Rapid growth in 2020 reveals OKR software market’s untapped potential


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

Last year, a number of startups building OKR-focused software raised lots of venture capital, drawing TechCrunch’s attention.

Why is everyone making software that measures objectives and key results? we wondered with tongue in cheek. After all, how big could the OKR software market really be?

It’s a sub-niche of corporate planning tools! In a world where every company already pays for Google or Microsoft’s productivity suite, and some big software companies offer similar planning support, how substantial could demand prove for pure-play OKR startups?


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Pretty substantial, we’re finding out. After OKR-focused Gtmhub announced its $30 million Series B the other day, The Exchange reached out to a number of OKR-focused startups we’ve previously covered and asked about their 2020 growth.

Gtmhub had released new growth metrics along with its funding news, plus we had historical growth data from some other players in the space. So let’s peek at new and historical numbers from Gthmhub, Perdoo, WorkBoard, Ally.io, Koan and WeekDone.

Growth (and some caveats)

A startup growing 400% in a year from a $50,000 ARR base is not impressive. It would be much more impressive to grow 200% from $1 million ARR, or 150% from $5 million.

So, percentage growth is only so good, as metrics go. But it’s also one that private companies are more likely to share than hard numbers, as the market has taught startups that sharing real data is akin to drowning themselves. Alas.

As we view the following, bear in mind that a simply higher percentage growth number does not indicate that a company added more net ARR than another; it could be growing faster from a smaller base. And some companies in the mix did not share ARR growth, but instead disclosed other bits of data. We got what we could.

Gtmhub:

  • 400% ARR growth, 2019
  • 300% ARR growth, 2020
  • More: The company has seen strong ACV growth and its reportedly strong gross margins from 2019 held up in 2020, it said.
  • TechCrunch coverage

Perdoo:

  • 240% paid customer growth, 2020
  • 340% user base growth, 2020
  • Given strong market demand, a company representative told The Exchange that Perdoo had to restrict its free tier to 10 users.
  • TechCrunch coverage

WorkBoard:

Rapid growth in 2020 reveals OKR software market’s untapped potential


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

Last year, a number of startups building OKR-focused software raised lots of venture capital, drawing TechCrunch’s attention.

Why is everyone making software that measures objectives and key results? we wondered with tongue in cheek. After all, how big could the OKR software market really be?

It’s a subniche of corporate planning tools! In a world where every company already pays for Google or Microsoft’s productivity suite, and some big software companies offer similar planning support, how substantial could demand prove for pure-play OKR startups?


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Pretty substantial, we’re finding out. After OKR-focused Gtmhub announced its $30 million Series B the other day, The Exchange reached out to a number of OKR-focused startups we’ve previously covered and asked about their 2020 growth.

Gtmhub had released new growth metrics along with its funding news, plus we had historical growth data from some other players in the space. So let’s peek at new and historical numbers from Gthmhub, Perdoo, WorkBoard, Ally.io, Koan and WeekDone.

Growth (and some caveats)

A startup growing 400% in a year from a $50,000 ARR base is not impressive. It would be much more impressive to grow 200% from $1 million ARR, or 150% from $5 million.

So, percentage growth is only so good, as metrics go. But it’s also one that private companies are more likely to share than hard numbers, as the market has taught startups that sharing real data is akin to drowning themselves. Alas.

As we view the following, bear in mind that a simply higher percentage growth number does not indicate that a company added more net ARR than another; it could be growing faster from a smaller base. And some companies in the mix did not share ARR growth, but instead disclosed other bits of data. We got what we could.

Gtmhub:

  • 400% ARR growth, 2019.
  • 300% ARR growth, 2020.
  • More: The company has seen strong ACV growth and its reportedly strong gross margins from 2019 held up in 2020, it said.
  • TechCrunch coverage

Perdoo:

  • 240% paid customer growth, 2020.
  • 340% user base growth, 2020.
  • Given strong market demand, a company representative told The Exchange that Perdoo had to restrict its free tier to 10 users.
  • TechCrunch coverage

WorkBoard:

The Work-Life Balance Revolution


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC

Yesterday, I had a gap in the middle of the day. So the Gotham Gal and I took an hour-long walk with our dog Ollie. It cleared my head and when I got back to work, I was full of energy and clarity.

I’ve been working exclusively from home since the end of November 2019 when we left NYC to go to LA. It has been a stretch of incredible productivity for me.

I am not arguing against going back to the office. As I’ve said in many posts recently, I can’t wait to go back to the office. But I am sure that many of us have had the same experience that I have had working from home during the pandemic. It has its advantages.

