The Last Mile of Enterprise Applications

by Aaron JacobsonOct 09, 2014

At NEA we’ve been privileged to help fuel the evolution of enterprise software from on-premise to the cloud by working with category-defining SaaS companies such as WebEx,, and Workday. We continue to invest in the SaaS transformation of the enterprise, from emerging big data applications (check out our colleague Scott Sandell’s take on this shift) to the rise of industry-specific or “vertical” SaaS—think utilities (Opower) or education (Desire2Learn). Between data-driven applications and vertical software one might think we have our hands full hunting for new SaaS opportunities, yet there is at least one other area we are eager to invest in—we call it the “Last Mile” of enterprise applications. Today we are excited to announce our newest investment driven by this thesis, MOVE Guides, developers of a SaaS solution that makes it easy for companies, governments and other institutions to move their talent around the world

So what is the “Last Mile”? It’s all about automating common, “ugly” business processes that remain highly manual or dependent on third-party services firms, despite the fact that SaaS has become mainstream for many core functions (ERP, CRM, etc.) across the enterprise. Historically the ROI and integration requirements just haven’t balanced out to make it worthwhile for a company to invest in software for these manual processes. Furthermore, many of these processes reside in administrative or “cost” functions and are viewed as “necessary evils” within an organization—they are frequently outsourced to third parties to maintain (vs. minimize) costs at acceptable levels and (in theory) free up employee time for higher-value tasks.

Yet some of these workflows require a high degree of coordination between managers, employees, and the services firms. The long chain of emails, phone calls, mailings, Excel spreadsheets, pdfs, invoices, and paper forms prevent much of the outsourcing efficiency from being realized. Additionally, the services firms know they are simply “cost maintenance” solutions so they have little reason to innovate, provide transparency, or deliver excellent customer service.

Cloud-based software—combined with the explosion of smart mobile devices and data-driven applications—changes all of this. SaaS significantly brings down integration requirements and reduces the cost of automating “ugly” processes, delivering higher and faster ROI. It also provides a solution for all parties involved in a business process to collaborate anywhere, anytime, resulting in more transparency, higher organizational efficiency, and greater employee satisfaction. Now more than ever, “Last Mile” business processes once thought of as “cost centers” can be transformed into competitive advantages in efficiency and agility via software.

There are few (if any) processes more ripe for change than employee relocation. Just think about the last time you had to move for a job....choosing a neighborhood to live in, finding a house, packaging and shipping all your belongs (including your car or pet), booking flights, filling out compliance or immigration forms, tracking expenses and getting reimbursed…and then imagine coordinating hundreds of these moves a year.

This onerous task falls upon an enterprise’s HR group, and given the volume of moves and the complexity of the moving process, it’s hardly surprising that relocation is typically outsourced to a third-party services firm. HR executives just don’t want to worry about ensuring all compliance requirements are adhered to or the numerous vendors (shipping, real estate, immigration, tax) involved in a relocation process are paid appropriately. Yet, even after outsourcing relocation an HR department must still dedicate a large chunk of time interacting with the services firm and employee. Challenges with inefficient processes, compliance risk and employee experience still go unsolved. In fact, just 2% of companies currently consider their global mobility function world class today.

Given that 75% of companies expect to increase their population of mobile employees in the next 3-5 years, the organizational focus and spend on employee relocation is inevitably going to rise. In this era of cloud software there just has to be a more efficient, less costly way to handle employee mobility—and founding CEO Brynne Herbert and her team at MOVE Guides have answered this call.

MOVE Guides has built an intuitive SaaS-based Talent Mobility Cloud that enables HR departments, employees, and third-party vendors to facilitate employee relocations (such as for a temporary assignment or permanent move) to anywhere around the globe. The system is comprehensive and handles a wide variety of relocation processes such as educating an employee about their new city, helping them execute the move (flights, shipping, etc.), gathering compliance data, processing vendor invoices and employee reimbursements, and sharing finance data with the appropriate payroll and tax systems. MOVE Guides includes in-depth administrative functionality that allows HR to classify moves into various categories and then set policies, such as spend limitations or vendor restrictions, for all parts of the moving process. The solution allows companies to continue working with their preferred third-party vendors or discover new ones via a services marketplace.

Not only do we think MOVE Guides has built a great product, but an impressive set of customers do too. Their growing client base includes fast-growing companies like SurveyMonkey and listed multinationals such as Adobe, lululemon and Tesco. In talking with these customers, we found that MOVE Guides delivers up to 30% more efficiency to HR teams at a fraction of the cost of incumbent outsourced providers, with a 99% satisfaction rate for relocating employees. This value proposition is so crystal clear that it sets off the light bulb immediately for new customers.

MOVE Guides is not NEA’s first investment in a company driven by our “Last Mile” thesis—back in March our partner Pete Sonsini led an investment in GuideSpark, a SaaS-based employee communication solution that leverages video to help employees engage with benefits, healthcare reform, compensation programs, and compliance. Basically any process that still relies heavily on paper, clipboards, email, Excel, or PDFs represents an opportunity for cloud-based software to drive down costs while increasing employee productivity and job satisfaction.

Of course not every “last mile” opportunity makes for a good investment—similar to vertical SaaS plays, investors have to assess how big the market opportunity truly is. In the case of MOVE Guides it was a no-brainer—talent mobility management represents about a $15 billion chunk of the $150 billion global annual spend on mobility and associated services. There are also multiple billion-dollar services firms in this market and we see many ways for the company to deliver value in other areas, around both the services marketplace and the increasingly complex areas of expatriate tax and compensation.

We see in MOVE Guides the opportunity for NEA to help build another category-defining SaaS company. We’re thrilled to welcome Brynne and team to the NEA family and are excited to be joining them on their mission to revolutionize talent mobility.