Startup Q&A - Poppulo is Ending the Struggle of Internal Communication Within Enterprise Companies
There’s nothing more obnoxious when you’re just trying to get a hold of your boss or co-worker on your team and… you just can’t get that message to that particular person. This is an issue with enterprise teams, especially ones that are spread out and work remotely and/or overseas.
Irish company Poppulo has created an internal communications platform specifically designed for enterprise companies. After growing over the past few years, Poppulo has now expanded into the United States.
Poppulo’s US President Eric Shealy spoke with us about how and why the company chose to have a new location in Waltham. Shealy also detailed how the platform works for large companies and what the culture is like working at an international company.
CB: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins of Poppulo?
ES: We drew our first breath at our Founder and CEO Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s kitchen table in Cork, Ireland back in early 90’s. Although we weren’t Poppulo back then, and the company was in the email marketing business. But from his early years, ever since his father’s family business closed its doors, Andrew has been driven by an incredible passion to radically change how companies engage with their people and employees. It ultimately led to Poppulo pivoting in 2012 from email marketing to focus on the global employee communications market.
I had met Andrew at my prior company and come to know and respect him as an individual and entrepreneur. I recognized the potential for Poppulo, and in particular, saw the immense opportunity in the US. Since opening our doors in Waltham in 2014 and hiring our first salespeople, it has been a thrilling ride. We now have over 250 customers in the US representing thousands of internal communicators using our software platform to engage more effectively with millions of employees.
CB: When did Poppulo make the move over to the Boston area? Why choose Boston?
ES: We ‘jumped the Atlantic pond’ in January 2014 when I started Poppulo in the US. We chose Boston for two simple reasons: first, it was a logical place for an Irish software company to base its US headquarters culturally and was manageable from a time zone perspective; and second, because of its brilliant tech sector. And I also happen to have lived here for the past 30 years!
CB: What is the company culture like at an international company?
ES: Having an Irish parent gives Poppulo a unique personality, I think. We are here to win, and we work super hard. And while we have a reputation as a dynamic, innovative and ambitious company we are at the same time very focused on our people enjoying a good work/life balance. It’s super important. We’ve ranked in the Top 10 Great Places to Work for each of the past four years and last year was named the best company for listening to its employees. Since the very beginning of the company, there’s been a great culture of transparency and openness, and we are intent on ensuring that continues as we grow. We’re an open, honest, fun bunch of people who believe that together we’re better.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of Poppulo?
ES: We intend to become a $100 million revenue company within five years, helping our customers better harness the power of their employees. On that journey, we will continue to develop pioneering software and set the gold standard in the Internal Communications sector. Beyond that, our goal every minute of every day is to add a ton of value to our customers on an ongoing basis and build a company where employees continue to look forward to coming to work every day.
CB: Explain what your company does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work?
ES: When many of the world’s biggest companies want to solve complex challenges in their communications with global workforces, they look to Poppulo.
With employee communications widely recognized as crucial for engaging workers and business success, we developed unique software used by global giants Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Nike, Rolls Royce, LinkedIn and nine of the world’s 20 biggest pharma companies.
We developed the world’s first all-in-one internal communication (IC) platform which gives organizations the power to manage their employee communications and measure their impact, across multiple digital channels, email, intranet, video, enterprise social networks, etc.
Too many companies are bombarding employees with too much information, which is causing them to tune out. Poppulo provides entreprises the ability to better communicate with their employees, increasing their understanding and alignment with business goals and key initiatives, which ultimately improves employee engagement and company performance. Think of it as helping deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time, via the right channel.
CB: Who are some of the users of Poppulo? Is there any use case that stands out to you?
ES: We sell to the Internal Communications, Corporate Communications and Human Resource functions, typically at companies with 5,000 or more employees. We have more than 700 customers across the globe, most of whom are household names such as Aetna, Boston Scientific, Cargill, Genentech, General Mills, Mayo Clinic, State Street, and United Technologies.
CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
ES: We are about 175 globally, with 30 now in Waltham. The headcount in the US has doubled in the last 12 months and we continue to hire aggressively.
CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?
ES: We participate in a wide range of global industry conferences (Ragan, PRSA, ALI, IABC), some of which are held in Boston area. We also run our own Poppulo Communicators Forums across the country as well as host an annual global user conference for internal communications professionals. For example, over the past year, Poppulo has held conferences in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and, next up, in Atlanta.
CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?
ES: The company has been bootstrapped to date, with a small amount of capital from friends and family at the start. We’ve had strong growth but always consider the possibility of accelerating further with outside capital.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Poppulo get its name?
ES: We rebranded the company to Poppulo in May of last year, the result of quite an exhaustive research process. Up to then, we were known as Newsweaver, which we felt didn’t adequately portray our focus on people and helping companies unlock the power of their own people, their employees. The word Poppulo owes its origin to the Latin for people, so ‘people’ are at the heart of what we do as a business, and the organizations we deal with, and is literally at the heart of our identity!
CB: Any other additional comments you’d like to make?
ES: Unlike Marketing and HR, which are functions that are well established for many decades, Internal Communications is a function in its infancy, but one which can add huge financial value to organizations. Research after research has shown that companies with effective internal communications can outperform their peers by a factor of 3:5.
Good internal communications are also crucial for employee engagement, and this is incredibly important today when, as a Gallup report has shown, companies with highly-engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.
So, it’s awesome to be at the forefront of the sector globally, pushing not only technology boundaries but also thought-leadership. As well as our software innovation, we also invest heavily in the creation of content for internal communicators, white papers, guides, blogs and webinars, as well as hosting the IC Forums I mentioned earlier.
It’s a very exciting time for a very exciting company doing very innovative things.