Today, my partner Ajay and I are delighted to finally announce that Bain Capital Ventures helped incubate, co-led a seed financing, and committed additional dollars to a Series A for Magical. Putting automation in the hands of everyday users is the next frontier of productivity software, and we are fortunate to support co-founders Harpaul, Rosie, Zach, Prashant and the Magical team as they lead the way.
Workflow Is Table Stakes, Automation Is The Frontier
Over the past few years, entrepreneurs harnessed the power of the cloud to reinvent productivity software, offering innovations including real-time collaboration, developer-friendly platforms, and generally building new tools for the needs and experience of the everyday user. These companies focused on rebuilding workflows, and its associated forms, canvases, and interfaces, into web-native experiences. As these capabilities have become increasingly market-standard, though, we believe the battlefield is shifting to the natural next step–not just facilitating the work (workflow), but actually doing it (automation).
Companies are adopting automation, but the state of the art has focused on robotic process automation (RPA), which is generally sold top-down through IT, and implemented with the support of expensive technical integration teams. This trend has given rise to innovative, multibillion-dollar businesses including UIPath and Automation Anywhere, but they have limitations. For example, IT doesn’t have as much visibility into the nuances of everyday business user workflows, and often relies on process documentation that can be out-of-date, or might not even exist. RPA often executes by itself end-to-end, so it is a stronger fit for work which can be acceptable without human review or judgment (e.g. invoice import into ERPs).
In tandem with the growth of RPA providers, productivity applications including Airtable and ClickUp are busy adding and deepening their own automation capabilities. Dropbox ended up purchasing Command E early last year, a product which helps users search for data across cloud applications–and could also recommend or automatically open the right pages and files based on your work patterns. Nonetheless, these capabilities are triggered within a project management, spreadsheet, or file storage application, so they enhance specifically the workflows originating or based in those apps. If you are using Airtable to manage your marketing assets, you might use their automation features to send alerts requesting approvals or regular updates of those assets, for example.
As the broader trend becomes crystal clear, what separates Magical from the pack is that it is built from the ground up to recognize that improved computing performance for cost, and the ubiquity of cloud applications, can come together to realize ambient, user-enabled, cross-application automation. Magical is adopted by individual users, focuses on automating their human-in-the-loop work (rather than “dark factory” isolated processes), and can function in tandem with any cloud product on the web (and soon, any application). We believe that the workflows that Magical can address are at least equally if not more massive an opportunity than the problems solved today by RPA and productivity app-based automation.
Winning The Users
Over the past year, Magical has spread through word of mouth, garnering more than 450,000 active users across over 10,000 businesses, including Salesforce, Uber, Disney and Facebook. Part of the secret to its success was building first for tasks that are both high-frequency, and horizontal across job functions and industries. Especially if your goal is to provide ambient value, one key challenge with user-led products is that you need enough frequent interaction that the user doesn’t forget about you, and so that the user generates enough data to help the software become more intelligent about their work and objectives.
Magical started with text expansion, which is used multiple times per hour, for some people hundreds of times a day. The average user eliminates about seven hours of work a week after integrating Magical into how they work. In our conversations with users over the past few months, we’ve been struck by the sheer diversity of use cases, a real testament to how intuitive and flexible the product is. From recruiters, to salespeople, to loan processors, to Dungeons & Dragons playgroup leaders, everyday people found creative ways for the product to help them.
Rather than wasting time on the mundane, users can focus on the human refinements and details that make even a recruiting or service email a pleasure to receive and read. That builds a habit of relying on Magical as a partner in getting work done, building trust and engendering curiosity about variables (inserting user-specific data into text expansions), and other features up the automation ladder. It’s a natural progression — support response templates, then layer in personalization variables, then leverage Magical to automate follow-up resolution steps like entering data into a system of record.
”I’ve used other automation software (for example, Microsoft Power Automate) to do exactly what Magical does. I got so frustrated — it’s clunky and it requires you to know how to code. And then I discovered Magical, it’s so easy to use. We’re using it to populate spreadsheets, complete data entry, and send personalized messages using variables.” — Head of HR & Operations at Mixmatch
The Magic Ingredient
While Magical is on the right side of history, its incredible team and community will be the unique engine that powers its success into the future.
Ajay and I were incredibly fortunate to work closely with Harpaul Sambhi (Magical Co-Founder/CEO) during his time as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Bain Capital Ventures. Harpaul had previously founded a company, Careerify, that supported HR teams, and from the beginning he was interested in how new tools could reduce the monotony of recruiting work. We helped by batting around ideas, testing prototypes, and connecting Harpaul with sources of feedback, but I am sure we learned even more from Harpaul’s creativity, resourcefulness, and product chops. Fun fact: his other favorite idea was an easier way to hire and manage payroll compliance worldwide. That’s ended up being a hot space, too!
Since deciding to go all-in on what we now know as Magical, Harpaul has brought on strong co-founders, including:
Prashant Viswanathan, an engineering leader from Swift Medical and star team member from Careerify,
Zach Piepmeyer, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for redesigning consumer search and many other key user experiences at LinkedIn,
and Rosie Chopra, who led Strategy & Business Operations at Atlassian, and maintains an incredible mastery of metrics and operational excellence.
Plus, the company has attracted both exceptional emerging talent, as well as world-class executives like Claire Maynard, who had led product marketing for new products and solutions at Atlassian. Beyond that incredibly talented immediate Magical team, the company is bolstered by an avid and growing fanbase who have filed 2,000+ positive reviews, and now participate in a vibrant and active Magical Community that is always sharing best practices, templates, and more.
We’re fortunate to have been part of that Magical community since the beginning, and to double down in supporting the company in every financing since. Congratulations, team, and we look forward to the world you’ll create: less routine monotony, more human empathy and magic.
BCV Principal Zeeza Cole and Headline Investor Taylor Brandt wrote this article in collaboration. You can follow them on Twitter here and here to keep up with their thoughts on the venture landscape, the future of work, vertical SaaS and more. Why Today’s Climate is the Perfect Time for Vertical SaaS to Shine Industry-specific software – known as Vertical SaaS – has…
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