They originally wanted to create a dating app for ETH students, but now their communication platform for non-desktop workers is being used in over 100 countries worldwide: Beekeeper is surfing a wave of success. Andreas Slotosch, VP of Growth, told us how Beekeeper has developed.
Andreas, Beekeeper had around 20 employees by the end of 2015, now you have more than 100 and are still growing fast. How have you been able to grow so much and so fast?
Crucially, we achieved product market fit in a highly underdeveloped market that still offered plenty of opportunity. In such a market, you have to scale as fast as possible. From an early stage, we tried to make things more efficient and automated. We have a lot of talented engineers who are experts in this field. For example, we managed to automate our sales outbound process early on. Once we had reached a reasonable size, we realized that a dedicated growth hacking team would make sense. We established a growth hacking team consisting of people from all departments – sales, marketing, business development, etc. – who are continuously trying to find creative and innovative ways of growing our customer base. Besides increasing customer numbers, one of the biggest current challenges for Beekeeper is to find the right personnel for our company.
How has Beekeeper developed in recent years?
After pivoting a couple of times, Beekeeper started as a communication platform that aimed to reach and connect mostly non-desktop workers to the company. Our next step was to connect people with people at team rather than company level. Once we had a platform with all the employees on it that hadn’t used a piece of software before, we realized it would be useful for them to also integrate existing software tools from the companies, like SAP. Especially for non-desktop workers, it can still be hard to get the information out of these tools, hence we wanted to connect Beekeeper to these systems. Last year, we launched our marketplace and now have more and more integrations, so you can really find all the information that you need in your daily job within Beekeeper. Also, we are aiming to build a community of developers around Beekeeper, so that they can add additional apps.
How do you differentiate yourself from other communication platforms like Slack?
Beekeeper has always focused on non-desktop workers: Our typical clients work in industries like cleaning, hotel management, retail or manufacturing. There are no comparable communication platforms for this target group. Many of our customers haven’t used communication tools before in their work life. This is, of course, different with companies like Swisscom who use Beekeeper in addition to e-mail, Slack and other communication tools in the market. One answer for these customers is to start combining and integrating Beekeeper with the tools that are already in place – we don’t want to replace tools where it doesn’t make sense.
Beekeeper is changing from a start-up into a scale-up – have you lost any of your initial start-up spirit?
Of course, there have been changes since Beekeeper was launched. On a personal level, I am spending less time with the other founders than at the beginning. Second, the kind of work I am doing has changed since Beekeeper reached a higher level of professionalization. When I started, I was looking after sales, marketing and human resource management at the same time. Now we have a sales department, a marketing department and an HR department. However, I would say that even if we are much more like a scale-up now, we haven’t lost our initial start-up spirit. Right at the beginning, we defined five core values and we have kept them over time. We use them during the interview process and they are always present and visible. This is important for us, especially since we want to grow even further this year – we have around 40 current vacancies!
The Beekeeper team communication app provides real-time unified communications mainly for non-desktop workers. Internal teams benefit from communication and engagement tools such as secure group messaging, chat bots, HR tools, analytics, employee surveys and polls. The startup was founded in 2012 by two ETH graduates and has since grown into a scale-up with more than 100 employees with offices in Zurich, Berlin, London and Silicon Valley. In 2017, Swisscom Ventures invested in Beekeeper and different teams from its Startup Unit and Enterprise Customer Unit are using it daily.