Workplace Roundup: Thank You, Gusto! Crisis Averted.

The Starr Conspiracy is well known for our expertise in workplace technology. We love nerding out on this stuff — it’s kind of our thing. In an effort to share the nerdy intellectual wealth, we are launching a monthly news roundup to help your team keep up with all of the latest business developments and trends happening within our industry. Let's dive in.

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Slow Start to Q3 Investing: Only $350 Million in July

Compared with Q2 2019, Q3 investment in work software has been downright sleepy. With everyone wondering just how long the good times will roll, is July evidence of a slowing market or evidence that investors like a vacation as much as everyone else? Check back after Labor Day, but bet on the latter.

Thanks to Gusto’s $200 million, it doesn’t look like 1929 just yet. With them top of mind, let’s go ahead and take a look back at July:

Gusto Goes Big
The San Francisco-based SMB HCM outfit Gusto announced last week that they raised a $200 million Series D at a $3.8 billion valuation. And why not? Just look at how they’re doing. We think you can use LinkedIn data on employee growth as a pretty close proxy for business/revenue growth. Gusto is on fire compared with their immediate competitors — 120% two-year growth is hard for a 1,000-plus employee company to achieve. 

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Don’t count out Justworks just yet. They have a lot of good market buzz and have the benefit of peaking while their NYC counterpart Namely is … not as dominant as they used to be. So, Gusto vs. Justworks? Biggest West Coast vs. East Coast battle since Tupac and Biggie? OK, well, no. Definitely as massive overstatement. But interesting and worth watching? You bet.


RealWear Raises $80 Million for Augmented Reality
Here’s another example of how our industry is changing and the employee experience is really changing things. This company produces augmented reality headsets for employees in rugged conditions to improve productivity and safety. (VentureBeat)


15Five Raises $30.7 Million.
Next-generation performance management continues to attract investment. (Venture Beat)


Vista Equity Partners Announces New $850 Million Fund

They’re continuing their investments in smaller software firms. (Crunchbase)


Lots of Money Was Invested Overseas During summer Break
Turns out the world of didn't slow down just because the U.S. did. Lots of headlines and activity from abroad.

  • Australia: Employment Hero gets a $22 million AUD Series C. All-in-one HR platform gets a big round. (SmartCompany)
  • Australia: Sidekicker gets $10 million AUD. A staffing company, with same investor -  SEEK - as Employment Hero (mentioned above). (SmartCompany)
  • France: CleverConnect gets €5.5 million. (EU Startups)
  • France: EasyMovie gets €5 million.  (EU Startups)
  • U.K.: Florence gets £5 million. (FINSMES)
  • U.K.: Clear Review gets €2.9 million. They are — you guessed it — performance improvement. (EU Startups)

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Upwork Board Addition

Leela Srinivasan has been named to the board of Upwork. She is also currently CMO at Survey Monkey and formerly CMO of Lever and was formerly at LinkedIn. Leela is not only a world-class marketing professional but also an outstanding human being. Corporate boards have been the exclusive domain of doughy old white guys for too long. It's way past time to shake things up. Congrats to Leela! Well deserved!

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Going to HR Tech? Join Us at the Partnership Summit

Yep, it’s just about that time again. If you are headed to HR Tech, plan to get in a day early and attend the partnership summit, available at no cost for exhibitors of the 2019 HR Technology Conference® and a small registration fee of $150 for others. It’s like speed-dating for partnerships.

Plus, The Starr Conspiracy will be presenting content, including our first public look at Brandscape™ 2020! Register today!

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Forrester Newsflash, Part 1: Former SAP Exec Joins Analyst Ranks

Mark Brandau, formerly an SVP at SAP/SuccessFactors, joins Forrester as Principal Analyst. Brandau is a former SVP at SAP/SuccessFactors and will focus on human capital management (HCM), including core HR, HCM, and talent management.

We’ve worked with him before, and we think he’s a good get for Forrester. We wish him well! Also, check out his first blog over at Forrester.

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Forrester Newsflash, Part 2: Everybody’s Website Sucks

According to Forrester: [We] evaluated 60 websites across 12 B2B industries. Nearly every website we reviewed scored poorly. Most B2B marketers continue to fail miserably when it comes to creating content that buyers find interesting, interactive, or compelling. (Forrester)

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Industry News Roundup


LinkedIn Expanding Omaha Office, Hiring 1,000
Gallup and Kenexa are probably curious what impact this will have on their retention and recruiting. We would be. (Omaha World-Herald)

Paychex Gets a Downgrade
Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgrades Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX) from Neutral to Underperform after a mixed earnings report. BofA cites shares trading "far higher" than Paycheck’s peers and the "underwhelming fundamentals." (Seeking Alpha)

ThinkHR and Mammoth HR Join Forces 
The Bay Area HCM platform and Portland, Ore., HR consultants join forces. (Globe Newswire). And then the ThinkHR CEO, Larry Dunivan, leaves to become CEO at Namely. Ha!

Indeed Acquires ClickIQ
ClickIQ acquires the U.K.-based programmatic advertising platform. (Staffing Industry)

Ceridian launches in Australia. (Business Wire)

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PR Research: What Marketing Leaders Say

The Starr Conspiracy surveyed business and marketing leaders at growing B2B technology and services companies this year about their plans to invest in public relations and analyst relations. What we found was eye-opening — even though 62% called themselves “expert” or “professional” at PR, an almost identical number said they were likely to invest in external PR agencies. In fact, 58.6% prefer a mention in a leading industry magazine than in The Wall Street Journal, and $10,000 to $25,000 per month is the average spend on external PR.

Download The Starr Conspiracy’s “2019 B2B PR Research Report.”