The Rise of Envoy

Co-founder Larry Gadea describes Envoy, a nifty system for streamlining the check-in process at corporate offices, in an interview with Andre Bouzout.


Hi Larry! Why don't you tell us about Envoy?

Hey Andre! Yeah, Envoy is a visitor registration system for the front desk of offices. You put it on your front desk and when someone comes into your business to see an employee, the receptionist simply asks them to sign in on the iPad. This triggers a text message for the employee that says “Hey! Your visitor is here”. They can then come to the front desk and if they have our app installed they can see a picture of the visitor on their phone while on their way.

As a visitor, you can be asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement (which is super un-awkward) because you’re signing it on an iPad. For security purposes the system can take a picture of you and it can print out a name badge, so that when you’re walking around the office, employees know that you’re a visitor. It just removes the awkwardness from a lot of office place dynamics.


That certainly opens the door to CRM data processing. What are your long-term goals?

With Envoy, you can already export all your visitor data as a CSV and you can run it through whatever graphing stuff you want. We also integrate with a bunch of third parties as well. For example, if you’re hosting an event on Eventbrite you can import your attendees and pre-register them on Envoy, which means that your building’s security will know to expect these people.

After somebody signs in, we can link it with your Salesforce account and it will update that person's account with a record of their visit. That way you have a better view of their activities. We also do stuff with your WiFi password: when you sign in you get a unique WiFi password assigned to you, which avoids the trouble of visitors having to ask.


You certainly have a high number of competitors. How do you keep up against them?

We just build more stuff, make our product better and better! It just keeps growing and we also don’t play in the race to the bottom in terms of pricing: the clones that appear are $10/month while our cheapest plan here is $250/month. We’re way more expensive than everybody but we also have much better experience, a much better thought out product and we’re constantly improving it and making it better. In short, you want to

  1. Build better functionality, all the time, and

  2. Build a network effect. By that I mean: train your customers to expect your product, not a competitor's product.

There’s around 74 competing apps right now, and we keep track of all them to make sure that they’re not implementing something that we don’t have. What’s interesting about them is that they charge next to nothing but they can’t operate businesses like that ($5/month - $10/month) and they want to undercut us as a way of getting themselves customers. Turns out there are 70 others all trying to do the same thing, and they just make so little money.

For example, a company that had 400 paying customers makes $3,400/ month. That’s not even close enough to pay one engineer at a company, let alone all the people you’re going to need to support 400 customers. That company was going under and they were coming to us to migrate some of their users.

It’s pretty common and it’s happening more and more that these guys that were trying to undercut us are discovering that you can’t operate a business on $10/month.


Would you ever think of adding specific features to the different verticals?

We’re working on some stuff for the education system, cool things that pen and paper can’t do.

For example, if a visitor gives us their name and e-mail, we can look that person up in a child molester database and provide protection. This is stuff that you couldn’t do in the past or was very expensive. Now? It can be done automatically and gives an alert only when something wrong happens.  

When I visit a company that uses my product I usually spend the entire time that I’m waiting for the person to come down talking to the receptionist about what they like and don’t like about it.  I start with what they hate about it. Their answer? "I don’t know, why are you asking all these questions" Like no I really need to know what we can improve!


Did you always know you were going to do a startup?

Yes, 100%, I’ve always wanted to create something, even though the first thing I did out of school was join Twitter, the best way to learn about companies and how to do a startup right is to be part of one.

You could read a bunch of advice and stuff but you’d never know how to put that advice in context.