And in that realization exists the possibility that we are on the cusp on a revolution in how many of us can find work life balance going forward.

My friend Tom wrote this post last week suggesting that a husband and wife can now work a total of 50 hours a week between them and have two full-time jobs and raise a family. This part sums up the idea pretty well:

Why do I think 25 hours/ week is the equivalent of a 50-hour week (counting commuting)?

Given a nine-to five schedule with an hour for lunch, the 40 hour work week was only 35 to begin with.

As an ex-CEO, I think that at least ten hours of each workweek go to socialization, surfing the internet, checking with the spouse or checking up on the children, chatting on smartphones etc. (Mary thinks only five).

Meetings and travel to meetings waste a huge amount of time and money. One reason that Zooming appears not to have reduced productivity is that many of the meetings weren’t productive to begin with.

Office space and often parking are expenses to the employer but they are not income to the worker. If office space and all its attendant costs can be drastically reduced, employers can afford to pay more dollars in salary for the same productivity.

Commuting expense including perhaps even the second car, daycare, clothing and dry-cleaning bills, and paid before and after school activities whose purpose is to supervise school age kids are all expenses which go away when parents can work from home. Even if the WFH employee has less gross taxable income, he or she will have more cash at the end of each month.

https://blog.tomevslin.com/2021/01/newnormal-the-50-hour-family-work-week.html

Even if Tom is off by a bit with his math, he makes a terrific point. Companies can ask for less of a family’s time, pay them more, and get the same amount of work done using the techniques we have perfected during the pandemic.

I realize that not all jobs lend themselves to this approach. But maybe more than you think. Take doctors. We used to have to go see doctors in their offices. Now with digital health services like those offered by our portfolio companies Brave and Nurx, the doctors are seeing the patients from their homes (or wherever they are).

Teaching is another occupation that presents a lot of opportunity to rethink time and location. Many teachers have been learning how to help their students master new things from their kitchen counters over the last year.

I want to say it again. I am not suggesting that we won’t be going to offices anymore. I am not saying doctors won’t have offices anymore. I am not saying teachers won’t be in classrooms anymore.

What I am saying is that we can and should be asking how much of our work time needs to be in person, face to face, and how much can be virtual. And I am certain that we will be asking that. In our year-end reviews at USV, we heard again and again from our team that they wanted to ask those questions. They should. Commuting and business travel are not the necessities they were last century.

And, naturally, this coming work-life balance revolution presents tremendous opportunities for new products, services, and companies. We have been seeing many of them crop up over the last year and have invested in a few of them.

From bad comes good. This pandemic and all of the things that have come with it has been awful. But I believe it will unleash all sorts of new behaviors and businesses that will be for the better. If you squint, you can see them coming.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Jan 8, 2021
SilviaTerra

‘Brand tech’ company You & Mr. Jones adds $60M to its Series B


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

You & Mr. Jones announced today that it has added $60 million in new funding from Merian Chrysalis, bringing the Series B round announced in December to a total of $260 million.

The round values the company at $1.36 billion, post-money.

You & Mr. Jones takes its name from CEO David Jones, who founded the company in 2015. After having served as the CEO of ad giant Havas, Jones told me that his goal in starting what he called “a brand tech group” was to provide marketers with something that neither traditional agencies nor technology companies could give them.

“At that moment, the choices were to go work with an agency group, which is great at brand and marketing, but they don’t understand tech, or with a tech company, which will only ever recommend their platform and don’t have the same [brand and marketing] expertise,” he said.

So You & Mr. Jones has built its own technology platform to help marketers with their digital, mobile and e-commerce needs, while also investing in companies like Pinterest and Niantic. And it makes acquisitions — last year, for example, it bought influencer marketing company Collectively.

You & Mr. Jones has grown to 3,000 employees, and its clients include Unilever, Accenture, Google, Adidas, Marriott and Microsoft. In fact, Jones said that as of the third quarter of 2020, its net revenue had grown 27% year over year.

That’s particularly impressive given the impact of the pandemic on ad spending, but Jones said that’s one of the key distinctions between digital advertising and the broader brand tech category, which he said has grown steadily, even during the pandemic, and which also sets the company apart from agencies that are “digital and tech in press release only.”

“We’re not an ad agency, we’ll never acquire agencies,” he said. “We have the technology platform, process and people to deliver all of your end-to-end, always-on content — social, digital, e-commerce and community management.”

In addition to the funding, the company is announcing that it has hired Paulette Forte, who was previously senior director of human services at the NBA, as its first chief people officer.

