Simpler raises $70M for AI-powered internet platform

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Several years ago, entrepreneur Dheeraj Sharma’s first company, a software consultancy, was hired by an HR tech firm to develop an app to improve the employee onboarding experience. Instead of creating a one-time, ad hoc solution, Sharma led a platform called Simpler, which he later spun off into his own company.

Today, Simpler primarily sells an internal social network to companies—one that allows employees to create profiles, share content, follow users, and participate in polls or surveys via a customized Internet interface. Administrators can create an employee directory, as well as create social workspaces that can be customized for different groups and departments.

The business is booming, obviously. SimplePler announced this morning that it has raised $70 million in a funding round led by Sapphire Ventures with participation from Norwest Ventures, Tola Capital and Salesforce Ventures. The tract, which adds to Simpler’s previously raised $61 million, will be used to grow the company’s workforce and support ongoing product R&D, Sharma says.

“Simpplr is built for business owners, so they own it – with no reliance on IT,” Sharma, who serves as the company’s CEO, told TechCrunch in an email. It includes delivering seamless access to content, resources and tools for every employee.”

The “employee experience” software market has been relatively resilient to macroeconomic ills over the past few years. As the world moves toward remote and hybrid work, IT decision makers have prioritized technology that enhances the employee experience and engagement despite budget constraints.

Startups in the space have benefited. One such successful example is Culture Amp, which raised $100 million in July 2021 for $1.5 billion to help employers turn data they collect from anonymous employee surveys into insights.

Intranets tend to be the most unpopular, with 57% of employees not seeing a purpose in their company’s intranet, according to Workvivo data. But Simplepler appears to have successfully ridden the aforementioned investment wave, growing its client base to more than 700 companies, including Moderna, Penske, Snowflake and AAA.

Over the next 12 months, Sharma expects Simpler’s annual recurring revenue to grow 70% year-on-year — or more.

How did Simpler fare against competition like Workday and ServiceNow? Sharma appreciates the company’s AI-first approach. Simplp points to ways it uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT for its “SmartWriting” feature, which helps customers automatically write and edit company content intended for employees.

“AI is at the heart of our platform,” Sharma said. “Simpplr’s AI-powered employee experience platform empowers IT to give business users ownership of their content and the digital experience users want.”

Image Credits: Simpler

Simpplr also uses AI for sentiment and sentiment analysis – this bit of factual bias goes into trained algorithms to identify emotions and feelings. According to a 2017 story on Vice, Google’s API, which determines whether text has a positive or negative sentiment, consistently labels sentences about religious and ethnic minorities as negative.

“[Simpplr] It combines active and passive listening to analyze millions of data points across the platform to identify mood, emotion, and language patterns and trends over time. “Understand, adapt and respond quickly to changing trends and attitudes before they become big issues that can impact a broader employee base.”

That second bit raises questions about what “trends,” exactly, Simplr is tracking. Posts about employment policy? An emoji response? It is not completely clear.

Sharma did not say what steps Simpler took to reduce potential biases in its sentiment and sentiment analysis algorithms. And Simpler declined to answer questions about the company’s privacy policy, including how long it stores users’ data and whether users can easily delete that data.

If one can look beyond the lack of transparency, Simpler seems to have a bright future, with a workforce of 450 and plans to expand in the coming months.

“Thanks to the broader slowdown in technology, it hasn’t had a big impact on Simplor,” Sharma said. “We serve more than 30 industries, so while some technology firms may sometimes delay decisions or limit budgets, that hasn’t affected our pace of growth. . . . Plus, Simpler has been disciplined in our operations and investments from the start, which has served us well whatever happens in the broader economy.”

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