Mirantis acquires Lens, an IDE for Kubernetes


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Mirantis, the company that recently bought Docker’s enterprise business, today announced that it has acquired Lens, a desktop application that the team describes as a Kubernetes-integrated development environment. Mirantis previously acquired the team behind the Finnish startup Kontena, the company that originally developed Lens.

Lens itself was most recently owned by Lakend Labs, though, which describes itself as “a collective of cloud native compute geeks and technologists” that is “committed to preserving and making available the open-source software and products of Kontena.” Lakend open-sourced Lens a few months ago.

Image Credits: Mirantis

“The mission of Mirantis is very simple: We want to be — for the enterprise — the fastest way to [build] modern apps at scale,” Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel told me. “We believe that enterprises are constantly undergoing this cycle of modernizing the way they build applications from one wave to the next — and we want to provide products to the enterprise that help them make that happen.”

Right now, that means a focus on helping enterprises build cloud-native applications at scale and, almost by default, that means providing these companies with all kinds of container infrastructure services.

“But there is another piece of the story that’s always been going through our minds, which is, how do we become more developer-centric and developer-focused, because, as we’ve all seen in the past 10 years, developers have become more and more in charge off what services and infrastructure they’re actually using,” Ionel explained. And that’s where the Kontena and Lens acquisitions fit in. Managing Kubernetes clusters, after all, isn’t trivial — yet now developers are often tasked with managing and monitoring how their applications interact with their company’s infrastructure.

“Lens makes it dramatically easier for developers to work with Kubernetes, to build and deploy their applications on Kubernetes, and it’s just a huge obstacle-remover for people who are turned off by the complexity of Kubernetes to get more value,” he added.

“I’m very excited to see that we found a common vision with Adrian for how to incorporate Lens and how to make life for developers more enjoyable in this cloud-native technology landscape,” Miska Kaipiainen, the former CEO of Kontena and now Mirantis’ director of Engineering, told me.

He describes Lens as an IDE for Kubernetes. While you could obviously replicate Lens’ functionality with existing tools, Kaipiainen argues that it would take 20 different tools to do this. “One of them could be for monitoring, another could be for logs. A third one is for command-line configuration, and so forth and so forth,” he said. “What we have been trying to do with Lens is that we are bringing all these technologies [together] and provide one single, unified, easy to use interface for developers, so they can keep working on their workloads and on their clusters, without ever losing focus and the context of what they are working on.”

Among other things, Lens includes a context-aware terminal, multi-cluster management capabilities that work across clouds and support for the open-source Prometheus monitoring service.

For Mirantis, Lens is a very strategic investment and the company will continue to develop the service. Indeed, Ionel said the Lens team now basically has unlimited resources.

Looking ahead, Kaipiainen said the team is looking at adding extensions to Lens through an API within the next couple of months. “Through this extension API, we are actually able to collaborate and work more closely with other technology vendors within the cloud technology landscape so they can start plugging directly into the Lens UI and visualize the data coming from their components, so that will make it very powerful.”

Ionel also added that the company is working on adding more features for larger software teams to Lens, which is currently a single-user product. A lot of users are already using Lens in the context of very large development teams, after all.

While the core Lens tools will remain free and open source, Mirantis will likely charge for some new features that require a centralized service for managing them. What exactly that will look like remains to be seen, though.

If you want to give Lens a try, you can download the Windows, macOS and Linux binaries here.

Harness makes first acquisition, snagging open source CI company Drone.io


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Harness has made a name for itself creating tools like continuous delivery (CD) for software engineers to give them the kind of power that has been traditionally reserved for companies with large engineering teams like Google, Facebook and Netflix. Today, the company announced it has acquired Drone.io, an open source continuous integration (CI) company, marking the company’s first steps into open source, as well as its first acquisition.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

“Drone is a continuous integration software. It helps developers to continuously build, test and deploy their code. The project was started in 2012, and it was the first cloud native, container native continuous integration solution on the market, and we open sourced it,” company co- founder Brad Rydzewski told TechCrunch.

Drone delivers pipeline configuration information as code in a Docker container. Image: Drone.io

While Harness had previously lacked a CI tool to go with its continuous delivery tooling, founder and CEO Jyoti Bansal said this was less about filling in a hole than expanding the current platform.

“I would call it an expansion of our vision and where we were going. As you and I have talked in the past, the mission of Harness is to be a next generation software delivery platform for everyone,” he said. He added that buying Drone had a lot of upside.”It’s all of those things — the size of the open source community, the simplicity of the product — and it [made sense], for Harness and Drone to come together and bring this integrated CI/CD to the market.”

While this is Harness’ first foray into open source, Bansal says it’s just the starting point and they want to embrace open source as a company moving forward. “We are committed togetting more and more involved in open source and actually making even more parts of Harness, our original products, open source over time as well,” he said.

For Drone community members who might be concerned about the acquisition, Bansal said he was “100% committed” to continuing to support the open source Drone product. In fact, Rydzewski said he wanted to team with Harness because he felt he could do so much more with them than he could have done continuing as a stand-alone company.

“Drone was a growing community, a growing project and a growing business. It really came down to I think the timing being right and wanting to partner with a company like Harness to build the future. Drone laid a lot of the groundwork, but it’s a matter of taking it to the next level,” he said.

Bansal says that Harness intends to also offer a commercial version of Drone with some enterprise features on the Harness platform, even while continuing to support the open source side of it.

Drone was founded in 2012. The only money it raised was $28,000 when it participated in the Alchemist Accelerator in 2013, according to Crunchbase data. The deal has closed and Rydzewski has joined the Harness team,

Qualified raises $12M make websites smarter about sales and marketing


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Qualified, a startup co-founded by former Salesforce executives Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley, has raised $12 million in Series A funding.

Swensrud (Qualified’s CEO) said the startup is meant to solve a problem that he faced back when he was CMO at Salesforce. Apparently he’d complaining about being “blind,” because he knew so little about who was visiting the Salesforce website.

“There could be 10 or 100 or 100,000 people on my website right now, and I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what they’re interested in, my sales team has no idea that they’re even there,” he said.

Apparently, this is a big problem in business-to-business sales, where waiting five minutes after a lead leaves your website can result in a 10x decrease in the odds of making contact. But the solution currently adopted by many websites is just a chatbot that treats every visitor similarly.

Qualified, meanwhile, connects real-time website visitor information with a company’s Salesforce customer database. That means it can identify visitors from high-value accounts and route them to the correct salesperson while they’re still on the website, turning into a full-on sales meeting that can also include a phone call and screensharing.

Qualified screenshot

Image Credits: Qualified

Of course, the amount of data Qualified has access to will differ from visitor to visitor. Some visitors may be purely incognito, while in other cases, the platform might simply know your city or what company you work for. In still others (say if you click on a link from marketing email), it can identify you individually.

