“The way we manage work, principally through email, needs to change,” says Bill Dobie, the founder of workplace communications startup and Slack-rival Sedna. “We allow really complicated parts of the global economy to be run over email and it’s not fit for purpose.”
In Sedna, Dobie has developed an alternative — one which promises to reduce inbound messages by up to 95% — and the startup has just secured a $10m Series A round, led by Chalfen Ventures and Stride VC, to expand the model.
Founded in 2017 and based in London, there are currently 2,000 teams across 80 countries using Sedna, including large-scale commodity and shipping companies like Glencore, Bunge and Norden.
The company is one of several pitting themselves against conventional email — namely messaging app Slack. It just got bought by Salesforce for a mega $27.7bn and markets itself as the antithesis to email: “You could get buried in emails. Or you could get real work done in Slack.”
How it works
Unlike Slack, Sedna’s team believes that email is so ubiquitously used that any new service needs to be able to engage with the old one.
Sedna works, then, by putting all of a company’s emails into one stream and then using an API to channel them to the exact right people.
“The problem Sedna tries to solve,” Dobie explains, “is that information about transactions a company makes is rooted in emails. People want to move more quickly and be certain about the information they use, but the information is in individual email accounts.”
“Our thesis is that the content of a company related to its work should be available to everyone in the business who’s entitled to see it,” he says, “so Sedna works by taking emails and connecting them into a single datastream, so there’s one timeline for a transaction that everyone can access.”
One of Sedna’s clients is a large food company, for example, where inbound transactions emails used to come to 200 email addresses across different people in different areas of the company — but now Sedna sorts incoming information and directs it only to the relevant people.
The shipping industry
Dobie worked in the shipping industry before developing Sedna, and says commodity industries are perfect use cases for the software — they’re businesses doing complex transactions with multiple people controlling them across geographical borders.
Coronavirus, however, has made every company look more like a shipping company, Dobie says, in that everyone now works in a remote, distributed way.
Although shipping and commodities businesses had been Sedna’s focus, 50% of their clients are now from other industries. Stride’s Harry Stebbings, who led Sedna’s latest round, thinks the use case for the model is broad.
“Very few things have the impact that Sedna could have — it could fundamentally change how global trade works.”
“I think this could fundamentally change how some of the biggest companies in the world transact and communicate,” he says. “I don’t think it’s impossible to see a $10bn opportunity with Sedna, especially when you look at things like Slack and how well that’s done.”
There are some concerns that this is becoming a crowded market, however. While not quite the same offering as Sedna, services such as Rocket Chat, Mattermost, Ryver, CA Flowdock, Flock, Fleep and Chanty are just some of those muscling into this market.