BackOps is assembling an army of moms dedicated to supporting small businesses.
BackOps provides cloud-based accounting, HR, and finance services on a subscription basis. Its approach combines software with the expertise of a crowd sourced pool of stay-at-home moms, known as “riveters,” who help businesses keep their back office operations running smoothly.
Today the company announced raising $7 million to add more riveters into its ranks and scale its platform.
Founder and CEO Kristen Koh Goldstein spent 15 years working in finance and serving as a Chief Financial Officer, helping startups with their back office operations. She said there was a reverse financial incentive to stay efficient and that the various components of the back office often don’t communicate with each other. She was spending as much as a third of her time coordinating back office vendors and saw an opportunity to create a service that would take care of all of this, so business owners could focus on their business.
Backoffice software has been around for a long time. NetSuite, Salesforce, SAP, Zoho, Intuit, WorkDay (and more) all offer technology along these lines. BackOps stands out by including a highly-trained, educated workforce of women in its service to provide an extra (and significant) layer of support.
“There are so many rote, repetitive processes to running a small business and they can be so inefficient and ridden with human error,” Goldstein said in an interview with VentureBeat. “Most small businesses don’t have an internal staff of people to handle these tasks or run complicated software, so they are stuck. Our experience for CEOs is different. We allow them to take care of the back office needs in just 10-to-15 minutes a week. If they have any questions or concerns, they can immediately contact someone who is uniquely qualified to answer that question.”
BackOps customers receive an automated email every week with an overview of what is happening. All documents are stored in the cloud and real-time information is accessible from a central dashboard. Customers receive notifications whenever they need to log in and make approvals.
Each business is also assigned a “platoon” of riveters for those times when a human touch is needed, which Goldstein said is often for entrepreneurs without a lot of experience or resources. The riveters are a vetted force of stay-at-home moms who spent most of their professional lives helping to run businesses. Many have MBAs or CPAs, but left to raise a family. BackOps allows them to maintain a career from home.
“We systematically strip women of their professional identity at their most productive years, and this isn’t ok,” Goldstein said. “Women shouldn’t have to give up being home with their kids for a cubicle job existence. This field isn’t as time-sensitive as others, but people still get penalized for taking advantage of flexibility or standing up to leave at 4 o’clock. BackOps means moms don’t have to choose between their kids and their job.”
Goldstein talked about “mommy magic time” — or the hours between 4 and 8 pm when it is important to spend time with kids. She said riveters can work when they are able, but don’t have to worry about leaving for baseball games or dance recitals. The riveters make up a collaborative community and step in to help each other when needed. BackOps is on track to have 200 riveters and customers by the end of the calendar year and this financing will support that growth. The company is also releasing new software products on “2 week sprints” and will continue to keep up this pace.
Shervin Pishevar’s Sherpa Ventures and e.ventures co-led this round, with participating from Google Ventures and seed investor CrunchFund and Mark Pincus. This is the first investment for Sherpa Ventures, and Pishevar said in a statement that BackOps is a defining company in the sharing economy space.
Women in the workplace has been widely discussed over the past year. Marissa Mayer’s assumption as Yahoo CEO while pregnant and controversial no-work-from-home policy, as well as the popularity of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In have caused people in the tech community, as well as across the business world, to consider more closely how our society deals with working mothers. It can be difficult to rejoin the workforce after taking time off, but many parents feel strongly about being at home with their kids. Koh said that many companies are adopting progressive policies that are flexible on the surface, but there is still a stigma associated with taking advantage of that flexibility. Change has to come from the top, and also from startups developing innovative solutions to this problem.
BackOps is based in San Francisco.