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Espressive Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 15th 2019

Last year researcher Forrester released an employee experience playbook focused on driving improvement in overall employee experience. Forrester analysts had also pointed out how enterprises fail when it comes to delivering exceptional services to themselves or their employees. Service providers like Espressive are setting up shop to help enterprise departments overcome these shortcomings.

Espressive’s Financials

Santa Clara-based Espressive was founded in 2016 by entrepreneur and angel investor Pat Calhoun. It was founded with the intention of making it easier for employees to get help from their organization. The idea behind Espressive was based on the realization that employees find it hard to get answers to questions and resolution to issues that they face. To solve issues, employees need to go through different in-house developed or third-party managed self-service tools within the organization.

Pat identified how AI driven apps were delivering impressive consumer experience, but there were no apps that delivered similar kind of experience in the workplace. Self-help desks were not “consumerized”. Espressive knew that while the tasks performed by the help desks may be self-help experience, help desks are mundane, they needed to be completed at a faster pace so that the employee could maintain focus on their productive work. It wanted to leverage AI to redefine how employees got help with a consumer-like AI-based service.

Thus, Espressive came to be a pioneer in AI for Enterprise Service Management. Unlike other service tools that rely on knowledge-bases, Espressive learns through human interaction. It transforms employee self-help using an intuitive consumer-like experience that can deliver direct answers to questions and drive employee engagement. Espressive believes that implementation of its platform has helped in lowering help desk call volumes by 30-50% for an organization.

Today, its virtual support agent Barista helps bring the power of consumer virtual assistants within the workplace. It works much the same way as Alexa and Google Home and helps simplify employee experience within the organization. Barista’s use cases span the IT, HR, and Sales departments. For the IT department, it helps predict outages based on employee issues, helps in the catalog creation and fulfillment for IT products. For HR, it helps provide employees with answers to their HR related questions and through its on-boarding service helps improve new hire retention. For Sales teams, it helps with new hire retention and helps drive sales team efficiency by keeping track of activities and even handling approval workflows. It has also built an integration with ServiceNow and allows organizations to implement Barista into their ServiceNow instance.

Espressive’s Financials

Espressive is privately held and does not disclose its financials. It has raised $23 million in funding so far from investors including Wing Venture Capital and General Catalyst. Its first and only round of funding was held in July 2018 at an undisclosed valuation. Prior sources of funding are not known. Most likely, the company was bootstrapped in its initial days.

Espressive is not the only player in its space though. There are other similar startups like Astound that offers a similar approach to enterprise service management. In May 2018, another player, became widely known when it was acquired by Oracle for an undisclosed sum. DataScience leveraged machine learning and AI to build a suite of tools that helped data scientists to compute resources, organize work, and manage end-to-end workflows.

As I mentioned in an earlier story, Bootstrapping to an Exit, smaller companies are facing tremendous pressure to broaden their product line and find additional avenues of growth. They are looking for acquisitions to help them get to that next level. But today, the market is full of heavily venture-funded startups that have high valuation expectations, and are not affordable by small companies. Instead, smaller companies are looking for capital-efficient startups that show product-market fit in their domain. I would like to know if Espressive is looking for such small capital-efficient startups to acquire?

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