Check-In Startup Envoy Has $20 Million In Fresh Funds And A New Mission: Safely Reopening Offices

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Envoy became popular for a use case that already feels of a past era of work: the visitor check-in. Now, as businesses consider when—if ever—to open back up in the wake of COVID-19’s spread, CEO Larry Gadea has his startup focused on a new mission: employees’ safe return.

Gadea knows that some people may never go back to the office; those who do may come back in a trickle, with buildings operating at capacities of 20% or 30% their prepandemic levels. Contractors and cleaners will still need to service those buildings, he argues. And employers will have more reason than ever to manage the inflow and outflow of their staff who do show up. “People are going to back to the workplace,” says Gadea. “We’re trying to make it be as safe as possible when they do.”

Envoy’s new software product, announced in beta on Thursday, is looking to address safety concerns in offices of the post-coronavirus world. Called Envoy Protect, the tools are available free to users of Envoy and can help track employee registration, health and safety capacity in a building.

The San Francisco-based startup plans to add more tools in upcoming months, Gadea says, including new tools for conference rooms like notifications of when they’re out of sanitizer, cleaning and building facilities management to know when areas of an office have really been used and need cleaning, as well as company-wide announcement mechanisms. For that push, and to maintain cash reserves through the pandemic, Envoy says it raised $20 million in venture debt from firm TriplePoint Capital, as well as a separate line of credit of up to $10 million for small acquisitions.

Long a darling of fellow Bay Area tech companies, Envoy has faced challenges from the disruption of office norms brought about by the spread of COVID-19. Among its flagship customers, who operate 14,000 offices, the startup says, are Pinterest, Slack and Warby Parker. It remains to be seen how such high-flying tech companies return to the physical office, if they do so at all. Earlier in the week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told the social media company’s employee base that many would be able to work from home “forever,” should they so choose. Envoy had some customers ask to put their accounts on hold; while the company’s executives say its renewal rates among customers whose annual plans have expired in recent weeks remain high, new business dried up. Envoy joined other startups in conducting layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts, letting go about 30% of its workforce, Forbes reported in April.

“It didn’t take too long for us to realize, ‘Wait a second. We’re a company that sells to workplaces, to people’s offices, and if people aren’t visiting those offices, that’s, like, our core business,” says Gadea. But having spoken to customers, Gadea is now convinced that while many businesses will likely reduce their office footprints and the number of workers they have physically in them at any time, those businesses will still require check-ins and basic tracking.

So Envoy’s focus has shifted, even if many of its products have not. Its visitor check-in tools will now allow employees to sign up to go to the office and allow offices to manage how many staff can enter on a given day. Its nondisclosure agreements for visitors will most likely have been replaced by questionnaires on any entrant’s recent history of health checks. And tools that can manage the use of shared spaces and meeting rooms will now matter as much for safety as for efficient use.

Envoy is far from the only company looking to capitalize on the gradual return to offices. CLEAR, which uses biometrics to check in visitors at airports and pro sports stadiums, plans to offer screening for businesses, too. And a host of other “smart office” startups will look to carve out their own turf as companies reconfigure offices and rethink how they operate, including Proxy, which claims to be used by Uber and WeWork, and Density, a startup that uses depth-tracking hardware to tell how many people are in a space without video cameras, and which claims Marriott, Delta, Fidelity—and Envoy—as customers.

In an interview, Density CEO Andrew Farah said new bookings had grown more than 500% in the past 90 days. “People are trying to figure out how to open their buildings and return people back safely,” Farah says. “The data that used to be used to optimize space and think about workplace design is now data businesses want to give back to employees to show, is it safe for me to go in.”

At one Envoy customer, identity manager Okta, global workplace services leader Armen Vartanian says that tools like Envoy’s will prove important in a flexible office environment, even if visitor traffic never comes back. “If we’re going to be in a hybrid type of environment in the future, where employees are not coming in every day, but you still need the space for some people to interact face-to-face, you need to develop insights on how people are using that space so that you can iterate on it and design better ones,” Vartanian says.

That’s the future that Envoy and its backers are banking on, at least: one in which the office doesn’t disappear—it’s just diminished, or at least different. “Workplaces are not just there to be fluffy and for free food. Workplaces are also there because people want separation from home, they want a team atmosphere and to be able to talk to people quickly,” argues Gadea. “No one is experienced in this kind of thing before. So anything we can do to make it as painless and easy and safe as possible, that’s what we’re here for.”

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I’m an associate editor at Forbes covering venture capital, cloud and enterprise software out of New York. I edit the Midas List, Midas List Europe, Cloud 100 list and 30 Under 30 for VC. I’m a Fortune Magazine and WNYC alum. My tech focus would’ve perplexed my college self, as I studied medieval history and archaeology at Harvard University. Follow me on Twitter at @alexrkonrad and email me at akonrad@forbes.com. Securely share tips at https://www.forbes.com/tips/

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Oct.28 — Larry Gadea, Envoy Corp. founder and chief executive officer, discusses the company’s business model with Bloomberg’s Taylor Riggs on “Bloomberg Technology.”

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