Discover more from Startup Pirate by Alex Alexakis
Breaking The Knowledge Silos
Remote work and peak inflated expectations of team collaboration tools with Avrio, 950 jobs, 💰 rounds, Skroutz's latest projects, open data and more
👋 Happy Friday! Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #34. I’m Alex, a product guy turned VC, and every two weeks I send out a newsletter with everything you need to know about the Greek startup industry.
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This week on Hunting Greek Unicorns, I present you a new startup of our industry, explain why I think it’s promising and worth keeping an eye on, outline potential future opportunities for the company and what it will take to get there. I’d love to get your feedback and whether I should do more of those. Let’s get to it!
Breaking the knowledge silos: A layer to rule them all
What if there was a world where the answers you are searching for, find you? Imagine this in the context of teams. Information surfaced right when the team needed it, instead of digging in a pile of Google Docs, emails, Slack messages, customer data every time they wanted to access or share information. And keep in mind that as teams increasingly collaborate remotely, the number of different tools where insights are saved online (the knowledge silos) will continue to accelerate.
This is the world that Avrio, or “αύριο” (“tomorrow” in Greek), a new Cypriot founded startup by Andrew Michael and Natalie Masrujeh is building.
Team collaboration and knowledge silos in a remote work world
Remote work was already a thing before the pandemic. Yet, COVID-19 certainly accelerated its trajectory. The change happened fast enough that most people and organisations didn’t have the time to prepare their infrastructures and processes to ease the transition. Collaboration and communication difficulties being one of them, and in fact #2 in terms of biggest struggles with working remotely.
Almost every company jumped on the remote work tools bandwagon and the usage (and stock price) of products such as Zoom, Atlassian, Slack, Docusign and others skyrocketed. Information transfer and distribution became a top priority for every growing organisation. The result? Adoption of new tools for collaboration and communication, leading to more silos.
Let’s take the example of a product team, which uses Gmail for emails, Slack for messaging, Google Analytics and Hotjar for analytics, Google Drive for documentation, Asana for task management, Github for code collaboration and so on and so forth. You get the idea; when it comes to storing enterprise knowledge, every tool is potentially a silo.
Knowledge cannot be transferred seamlessly from one to another, shared with peers outside the tool (oftentimes a pdf export or a screenshot distributed via Slack, email or print), or retrieved in time to back up a decision. The process is broken, leading to stale insights, repeated research, lost information and context. And it mostly reflects the work of researchers, analysts, product managers and designers; functions that collaborate on insights and research. In an effort to address this broken process, large corporations hire myriads of data analysts answering questions and creating dashboards. The bottom-line is the company pays the price.
Avrio started a few months ago with a mission to change that.
Building an audience-first company
I first heard about Andrew Michael, Avrio’s co-founder and CEO, through a PM, whose opinion I greatly appreciate, who recommended that I “absolutely check out a podcast called CHURN.FM”. Over two years ago, Andrew (back then Head of Business Intelligence of a product analytics company called Hotjar) launched a podcast on SaaS retention and churn that has now over 10K listeners and past guests from Facebook, Google, Notion, Basecamp, and some of the most prominent names in SaaS growth such as Brian Balfour, Rahul Vohra, and Nir Eyal.
What Andrew said in his announcement on LinkedIn:
Over 2 years ago I decided I wanted to start a new company again, but I had no clue what I wanted to do at the time. I decided to start a podcast, so that I could build an audience first, before building a product this time around. This has been by far one of the most important decisions I have made in my career to date and the podcast has surprised me in so many ways.
The plan worked well, as Andrew has attracted a roster of beta users from companies such as Figma, Segment, Maze, as well as investors (they just announced their pre-seed financing round of $830k led by Marathon Venture Capital last week), many of whom were podcast guests. Andrew’s co-founder, Natalie, was previously a Product Owner at Overflow, a spin-off product of Proto.io, the company which pioneered the prototyping market (and in fact was the first prototyping tool I used back in 2011).
Helping teams put their research and insights to work
From Dashboards, Google Slides, and Slack threads to inside of apps, knowledge is increasingly stored in static silos. Avrio is building a modern layer on top of these silos. The goal is to bring everything together, keep up-to-date and easily make information available to knowledge workers anywhere. How do they do this? With the help of a browser extension.
