Poka Co-Founders & CFO courtesy of EvaBlue
Jun 7, 2021 Andrea Masterton

Poka Raises $25M in Investment to Connect and Empower Factory Workers

Hear what our co-founders and CFO have to say about this exciting milestone.

Today, we announced that Poka has raised $25 million in Series B financing. This milestone follows an unprecedented year and events that continue to challenge global supply chains and manufacturing leaders - a year that shone a light on the urgent need to better support industrial workers to become more agile, autonomous, productive - while staying safe. (full press release)

Poka supports these imperatives by giving factory workers the ability to learn continuously, collaborate to solve problems and contribute to operational knowledge directly from their workstations. Danone, Bosch, Johnson & Johnson and Alcoa are just a handful of the Poka customers that have benefitted from a skilled, connected and empowered workforce throughout the pandemic.

Nestlé, another member of the Poka user community, views Poka as a foundational piece of their digital transformation strategy. “The concept of connecting every single worker was the foundation of our digital journey and supports a highly collaborative culture while ensuring high quality standards for the production of Purina’s pet care products,” shared Paul Ingram, Director Digital Manufacturing Operations, Nestlé Purina. “We believe having workers connected and able to get information whenever and wherever they are in the factory is key to agility and our ability to continue advancing and innovating our processes.”

Poka’s latest funding round reflects this tremendous value potential as well as a market that has demonstrated a commitment to invest and prioritize workforce development in 2021 and beyond. According to Deloitte, 74% of manufacturing executives said training was the top area of priority for their Industry 4.0 initiative.

To commemorate this exciting milestone, I sat down with our co-founders (Alexandre Leclerc, CEO and Antoine Bisson, CTO) and Chief Financial Officer, Louis-Philippe Benoit to get their thoughts on the funding round, the market and the future.

What’s the significance of this funding round for the company and our customers?

Alex: Poka’s growth and the finance round reflects the increased demand for solutions that connect factory workers to their colleagues, the machines they operate, and the data and systems that support production. A demand that’s been driven in part by the pandemic. Our customers have shared stories of how Poka has enabled them to upskill workers quickly when colleagues with critical skills were quarantined. And how shift changeover meetings were supported in Poka’s Factory Feed when shifts became staggered to support physical distancing health measures. The pandemic shined a spotlight on the inefficiencies and antiquated processes many factories were relying on. We see an acceleration of projects across the globe now - companies looking to better support their skilled workforce. This funding will help us better support our mission of connecting and empowering factory workers around the globe. 

Louis-Philippe: Closing a Series B round is of course great but equally valuable is the fact that we are adding two investors to the Poka community with deep Industry 4.0 experience and a shared passion for driving digital transformation in manufacturing. 40 North Ventures, is the venture capital fund of Standard Industries and McRock Capital is the first dedicated Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) venture capital fund manager.  We also  appreciate the continued support of our existing investors SE Ventures, CDPQ, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, iNovia, Uncork Capital and Leclerc. Altogether we’ve raised more than $45 million in investment.

What will the funds be used for?

Louis-Philippe: The funds are already being put to use, supporting Poka’s next phase of growth. Specifically, we’re building out our customer-facing organization in sales, marketing and support to better serve our rapidly growing, global customer base. It’s important to all of us that as we grow, we continue to deliver the personalized, quality experience we’ve become known for. 

Antoine: This funding will help us speed up the delivery of the product roadmap and continue to shape the future of industrial work. That’s our true north and will remain our focus even as we push innovation. Our vision is to give manufacturers a single hub for operational knowledge and collaboration on the factory floor so that means staying on top of emerging adjacent technologies as well as supporting seamless integration within a larger digital ecosystem. Poka’s been defining and setting the standard for the connected worker solution category since 2014 - that’s not going to change.

When you reflect back on the journey that has gotten Poka to this point, what are you most proud of?

Alex: The journey to this point started with my personal experience working in the factory at my family business. From those early days I knew there was a need for an application like Poka to make it easier to share knowledge and collaborate in factories the way we do at home or in office environments. But to bring that idea to where we are today has taken a team of amazing people who share this vision, starting with my childhood best friend, Antoine.  That’s what I’m most proud of - the team members that bring their own unique set of skills and experience to the table and the environment we’ve put in place to ensure we make them successful. 

Antoine: I started my career at Ubisoft and Microsoft. That experience set the bar for me in terms of quality and security. But those were huge, established companies. I always knew I wanted to build a company and product from the ground up and work to apply those early lessons in a much more constrained, start-up environment. Today, one of the things I’m most proud of is the trust we’ve earned from our user community that includes many of the world’s largest global companies with unwavering expectations for reliability, privacy and security. We recognize that Poka is a part of our customer’s critical infrastructure so our information security and development practices are world-class - proven by our many designations including SOC2 and CSA-STAR.   To sum up the journey in a single sentence… It's been a wild ride so far but the most wonderful ride I could have imagined.

What are the biggest challenges facing manufacturers in the coming years and how can  Poka help?

Alex: Manufacturers are facing a perfect storm of issues from a worsening skills crisis, increased operational complexity and workforce volatility caused by the pandemic. In each of these cases a skilled and empowered workforce can mitigate the impact.  I remember my grandfather saying “any competitor can buy the same equipment and raw material as you. It’s your people and know-how that make your business.” The good news is, we’ve already seen the shift and industrial transformation is no longer solely focused on connecting assets and gathering data. There is a recognized opportunity to change the future of industrial work. And Poka is leading the charge.

Photo credit: EvaBlue

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