That’s something I experienced myself, when I decided to take a look at the Qualified website this morning and was quickly greeted with a message that read, “👋 Welcome TechCrunch! We’re excited about our funding announcement…” It was a little creepy, but also much more effective than my visits to other marketing technology websites, where someone usually sends me a generic sales message.

Swensrud acknowledged that using Qualified represents “a change to people’s selling processes,” since it requires sales to respond in real-time to website visitors (as a last resort, Qualified can also use chatbots and schedule future calls), but he argued that it’s a necessary change.

“If you email them later, some percentage of those people, they ghost you, they get bored, they moved on to the competition,” he said. “This real-time approach, it forces organizations to think differently in terms of their process.”

And it’s an approach that seems to be working. Among Qualified’s customers, the company says ThoughtSpot increased conversations with its target accounts by 10x, Bitly grew its enterprise sales pipeline by 6x and Gamma drove over $2.5 million in new business pipeline.

The Series A brings Qualified’s total funding to $17 million. It was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors including Redpoint Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Norwest’s Scott Beechuk is joining Qualified’s board of directors.

“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers,” Beechuk said in a statement. “Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized. The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand.”

Cisco acquires Modcam to make Meraki smart camera portfolio even smarter


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

As the Internet of Things, proliferates, security cameras are getting smarter. Today, these devices have machine learning capability that help the camera automatically identify what it’s looking at — for instance an animal or a human intruder? Today, Cisco announced that it’s acquired Swedish startup Modcam and making it part of its Meraki smart camera portfolio with the goal of incorporating Modcam computer vision technology into its portfolio.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Cisco tells us that the acquisition has closed.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Cisco Meraki’s Chris Stori says Modcam is going to up Meraki’s machine learning game, while giving it some key engineering talent, as well.

“In acquiring Modcam, Cisco is investing in a team of highly talented engineers who bring a wealth of expertise in machine learning, computer vision and cloud-managed cameras. Modcam has developed a solution that enables cameras to become even smarter,” he wrote.

What he means is that today, while Meraki has smart cameras that include motion detection and machine learning capabilities, this is limited to single camera operation. What Modcam brings is the added ability to gather information and apply machine learning across multiple cameras, greatly enhancing the camera’s capabilities.

“With Modcam’s technology, this micro-level information can be stitched together, enabling multiple cameras to provide a macro-level view of the real world,” Stori wrote. In practice, as an example, that could provide a more complete view of space availability for facilities management teams, an especially important scenario as businesses try to find safer ways to open during the pandemic. The other scenario Modcam was selling was giving a more complete picture of what was happening on the factory floor.

All of Modcams employees, which Cisco described only as “a small team” have joined Cisco, and the Modcam technology will be folded into the Meraki product line, and will no longer be offered as a stand-alone product, a Cisco spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Modcam was founded in 2013 and has raised $7.6 million, according to Crunchbase data. Cisco acquired Meraki back in 2012 for $1.2 billion.

Buildots raises $16M to bring computer vision to construction management


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Buildots, a Tel Aviv and London-based startup that is using computer vision to modernize the construction management industry, today announced that it has raised $16 million in total funding. This includes a $3 million seed round that was previously unreported and a $13 million Series A round, both led by TLV Partners. Other investors include Innogy Ventures, Tidhar Construction Group, Ziv Aviram (co-founder of Mobileye & OrCam), Magma Ventures head Zvika Limon, serial entrepreneurs Benny Schnaider and  Avigdor Willenz, as well as Tidhar chairman Gil Geva.

The idea behind Buildots is pretty straightforward. The team is using hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras to allow project managers at construction sites to get an overview of the state of a project and whether it remains on schedule. The company’s software creates a digital twin of the construction site, using the architectural plans and schedule as its basis, and then uses computer vision to compare what the plans say to the reality that its tools are seeing. With this, Buildots can immediately detect when there’s a power outlet missing in a room or whether there’s a sink that still needs to be installed in a kitchen, for example.

“Buildots have been able to solve a challenge that for many seemed unconquerable, delivering huge potential for changing the way we complete our projects,” said Tidhar’s Geva in a statement. “The combination of an ambitious vision, great team and strong execution abilities quickly led us from being a customer to joining as an investor to take part in their journey.”

The company was co-founded in 2018 by Roy Danon, Aviv Leibovici and Yakir Sundry. Like so many Israeli startups, the founders met during their time in the Israeli Defense Forces, where they graduated from the Talpiot unit.

“At some point, like many of our friends, we had the urge to do something together — to build a company, to start something from scratch,” said Danon, the company’s CEO. “For us, we like getting our hands dirty. We saw most of our friends going into the most standard industries like cloud and cyber and storage and things that obviously people like us feel more comfortable in, but for some reason we had like a bug that said, ‘we want to do something that is a bit harder, that has a bigger impact on the world.’ ”

So the team started looking into how it could bring technology to traditional industries like agriculture, finance and medicine, but then settled upon construction thanks to a chance meeting with a construction company. For the first six months, the team mostly did research in both Israel and London to understand where it could provide value.

Danon argues that the construction industry is essentially a manufacturing industry, but with very outdated control and process management systems that still often relies on Excel to track progress.

Image Credits: Buildots

Construction sites obviously pose their own problems. There’s often no Wi-Fi, for example, so contractors generally still have to upload their videos manually to Buildots’ servers. They are also three dimensional, so the team had to develop systems to understand on what floor a video was taken, for example, and for large indoor spaces, GPS won’t work either.

The teams tells me that before the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was mostly focused on Israel and the U.K., but the pandemic actually accelerated its push into other geographies. It just started work on a large project in Poland and is scheduled to work on another one in Japan next month.

Because the construction industry is very project-driven, sales often start with getting one project manager on board. That project manager also usually owns the budget for the project, so they can often also sign the check, Danon noted. And once that works out, then the general contractor often wants to talk to the company about a larger enterprise deal.

As for the funding, the company’s Series A round came together just before the lockdowns started. The company managed to bring together an interesting mix of investors from both the construction and technology industries.

Now, the plan is to scale the company, which currently has 35 employees, and figure out even more ways to use the data the service collects and make it useful for its users. “We have a long journey to turn all the data we have into supporting all the workflows on a construction site,” said Danon. “There are so many more things to do and so many more roles to support.”

Image Credits: Buildots

Hevo draws in $8 million Series A for its no-code data pipeline service


This post is by Catherine Shu from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Hevo founders Manish Jethani and Sourabh Agarwal

According to data pipeline startup Hevo, many small- to medium-sized companies juggle more than 40 different applications to manage sales, marketing, finance, customer support and other operations. All of these applications are important sources of data that can be analyzed to improve a company’s performance. That data often remains separate, however, making it difficult for different teams to collaborate.

Hevo enables its clients’ employees to integrate data from more than 150 different sources, including enterprise software from Salesforce and Oracle, even if they don’t have any technical experience. The company announced today that it has raised an $8 million Series A round led by Singapore-based venture capital firm Qualgro and Lachy Groom, a former executive at payments company Stripe.

