“The only thing that is constant is change” – Hericlatus
This age-old philosophical quote holds important meaning for me. The first time I heard it was as a teenager fighting my family’s move across the Atlantic. But now, as I’ve grown in my career, it’s taken on a different kind of significance. Observing several organizations transition to remote and SaaS-led workplaces, I can’t help but think of this quote – and it leads me to a burning question I can’t get out of my head:
If change is constantly happening across an organization’s processes and applications, why hasn’t someone made it easier to manage and enable employees to learn these changes?
Spekit was born to answer this question.
Today, it’s my pleasure to announce that Spekit has finalized our Seed Round financing to help accelerate our path to making this vision a reality. We are now one step closer to removing the friction that employees face, at organizations big and small, learning new applications and keeping track of the constant change that comes with today’s innovative workplace.
Spekit has been a key part of every new feature or business process we deploy. It has dramatically reduced our onboarding and ramp-up time and is an outstanding way to support your users, drive adoption and improve data quality.
Marshall King, SVP IT Solutions, JLL
This is the “uncut” version, check out this official Press Release here for the quick read.
WHERE WE CAME FROM
It all started on a gloomy October afternoon in 2017 with a cryptic slack message I sent Zari:
“Meet me by the elevators”
I’d reached a breaking point at my job. I was leaving our leadership meeting infinitely frustrated by a discussion that had centered around replacing our million-dollar CRM investment in Salesforce.
Tasked with regaining the trust of our employees, I had inherited the project just a few months prior. A lot had gone wrong along the way but it was our adoption problem that was the most frustrating to me. It was frustrating because it’s not that we hadn’t tried: Each end user received a 2-hour training session, took several painful-to-create LMS courses and we had built a comprehensive 50-page PDF of need-to-knows to put at their disposal as they learn the platform.
Despite our best efforts and sizeable investment in training, our support team was overloaded with help tickets, our pipeline was unreliable and our overall data was a disaster because everyone had their own understanding of the process.
Coming out of that meeting, there was only one person that I knew felt the pain more than me and our CEO – and that was Zari. Zari was our brilliant product manager (tech guru) that worked closest to our data teams.
So that’s when I slack’d her and we met downstairs and had this conversation:
Mel: “Zari – wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t spend all of your time cleaning up bad data, and instead, all of that data that you rely on was actually entered correctly and everyone had the same understanding of what it meant? And what if our team members had instant access to answers when they got stuck, when and where they needed to know them, in all of these applications we make them use?
Zari: “Yeah. And it’d be even nicer if we could just create the documentation and training directly from these applications, so we didn’t need to manually keep track of all these constant process changes and new fields. What if a solution could just tell us what has changed in our applications so we could document these changes in a centralized place and then easily communicate them employees?
Mel: “You’re speaking my language.”
Zari: “Yep. Let’s build it.”
And just like that, we were off to the races. Less than on year later, we launched with a booth at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s largest SaaS conference, in front of 170,000 attendees.
HOW ARE WE DIFFERENT?
Well, to start, it’s not every day that two young women, one who grew up in Switzerland and the other who grew up in Pakistan, meet working at a startup in San Francisco and decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship together.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. What we’re excited about is our baby: Spekit.
HOW IS THE PRODUCT DIFFERENT?
There are three core things that make Spekit stand apart.
1. Your training is built from your applications
First, I truly believe that our novel approach and architectural design with Spekit leaves us uniquely positioned to solve an age-old problem:
How does an organization centralize and keep its documentation up to date?
For context, I managed our operations teams at my last company. In our Servicing Department, there was no room for error – so we lived by our process manual. Yet, even with the best measures in place to keep it up to date, this hallowed document would still regularly fail us. Why? Because a human on my team had to manually remember to update it if a change took place.
The “remember to update” part is where all documentation goes to die.
So, our idea to solve this problem was simple: to remove the manual effort required around creating and updating documentation, and automatically create it from the underlying processes.
To put it in slightly more technical terms, the vision was to connect your documentation to your systems at a data-model level in order to track processes, dependencies and changes that take place.
And that’s how we designed Spekit — to be a documentation platform that connects via APIs to a businesses’ core systems and creates documentation from existing metadata.
We’re proud to have partnered with Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM platform, to build our first integration.
2. Your training is available in your applications
Second, we deeply believe that just-in-time learning isn’t just a “nice-to-have” option, it’s mission critical to the future of corporate learning.
Zari and I are both big product nerds, so we tested just about every LMS, walkthrough or contextual knowledge solution under the sun before designing Spekit. We also did a ton of research to understand how humans learn and why the recent trends around remote work, SaaS proliferation and the “noise” that we must endure today as humans affect the modern worker. The collisions of these forces make just-in-time learning an absolute necessity.
That’s why Spekit has a suite of extensions that surface your training intelligently, right when and where employees need to access it, directly in your applications.
And yes, we’ve automated this part too. With Spekit, there’s no need to manually create a walkthrough that will break as soon as you make a change to the underlying process. Instead, our Salesforce integration will automatically display your training right where it belongs, on your behalf.
3. It’s created by people like you and me, for you and me.
Lastly, this is the part we take the most pride in.
From the start, Zari and I agreed that if we were going to solve this “unsexy” problem together and leave our jobs, we’d have to create a solution that we would actually want to use every day. It couldn’t be another necessary (but boring) documentation or training solution that makes every employee want to roll their eyes at it.
