Huddle, the British enterprise collaboration firm recently valued at close to a $1 billion, has appointed Morten Brøgger as its new CEO, ahead of several other Silicon Valley bigwigs that were in contention for the role.
Brøgger will replace co-founder Alastair Mitchell, who incorporated the company with Andy McGlouglin in London in 2006, before expanding it to San Francisco, California, in a bid to gain funding from the region’s well-established venture capital market.
Huddle said it has brought Brøgger on to help accelerate the company’s growth across existing markets (the US and the UK) and new markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a company with a firm presence in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Huddle had a wide range of capable tech business leaders on its doorstep.
Without naming names, Mitchell said he picked Brøgger ahead of several Silicon Valley bigwigs, possibly working for the likes of Google, Facebook or Salesforce.
"We talked to some well-known Silicon Valley superstars," Mitchell told Techworld. "We had a lot of interest from people who had grown businesses out here. At the end of the day it’s a really hard blend to find. You’ve got to know what it takes to grow a global business in Europe and the US. That’s what Morten’s got. There aren’t that many people in the US who have done that."
Brøgger joins from telco service provider Syniverse, where he has been chief sales officer for the last year and a half. Prior to Syniverse, Brøgger was CEO at telecoms service provider, Mach, which was sold to Syniverse for $715 million (£472 million) in 2013. The technology veteran has also held leadership roles at several other European telecoms and IT companies, including Sunrise Switzerland, TDC Denmark and ATEA.
“We’re a big business now and we’re growing very fast," said Mitchell. You get to a stage in the evolution of a company where you need to bring in expertise. You look at what you need to do to keep growing the business and you think about the next three years, possible exits, whether that’s IPO or sale. “
The appointment comes less than two months after Huddle announced it had raised £32 million ($51 million), which came at the end of Huddle’s most successful year ever.
In the first three quarters of 2014 the company tripled its sales to enterprises over the same time period in 2013. During this time it also secured seven of its 10 largest customer contracts.
Huddle's customers now include 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 80 percent of UK government departments, as well as multinational giants like Kia Motors, Nasa, Williams Lea, Driscoll’s, Unilever and P&G.
IPO vs sale
Huddle has been tipped as one of the UK’s next big tech success stories, with many expecting it to follow in the footsteps of rival firm Box, which IPO'd on the New York Stock Exchange last week at $2.7 billion (£1.78 billion).
Huddle has previously spoken about going public but now it appears that an acquisition by another company is just as likely.
“If you look at our executive team we’ve got people who’ve got public market experience,” said Mitchell. “We’ve got people who have grown and exited other businesses as well. We think we’re pretty well covered whichever route we take.”
Huddle cofounders Alastair Mitchell and Andy McGloughlin (© Huddle)
Mitchell said he was particularly keen to find a new CEO who had grown a company's international sales. “Morten’s clearly grown huge value in businesses in the past,” he said. “He’s got a huge range of experience which covers everything from from product right through to sales, being CEO and exiting a business.”
He added that under Brøgger, Huddle could easily double in size over the next two years, taking it from 175 employees and four offices (London, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC) to a few hundred employees and several additional offices.
Brøgger, who has been in the role since 12 January, told Techworld that Huddle ticked a lot of his boxes, adding that he was looking to lead a late-stage venture capital company.
“Being part of a company who could fundamentally transform the way customers work and make them better sounds extremely interesting,” he said.
Brøgger, who sees himself as an addition to the team as opposed to a direct replacement, said he wants to accelerate Huddle’s growth internationally and focus on particular verticals and industries.
“In the details we’re not there yet,” he admitted. “But I can tell you it’s definitely going to be within the central government area and it’s going to be within professional services."
Huddle’s biggest competition isn’t the likes of Box and Dropbox, according to Brøgger. Instead, it’s Microsoft SharePoint, which Huddle goes "up against on 9/10 deals".
“We are always up against Microsoft SharePoint,” said Brøgger. “They [Microsoft] have managed to succeed in many places but I think SharePoint has its shortcomings in terms of some of the functionalities and the features.
“Dropbox are really more on the pilot side. We do see professional organisations who use Dropbox but I think there’s a set of shortcomings from the secure element."
On Box, Brøgger said: "It's clearly a competitor but what’s clear to me is the difference between Box and Huddle is Huddle was born as an original collaboration edition. It has been a secure collaboration tool from the beginning. It didn’t come from online storage and online file sharing and then move into collaboration.”
The Box IPO was good news for Huddle, according to Brøgger, who claims it focuses attention on the enterprise collaboration market.
Plans on hold
However, despite Box’s IPO success last week, Brøgger revealed that Huddle’s IPO discussions have been put on hold.
“Everyone is asking whether Huddle will IPO," he said. "I had that discussion with investors at the beginning and we have mutually agreed we’re going to put all these discussions on hold. It’s a tough thing to do if you’re a venture capital firm but right now it’s about taking Huddle into its next growth phase.”
Brøgger will initially be based at Huddle’s London office in Aldgate, before joining the executive team in the company’s San Francisco office in the SoMo (south of Market Street) district.
Mitchell will remain at the company as president and chief marketing officer, where he will be tasked with scaling the company’s brand, an arrangement that Brøgger seems pleased with.
“He kind of invented the product, he has the vision embedded in his genetics,” said Brøgger. “ I don’t think you can find a better CMO than him, who can understand the product and the vision and articulate to the market what this is about and what it can do for them.”