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In this installment of the AI in Supply Chain series (#AIinSupplyChain), we explore how SEDNA Systems, an early-stage startup based in London, is helping large teams in companies all around the world manage their work-related email more effectively so that individual employees can focus more of their time on getting substantive work done in the limited time that each employee has.
SEDNA Systems was founded in May 2017. It has 58 employees distributed across offices in London, Singapore and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Intelligent team communication software
So what does SEDNA Systems do for its customers?
Mike Chalfen is a venture capitalist based in London. He co-led SEDNA Systems’ recently closed Series A round of financing. In “Why I invested in SEDNA Systems,” he writes, “It is smart team communication software that classifies, time-stamps, and unifies messages, data, and documentation in one system. Team collaboration and actions become searchable, auditable, and aligned. Contexts for decisions made in complex business processes become scrutable.”
What is SEDNA Systems’ secret sauce?
Lakshmi Baskaran, VP of engineering at SEDNA Systems, explained that, “At the core of what we’re doing is breaking teams free from the constraints — and endless cycles — of traditional email. We’re creating a modern, agile and programmable solution to optimize team communication and workflows.”
She emphasized that “SEDNA’s search allows faster turnaround of search results in a fraction of a second.”
Baskaran added, “SEDNA is built to unify with any enterprise application that has an API exposed for integration. This enables our users to interact with multiple applications and navigate end-to-end business workflows, all from within SEDNA. Our customers can build their internal application using our low code toolkit into their message stream, unlocking huge value.”
Customers and competition
Bill Dobie, founder and CEO of SEDNA Systems, tells me that SEDNA has 70 customers using its product to enable the work done by more than 2000 teams distributed across 80 countries. Glencore Agriculture, NORDEN, Bunge and Western Bulk are some of the companies that are using SEDNA Systems’ platform to facilitate team collaboration.
The team’s initial customer development centered around the freight logistics and commodities industries because of Dobie’s prior familiarity with those markets. However, the team has begun to find interest from companies in other industries characterized by similar needs for team-based or shared work communication and collaboration related to complex transaction- and project-based work.
Jacob Koch Blicher, operations lead at NORDEN, is what one might describe as a super-user of SEDNA; in addition to using SEDNA, he has helped to develop some of the key features that are used daily by employees and teams in the operations department at NORDEN.
I asked him to help me understand how SEDNA has changed how he gets work done and how it has improved the daily productivity of employees at NORDEN.
He explained that “Communication via email is still the most common tool in our industry and that’s why SEDNA is needed. The system makes it very fast to navigate and organize the thousands of emails we receive every day within NORDEN. It is all about being more efficient and saving time, but most importantly we now have a system which meaningfully helps employees make the workday as optimal as possible and frees up time for direct service internally and externally.”
NORDEN is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was founded in 1871 and provides global dry cargo and product tankers and related professional services to the world’s trading community. It is listed on the Nasdaq Copenhagen stock exchange as a part of the OMX Nordic Mid Cap index.
Team communications, collaboration and workplace productivity — recent market background
To give me a sense of investor interest in team communications, collaboration and workplace productivity, I asked John Paul Hampstead, director, Passport Research, and head of communities at FreightWaves, about the recent news and funding announcements relevant to SEDNA’s market.
It has been busy.
Hampstead tells me that the most noteworthy announcements are:
- Front raised a $59 million Series C at an $859 million post-money valuation (post) in January.
- Notion raised a $50 million round at a $2 billion post in April.
- Lucid raised a $52 million Series D at an $852 million post in April.
- India-based Postman raised a $150 million Series C at a $2 billion post in June.
- UiPath raised $225 million at a $10.2 billion post in July.
- MURAL raised $118 million at a $574 million post in August.
- Airtable raised a $185 million Series D at a $2.85 billion post in September.
- Dialpad raised a $100 million Series E at a $1.2 billion post in October.
- Asana sold shares to the public through a direct listing in September and now trades on the NYSE.
- Finally, in early December, Salesforce announced that it would buy Slack in a $27.7 billion transaction.
Generally when a startup raises capital from venture capitalists, the post-money valuation is equal to the sum of the pre-money valuation and the amount of capital raised.
The team at SEDNA says that Front is SEDNA’s closest competitor. However, Dobie is quick to point out that the two products are quite different from one another.
According to a report published by Grand View Research in August, the global market for workplace productivity, collaboration and team communications software should be worth $102.98 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual rate of 13.4%.
What’s next for SEDNA Systems?
In May, SEDNA recruited Avishalom “Vish” Shalit as its new head of data science and analytics.
He reminded me that “Email is universal, it is the open standard for communicating in business, which makes it central to how people across the world get their work done. So much of how organisations operate is buried in these emails, and there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be translated to value.”
His goal for 2021 is for SEDNA to go beyond the automatic organization and routing of email. The platform will go a step further by connecting the dots more holistically by extracting the valuable business and operational information that is encoded and trapped within the email communications flowing in and out of the companies that are SEDNA’s customers.
Natural language processing (NLP) is the subfield of computer science that is focused on the use of software to automatically manipulate natural language such that machines can process and analyze the content of human communication from speech, documents and other communication mediums. The goal of NLP is to enable the combination of people and computer systems to become more efficient and effective at making decisions and solving problems.
As Aïda Bejgane, head of marketing at SEDNA, put it to me during our conversation, the team at SEDNA is proud of what they have built and the problems that they are helping SEDNA’s customers solve when it comes to team collaboration and productivity through better internal and external communications. The most exciting goal the team is now pursuing is for SEDNA to become central to how customers interact with other systems inside their organization and link that work to other companies in their network.
If you are a team working on innovations that you believe have the potential to significantly refashion global supply chains, we’d love to tell your story in FreightWaves. I am easy to reach on LinkedIn and Twitter. Alternatively, you can reach out to any member of the editorial team at FreightWaves at [email protected]
Dig deeper into the #AIinSupplyChain Series with FreightWaves.
Author’s disclosure: SEDNA Systems issued me a small number of stock options in October 2019 for my role advising the team while they navigated the fundraising process leading up to the company successfully closing its seed round in 2019.