Empowering deskless workers: Why we invested in Flip

Today we’re announcing Notion’s investment in Flip. The company is on a mission to make deskless workers part of the digital conversation and we couldn’t be more excited to be joining them on this journey. We’re co-leading the $30m Series A round with our friends at HV, together with existing investors Cavalry and LEA partners and a host of well-known angels.

80% of workers are deskless

Deskless workers outnumber their desktop counterparts by an astonishing 4:1. Yet, they are not really involved in the digital transformation that every organisation is going through. The divide between those sitting at their desks and everybody else in an organisation has never been wider.

Covid has further increased the divide

This was brought into even greater focus by the pandemic. Those of us who work from desks were able to carry on - relatively unscathed - by working from home and relying on digital tools more than ever. But for many others the impact of the pandemic was much more severe. People were either unable to work or were forced to work in tightly controlled and high-risk environments. Being one of those sitting at my desk I can’t imagine what it must have been like. We were all safely ensconced in our digital towers.

Obviously being a deskless worker means that you can’t just transition to working in the ‘Cloud’ and a digital-first existence. The main part of what you do is physical or manual in some way and is skill-based as well as knowledge-based.

Communication is at the heart of every organisation

But all organisations are going through a digital transformation in some shape or form. At the heart of this is improved communication and information flow. This is a key driver of productivity and impacts the bottom line. But it’s also about fostering a strong culture - one of inclusivity, teamwork and alignment. Communication is the lifeblood of a high-performing culture.

Organisations know they need to leverage the Cloud and technology to remain competitive and fulfil their potential. But almost all this investment has been focused on those people sitting behind a desk. Everyone else is getting increasingly marginalised, still relying on bulletin boards and the occasional chat with their manager to get their information and feel part of something.

An overlooked opportunity

It seems that this is such an obvious investment opportunity - to ensure that the deskless worker is part of the digital conversation. And yet it has been continually neglected. Currently only 1% of software spend goes towards enabling the 2.7bn deskless workers around the world.

I think the software industry, and the VCs that support it, have been quite myopic about this opportunity. But a few things have happened to bring it more clearly into focus. First, it’s probably only been in the last 5 years or so that we’ve had the right combination of smartphones, Wi-Fi networks and 4G to put a connected computer in everyone’s pocket. Second, there’s a growing understanding of the value of digital transformation to ensure a company stays strong and competitive into the future; and that an important part of this is ensuring that your entire workforce is empowered with the right digital tools. Third, the desktop software market is becoming more and more saturated, resulting in competitive and leading investors to look more seriously elsewhere.

Enter Flip

At Notion, we have long had a thesis on deskless workers. We believe it’s a huge and untapped opportunity. Over the years we have looked at a few start-ups in the space but it wasn’t until we met Ben and the team at Flip that we felt we had found a company that could be a leader in the market and build a really big business. I have never met a company more obsessed with their customers than Flip - the product and everything they do flows from that. For example Ben and his co-founder Giacomo worked at McDonalds to really understand how they operate and how to build a product that truly meets their needs. And they have done the same with many of their customers. To be successful in this market will require, from the ground up, an understanding of a ‘non-native’ market with very different requirements and priorities.

At the centre of their product is simplicity. And, as anyone who has tried to do this will tell you, simplicity is easy to say but very difficult to do. I’m convinced this is the only way to win in this market. To make the experience truly intuitive and take away everything that is not essential. In this way you can drive real engagement and become the first and only app that the deskless worker depends on. From this on-ramp you can start adding in additional functionality through integrations, bringing everyone further and further into an organisation’s digital world.

So I’m very excited to be announcing our investment in Flip and to start working with Ben, Giacomo and the team. I firmly believe they can be a defining force in this market and build a very big business off that back of it.

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