Start-Ups

Huddle brings clarity back to enterprise content collaboration

Enterprise upstart Huddle was founded to help people work better together. Here's how the company put its stamp on enterprise collaboration.

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Image: Huddle

Most new companies are built to solve a problem. When Alastair Mitchell was running a 300-person team at customer science company, Dunnhumby, his problem was collaboration.

Whether internal or external, the collaboration process kept breaking. So, he and his team started looking for solutions. They spent several million dollars on SharePoint, tried using WebEx and others solutions, but nothing seemed to stick.

At this point, a seasoned entrepreneur himself, Mitchell had the realization that typically begins the startup lifecycle — there has to be a better way. He began to notice emerging trends such as the firewall becoming more permeable, and employees expecting to work with colleague, partners, and clients as easily as possible.

So, when Dunnhumby was purchased by Tesco, Mitchell left Dunnhumby and set out to solve his problem by founding Huddle, a cloud-based enterprise content collaboration tool.

"We called it Huddle for a reason," Mitchell said. "We called it Huddle because it's about people working together. If I invite you to huddle with me, you know exactly what you're going to do."

The Huddle tool is available via desktop or mobile, currently Android and iOS, and integrates with Microsoft Office applications and SharePoint. Huddle works with both Windows and Mac, and offers a slew of apps to connect it with other enterprise services. Content can be shared internally or externally, and Huddle guarantees 99.9% uptime for the service.

Paul Ginman, COO of Baker Tilly International, said that one of the reasons his company chose Huddle was for its ease of use.

"Content can now be easily created and updated via Huddle, with approvals and tasks being set for key firms to ensure that actions are completed," Ginman said. "Details of various billing rates, expenses and employee levels can be stored and revised centrally and everyone can view work schedules and ensure key milestones are met."

Users can work offline if they wish, and files will be synchronized the next time they connect to the internet. Huddle offers version control, permissions, and audit trails for content so users and administrators can know how users have accessed the files. Additionally, Huddle has completed the SSAE 16 and ISAE 3402 Type II audits, and is ISO 27001 certified.

This security focus was another reason Baker Tilly was drawn to using Huddle. The company deals with many sensitive documents, and Ginman said that consumer solutions such as email or Dropbox just weren't cutting it anymore.

"We needed a standard system for consistency purposes and a service that would provide us with full version control and audit trails, so we had an increased level of accountability, transparency and visibility," Ginman said. "Increasingly, prospects were also requesting access to secure global client portals as part of their bid compliance."

Mitchell said the company is only focused on enterprise, and they don't offer a consumer or freemium tool. Clients begin deployment by using Huddle in a small team or department to pilot for a few months. Based on that trial, you'll develop a plan to grow it across your company. Compared to legacy tools, Mitchell said Huddle tends to get high adoption when rolled out. In fact, there's even an adoption guarantee on their website which states: "We guarantee that within 90 days 100% of your initial user groups will be trained and using Huddle actively - or we will refund a full three months subscription value."

"There is no reason why enterprise has to have software that sucks," Mitchell said. "You should have easy to use, secure software that everyone loves using and everyone will use."

When it comes to which tools they use as a company, you'll recognize a lot of popular names in the mix, such as Salesforce, Marketo, Github, and Zendesk. Huddle is built on top of the Microsoft stack for part of the business, with a lot of open source repositories and proprietary code to make it all come together. Also, Mitchell said that Huddle's toolset is entirely cloud-based.

Huddle started in 2006 in London, but they now have offices in London, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, but all development is out of London.

Being from the UK, their story is interesting because they've had to learn how to be international from the onset and find where to best scale the product.

"We've had to eat our own dog food from the very beginning," Mitchell said. "We've had to be very collaborative in a virtual sense from the very get-go, and I think that's helped us build a great product for collaborating on content."

Over the years, Huddle has raised a hefty amount of capital, most recently a $51 million round last December. The company has taken investments from firms in Europe and the US, and Mitchell said that many of the cultural differences around startups stem from the amount of money available.

There is more money available in the US for investment and it drives the number of companies being started. It also allows VC firms and companies to place bigger bets and have a higher risk tolerance than they do in the UK. Companies can scale faster too.

"My other thesis is about weather," Mitchell said. "The weather here is perpetually sunny and just drives a happier kind of outwardly positive thing, than if you're in the UK where it's raining all the time and you just have to hunker down in the bar."

More than 100,00 organizations in upwards of 180 countries use Huddle, including NASA, Beats by Dre, and Kia. Mitchell said they are known for their work in government, with one third of their users being governmental organizations. Other industries he sees are consulting firms, accountancy firms, health, utilities, and transport.

Collaboration has been a growing sector in enterprise technology, and Mitchell believes that it is the next big enterprise sector to get huge. He's expecting lots of M&A activity and IPOs in the space.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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