I’ve always found satisfaction in bringing software to traditional, gritty industries. When it works, core services can be made better for customers, worker’s lives improve, and the businesses and their owners get real bottom line improvements. The second company I co-founded, Merced Systems, was in the call center market, where millions worked in rough, high turnover environments riddled with poor management and verbal abuse from customers. Yikes. Our software made managers better, and got employees the treatment they deserved, so the better performers stayed and were rewarded – great for them, and great for the end customers who were more likely to interact with reps who wanted to be there. It was deeply rewarding.
So, when the BrightGo founders shared their idea to bring world-class operations software to the janitorial industry, I knew what a difference it would make. Janitorial work is the 5th most common job in the US, is an essential service in commercial workspaces, and is the path to getting a financial foundation for many new Americans. Yet, it’s an incredibly low margin business for owners (low single digit net margins), and very hard for workers as it’s dirty, repetitive, and often at off hours. Every bit of additional revenue, additional worker flexibility or pay can be huge.
Enter software. There has been software in janitorial since the 80’s, and the biggest vendor was founded in 1989. Most janitorial companies use software in at least two, core ways today: operations and ERP/financials. But, there have been scant improvements apart from some products that now offer mobile functionality, which is table stakes for what is essential remote, mobile work. BrightGo identified a fertile category to enter with a strategy of product innovation and advantage. And, the BrightGo founders realized the shape that innovation should take:
- A modern tech stack for pace of product delivery for customers
- Leverage advances in data, including AI/ML and computer vision
- Embedded financial products that customers need and currently use from external, high-friction, overpriced sources.
With this philosophy and the “why now” of these 3 innovations, I knew they could run the table in this critical sector. On top of this approach, I, and the team at Costanoa, have seen first-hand the material unit cost advantages in vertical SaaS vs. horizontal. Vertical vendors have proven lower-cost acquisition due to their ability to focus, rifle shot style, on a specific customer profile. Moreover, these customers often know one another, pass along positive (and negative) feedback on vendors and solutions, and move across roles in the industry with this intel. Strong products and companies therefore get stronger, and sell faster at lower CACs.
Since investing and working with the BrightGo founders, I’ve been incredibly impressed. They have signed customers rapidly due to their deep knowledge of customers needs and motivations for anything that boosts margins in this very tight industry. They are supporting their customers with dedicated and personal service, which is appreciated in a service industry. And their product plans are ambitious and clear. This comes from Gerald’s deep product experience at scale from Meta/Instagram, and Saagar’s engineering leadership skills. I know BrightoGo will be a driver for positive change for janitorial companies and workers, and as great vertical SaaS companies do, build a powerful, differentiated, and large company. I am proud to be working with this team.