Day: May 17, 2021

NVCA Member Spotlight: Sapphire Ventures

Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Nino Marakovic, CEO and Partner at Sapphire Ventures, to learn more about his firm.

Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?

Sapphire Ventures partners with visionary teams and venture funds to build companies of consequence that significantly impact how we work, collaborate, and consume. 

For nearly two decades, Sapphire has been investing capital, resources and expertise in innovative startups and technology-focused venture funds around the world. With more than $6.8B in AUM, Sapphire Ventures has three distinct strategies:

  • Encompassing investing in rapidly growing enterprise companies.
  • Next gen early-stage consumer companies.
  • Early-stage VC funds. 

With team members in Austin, London, New York, Palo Alto, and San Francisco, Sapphire is well-positioned to help scale companies and venture funds, elevating them to become global category leaders.

Sapphire has its roots in enterprise technology investing. The firm has invested in more than 120 companies, achieving 20+ IPOs and 40+ M&As since becoming independent from SAP in 2011. IPOs over the past year include JFrog and Sumo Logic, and M&As include Punchh, Convercent, Portworx, Retails Solutions, Auth0, AllyO, and Segment.

Sapphire has a dedicated Portfolio Growth platform that delivers value to portfolio companies day in and day out. We measure our effectiveness by the impact our support delivers, which is why we take pride in an NPS score of 90 from our portfolio CEOs.

Where did your firm’s (Read more...)

Amount raises $99M at a $1B+ valuation to help banks better compete with fintechs

Amount, a company that provides technology to banks and financial institutions, has raised $99 million in a Series D funding round at a valuation of just over $1 billion.

WestCap, a growth equity firm founded by ex-Airbnb and Blackstone CFO Laurence Tosi, led the round. Hanaco Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Invus Opportunities and Barclays Principal Investments also participated.

Notably, the investment comes just over five months after Amount raised $86 million in a Series C round led by Goldman Sachs Growth at a valuation of $686 million. (The original raise was $81 million, but Barclays Principal Investments invested $5 million as part of a second close of the Series C round). And that round came just three months after the Chicago-based startup quietly raised $58 million in a Series B round in March. The latest funding brings Amount’s total capital raised to $243 million since it spun off from Avant — an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity — in January of 2020.

So, what kind of technology does Amount provide? 

In simple terms, Amount’s mission is to help financial institutions “go digital in months — not years” and thus, better compete with fintech rivals. The company formed just before the pandemic hit. But as we have all seen, demand for the type of technology Amount has developed has only increased exponentially this year and last.

CEO Adam Hughes says Amount was spun out of Avant to provide enterprise software built specifically for the banking industry. (Read more...)

Pessimism Seems Like an Intellectually Serious Position

This post is by naval from Naval

We’ve innovated our way out of previous traps

Brett: If you’re an academic, being able to explain all of the problems that are out there and how dangerous these problems are and why you need funding to look at them in more depth appears to be the intellectually serious position; whereas, someone who claims that we can solve it sounds a little bit kumbaya.

In fact, collaboration, cooperation and resource exploitation are the things that will drive this knowledge economy forward so that we can solve these problems.

It always seems more intellectually serious if you can stand out there with a frown on your face in front of a TED Talk audience and say, “These are all the ways in which we’re going to die, in which the Earth is going to fail, and in which we’re going to come to ruin.”

Naval: I’m guilty of having recorded one of these doomsayer podcasts about enders blowing up the Earth. That was the one podcast I regretted the most. We had a great conversation, but I don’t fundamentally agree with conclusions that we should slow down because the world is going to end.

The only way out is through progress.

I haven’t promoted that podcast as much as others. When I read Deutsch, I realized why: Pessimism is an easy trap to fall into, but it implies that humans are not creative. Pessimism doesn’t acknowledge all the ways that we have innovated our way out of previous traps.

Entrepreneurs are (Read more...)

Ankorstore raises another $102 million for its wholesale marketplace

French startup Ankorstore has raised a $102 million Series B funding round (€84 million). Tiger Global and Bain Capital Ventures are leading today’s funding round with existing investors Index Ventures, GFC, Alven and Aglaé also participating. This is a significant funding round as it comes just a few months after the company raised €25 million.

If you’re not familiar with Ankorstore, the company is building a wholesale marketplace for independent shop owners. You may have noticed some highly Instagrammable shops with a selection of random items, such as household supplies, maple syrup, candles, headbands, bath salts and stationery items.

