How Barcelona Startup Onna is Helping Companies Unlock Their Data

Companies today use an average of 16 cloud-based applications, according to research. Storing data in so many disparate silos can make finding a specific piece of information extremely difficult. How do you recover a file if you have no idea where you – or your coworkers – have saved it?

This is the problem that the Barcelona-based SaaS startup Onna set out to solve.

They’ve built an internal enterprise search engine that acts as a centralized access point for productivity applications to help companies find information whenever they need it the most, regardless of where it’s stored.

A company that stands out for its strong values and culture, Onna’s star shines bright in the constellation of Barcelona startups. To find out what they’re up to, I had a chat with Guillaume Duvoux, Director of Product at Onna.

Serving giants and startups

Facebook, Electronic Arts, Dropbox, Fitbit. If you were running a SaaS business and you had to make a list of your ideal clients, chances are that some, if not all of these companies would be on it. 

For Onna, a SaaS startup founded in 2015 by Salim Elkhou, working with such illustrious partners is an everyday reality. Besides these four companies, they’re also helping countless SMBs find, organize and secure important business information. 

“Onna is for everybody. It’s for big enterprises as well as small startups that use myriads of tools,” says Guillaume Duvoux, Director of Product. 

The Onna team at their annual team building event, Onna Camp

After raising $11 million in series A led by Dawn Capital with participation from Dropbox, the Slack Fund and early investor Nauta Capital, Onna has been focusing on hiring and accelerating product development

Their team of 55 people – spread across four offices in New York City, North Carolina, Toulouse and Barcelona – is growing by the day and they’re constantly expanding their product’s features to cover more and more ground.

But what is it exactly that they do?

All your data within arms’ reach

Software is always best talked about in terms of how it can help its users. I ask Guillaume to give me a simple explanation of what Onna does from the client’s perspective.

“Onna makes your information available and useful at any time so that you can perform at your best,” he says. Then, he goes on to explain what happens behind the scenes. 

Guillaume Duvoux, Director of Product at Onna

“We connect to all the platforms that you use – Slack, Zendesk, Google Drive, Jira, Quip, Dropbox and more – through an API. We unlock the data and process it with Machine Learning so that you can access it from one place regardless of where it’s stored,” he says. 

Centralizing all the productivity applications that companies use is just one of Onna’s advantages. Not only can you search from one place, but you can also search better than if you tried searching in the apps themselves.

“With Onna, everything is searchable. Our technology can extract intelligence – what we call metadata – from every file, whether it’s image, text or audio,” he explains.  

Onna makes images searchable with the help of sophisticated image recognition and automatically translates audio into text so that it too becomes searchable. They also process and index all languages with scripts in unicode so there’s no language or foreign character their search engine can’t handle. 

The complexity of Onna’s search technology is dizzying for someone moderately tech-savvy like myself. I asked Guillaume whether they have a secret engineering process that allows them to build this level of software. 

“Many of our engineers come from the open-source community. The way they work is very different – they document everything carefully and make sure that the code they produce is always approved by a peer. They’ve brought this collaborative mindset and these best practices in-house, so now we have an extremely reliable process that allows us to build complex software efficiently,” he says.

Security at its best

As with any service that involves the processing of private data, security is a major concern. When you contract a third-party software provider to go elbow-deep into your most cherished information, you want to make sure that you can trust them, doubtlessly and unequivocally.

Guillaume assures me that “security is at the heart of what we do. We deal with private information and it’s our highest priority to make sure that we protect everything that enters Onna.” 

Onna holds all the necessary certifications for providing industry-standard data protection and uses best practices like data encryption to guarantee the security of all their clients’ information. 

They also help companies stay up-to-date and compliant with data privacy rules and regulations like the GDPR

“Documents like passports can be stored anywhere and they’re not easy to search for. However, if you want to be GDPR-compliant, you need to make sure that you’re not keeping private information in unsafe places,” says Guillaume. “Onna can help you find that passport and show you a list of every single copy, no matter where it’s stored.”

A common use case, Guillaume explains to me, is when a customer, referencing their “right to be forgotten” granted by the GDPR, asks a company to delete all their information from their databases. A search with Onna can help companies quickly find that data (all of it!) and remove it, thus helping them act in accordance with the GDPR and protecting them from potential lawsuits that could hurt the business.

Driving growth through values and culture

Although he now stands as the Head of Product, Guillaume comes from a project management background with experience as a coach. He believes that Onna’s strong values and company culture contribute to the growth of the company and make it a great place to work. 

“There’s no hierarchy here. Nobody works for me and I’m nobody’s boss. We work together to make Onna successful,” he says.  

His number one rule for every Onna employee: don’t wear a mask when you step into the office.

Besides encouraging people to be themselves at work, Guillaume also thinks that mutual trust is fundamentally important and wants his coworkers to know that he’s always got their backs. In return, he expects that they have his. 

Personal development is also something that he considers crucial. “We want people to grow – not just in their skills, but as individuals – men, women, fathers, mothers, whatever role they might play in life.” 

Speaking of roles, Guillaume steers the conversation towards the all-important question of women in tech. “I want to see more women in the tech world. I think it’s very important because women bring something different to the table,” he says. In fact, Onna is working on finding partners in Barcelona to help them connect with women and work towards increasing gender diversity in Onna’s tech teams. 

To learn more about what it’s like working at Onna and what they’re hiring for, check out Onna’s current openings here