No, we believe a successful product needs to be sticky. Sticky, because users love that our light-weight solution has finally removed some of the frustration they feel when processes change out-of-their-control. Sticky, because it has become a natural part of their workflow.
Spekit is always there for me as an employee. It’s easy to set up. It’s easy and natural to update from where I’m working if I need to update it as a trainer. It’s easy and natural to consume where I need to learn it as a new hire. It’s fun to interact with if I have a question or feedback. It’s easy to identify what’s working and what’s not.
Simply put: we knew our product needed to be easy – across the board. It had to be a natural layer of consistency, a your layer of tribal knowledge across all of your applications.
WHY DID WE DECIDE TO FUNDRAISE?
When Zari and I went all-in on Spekit in December 2018, we signed a Founders Agreement. While the nature of this conversation was a bit uncomfortable at first, it helped us establish core values that we would carry with us into the company: vulnerability and transparency.
We agreed on the following:
- We’d be thoughtful about growth: We wanted to prove it to ourselves that there was a “unicorn” opportunity here before proving it to anyone else. That’s why we decided to invest in it ourselves and eventually raised some angel funding to get started.
- We’d keep our eyes on the problem: We both cared more about the problem than the solution. We were both open to being wrong about our hypotheses and adapting/pivoting the solution as needed to solve the real problem, one that we might not have even yet considered.
- We’d enjoy the journey and stay open-minded: Most importantly, we were committed to learning and exploring the possibilities in front of us as the company grew.
We started seriously considering fundraising in July this year. And just nine months post-launch, we were incredibly proud of what we had built:
We had thousands of active users across companies of all shapes and sizes. We were bringing real change to the way that customers (ranging from Fortune 500 institutions to scaling startups) were training their employees, we had some super-fan users of the product, we had built an amazing partnership with Salesforce and our brand was starting to get some recognition.
We were proud because for the most part , we had bootstrapped this. We had grown with the help of our incredible team of engineers. We had grown almost exclusively from inbound leads and conferences. We hadn’t yet heavily invested in Sales or Marketing which made our traction feel even more exciting.
Yet, Zari and I both saw a much greater opportunity. And after closing our biggest deal yet, we decided to lean into the possibilities and the incredible team members that this fundraise could unlock for us and found some incredible partners in the process.
WHO DID WE PARTNER WITH?
Brett Queener, Partner Bonfire Ventures
After our first conversation with Brett, Zari and I looked at each other in awe: if someone knew this problem better than we did, it was Brett.
Not only has he made numerous successful early-stage investments in companies like Outreach.io, Pendo.io, Guru and others solving for inefficiencies in the workplace, but had also written Salesforce’s go-to-market playbook in the platform’s early go-to-market days.
In fact, Brett spent a decade at Salesforce where he served in a variety of senior leadership roles in Sales, R&D, and Operations including SVP Products, EVP/GM of Data Cloud, and EVP/GM of Marketing. He knows this ecosystem, he knows this problem and we know his deep experience scaling B2B SaaS startups would be incredibly valuable to us.
Equally important, we felt like the team at Bonfire Ventures, including Jim, Mark and Tyler, have a unique blend of operational and institutional experience that we knew would make them terrific partners for us as we scaled.
Dan Scheinman – Angel Investor
Our story with Dan feels like it belongs in season six of HBO’s Silicon Valley, one of a modern-day founder/investor love story where Twitter is at the center of it all.
Why was it a boost of confidence? Because for the third time in a portfolio of only fourteen angel investments, another one of his investments had gone public with a multi-billion dollar IPO that month. It was Zoom Communications — a solution that we used every day at Spekit and whose S1 was every SaaS founder’s dream.
In other words, Dan knows how to identify big, promising opportunities and knows SaaS. He’s seen what it takes from the inside to scale consumerized, enterprise software and how to attract top investors. So if what we’d sent him was enough to truly get his interest, Zari and I were determined to get him onboard.
When I moved back to CO in late fall 2018 to build our go-to-market team in Denver, not a month had passed before three different people had mentioned the name “Natty Zola” to me.
I knew this was a sign I needed to meet him. And I quickly found out that the reason why everyone in the startup scene here in the Denver/Boulder area knows Natty is that he runs TechStars Boulder, one of the nations top accelerator programs. He is also a partner at Matchstick Ventures.
Zari and I were bullish on Colorado and the potential it has to offer an early-stage SaaS company likes ours. And after getting to know Natty and his team, that feeling is amplified. We’re so excited to have partnered with Natty and Ryan to deepen our roots here in beautiful Colorado.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
It’s game time. While we are incredibly proud of where Spekit is as a product today, we’re even more excited about what we have planned on the roadmap to make Spekit the easiest, most intuitive and fun way to train employees on applications.
To that end, we’re so excited to be building out our Sales, Marketing and Operations teams here in Denver while we continue to scale our Product team in San Francisco and engineering team in Karachi. Please check out our careers site for all open job postings.
It’s an exciting time for Spekit, and we’re at this moment in large part thanks to all of our early supporters. To the team at JLL — Ann-Renee, Marshall and Nana– thanks for taking an early bet on us. Thank you to Todd, Kris and Lindsay at Hobsons for believing in us. Thank you to Bryan and Chris at Bluewater Learning, and to the rest of our community, friends and family who have supported us along this journey. We’re so excited to continue to grow with you!