One of Indianapolis’ most interesting startup-to-scale-up success stories just got an $8 million boost to fuel growth and create new jobs. Bluebridge, the venture capital-backed tech firm originally started in 2011 by then college student and ExactTarget intern Santiago Jaramillo, has sold off its church and tourism business units to focus solely on its Emplify branded mobile app software-as-a-service platform focused on employee engagement.
Emplify emerged after a group of Bluebridge employees came up with an idea for an internal employee relations app. The app’s early successes and traction with potential customers combined with favorable market conditions were so compelling that Bluebridge acquired Cadence Consulting in February, and strategist Todd Richardson (former EVP at ExactTarget) joined the management team as Chief People Officer.
Jaramillo and Richardson have now authored a book together titled “Agile Engagement: How to Drive Lasting Results by Cultivating a Flexible, Responsive, and Collaborative Culture” that comes out December 5.
One remarkable part of the story (in addition to Jaramillo’s journey from Columbian immigrant to celebrated CEO) is that the two business units being sold off are quite successful. Core to the company prior to the employee engagement pivot, Bluebridge Tourism is still the world’s number one tourism apps platform and Bluebridge Churches is number two in its market.
Simpleview, a provider of sales and marketing solutions for destination marketing organizations, has acquired Bluebridge Tourism and echurch powered by PushPay, a technology provider of mobile giving and engagement solutions for faith-based organizations has acquired Bluebridge Churches.
“After we launched Emplify, the employee engagement side started growing faster than our tourism or church business units ever did,” said Jaramillo. “There was already some inbound interest in acquiring them so we got serious about it and today we’re selling our tourism apps business to the market leader in tourism web and digital solutions, and we’re selling our church apps business to the market leader in giving.
“Now, instead of split focus, we have one very big total addressable market with Emplify. As a company, we are now focused on a singular market and a singular buyer and we have the resources to continue to deploy and establish ourselves a the market leader in employee engagement.”
Another remarkable development is that management is reinvesting 100% of the proceeds from the $8 million sales back into Emplify. That funding plus the $3 million Series A funding round led by Allos Ventures and Cultivation Capital announced in July will continue to go toward hiring additional employees, product development, and sales and marketing.
Emplify currently has 50 employees with plans to hire 25 more in the near term, more than 50 paying customers, and the company is growing its annual recurring revenue more than 75 percent quarter over quarter.
“It took us four and a half years to get where we are with all Bluebridge units combined, and we’ve reached the same place, the same level of success with Emplify in just 18 months,” Jaramillo said. “We know from the research that 70 percent of employees are disengaged and it’s not good for anyone. Our purpose, what makes us wake up in the morning excited to get to work, is helping people live better lives by being more engaged. Right now there are tens of thousands of people using our platform through our 50 customers, but we are all determined to grow that to a million users.”