“The brand tech category didn’t even exist before You & Mr Jones was established,” Forte said in a statement. “The company became a true industry disruptor in short order, and growth has been swift. In order to keep up with the momentum, it’s critical to have systems in place that help talent develop their skills, encourage diversity and creativity, and find pathways to improving workflow. I am excited to join the leadership team to drive this crucial work forward.”

F5 snags Volterra multi-cloud management startup for $500M


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

Applications networking company F5 announced today that it is acquiring Volterra, a multi-cloud management startup, for $500 million. That breaks down to $440 million in cash and $60 million in deferred and unvested incentive compensation.

Volterra emerged in 2019 with a $50 million investment from multiple sources, including Khosla Ventures and Mayfield, along with strategic investors like M12 (Microsoft’s venture arm) and Samsung Ventures. As the company described it to me at the time of the funding:

Volterra has innovated a consistent, cloud-native environment that can be deployed across multiple public clouds and edge sites — a distributed cloud platform. Within this SaaS-based offering, Volterra integrates a broad range of services that have normally been siloed across many point products and network or cloud providers.

The solution is designed to provide a single way to view security, operations and management components.

F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou sees Volterra’s edge solution integrating across its product line. “With Volterra, we advance our Adaptive Applications vision with an Edge 2.0 platform that solves the complex multi-cloud reality enterprise customers confront. Our platform will create a SaaS solution that solves our customers’ biggest pain points,” he said in a statement.

Volterra founder and CEO Ankur Singla, writing in a company blog post announcing the deal, says the need for this solution only accelerated during 2020 when companies were shifting rapidly to the cloud due to the pandemic. “When we started Volterra, multi-cloud and edge were still buzzwords and venture funding was still searching for tangible use cases. Fast forward three years and COVID-19 has dramatically changed the landscape — it has accelerated digitization of physical experiences and moved more of our day-to-day activities online. This is causing massive spikes in global Internet traffic while creating new attack vectors that impact the security and availability of our increasing set of daily apps,” he wrote.

He sees Volterra’s capabilities fitting in well with the F5 family of products to help solve these issues. While F5 had a quiet 2020 on the M&A front, today’s purchase comes on top of a couple of major acquisitions in 2019, including Shape Security for $1 billion and NGINX for $670 million.

The deal has been approved by both companies’ boards, and is expected to close before the end of March, subject to regulatory approvals.

RedHat is acquiring container security company StackRox


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

RedHat today announced that it’s acquiring container security startup StackRox . The companies did not share the purchase price.

RedHat, which is perhaps best known for its enterprise Linux products has been making the shift to the cloud in recent years. IBM purchased the company in 2018 for a hefty $34 billion and has been leveraging that acquisition as part of a shift to a hybrid cloud strategy under CEO Arvind Krishna.

The acquisition fits nicely with RedHat OpenShift, its container platform, but the company says it will continue to support StackRox usage on other platforms including AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform. This approach is consistent with IBM’s strategy of supporting multicloud, hybrid environments.

In fact, Red Hat president and CEO Paul Cormier sees the two companies working together well. “Red Hat adds StackRox’s Kubernetes-native capabilities to OpenShift’s layered security approach, furthering our mission to bring product-ready open innovation to every organization across the open hybrid cloud across IT footprints,” he said in a statement.

CEO Kamal Shah, writing in a company blog post announcing the acquisition, explained that the company made a bet a couple of years ago on Kubernetes and it has paid off. “Over two and half years ago, we made a strategic decision to focus exclusively on Kubernetes and pivoted our entire product to be Kubernetes-native. While this seems obvious today; it wasn’t so then. Fast forward to 2020 and Kubernetes has emerged as the de facto operating system for cloud-native applications and hybrid cloud environments,” Shah wrote.

Shah sees the purchase as a way to expand the company and the road map more quickly using the resources of Red Hat (and IBM), a typical argument from CEOs of smaller acquired companies. But the trick is always finding a way to stay relevant inside such a large organization.

StackRox’s acquisition is part of some consolidation we have been seeing in the Kubernetes space in general and the security space more specifically. That includes Palo Alto Networks acquiring competitor TwistLock for $410 million in 2019. Another competitor, Aqua Security, which has raised $130 million, remains independent.

StackRox was founded in 2014 and raised over $65 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors included Menlo Ventures, Redpoint and Sequoia Capital. The deal is expected to close this quarter subject to normal regulatory scrutiny.

CommonGround raises $19M to rethink online communication


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

CommonGround, a startup developing technology for what its founders describe as “4D collaboration,” is announcing that it has raised $19 million in funding.

