“I don’t think Silicon Valley has ever seen a comeback like this before.”
Parker Conrad is fully back.
Less than seven months after his HR startup reached a $6.5 billion valuation in October, the San Francisco-based firm upped that figure by more than 70% to $11.25 billion.
The new lofty valuation comes as the firm raised another $250 million—bringing its total investment to $700 million—led by Kleiner Perkins and Bedrock Capital. The funding comes as publicly traded tech stocks have tumbled and many late-stage venture-backed tech companies have struggled to raise new funds.
“It’s always fun as an entrepreneur to get these moments of validation,” Conrad says in a video call with Forbes from his home in San Francisco.
We first wrote about Rippling two years ago as part of the 2020 Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Conrad, the fallen tech unicorn CEO behind Zenefits, was trying to find redemption with Rippling, which aims to make human resources easier with software. With the new raise Rippling is worth two and a half times the $4.5 billion that Zenefits was worth at its peak.
Conrad founded the firm with Prasanna Sankar, Zenefits’ former director of engineering, to simplify HR. Its advantage is that it not only automates payroll, but also automatically manages software tools, apps and work groups that new employees need—and it keeps all of those updated as employees get promoted, change groups or leave. This kind of administrative work isn’t the sexiest business, but it can save companies countless hours of their executives’ time and the headache and cost that go along with that.
Rippling has grown rapidly since its founding. Its annual recurring revenue today is above $100 million (though the company declines to be more specific), compared with $13 million when we profiled it in 2020. The company says that its ARR has more than doubled since its last financing round half a year ago. Revenue for accounting purposes is lower than ARR, a sales metric that subscription-based companies like Rippling prefer to use.
“Early on at Rippling, there were a lot of moments that we would talk with customers and they would get spooked because of Zenefits,” Conrad says. “I always thought that we’re just going to have to build a product that is that much more compelling in order to bring people in. . . . We’re going to have to be twice as good to try to overcome that, and at a certain point those concerns will start to melt away and it will be a huge accelerant for the company.”
On the call, Conrad shares his screen to show how the underlying employee data can funnel through to email lists, say, or expense report approvals. That overarching capability makes Rippling different from other firms that do straight HR software. “If you build products that have this embedded understanding of employee data, you can eliminate a lot of the administrative work,” he says.
Over the next 12 months, Conrad says, Rippling plans to launch seven new products, an aggressive expansion plan. All told, the company spends 50% of revenue on R&D, compared with 20% or 25% for a more typical SaaS company of its size, he says.
While Rippling started out selling to small and midsize businesses, in the past six months it has begun to bump up against HR and finance giant Workday in selling to large enterprises, according to Kleiner Perkins general partner Mamoon Hamid. Rippling’s net revenue retention is close to 200%, Hamid says, meaning that for every $1 of revenue earned today, the company makes nearly $2 next year as customers pay to use more of its products.
That fast growth was a draw for investors, who pushed for the Series D round though Rippling still has a substantial war chest, including the $250 million it raised last October, and wasn’t looking to raise. “For me, the rationale was wanting to insulate the company from any potential future macro shock,” Conrad says.
Geoff Lewis, founder and managing partner of Bedrock, says that his firm invested a total of $125 million in the current round of financing (on top of an earlier $35 million), making it the firm’s single largest investment. He figures that Rippling has the potential to be as big a company in employee data as Salesforce is in sales data. He believes its product expansions give it the potential to surpass major software players well outside Rippling’s original area of expertise, like Deel, a $5.5 billion valuation startup that makes payroll software for international teams, and Okta, the user authentication security company that trades on the public market at a $14 billion market cap. “We have an entire slide we create internally with 80 companies we think Rippling has the potential to displace,” Lewis says.
“People have been doubting the company and underestimating it from the beginning,” he says. “I don’t think Silicon Valley has ever seen a comeback like this before.”