Huddle founders Andy McLoughlin and Alastair Mitchell have something that Box CEO Aaron Levie badly wants. And it’s not the $51 million in new funding they announced yesterday, a car with a steering wheel on the right side or even a British accent.
It’s having his company recognized as an Enterprise Content Collaboration platform provider or, in other words, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that goes beyond file sharing and not only gets the right information to the right people but also gives them the tools they need to achieve their goals, all in one place.
Levie didn’t tell us this, of course. But Box, in its S-1, which was updated this week, calls itself an “a cloud-based, mobile-optimized Enterprise Content Collaboration platform that enables organizations of all sizes to easily and securely manage their content and collaborate internally and externally”. Ask the modern worker what Box is, and if they’re familiar with it, they’ll tell you it’s the Dropbox for business, which may be a whole other problem.
Not the Same
Box and Huddle were built to solve different problems.
“Box is an EFSS (Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing) destination offering,” writes Gartner in its most recent Magic Quadrant for EFSS. The same report calls Huddle’s EFSS an “extension of a broader suite, including document and project management”.
Mitchell, Huddle’s CEO, seems to be practically delighted that his company is considered to be a niche player rather than Leader for EFSS. “Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) is an albatross. It creates yet another silo,” he said. And he doesn’t back down, even after it’s pointed out to him that his company is a Gartner-rated EFSS provider. The value ends in collaboration, not shuffling files back and forth."
Vanessa Thompson, a research director at IDC, seems to agree with Huddle’s approach; in fact it may be trending. “A growing number of enterprise products are including a file sync as a component of the broader offering,” she said. “Beyond the business productivity suites like Office 365 and Google for Work, sync capabilities are being embedded in a number of enterprise social networks, as well as team collaborative applications, like Huddle.”
What's In a Name?
And if Gartner had an MQ for collaboration applications, Mitchell is sure Huddle would be top-rated. “It’s what we’ve been doing it for the last seven years,” he said. “It’s why we’re called Huddle — a group of people working together on the same content, whether inside or outside of the business, to get a job done.”
And Huddle’s success doesn’t depend on where its customers store their files. With several EFSS solutions, and other kinds of tools, within the same enterprise, never mind a project ecosystem which often includes external collaborators (think about product designers who need to work closely together with the external manufacturers and marketers) , insisting that everyone keep their files in one specific vendor solution is unrealistic.
So rather than beginning with content and building workflows and processes around it, Huddle begins with a project. More specifically, it’s about people coming together in a private, virtual workspace in which they can have discussions, store and share files, manage workflow and get work done, in a highly secure and compliant environment.
Good Enough for Government
How secure and compliant? The United Nations, the World Bank and some government agencies who work with highly important and confidential information are customers. In fact, Huddle is one of three SaaS providers approved by the United States Government.
And if you’re secure enough for say, the United States Department of Defense, chances are the Fortune 500 will have confidence in you as well.
That’s why companies like Dr. Dre’s Beats (now owned by Apple) use Huddle. And if you’re wondering what kind of secrets a headphone manufacturer has to keep, think about why their products are so coveted; it’s the cool factor, the fashion and the design.
Needless to say all kinds of design documents and drawings have to be shared with manufacturers, packagers, graphic designers, ad agencies, and so on, who collaborate and plan from different continents for months before products show up in stores. Having that kind of intellectual property land in a competitor’s or pirate’s hands could cost millions. Beats by Dre uses Huddle so that everyone involved in designing, building, marketing, distributing and rolling out a product can all work together securely in the same workspace.
It’s a different approach than using a shared folder.
And it’s one that’s gaining traction. Mitchell said that sales to enterprise customers tripled in the first three quarters of 2014 over the same period last year. Huddle also secured seven of its ten biggest contracts to date in the same time frame. Customers include Grant Thornton, Baker Tilly International, National Grid, P&G, Keolis, Williams Lea, Driscoll’s and Panasonic, NASA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Government of Greenland, the NHS, and numerous local government organizations.
What’s next? Building out the US market (Huddle was born in the UK) as well as amping-up sales, marketing and product teams to create even more success.
“We’ve been evangelizing that it’s about collaboration, not file sharing, for the last seven years,” said Mitchell. And now that the message is resonating, Huddle has $51 million, the largest investment in its history, to spread the word.