One of the largest funding rounds this year by a Philly tech startup was announced today: Guru just raised a $9.3 million Series A led by San Mateo, Calif.-based Emergence Capital, with participation from past investor FirstMark Capital and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital.
Per Guru cofounder Rick Nucci, the round is aimed at fueling the startup’s “next-stage” growth and building out the machine learning capabilities of its team-knowledge software solution. Currently at a headcount of 35, the Old City startup is looking to raise that number to 50 by the end of the year.
Numbers aside, the cash will help shape the company’s offering.
“Today, Guru is a system where you can search and find answers to solve customer problems or get answers to questions,” Nucci told Technical.ly. “Tomorrow, the vision is that Guru brings you that information as you need it, and that’s the promise of machine learning.”
Beyond the growth in engineering, sales and marketing will also grow proportionally. Nucci said paying customers have more than tripled since last year, going from 86 to 325.
“We expect this to fuel the next two to three years of the company,” said Nucci, who cofounded and then sold his previous software startup, Berwyn-based Boomi, to Dell.
Last summer, Guru raised its national profile by securing a $1 million investment that included some cash from Slack’s investment vehicle, The Slack Fund. Nucci said the investment helped the relationship between the two companies grow.
“Slack has been an amazing partner for us,” said Nucci. “We have a large proportion of mutual customers: around 75 percent.”
The popular communication tool has been a target spotter for the company: teams that adopt Slack often look to improve the way they share knowledge. Guru launched a Slack bot in May of last year.
The relationship with FirstMark was also helpful in securing the new raise. “They were super helpful in identifying VCs that aligned with Guru’s goal and vision,” Nucci said. “Emergence stood out as a great partner for us for because our visions have crazy alignment. It’s an amazing connection.”
As part of the investment, Emergence Capital founder Gordon Ritter is joining Guru’s board. Jake Saper, principal at Emergence, will also join the board in a board observer capacity.
For Nucci, who was volunteer president of Philly Startup Leaders from 2013 to 2015, the round serves as a signal of how Philly is a place where companies can find fertile ground.
“I’ve known that for a while about Philly, but some people outside the region don’t,” said Nucci. “I like to leverage news like this in this way: Forget about Guru, here’s a Philly startup that’s raised a nice amount of capital from out-of-region investors. It should serve as recognition that Philly is a great place to start a company full of talented people.