Free HR platform for growing businesses secures £1m for further expansion

Serial entrepreneurs behind CharlieHR are on the fast track to growth

Serial entrepreneurs behind CharlieHR are on the fast track to growth

Rob O’Donovan is no stranger to the growing pains that come from building a business. Frustrated with expensive and unweildy enterprise HR software, the serial entrepreneur developed CharlieHR that’s free and scalable for growing businesses. 

The London-based start-up launched last September, and within its first six months, over 650 companies in more than 20 countries have used CharlieHR, including fast growing startups Lost My Name, Pact Coffee, Entrepreneur First, and

“We created CharlieHR to solve our own constant frustration with boring everyday admin that got in the way of doing what we loved.  Too many spreadsheets and too many emails.  We felt that much of it could and should be automated, and that while building a company is hard, running one shouldn’t be,” according to CharlieHR’s co-founder and chief executive, Rob O’Donovan.

“This is the fourth business we’ve started. Usually we build out a business that’s 40 to 50 people strong, and then face the same issues. That’s when we realised that there must be many other growing businesses out there facing the same issues,” he told GrowthBusiness.

The platform automates many of the administrative headaches that accompany a fast growing business, from on-boarding new employees to tracking time off and sick days.

Entrepreneur First, the London-based talent agency for “technologist” start-up founders, use CharlieHR for its internal HR. “Over 50 startups a year begin their journeys from inside our walls, so we’re extremely familiar with the challenges they face as they start to scale,” EF’s co-founder, Alice Bentinck said.

“CharlieHR has been a hugely valuable tool as we’ve grown our team, and a great relief that we have less admin to worry about!” 

In addition to taking cost out of the equation, CharlieHR was designed with both the customer and the end user in mind. “99 per cent of its users are employees, so the platform is intuitive,” O’Donovan explained.

While the core software will always remain free, CharlieHR will monetise through a freemium model that has served so many software-as-a-service businesses. The next step is for the business to build out an intelligent marketplace that enables companies to purchase a range of products and services – from software and insurance to benefits and pensions – automatically configured to consider the size and demographic of each business. This injection of capital will also go a long way for CharlieHR’s aspirations to continue expansion into Europe.

CharlieHR’s investment story is similar to its growth. According to O’Donovan, its investors heard about the business through word of mouth. “A lot of companies using CharlieHR told their investors about how it’s helped their businesses. That’s when we started conversations in September and secured investments recently,” he added.

“We believe that it’s the small companies of today that will change the world tomorrow.  We’re proud to be building tools that will empower them to do so, starting with any organisation’s most important asset – its people.”

CharlieHR is the latest company to emerge from startup studio The Eleven. The company and has received investment from Connect Ventures, Seedcamp and Angel investors including Nick Hungerford, Ian Hogarth, Alistair Mitchell, and James Wise.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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