Layer gets $5.6M to make joint working on spreadsheets less hassle

Layer gets $5.6M to make joint working on spreadsheets less hassle

Layer just isn’t making an attempt to exchange Excel or Google Sheets. Instead the Berlin-based productiveness startup desires to make life simpler for these whose job entails wrangling huge spreadsheets and managing knowledge inputs from throughout a corporation — comparable to for budgeting, monetary reporting or HR capabilities — by including a granular management entry layer on prime.

The concept for a ‘SaaS to supercharge spreadsheets’ got here to the co-founders on account of their very own expertise of workflow course of pain-points on the place they used to work, as is usually the case with productiveness startups.

“Constantin [Schünemann] and I met at Helpling, {the marketplace} for cleansing companies, the place I used to be the corporate’s CFO and I needed to cope with spreadsheets on a day by day stage,” explains co-founder Moritz ten Eikelder. “There was one specific reference case for what we’re constructing right here — the replace of the corporate’s monetary mannequin and enterprise case which was a 20MB Excel file with 30 completely different tabs, lots of of roles of assumptions. It was a key steering instrument for administration and founders. It was additionally the premise for the monetary reporting.

“On common it wanted to be up to date twice monthly. And that required enter by round about 20-25 individuals throughout the group. So proper then about 40 completely different nation managers and varied division heads. The drawback was we couldn’t share the complete file with [all the] individuals concerned as a result of it contained numerous very delicate data like wage knowledge, money burn, money administration and so on.”

While sharing a Dropbox hyperlink to the file with the required people so they may replace the sheet with their respective contributions would have risked breaking the grasp file. So as an alternative he says they created particular person templates and “carve outs” for various contributors. But this was nonetheless removed from optimum from a productiveness viewpoint. Hence feeling the workflow burn — and their very own entrepreneurial itch.

“Once all of the enter was collected from the stakeholders you’d begin a really intensive and tedious copy paste train — the place you’d copy from these 25 distinction sources and insert them knowledge into your grasp file in an effort to create an updated model,” says ten Eikelder, including: “The ache factors are fairly clear. It’s a particularly time consuming and tedious course of… And it’s extraordinarily liable to error.”

Enter Layer: An internet app that’s billed as a productiveness platform for spreadsheets which augments fairly than replaces them — sitting atop Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets recordsdata and bringing in a variety of granular controls.

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The concept is to supply a one-stop store for managing entry and knowledge flows round multi-stakeholder spreadsheets, enabling entry all the way down to particular person cell stage and aiding collaboration and general productiveness round these key paperwork by streamlining the method of creating and receiving knowledge enter requests.

“You begin off by importing an Excel file to our internet utility. In that internet app you can begin to construct workflows throughout a characteristic spectrum,” says Schünemann — noting, for instance, that the net viewer permits customers to tug the curser to spotlight a variety of cells they want to share.

“You can do granular person provisioning on prime of that the place within the offline world you’d must create guide carve outs or guide copies of that file to have the ability to defend away knowledge for instance,” he goes on. “On prime of which you can then request enter [via an email asking for a data submission].

“Your colleagues carry on working of their recognized environments after which as soon as he has submitted enter we’ve constructed one thing that’s similar to a monitor adjustments performance in Word. So you as a grasp person may overview all adjustments within the Layer app — no matter whether or not they’re coming via Excel or Google Sheets… And then we’ve constructed a consolidation characteristic so that you simply don’t have to manually copy-paste from completely different spreadsheets into one. So with simply a few clicks you may settle for adjustments and they are going to be taken over into your grasp file.”

Layer’s preliminary gross sales focus is on the monetary reporting operate however the co-founders say they see this as a means of getting a toe within the door of their goal mid-sized corporations.

The crew believes there are wider use-cases for the instrument, given the ubiquity of spreadsheets as a enterprise instrument. Although, for now, their goal customers are organizations with between 150-250 workers in order that they’re not (but) going after the enterprise market.

“We imagine this can be a fairly large [opportunity],” Schünemann tells TechCrunch. “Why as a result of again in 2018 after we did our first analysis we initially began out with this one spreadsheet at Helpling however after speaking to 50 executives, most of them from the finance world or from the monetary operate of various sized corporations, it’s fairly clear that the spreadsheet dependency continues to be to this present day extraordinarily excessive. And that holds true for monetary use instances — 87% of all budgeting globally continues to be achieved through spreadsheets and never large ERP programs… nevertheless it additionally goes past that. If you consider it spreadsheets are actually the primary workflow platform nonetheless used to this present day. It’s most likely essentially the most used person interface in any given firm of a sure measurement.”

