With a focus on supporting employees working experience in a remote context, Yoobe positions itself as a partner of human resources departments with the automation of the so-called “swags”. Specialized in the production, delivery and management of gifts and equipment sent by companies to their workers, this startup from the Brazilian state of Paraná is looking for a new round to improve its technology and expand its customer and supplier base.
Created in 2018 by Genau Lopes Junior, who has custom products startup Joox in his history as an entrepreneur, Yoobe evolved during Lopes’s six-month immersion at the Founder Institute, in San Francisco. The startup’s idea was enhanced with the founder’s admission to the program, which is notoriously rigorous – only 30% of applicants are called and less than 30% of those accepted are able to graduate.
Yoobe was the second Brazilian startup to complete the program – the first was Bluezup, the late electronics test-drive startup by Diogo Ruiz, now founder of The Crypto Players, who encouraged Lopes to participate.
With the lessons learned in Silicon Valley, where he needed to validate his business and build an MVP, the entrepreneur pivoted the idea. Before de programa, Yoobe had a B2C focus, selling merchandise to content creators and celebrities. Back in Brazil, the startup started to serve companies that want to send personalized gifts to support internal marketing campaigns, hackathons, awards and engagement campaigns, as well as onboarding and offboarding processes.
“Currently, employees are further away from companies, but at the same time, companies need to keep them close in some way. This engagement that is sought by employers involves sending the swag, the good onboarding done at the time of hiring and this constant process of engagement between the company and the employee”, said Lopes in an interview with Startups.
In addition, the entrepreneur notes that the boom in remote work also makes this approach through physical items difficult. “We see situations such as a Brazilian company hires in China without having its headquarters there, a Chilean company hiring in Brazil without being based here, for example. This ends up making it difficult to send items to companies that hire abroad: as we operate globally, we are able to help”.
Since its foundation, Yoobe has worked with more than 90 companies, mostly startups with large employee bases, such as Olist, Contabilizei, Pipefy and Madeira Madeira, as well as international unicorns, such as Canadian firm Loadsmart and Germany’s SumUp. The portfolio also includes traditional local names such as Banco do Brasil, one of the biggest public banks in the country.
The company, which has Gabriela Davis as a co-founder, has already orchestrated more than 500 shipping campaigns in 15 months of operation, with around 30,000 items sent through the platform.
Beyond the swag: Yoobe’s value proposition
Yoobe selects its swag suppliers, and tracks the production and shipment of items through a proprietary platform. Campaigns can be automated to send items on scheduled dates, with a dashboard for monitoring purposes. “We help to solve this hell in the life of HR departments, who often have to put [swag kits] together, monitor, quote, produce, receive, label, deliver and even manage the expectations of senders and receivers”, Lopes said.
Currently, the startup has 40 recurring customers ordering their products. Swag shipments can be daily, weekly or monthly, and Yoobe handles over 12,000 employees on the platform. Last year, the startup earned 1.2 million Brazilian reais ($235,000). The plan is to double revenue and serve 400 customers by the end of 2022.
For Yoobe, the market is promising, thanks to the increase in the adoption of remote work because of the pandemic. Trends emerged, such as the so-called Baby Zoomers, members of Generation Z who started work in the last two years, but on a remote basis. In addition, companies in general are more adapted to their employees working from home: about 70% of the global workforce will work remotely at least five days a month by 2025, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Within that context, companies are faced with the need to “take extra care” of their employees, creating proximity by sending gifts that include the so-called onboarding kits – with items such as the famous water bottles, mugs, t-shirts and tools for work such as monitors and computers – and all sorts of swag to support employer branding strategies.
This can include digital items like gift cards and breakfast hampers on birthdays or when a business goal is reached, for example. Through the startup’s software as a service (SaaS) platform, companies can buy, customize, store and send treats intended for their employees.
But Yoobe‘s service isn’t just about sending gifts. According to Lopes, the competition for talent makes companies seek to please their employees with physical items as part of retention strategies. “Many companies, especially those that have hybrid and remote working formats, are open to new forms of relationship, of thinking about the corporate culture beyond their employees engagement”, said the founder, adding that the same logic applies to partners and other company stakeholders.
To illustrate the relevance of swags in the engagement process, Genau cites his own experience receiving the kit he himself received from the Black Founders Fund when Yoobe was selected for the program. Showing the box that contained Google gifts (which included items such as coffee, a poster and a notebook) the founder said he felt welcomed. “To the outsider, [sending swags] might not seem all that relevant, but it felt very special. And it is this experience that we seek to offer, by delivering products and a quality experience and at the same time removing bottlenecks in the process for HR”, he said.
New round on the horizon
To achieve its growth goals, raising new funding is in the cards for Yoobe. Since the initial investment, still in the MVP stage while in the United States, the company received small checks from angel investors in Brazil since the pivot, which served to validate the idea and value proposition. In addition, the company received support from the Black Founders Fund. With the platform consolidated and almost reaching the break-even point, Yoobe intends to raise up to 2 million Brazilian reais ($400,000) in a pre-seed round in 2022.
According to Lopes, the capital will go towards the improvement of their automated platform, and in the integration with the customer management (CRM) and business management (ERP) systems used by companies, which should contribute to the increase in the customer base. The startup also plans to increase their team to 11 people, adding eight more people to its technology, commercial and product areas.
In addition, the startup plans to bring in local producers, craftspeople and artists from outside large urban centers that do not yet have access to corporate campaigns. This arrangement aims to reinforce the startup’s commitment to social responsibility and resonate the concept with end consumers, that is, the employee who receives a swag made by a local producer.
Despite the current changes in the venture capital market, Lopes said that the new outlook is worrying, but not enough to keep him awake at night. “At least in our niche, companies will keep hiring and will keep firing. [Startups] companies will continue the search for growth and professionals to drive this process”, he noted.
“I don’t think it’s time for Brazilian entrepreneurs to get desperate. Now, it is time to better understand the challenge of keeping the company open, keeping it growing, and going after the alternatives that every Brazilian is able to seek when they are entrepreneuring”, the argued. The founder adds that the biggest challenge in leading a company in the midst of the current circumstances is to maintain a positive attitude: “You have to be at peace with yourself to go through the difficulties of the world, and the challenges that Brazil imposes on entrepreneurs.”
Within a year, Lopes expects to be gearing up for a Series A, and to have managed to significantly expand the customer base with platform improvements. In addition to all Yoobe‘s goals, the entrepreneur hopes to contribute to the ecosystem with the learnings he gathered before and after his current venture. “Being able to give back, for me, will be a testament for the success of the business. But it’s also something we really like to exercise, with gratitude in the form of action”, he concluded.
(translation by Leandro Miguel Souza)
Angelica Mari é jornalista especializada em tecnologia e inovação com duas décadas de experiência. Seu trabalho pode ser encontrado em veículos como Forbes, Financial Times, Bloomberg Línea e outros. É comentarista do Digital Planet, programa semanal de tecnologia da BBC World Service. Atualmente, cursa mestrado em cyberpsicologia no Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.