Organizations have been using social media monitoring for years to get a better idea of how they are being perceived in the world at large, to raise topics or issues that are relevant to them, and generally a Which is dedicated to being more responsive in the world. “The engagement.” Now a company called Aware, which has created a similar framework aimed at organizations’ internal message boards, is announcing some funding — a sign of growing interest in applying the same principles in-house.
The startup — based out of Columbus, Ohio — has raised $60 million in a Series C round of funding. Goldman Sachs Asset Management (particularly its growth equity division) led the round with previous backers Spring Mountain Capital, Blue Heron Capital, Elos Ventures, Ohio Innovation Fund, Jobsohio, Rev1 Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures and Jumpstart are all also participating. The company is not disclosing its valuation but pitch book, which tracked the first close of this round (which was $50 million), placed it at $215.50. On a direct-funding track that would now value Joe Aware at about $226 million. (We’ll update this if we know more.)
For some more guidance on valuations, Aware’s CEO and co-founder, Jeff Schuman, said that since the company’s last round — a $12 million Series B in 2020 — growth has been “exponential,” with revenue increasing year over year. An increase of 175% and an increase of over 300% since December.
Aware plans to use the funding to continue expanding its technology, which today primarily companies like Slack, Teams and Workplace (Facebook’s enterprise-focused service) for things like legal compliance, confidential information sharing The messaging platform focuses on monitoring text-based conversations. , emotion, toxic behavior and harassment. Schuman said the plan is to expand this to other mediums like video — Zoom and other videoconferencing tools are so important in the workplace these days — as well as continue to grow natural-language and other tools that allow it to improve recognition and responsiveness. To do. .
Aware is playing into an interesting, but often controversial, area of enterprise IT.
On the one hand, if you acknowledge that social media platforms have a role to play in ensuring that their platforms are not used for harassment or other toxic behavior or illegal activities, then the same should go for companies and social media platforms . they use.
Aware already has a number of large enterprise clients including AIG, AstraZeneca, BT Group, Memorial Health, Mercadoliber, Rivian, SunLife Financial and Wipro; The average customer has 15,000 users, but some have hundreds of thousands of employees.
Schuman said that COVID-19 has accelerated the opportunity for his company because of how much more communication is now being done over messaging than before the pandemic. He noted that a typical organization of 10,000 might send 180 million messages per year on Slack today, and the largest sends 1 billion – between 300% and 1,000% of pre-Covid levels. This means that using software like Aware is the only way to track whether anything illegal or toxic or otherwise is being passed on.
“We have a unique opportunity here,” he said.
On the other hand, conversations on workplace messaging platforms may be “in the open” and therefore viewable by all other employees; But many of them are often one-to-one, or to a select group of recipients.
In other words, even though it’s a work platform, it retains a semi-private nature, so it can seem like intrusive to know that your company is really “listening” to what you’re talking about. are. This can be difficult if the conversation is not entirely illegal in nature, but may be sensitive for other reasons, and it certainly pushes the boundaries of how the information could potentially be used against you. Is.
There have been several examples of how employees have avoided that practice in recent days: a recent one involved Amazon is telling employees it’s tracking conversations In which the workers were talking about the labor union.
As for that Amazon example, Schuman claims that the company is focused on keeping the information it tracks anonymously, though it’s not clear how it might take action against that specific person. was behaving in a manner that violates company policies or legal regulations. . In some ways, it looks like the company has changed its tune on this front over time: Aware is really the new branding. When startup first launched, it was called “FeedCop”, and then it changed its name to “WireTap”, both of which have… doubtful… implications as concepts these days.
In any case, there are several data points that support Aware’s purpose to help keep the conversation healthy by taking out the bad stuff. Schuman said that on average, one out of every 190 private messages, and one out of every 280 public messages, are flagged as “negative conversations.” And one in 149 private messages, and one in 262 public messages, shares a password. Share one of 135 private messages, 1 of 118 public messages cconfidential data. Messages in private groups are 135% more likely to be toxic than messages in a public environment; and one by one Private conversations are “250% more likely to be toxic than messages in a public environment.”
Working on the boundaries of when it’s okay, and when it’s not, listening to the conversation is bound to be something that will be the subject of debate for years to come. And it can ultimately only be resolved once and for all in a legal setting. So for now, Aware’s services, and their acquisition, will continue to be of interest to customers and investors.
“At Goldman Sachs, we believe in the transformative power of technology and see the potential in Aware’s ability to connect the fragmented data that exists within organizations across multiple sectors,” David Campbell, MD, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in a statement. “The Conscious team addresses information management, data protection and organizational insights at scale through its feature-rich platform that can satisfy the most demanding global enterprises, yet simple enough to serve the mid-market Is.”