Yellow HIVE Image by namnt from PixabayI had the opportunity to sit down with John Furneaux, CEO and founder of HIVE. We spoke about the company and the future of project management.

“Hive is the world’s first democratically produced product management platform. We believe it’s the best product at the best price. And as for Hive 2.0, it is AI-enabled everywhere. An AI companion lives with you at every moment you use it.”

When you say democratically produced, what do you mean?

“Every Hive user is entitled to vote on what they wish us to build next. We tally up the votes, and we build what our user community wants to build next. That’s why our user satisfaction is literally the best in the business. We literally beat Asana on 43 dimensions of 43.”

Furneaux is referring to a comparison of G2 reviews between Asana and Hive. The only area where Hive falls short of Asana is the number of reviews from which the data was collected.

How big are Hive?

John Furneaux, Founder and CEO of HIVE (image credit - LinkedIn)
John Furneaux, Founder and CEO of HIVE

I asked John to give me a company update. As a private company he was unable to share specific revenue details.

“Our spiritual home is New York City. But we now have employees all over the world, in the UK, North America, and APAC, which helps us deliver global support. We have thousands of customers. Revenue-wise, we are an eight-figure company, so we have tens of millions in revenue.”

With its only office in New York, Hive supports hundreds of thousands of customers using its solution.

On vision

What’s your vision for Hive?

We want to be the best product at the best price, and our vision is to be number one in the project management space. It’s the busiest space on Earth. We already have the best product, the best price, and now we need to reach more people.”

What have you achieved in the last twelve months?

“Hive 2.0 is absolutely sick. We went soup to nuts on onboarding. I said to my co-founder, Eric, we’re going to do a straight shoot. We’re going to take the top five project management tools. We’re going to imagine that we’re back in 2016 when we started Hive, and we’re going to try and start a business on each of them.

“We did it, and we came up to the table and said, which one’s better, which one’s worse. We ranked Hive at the middle of the pack. We compared it to Monday, Wrike and the other folks. We then just went crazy for several weeks right before Christmas through to about the end of February. We basically went through absolutely everything that we got stuck on and reinvented it.

“Do these things matter? Our new customers per month have more than doubled since December. It just goes to show that if you get those onboarding journeys right, it does show up in the numbers. It’s not just window dressing. It was quite exciting.”

Hive 2.0 is the next generation of the platform. Interestingly, Furneaux revealed that it has a 12-week program that should update every client before the end of March.

Looking forward

Looking forward, in the Short term Furneaux is aiming to hit the growth targets so that the company can look for more external funding in the autumn. To help with that growth, Hive adopted an interesting strategy for its pricing. It has introduced differential pricing, country by country. It means that local pricing will make it more attractive in places like India, where its prices are lower compared to Europe and the US. The strategy has been used before by others, and it helps accelerate growth, but in the economies where it charges less it has to minimise the risk of cost overruns.

Hive has just launched Project Dragon, targeting the APAC market specifically the Philippines and India. The strategy is to work through local distributors, and Furneaux has a specific focus on the Far East, initially South East Asia.

Furneaux is also seeing growth in the Middle East, specifically Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, he would not be drawn on why he invested in Asia rather than Africa. The potential markets in APAC are likely much larger.

On focus

What is your target market?

“We’re especially strong for marketing teams, which then also plays into agencies. So the huge holding groups are heavy Hive users, for example, Omnicom. The marketing team is where we start. We then grow within organisations, project management, and other functions, such as operations.”

Furneaux describes Hive as a project management firm yet cites competitors such as Asana and that use the term “work management”. Why do you talk about project management?

“I guess I’m traditional. I care about what my users will understand. If I speak to somebody in a coffee shop and I say I make a project management software, they’ll know immediately what I mean. If I say I make work management software, they might not know. I’d rather just communicate directly and honestly.”


What differentiates Hive?

“The democratic thing, for sure. We’re built by our users, and that gives us the highest satisfaction score in the world.”

That is not necessarily an immediate reason to purchase Hive. While price is another consideration, how else do you differentiate?

“It’s a very good question. It’s a difficult and crowded market, as you know. I happen to believe that project management tools are the sum of 1,000 small interactions. You need to get them right.

“We believe that we have the recipe for the nicest baked cake because we listen to our users. On the other hand, the AI stuff that’s coming — the honest truth. I don’t think there was anything that interesting until what’s about to happen. We think we’ve cracked something, which is completely insane.”

Furneaux was talking about the next iteration of Hive, more on which is below.

On partners

What is your partner strategy?

