Interview with John Kembel, HiveLive

Last week, Boulder-based HiveLive ( announced the close of a $5.6M Series A venture capital funding round for the firm's enterprise social networking software. To get a bit more color on the company, we spoke with John Kembel, CEO and Founder of the company.

Congrats on the funding. What's the idea behind HiveLive, and what are you trying to offer to companies?

John Kembel: We're an enterprise social software company. We work with businesses who wish to use the power of social networking and communities, to better connect and engage customers. It's effectively a new way to market and communicate with customers, a new way to recruit folks and to motivate your customer base.

Why did you decide to build this tool?

John Kembel: I'd like to frame the answer by giving background on customer communities. There is recognition that social software, and online communities, especially in the consumer space, are powerful. The power of the network is significant. There's a rapid pull for Web 2.0 technologies into the enterprise, but what we realized for business communities is that every one is unique and have a special thumbprint. The common approach is to staple together point solutions -- blogs, wikis, forums, and social networks--but the challenge is, one size fits all doesn't fit the unique shape and personality of business. What our platform provides is unique, compared to other alternatives, and is value for companies building a customer community. Instead of starting with a point solution and technology and integrating it-- which is a technology heavily, generic, inflexible approach--instead, we start with people and introduce a new community building block called a hive. This new common building blog is not fixed, and is configurable. You can use our platform to weave people and information in relevant ways, and share with anybody. HiveLive communities support blogging, and discussions, and media sharing, and most importantly custom fit, including crowd sourcing, creating user generated content for product roadmaps, cataloging analyst reports, and creating mashups. Businesses have a unique social platform, and organic adaptability is key.

How long have you been looking to raise funding, and how did that process go?

John Kembel: Before this with our seed funding we raised $2.2M in angel financing, from some of Colorado's best entrepreneurs. Our intent was to start financing about now, but over the holidays we had the great fortune to meet Joseph Zell of the Grotech team, a great East Coast venture fund, through the Front Range business network. What we really like about those guys is that they are actively involved and strongly support Boulder startups and software startups in Colorado. We couldn't ask for better investors on the Front Range. They made a pre-emptive financing offer, and closed it up very efficiently.

How long did it take to tie that together?

John Kembel: We met Joe around Christmas, and the financing just closed a week and a half ago. It's about the fastest I've ever seen. We're lucky to be connected with them.

Why Boulder--it looks like your team has some Silicon Valley experience--and can you talk about why the firm's here?

John Kembel: Most people move to the Front Range for lifestyle reasons. We have the mountains, sunshine, and a balanced life at work. You can be productive at work, but also engaged at outdoor activities. Me and the others have California connections. I spent 12 years there, and my last startups were there. It is a different environment. The network here is smaller and available, and people are not just here for work but for a balanced life. We can get more done effectively and efficiently, while also being in a great place like Boulder. The personal reason I chose Boulder was my wife was born and raised here, and it was time to come back to Colorado. We had a choice of places to drop roots in with a new startup, but there are only a handful of places that are fantastic for startups. This is one of them.