This isn’t the first time Amir Bassan-Eskenazi and Ran Oz have launched a startup together — they also founded video networking company BigBand Networks, which won two technology-related Emmy Awards, went public in 2007 and was acquired by Arris Group in 2011. Before that, they worked together at digital compression company Optibase, which Oz co-founded and where Bassan-Eskenazi served as COO.

Although CommonGround is still in stealth mode and doesn’t plan to fully unveil its first product until next year, Bassan-Eskenazi and Oz outlined their vision for me. They acknowledged that video conferencing has improved significantly, but said it still can’t match face-to-face communication.

“Some things you just cannot achieve through a flat video-conferencing-type solution,” Bassan-Eskenazi said. “Those got better over the years, but they never managed to achieve that thing where you walk into a bar … and there’s a group of people talking and you know immediately who is a little taken aback, who is excited, who is kind of ‘eh.’”

CommonGround founders Amir Bassan-Eskenazi and Ran Oz

CommonGround founders Amir Bassan-Eskenazi and Ran Oz. Image Credits: CommonGround

That, essentially, is what Bassan-Eskenazi, Oz and their team are trying to build — online collaboration software that more fully captures the nuances of in-person communication, and actually improves on face-to-face conversations in some ways (hence the 4D moniker). Asked whether this involves combining video conferencing with other collaboration tools, Oz replied, “Think of it as beyond video,” using technology like computer vision and graphics.

Bassan-Eskenazi added that they’ve been working on CommonGround for more than year, so this isn’t just a response to our current stay-at-home environment. And the opportunity should still be massive as offices reopen next year.

“When we started this, it was a problem we thought some of the workforce would understand,” he said. “Now my mother understands it, because it’s how she reads to the grandkids.”

As for the funding, the round was led by Matrix Partners, with participation from Grove Ventures and StageOne Ventures.

“Amir and Ran have a bold vision to reinvent communications,” said Matrix General Partner Patrick Malatack in a statement. “Their technical expertise, combined with a history of successful exits, made for an easy investment decision.”

Looking ahead after 2020’s epic M&A spree


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

When we examine any year in enterprise M&A, it’s tempting to highlight the biggest, gaudiest deals — and there were plenty of those in 2020. I’ve written about 34 acquisitions so far this year. Of those, 15 were worth $1 billion or more, 12 were small enough to not require that the companies disclose the price and the remainder fell somewhere in between.

Four deals involving chip companies coming together totaled over $100 billion on their own. While nobody does eye-popping M&A quite like the chip industry, other sectors also offered their own eyebrow-raising deals, led by Salesforce buying Slack earlier this month for $27.7 billion.

We are likely to see more industries consolidate the way chips did in 2020, albeit probably not quite as dramatically or expensively.

Yet in spite of the drama of these larger numbers, the most interesting targets to me were the pandemic-driven smaller deals that started popping up in May. Those small acquisitions are the ones that are so insignificant that the company doesn’t have to share the purchase price publicly. They usually involve early-stage companies being absorbed by cash-rich concerns looking for some combination of missing technology or engineering talent in a particular area like security or artificial intelligence.

It was certainly an active year in M&A, and we still might not have seen the last of it. Let’s have a look at why those minor deals were so interesting and how they compared with larger ones, while looking ahead to what 2021 M&A might look like.

Early-stage blues

It’s always hard to know exactly why an early-stage startup would give up its independence by selling to a larger entity, but we can certainly speculate on some of the reasons why this year’s rapid-fire dealing started in May. While we can never know for certain why these companies decided to exit via acquisition, we know that in April, the pandemic hit full force in the United States and the economy began to shut down.

Some startups were particularly vulnerable, especially companies low on cash in the April timeframe. Obviously companies fail when they run out of funding, and we started seeing early-stage startups being scooped up the following month.

We don’t know for sure of course if there is a direct correlation between April’s economic woes and the flurry of deals that started in May, but we can reasonably speculate that there was. For some percentage of them, I’m guessing it was a fire sale or at least a deal made under less than ideal terms. For others, maybe they simply didn’t have the wherewithal to keep going under such adverse economic conditions or the partnerships were just too good to pass up.

It’s worth noting that I didn’t cover any deals in April. But, beginning on May 7, Zoom bought Keybase for its encryption expertise; five days later Atlassian bought Halp for Slack integration; and the day after that VMware bought cloud native security startup Octarine — and we were off and running. Granted the big companies benefited from making these acquisitions, but the timing stood out.

UiPath files confidential IPO paperwork with SEC


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Ron Miller. The original is [linked here]

UiPath, the robotic process automation startup that has been growing like gangbusters, filed confidential paperwork with the SEC today ahead of a potential IPO.