Andrew described it to me like this:
Users can clip and annotate information, fast and easy (remember Evernote?) and save it into Avrio. Then Avrio, through the extension and integrations with collaboration and communication tools, makes sure the information is kept up-to-date and surfaced when and where people need it (inside Slack, email, or in the future Salesforce, Notion, Confluence, etc). No need to switch context and break your workflow.
Boom, omni-present, company-wide knowledge sharing. By building an omni-present layer on top of the different tools, Avrio can not only become part of the modern knowledge stack alongside Google Docs, Slack, Notion, Asana, Salesforce, Atlassian, etc, but also place itself in a unique position to become the single source of truth when it comes to enterprise insights. A layer to rule them all.
Owning the single source of truth for hundreds of enterprises
How much do you value a company that aggregates enterprise knowledge (from user data and analytics to events and team tasks), connects the dots and surfaces findings inside the tools you already use? What if this empowers users to answer important business decisions in seconds? The big dogs of the enterprise software industry would raise eyebrows.
To draw conclusions about the possible future of Avrio, I resorted to an adjacent sector, that of the modern data stack. At its core, you have storage platforms like Amazon, Google and Snowflake (with a very successful IPO last year). As the market boomed, helping companies draw insights from data stored, in a fast and easy way, also emerged as a use case. New startups ventured in the space, large funding rounds happened (Census $16m Series A by Sequoia, Airbyte $26m Series A by Benchmark & CEOs of Elastic and MongoDB) and buyouts started (Dataform by Google, Iteratively by Amplitude) as incumbents wanted to increase their offering.
There’s some clear value in serving as the glue between sources. If we extrapolate from the trend in data tools and the previous moves of incumbents in the knowledge stack ecosystem, we’re talking about potentially some very big names that would be interested in adding a tool like Avrio to their offering, through an acquisition:
Salesforce: the cloud software mogul with $21b reported revenues last year. Salesforce has become much more than a CRM and in the past it has shown great interest in enterprise collaboration software with the acquisitions of Slack ($27.7b) and Quip ($750m), as well as insights and data aggregators in the likes of Mulesoft ($6.5b).
Atlassian: the company behind some of the most popular software development and collaboration tools is used by 20,000+ companies worldwide, from startups to large enterprises. They are in an acquisitions spree with two companies acquired already in 2021. On the team collaboration front, they have Jira, Trello (acquired for $425m), and Confluence. It wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to acquire a company like Avrio in the future to doubledown their efforts in making the integration among its collaboration tools as seamless as possible, bringing insights from Jira or Trello to Confluence and vice versa.
There’s still a lot to be done for Avrio to become the single source of truth for hundreds of fast-growing companies. The team is just getting started, and I believe the following need to happen in order for the bull case of Avrio to kick in:
Messaging and positioning. Most teams currently resort to centralising their research in all-in-one tools and traditional company wikis such as Notion, Confluence, Google Drive. Avrio is a new breed of tool. They will have to educate the market about the merits of it, help users connect the dots between the problem they address and the value they give and buyers to get their credit cards out. Finding the right user personas to serve as advocates will also be key. Is it going to be researchers? PMs? Analysts? Will it be different in small startups vs. high-growth scale ups? Explaining the value of Avrio and nailing positioning will be critical in the company’s success.
Available anywhere. A major selling point of an omni-present product that aggregates insights from different sources and makes it available anywhere is exactly its omni-presence. How widespread can Avrio become and how fast? How easy will it be for users to integrate with their favourite tools and sync information? Relying on a browser extension and Zapier, a productivity tool that connects over 3,000 business apps, was a smart decision to kickstart things. More integrations are underway (Slack, OpenAPI) and they will certainly play a key role in the company’s growth as they try to add new integrations fast enough to capture user needs (remember remote work has exponentially grown the different types of collaboration tools used within companies).
