Cloud-based document creation and sharing startup Inkling today announced a $25 million round of funding. Sapphire Ventures led the round, with participation from Sequoia Capital and Tenaya Capital.
Since it was founded in 2009, the San Francisco-based startup has adjusted its business model to cater to more specific demands, shifting from a focus on ebooks to selling its software-as-a-service (SaaS) to businesses.
The impulse for this change came when Starbucks got wind of the technology and approached Inkling to transfer its binder-bound content onto digital tablets.
“We very quickly realized that there is a huge world of problems that have been created within the enterprise sector around content on mobile devices,” Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis said in an interview with VentureBeat. “The transition from paper to digital is happening now, and we’re riding that wave.” MacInnis helped launch the iPad as an executive at Apple a few years ago.
Inkling is banking on the large pool of deskless workers who are frontline employees in companies that are seeking a more modern approach to communicating. Employees can create content in the software just as they can in Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Managers can then see if employees have accessed the content at their various locations.
The startup has over 100 customers, including Accenture, Benefit, Gap, McDonald’s, and Roche. In the case of McDonald’s, the global chain uses Inkling to update workers’ schedules and show them live interactive simulations of what they’ll do at their work stations.
“Everything is built and managed in Inkling, so they no longer have to build content in InDesign, put it into a PDF, and then upload it to an HR system,” said MacInnis. “We don’t do PDF, we don’t do PowerPoint. Files are going away.”
At Roche, the pharmaceutical giant uses Inkling for its customer-facing application to communicate with customers about product updates and reference materials. Roche’s field sales reps also use the Roche app with Inkling embedded inside. “They used to upload PDFs into something like Salesforce,” said MacInnis. “They now have a single app where they can go and get all that information.”
Bryan Schreier, a partner at Sequoia and an Inkling board member, told VentureBeat that Inkling’s quality of software is often reserved for consumer applications. “So these companies are very excited to get their hands on a software of this caliber, which really comes from that Apple DNA.”
The tricky part for companies wanting to upgrade to a digital service is transferring all of their files. Inkling uses a combination of engineers and algorithms to ingest existing content.
“This is a leftover skill from the first part of our business,” MacInnis said. It can take several weeks to move all existing data onto Inkling.
According to the CEO, Inkling’s main competitor is Microsoft’s SharePoint document management and storage software. Although MacInnis declined to reveal Inkling’s subscription fee, he estimates that the startup generates “tens of millions of dollars” in subscription revenue every year.
Nino Marakovic, CEO of Sapphire Ventures, will be joining Inkling’s board of directors. The startup employs 160 people and has raised a total of $95 million.
MacInnis characterized the new funding round — which will go toward sales and marketing — as conservative. But it’s enough for the company to take advantage of an opportunity. “The emerging sector of the deskless worker is lacking vertical applications,” he said.