UiPath, Inc. today announced that it has submitted a draft registration statement on a confidential basis to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) for a proposed public offering of its Class A common stock. The number of shares of Class A common stock to be sold and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. UiPath intends to commence the public offering following completion of the SEC review process, subject to market and other conditions,” the company said in a statement.

The company has raised more than $1.2 billion from investors like Accel, CapitalG, Sequoia and others. Its biggest raise was $568 million led by Coatue on an impressive $7 billion valuation in April 2019. It raised another $225 million led by Alkeon Capital last July when its valuation soared to $10.2 billion.

At the time of the July raise, CEO and co-founder Daniel Dines did not shy away from the idea of an IPO, telling me:

We’re evaluating the market conditions and I wouldn’t say this to be vague, but we haven’t chosen a day that says on this day we’re going public. We’re really in the mindset that says we should be prepared when the market is ready, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s in the next 12-18 months.

This definitely falls within that window. RPA helps companies take highly repetitive manual tasks and automate them. So for example, it could pull a number from an invoice, fill in a number in a spreadsheet and send an email to accounts payable, all without a human touching it.

It is a technology that has great appeal right now because it enables companies to take advantage of automation without ripping and replacing their legacy systems. While the company has raised a ton of money, and seen its valuation take off, it will be interesting to see if it will get the same positive reception as companies like Airbnb, C3.ai and Snowflake.

Vista’s $3.5B purchase of Pluralsight signals a maturing edtech market


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

On Monday, Pluralsight, a Utah-based startup that sells software development courses to enterprises, announced that it has been acquired by Vista for $3.5 billion.

The deal, yet to close, is one of the largest enterprise buys of the year: Vista is getting an online training company that helps retrain techies with in-demand skills through online courses in the midst of a booming edtech market. Additionally, the sector is losing one of its few publicly traded companies just two years after it debuted on the stock market.

The Pluralsight acquisition is largely a positive signal that shows the strength of edtech’s capital options as the pandemic continues.

Investors and founders told Techcrunch that the Pluralsight acquisition is largely a positive signal that shows the strength of edtech’s capital options as the pandemic continues.

“What’s happening in edtech is that capital markets are liquidating,” said Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Advisors.

Quazzo, a seed investor in Pluralsight, said the ability to move fluidly between privately held and publicly held companies is a characteristic of tech sectors with deep capital markets, which is different from edtech’s “old days, where the options to exit were very narrow.”

Parsec raises $25M from A16Z to power remote work and cloud gaming


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

Parsec, a startup that’s built streaming technology for both work and play, is announcing that it has raised $25 million in Series B funding.

This brings Parsec’s total funding to $33 million, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with the firm’s general partner Martin Casado joining the board. Previous investors Lerer Hippeau, Makers Fund, NextView Ventures and Notation Capital also participated.

CEO Benjy Boxer told me that since he and CTO Chris Dickson founded the company in 2016, the vision has always been “to make it easier for people to connect to their technology, software and content from anywhere, on any device.”

They started out by helping gamers access their gaming PCs from other devices (the Parsec app is currently available Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Raspberry Pi and the web).

“From the beginning, we thought that if we could build something that is great for gaming, it will be great for everything,” Boxer said.

But it was a natural transition to other use cases, since some of the people using Parsec to play games in their free time also turned out to work at TV production companies, video game companies or in other jobs where they need access to high-end workstations. That’s why the company launched Parsec for Teams this year, which offers the same low-latency remote experience, while also adding features like encryption, group permissions and collaboration on the same file.

Parsec screenshot

Image Credits: Parsec

“The performance of Parsec is just way above everything else,” Boxer said. “People forget they’re using Parsec.”

Parsec works with major gaming clients like EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment and Square Enix, and it’s also being used in industries like architecture, engineering and video broadcast/production/post-production.

And as you might imagine, the need for something like this has only increased during the pandemic. Boxer said customers have found that the platform is saving their employees more than an hour a day by eliminating the commute and giving them high-speed access to their workstations — rather than, say, having to wait an hour for a 100 gigabyte file to download.

And most those clients anticipate that after the pandemic, their employees will continue for work from home for part of the time.

“So in that scenario, people are brining their computers back to the office, and they can use Parsec to make sure it’s always accessible to them,” Boxer said.

On the consumer side, he said that where usage was previously heaviest during the weekends, during the pandemic “there’s no spike anymore on the weekends, people are playing all the time.”

Boxer added that the company will continue developing the core platform, leading to improvements for both gaming and enterprise users, while there’s a separate team focused on building administrative and collaborative features.

 

Parsec raises $25M from A16Z to power remote work and cloud gaming


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

Parsec, a startup that’s built streaming technology for both work and play, is announcing that it has raised $25 million in Series B funding.

