Remote and hybrid work have become the norm in business, and today a startup that's building tools to improve how desktop computers behave in those scenarios is announcing a round of growth funding to expand its business. ControlUp, which has built technology for IT teams to monitor and improve performance across their networks, has picked up $100 million in a round of funding that it will be using to continue investing in its tools and to pick up more business.
ControlUp is already a substantial business: It says that its customers include four of the top five U.S. health insurance companies, five of the top eight U.S. healthcare companies and four of the top six global telecoms carriers. ControlUp's revenues grew 50% in the last year, with enterprise accounts growing 67%. Its technology is now monitoring desktops covering some 1 million "seats" globally. To give you an idea of how big its customers are, those 1 million seats are connected to some 1,500 customers in all.
K1 Investment Management and JVP, both previous backers, co-led this round. ControlUp was founded in Israel, where it continues to have a strong R&D presence, alongside wider operations out of San Jose. The company's CEO and co-founder Asaf Ganot said the startup would not be disclosing its valuation, but from what we understand it's significantly higher than the $330 million valuation it had a year ago (per PitchBook), when it announced its Series C, although it is still under $1 billion.
Ganot tells me that ControlUp was originally founded to address the performance shortcomings that you get when running virtual machines on a network: issues like broadband speed, running too many applications on too little compute power and high latency with app performance all potentially result in degraded computing experiences and worker frustration. That challenge has become more complex in recent times, with the rise of people working from home, using Wi-Fi and broadband networks of varying quality and sometimes working on their own computers, which again might not be optimized for business needs.
"User experience was always a big thing," he said of the company's earlier days. "Good means high productivity, that people are happier and will probably work better. What is happening in the last year or two is that the issues have become more predominant. It's not just a niche." Addressing remote and hybrid working is essentially targeting, he said, "the same things we’ve been doing forever, just now with more workloads."
The company's solution is based around deploying "agents" that exist in the background on a person's computer that are continually monitoring how applications and the general device is working. These agents are powered by AI, and they can not only identify when, say, a broadband network is too slow, but also provide remediation in the form of automated or non-automated technical suggestions for what a person, or IT person remotely, can do to fix the particular issue.
The company covers both remote users as well as physical endpoints, including Citrix Virtual Apps, VMware Horizon and Microsoft RDS and WVD, but for now at least it doesn't extend to mobile devices, which have their own specialized set of device management issues, Ganot said.
These days people might be wary of -- if not downright resistant to -- the idea of "agents" quietly sitting in the background monitoring their every computer move. Asked about this and the issues that it poses, Ganot said that ControlUp is built with more privacy in mind, looking and monitoring only in cases where a "work asset" is used: that work asset could be a work-issued computer, or it could be an employee accessing their work email via a browserl; the system only "reads" data related to that usage.
"The IT team can monitor the home networking and Wi-Fi signature. However, we do that only when you are connected to a work asset," he said. "This fits even if it’s not a corporate device. We don’t do anything, in fact, unless you are connected to a work asset such as an application for work."
Ganot said that to date the system is light enough that it doesn't impact on user experience itself. "Monitoring apps are notorious for slowing things down," he said, "but our agents are super non-intrusive. This is one of our core values: We don't want to become one of the causes of user experience being a problem."
With remote and hybrid working looking like they are here to stay for the foreseeable future, it's likely investors will continue to look for opportunities to back startups that are helping to make that a manageable, and perhaps even improved, experience for end users and their organizations.
“In the post-COVID-19 era, IT managers of large organizations have the unique challenge of monitoring the performance of the network for each of their employees in the office, at home or in any other remote location,” said Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of JVP, in a statement. “ControlUp provides a deep analysis of mission critical applications—for every employee—highlighting problems and finding remedies to solve them. The company’s dashboard enables IT managers to monitor, assess and improve the productivity for all the employees in the company.”
“We continue to see a significant shift toward work-from-anywhere across all industries,” added Roy Liao, SVP at K1. “K1 is proud to partner with ControlUp as it continues to innovate and change the landscape of the digital employee experience market. By focusing on making the employee experience simpler, faster, and more cost-effective, ControlUp provides a unique value proposition that no other vendor fills.”