Startups Looking to Redesign the Future of Work

Team communication, project management and efficient collaboration beyond the classic office. Meet the most promising and ambitious startups.

Time for Startups

Basecamp, Jira, Trello, Slack – it’s hard to imagine that these cloud services that millions of users around the world use every day once started out small. The best example could be Atlassian. Founded in Sydney in 2002 by founding duo Mike Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar. With a starting capital of just $10,000, the company was able to catapult itself to the top of the world. In December 2015, the initial public offering (IPO) on Nasdaq took place under the symbol “TEAM”. The market capitalization was over $5.5 billion.

Collaborate with Startups

Collaboration solutions like Jira or Trello, with which Atlassian has made a name for itself in the industry, are now in greater demand than ever. In the digitization process, there is a growing demand for suitable tools with which companies can better shape their processes, communicate seamlessly within the team, and work together efficiently and productively.

Startups versus the Market Giants

But startups entering the collaboration market face fierce competition. Anyone who dreams of an IPO like Atlassian must not only take on business giants like Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Google, and more recently Facebook and Amazon. But also well-known collaboration software providers like Dropbox, Slack, Asana, Box or GitHub, who have developed products that users love. The pressure of competition and innovation are enormous.

The Potential of Startups

Here are new companies that are not intimidated by this competition, quite the opposite. All of these startups have been launched in the last five years with the goal of improving business collaboration and productivity. While some of them are still very small, others have already proven their worth in practice and are on a strong growth path.  Another interesting software for SMBs is Deskera’s cloud manufacturing software. Now this solution caters to manufacturing businesses and simplifies the entire manufacturing process through automation.

Teamleader: All-in-One Platform for SMBs

The startup was founded in Belgium in 2012 and has so far raised about $15 million in capital. With its comprehensive all-in-one solution, more than 5,000 small and medium-sized businesses are already working, according to the provider.

Unlike most of the startups we feature in this post, TeamLeader refrains from the current “Best of Breed” approach. Instead, the startup has created a powerful and comprehensive platform for SMBs that enables them to digitize their business processes. With various modules for customer relationship management, calendar, sales, billing, project management, helpdesk and support, time tracking and phone traffic (VoIP), TeamLeader presents itself as a type of modern ERP software, but without the complexity of a classic enterprise-class solution.

In addition, Teamleader already has its own Marketplace, where customers can find numerous applications and integrations, with which they can further expand the platform. TeamLeader competes with established companies like Sage Software, which has a broad portfolio of products for SMBs, as well as other similar end-to-end solutions, such as the Bitrix24 social intranet or Weclapp’s ERP and CRM solutions in Marburg.

Stackfield: Task Management with End-to-End Encryption

Unlike TeamLeaders, the Munich-based provider focuses on tools for efficient communication and collaboration that should help SMBs to be more productive. The special feature: with end-to-end encryption implemented, it must be ensured that neither unauthorized third parties nor the manufacturer itself can access customer data. In this way, it tries to stand out among competing startups.

In terms of functionality and user experience, Stackfield strongly resembles social business tools like Yammer (from Microsoft) and Chatter (from Salesforce), and modern task management solutions like Asana. This allows users to create specific workspaces, or in this case “stacks”, where they centrally manage projects, tasks, documents, appointments, notes, etc.

Fluid communication between team members plays a key role here. Stackfield provides helpful features like comments, activity streams, and notifications that keep everyone up to date. Unlike most of the solutions in this post, Stackfield is available on demand and on premises. The cloud version starts at 24 euros per month for 10 users (with annual payment). Prices for the local server variant start at just under €800 (one time only).

Honey and Convo: Social Intranets for the Cloud Age

When it comes to modern social intranets or “business social networks“, many corporate users still think of SharePoint. In 2011, ten years after its first launch and at the height of its popularity, Microsoft has deployed about 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies. But now there are many modern alternatives. They promise to be much easier to use and cost-effective than Redmond’s established solution. For example, these include Honey from New York and Convo from Silicon Valley. Both startups were launched in 2012 and are aimed at companies interested in getting started in the world of business collaboration software. Key features of both products include employee profiles, activity streams, file sharing, team chat. There are also other features like episodes, likes, and @mentions, which are known from Facebook, Twitter, and co.

Slack: Effective Team Communication

The issue of team communication is more critical than ever in today’s work world. The days when the whole team used to work in the office all day are long gone. Remote teams that span multiple time zones and continents are no longer a rarity. In this context, online services that improve internal team communication are becoming increasingly important. The first example here is Slack, of course. Hardly any other startup in the B2B sector has been able to grow as fast as the company founded by Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield in San Francisco. But now there are countless loose alternatives. For example, Atlassian’s HipChat is also very popular. And the launch of Microsoft Teams was a direct challenge for Slack.