The round, which brings Hevo’s total raised so far to $12 million, also included participation from returning investors Chiratae Ventures and Sequoia Capital India’s early-stage startup program Surge. The company was first covered by TechCrunch when it raised seed funding in 2017.

Hevo’s Series A will be used to increase the number of integrations available on its platform, and hire sales and marketing teams in more countries, including the United States and Singapore. The company currently has clients in 16 markets, including the U.S., India, France, Australia and Hong Kong, and counts payments company Marqeta among its customers.

In a statement, Puneet Bysani, tech lead manager at Marqeta, said, “Hevo saved us many engineering hours, and our data teams could focus on creating meaningful KPIs that add value to Marqeta’s business. With Hevo’s pre-built connectors, we were able to get data from many sources into Redshift and Snowflake very quickly.”

Based in Bangalore and San Francisco, Hevo was founded in 2017 by chief executive officer Manish Jethani and chief technology officer Sourabh Agarwal. The two previously launched SpoonJoy, a food delivery startup that was acquired by Grofers, one of India’s largest online grocery delivery services, in 2015. Jethani and Agarwal spent a year working at Grofers before leaving to start Hevo.

Hevo originated in the challenges Jethani and Agarwal faced while developing tech for SpoonJoy’s order and delivery system.

“All of our team members would come to us and say, ‘hey, we want to look at these metrics,’ or we would ask our teams questions if something wasn’t working. Oftentimes, they would not have the data available to answer those questions,” Jethani told TechCrunch.

Then at Grofers, Jethani and Agarwal realized that even large companies face the same challenges. They decided to work on a solution to allow companies to quickly integrate data sources.

For example, a marketing team at a e-commerce company might have data about its advertising on social media platforms, and how much traffic campaigns bring to their website or app. But they might not have access to data about how many of those visitors actually make purchases, or if they become repeat customers. By building a data pipeline with Hevo, they can bring all that information together.

Hevo is designed to serve all sectors, including e-commerce, healthcare and finance. In order to use it, companies sign up for Hevo’s services on its website and employees enter their credentials for software supported by the platform. Then Hevo automatically extracts and organizes the data from those sources and prepares it for cloud-based data warehouses, such as Amazon Redshift and Snowflake. A user dashboard allows companies to customize integrations or hide sensitive data.

Hevo is among a roster of “no code, low code” startups that have recently raised venture capital funding for building tools that enable non-developers to add features to their existing software. The founders say its most direct competitor is Fivetran, an Oakland, California-based company that also builds pipelines to move data to warehouses and prepare it for analysis.

Jethani said Hevo differentiates by “optimizing our product for non-technical users.”

“The number of companies who need to use data is very high and there is not enough talent available in the market. Even if it is available, it is very competitive and expensive to hire that engineering talent because big companies like Google and Amazon are also competing for the same talent,” he added. “So we felt that there has to be some democratization of who can use this technology.”

Hevo also focuses on integrating data in real-time, which is especially important for companies that provide on-demand deliveries or services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jethani says e-commerce clients have used Hevo to manage an influx in orders as people under stay-at-home orders purchase more items online. Companies are also relying on Hevo to help organize and manage data as their employees continue to work remotely.

In a statement about the funding, Qualgro managing partner Heang Chhor said, “Hevo provides a truly innovative solution for extracting and transforming data across multiple data sources–in real time with full automation. This helps enterprises to fully capture the benefit of data flowing though the many databases and software they currently use. Hevo’s founders are the type of globally-minded entrepreneurs that we like to support.”

SAP decision to spin out Qualtrics 20 months after spending $8B surprises industry watchers


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics on Sunday, a company it bought less than two years ago for an eye-popping $8 billion, it was enough to make your head spin. At the time, then CEO Bill McDermott saw it as a way to bridge the company’s core operational with customer data, while acquiring a cloud company that could help generate recurring revenue for the ERP giant, and maybe give it a dose of innovation along the way.

But Sunday night the company announced it was spinning out the acquisition, giving its $8 billion baby independence, and essentially handing the company back to founder Ryan Smith, who will become the largest individual shareholder when this all over.

It’s not every day you see founders pull in a windfall like $8 billion, get sucked into the belly of the large corporate beast and come out the other side just 20 months later with the cash, independence and CEO as the largest individual stockholder.

While SAP will own a majority of the stock, much like Dell owns a majority of VMware, the company will operate independently and have its own board. It can acquire other firms and make decisions separately from SAP.

We spoke to a few industry analysts to find out what they think about all this, and while the reasoning behind the move involves a lot of complex pieces, it could be as simple as the deal was done under the previous CEO, and the new one was ready to move on from it.

Bold step

It’s certainly unusual for a company like SAP to spend this kind of money, and then turn around so quickly and spin it off. In fact, Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that this was a move he didn’t see coming, and it could be related to that fat purchase price. “To me it could mean that SAP didn’t see the synergies of the acquisition panning out as they had envisioned and are looking to recoup some of their investment,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research agreed with Leary’s assessment, but doesn’t think that means the deal failed. “SAP doesn’t lose anything in regards to their […] data and experience vision, as they still retain [controlling interest in Qualtrics] . It also opens the opportunity for Qualtrics to partner with other ERP vendors [and broaden its overall market],” he said.

Jeanne Bliss, founder and president at CustomerBLISS, a company that helps clients deliver better customer experiences sees this as a positive step forward for Qualtrics. “This spin off enables Qualtrics to focus on its core business and prove its ability to provide essential technology executives are searching for to enable speed of decision making, innovation and customization,” she said.

Show me the money

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy sees the two companies moving towards a VMware/Dell model where SAP removes the direct link between them, which could then make them more attractive to a broader range of customers than perhaps they would have been as part of the SAP family. “The big play here is all financial. With tech stocks up so high, SAP isn’t seeing the value in its stock. I am expecting a VMware kind of alignment with a strategic collaboration agreement,” he said.

Ultimately though, he says the the move reflects a cultural failure on the part of SAP. It simply couldn’t find a way to co-exist with a younger, more nimble company like Qualtrics. “I believe SAP spinning out Qualtrics is a sign that its close connection to create symbiotic value has failed. The original charter was to bring it in to modernize SAP but apparently the “not invented here” attitudes kicked in and doomed integration,” Moorhead said.

That symbiotic connection would have involved McDermott’s vision of combining operational and customer data, but Leary also suggested that since the deal happened under previous the CEO, that perhaps new CEO Christian Klein wants to start with a clean slate and this simply wasn’t his deal.

Qualtrics for the win

In the end, Qualtrics got all that money, gets to IPO after all, and returns to being an independent company selling to a larger potential customer base. All of the analysts we spoke to agreed the news is a win for Qualtrics itself.

Leary says the motivation for the original deal was to give SAP a company that could sell beyond its existing customer base. “It seems like that was the impetus for the acquisition, and the fact that SAP is spinning it off as an IPO 20 months after acquiring Qualtrics gives me the impression that things didn’t come together as expected,” he said.

