Born out of frustration by the lack of existing enterprise technology designed to help people work together, Huddle was launched in 2007 by Alastair Mitchell (pictured) and Andy McLoughlin to deliver a cloud-based collaboration service to businesses and governments across the globe.
Starting out in the UK, Huddle has expanded its presence to over 180 companies and now employees 175 people across its offices in London, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC.
Huddle now enables people to work together within and beyond an organisation's confines through the use of Microsoft Office, iOS and Android applications, available in 15 different languages, including English, French, German, Russian and Japanese.
V3 put co-founder and president Mitchell under the spotlight to find out more about Huddle.
Why did you choose to develop this service?
We were frustrated by existing enterprise technology's inability to help people work together. Spending millions of dollars on a SharePoint implementation, only to watch it fail dismally, was the final straw.
In contrast, collaboration apps in our social lives just worked, and we could see how a combination of cloud, content and collaboration could revolutionise the way enterprises worked in the future. As a result, Huddle was born. Since setting up the company in 2006, the company has raised $86m in funding and seen sales double year on year.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground?
Huddle's first funding came from Charles McGregor, who had just sold his billion dollar fibre-optic firm that I had previously worked for.
In a great example of the power of startup networks, Charles' first funding came from a lady called Sheila Watson-Chalice, founder of BlueArrow recruitment consultancy.
She was the grandmother of my best friend Tom - so the circle was complete and it was natural that Charles was going to give Huddle its first break. This was shortly followed by Huddle's first venture funding in 2007.
In March 2008, Huddle was chosen by UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) as one of the UK's 20 best web technology companies, and invited to join a Web Mission to the US. This gave us the opportunity to meet the Silicon Valley community, including major players in the US market, local investors and key journalists.
It was a meeting during the inaugural Web Mission that led to Huddle's first evermajor partnership, with business social network LinkedIn, which was shortly followed by a major partnership with HP and others, cementing our place as a leading global startup.
What technology do you use?
Huddle is built on a wide variety of technology platforms; including .Net and web native/open-source frameworks, which Huddle's developers contribute significantly back to the community.
Our technology is entirely proprietary and includes an intelligent recommendation engine, which automatically recommends and downloads useful files to your desktop or mobile device.
What level of funding have you received so far?
We have raised $86m in funding to date from US and European investors.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Over the years there have been many challenges to overcome, with new ones occurring every day.
They range from cash flow issues in the early days, growing and retaining a world-class team, raising significant funding to compete on a global stage in a highly dynamic market, and the daily battle to maintain the security of its customers' data.
As any startup founder will tell you, it's the hardest but most rewarding job you will ever have.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
Building any startup, you encounter the highest of highs and the very lowest of lows, often on the same day.
I keenly remember our very first customer (a PR company who I sold to while on my honeymoon on an island off Mozambique), our first funding, our first venture capital round, going to Downing Street, the White House, meeting some of my business heroes, being written about on the BBC and in major journals like the FT and New York Times, and our first major partnerships. All highlights that I've been incredibly fortunate to experience.
However the highlight has to be on a rainy day in New York, in the basement of a hotel at a mixer for UK startups, when a lawyer travelled from out of state and came to find me just for five minutes, specifically to thank me for enabling his charity to work together, with a free edition of Huddle that we provided as part of our Foundation.
Hearing how we were helping him to care for orphans of America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and how he'd been moved to come all that way just to say thank you, was incredible. If I ever needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it was that.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
Our social committee, the 'Funderbirds', organises some great social activities throughout the year.
From parties to company outings, our company socials are amazing and so valuable in developing a culture that drives our success. Everything from office Olympics to scavenger hunts - anything goes.
At the end of the week, our regular Friday socials are sacred. The latest and greatest has to have been a spa day complete with massages, smoothies at lunchtime and branded Huddle spa robes.
What did you do before starting up Huddle?
My career has followed the trajectory of the internet. Huddle is my third internet startup. After my first startup, an online media business, I moved into online exchanges and I helped build the first global soft commodities marketplace.
When the business got bought out by one of its investors, I moved to Dunnhumby. Here I led its web-based marketing intelligence product from zero to $60m sales within four years.
I joined the board in 2005 to head up a 300-person global team, running their shopper loyalty practice. When Dunnhumby was purchased by Tesco, I started Huddle to solve what I saw was an even bigger problem: collaboration.
What is your favourite thing about running your own startup?
All the amazing people I get to work with.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
Everyone works in a shared, open-plan office. It's all about collaboration. With four offices worldwide, we are definitely global and work hard to work well together. It's very tough to do well, but thankfully we have a great online collaboration tool to help.
Smart or casual?
British style work-smart.
Coffee shop of choice?
Anywhere in San Francisco that can serve a decent flat white. Unfortunately not many can.
Beverage of choice?
Coffee. We have a full-on, high-scale coffee machine in every single office.
With Huddle and a young family, I'm a dinner party guy now; which just gives me the excuse to stay in and grow my wine collection. However when we go out, we go big. Jagerbombs are the Huddle drink of choice, as anyone who's seen one of our infamous 60-bomb lineups at a London bar will tell you.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Very definitely. The community has been very kind to us, and we've tried to give back where we can; whether it's through events (DrinkTank, which we ran, was one of the first tech meetups in London), HuddleUps (which we now run globally) or now doing our own angel investing and mentoring in startups.
Can the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
Absolutely. The UK is actually an excellent place to start a tech business, with fantastic immigration, tax benefits and support.
However the government is missing a huge trick by not investing more in startups themselves by buying anything like enough technology off them, and rather buying simply based on price from major US vendors.
A more long-sighted policy has the opportunity to make an incredible impact on the UK startup economy and will be something that we will regret not doing for a generation.
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