Box is now letting all staff work from home to reduce coronavirus risk

Box has joined a number of tech companies supporting employees to work remotely from home in response  the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

It’s applying the policy to all staff, regardless of location.

Late yesterday Box co-founder Aaron Levie tweeted a statement detailing the cloud computing company’s response to COVID-19, the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus — to, as he put it, “ensure the availability of our service and safety of our employees”.

In recent days Twitter has similarly encouraged all staff members to work from home. While companies including Amazon, Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft have also advised some staff to work remotely to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

In its response statement Box writes that it’s enacted its business continuity plans “to ensure core business functions and technology are operational in the event of any potential disruption”.

“We have long recognized the potential risks associated with service interruptions due to adverse events, such as an earthquake, power outage or a public health crisis like COVID-19, affecting our strategic, operational, stakeholder and customer obligations. This is why we have had a Business Continuity program in place to provide the policies and plans necessary for protecting Box’s operations and critical business functions,” the company writes.

In a section on “workforce resilience and business continuity” it notes that work from home practices are a normal part of its business operations but says it’s now extending the option to all its staff, regardless of the office or location they normally work out of — saying it’s doing so “out of an abundance of caution during COVID-19”.

Other measures the company says it’s taken to further reduce risk include suspending all international travel and limiting non-essential domestic travel; reducing large customer events and gatherings; and emphasizing health and hygiene across all office locations — “by maintaining sanitation supplies and encouraging an ‘if you are sick, stay home’ mindset”.

It also says it’s conducting all new hire orientation and candidate interviews virtually.

Box names a number of tools it says it routinely uses to support mobility and remote working, including its own service for secure content collaboration; Zoom’s video communication tool; the Slack messaging app; Okta for secure ID; plus additional unnamed “critical cloud tools” for ensuring “uninterrupted remote work for all employees”.

Clearly spying the opportunity to onboard new users, as more companies switch on remote working as a result of COVID-19 concerns, Box’s post also links to free training resources for its own cloud computing tools.

This report was updated with a correction to clarify that COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; rather than another name for the virus

Goodlord, the proptech startup that offers a SaaS for rentals, has raised £10M in Series B funding

Goodlord, the London proptech startup that offers cloud-based software to help estate agents, landlords and tenants manage the rental process, appears to have achieved somewhat of a turnaround after it fell into difficulty two years ago. Since then, the company installed a new CEO and CTO, and raised further funding. Today Goodlord is announcing its next milestone: £10 million in “Series B” funding.

Backing comes from Finch Capital, which led the startup’s previous round (also called a Series B!), and Latitude Ventures, the growth-stage “sister” fund to London seed firm LocalGlobe (another previous investor). Also participating is new investor Oxx Capital, the recently outed SaaS-focused venture capital firm founded by Richard Anton and Mikael Johnsson.

Goodlord says it will use the additional capital to invest in its engineering, product and customer facing teams. Despite layoffs back in early 2018, the company grew from 47 to 97 employees last year and currently has a number of open positions.

Founded in 2014, unlike other startups in the rental market space that want to essentially destroy traditional brick ‘n mortar letting agents with an online equivalent, Goodlord’s Software-as-a-Service is designed to support all stakeholders, including traditional high-street letting agents, as well as landlords and, of course, tenants. Its SaaS enables letting agents to “digitize” the moving-in process, including utilising e-signatures and collecting rental payments online, while tenants benefit from a tenant dashboard and more transparency.

In a brief call with Goodlord CEO William Reeve, who co-founded LoveFilm and was also a founding director of Zoopla, he revealed that he only initially agreed to step into the role on a temporary basis to steady the ship. However, upon joining, he says he’s been energised by the vision and enthusiasm of the team and the startup’s broader mission of solving problems faced by “generation-rent.”

He says that, as it stands, Goodlord is mostly focused on the transactional element of renting (contracts, payments etc.), but argues (rightly) that this vantage-point provides a host of future opportunities post-move-in, where more value can be created — and captured. This already includes things like help with switching or setting up utilities, such as broadband, once a tenancy has been signed.

To solve another pain-point for tenants and landlords/agencies, Goodlord has introduced “virtual banking technology” for customers. Provided in partnership with fintech Modulr — a company also used by the likes of Revolut — Goodlord provides each tenant with a dedicated bank account number to pay their rent into. This makes it easier to track payments and accelerate a move-in date, as payments don’t need to be reconciled in a central landlord bank account and the whole process is infinitely more transparent.

It’s also a good example of embedded fintech (or evidence backing up the “every company will be a fintech company” thesis recently made popular by venture firm Andreessen Horowitz).

Reeve also tells me that Goodlord is adding value on the landlord side by helping navigate recent regulation in the U.K. that bans tenant fees. By using the SaaS and the processes it has digitised, landlords can ensure they remain compliant.

Lastly, I asked Reeve to provide an example of a big decision he has taken since becoming CEO and he said the biggest changes have been around technology. Not only did Goodlord recruit an experienced CTO — Donovan Frew, formerly CTO of Secret Escapes — but Reeve put into deep freeze a project to entirely re-factor the startup’s software platform, which he saw as unnecessary and not driven by the needs of customers, who, he said, loved the product.

More broadly, he said he’s not a fan of re-factoring for the sake of it or in pursuit of the latest, greatest shiny new tech. Instead, he prefers an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, and says that tech decisions should always be to the benefit of customers.