Mueller also sees nothing but postivies Qualtrics. “It’s a win […] for Qualtrics, which can now deliver what they wanted [from the start], and it’s a win for customers as Qualtrics can run as fast as they want,” he said.

Regardless, the company moves on, and the Qualtrics IPO moves forward, and it’s almost as though Qualtrics gets a do-over with $8 billion in its pocket for its trouble.

Jamf ups its IPO range, now targets a valuation of up to $2.7B


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Today Jamf, a software company that helps other firms manage their Apple devices, raised its IPO price range.

The company had previously targeted a $17 to $19 per-share range. A new SEC filing from the firm today details a far higher $21 to $23 per-share IPO price interval.

Jamf still intends to sell up to 18.4 million shares in its debut, including 13.5 million in primary stock, 2.5 million shares from existing shareholders and an underwriter option worth 2.4 million shares. The whole whack at $21 to $23 per share would tally between $386.4 million and $423.2 million, though not all those funds would flow to the company.

At the low and high-end of its new IPO range, Jamf is worth between $2.44 billion and $2.68 billion, steep upgrades from its prior valuation range of $1.98 billion to $2.21 billion.

Jamf follows in the footsteps of recent IPOs like nCino, Vroom and others in seeing demand for its public offering allow its pricing to track higher the closer it gets to its public offering. Such demand from public-market investors indicates there is ample demand for debut shares in mid-2020, a fact that could spur other companies to the exit market.

Coinbase, Airbnb and DoorDash are three such companies that are expected to debut in the next year’s time, give or take a quarter or two.

Results, multiples

In anticipation of the Jamf debut that should come this week, let’s chat about the company’s recent performance.

Observe the following table from the most-recent Jamf S-1/A:

From even a quick glance we can learn much from this data. We can see that Jamf is growing, has improving gross margins and has managed to swing from an operating loss to operating profit in Q2 2020, compared to Q2 2019. And, for you fans out there of adjusted metrics, that Jamf managed to generate more non-GAAP operating income in its most recent period than the year-ago quarter.

In more precise terms:

  • Jamf grew from 26.5% to 29.0% on a year-over-year basis in Q2 2020
  • Its gross margin grew by 6% in gross terms, and 8.3% in relative terms
  • Its non-GAAP operating income grew 123.4%, to 150.9% in Q2 2020 compared to the year-ago quarter

Profits! Growth! Software! Improving margins! It’s not a huge surprise that Jamf managed to bolster its IPO price range.

Finally, for the SaaS-heads out there, the following:

This data lets us have a little fun. Recall that we have seen possible valuations for Jamf at IPO that started at $1.98 billion to $2.21 billion, and now include $2.44 billion and $2.68 billion? With our two ARR ranges for the end of Q2, we can now come up with eight ARR multiples for Jamf, from the low-end of its initial IPO price estimate, to the top-end of its new range.

Here they are:

  • Multiple at $1.98 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 8.3x
  • Multiple at $1.98 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 8.2x
  • Multiple at $2.21 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 9.3x
  • Multiple at $2.21 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 9.2x
  • Multiple at $2.44 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 10.3x
  • Multiple at $2.44 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 10.1x
  • Multiple at $2.68 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 11.3x
  • Multiple at $2.68 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 11.2x

From that perspective, the pricing changes feel a bit more modest, even if they work out to a huge spread on a valuation basis.

Regardless, this is the current state of the Jamf IPO. Rackspace also filed a new S-1/A today, but we can’t find anything useful in it. A bit like the Jamf S-1/A from Friday. Perhaps we’ll get a new Rackspace document soon with pricing notes.

And, of course, like the rest of the world we await the Palantir S-1 with bated breath. Consider that our white whale.

In the cloud era, building on platforms you don’t own is normal


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

When Salesforce launched Force.com in 2007, it was the culmination of years of work to bring together a way to customize Salesforce and eventually to build applications on top of the platform. By using a set of Salesforce services, companies could take advantage of work that SFDC had already done, speeding up building time and reducing time to market. Today, the successor of Force.com is called Salesforce Platform.

But going that route didn’t come without some risk, because back in 2007 building atop a Platform as a Service (PaaS) wasn’t a common way of developing software. Even by 2012 when nCino launched its banking software solutions on Force.com, it likely raised some eyebrows by using a cloud platform as the backbone of its fintech offering.

Even though it probably took resolve, the approach worked, as evidenced this week when nCino went public — a debut that was met with a strong investor response. And nCino is notably not the first time that a company built atop Salesforce’s PaaS has gone public; nCino’s own IPO follows Veeva’s 2013 debut.

But astute observers for the Salesforce ecosystem will note that other successful companies have been built on the Salesforce cloud. As you will see, many successful companies have benefited from building on top of Salesforce.

As companies accelerate their digital transitions, employees detail a changed workplace


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

The U.S.’s COVID-19 caseload continues to set records as major states move to reshutter their economies in hopes of stemming its spread. For many workers the situation means more time in the home office and less time in their traditional workplace.

What the world will look like when safety eventually returns is not clear, but it’s becoming plain that the workplace will not revert to its old normal. New data details changed employee sentiment, showing that a good portion of the working world doesn’t want to get back to its pre-COVID commute, and, in many cases, is eyeing a move to a different city or state in the wake of the pandemic and its economic disruptions.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, and now you can receive it in your inbox. Sign up for The Exchange newsletter, which will drop every Saturday starting July 25.


The changing workplace has shifted — accelerated, you could say — demand for all sorts of products and services, from grocery delivery to software. The latter category of tools has seen quickening demand as the world moves to support newly remote workforces, helping keep them both productive and secure.

TechCrunch has covered the accelerating digital transformation — industry slang for companies moving to a more software-and-cloud world — before, noting that investors are making big bets on companies that might benefit from its ramping pace. Thanks to new data from a Twilio-led survey, we have a fresh look at that trend.

Undergirding the digital transformation is how today’s workers are adapting to remote work. If many workers don’t want to stop working from home, the gains that companies serving the digital transformation are seeing could prove permanent. New data from a Qualtrics -led survey may help us understand the new mindset of the domestic and global worker.

At the union of the two datasets is a lens into the future of not only how many information workers, to borrow an old phrase, will labor in the future, but how they’ll feel about it. So, this morning let’s explore the world through two data-driven lenses, helped as we go with notes from interviews with Qualtrics’ CEO Ryan Smith and Twilio’s chief customer officer, Glenn Weinstein.

What workers want

Rackspace preps IPO after going private in 2016 for $4.3B


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

After going private in 2016 after accepting a $32 per share, or $4.3 billion, price from Apollo Global Management, Rackspace is looking once again to the public markets. First going public in 2008, Rackspace is taking second aim at a public offering around 12 years after its initial debut.

