Beekeeper, the Switzerland and U.S.-based startup that provides a mobile-first communications platform for employers that need a better way to communicate with blue-collar and service-oriented workers, has beefed up its coffers with $5 million in new funding.

The round is being led by Fyrfly Venture Partners, with additional investment by b-to-v Partners, Polytech Ecosystem Ventures. Several angel investors also participated including Ariel Luedi, and Niklas Ostberg (the co-founder and CEO of online take-out ordering behemoth Delivery Hero).

Founded back in 2012, Beekeeper has its roots in a mobile social network called Spocal, which targeted students in Switzerland. But when its founders began to think about monetising the service they hit on the idea of taking that mobile communications know-how and creating a product to help employers better communicate with workers in the service industry and traditional blue-collar workers — or basically any type of worker who is ‘deskless’.

“As we were talking to advertisers about reaching our online community, brands were coming back to us to see if they could use it themselves for other purposes, in particular to communicate with their employees,” says Beekeeper CEO Cristian Grossmann. “They wanted social conversations, not email – and often simply didn’t have email addresses – and really didn’t have any good white-label solutions that were architected for mobile”.

Thus the idea for Beekeeper was born. “We immediately realized that this was a huge value, and an amazing opportunity to take employee communications out of the break room,” he adds. The resulting product has since found a market in retail, hospitality and manufacturing, with a mobile-first platform that replaces more arcane communication methods, such as pen and paper and consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp.

“Typically we work with companies with large share of non-desktop, hourly wage and non-salaried employees who have limited or no access to desktop computers and corporate email addresses,” explains Grossmann. “This large but overlooked segment of the U.S. workforce relies on outdated methods of communication, such as written notes, bulletin boards, stand-up meetings and printed newsletters. This poses major problems for companies around compliance, scalability and control – and leaves employees feeling uninformed, disconnected and undervalued.”

To that end, Beekeeper says it currently has 60 enterprise clients in hospitality, retail and manufacturing with end users in more than 100 countries using its platform. And despite having its roots in Zurich, 50 per cent of the startup’s revenue comes from the U.S. where the company is now co-headquartered in San Francisco.

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