Whiteboard tool Miro announced today that it has joined the unicorn ranks with a $17.5 billion post-money valuation. The company recently raised $400 million in its series C funding round. As we ease into 2022, productivity apps still can’t stop making money.
Workplace tools like Miro have surged in popularity through the pandemic, and investors have taken notice. ClickUp, another productivity platform, also raised $400 million: At the time, it was one of the biggest series C funding rounds in the workplace productivity market ever. AirTable reached decacorn status at $11.7 billion last month.
Miro has kept its financial metrics under wraps since the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, when the company was worth $725 million post-money. CEO Andrey Khusid said Miro’s never been “focused on how much the company’s valued, we were focused on the value we create for users.” But it’s hard not to shout from the rooftops about a $400 million funding round and a $17.5 billion valuation. The company reports its users have grown from 5 million to 30 million since April 2020.
Protocol chatted with Khusid about Miro’s transformation from “just a whiteboard” to a visual collaboration platform, its focus on meetings and its role in the workplace.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How is the Miro of today different from the Miro of 2011, when you helped found the company?
We started the company 10 years ago with a very simple idea of bringing the whiteboard into a browser. Along the journey, we adjusted our vision. Several years ago, we pioneered this visual collaboration platform, and the idea was to build a product that can serve users in the organization wall to wall. Every person in an organization can communicate their ideas, their thoughts visually and co-create things together.
At that time, Slack was going for wall-to-wall messaging within organizations, Microsoft Teams started to arise and penetrate the market. Zoom was building for video communication. We thought there might be a missing piece and that missing piece is visual collaboration where people co-create and collaborate in a visual way, because a picture paints 1000 words. And it's way easier for people to understand each other and to get to this "aha" moment. We call it the joy of mutual understanding when they see the same thing.
Definitely, the market has evolved. Two, three years ago CIOs of organizations were not thinking of this type of product, and now it’s definitely changed. So now the CIOs understand the direction of what their teams need.
How has your sales pitch changed?
For the first several years, Miro was adopted bottom-up. Teams picked up Miro. At that time, RealtimeBoard was the first name for Miro. We saw adoption of like tens or even hundreds of users that brought products in on their own. People were thinking about us as an online whiteboard.
But then when we started to communicate our product value top-down. On the customer side, we needed to explain to them that this is not just a whiteboard. It does way more than the regular whiteboard where you can just put sticky notes and draw something. It's a workflow platform, but the workflow is set up in a digital way. You adjust your Miro boards and your Miro account to the way your organization works.
We started to communicate that we are a visual communication platform, because that better describes our value for them than just an online whiteboard. That was the big shift.
In the last few years, as more and more people started using Miro, how have you needed to adjust the platform?
What happened with the pandemic is that some use cases required deeper work. We started to focus more on things like smart meetings, because people started to spend more time on meetings online and people hate spending time on useless meetings. We tried to change the way teams can have meetings and drive efficiency and effectiveness out of that. That's one of the areas that we deepened during the pandemic. It's not a new area, we saw workshops happening in Miro, but the magnitude of how many workshops started on Miro, how many meetings started to happen on Miro significantly increased.
What is Miro’s philosophy on meetings? What do you think the ideal meeting looks like?
This is a great question. Because no one knows. It’s an area of exploration for all tech companies who want to solve this problem.
I strongly believe that we will see a whole range of different types of meetings, from synchronous, several-day workshops to fully asynchronous collaboration. We'll see hybrid meetings where part of the team is in the same room, and the rest is remote. We'll see meetings where we'll do some virtual-reality experience or augmented-reality experience. So we'll see the whole range of different hybrid setups and different types of meetings.
We as a company need to design the product that will serve best for each of those use cases. So that's really important because it's not one-size-fits-all. You can't just use Zoom for everything that you need to do, or Miro in its current development. We need to develop our platform and develop the platforms in general to serve all different needs.
When you need to solve a complex problem with a set of people, it's more time-consuming. You really need to take people through some type of meeting framework. If you just sit on Zoom, and there are like eight, 10, 20 people in the room and everyone's sharing their opinion, it’s hard to get to some decision. In the physical world, we can imagine that someone will jump out of the table and take a marker and start to visualize what they propose. In the digital world, we don't have that type of behavior. How we think it can be solved is when you have a framework for the meeting.
Everyone will have the same voice because when you share your ideas through sticky notes or through other visual objects, introverts, extroverts, they're all in the same kind of setup. They all have the same voice, so it drives more inclusivity and also helps people to move faster from one stage of the decision to another stage. We’re trying to provide teams with the right set of templates and frameworks that they can use to get decisions faster, and to drive better quality of their decisions.
How do you envision Miro’s future? Where does it fit in within the crowded productivity space?
I don't think there will be one platform, one tool that solves for everything. I think there are different problems and different use cases that people solve for on different platforms. And I believe that we need to do our best work in the use cases that people choose us for.
So, we discussed this, content-first meetings. This is the area where we need to be the best-of-class platform. Or, for example, people design product requirements in Miro, so we need to be the best-in-class platform for developing product requirements.
I strongly believe that you need to focus on your customers who already have seen the value and then deepen that value rather than try to be everything for everyone. That’s my view. At the same time, in the marketplace, there will be suites of products that do a little bit of everything. There is a place for both and it depends on the customer. Some customers have preference for suites; some customers have preference for best-in-class products in their space.