Next Matter, a workflow automation platform for business operations, today closed a $16 million Series A funding round led by OMERS Ventures with participation from BlueYard and Crane Venture. The proceeds will be put toward expanding the team from 15 to 75, according to CEO Jan Hugenroth, with a particular emphasis on the U.S. and Europe. (Next Matter is headquartered in Berlin.)
Hugenroth sees businesses facing several key challenges in the current economic climate. Operational excellence is becoming a must-have, he asserts; COOs are using "duct-tape" solutions to streamline workflows; and operations are changing rapidly, leaving companies' tech stacks in the dust. Hugenroth founded Next Matter to address these by replacing the patchwork of spreadsheets, email, costly custom apps and chat clients many companies use with a platform that links different tools (e.g. HubSpot, Slack and Zapier) together to -- in theory -- simplify various processes.
"While growth at all cost without too much focus on operational efficiency and excellence have been the “normal” operating mode in the last decade, we are entering a 'new normal,'" Hugenroth told TechCrunch via email. "Operations are unique in every company, so a proper solution to solve a company’s operations problems has to be unique to each company’s unique circumstances ... Short of a proper solution that is fast and easy to adapt, businesses are constantly playing catch-up and are faced with constantly out-dated documentations of procedures and lots of error-fixing and -handling required when things do not work out, which leads to lots of manual work."
From Next Matter's mobile and web apps, users can drag and drop modules to create and automate workflows, forms and processes either from scratch or using prebuilt templates. For example, a customer could deploy a "Supplier Onboarding" workflow with steps like "Finalize contract terms," "Create legal documents," "Upload documents to Google Drive" and "Prepare training sessions" -- assigning each step to one or more employees and linking them to apps like Google Sheets, Dropbox and Salesforce. Automation features let users send data to and from systems and trigger processes based on system events, while managers get project and task tracking metrics including speed and cost.
Business process automation is a red-hot industry, and countless vendors are vying for a spot at the top. Next Matter not only competes with integration platforms like Zapier and Make (formerly Integromat), but low-code app builders such as Bubble and Retool, as well as workflow software like Kissflow, Pipefy and Process Street.
But Hugenroth argues that the competition simply isn't as holistic as Next Matter's platform.
Image Credits: Next Matter
"What sets Next Matter apart from other tools such as workflow, integration, or task management software is that it combines all of these into one platform purpose-built for operations," Hugenroth said. "For instance, Next Matter customer Carvolution provides car rental services, which requires a series of operations steps involving different people, teams, systems, and external parties before a contract can be signed and you can drive away. Next Matter means the whole process can be automated and orchestrated, cutting down on countless emails and tools to streamline back-office processes as well as critical, customer-facing processes, driving both efficiency and customer experience improvements."
In another attempt to stand out from the crowd, Next Matter offers consulting services in combination with its software product. Clients get an "operations expert" who helps identify opportunities for process automation, supports onboarding and assists with change management.
"Our investments so far have allowed us to build a strong competitive alternative to more generic software products that are not purpose-built for operations and only solve parts of what’s required," Hugenroth continued. "For CIOs and CTOs, this means that they can free up product and software development resources allocated to developing custom solutions for running operations to other areas, reduce the number of legacy custom operations solutions that require ongoing maintenance, ... [and] create a central source of truth for the company’s operations data that can be leveraged to guide operational improvement programs and decision making."
Trade Republic, Spreetail and Shift.com are among Next Matter's customers, as well as other brands in financial services, insurance and e-commerce. According to Hugenroth, the plan is to expand to new industries "that have similar requirements for operational excellence."
The question is whether the process automation sector has reached the saturation point. Some segments of it, like robotic process automation (RPA), appear to have -- a recent Forrester Research report predicts that demand RPA will start to flatten as companies shift to broader automation solutions. But Hugenroth is optimistic.
"We anticipate that the current economic environment and looming recession make operational excellence not only a 'nice to have' but a 'must have' for scaleups as well as enterprises to succeed," Hugenroth said. "We already see increasing pull for implementing Next Matter with the fastest-moving businesses that react promptly to the looming challenges and expect that we will see a growing number of large-scale operations transformation programs running on Next Matter, as companies are aiming to grow further without adding more resources or need to save cost to get to profitability faster."
Five-year-old Next Matter's total raised to date stands at $20 million.