App Developer Bluebridge Spins Out Emplify for Employee Engagement
As mobile app developer Bluebridge grew from a three-person shop to a staff of three dozen, CEO Santiago Jaramillo discovered there’s more to business success than satisfied customers: employee engagement also matters.
So last summer, a group of his best and brightest started brainstorming ways to improve the worker experience at Fishers, IN-based Bluebridge. They found the answer in the technology they were already using to help churches and visitors bureaus communicate with their outside audiences.
The Bluebridge employee app wasn’t just a hit—it was the genesis of Emplify, an employee-engagement spinoff that already has dozens of customers and $3 million in venture capital.
Emplify exited “stealth mode” on Wednesday, announcing its Series A investment round led by Hoosier firms Allos Ventures and Cultivation Capital, along with returning support from prominent Bluebridge investors Bill Godfrey at 4G Ventures, Tim Kopp at Hyde Park Ventures, and Bob Davoli at Sigma Prime Ventures.
“It has been a whirlwind—the most successful move we’ve made as a business,” said Jaramillo (pictured). “We’re seeing growth like we never had before.”
Jaramillo, 26, started Bluebridge from his Indiana Wesleyan University dorm room in 2011 after reading that smartphones had outsold PCs for the first time that year. He saw the future, and it was a pocket-sized computer that would need up-to-date content.
Tech veterans Mitch Shields and Adam Weber joined Bluebridge as partners three years ago, and together the trio built and sold the popular app platform for churches and visitors bureaus. That business is still growing—Denver and Atlanta just signed on, for example—but company leaders were looking for new markets to grow into when the Bluebridge employee app surfaced and crowded out other contenders.
“It wasn’t on our short list,” Jaramillo said, but he was excited about the potential after a “market listening tour” where he visited with more than 60 business leaders, most of whom also were grappling with how to keep employees invested in their jobs.
A 2014 Gallup report concluded that 70 percent of American workers are not engaged in their roles—a reality that leads to costly turnover, reduced profits, and more unfortunate results.
In February, Bluebridge acquired Cadence Consulting, adding former ExactTarget culture guru Todd Richardson to its roster in the process. Since then, the employee engagement app has produced over half of Bluebridge’s sales, Jaramillo said, and more than 25 clients are now using the app to connect with 10,000-plus employees. Customers include Which Wich, The NFL Trust, Medxcel, and Molly Maid.
For its part, Bluebridge hired 13 employees in three months to work on Emplify, bringing its total headcount to 50. The new funding will allow the spinoff to continue rolling out its product nationwide; Emplify also plans to expand its proprietary research on employee engagement.
“Our new product powers business leaders to improve their company culture by analyzing current states of engagement and reacting to empower their most important asset—their people,” Jaramillo said.
A native of Colombia, Jaramillo moved to South Florida with his family as a child after guerrillas invaded their church and kidnapped parishioners. The Jaramillos had stayed home that day to finish working on a backyard treehouse.