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Supporting & strengthening a global team

How SOLA supported HQ's global operation and helped drive growth

When Blueshift met SOLA

Founder Vijay Chittoor knew exactly what he wanted - continued global expansion. And he told SOLA’s founder and CEO, Danny Herbert, about his goal when they met at a conference in San Francisco in early 2020. The pair struck it off immediately, and Vijay explained how he needed to target growth in the UK/EMEA.

Despite the challenges of 2020, they maintained the relationship, and Vijay introduced the SOLA team to Karen Chernoff, Blueshift’s VP of People. The two companies started working together in late 2020

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At a glance

Company: Blueshift

Founder and CEO‭:‬‭ ‬Vijay Chittoor

CFO: ‬Travis Adlman

VP of People: Karen Chernoff

Founded: 2014

HQ: San Francisco

Sector: AI marketing / deep learning / software

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SOLA entry

Date: 2020

Stage: 2019: Series B funding of $15m, 2021: Series C funding of $30m

Headcount: 120

Plan: Help Blueshift’s global expansion by providing a consolidated employment solution across three countries

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Where is Blueshift now?

Headcount: 170 globally

Employees in: the US, Canada, India, UK, Belgium

Revenue: ~ $28m

VC backing: Blueshift is backed by leading venture capital investors, including SoftBank Ventures, Storm Venture Partners, and Nexus Venture Partners

What was Blueshift’s challenge?

Blueshift had already started working on an operational plan for global expansion and had contracted talent in Belgium, the UK, and Canada through different PEOs. However, communicating and supporting teams outside San Francisco using three different providers proved challenging.

Karen Chernoff was managing overseas employees who worked up to eight time zones away under foreign regulations with which she was unfamiliar. She wanted to work with one trusted partner and have a single point of contact for all her overseas employees who could support her staff and take care of the complex and ever-changing foreign employment law regulations.

Aside from the desire to streamline services, the VP of People also had concerns regarding the current employee experience with the PEOs in Belgium and the UK, primarily due to communication issues and unresponsiveness to requests from the employees and Blueshift.

Unhappy staff in the same building makes running a business difficult; unhappy staff 5,000 miles away makes global expansion impossible. Blueshift’s vision was at risk, so the company had to act—plus, they needed to hire new staff for their EMEA team.

SOLA's approach

First, SOLA visited Blueshift’s offices in San Francisco to listen to the company and understand its business, culture, and drivers. The two companies then discussed overseas goals and timelines.

SOLA was careful to explain the route to setting up Blueshift’s Virtual Subsidiaries for Incubation, the correct way to deal with intellectual property, and how to achieve compliance across all areas.

During the client onboarding process, SOLA also walked Blueshift through mandatory aspects of local employment law involving holidays, sickness, notice periods, benefits, working hours, and paternity leave in the new regions.
Blueshift were given detailed descriptions of the statutory baselines that differed widely from those in the USA.
SOLA then offered expert advice on what else Blueshift should offer to remain competitive while continuing to be acceptable to the US business.

The two companies worked closely to create policy employment decisions, which enabled SOLA to produce bespoke Blueshift Employment Contracts in each region.

SOLA’s Approach

After initial discussions and diagnoses, SOLA designed a detailed scope and project plan.

SOLA leaders visited Sendbird's offices in the US for a deep dive into the company's purpose, mission, vision and values as well as the key drivers for success.

From that work, the SOLA team developed an employee value proposition to help them present Sendbird to prospective candidates. And a strategic gameplan and timeline were agreed.

SOLAarc IncubatorTM Solution

SOLA deployed its SOLAarc Incubator solution, creating a "virtual subsidiary" to support Sendbird’s EMEA expansion. This included:

1. Talent identification
SOLA drew on its deep sector knowledge, executive search expertise, and extensive candidate networks to identify, entice and hire exceptional local talent, incubated within a Virtual Subsidiary for Sendbird.
2. Tailored employment lifecycle & infrastructure support
Onboarding, compliant employment contracts, policies & processes, fully managed payroll & expenses, benefits management, employer insurances, background screening, HR support, employee performance management, and off-boarding.
3. Compliance with local employment laws and regulations
The Virtual Subsidiary was legally compliant across employment contracts, management taxation and benefits. It removed candidate doubts about working for a US HQ business and positively appealed to key hires. And it provided data & IP protection for Sendbird.
4. Path to exit
SOLA worked closely with all Sendbird’s stakeholders to facilitate a seamless transfer of incubated employees into a true UK Sendbird subsidiary, without loss of continuity of employment.

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Client testimonials

SOLA's solution

SOLA offered a compliant solution, consolidating all three countries under one supplier. And Blueshift were able to transition the existing PEO workers into Incubation and grow employee numbers in the UK and Canada. Blueshift’s overseas employees, who transitioned from PEO services into Incubation, reported an improved employee experience, with a central point of contact to proactively address issues or concerns.

Blueshift also needed help with executive search to find a Vice President of EMEA who would build a team and lead sales in the new region. SOLA was able to draw upon their broad experience with tech companies and their relationships with top talent to find the right person for the job, Stuart Gordon, who was seamlessly recruited and onboarded

The results

SOLA assisted Blueshift’s growth by providing payroll, employer insurances, private health insurance, private pension, HR advice, and global sanctions checks across three countries. In addition, they supported issues from cultural differences to dissimilarities in legal systems—acting as intermediaries between the Incubatees and Blueshift’s Head Office.

And the partnership is never static—it is constantly evolving. For example, the two companies worked together to implement an unlimited holiday policy in the UK to bring it in line with the USA. SOLA also carried out a legal opinion review for Blueshift’s board to demonstrate that all EU Data Protection and their non-compete and IP Protection requirements were being satisfied.

January 2021

International Group Incubation Services Agreement signed.

Start

March 2021

Recruitment Services Agreement signed.

The first 2 SOLA Incubatees started

2 mos

April 2021

SOLA recruited and hired the Regional VP of EMEA

3 mos

June 2021

SOLA recruited and hired the Regional VP of EMEA

5 mos

September 2021

3 incubatees across Canada, Belgium and the UK

8 mos

November 2021

3 incubatees in the UK

10 mos

February 2022

3 incubatees

13 mos

Benefits SOLA brought to Blueshift

  • Overseas employees have an improved employee experience

  • Both employee-client have a dedicated contact proactively working on their behalf

  • Time zones are no longer an issue as SOLA established local virtual entities

  • Payroll payments are made seamlessly and without delay

  • Consolidated invoicing for all countries

  • Quarterly meeting to analyse Blueshift’s spend, growth, and employee engagement

  • Monthly then quarterly 1-2-1 meetings for all Incubatees and SOLA HR

  • Intellectual Property Development, Management, and Transfer Servic