This brings Parsec’s total funding to $33 million, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with the firm’s general partner Martin Casado joining the board. Previous investors Lerer Hippeau, Makers Fund, NextView Ventures and Notation Capital also participated.

CEO Benjy Boxer told me that since he and CTO Chris Dickson founded the company in 2016, the vision has always been “to make it easier for people to connect to their technology, software and content from anywhere, on any device.”

They started out by helping gamers access their gaming PCs from other devices (the Parsec app is currently available Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Raspberry Pi and the web).

“From the beginning, we thought that if we could build something that is great for gaming, it will be great for everything,” Boxer said.

But it was a natural transition to other use cases, since some of the people using Parsec to play games in their free time also turned out to work at TV production companies, video game companies or in other jobs where they need access to high-end workstations. That’s why the company launched Parsec for Teams this year, which offers the same low-latency remote experience, while also adding features like encryption, group permissions and collaboration on the same file.

Parsec screenshot

Image Credits: Parsec

“The performance of Parsec is just way above everything else,” Boxer said. “People forget they’re using Parsec.”

Parsec works with major gaming clients like EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment and Square Enix, and it’s also being used in industries like architecture, engineering and video broadcast/production/post-production.

And as you might imagine, the need for something like this has only increased during the pandemic. Boxer said customers have found that the platform is saving their employees more than an hour a day by eliminating the commute and giving them high-speed access to their workstations — rather than, say, having to wait an hour for a 100 gigabyte file to download.

And most of those clients anticipate that after the pandemic, their employees will continue for work from home for part of the time.

“So in that scenario, people are bringing their computers back to the office, and they can use Parsec to make sure it’s always accessible to them,” Boxer said.

On the consumer side, he said that where usage was previously heaviest during the weekends, during the pandemic “there’s no spike anymore on the weekends, people are playing all the time.”

Boxer added that the company will continue developing the core platform, leading to improvements for both gaming and enterprise users, while there’s a separate team focused on building administrative and collaborative features.

 

iCIMS acquires video recruiting startup Altru for $60M


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

Enterprise recruiting company iCIMS is announcing that it has acquired Altru.

iCIMS declined to comment on the terms of the deal, but a source with knowledge of the companies told us that the price is a combination of cash and stock, totaling around $60 million.

Founded in 2000, iCIMS offers a “talent cloud” used by more than 4,000 employers attract, engage and hire new employees, and to help existing employees continue to develop their careers.

Former Marketo chief executive Steve Lucas became CEO in February, and he told me that that the recruiting world is overdue for reinvention. After all, every company says they want to hire the most talented people around, so he wondered, “Well, okay, if you want that, why do you create such boring content? Why do you take a job that is exciting and should demand amazing human beings and create this super boring job description?”

Lucas sees video as a key piece of the solution, allowing companies to bring more “authenticity” to what can be a stuffy and bureaucratic process. Just over a month ago, iCIMS announced another acquisition in this area — Paris-based Easyrecrue.

Lucas said that while Easyrecrue has created tools to enrich video interviews, Altru can be most helpful earlier in the recruiting process, when companies are trying to stay connected with the most promising candidates and get them excited about a potential job.

Altru CEO Alykhan Rehmatullah (who founded the startup with CTO Vincent Polidoro — they’re both pictured above) told me that while the company started out with a focus on recording and sharing employee videos for recruitment, its asynchronous videos are become used more broadly across companies. He suggested that’s particularly true this year,  while teams are working from home and everyone’s looking for ways to communicate that are more expressive than Slack and don’t require putting “another 30-minute Zoom call on your calendar.”

In fact, Lucas said that before talking to me, he’d actually been recording videos on Altru to explain the acquisition to his own team. He praised the platform’s ease of use, joking, “If I can use this thing, anybody can use it.”

Rehmatullah said the entire Altru team will be joining iCIMS, where he’ll become vice president of content strategy. The goal is to continue operating Altru as a standalone product while also finding new ways to integrate it into the iCIMS platform.

Altru previously raised a total of $1.3 million from Birchmere Ventures, Active Capital and Techstars.

Vista acquires IT education platform Pluralsight for $3.5B


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

The hectic M&A cycle we have seen throughout 2020 continued this weekend when Vista Equity Partners announced it was acquiring  Pluralsight for $3.5 billion.

That comes out to $20.26 per share. The company stock closed on Friday at $18.50 per share on a market cap of over $2.7 billion.

With Pluralsight, Vista gets an online training company that helps educate IT professionals including developers, operations, data and security with a suite of online courses. As the pandemic has taken hold, it has breathed new life into EdTech, but even before that, there was a market for upskilling IT Pros online.

