Hard at work? Chances are you are doing so from the comfort of your own home. When the pandemic struck, companies and workers had to adapt to a new reality in which going to the office was no longer an option. This is only possible with the right online tools to stay connected. Amsterdam houses several startups who have been making these tools for years. Both Speakap and Open Social found themselves in an exciting position to play a significant role in the transition to the new normal.
Speakap keeps co-workers connected
By the looks of it, Speakap seems to be a product made for times like these. A SaaS-platform that allows companies to connect all their employees, including the non-desk frontline employees and effectively communicate throughout the organisation. A slick communication application on mobile or pc to stay in touch with the entire organisation.
Now that many companies are forced into a remote working situation, companies should be flocking to what the Amsterdam-based startup has made. And so they did. But the past couple of months weren’t the easiest for Speakap, says co-founder Patrick van der Mijl.
It was mid-March when the Dutch government announced the country would go into lockdown. At Speakap, Van der Mijl and partners quickly estimated that this could take a while. “This meant we had to adjust our growth scenario to a situation where there would be less or no sales”, says Van der Mijl. “Before 2020, we scaled up to be able to handle the planned growth of this year. But we had to take a step back at the end of March, to make sure we could stay independent and stay in control of our own faith.”
This also meant Van der Mijl had to let go of 15 of the 90 employees. “It has an impact on an organisation. We’ve only been looking at growth before, so it is painful if you have to let people go.”
Sudden surge crisis communication
According to Van der Mijl, some feared this decision came too soon mainly because last March turned out to be their best month ever. “Many companies suddenly needed a tool to handle crisis communication. Usage surged to four times the normal level. People checked the app 15 times a day, and this number rose significantly. Adoption also grew. What we normally handled in a quarter now happened within a month. It required a lot of strength from us. We have half a million users. If they suddenly take to the platform more often, the load increases significantly. We formed a crisis team here to handle the surges and balance the load.”
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Unfortunately for Speakap, what goes up must come down. Many companies, mostly in retail and hospitality, apply their solution to communicate with their frontline employees effectively. So when countries shut down, they felt the pinch in Amsterdam.
Van der Mijl: “There is a lot in the pipeline, but many deals got moved up. Getting a signature on a contract now takes more time than we are used to. But the good thing is that the necessity of our tool is now more clear than ever with C-suite executives.”
And after a period of patience, sales are looking good right now, says Van der Mijl. “We are now ahead of the adjusted forecast we made in March.”
Speakap is now active in over 120 countries at more than 400 companies. The majority is based in The Netherlands, where Van der Mijl says damage control has been proficient as companies receive a lot of support. “We can instantly see what happens in the market, and the difference among countries is huge. Spain is dramatic. Companies are struggling to pay their bills or ask for a deferral. But in Germany and the UK, we do great. We just signed our biggest contract ever in the UK. A large retailer, with over 30,000 employees. We are also back at the table with different companies in the USA. Closing deals there is the main driver for our growth.”
Open Social closed funding amid pandemic
Elsewhere in Amsterdam, another communication platform for companies is trying to keep up with the corona demand. Open Social offers a SaaS-solution to create and maintain communities for large organisations. Since March, they’ve seen usage go up. According to CEO Taco Potze, it never came down: “This is going to be our best year ever. Usually, in the summer, everything falls silent, but this year even August was full of tenders and requests.”
A clear sign Open Social is in the right place is that they closed an impressive €1.25 million funding round, despite being in the middle of a pandemic.
“We’ve noticed there is a huge demand for exchanging knowledge online. Our platform is about sharing expertise that was usually passed around on congresses and meetups.” But with people forced to meet online, they also realise there are far better options to gain knowledge than attending a congress. Potze: “The exchange of information in an online community goes much deeper than the snapshots of a meetup.”
The coronavirus did not fundamentally change the product of Open Social. Potze anticipated the way we work would change eventually. The pace at which it does, just accelerated significantly, he says: “Changes that would normally take two years, now happen in two months.”
Even a massive organisation like the UN moved quickly with their platform. Organisations must make the switch. Potze is convinced the world as we know it, might not return. “These large congresses will not come back. Many companies are now saving in travel expenses and can even do with a smaller, cheaper office footprint.”
Remote working here to stay
But how does open Social itself deal with its empty office and the new way of working? For the Amsterdam startup, the new way of working isn’t a novelty. When the lockdown in The Netherlands was declared, Potze quickly made the switch: “Many of our people already worked remotely. Our biggest concern is how to deal with missing out on the social aspect. The water cooler chatter, that sort of stuff.”
Open Social, of course, knows the way around its own platform. “We use Open Social as a social intranet. We post silly questions every day, to talk about something else than just work. And last week we rented a big boat to cruise through Amsterdam. No laptops, just good conversations about how everyone was doing. But you have to put some extra effort into it.”
Same goes for Van der Mijl. At Speakap, the cultural values are ‘trust, smart and fun’. Is it possible to maintain that over an online platform, even if it is the one you’ve made yourself? “We advise everyone to spend one day a month in the office with the entire team. There is ample space in the office, so no problem there. Meeting face to face everyone once in a while is good for the company culture.”
Featured image: Patrick van der Mijl, Speakap