Huddle's Jump From Startup to Global Player

When your head is in the clouds, productivity and efficiency usually come to a standstill. But if your company is in the cloud, you will likely notice the opposite effect. Enterprise software company Huddle is on a mission to bring cloud-based business operations to customers around the world. Co-Founder Alastair Mitchell explains, ”We help people work together much more effectively and share information in a secure and easy way.”

Today, Huddle is the leader in the European market, the only cloud service to be accredited by the U.S. government, and has customers in nearly 130 countries. But it wasn’t long ago that potential customers were uncertain about the utility of a cloud-based software. Mitchell recalls,

”Three years ago, you’d go out and talk to people and they would be like ’What the hell is this? Why would I ever want to collaborate? I’ve got a C: drive and an email, why do I need this stuff?’ That was the first battle.”

While that battle has since been won, there are always other challenges to overcome. Since Mitchell founded Huddle eight years ago, the market for cloud-based enterprise software has grown exponentially. Mitchell says competition is stiff, with highly invested startups, as well as big players like Microsoft and Oracle.

As the company has scaled, the challenge has not only been to successfully serve larger and larger clients, but to adjust to the demands of a growing market. Mitchell likens the process to jumping across a chasm.

”Now we’re on the other side of that chasm, there’s a whole map that we’ve got to find. You have to get over the chasm, not get lost in the move as the market matures, now everyone’s fine, we’re no longer early adopters, but now we’ve got to race to the top.”

Mitchell says Huddle’s approach is still driven by the characteristics which defined the company in its earliest days.

”I think confidence, and an innovative, passionate approach serve you all the way through. When we started, what we really had was a bold idea, big vision, and a passion for helping our customers who chose to join us on that journey be successful. You know, a great focus on customer success. And a brand that was new, and different, and spoke about what we do. It’s called Huddle for a reason, it’s about people collaborating. That was what got us started. That’s all you have in the start, and that approach is still there today.”

Lessons Learned
After eight years taking Huddle from a London startup to a business with global reach, Mitchell has learned a thing or two about the startup world. Huddle is Mitchell’s third startup, and he has held on to the lessons he learned in his early endeavors.

”I saw what didn’t work, and more importantly what did work, and I took the best of all of those and brought them into Huddle. Some of the most important lessons I learned were to be brave and have the courage of your convictions.”

Finding the right team is a classic struggle. A truly successful team, Mitchell says, should be ”…full of founders, of people who when they go and do something will do it better than you could, rather than doing what they’re told, it’s really exceptional. It makes the difference between an ok business and a great business.”

Companies in the enterprise space rarely see a meteoric rise to success, and Mitchell emphasizes that the journey always takes longer than initially planned. Anyone who wants to pursue a startup in the industry needs to be prepared to make a holistic long-term commitment.

”Whether it’s personally, because as CEO, Founder, President, you have to be in it for the long haul and you have to manage yourself and your health and your family and your life. Whether it’s business, setting expectations for the team, saying ‘Hey guys, you don’t want to quit this in three years because it’s going to be a ten year run, are you in it with us?’. Whether it is getting the right investors, finding the right structure of your business, everything that you do, you’ve got to be in it for that long haul. ”

Mitchell coaches founders who are currently on this journey, and encourages them to find balance in their own lives and learn to manage the pressure and expectations they place on themselves. Ultimately, success depends on an entrepreneurial spirit.

”I think the most important ingredient is resilience, or indefatigability, it’s the ingredient that requires us to keep going when it seems completely ludicrous to keep going. That you never give up the fight, that you stay true to your big vision, even when no one believes you.”

Collaboration software has come a long way. Where will this trend take us? Tell us what you think by talking to @StarterNoise using #Collaboration

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