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Ops-Relationships: Seed-stage Opre platform harmonizes 'future of work'
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  • LeanKit veterans push to anchor Opre in Nashville, long term
  • Team may consider Series A for growth in 2025
  • Seed raise may have headroom for sector-savvy among us
  • 'Large, distributed' venture gains should multiply in Nashville
  • 'Future of Work' demands thinking beyond HRTech
  • AI is accelerating Future of Work-oriented company's growth
  • Former coworkers' reunion opened door for Cascade commitment

CEO Kate O'Neil

NASHVILLE-based Opre Co-founder and CEO Kate O'Neil conveys energy, discipline and confidence as she explains that Opre's mission is to enable its customers to increase business performance via significant improvements in the quality of workplace interactions among leaders and coworkers.

The company, which often describes itself as "the AI performance coach for leaders," is owned and operated by Meetingful Inc., a Delaware-registered company founded six years ago in Nashville.

Meetingful's $3.8MM Seed equity raise for Opre currently remains open, having thus far drawn 18 minority investors, including many with genuine Nashville connections. Proceeds go toward expanding Opre operations and sales.

The same Seed round has potential headroom up to the $4.4MM mark, to accommodate potential investors with compelling business and industry connections.

The Seed raise began in September 2023. Within 90 days, Meetingful had obtained a termsheet for its first priced round from Cascade Seed Fund, a Bend, Ore.-based firm with a $10MM Fund III.

Discussing its use of Seed proceeds, O'Neil told VNC the company's growth focus is essential for ensuring optimal valuation of the Opre business; effective recruiting and deployment of talented team members and investor capital; and, for securing commercial leadership in helping business and industry address "Future of Work" challenges that now loom larger than incremental decisions about "HRTech" for many companies.

Future of Work relates to Work 4.0, Industry 4.0 and other paradigms. Notes later in this story.

O'Neil explained, "We have a huge opportunity in front of us to understand ourselves and each other in different contexts at work and with different people. DiSC, Meyers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc., have been wonderful frameworks for understanding ourselves and each other; but, when [Opre combines] frameworks like those with the power of AI [plus a record of] our daily interactions... we open the possibility of much deeper, richer, and meaningful understanding of ourselves and each other."

The 39-year-old CEO said she and her three cofounders have all come to believe that success by Opre and other startups will continue to deepen the Nashville region's pools of both capital and talent.

With Nashville access to talented team members and advisors having greatly improved in recent years, Opre and other high-growth companies have better odds for achieving "really large distributed outcomes" from exits and other liquidity events -- all of which, in circular fashion, can translate into greater investment in this region and beyond, O'Neil explained.

Asked about eventual exit options, O'Neil acknowledged that all paths remain open, adding that while founders might seek liquidity at some junctures, at this point Opre founders have no aversion to a future strategic sale or even a public-listing.

In any event, she said, the Opre team is "bullish on Nashville" as its headquarters for the long haul.

Asked about prospects for a Series A round, O'Neil said the company may revisit that option by early 2025, while preserving both a lean-capital mindset and full knowledge of the imperative of speed to market.

Robert Pease MBA

O'Neil happily confirmed that the Cascade Seed investment came to fruit after she and her former colleague and now Cascade Managing Director Robert Pease happened to re-meet during a Launch Tennessee 3686 event.

Neil and Pease, who earned his MBA at UT Knoxville, once overlapped in working for Atlanta's Salesfusion, which was later sold to SugarCRM.

Cascade models initial investments averaging $200K, and previously invested in Nashville- and Austin-based EVAmore Inc, according to its website. The firm says it typically maintains funds for follow-on funding in its portfolio companies.

GROWTH

O'Neil said Opre's AI initiatives are accelerating the company's entry into business and industrial markets. (Opre currently has no plans to enter the healthcare sector.)

As of today, the Opre platform generates revenues from 66 customers, which altogether have at least 8,000 Opre users seated.

Recent success in signing and activating very large companies has led Opre to set-aside its earlier 1,000-seat ceiling on business accounts.

The only business subscriber O'Neil said she was immediately free to disclose to VNC was Alpharetta-based and PE-backed OfficeSpace Software, which has 200+ employees.

Opre's platform produces pre-scheduled and on-demand AI-organized and -produced content that is editable and tailored with consideration of the individual communications styles and learning preferences of both managers and their co-workers who engage for performance reviews and other 1:1 encounters.

In making its pitch, Opry must surely tantalize the market when it stresses that Opre users may never need to write another performance review from scratch.

The Unseen?

Especially important in the Future of Work context, the company also assures direct-report workers that it aims to help them "feel seen," by learning about each worker's interpersonal needs and helping supervisors and interviewers take those factors into account, to improve relationships and mutual trust, with privacy safeguards.