Collaboration. To become the go-to product for capturing and sharing knowledge within teams, Avrio will need to build some powerful collaboration functionalities that facilitate decision making. Different roles already exist with contributors (capture, share) and explorers (read, comment), and the team has a plan to launch collaboration features soon as outlined in the features page. An interesting challenge will soon arise as users start capturing a large volume of insights inside the tool: How far can Avrio go to surface the right insights to the right person at the right moment? What if some information should have specific access rights? Will this workflow be 10x easier for users to become willing to change their day to day?
Avrio launched right after the peak of inflated expectations for the enterprise collaboration and communication industry. As the lockdowns started and remote work became overnight the de facto way of work for a very large set of people, teams rushed to buy the latest shiny tools (from video conferencing to virtual team building) relying on them to maintain the high levels of employee productivity.
We are now entering a new phase for the sector; a phase of maturity or the slope of enlightenment. The expectations from teams about what software can and cannot offer are far more realistic. They realised that not everything can be addressed with a remote work tool. The vision for building the underlying thread that ties all company information together and unlocks collaboration opportunities is ambitious, yet the timing is right.
🦄 Startup Jobs
👉 Hundreds of Greek startups are hiring in Greece, abroad and remotely! Here’s a list with 950 opportunities waiting for you to apply. Company data is also available.
LearnWorlds, the no-code meets online courses platform, raised a $32m funding round from Insight Partners, one of the largest growth equity firms globally.
Nayms, a smart contract platform for the placement, trade, reporting and settlement of insurance risk, secured $6m in funding.
Logical Clocks, the company behind Hopsworks, an open-source platform for the development and operation of ML models, announced a €5m Series A investment.
Avrio, a startup redefining the way teams work together and discover and share insights and data, raised a pre-seed round of $830k by Marathon Venture Capital and a group of founders & tech executives as angels.
Niometrics, a network analytics company, was acquired by Mobileum (a provider of analytics solutions for telecoms) to provide telecom operators an end-to-end analytics engine.
60 startups registered in Elevate Greece platform received financial support through a funding program to alleviate the effects the pandemic had to their businesses.
National Bank of Greece and NBG Business Seeds are accepting applications for the 12th Innovation & Technology Competition until the 4th of October.
Owiwi and Magos are part of this year’s US cohort of Mass Challenge accelerator.
Treepoints, a product to fight climate change and earn rewards, from the co-founders of Stasher, launched on Product Hunt and won a product of the day spot.
Two Greek teams (Swim.me and FlowOn) won the first two places in a European student competition, JA Europe Enterprise Challenge 2021.
🤓 Interesting Reads
Aristos Doxiadis, Partner at Big Pi Ventures, wrote a post discussing the paradox of research and the benefits of combining its two different types (basic & applied).
Georgios Konstantopoulos, Research Partner at Paradigm, co-authored an article with Vitalik Buterin, on Ethereum’s transition to Proof of Stake and the possibility of miners running custom software that accepts bribes to reorg the chain.
Vassilis Tziokas, Global Industry GTM Lead, Data & AI at Microsoft, published some thoughts on inventing Corporation 2.0 post COVID-19.
Lessons learned from migrating Lenses’ website from Hugo to Gatsby and Contentful by Eleftherios Davros, Full stack Web Developer at Lenses.io.
Panos Papadopoulos, Partner at Marathon Venture Capital, on what he misses about being an entrepreneur, company executives spending time in support and sharing the feedback across the org, why Marathon invested in Avrio and more, here.
A discussion with Constantinos Daskalakis, Professor at MIT, Serafim Batzoglou, Chief of Computation at Seer, Marios Stavropoulos, Partner, General Manager at Microsoft and Konstantine Arkoudas, Senior Manager of Applied Science at Amazon, on applications and limitations of Machine Learning, and the sectors in which it will have the greatest impact.
A podcast with Diomidis Spinellis, Professor of Software Engineering, on open data and how it’s been used in Greece.
Yannis Alivizatos, COO of Skroutz, Antonios Garnelis, Director of Product of Skroutz, and Thalia Geladaki, CMO of Skroutz, sharing insights on some of the company’s new projects, challenges as they scale, and more.
An interesting event coming up from the Greek tech community:
“The Context, the Manifest, and the Android System” by GDG Athens on July 28
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Thanks for reading,
Greek Startup Pirate 👋