This trend certainly didn’t escape Monti Saroya, co-head of the Vista Flagship Fund and senior managing director at Vista. “We have seen firsthand that the demand for skilled software engineers continues to outstrip supply, and we expect this trend to persist as we move into a hybrid online-offline world across all industries and interactions, with business leaders recognizing that technological innovation is critical to business success,” he said in a statement.

As is typical for acquired companies, Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard sees this as a way to grow the company more quickly. “The global Vista ecosystem of leading enterprise software companies provides significant resources and institutional knowledge that will open doors and help fuel our growth. We’re thrilled that we will be able to leverage Vista’s expertise to further strengthen our market leading position,” Skonnard said in a statement.

In a 2017 interview with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr, Skonnard described the company as an enterprise SaaS learning platform. It goes beyond simply offering the courses by giving professionals in a given category such as developer or IT operations the ability to measure their skills and abilities agains other pros in that category. He saw this assessment capability as a big differentiator.

“Our platform is ultimately focused on closing the technology skills gap throughout the world,” Skonnard told Buhr.

Pluralsight, which was founded in 2004, raised over $190 million before going public in 2018. The company has 1700 employees and over 17,000 customers. The acquisition is subject to standard regular regulatory oversight, but is expected to close in the first half of next year. Once that happens, the company will go private once again.

Vista acquires Gainsight for $1.1B, adding to its growing enterprise arsenal


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

Vista Equity Partners hasn’t been shy about scooping up enterprise companies over the years, and today it added to a growing portfolio with its purchase of Gainsight.  The company’s software helps clients with customer success, meaning it helps create a positive customer experience when they interact with your brand, making them more likely to come back and recommend you to others. Sources pegged the price tag at $1.1 billion.

As you might expect, both parties are putting a happy face on the deal, talking about how they can work together to grow Gainsight further. Certainly, other companies like Ping Identity seem to have benefited from joining forces with Vista. Being part of a well capitalized firm allowed them to make some strategic investments along the way to eventually going public last year.

Gainsight and Vista are certainly hoping for a similar outcome in this case. Monti Saroya, co-head of the Vista Flagship Fund and senior managing director at the firm sees a company with a lot of potential that could expand and grow with help from Vista’s consulting arm, which helps portfolio companies with different aspects of their business like sales, marketing and operations.

“We are excited to partner with the Gainsight team in its next phase of growth, helping the company to expand the category it has created and deliver even more solutions that drive retention and growth to businesses across the globe,” Saroya said in a statement.

Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta likes the idea of being part of Vista’s portfolio of enterprise companies, many of whom are using his company’s products.

“We’ve known Vista for years, since 24 of their portfolio companies use Gainsight. We’ve seen Gainsight clients like JAMF and Ping Identity partner with Vista and then go public. We believe we are just getting started with customer success, so we wanted the right partner for the long term and we’re excited to work with Vista on the next phase of our journey,” Mehta told TechCrunch.

Brent Leary, principle analyst at CRM Essentials, who covers the sales and marketing space says that it appears that Vista is piecing together a sales and marketing platform that it could flip or go public in a few years.

“It’s not only the power that’s in the platform, it’s also the money. And Vista seems to be piecing together an engagement platform based on the acquisitions of Gainsight, Pipedrive and even last year’s Acquia purchase. Vista isn’t afraid to spend big money, if they can make even bigger money in a couple years if they can make these pieces fit together,” Leary told me.

While Gainsight exits as a unicorn, the deal might not have been the outcome it was looking for. The company raised over $187 million, according to Pitchbook data, though its fundraising had slowed in recent years. Gainsight raised $50 million in April of 2017 at a post-money valuation of $515 million, again per Pitchbook. In July of 2018 it added $25 million to its coffers, and the final entry was a small debt investment raised in 2019.

It could be that the startup saw its growth slow down, leaving it somewhere between ready for new venture investment and profitability. That’s a gap that PE shops like Vista look for, write a check, shake up a company and hopefully exit at an elevated price.

Gainsight hired a new chief revenue officer last month, notably. Per Forbes, the company was on track to reach “about” $100 million ARR by the end of 2020, giving it a revenue multiple of around 11x in the deal. That’s under current market norms, which could imply that Gainsight had either lower gross margins than comparable companies, or as previously noted, that its growth had slowed.

A $1.1 billion exit is never something to bemoan — and every startup wants to become a unicorn — but Gainsight and Mehta are well known, and we were hoping for the details only an S-1 could deliver. Perhaps one day with Vista’s help that could happen.