The company describes its business as a “multicloud technology services” vendor, helping its customers “design, build and operate” cloud environments. That Rackspace is highlighting a services focus is useful context to understand its financial profile, as we’ll see in a moment.

But first, some basics. The company’s S-1 filing denotes a $100 million placeholder figure for how much the company may raise in its public offering. That figure will change, but does tell us that firm is likely to target a share sale that will net it closer to $100 million than $500 million, another popular placeholder figure.

Rackspace will list on the Nasdaq with the ticker symbol “RXT.” Goldman, Citi, J.P. Morgan, RBC Capital Markets and other banks are helping underwrite its (second) debut.

Financial performance

Similar to other companies that went private, only later to debut once again as a public company, Rackspace has oceans of debt.

The company’s balance sheet reported cash and equivalents of $125.2 million as of March 31, 2020. On the other side of the ledger, Rackspace has debts of $3.99 billion, made up of a $2.82 billion term loan facility, and $1.12 billion in senior notes that cost the firm an 8.625% coupon, among other debts. The term loan costs a lower 4% rate, and stems from the initial transaction to take Rackspace private ($2 billion), and another $800 million that was later taken on “in connection with the Datapipe Acquisition.”

The senior notes, originally worth a total of $1,200 million or $1.20 billion, also came from the acquisition of the company during its 2016 transaction; private equity’s ability to buy companies with borrowed money, later taking them public again and using those proceeds to limit the resulting debt profile while maintaining financial control is lucrative, if a bit cheeky.

Rackspace intends to use IPO proceeds to lower its debt-load, including both its term loan and senior notes. Precisely how much Rackspace can put against its debts will depend on its IPO pricing.

Those debts take a company that is comfortably profitable on an operating basis and make it deeply unprofitable on a net basis. Observe:

Image Credits: SECLooking at the far-right column, we can see a company with material revenues, though slim gross margins for a putatively tech company. It generated $21.5 million in Q1 2020 operating profit from its $652.7 million in revenue from the quarter. However, interest expenses of $72 million in the quarter helped lead Rackspace to a deep $48.2 million net loss.

Not all is lost, however, as Rackspace does have positive operating cash flow in the same three-month period. Still, the company’s multi-billion-dollar debt load is still steep, and burdensome.

Returning to our discussion of Rackspace’s business, recall that it said that it sells “multicloud technology services,” which tells us that its gross margins will be service-focused, which is to say that they won’t be software-level. And they are not. In Q1 2020 Rackspace had gross margins of 38.2%, down from 41.3% in the year-ago Q1. That trend is worrisome.

The company’s growth profile is also slightly uneven. From 2017 to 2018, Rackspace saw its revenue expand from $2.14 billion to $2.45 billion, growth of 14.4%. The company shrank slightly in 2019, falling from $2.45 billion in revenue in 2018 to $2.44 billion the next year. Given the economy that year, and the importance of cloud in 2019, the results are a little surprising.

Rackspace did grow in Q1 2020, however. The firm’s $652.7 million in first-quarter top-line easily bested in its Q1 2019 result of $606.9 million. The company grew 7.6% in Q1 2020. That’s not much, especially during a period in which its gross margins eroded, but the return-to-growth is likely welcome all the same.

TechCrunch did not see Q2 2020 results in its S-1 today while reading the document, so we presume that the firm will re-file shortly to include more recent financial results; it would be hard for the company to debut at an attractive price in the COVID-19 era without sharing Q2 figures, we reckon.

How to value Rackspace is a puzzle. The company is tech-ish, which means it will find some interest. But its slow growth rate, heavy debts and lackluster margins make it hard to pin a fair multiple onto. More when we have it.

Slack snags corporate directory startup Rimeto to up its people search game


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

For the second time in less than 24 hours, an enterprise company bought an early-stage startup. Yesterday afternoon DocuSign acquired Liveoak, and this morning Slack announced it was buying corporate directory startup Rimeto, which should help employees find people inside the organization who match a specific set of criteria from inside Slack.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

Rimeto helps companies build directories to find employees beyond using tools like Microsoft Active Directory, homegrown tools or your corporate email program. When we covered the company’s $10 million Series A last year, we described what it brings to directories this way:

Rimeto has developed a richer directory by sitting between various corporate systems like HR, CRM and other tools that contain additional details about the employee. It of course includes a name, title, email and phone like the basic corporate system, but it goes beyond that to find areas of expertise, projects the person is working on and other details that can help you find the right person when you’re searching the directory.

In the build versus buy equation that companies balance all the time, it looks like Slack weighed the pros and cons and decided to buy. You could see how a tool like this would be useful to Slack as people try to build teams of employees, especially in a world where so many are working from home.

While the current Slack people search tool lets you search by name, role or team, Rimeto should give users a much more robust way of searching for employees across the company. You can search for the right person to help you with a particular problem and get much more granular with your search requirements than the current tool allows.

Image Credit: Rimeto

At the time of its funding announcement, the company, which was founded in 2016 by three former Facebook employees, told TechCrunch it had bootstrapped for the first three years before taking the $10 million investment last year. It also reported it was cash-flow positive at the time, which is pretty unusual for an early-stage enterprise SaaS company.

In a company blog post announcing the deal, as is typical in these deals, the founders saw being part of a larger organization as a way to grow more quickly than they could have alone. “Joining Slack is a special opportunity to accelerate Rimeto’s mission and impact with greater reach, expanded resources, and the support of Slack’s impressive global team,” the founders wrote in the post.

The acquisition is part of a continuing trend around enterprise companies buying early-stage startups to fill in holes in their product road maps.

DocuSign acquires Liveoak Technologies for $38M for online notarization


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Even in the best of times, finding a notary can be a challenge. In the middle of a pandemic, it’s even more difficult. DocuSign announced it has acquired Liveoak Technologies today for approximately $38 million, giving the company an online notarization option.

At the same time, DocuSign announced a new product called DocuSign Notary, which should ease the notary requirement by allowing it to happen online along with the eSignature. As we get deeper into the pandemic, companies like DocuSign that allow workflows to happen completely digitally are in more demand than ever. This new product will be available for early access later in the summer.

The deal made sense given that the two companies had a partnership already. Liveoak brings together live video, collaboration tooling and identity verification that enables parties to get notarized approval as though you were sitting at the desk in front of the notary.

Typically, you might get a document that requires your signature. Without electronic signature, you would need to print it, sign the document, scan it and return it. If it requires a notary, you would need to sign it in the notary’s presence, which requires an in-person visit. All of this can be streamlined with an online workflow, which DocuSign is providing with this acquisition.

It’s like the perfect pandemic acquisition, making a manual process digital and saving people from having to make face-to-face transactions at a time when it can be dangerous.

Liveoak Technologies was founded in 2014 and is part of the Austin, Texas startup scene. The company raised $13.5 million during its life as a private company, according to Crunchbase.

