White Star and OMERS-backed Wrk wants to be “Uber for office tasks”

Wrk on a mission to automate the future of, well, work.

A startup that wants to transform the way people work, and which is aptly named Wrk Technologies Inc., has landed $55 million CAD in funding. The dollar amount consists of cumulative seed, Series A, and debt financing raised over a period of two years.

“Think of it like an Uber for office tasks where I have humans all over the world that complete steps and singular processes.”

The financing consists of $12.5 million in seed capital and seed extension raised in 2020 from Real Ventures and Desjardins Capital. $30 million is net new Series A funds led by White Star Capital and OMERS Ventures.

The remaining $12.5 million in debt financing came from Silicon Valley Bank. The Series A round closed at the end of December.

Additionally, several prominent angels including Sharon Rowlands (CEO Web.com), Cherif Habib (CEO Dialogue Health), Mark MacLeod (former CFO Shopify), Charlie Songhurst (former head of strategy Microsoft), and Michael Litt (CEO Vidyard) have invested over the course of the multiple rounds.

“We will use the money for growth, growth, growth,” declared Wrk CEO Mohannad-El Barachi, who co-founded Wrk with David Li, the startup’s COO. Barachi said the funds will be used to take the startup’s solution to “the masses.” Wrk plans to release a self-serve platform this year, and then expand internationally.

Wrk claims its Hybrid Automation platform is the first process automation solution to combine workplace automation with a skilled human workforce. By enabling organizations to automate routine tasks, it frees employees to dedicate more time for critical growth tasks

Laura Lenz, a partner at OMERS Ventures, joins Wrk’s board following the Series A deal as does Christophe Bourque, general partner at White Star Capital.

Lenz told BetaKit that OMERS Ventures is backing Wrk because Barachi has aspirations of building a massive company in Canada. “That’s something I get really excited about,” she said. “He knows what it takes to do this right.”

She noted that Barachi is a second-time founder, who experienced a previous exit. The Gannett media company acquired Barachi’s SweetIQ in 2017.

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Barachi called Lenz and Bourque incredibly talented investors. “They come with the foresight of having been involved with many companies that have gone public and who have really transformed a lot of landscapes,” he said. “You think about how OMERS invested in Shopify, and White Star in Dialogue. I think it’s expertise in helping us sort out what we need to sort out to become the size of organization we aspire to become.”

Barachi noted there’s a lot of traction now around how many hours people spend in their day-to-day office jobs, and what role technology and automation needs to play to “optimize the human being” within that office setting. “That’s really the thesis upon which Wrk was built,” he said.

Wrk’s platform comes with what Barachi calls a large library of pre-built, pre-configured units of work called “work actions.” Each work action delivers an individual step in a process. For example, one work action might go to a news release and extract all the content, another might summarize the content, while a third would pick out the contact information of the media contact. A fourth will find the profile, and a fifth work action would place that information into a company’s CRM.

Behind the scenes, each one of the work actions is powered by a robot, AI, an API connection with a third party, or even with “a human that works in our network of human delivery workers,” Barachi said. “Think of it like an Uber for office tasks where I have humans all over the world that complete steps and singular processes.”

Automating and delegating such mundane tasks has gained Wrk numerous customers in the mid-range to enterprise size, including communications and PR giant Cision, media conglomerate Gannett, Silicon Valley Bank, and international non-profit Penny Appeal.

Wrk gains its revenues from charging a transactional cost per unit of work delivered.

“Wrk is focused on the simple tasks that consume at least 10 percent of all of our workdays.”

Barachi sees competition from a number of different sectors, including traditional outsourcing companies, integration platforms-as-a-service, and companies that have API connections that enable simple types of automation. None of that concerns him. “Other platforms offer just AI, or just humans or just automation,” Barachi said. “We combine it all in one platform.”

Barachi and Li founded Wrk in 2019. Currently, the startup has about 65 employees, but expects to expand to between 120 and 140 by year-end.

To help support its next phase of growth, the startup also announced some senior hires. Mathieu Rebeiro joins as vice-president of automation solutions. Rebeiro has led automation at the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, and Sun Life Financial.

Michael Thompson is joining Wrk as SVP of customer operations. Thompson is an executive with over 20 years of experience leading large operational organizations, most recently at Gannett, bringing startups to initial public offerings.

In sales, Maria Meadows joins as SVP, with almost 20 years of experience leading and building sales teams from Fortune 500 companies to tech startups across multiple industries, including most recently at USA Today and ModelB.

Jacques Bouchard brings over two decades of expertise to the role of CTO. Before joining Wrk, Jacques spent over a decade as CTO at Amazon’s Global Security Operations division where he was responsible for leading security technology efforts.

Back at OMERS Ventures, Lenz said: “Wrk is focused on the simple tasks that consume at least 10 percent of all of our workdays. I also think automation has an important role to play in a world where talent is scarce. We need to find ways to take the boring, mundane tasks out of people’s day-to-day to keep these jobs attractive.”

Barachi noted that he and Li are trying to build a company that’s going to be transformational for how humans work that is deeply rooted in Canada, but also has an international presence. “Our ambitions are nothing short of taking this public and really making it a behemoth of an organization that can have a really meaningful impact for a very long time,” he added.

Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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