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“Our present customers we now have, for instance, an actual property firm whereby the finance operate is utilizing Layer but additionally the undertaking controller and in addition some components of the HR crew,” he provides. “And this can be a related sample. You have equally structured workflows on prime of spreadsheets in virtually all capabilities of an organization. And the larger you get, the extra of them you’ve.

“We use the finance operate as our wedge into an organization — simply because it’s the place our area expertise lies. You additionally often have a few selective use instances which are likely to have these issues extra due to the intersections between different departments… However sharing or accumulating knowledge in spreadsheets is used not solely in finance capabilities.”

The 2019 based startup’s productiveness platform stays in non-public beta for now — and sure the remainder of this yr — however they’ve simply nabbed €5 million (~$5.6M) in seed funding to get the product to market, with a launch pegged for Q1 2021.

The seed spherical is led by Index Ventures (Max Rimpel is lead there), and with participation from earlier backers btov Partners. Angel traders additionally becoming a member of the seed embody Ajay Vashee (CFO at Dropbox); Carlos Gonzales-Cadenaz (COO of GoCardless), Felix Jahn (founder and CEO of McMakler), Matt Robinson (founding father of GoCardless and Nested) and Max Tayenthal (co-founder and CFO of N26).

Commenting in a press release, Index’s Rimpel emphasised the utility the instrument presents for “massive distributed organizations”, saying: “Spreadsheets are one of the profitable UI’s ever created, however they’ve been constructed primarily for a single person, not for big distributed organisations with many groups and departments inputting knowledge to a single doc. Just as GitHub has helped builders contribute seamlessly to a single code base, Layer is now bringing subtle collaboration instruments to the one billion spreadsheet customers throughout the globe.”

On the competitors entrance, Layer stated it sees its product as complementary to tech giants Google and Microsoft, given the platform plugs straight into these spreadsheet requirements. Whereas different productiveness startups, such because the likes of Airtable (a database instrument for non-coders) and Smartsheets (which payments itself as a “collaboration platform”) are taking a extra direct swing on the giants by gunning to assimilate the spreadsheet operate itself, no less than for sure use instances.

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“We by no means wish to be a brand new Excel and we’re additionally not aiming to be a brand new Google Sheets,” says Schünemann, discussing the variations between Layer and Airtable et al. “What Github is to code we wish to be to spreadsheets.”

Given it’s working with the prevailing spreadsheet commonplace it’s a productiveness play which, ought to it show profitable, may see tech giants copying or cloning a few of its options. Given sufficient scale, the startup may even find yourself as an acquisition goal for a bigger productiveness targeted big wanting to reinforce its personal product providing. Though the crew claims to not have entertained something however essentially the most passing ideas of such an exit at this early stage of their enterprise constructing journey.

“Right now we’re actually complementary to each large platforms [Google and Microsoft],” says Schünemann. “However it could be naive for us to assume that one or the opposite characteristic that we construct gained’t make it onto the product roadmap of both Microsoft or Google. However our worth proposition goes past only a single characteristic. So we actually view ourselves as being complementary now and in addition sooner or later. Because we don’t push out Excel or Google Sheets from a corporation. We increase each.”

“Our largest competitor proper now might be the ‘we’ve all the time achieved it like that’ perspective in corporations,” he provides, rolling out the usual early stage startup response when requested to call main obstacles. “Because any firm has hacked their processes and instruments to make it work for them. Some have constructed little macros. Some are utilizing Jira or Atlassian instruments for his or her undertaking administration. Some have employed individuals to handle their spreadsheet ensembles for them.”

On the acquisition level, Schünemann additionally has this to say: “A pre-requisite for any profitable exit is constructing a profitable firm beforehand and I believe we imagine we’re in an area the place there are a few fascinating exit routes to be taken. And Microsoft and Google are clearly candidates the place there could be a really apparent match however the listing goes past that — all of the file internet hosting instruments like Dropbox or the massive CRM instruments, Salesforce, may be fascinating for them as a result of it very a lot integrates into the guts of any group… But we haven’t gone past that easy excessive stage considered who may purchase us sooner or later.” 


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