Fishers-based Bluebridge lands $3M in funding for new app unit | Crain's Indianapolis

Fishers-based Bluebridge lands $3M in funding for new app unit

Bluebridge CEO Santiago Jaramillo is trying to scale-up a new division called Emplify. | Photo courtesy of Santiago Jaramillo

Bluebridge, known for making mobile apps tailored to visitor and convention bureaus, has raised $3 million from investors to fund a new division that makes employee engagement apps.

That division will be known as Emplify, for which Bluebridge has received funding from Fishers-based Allos Ventures, St. Louis-based Cultivation Capital and from Boston venture capitalist Bob Davoli. The round also includes returning investments from veteran Indianapolis tech entrepreneurs Bill Godfrey, Mark Hill and Tim Kopp.

“The investment is really to scale the Emplify side of the business,” said Santiago Jaramillo, founder and CEO of Bluebridge.

“Employee engagement is a massive market so we needed some funding to further accelerate.”

Emplify has snapped up more than 25 customers in the space since early this year, including MedXcel, Molly Maid and The NFL Trust, according to the company.

The new unit stems from Bluebridge’s purchase last February of Indianapolis-based Cadence Consulting, a human resources and employee engagement firm. Emplify already amounts to half of Bluebridge’s sales, a number the privately held company declines to quantify.

“They’ve really tapped into a vein and found great reception in employee engagement. That part of their business has taken off like a rocket ship,” said Don Aquilano, managing director of Allos Ventures.

Bluebridge/Emplify has about 35 employees and could hit 50 by year's end. It recently moved to larger offices on the second floor of the Mayer Najem building.

Aquilano said investors were also confident in the company’s management team, which includes former Cadence Consulting and ExactTarget executive Todd Richardson.

Technology businesses are inherently people businesses, said Hill, managing partner of Carmel-based Collina Ventures.

"Santiago has built a great team around him," Hill said. "Bill Godfrey has been a great investor and mentor, and the addition of Todd Richardson allows them to build out a thought leadership position in the employee engagement space."

The timing appears to be opportune, as the so-called employee engagement concept is all the rage. A number of surveys have found some three-fourths of workers don’t feel fully engaged with their employers. The reasons include such things as perceived lack of career advancement opportunities, poor compensation and distrust of employers as the result of layoffs during the Great Recession.

There’s a financial implication for negative engagement. A human resources study last year by Aon Hewitt found that just a 5-percent increase in engagement can produce a 3-percent increase in revenue growth during the following year.

“If you can increase employee engagement, employees stay longer and tend to be happier and more productive,” Jaramillo said.

Many companies have tried to improve communication with workers through emails and intranet portals. Jaramillo argues these are outdated, as finding lists of employees on a spreadsheet or other information can be a hassle.

He said the advantages of making that information available in a simplified version, via a smart phone, are many. For one, phones are mobile, ubiquitous and accessed numerous times each day. The smart phone also provides a more compelling platform because it is two-way, meaning employers can use the app to conduct instant polling of employees on a particular topic, for example.

One encouraging sign so far has been in sending “push” notifications to the workforce, which have had an open rate of 90 percent – far higher than the typical email to the desktop computer, Jaramillo said.

Employees also can access information such as health benefits, and names and photos of employees. That could make it easier for new employees to get up to speed.

July 19, 2016 - 12:39pm