This acquisition is part of a growing pandemic acquisition trend of sorts, where larger public enterprise companies are plucking early-stage startups, in some cases for relatively bargain prices. Among the recent acquisitions are Apple buying Fleetsmith and ServiceNow acquiring Sweagle last month.

OwnBackup lands $50M as backup for Salesforce ecosystem thrives


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

OwnBackup has made a name for itself primarily as a backup and disaster recovery system for the Salesforce ecosystem, and today the company announced a $50 million investment.

Insight Partners led the round, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and Vertex Ventures. This chunk of money comes on top of a $23 million round from a year ago, and brings the total raised to more than $100 million, according to the company.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Salesforce Ventures chipped in when the majority of the company’s backup and recovery business involves the Salesforce ecosystem, although the company will be looking to expand beyond that with the new money.

“We’ve seen such growth over the last two and a half years around the Salesforce ecosystem, and the other ISV partners like Veeva and nCino that we’ve remained focused within the Salesforce space. But with this funding, we will expand over the next 12 months into a few new ecosystems,” company CEO Sam Gutmann told TechCrunch.

In spite of the pandemic, the company continues to grow, adding 250 new customers last quarter, bringing it to over 2,000 customers and 250 employees, according to Gutmann.

He says that raising the round, which closed at the beginning of May, had some hairy moments as the pandemic began to take hold across the world and worsen in the U.S. For a time, he began talking to new investors in case his existing ones got cold feet. As it turned out, when the quarterly numbers came in strong, the existing ones came back and the round was oversubscribed, Gutmann said.

“Q2 frankly was a record quarter for us, adding over 250 new accounts, and we’re seeing companies start to really understand how critical this is,” he said.

The company plans to continue hiring through the pandemic, although he says it might not be quite as aggressively as they once thought. Like many companies, even though they plan to hire, they are continually assessing the market. At this point, he foresees growing the workforce by about another 50 people this year, but that’s about as far as he can look ahead right now.

Gutmann says he is working with his management team to make sure he has a diverse workforce right up to the executive level, but he says it’s challenging. “I think our lower ranks are actually quite diverse, but as you get up into the leadership team, you can see on the website unfortunately we’re not there yet,” he said.

They are instructing their recruiting teams to look for diverse candidates whether by gender or ethnicity, and employees have formed a diversity and inclusion task force with internal training, particularly for managers around interviewing techniques.

He says going remote has been difficult, and he misses seeing his employees in the office. He hopes to have at least some come back before the end of the summer and slowly add more as we get into the fall, but that will depend on how things go.

ServiceNow to acquire Belgian configuration management startup Sweagle


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

With more companies moving workers home, making sure your systems are up and running has become more important than ever. ServiceNow, which includes an IT Help Desk component in its product catalogue recognizes that help desks have been bombarded during the pandemic. To help stop configuration problems before they start, the company acquired Sweagle today, a  configuration management startup based in Belgium.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

ServiceNow gets a couple of boosts in the deal. First of all, it gets the startup’s configuration management products, which it can incorporate into its own catalogue, but it also gains the machine learning and DevOps knowledge of the company’s employees. (The company would not share the exact number of employees, but Pitchbook pegs it at 15.)

RJ Jainendra, ServiceNow’s vice president and general manager of DevOps and IT Business Management, sees a company that has pioneered the IT configuration management automation space, and brings with it capabilities that can boost ServiceNow’s offerings. “With capabilities for configuration data management from Sweagle, we will empower DevOps teams to deliver application and infrastructure changes more rapidly while reducing risk,” Jainendra said in a statement.

ServiceNow claims that there can be as many as 50,000 different configuration elements in a single enterprise application. Sweagle has designed a configuration data management platform with machine learning underpinnings to help customers simplify and automate that complexity. Configuration errors can cause shutdowns, security issues and other serious problems for companies.

Sweagle was founded in 2017 and raised $4.05 million on a post valuation of $11.88 million, according to Pitchbook data.

The company is part of a growing pattern of early stage startups being sucked up by larger companies during the pandemic including VMware acquiring Ocatarine and Atlassian buying Halp in May and NetApp snagging Spot earlier this month..

This is the third acquisition for ServiceNow this year, all involving AI underpinnings. In January it bought Loom Systems and Passsage AI. The deal is expected to close in Q3 this year, according to ServiceNow.

13 Boston-focused VCs share the advice they’re giving portfolio companies


This post is by Natasha Mascarenhas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

TechCrunch is focusing a bit more on the Boston-area startup and venture capital ecosystem lately, which has gone pretty well so far.

In fact, we had originally intended on releasing this regional investor survey as a single piece, but since so many VCs took part, we’re breaking it into two. The first part deals with the world we live in today, and the remainder will detail what Boston-area investors think about the future.

We broke our questions into two parts to better track investor sentiment. But, we were also curious what was going to come when things got back closer to normal. So, this first entry in our Boston investor survey covers our questions concerning what’s going on now. On Thursday we’ll have the second piece, looking at what’s ahead.

Here’s who took part:

What follows is a quick digest of what stood out from the collected answers, though there’s a lot more that we didn’t get to.

Boston VC in the COVID-19 era

Parsing through thousands of words and notes from our participating VCs, a few things stood out.

Boston startups aren’t having as bad a time — yet, at least — as area investors expected

Fewer companies than they anticipated are laying off staff for example. From our perspective, the number of Boston investors who noted that their portfolio companies were executing layoffs or furloughs (we asked for each to be precise) was very low; far more Boston-area startups are hiring than even freezing headcount. Layoffs appear somewhat rare, but as we all know cost cutting can take many forms for startups. Especially startups on the seed and early-stage side, which makes up the majority of these firm’s portfolio companies.

According to Glasswing’s Rudina Seseri, startup duress has come in “significantly under what [her firm was] expecting at the beginning of COVID-19.”

This may be due to a strong first quarter helping companies in the city and its surrounding area make it another few quarters. We might not know the full bill of COVID-19 and its related disruptions until next year.

More investors than we expected noted that their Boston portfolio companies aren’t raising this year

So what we’re gleaning from that fact is that any decline in Q2 and Q3 VC data is not because companies can’t raise, but because they don’t need to. Comments echoed a theme we wrote about in April: Boston broke records in Q1 in terms of dollars raised, but saw a dip in the number of checks cut.

Pillar VC’s Jamie Goldstein said that “about 15% of our companies are planning to raise capital this year,” which felt about average. Underscore VC’s Lily Lyman simply noted that, “Yes,” her Boston-area portfolio companies would hunt for new capital this year. Bill Geary of Flare Capital is on the other side of that coin, saying that “each of [his firm’s] Boston-based investments has successfully recently raised capital and will not be raising additional funds until 2021.”

It’s hard not to wonder if what happened to Boston unicorns Toast and EzCater was the exception and not the rule

 You see, Boston’s startup scene skews relatively early stage, so smaller companies don’t have high-profile cuts because, to be frank, there isn’t much staff to cut in the first place. It puts Boston in a unique setting to focus in on its early stage market, and investors all agreed that this is an important moment for the ecosystem.

