This week we are thrilled to announce our latest funding round, led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused fund. As we’re about to embark on a new stage of growth, this is a great opportunity to take stock of what we have learnt, achieved and built to date, and where Vault Platform is heading next.
Three years ago, we started Vault Platform with a revolutionary thesis: that companies can be protected from major risks if their people are protected, too; that sweeping problems, such as conduct breaches and ethical failures under the rug isn’t something modern organizations can afford to continue doing and that the best way for companies to avoid the next big crisis, scandal or lawsuit, is by giving their people a REAL opportunity to speak up. By revealing the blind spots, communicating and engaging with employees through a trusted channel, businesses can drive the resolution of cases in a proactive way that’s never before been possible.
This cannot be achieved with the existing, passive reporting tools which companies have in place to tick a box for their audit committee. A new, human-centric approach leveraging the latest technology has to offer, is acutely needed in this space.
With this thesis we approached both clients and investors. The response? We were made to feel absolutely out of our minds. “Why should we want this?’ market leaders and compliance executives asked us, as we pushed them to give us their honest feedback. Investors thought the same “Uncovering the weak spots in our company goes against our interest”. But luckily, not all companies, and not all investors. We found our luminaries, we found our pioneers, and in turn, we ourselves pioneered a new category of ethics & trust-enabling products. Fast forward three years and no one doubts that this is a market and category that is thriving and growing by the day. And organizations nowadays? They want to know. They want to be on top of any risk and any problem, not behind the curve.
What happened? Well, the tailwinds could not have been stronger. Social movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter gained global attention and it wasn’t long before employers had to take note and listen. So powerful in their message, these grassroot movements have started to establish new expectations and norms, becoming very much a business problem on top of a societal problem.
ESG, ethics and non-financial risks have become a prime concern for boards, and the regulators both in Europe and the US are doing their fair share too. In the EU, a new Directive is coming into force at the end of 2021, mandating every company with 250 employees or more to enable internal reporting and protect reporters from retaliation. In the UK, the FCA has taken a strong stand that non-financial risk is the biggest risk to a company’s culture. In the US, where such requirements already exist for all public companies under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Biden’s administration is taking a strong stance against corruption. The SEC is paying out enormous awards to whistleblowers, incentivising people to turn straight to the authorities when they witness securities law violations or other wrongdoings. The outcome, no doubt, is that every person responsible for their company’s ethics & compliance program in the US now understands they must up their game when it comes to internal reporting, and ensure everything is done to solicit more reporting by employees in-house. No wonder that the role of Chief Ethics Officer is on the rise.
This is exactly where Vault Platform comes in. It has now been two years since our first product launched and began being used by clients. Progressive responsible and caring companies looking to do the right thing by their employees and give themselves the best shot against internal ethical failures are now using Vault Platform. Two years in, it’s an enormous privilege to see how our product, which combines behavioural psychology principles with cutting edge technology, transforms workplaces worldwide, uncovers serious issues, safeguards people, and protects companies’ bottom lines. Here are three things we learnt about the impact of Vault Platform, and what it means for our direction of travel:
1. Culture eats technology for brunch.
Tech matters, greatly, but above all – it’s the company culture and the message from the top that directs the entire organization down an ethical path (or not). When leadership teams launch Vault Platform it sends a very strong message about its intentional integrity and stance on ethics.
Launch after launch, we are delighted and amazed to see how Vault is received by employees, and how management is praised and appreciated for it. The product increases internal trust by virtue of being launched, even before the tech has had its chance to shine and prove its value (which usually happens within the first days from launch).
Alongside meeting increased customer demand and market expansion, we will continue to invest and enhance Vault’s launch experience, and support our clients by providing them with a launch experience that amplifies their own values and culture. The high bar we’re setting extends beyond the launch. We’ve been hearing time and again how frustrated the market is with the customer experience and service they’ve been getting from legacy providers in our space, and at Vault Platform we pride ourselves on unrivaled customer experience. More on this to come.
2. GoTogether™ is a real game changer
For our readers who are not familiar with Vault’s app, one of the defining features and capabilities is GoTogether™, which enables employees to surface a report under the condition they’re part of a pattern. This gives employees confidence through a ‘strength in numbers’ approach, and companies with an opportunity to identify problematic patterns and recurring issues. Empowered to take immediate action, using our technology to connect the dots. Already, this gives Vault a unique position as it enables early risk detection which other incident reporting tools simply can’t provide. In the words of our investors, “Vault is the safety rail at the top of a cliff rather than the net (or ambulance) at the bottom”.
Where are we taking this technology? Well, the fact we were invested by Gradient, Google’s AI-focused fund, gives a big hint. We are developing the GoTogether™ capability even further through the application of NLP (Natural Language Processing) to connect the dots between the description of events and uncovering underlying problems that are witnessed by multiple, and potentially remote employees in any given organization. Imagine the impact of this technology in the context of Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate”, or the Boeing 737 Max crisis. It’s no surprise that federal investigations into crises such as these concluded that internal reporting programs needed a serious shake-up. Vault Platform is that shake-up.
3. The operational pain is real
We reinvented misconduct reporting by building technology for humans. We took an employee-centric approach and developed the world’s most advanced reporting app, because we realized that ethical, culturally-leading organizations can’t be built on the shoulders of even the best-intended Chief Compliance or Ethics Officer – you must take your people with you, and start with your people. No doubt, this is the approach which wins us clients. But we were surprised at how much operational pain exists on the corporate side – the teams responsible for leading investigations and resolution (sometimes dealing with hundreds if not thousands of cases a year at the big multinationals). The systems being used for case management are archaic, clunky, cumbersome. They hinder investigation speed and are simply not fit for purpose. They introduce so much inefficiency in the process. Vault’s Resolution Hub solves a tremendous operational burden and significantly shortens investigation time. We will soon introduce to the market a collaboration tool, built into our Resolution Hub, which enables HR, Legal, and Compliance teams to work together on the resolution of cases, whilst enabling privacy and data access controls. (Yes, “together” seems to be a theme for us at Vault. And we like it!)
Few more words about the company we have built and continue building. Vault Platform aims to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in every workplace where it is implemented. Amplifying employee voices, uncovering cultural problems, and resolving these matters is perhaps the most important step every company should take to promote its D&I agenda. It’s astonishing how many companies in our category, which are equally supposed to promote diversity with their product, have no diversity at the top of their own organization. It’s not lost on me that female founders and CEOs are significantly outnumbered in tech, and in the compliance-tech and reg-tech space in particular. But this doesn’t stop with me – from our investors to our leadership to our designers and developers, Vault takes pride in its own diversity, and still, there’s so much more we can do. As we grow, this will continue to be a priority for us. It will be baked into our recruitment, retention and in the way we invest in, promote and develop our team. We are the change that we want to see in the world. We are excited about building a product that makes companies more ethical, safe and diverse. And we are proud to be building a company that is all of the above.
Responsible companies run on Vault Platform – so join us!
Co-Founder & CEO