The platform is also said to help improve group meetings by delivering "collaboratively developed and actionable agendas that have been developed and executed in authentic and inclusive ways, taking fully into account current and projected customer requirements, sentiment and priorities."

Altogether, Opry/Meetingful's four cofounders hold controlling interest and majority ownership in the company. Opre W2 employees are stock-option holders.

Tim Mulron
Stephen Franklin
James Cowart

In addition to CEO O'Neil, pictured above, Opre co-founders include Chairman of the Board Tim Mulron, who's also both an Opre advisor and CEO of local growthco Beachy; Co-founder Stephen Franklin; and, Co-Founder James Cowart.

Other Opry team members identified via LinkedIn include Principal Software Engineer Megan Ford Word; and, VP-Product & Design Jeff McKeand. Their work history includes experience with local VC-backed ventures Emma and Lasso Software.

The CEO said the company's outside advisors include attorneys with Nelson Mullins and bankers with PinnacleBank. Accounting is handled internally.

O'Neil affirmed that she and her co-founders are a highly cohesive group, largely because they collaborated aboard Franklin-based LeanKit.

At critical junctures, LeanKit attracted $16MM investment from PE Insight Venture Partners, then in 2017 sold for $65MM to Austin-based Planview.

Equally remarkable in the eyes of many, in earlier stages 2009-vintage LeanKit attracted roughly $10.5MM from 106 Nashville-area investors, with total capital raised prior to the Planview buyout pegged at north of $30MM.

Chris Hefley

O'Neil confirmed that LeanKit Co-founder and former CEO Chris Hefley remains a good friend and occasional informal advisor, but he is not formally involved in Meetingful/Opre.

VNC learned this week that now-West Coast-based Hefley, 48, will soon formally announce his collaboration with Bellevue, Wash.-based Troy Magennis in launching a new tech venture, heyCASEy.io., which is unpacked a bit here. Previous VNC coverage of Hefley.

BRAND JOURNEY

O'Neil explained that near the end of the search for the company's current brand (and potential URLs), the team considered 100 or more candidate brands.

Eventually, the field was narrowed to a handful of options, including Opre, which translates as Operations Relationships.

At that point, she recalled, someone on the team pointed-out that Opre -- if pronounced "opp-re" -- would also evoke the Grand Old Opry, arguably Nashville's most treasured venue for performing talent.

The group soon agreed Opre was a fitting name for a venture created by entrepreneurs who had already found success in a city they loved, and in which they intended to anchor.

O'Neil has been with Opre since early 2019, and was appointed CEO in January 2023. Last month, she took the CEO's seat on the Meetingful board, handing-off her former board secretary role.

In 2019, O'Neil moved from Atlanta to Nashville and soon began working with Meetingful. Her previous role was with Nashville-based LeanKit, and earlier career stops included two Georgia-based companies, the abovementioned Salesfusion and Cloud Sherpas (sold to Accenture).

In 2016, while working for LeanKit remotely from Atlanta, she participated in a Work Institute program focused on employee recruitment and retention.

The CEO earned her bachelor's degree in English at Providence (R.I.) College, having earlier graduated from Tabor Academy, in Massachusetts.

O'Neil was born in New York State and spent much of her childhood in Massachusetts.

NOTES: There are a myriad of "Future of Work" reports online globally, e.g.: PwC | KF | EY | Bain | VU | Gapps | AHA | X# | HRstrat | Gartner | CDC |

Current Opre tech stack: OpenAI is among Opre's most widely known subprocessors and service providers, which also include AssemblyAI, Recall.ai, Stripe, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and others. O'Neil said the company is also likely to integrate with Otter and Fireflies.

Lastly, three URLs -- GetOpre.com and the previously employed Meetingful.com and Teaming.com -- now all resolve to GetOpre.com and are all registered to Nashville's Meetingful Inc., dba Opre. VNC

. last edited 5 June 2023 1600


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Tags: AI, Amazon Web Services, artificial intelligence, AssemblyAI, AWS, Beachy, capital formation, Cascade Seed Fund, Chris Hefley, Cloud Sherpas, DisC, Emma, Enneagram, Eva, Evamore, Fireflies, Future of Work, heyCASEyio, HRTECH, human resources, Insight Partners, Insight Venture Partners, James Cowart, Jeff McKeand, Kate O'Neil, Lasso Software, Launch Tennessee, LaunchTN, LeanKit, Meetingful, Megan Ford Word, Megan Word, Meyers Briggs, Nelson Mullins, OfficeSpace Software, OpenAI, operations, Opre, Otter, PinnacleBank, PlanView, Providence College, relationships, Robert Pease, Salesfusion, Stephen Franklin, Strip, SugarCRM, Tabor Academy, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, Tim Mulron, Troy Magennis, TTDC, Work Institute


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