What lies in the shadows..? Millions of spreadsheets
Workscope has a fresh take on the problem of 'shadow IT'
After a brief break in late August, PreSeed Now is back to normal, bringing you a profile of an interesting, high-potential, early-stage startup every Tuesday and Thursday.
Today’s startup is tackling the world of ‘shadow IT’ and managed to sign up a tier-one bank as one of its first customers. That’s certainly one way to have to shape up your product quickly! Scroll down to read all about Workscope.
The breadth of what I’ve got lined up for you in the coming weeks is enormous. From enterprise communication to biotech, next-gen warehouse management to business-focused gaming and beyond. If you know a great startup that should be featured in an upcoming edition (anywhere from inception to raising a seed round), then drop me a line.
👼 Meet Manchester Angels
Today’s edition of PreSeed Now has been generously unlocked for all readers by Manchester Angels. This new organisation has been launched to provide a crucial missing part of the Manchester city region’s tech ecosystem: the ability to connect high-quality deals with the right angel investors at the right time, with the right mentoring.
Manchester Angels consists of local, actively investing angels with considerable experience in building and exiting technology businesses. They will invest in, and nurture these businesses. The organisation is backed by founding partners GP Bullhound and Bruntwood, and supported by investor partners Praetura Ventures, Octopus Ventures, Northern Gritstone, and Silicon Valley Bank.
Manchester Angels is already up and running and making deals. To find out more and get in touch, visit manangels.co.uk.
Workscope brings businesses’ hidden data out of the shadows
If you’ve ever worked in a big organisation, you might well have unwittingly frustrated its IT and security bosses, just to get your job done.
Maybe you worked with customer data in your own private spreadsheet because it was easier than wrestling with the clunky old CRM. Maybe your team held important data that you shared only between yourselves because no-one ever pointed out it could be valuable to the rest of the company.
These are examples of what’s known as ‘shadow IT’, and it can be a major headache for large organisations, introducing security and compliance problems that the IT team can’t handle because they have no idea of the scale of the problem.
Omar Quraishi, co-founder and CEO of London-based Workscope, explains that a large company might have thousands of people working on thousands, or millions, of spreadsheets that underpin the daily operation of the organisation, with no central oversight or control over them.
“If you're building up your organisational processes to rely on [spreadsheets], at some point, there's just so much complexity that for you to then go back and say ‘is this one risky, how important is this one to the organisation?’. It becomes an extremely difficult task.”
Quraishi explains that shadow IT audits conducted by external consultants or software tools are commonplace, but don’t really tackle the problem. They capture one period of time and they don’t provide the full picture about what those files mean in the context of the daily business operations.
That’s where Workscope comes in.
Quraishi describes Workscope as “helping companies identify where there are potentially operational risks and data risks within their spreadsheet operations. But we also allow them to understand how spreadsheet processes are executed on the ground so that they can identify potential areas to improve efficiency. It's an old problem and a new way to solve it.”
Quraishi says that in addition to security concerns, another big use case is businesses planning migration to Microsoft 365, and other digital transformation projects. Understanding the scale of their reliance on spreadsheets can give them “insights to help them on that journey in a more strategic and orderly manner.”
In practice, what the Workscope team has built is a data-mining tool that sits on employees’ computers or virtual machine profile. It works in the background to monitor their Microsoft Excel activity.
Identifying new files as they are created, it keeps tabs on them and how they’re used, reporting back to a central hub either on the company’s network or in the cloud. Authorised users, such as a CIO or CTO, can then log in to understand the company’s spreadsheet usage.
For now, Workscope is sticking to Excel as it is so widely used, but Quraishi says there’s potential to expand into support for the likes of Google Sheets in the future.
How to land a tier-one bank
The Workscope team got started in 2018 under the name Hub 85, but after rebranding to their current name in 2020, Quraishi says they landed “one of the biggest banks in the world” as a customer (he won’t say which one).
Going from practically zero to serving an enormous corporation is certainly one way for a startup to whip itself into shape.
“As we engaged with them, we matured very quickly in terms of enterprise readiness. All those top-level checks, security and control, running efficiently at scale across an international organisation… and that was really an unusual occurrence, because not many early-stage businesses can land tier-one banks,” says Quraishi.
So how did they land such a big client so early? Quraishi says “the key secret is to really have something in your product, a value proposition within your product, that nobody else is able to deliver, and that's what we were able to do.”
A compelling proposition can only get you so far at a very early stage, so I’d wager that Quraishi’s background working in financial data and investment management at companies like Bloomberg and PIMCO probably helped with credibility, too.
The story so far
Quraishi’s career helped him see how inefficiently spreadsheets are often handled at big companies. He describes “people just sitting behind their desks and crunching away at spreadsheets without stepping back and saying ‘actually, is there another way to do this process? Could it be automated? Is there some other application we could use just to make it efficient?’”
Get an article like this about a new UK deep tech or B2B startup in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday… and more 👇
It was after he’d worked with a bank on a Microsoft Office migration project that he spotted the gap in the market for a tool like Workscope, especially after he looked into the governance and compliance risks of not managing spreadsheets properly. While he’d had entrepreneurial side-projects in the past, completing an MBA at London Business School in 2016 left him hungry to launch a full-time startup.
He started Workscope with a co-founder but they later went their separate ways. Now Quraishi works with a team of six, handling development, marketing and admin, while he leads on sales.
‘One to watch’
As Workscope builds its client base, Quraishi says the startup has been running successful paid pilots with more big banks, and working on a partnership with a global tech consultancy company that will include the product in a go-to-market offering in the coming months.
“This for us is big recognition, because we're not only getting validation from clients, but also from industry experts who are looking at the capabilities of everybody in this space,” says Quraishi.
“Enabling understanding of how a business is executing processes on the ground isn't really something that is covered by anybody.
“If you looked at process mining, which is doing the data mining of big core applications, you've got huge players like Celonis. What they're doing is mining metadata within, say, your SAP or Salesforce, and they're looking at how enterprise platform processes are being run. But nobody's really looking at it from a spreadsheet perspective. And so in that space, I think we are quite unique and there isn't anybody that it is directly competing in that area.”
To date, Quraishi says Workscope has raised £600,000 in VC and angel investment from the likes of Concept Ventures, Charlotte Street Capital, SFC Capital, Force Over Mass Capital, the Enterprise 100 syndicate, plus other angels and Quraishi’s own funds.
The startup is now looking to raise around $2 million as it prepares to scale its go-to-market activities and evolve the product beyond spreadsheets.
“[We want to look] at other applications that people are using, and how they are connecting to data with those applications. And also, what we want to do is start leveraging machine learning capabilities, because we are uncovering so much data,” says Quraishi.
“We are using A.I. to do some analysis of that data and make it valuable. But if we could then take it to that next level where there's richer value that we can deliver straight out of the box, that will both shorten our time-to-value but also mean that clients can get more value right out as soon as they contract with us.”
Looking five years into the future, Quraishi wants Workscope to have a big footprint in North America (“that's where the biggest market is for us, by a longshot”) and potentially in Asia.
If Quraishi and team can help businesses excel (yes, that’s the second spreadsheet pun I’ve knowingly included in this article) at making more of their data and applications, Workscope has the potential to carve out a very interesting space for itself in the enterprise IT world.
What they do: Monitoring businesses’ spreadsheet usage to keep tabs on ‘shadow IT’
Raised to date: £600,000
Currently raising?: Yes
Back on Thursday
PreSeed Now brings you a profile of a different early-stage startup every Tuesday and Thursday.
If you were forwarded this newsletter or found it on the web, hit Subscribe to get future editions delivered straight to your inbox.