“We hired Josh Steinberg, an ex-Airtable and McKinsey employee, to lead partnerships at Hive about six months ago. That’s why you’re seeing it emerge now. We are focused on markets that are hard for us to reach, such as the Philippines.”

Who are your strategic technology partners?

“We are an Amazon shop for all the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). We are a strategic partner with Zoom, which is also an investor in Hive. We hold close relationships with the leads from our ecosystem, Microsoft, Dropbox, Box, and Salesforce. The Hive platform is tightly integrated into these.”

For integration, Hive partners with Zapier, and Hive automation uses Workato as an OEM iPaaS solution. One area that is missing on the integrations list is project accounting. I asked what the strategy is for integrating with accounting and ERP solutions.

Furneaux answered, “We want to build a close relationship with NetSuite and QuickBooks.”

The future of project management

How do you see the competitive market evolving? In 2024?

“It’s all about AI. When I first started Hive, people were saying I don’t like project management software because I’m happy in email. Now, I have no problem with that sentiment. What I used to say when I started Hive was, so you don’t like the solutions that are out there. But a genuine question: do you think that your grandchildren will use email to collaborate? And if you do think of grandchildren, what about your great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren?

“At some point, someone admits, no, I don’t believe my great-great-grandchildren will use email to collaborate. Well, then, something’s coming. Email is not the pinnacle of human creation. It’s darn good, don’t get me wrong, but something is coming.

“I think it’s AI because the missing angle is, like the LLMs, everyone’s focused on content generation, that’s V1. V1 is the content generation. It can make a blog post, or it can write dull copy in the style of whoever it might be. I think it completely misses the point in terms of what’s coming next, which is using the brain that exists.

Hive, Furneaux explained, has built a solution where users can communicate direct with the project plan. He argued that many still prefer to do things in email and make and manage a massive project plan. However, he then added,

“But they’re going to turn green with envy when the person next to them talks by text to their project plan, saying compress the deadline to March 15th and presses <enter>. The whole plan comes back to where they want it to be. It’s not going to be long looking at that person’s shoulder before they say okay, I want to take a look at it.”

What is the HIVE approach?

What does prompt engineering mean for you?

“I live prompt engineering. I absolutely adore it.”

But do your users?

“I believe that you have people with 14 brains who are going to build the LLMs. I’m not clever enough for that. I will gratefully use the LLM, whether in our cloud or their cloud, because we have enterprise customers where it needs to be hosted by us. I will use the cleverest people in the world to make my LLM.

“I believe that the emerging tech for the rest of us is going to be the prompt engineering interface. As an example, your question is a very, very good one. But that’s exactly what I like doing for a living: connecting really smart tech with everyday users. I want to make it so that when you say something, I am producing the translation layer that makes sure that what you get back is what you want.

“I saw a competitor recently that has released their AI product. They’ve done what everybody’s done. They’ve put a ChatGPT box inside their window. So yes, you can talk to it, but you have no idea what you’re using it for or what it’s meant to do.

“That’s not good enough. You need to connect the AI to your data, to your methods and functions, and all that good stuff. Then you need the translation layer to help it understand the data model. Then, when you type to assign all the marketing stuff to ‘Kelly’, it will do it correctly. That’s the missing piece. No one’s done it. We’ve got it and I was playing with it yesterday. It’s spectacular.”

Challenges and priorities

What are your challenges?

“Distribution. We are the world’s best-kept project management secret.”

What are your priorities?

“Best product, best price, that’s all I think about all day long. The honest truth is I know a lot of people don’t like the AI stuff. But the truth is that’s where I’m gonna take this company. I believe it’s the future. We’re just in V1 now. Is V1 good enough? Can it do everything? No, it can’t. But if you bury your head in the sand and don’t prepare for V2, you are Blockbuster versus Netflix.

“I believe that in, say, 24 months from now, every single project management software will be completely dead. If they are not doing the work now, embrace what’s coming.”

The Book Question

What’s the latest book you read?

“Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational (Amazon Aus, UK, US). I reread it for probably the 15th time. I find it absolutely fascinating. He’s a professor of Psychology & Behavioural Economics at Duke University. It’s all about human behaviour and how our brains are defective, which I really adore because I see it inside my own head.”

What’s your take out for business from that?

“I’ll give you one example. It gives you really good teachings around pricing. It teaches you that people do not assess price logically. There are things you can do to make the plan that you would like to win, to be more successful, but I don’t want to steal Mr. Ariely’s thunder, so it’s in the book.”


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