The March-era stress tests are now months in the rearview mirror, and every startup has shaken up their spend and growth plans. Perhaps we have met the new normal, and it’s time to let the runway do the talking.

With that, let’s get into full questions and answers.

Rudina Seseri, Glasswing Ventures

What is the top-line advice you’re giving your portfolio companies right now?

This is a pivotal time, be efficient and drive execution. Cut costs where possible but at the same time don’t be afraid to spend for growth acceleration.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies are still hiring, not including those merely backfilling?

About 60%.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have frozen new hires?

About 20%.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have furloughed staff?

None.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have cut staff?

One company that represents about 4% of the portfolio.

Are your Boston-based portfolio companies looking to raise new capital this year?

Most have raised recently, and consequently are not looking to raise at this time.

If not, are they often delaying due to COVID-19?

No, because of their recent raises, their fundraising considerations will take place in 2021.

Has duress amidst your Boston-based portfolio companies undershot, matched or overshot your expectations from March?

It has been significantly under what we were expecting at the beginning of COVID-19.

How has your investment appetite changed in terms of pace and location, if at all?

We have been very active and closed deals in this environment. Our expectation is that our investment appetite will remain the same going forward.

Are you making investments in Q2 into net-new founders and companies?

Yes, as a matter-of-fact we just closed a yet-to-be announced investment this month.

Are there particular sectors of startups in Boston that you expect to do well, aside from SaaS businesses that are benefiting from secular trends? Are there any sectors you have become newly bearish on?

Yes, those that are in our core focus areas — solutions that bring down the cost of cloud and data, platforms and tools leveraging AI, those that facilitate cost reduction, and intelligent solutions in cybersecurity that protect the enterprise.

How does the uncertainty of schools reopening impact the startup ecosystem?

This will further drive and institutionalize distributed teams and remote working as a go-forward mode of operating.

Onna, the ‘knowledge integration platform’ for workplace apps, raises $27M Series B


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Onna, the “knowledge integration platform” (KIP) that counts Dropbox and Slack as backers, has raised $27 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Atomico, with participation from Glynn Capital. Previous investors Dawn Capital, Nauta Capital and Slack Fund also followed on.

Founded in 2015, Barcelona and New York-based Onna integrates with a plethora of workplace apps, including Slack, Dropbox, Gsuite, Microsoft 365 and Salesforce, to help unlock the proprietary knowledge stored in a company’s various cloud and on-premise software. Typical applications for a KIP include compliance, governance, archiving and “eDiscovery”.

From communication apps to cloud storage to HR platforms, the idea is to unify all of this data and make it searchable but in a way that is secure and protects existing permissions and privacy. In fact, another way to think of Onna is like Apple’s Spotlight functionality but for the enterprise. However, pitched as a platform not just a feature, Onna also offers an API of its own so that various use-cases can be built on top of this “single source of truth”.

“Onna’s knowledge integration platform is a centralised, searchable and secure hub that connects company data wherever it resides and makes it easier and faster to make informed decisions,” Onna founder and CEO Salim Elkhou tells TechCrunch. “It is a productivity tool built for the way businesses work today… something that didn’t exist before, creating a new industry standard which benefits all companies within the ecosystem”.

Citing a report by single sign-in provider Okta, Elkhou notes that companies today use an average of 88 different apps across their workforce, a 21% increase from three years ago.

“The reason apps have become so popular is that they’re very effective for tackling specific challenges, or even a broad range of tasks. But the problem large organisations were coming up against is that their knowledge was spread across a wide range of apps that weren’t necessarily designed to work together”.

For example, a legal counsel could be looking to find contracts company-wide to assess a company’s exposure. The problem is that contracts may be saved in Salesforce, sent by email, shared over Slack, or even saved on desktops. “Your company may have acquired another company, which has its own ways of saving information, so now the simple task of finding contracts can be a heavy lifting exercise, involving everyone’s time. With Onna, being the connective tissue across these applications, this search would take a split second,” claims Elkhou.

But the potential power of a KIP goes well beyond search alone. Elkhou says a more ambitious use-case is unifying knowledge across apps and using Onna as infrastructure. “We believe that the next generation of workplace apps will be built on top of a knowledge integration platform like Onna,” he explains. “Due to our plug and play integrations with most enterprise apps and our open API, you can now build your own bespoke workflows on top of your company’s knowledge. More importantly, we handle all the heavy lifting on the back end when it comes to processing the right contextual information across multiple systems securely, which means you can get on with creatively building a more efficient workplace”.

“In Onna, we saw a product in a new and complementary category, providing a solution not at the data level but at the ‘knowledge level’,” adds Atomico’s Ben Blume, who has also joined the Onna board. “Onna’s core solution integrates with any tools in an organisation where knowledge resides, [and] ingests, indexes and classifies the knowledge inside, enabling it to power applications in many areas”.

Blume also points to the belief that some of the cloud tools vendors themselves have in Onna, with both Slack and Dropbox “investing, using and promoting” Onna’s solution. “As they look to grow their own penetration in organisations with a wider range of needs and demands, we saw partnering with Onna as a recognition of its best in class nature to their customers,” he says.

Meanwhile, I understand the new round of funding was done remotely due to lockdown, even though Atomico and Onna had already met and stayed in touch after the VC firm ended up not participating in the startup’s Series A.

Recalls Elkhou: “We had met with our investors in person over a year ago, and have had many video calls since and prior to the pandemic. However, soon after the lockdowns took effect, the need for remote collaboration tools skyrocketed which only accelerated the critical role Onna has in helping people within organisations access and share knowledge that was spread across an ever growing number of apps. If anything, it brought new urgency to the problem we were solving, because workplace serendipity no longer existed. You couldn’t answer questions over a coffee or by the water cooler, but these new remote workers still needed to access knowledge and share it securely”.

Enterprise automation platform JIFFY.ai raises $18 million Series A


This post is by Catherine Shu from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Enterprise automation startup JIFFY.ai announced today it has raised $18 million in Series A funding for product development and expansion into new markets around the world. The round was led by Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Rebright Partners and W250 Venture Fund.

A roster of executives from tech companies also invested, including AssetMarket chief executive officer Charles Goldman; Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti; Atlassian chief technology officer Sri Viswanath; former Nissan Motors chief information officer Tony Thomas; and former SunGard Wealth and Retirement chief operating officer Bob Ward.

JIFFY.ai, the brand name of Paanini, uses robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning and artificial intelligence to help companies automate tasks that are usually performed manually, making operations more time and cost efficient. Its platform also includes a design studio for no-code application development, and a configurable analytics dashboard to monitor automated processes.

JIFFY.ai’s largest equity shareholder is its non-profit organization, Paanini Foundation, which was created to provide job training and placement programs for people whose positions are displaced because of RPA and other automation tech. According to a report last year from Gartner, RPA is the fastest growing enterprise software market, and the research firm also predicts that by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of app development activity.

