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LESSON LEARNED?

The former CEO of Zenefits is taking another crack at HR tech

By Simone Stolzoff

Sometimes you fall off the horse and get back on. Other times, you get nudged off the horse by the SEC, and then decide to straddle three new horses at the same time.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re Parker Conrad.

The co-founder and former CEO of Zenefits was ousted from his company in February 2016 amid a regulatory scandal, with Zenefits accused of employing, in several US states, salespeople in who didn’t have the proper licensing to sell insurance. A year ago, he was personally paying a half-a-million dollar fine to the SEC to settle charges that he lied to investors about the company’s compliance situation. Today (Oct. 10), he’s launching a new product, Rippling, which he believes will be the future of office security, IT management, and HR—all in one.

“Rippling is like if you brought together Gusto, Okta, and Jamf into one platform,” Conrad says. The three sectors those companies represent might not seem to go together. Gusto handles benefits, HR, and payroll; Okta manages employees’ digital security; and Jamf looks after a company’s hardware.

But in Conrad’s mind, it’s a match made in heaven. And his vision, though ambitious, makes a lot of sense. Instead of having separate systems for employees’ digital, physical, and personal details, Rippling gives an employer the ability to manage all of the data from one central hub, an employee-management system if you will.

This time around, Conrad is bringing a little more humility to his company’s growth plans. Zenefits shot up like a teenager in a growth spurt. But it never quite grew into its adult body. Founded in 2013, it raised half a billion dollars and was valued at over $4 billion just three years after it started. Last February, the company laid off nearly half its staff after failing to meet revenue projections.

Rippling has been hush-hush about how much money it has raised, though it does count a number of high-profile investors, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s firm Initialized Capital, among its backers. Conrad did share that the company has already amassed revenue in the seven figures and has more than 40 engineers who have been building the product over the past two years.

Whether Rippling will become the employee-management system of the future remains to be seen. But if Conrad seems to have learned anything on his second ride on the entrepreneurship train, it’s how to better manage the public’s expectations. And with his former company in the same space, he certainly understands the competition.