Amid a pandemic and subsequent recession, one of the best-case scenarios for a growth-stage company is to have a round in the bank, a venture capitalist will likely tell you.
Securing a round of fundraising now could buy a year or so of safety during unpredictable times for a biz looking to add employees, roll out a new product or simply survive unscathed during the next few months.
Guru Technologies, one of Center City’s steadiest-growing tech companies, announced Tuesday that amid one of the most suddenly challenging periods for local economies in recent history, it had just closed a Series C — a $30 million round led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Accel, which has funded the likes of Facebook and Spotify.
“We’ve had the pleasure of knowing Rick and Mitch for a few years, though the product resonates with us now more deeply than ever,” Accel partners Miles Clements and Ben Fletcher wrote in a blog post about the investment, referring to Guru cofounders Rick Nucci and Mitch Stewart. “As I write this post from my kitchen table in a makeshift remote office during a period of forced quarantine, I toggle back and forth between Gmail, Slack, Dropbox, Zoom and a half dozen other productivity apps. Guru ties these services all neatly together, putting at my fingertips the knowledge I need to confidently make decisions with my team asynchronously.”
Those paying close attention to Philly’s tech scene over the past few months might not be too surprised by the announcement of Guru’s investor relationship with Accel.
At a Philly Startup Leaders-supported event back in February, the West Coast firm courted tech companies with flowing drinks, matching Accel bowling shirts and access to one another at Center City’s Harp & Crown. The event was part of Accel’s effort to connect with companies outside of the Bay-area bubble, and gathered founders from across Philly’s tech sector to talk making it as an entrepreneur.
The spread of attendees included those not often gathered in one place: First-time founders mingled with serial entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists talked with folks both brand new to Philadelphia and those who have worked for a handful of companies here. That night, Nucci, Guru’s CEO, sat on a panel with Yakir Gola, cofounder of Philly’s most recent tech unicorn, goPuff; Crossbeam cofounder and CEO Bob Moore; and Venmo’s former COO, Michael Vaughan, as they all talked fundraising, the highest and lowest moments of building a company, and their favorite Philly startups.
Nucci told Technical.ly last week that in addition to Accel, the company’s existing investors, Emergence Capital, FirstMark Capital, Thrive Capital, Slack and MSD Capital, participated in this latest round. The $30 million deal closed at the beginning of this month, the cofounder said, and it comes about a year and a half after Guru’s $25 million Series B that aimed to bulk up the company’s staff.
“We had been creating that relationship with Accel for a while, and I do think that makes a difference — having that relationship,” Nucci said of closing a deal during uncertain economic times for the country. “They’d been helpful even before fundraising began.”
In a blog post on the company’s site, Nucci — who cofounded Guru with Stewart in 2013 after his first company, Boomi, was sold to Dell in 2010 — wrote that it feels surreal to be sharing good news for the company when there’s scary stuff happening in the world.
“But during this time of so much uncertainty, our team at Guru has been focused on what we can do for our customers — and what we can do for each other and our families,” he wrote. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to secure a $30 million round of funding to continue our work.”
Nucci also noted the company’s additions of Paul Hepworth and Jason Maynard as VPs of engineering and product, respectively. They both joined Guru in the last six months.
While the previous round of fundraising was focused on adding team members — the company currently employs 160 people across Philly and San Francisco, and remotely — this raise is focused on continuing to reach new and existing customers, Nucci said. At the beginning of the year, Guru began offering a free starter version of its knowledge management solution. The resulting spike in new customers made it clear that the offering was the future of the company.
“This feels like really, really the right way, the optimal way to be growing this business,” Nucci told Technical.ly. “And that gave us the conviction, combined with new leaders, to go forward.”
The news of the raise comes as the company’s entire workforce, like many across the region and the world, has gone totally remote. So, how do you embrace this new normal during a pandemic?
Anne Raimondi, Guru’s chief customer officer, told Technical.ly that although the company’s infrastructure already supported a remote work environment, nobody really plans on working under stay-at-home orders, while also juggling childcare or online schooling. It’s come down to extra communication, sharing needs and support, and ultimately realizing which things are most important.
“We know that everyone is in a different situation, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all expectation,” Raimondi said. “Ultimately, this is helping us focus on what are the right metrics and the right priorities.”
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