"Microsoft Will Kill Yammer" - Huddle CEO Alastair MitchellHuddle has tripled in size every year since launch and is expecting an 800% growth in enterprise sales this year
August 01, 2012
London Loves Business
by Gabriella Griffith
Huddle is one of East London’s technology success stories.
Founded in CEO Alastair Mitchell’s bedroom six years ago with the help of co-founder Andy McLoughlin, it now has offices in Silicon Valley and New York, with further stateside expansion on the cards in 2012.
Back in 2008 when LinkedIn launched its app platform, Huddle was the only European business to be represented, a start-up among behemoths like Amazon and Google. Now it boasts the UK government as one of its hefty clients.
The premise of the business is getting people working together in a better way, utilising the cloud. It gives businesses a secure online workspace where they can share and store documents, brainstorm ideas and collaborate online with customers and suppliers.
“In my last business, we found it hard getting people to work together,” explains Mitchell. “In the world outside of work, Facebook and Twitter worked well as simple, singular platforms where people could share content and discuss with friends.
“When you went into business, that all fell apart. Everyone worked with multiple tools. Our vision was a single platform where everyone could work together on the web, on any device.”
Four years on and everybody is talking about workplace collaboration tools. Huddle has tripled in size each year since launch and is growing its enterprise revenues 800% year-on-year. Mitchell won’t be drawn on profits, but having secured a round of funding to the tune of $24m in March, things are looking good.
I wonder how Huddle has achieved such impressive growth so fast. Many start-ups take years before their name is out there and the growth spurt kicks in. Huddle seemed to become a well-known player on the scene soon after it was founded. I wonder if Mitchell’s creation of DrinkTank (a meet-up event for entrepreneurs and investors before the days of Silicon Drinkabout) helped to spread the good word of Huddle early days?
“We recognised that in London there wasn’t really a tech scene - well, there was, but it was small and disparate. We wanted to give it a nucleus, so we created the event. It has been hugely popular and we have since exported it all over the world. It helped us to become more well-known but that’s not why we did it.”
It wasn’t just a case of making a name for themselves on the start-up scene. The Huddle team were present at the beginning of something huge.
“We created Huddle at the start of a huge trend. Collaboration and social were just taking off, and the success was also down to the timing for our team. It was the right time for Andy and I to get together and start something.”
And aren’t they glad they did. The success of others in the same space is testiment to the buzz around collaboration. Yammer, creator of social networking for enterprise, was recently bought for $1.1bn by Microsoft.
“Microsoft will kill Yammer, which is a great shame,” opines Mitchell. “But the sale has been great news for us.”
So why is Mitchell celebrating the lucrative sale of another start-up in Huddle’s space? Is he not kicking himself that the $1.1bn could have been lining his own pockets?
“CIOs all over the world are looking at that thinking, ‘What is our strategy on content collaboration?’,” he says.
“It will take at least two years for Microsoft to squeeze what’s valuable out of Yammer and bring something to market. In the meantime, everyone will be looking to get something set up and Huddle is a great alternative. We’re really delighted.”
If you happened to be walking past Yammer’s Old Street offices a couple of weeks ago, you might have seen a van carrying bright blue advertising boards with a special message for Yammer employees.
Was it congratulating them on their recent acquisition by Microsoft? Wishing them well on their way to becoming part of a gigantosaurus tech conglomerate? No. It read: “Don’t want to work for Microsoft? Come and join our band.”
The cheeky message was from Yammer’s Silicon Roundabout neighbour Huddle (a competitor to Microsoft’s SharePoint software and arguably its sworn enemy).
It’s not the first time Huddle has taken on Microsoft. The tech giant’s SharePoint conference in Los Angeles in October 2011 was “crashed” by team Huddle who showed up outside with a marching band, American football players and cheerleaders - all brandishing Huddle T-shirts. “Everyone loved it and everyone wanted to be part of it, not listening to boring product releases from Microsoft,” laughs Mitchell.