Essentially, Ankorstore helps you source those items for shop owners. It lets you buy a ton of cutesy stuff and act as a curator for your customers. Even if you’re already working with brands directly, the startup offers some advantageous terms. In addition to buying from several brands at once, Ankorstore withdraws the money from your bank account 60 days after placing an order.

On the other side of the marketplace, brands get paid upon delivery. Even if you’re just getting started, the minimum first order is €100 per brand.

And metrics have been going up and to the right. There are now 5,000 brands on Ankorstore. 50,000 shops are buying stuff through the platform. And the best is likely ahead as stores begin to re-open across Europe and tourism picks up again.

Ankorstore is now live across 14 different markets. The majority of the company’s revenue comes from international markets (Read more...)

With $21M in funding, Code Ocean aims to help researchers replicate data-heavy science

Every branch of science is increasingly reliant on big data sets and analysis, which means a growing confusion of formats and platforms — more than inconvenient, this can hinder the process of peer review and replication of research. Code Ocean hopes to make it easier for scientists to collaborate by making a flexible, shareable format and platform for any and all datasets and methods, and it has raised a total of $21M to build it out.

Certainly there’s an air of “Too many options? Try this one!” to this (and here’s the requisite relevant XKCD). But Code Ocean isn’t creating a competitor to successful tools like Jupyter or Gitlab or Docker — it’s more of a small-scale container platform that lets you wrap up all the necessary components of your data and analysis in an easily shared format, whatever platform they live on natively.

The trouble appears when you need to share what you’re doing with another researcher, whether they’re on the bench next to you or at a university across the country. It’s important for replication purposes that data analysis — just like any other scientific technique — be done exactly the same way. But there’s no guarantee that your colleague will use the same structures, formats, notation, labels, and so on.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to share your work, but it does add a lot of extra steps as would-be replicators or iterators check and double check that all the methods are the same, that the (Read more...)

Trends impacting DevOps in 2021

Engineers at fast-paced startups often wear both dev and DevOps hats. Early in my career, as a developer at a sentiment-analysis startup, I was tasked with writing scripts to spin up servers, configure them, install necessary software and deploy the code we wrote. My custom shell scripts, python scripts and cron jobs did all the heavy lifting so that we could reliably deploy software and scale resources on AWS. Fast forward to today, that problem of confidently building and securely deploying software has become an enormous challenge at scale.

The cloud native application stack

A simple looking ecommerce app today can easily be a big set of coordinating microservices that are powered by containers which are orchestrated using Kubernetes hosted on multi/hybrid cloud. This combination enables faster delivery of code, cheaper hosting bills and more efficient utilization of server resources.

While the application components certainly became smaller over time, organizations today are tasked with managing tens of thousands of containers in a production environment. In a 2020 CNCF survey, 92% of respondents said they use containers in production, a 300% increase from just 23% in the first survey from March 2016. Such coordination complexity at scale is being managed by software delivery pipelines. Just like Ford revolutionized automobile industry with its assembly line, these integrated DevOps products are massively impacting verticals like finance and insurance.

DevOps trends

Developers are now decision makers and influencers

We are excited to see the impact of developers in the selection of tools. The top-down (Read more...)

AI-powered Jerry raises $28M to help you save money on car insurance

When Art Agrawal was growing up in India, a car ride was a rare treat, and car ownership was a dream. When he moved to the U.S. and bought his first car, he was shocked by how much it cost and how difficult it was to maintain a car.

In 2012, he co-founded a company called YourMechanic that provides on-demand automotive mobile maintenance and repair services. Over the years, the challenge of helping consumers more easily find car insurance was in the back of his mind. So in 2017, he teamed up with Lina Zhang and  Musawir Shah to found Jerry, a mobile-first car ownership “super app.” The Palo Alto-based startup launched an AI/ML-powered car insurance comparison service in January 2019. It has quietly since amassed nearly 1 million customers across the United States as a licensed insurance broker.

“Today as a consumer, you have to go to multiple different places to deal with different things,” Argawal said. “Jerry is out to change that.”

And now today, Jerry is announcing that it has raised more than $57 million in funding, including a new $28 million Series B round led by Goodwater Capital. A group of angel investors also participated in the round include Greenlight president Johnson Cook and Greenlight CEO Timothy Sheehan; Tekion CEO Jay Vijayan; Jon McNeill, CEO of DVx Ventures and former president of Tesla and ex-COO of Lyft; Brandon Krieg, CEO of Stash and Ed Robinson, co-founder and president of Stash.

CEO Argawal says Jerry is different (Read more...)