Grape: New Alternative to Slack

In addition to these big players, there are many new startups that are trying their luck in this highly competitive segment with similar business chat solutions. For example, Grape from Vienna. The Slack Clone is marketed as “the world’s first project messenger.” Users can chat with each other and connect their business applications with Grape to automatically track all activities and notifications related to their business processes directly in their communications.

However, Grape comes with some useful extras. For example, the application summarizes conversations and automates workflows through natural language processing. Businesses that do not want to outsource all their internal communication to the cloud can use Grape On-Premise. Either way, it’s questionable if that’s enough to defend against Slack, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, and co.

FrontApp: One Inbox for the Whole Team

While old email is seen as a productivity-killing number in internal corporate communications, it is still essential in external communications with prospects, customers, and partners. This is where Front as a cloud service comes in. Since its founding in 2013, the French startup has secured around 13 million euros for its international expansion. And by renowned venture capitalists and business angels like Berlin’s Point Nine Capital, Slack founder Stewart Butterfield, and startup incubator Y Combinator.

Front has also been named a “Rising Star” on the Forbes’ Cloud 100 list, which selects the world’s most successful cloud providers. The solution allows companies to optimize external communication with their customers. This enables them to manage multiple email addresses such as contact @, sales @ and support @, as well as other communication channels such as SMS, Twitter, LinkedIn, and centralized telephone on a single platform. Front relies on high usability and powerful tools that enable collaborative processing of customer inquiries in a team.

In addition to team communication and efficient cooperation, the topic of project and task management continues to play a key role in the collaboration market. The days when only the IT department used project management solutions are long gone. Even extremely simple task apps like Wunderlist or Todoist have long established themselves in the business environment, especially in product and marketing teams. It is not surprising that there are more and more new companies, Basecamp, Asana, Jira, Trello and company announce the fight.

The product range is extremely diverse. Each department of the organization, such as design, development, product management or marketing, can find today on the market several alternatives that adapt to their needs. For example, Productboard offers a modern PM tool designed specifically for product managers. It is geared toward startups and brings together product, development, marketing, and support teams under one roof.

Monday: Project Management

Monday is one of the fastest growing startups in this segment. Since its founding in Tel Aviv in 2012, the company has secured approximately $34 million in capital to date. According to the provider, today more than 10,000 teams work with its solution, including international companies like Samsung and Adidas, and startups like Uber and WeWork, the co-work specialist.

In terms of functionality, Monday is very reminiscent of Trello, the popular online visual project management service that was recently acquired by Atlassian for approximately $425 million. For example, project boards also play a key role on Monday. However, unlike Trello, Monday was exclusively focused on business teams from the beginning, there is no freemium version. Compared to Trello and company scores, Monday has additional features that are very well implemented, such as project schedules, which work similarly to classic Gantt charts and help efficient planning thanks to the friendly visualization of the tasks of all project members. The solution offers the typical productivity, communication, project planning and analysis tools that you would expect from modern project management software today.

GitLab: Collaboration for Software Developers

Another collaboration startup that is on a strong growth path is GitLab. In just three years since its launch, the Dutch company has so far raised around €25 million of venture capital from top investors including 500 startups, Khosla Ventures and Ashton Kutcher’s Hollywood startup. But it’s not just financiers who believe in GitLab. Well-known companies such as Bayer, Sony or Siemens, as well as small and medium-sized companies, are already using the solution productively. In total, according to company information, more than 100,000 organizations are using GitLab.

As the name implies, the software competes directly with GitHub and similar collaboration solutions for software developers like Atlassian’s BitBucket. With Code Hosting, version control, issue tracking, project management, and code reviews, GitLab optimally covers all core aspects of efficient software team collaboration. The difference from the leading tools is the solution with the seamless integration of modern DevOps tools for delivery and continuous integration. This allows developers to work collaboratively on a single platform throughout the development process, from initial idea and prototype to automated rollout of updates to production.

GitLab is based on open source software and is offered in the Freemium model. Furthermore, companies can decide for themselves whether to install the solution locally or use it in the public cloud. Other interesting startups that specifically target software developers include Taiga, ZenHub, and Swip.

DevSkiller: Developer testing

DevSkiller is an advanced automated developer testing platform. Since 2013, this tech startup company from Poland created two advanced automated screening tools—in TalentScore for developer testing, and TalentBoost, for skills management. The company helps organizations cut down on the time they spend screening and interviewing tech candidates and already works with 700+ companies from 90+ countries, spanning 6 continents. 


The collaboration market is booming. The way we work together is constantly changing with the impact of new technologies and social trends. At the same time, the unstoppable digitization of the economy and concomitant competitive pressure are forcing companies to make their work processes more efficient and increase their productivity. This attracts more and more new startups trying to find and conquer a small niche with modern solutions and innovative products. That’s the only way they can compete with the IT giants and established vendors that set the tone in the collaboration market.

Fast-growing startups like GitLab, Front, Monday, or Teamleder are already successful with this strategy today, even if the competitive pressure in the business collaboration market is huge and the chances of success are quite low: Atlassian’s success story shows that nothing is impossible.

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