Building the 21st Century Office

Why we invested in Envoy, creating the smart workplace

We met Larry Gadea, founder & CEO of Envoy, back in 2013. In fact, I first called him about the investment in the middle of a book signing on my Without Their Permission bus tour.

Companies are founded all the time and doing early stage investing means being flexible, fast, and confident enough to be the first money into a company. We’ve since built software to help our oft-moving and decentralized team of partners share knowledge in real-time. But back then, we just had emails.

After speaking with Larry in November 2013, I wrote my partners to pile on why we should do this investment. Back then, there was a beautiful demo and a few customers, but a long way from the market domination Envoy enjoys today. Yet, there was potential — a lot of it. I emailed this to my partners about why we should do the deal:

One of the interesting things about this becoming ‘the’ identity for everyone is that it becomes a way to “be” in a place, not just a place where you work, but any other place where your identity would be valuable to take with you — even like fraud protection (your CC was used in tulsa [sic] but you’re at the office)

Today, 100,000 people in 10,000 workplaces sign in every day using Envoy. The company just closed a Series B in October and Larry and his team have done an impressive job marching toward that blurry vision I laid out in that email. Thanks for making me look good.

Envoy isn’t just for signing in anymore, but ultimately being the software that seamlessly links the office. The workplace experience is the focus for their entire business, just like Nest reimagined the facilities of your home.

To that end, they recently launched a product to process deliveries (over 1,000,000 shipments processed so far!)

MailChimp is one of those happy Envoy customers.

Higher Standards, Better Software, More Business

I asked Larry what has surprised him the most in the last half-decade of building and selling B2B software — especially coming from creating free-to-use software at Google & Twitter.

Larry admitted his perception before he founded the company was basically “B2B is terrible and evil and money hungry, avoid it” and conceded “the majority of my observations over time have shown that to be true…”

But there has been a sea-change; startups selling software as a service must must now be obsessed with creating consumer-quality experiences in product and service. I call this the “Instagram Effect” (everyone now has world-class software expectations thanks to Instagram, which they use for trivial things like photos of their food — so they’re demanding the same quality for their much more important work), but Larry articulates it well:

“I’ve noticed a new set of companies that just don’t subscribe to the traditionally low bar that comes with building and selling software for businesses — and are fighting to respect the end-user (both buyer and seller).”

Working for our Founders, Literally

We know we’re doing well when some of our best founders are investing in our funds (Larry’s backed Funds III + IV). We’re going to do our best keep earning that belief in us.

The Initialized that first wrote that seed check to Envoy was much smaller than the Initialized of today, but it’s no less motivated (and now far better equipped to support our founders and companies). I’m fond of saying that creating something special requires giving a damn — giving lots of damns. Venture is no exception. Larry and his team would have triumphed even without us, but we’re proud to accelerate that success. In Larry’s words:

“Alexis and the Initialized folks basically helped closed the majority of our first customers, probably around 30 of them. Absolutely incredible commitment from them!”

Helping open doors and close deals is just one of the things we do for our companies. It’s made easy with a great product (like Envoy) because the introduction isn’t really asking a favor — the potential customer is getting something we genuinely believe they’ll want. And when we’re right, it’s a virtuous cycle because everyone wins.

I love those virtuous cycles.