- Front is a shared inbox product that works just like email and is used by companies like Stripe, Shopify, and Dropbox to manage conversations with customers.
- On Tuesday, Front announced it will further its mission to make work more enjoyable by acquiring the calendar software startup, Meetingbird.
- The acquisition is the company’s first and represents a big milestone for first-time CEO Mathilde Collin who co-founded Front in Paris, France in 2013.
- Front has raised over $US79 million in hopes of disrupting competitors in the space like Zendesk.
Mathilde Collin, the French CEO and co-founder of Front, got her inspiration from her first job.
Collin was working at a software company that provided customers with tools for creating contracts. She realised that contracts, however useful, were not something that most employees use every day in their jobs.
“I wasn’t using contracts at work, I was using email,” Collin told Business Insider in a recent interview.
So email was the first area where Front decided to make its mark with the launch of a shared inbox product in 2013.
More than 3,500 businesses around the world now use Front’s product to help streamline internal email and email communications with customers. The service has become especially in-vogue among tech companies – with Stripe, Shopify, and Dropbox using its platform today – and presents a competitive threat to companies like Zendesk.
On Tuesday, Front added another piece to its goal of offering a tool that people use everyday at work with the acquisition of Meetingbird, a Khosla-backed calendar software company.
Collin says that deeper calendar integration was the top feature requests from customers, who waste time having to schedule events outside of their inbox. The acquisition also made sense from a cultural perspective, as both companies have been part of Y Combinator (Front in Spring 2014 and Meetingbird in Spring 2017).
“The thing I care the most about is that I want to have an impact on how people work because they spend so much time at work,” Collin told us. “Email was the right place to start because it is so core to work. But email is very related to calendar.”
Collin would not disclose the terms of the Meetingbird acquisition.
Front has raised over $US79 million in funding. It’s most recent round – a $US66 million series B in January – was led by Sequoia Capital.
A new home for Front
The acquisition is the company’s first and a significant milestone for the 29-year-old CEO and her co-founder/CTO Laurent Perrin after starting Front from Paris, France in 2013.
From the beginning, Front has focused on bringing more transparency to email within the workplace. Its product can be used by multiple teams within an organisation – like customer service teams and operations teams – without messages getting siloed and forgotten. Front also allows for more personal interaction with customers (its messages read no different than standard emails), as opposed to other platforms that assign a ticket number to each response.
A lot of companies, Collin tells us, don’t want to refer to customer interactions as “ticket number 12345.”
The first-time CEO and her co-founder came to the San Francisco six months after starting Front from Paris because most of its customers were located in the US. Before that, Collin had never travelled outside of Europe.
Front was accepted into the prestigious startup accelerator, Y Combinator, in Spring 2014 and upon graduation, Collin and team were able to raise a $US3.1 million seed round.
She hasn’t moved back since.
Becoming a leader
Through YC, Collin was introduced to mentors that have helped her grow into her new role of leading a company that now has over 100 employees. Patrick Collison – the CEO of Stripe – has been one of her most important mentors.
“I met [Collison] four years ago, and he’s believed in me and the company,” she tells us. “Since then, it’s been helpful to have someone that’s much more successful than I am, always talking with him about what I’m doing well and not doing well.”
Part of that growth as a young CEO is continuing to focus on company culture.
In Collin’s first job out of college, she also tells us that the culture was not so good and that it was something she wanted to reimagine when starting Front.
With over 50 reviews on Glassdoor, 100% of people would recommend working at Front to a friend, and 100% approve of the CEO.
“My happiest moments at Front are when I’m doing a 1:1 with someone and they tell me that they’re happy that they came back from vacation because they like working here or that it’s the best working experience they have ever had,” Collin says. “Nothing can make me happier than that.”
The strong esprit de corps is the result of various workplace practices at Front. The most unusual but perhaps her favourite, Collin tells us, is that every six months employees will organise a musical inside the office.
“Everyone in the company is either singing or playing an instrument or playing a character,” she explains. “It creates such an amazing culture because people are accepting to be very vulnerable in front of their colleagues.”
Given the company’s French roots, Collin says their rendition of Les Misérables was the most memorable so far.
In December, Front employees will perform a mash-up of Disney favourites.
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