrastructure for work technology: new ways to coordinate around work artifacts, ways that extend or make obsolete old ways of doing things.
Asana Files for Direct Listing Amid Slew of Software IPOs | Crystal Tse and Katie Roof report on work management tool Asana’s plans to go public via direct listing:
Asana reported a net loss of $36 million in the three months through April on revenue of $48 million. That compared to a loss of $15 million on revenue of $28 million in the same period a year earlier.
The company, which makes workplace productivity software, was started by Facebook Inc. co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. As of Jan. 31, Asana had more than 3.2 million activated accounts and over 1.2 million paid users, according to the filing.
Asana said its business could further benefit from the shift to work from home. “Distributed and remote teams can use Asana as a single, real-time plan of record, reducing the need for messaging threads and video calls to coordinate work,” it said.
Asana has recently been trading on the secondary market at a value of around $5 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg this month. The secondary market valuation is an important element of a company’s price discovery process in a direct listing, since no new shares are sold. Its largest shareholders include Benchmark Capital, Al Gore’s Generation IM fund and entities affiliated with Founders Fund.
I guess I was surprised that Asana is burning so much money relative to gross revenue, given its millions of users.
Asana is a pure-play work management tool in a world that is transitioning toward other models. As I recently wrote in What is the Future of Work Management?:
The advances that Google and its archcompetitor, Microsoft, are making spell the end of pure-play work management tools. For those who work within either the Google or Microsoft business operating systems, why would you use some other tool to manage tasks? Those players — like Asana, Trello, and all the others — will have move into adjacent market niches as the two business operating system giants suck all the oxygen out of the marketplace.
And where will the Asanas and Trellos of the world go?
A good time to go public, before Google and Microsoft commoditize work management, or people migrate to new approaches, like workboards. As work management becomes part of the ‘for free’ infrastructure, expect innovation to take place in the ultrastructure like in workboards (Mural and Miro) and spreadbases (like Airtable, Notion, Coda, and so on).
Why Slack better do something before they become the Netscape of work chat:
Why Do Your Employees Resist New Tech? | Frank-Jürgen Richter and Gunjan Sinha report on a survey about the reasons that people resist adoption of new technology:
Published last fall and based on interviews with750 executives across Australia, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, the United States, and India, a survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit identified challenges including: employee skills, lack of senior management awareness, lack of remote working opportunities, organizational culture, issues of complexity, cost and risk, and inadequate infrastructure. Plus, older, larger companies are often constrained by the presence of legacy systems and legacy approaches to innovation and problem-solving.
Costs, complexity, and skills are all valid barriers, of course, but without the right organizational culture supporting technology — especially in the age of a pandemic — investments in training or specific tools could wither on the vine. That’s why we see organizational culture as area of particular focus for companies looking to adapt to new technologies in coming months.
The authors offer five ‘key levers’ to speed adoption:
- Incentivize technology use. Although people readily adopt new technologies in their personal lives, they are reluctant with enterprise solutions, and therefore may need to incented explicitly, as by job performance ratings.
- Invest in the infrastructure. Get better technology that works better.
- Make reskilling and learning part of the plan. I’ve seen several surveys recently where employees state that better tools and processes are needed to make remote work better, for example.
- Don’t make it piecemeal. Develop ‘a long-term strategy toward the creation of a culture that encourages and embraces technology adoption’.
- Understand how governments and policy are involved. ‘The right kind of culture often percolates from the highest authority creating a conducive environment for technology to thrive.’
Personally I bet there is a lever zero that the authors left out: management wants the benefits of technology adoption but isn't willing to do the hard work or make the investments that are necessary. All the other points are merely corollaries to that.