Wiretap: Zen and the art of payroll

One of Silicon Valley’s most high-flying IPOs of 2012 belonged to Workday, which puts HR software in the cloud. So it only stands to reason that other companies would be lining up to bring similar boring-but-important business tasks into the modern era.

Companies like San Francisco’s ZenPayroll, which comes out of stealth mode Tuesday morning. The Y Combinator seedling promises to deliver what it calls “modern, delightful payroll.” For most of us, the delightful part of payroll is the check that shows up every two weeks, but ZenPayroll CEO Joshua Reeves says that from an employer’s perspective, legacy payroll software is overly complicated and expensive. ZenPayroll CEO Joshua Reeves

Reeves, in a press release, said his product is both secure and easy to use, requiring no lengthy installation or training. He also claims it saves employers time and money by automating tax calculations and filing government documents online. All of which sounds, well, boring but also important; ZenPayroll says the IRS last year socked employers with more than $5 billion in payroll tax penalties, which the company blames in part on kludgy software.

Reeves certainly doesn’t seem to have had any trouble selling his vision to a slate of high-profile angel investors, who’ve chipped in on a $6.1 million seed round. They include Box CEO Aaron Levie, Yammer chief David Sacks, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo. “I come across tons of enterprise software companies, and ZenPayroll has one of the strongest team pedigrees,” Levie told me. Reeves sold his last startup — Palo Alto-based unwrap, which helped users create business apps for Facebook  — in 2010 for an undisclosed sum.

Levie noted that the market for payroll software is “in the tens of billions. They can do for payroll what Salesforce did for CRM — making it available to businesses everywhere, at a lower cost, and with a dramatically better user experience.”

I was also intrigued to notice that ZenPayroll’s bevy of investors includes Drew Houston, CEO of Levie’s arch-rival, Dropbox. So if these two guys can agree on something, maybe it really is important … even if it’s boring.




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