Co-founder and CEO Babu Sivadasan, who previously served as group president of Envestnet Retirement Solutions, told TechCrunch that Paanini Foundation “is an intrinsic part of who we are and our strategy, as the majority equity shareholder, the foundation will grow as the business grows.”

The foundation works with companies to retrain staff whose roles have been made redundant or changed because of automation and helps them find new job opportunities. “Our overall goal is to promote sustainable, compassionate entrepreneurship and our entire founding team are aligned around this core belief that we have a responsibility to give back to the community through our social programs and build a better workplace for tomorrow’s leaders,” said Sivadasan.

The company’s new funding will be used for its research and development operations and to scale its sales and marketing, with plans to expand in the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia.

JIFFY.ai’s clients include Southeast Airlines, which has used its platform to automate processes in revenue accounting, its supply chain and operating groups.

In a statement, Angela Marono, the airline’s managing director of business transformation, said, “JIFFY has been a strong partner since 2019 in helping us begin our automation journey—starting with RPA and moving towards achieving the full value of intelligent automation. This is an increasingly important part of our overall strategy as we embrace the rapid pace of change and desire to free up our people to focus on the highest value activities.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sivadasan said JIFFY.ai has seen more interest in its platform as large companies adapt to operating with a remote workforce, and need more help to make sure that their middle and back office processes are being done promptly and accurately.

For example, one of JIFFY.ai’s clients, an airline carrier, had to manage an influx of ticket cancellations, refunds and postponements.

“Staff shortages compounded with manual task errors led to significant backlog,” said Sivadasan. “Our platform was able to quickly automate thousands of hours of backlog by automating the processing of outbound requests, returns, cancellations, refunds, coupon and price management. The implementation processed nearly 90,000 transactions in a week, saving 2,000-plus hours of work. But this is not an isolated use case, many industries are facing difficulties adapting to the new world like this.”

Other RPA companies include Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UiPath, which reached a $7 billion valuation last year after raising $568 million.

When asked how JIFFY.ai differentiates from other RPA providers, Sivadasan said “legacy RPA providers focus on a narrow range of process automation, heavily focused on the front end and data entry, and selling bots which require extensive upkeep and management. Our platform allows enterprises to not only deploy and manage process automation centrally, but our customers can design applications with simple drag and drop setup, resulting in transformation of the processes, rather than simply extending the life of legacy technologies.”

He added that JIFFY.ai’s platform “is the only context-aware system on the market, capable of recognizing mistakes and discrepancies in documents like loans, claims and invoices, and resolving them through the system’s self-learning capabilities.”

In a press statement, Jishnu Bhattacharjee, managing director at Nexus Venture Partners, said, “JIFFY.ai is set to make enterprises vastly more efficient and will enable use cases not possible before. We are thrilled to partner with Babu and team in their pursuit of delivering an end to end solution for next generation AI-powered automation and app development across a broad range of industries.”

Silverfin wants to modernize accounting software with its cloud service


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Meet Silverfin, a startup focused on accounting software. This isn’t about helping small startups handle accounting tasks themselves. Silverfin wants to build the cloud service for small and big accounting firms — Salesforce, but for accounting.

The startup just raised a Series B funding round led by Hg — Index Ventures led the previous Series A round. While terms of the deal are undisclosed, a source told me the round is worth approximately $30 million.

In order to improve productivity, Silverfin tries to automate the most time-consuming aspect of accounting — data collection. The company helps you connect with your clients’ accounting software directly to import their data, such as Xero, QuickBooks, Sage and SAP.

After that, Silverfin standardizes your data set and lets you add data manually so that the platform can become the main data repository.

Once your data is in the system, you need to process it. Silverfin lets you configure automated workflows and templates so that anybody in the accounting firm can enrich data and check for compliance issues. Like Salesforce and other software-as-a-service products, multiple people can communicate on the service and look at all past edits and changes.

You can then visualize financial data, generate reports and statements. It opens up new possibilities for accounting firms. They can charge advisory services thanks to analytics tools and an alert system.

The startup was founded in Ghent, Belgium, but it has now expanded to London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Silverfin has attracted 650 customers, including big accounting firms in Europe and North America.

By targeting the most demanding customers first, Silverfin doesn’t need to replace Xero or QuickBooks altogether. It can integrate with those existing software solutions first. There’s an opportunity to go downmarket later and convince smaller companies that don’t necessarily have a big accounting team.

NetApp to acquire Spot (formerly Spotinst) to gain cloud infrastructure management tools


This post is by Ron Miller from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

When Spotinst rebranded to Spot in March, it seemed big changes were afoot for the startup, which originally helped companies find and manage cheap infrastructure known as spot instances (hence its original name). We had no idea how big at the time. Today, NetApp announced plans to acquire the startup.

The companies did not share the price, but Israeli publication, CTECH, pegged the deal at $450 million. NetApp would not confirm that price.

It may seem like a strange pairing, a storage company and a startup that helps companies find bargain infrastructure and monitor cloud costs, but NetApp sees the acquisition as a way for its customers to bridge storage and infrastructure requirements.

“The combination of NetApp’s leading shared storage platform for block, file and object and Spot’s compute platform will deliver a leading solution for the continuous optimization of cost for all workloads, both cloud native and legacy,” Anthony Lye, senior vice president and general manager for public cloud services at NetApp said in a statement.

Spot helps companies do a couple of things. First of all it manages spot and reserved instances for customers in the cloud. Spot instances in particular, are extremely cheap because they represent unused capacity at the cloud provider. The catch is that the vendor can take the resources back when they need them, and Spot helps safely move workloads around these requirements.

Reserved instances are cloud infrastructure you buy in advance for a discounted price. The cloud vendor gives a break on pricing, knowing that it can count on the customer to use a certain amount of infrastructure resources.

At the time it rebranded, the company also had gotten into monitoring cloud spending and usage across clouds. Amiram Shachar, co-founder and CEO at Spot told TechCrunch in March, “With this new product we’re providing a more holistic platform that lets customers see all of their cloud spending in one place — all of their usage, all of their costs, what they are spending and doing across multiple clouds — and then what they can actually do [to deploy resources more efficiently],” he said at the time.

Shachar writing in a blog post today announcing the deal indicated the company will continue to support its products as part of the NetApp family, and as startup CEOs typically say at a time like this, move much faster as part of a large organization.

“Spot will continue to offer and fully support our products, both now and as part of NetApp when the transaction closes. In fact, joining forces with NetApp will bring additional resources to Spot that you’ll see in our ability to deliver our roadmap and new innovation even faster and more broadly,” he wrote in the post.

NetApp has been quite acquisitive this year. It acquired Talon Storage in early March and CloudJumper at the end of April. This represents the 20th acquisition overall for the company, according to Crunchbase data.

Spot was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv. It raised over $52 million, according to Crunchbase data. The deal is expected to close later this year, assuming it passes typical regulatory hurdles.