Human Resources

How This Startup Is Aiming to Make HR Easier

How This Startup Is Aiming to Make HR Easier

In for the assist: Keith Kitani of GuideSpark.

Image credit: Gabriela Hasbun
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This story appears in the June 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Onboarding, training and employee retention are big expenses for companies of all sizes. To facilitate those and other HR functions, Menlo Park, Calif.-based GuideSpark helps companies create video content and web seminars on more than 100 HR-related topics, including benefits, compensation and healthcare. In addition to a loyal customer base, the company has racked up $42 million in venture capital.

GuideSpark CEO Keith Kitani began his career as an electrical engineer designing semiconductors in the 1980s. He founded his first startup, e-learning company Presedia, in 1999 and sold it to Macromedia in 2003. Kitani became senior director and entrepreneur-in-residence at Adobe after the computer software corporation acquired Macromedia in 2005. 

Part of Kitani’s role at Adobe was to scale up software-as-a-service enterprise products. It was an exciting challenge, he says, “but I realized I wanted to try and start a company one more time.” 

Kitani knew his background in digital communication and learning products could help him build a successful cloud business serving enterprise customers. In 2008 he and co-founders Joe Laroque and John Wolff launched GuideSpark as a financial wellness assessment service for employees. 

But in the aftermath of the recession, they saw an opportunity to solve a more substantial problem. They relaunched GuideSpark in 2011 with a focus on HR training and internal communications to help companies educate their staffs on benefits and topics such as career development. 

Since pivoting, the company has seen top-line growth double five years in a row. Last year GuideSpark opened offices in Boston, New York and San Francisco to serve its expanding customer base of more than 500 companies. In the past two years, the team has swelled from 20 to 200 people, though Kitani jokes, “It took us four years to go from three to four people.” 

This trajectory has attracted investors. GuideSpark closed its latest funding round, a $22 million series C led by Meritech Capital Partners, in February. “GuideSpark has certainly changed the game and delivers a proven solution for more effective employee communications,” says Craig Sherman, managing director at Meritech and the newest member of the GuideSpark board of directors.

As GuideSpark has grown, it has focused on serving customers across multiple platforms, including smartphones and tablets. Additionally, Kitani says, the company is working to address customers who “are asking for more breadth of content, more topic areas like compliance and performance management.” 

The cash infusion will also support partnerships and channel marketing and the creation of a data team to better measure and analyze impact. “It doesn’t matter what size company you are or what industry you’re in,” says Kitani, emphasizing that GuideSpark will continue to reach a cross-section of customers. “The market is growing in front of us.” 

Edition: December 2016

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