AlbionVC reflections on Clear Review journey 

by Emil Gigov 

The annual review process strikes fear into the hearts of office workers everywhere. Inefficient, uninspiring and generally not fit for purpose, this yearly meeting is perhaps one of the most disliked tools introduced by traditional HR professionals to companies and their employees.

Clear Review was started in 2016 with a vision to challenge the established practices and create a better system for objective setting, performance management and employee development. The cloud-based continuous performance management system is centered around creating meaningful conversations, regular feedback and promoting employee engagement in the workplace. AlbionVC led Clear Review’s Series A investment in June 2019: we were impressed with the company’s offering and its vision to improve the working lives for millions of people. As Clear Review announces a strategic acquisition by Advanced, the UK’s leading business software and services provider, it’s time to reflect on the impact Clear Review has had on the world of performance management.

Why Clear Review

Clear Review was founded by Stuart Hearn, a former Sony International HR director and talent management consultancy head. After years of seeing what does and doesn’t work in performance management and advocating for more agile practices, Stuart recognised the need for a simplified breed of software and sourced a great team to develop and support it. The new system was intuitive to use and encouraged regular feedback and “check-ins” between employees and managers.

When we first met Stuart and the team in early 2019, we were amazed by how much had already been achieved. Clear Review had experienced rapid growth in the few years since launch, increasing revenue and headcount by 100 per cent, and attracting more than 150 corporate customers, including household names such as CYBG/Virgin Money, HarperColllins and Mishcon De Reya  law firm, with its simple, yet engaging interface. Furthermore the company had already started to expand in the US and was bringing in 20% of revenue from stateside operations, all of it from inbound enquiries.

We quickly recognised that Clear Review was right in our sweet spot of a mission-driven founder, surrounded by a great team who shared his vision, selling an excellent product that was delighting customers.  Needless to say, we were excited to lead the Series A fundraising to enable the company’s next stage of growth, which included plans to accelerate product development, build out the US presence, and establish Clear Review as a leader in the UK market.

Working together:

It’s amazing how much Stuart and the team have grown the business since the Series A round last year, despite all the economic challenges. The company has more than doubled in size on nearly all fronts, including customers, revenue and employees. They’ve seen 100% year on year growth consistently since 2016, having been able to sign deals at over 10x the average contract value from when we invested. Impressively, much of this growth took place during the pandemic – a time when anything not considered “mission critical’ by software buyers was falling by the wayside. Clear Review evidently continues to delight and retain almost all its customers, with retention rates that would be the envy of any SaaS business.

The operational performance was clearly helped by the effectiveness of the Senior Leadership team, who joined following the Series A financing - including CFO, CRO, Director of Marketing  and Chairman. Expansion of the product suite from continuous performance management to employee engagement also helped the company win more customers and retain existing ones.

While it has been a true pleasure working with the wider Clear Review team, Stuart has been instrumental in creating this success. His conviction, drive and dedication to improving the working lives of others resulted in him assembling a high performing team and building a software product that is loved by customers. We were delighted to be able to support Stuart and the wider team on this journey to improve people practices in corporate, governmental, charitable and other organisations. 

At the end of this exciting chapter of the company’s development and the beginning of the next stage of growth, Stuart Hearne commented “A year ago we were very excited to have attracted the backing of AlbionVC, who have a long track record of helping B2B SaaS companies like ours scale up rapidly.  Their open and collaborative approach was a good fit with our culture as we worked together to growth the business.  The sale to Advanced is a great outcome for the company, its shareholders, employees and its customers.”

What’s next?

Clear Review’s leading position in the space, its loyal and engaged customer base and compelling product offering have been recognised by Advanced, the UK’s third-largest provider of business software and services. With a £261m turnover, 20,000+ customers and 2,400+ employees, it makes sense that they would make a strategic acquisition of Clear Review and offer the software to many of their existing customers.

Becoming a part of Advanced, will enable Clear Review to scale even faster and fast-track its product and feature roadmap.  Most importantly it will help drive quality conversations between many more managers and their teams, with accurate insights and meaningful interactions, whether they’re in the office or working from home.

Together Clear Review and Advanced have a bright future and we wish them well in this next phase of the company’s development.