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[Podcast] From her kitchen table to global HR employee relations SaaS leader – Deb Muller

Feb 10, 2023

“I often wonder, should I have taken it earlier? But I’m not sure I was ready for it earlier. I’m not sure the world was ready for our product the way it is now."

Deb Muller was an experienced HR executive at a large global company who left her job to start a consultancy specializing in managing important employee incident investigations. Surprisingly, her customers asked her for a software solution that included her best practices, so she mocked up some screens and had someone build the first version in 2009. She started selling it to fellow HR leaders and her software company HR Acuity was born.

Professional management of employee incident investigations was new when HR Acuity started, but there was no shortage of employee incidents to track, especially in larger companies with more than 1000 employees.

She and her team built a community of HR leaders and led the global discussion about proactive employee relations and transparent HR incident management. Big changes like #MeToo, DE&I awareness, and remote employment during COVID increased the awareness of these HR issues and the tools to manage them.

HR Acuity is now a fast-growing company with over 100 employees. Deb took a small angel investment from a friend a few years after starting the company. They grew mostly from revenues with no interest in any major funding until 2019, when HR Acuity took a growth equity investment from Growth Street Partners. In 2021, they took additional funding from K1 Investment Management. The company is still independent and growing steadily.

Quotes from Deb:

“When we finally raised our first round of growth equity funding 10 years after starting HR Acuity, it really helped us think about scaling and investing in people.

“The talent pool gets richer because there are a lot of people that don’t want to take a bet with somebody that’s not funded, which I understand. It also gave me a sounding board with people that have done this before. It helped me understand the numbers in ways that I had never looked at them before. They also pushed me if I wanted them to push me. 

“I often wonder, should I have taken it earlier? But I’m not sure I was ready for it earlier. I’m not sure the world was ready for our product the way it is now.

In this episode, Deb explains:

  • How she started her company by providing HR incident investigation consulting for large companies, then slowly transitioned to being a software-only company.
  • Why she grew their community of HR leaders at large companies with roundtable discussions to share ideas, processes, and approaches with each other.
  • How she bootstrapped the company with customer sales revenue, but slowly learned that some appropriate funding could help the company grow faster without being crazy about it.
  • What has changed in the employee-employer relationship in the last 15 years that has helped them grow
  • What women founders should be thinking about when they are serious about creating change in the world with a software company

HR Acuity Software Company Facts

  • Founded: 2009
  • Description: HR Acuity is a leader in HR employee relations and investigation management software for larger companies across industries
  • Number of Employees: 100 remote employees
  • Funding: Bootstrapped with a little angel funding for 10 years, then raised $49 million funding from Growth Street Partners and K1 Investment Management
  • HQ Location: Started in New Jersey, but not they are a remote global company