C3.ai’s initial IPO pricing guidance spotlights the public market’s tech appetite


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

On the heels of news that DoorDash is targeting an initial IPO valuation up to $27 billion, C3.ai also dropped a new S-1 filing detailing a first-draft guess of what the richly valued company might be worth after its debut.

C3.ai posted an initial IPO price range of $31 to $34 per share, with the company anticipating a sale of 15.5 million shares at that price. The enterprise-focused artificial intelligence company is also selling $100 million of stock at its IPO price to Spring Creek Capital, and another $50 million to Microsoft at the same terms. And there are 2.325 million shares reserved for its underwriters as well.

The total tally of shares that C3.ai will have outstanding after its IPO bloc is sold, Spring Creek and Microsoft buy in, and its underwriters take up their option, is 99,216,958. At the extremes of its initial IPO price range, the company would be worth between $3.08 billion and $3.37 billion using that share count.

Those numbers decline by around $70 and $80 million, respectively, if the underwriters do not purchase their option.

So is the IPO a win for the company at those prices? And is it a win for all C3.ai investors? Amazingly enough, it feels like the answers are yes and no. Let’s explore why.

Slowing growth, rising valuation

If we just look at C3.ai’s revenue history in chunks, you can argue a growth story for the company; that it grew from $73.8 million in the the two quarters of 2019 ending July 31, to $81.8 million in revenue during the same portion of 2020. That’s growth of just under 11% on a year-over-year basis. Not great, but positive.

Industrial drone maker Percepto raises $45M and integrates with Boston Dynamics’ Spot


This post is by Ingrid Lunden from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Consumer drones have over the years struggled with an image of being no more than expensive and delicate toys. But applications in industrial, military and enterprise scenarios have shown that there is indeed a market for unmanned aerial vehicles, and today, a startup that makes drones for some of those latter purposes is announcing a large round of funding and a partnership that provides a picture of how the drone industry will look in years to come.

Percepto, which makes drones — both the hardware and software — to monitor and analyze industrial sites and other physical work areas largely unattended by people, has raised $45 million in a Series B round of funding.

Alongside this, it is now working with Boston Dynamics  and has integrated its Spot robots with Percepto’s Sparrow drones, with the aim being better infrastructure assessments, and potentially more as Spot’s agility improves.

The funding is being led by a strategic backer, Koch Disruptive Technologies, the investment arm of industrial giant Koch Industries (which has interests in energy, minerals, chemicals and related areas), with participation also from new investors State of Mind Ventures, Atento Capital, Summit Peak Investments, Delek-US. Previous investors U.S. Venture Partners, Spider Capital and Arkin Holdings also participated. (It appears that Boston Dynamics and SoftBank are not part of this investment.)

Israel-based Percepto has now raised $72.5 million since it was founded in 2014, and it’s not disclosing its valuation, but CEO and founder Dor Abuhasira described as “a very good round.”

“It gives us the ability to create a category leader,” Abuhasira said in an interview. It has customers in around 10 countries, with the list including ENEL, Florida Power and Light and Verizon.

While some drone makers have focused on building hardware, and others are working specifically on the analytics, computer vision and other critical technology that needs to be in place on the software side for drones to work correctly and safely, Percepto has taken what I referred to, and Abuhasira confirmed, as the “Apple approach”: vertical integration as far as Percepto can take it on its own.

That has included hiring teams with specializations in AI, computer vision, navigation and analytics as well as those strong in industrial hardware — all strong areas in the Israel tech landscape, by virtue of it being so closely tied with its military investments. (Note: Percepto does not make its own chips: these are currently acquired from Nvidia, he confirmed to me.)

“The Apple approach is the only one that works in drones,” he said. “That’s because it is all still too complicated. For those offering an Android-style approach, there are cracks in the complete flow.”

It presents the product as a “drone-in-a-box”, which means in part that those buying it have little work to do to set it up to work, but also refers to how it works: its drones leave the box to make a flight to collect data, and then return to the box to recharge and transfer more information, alongside the data that is picked up in real time.

The drones themselves operate on an on-demand basis: they fly in part for regular monitoring, to detect changes that could point to issues; and they can also be launched to collect data as a result of engineers requesting information. The product is marketed by Percepto as “AIM”, short for autonomous site inspection and monitoring.

News broke last week that Amazon has been reorganising its Prime Air efforts — one sign of how some more consumer-facing business applications — despite many developments — may still have some turbulence ahead before they are commercially viable. Businesses like Percepto’s stand in contrast to that, with their focus specifically on flying over, and collecting data, in areas where there are precisely no people present.

It has dovetailed with a bigger focus from industries on the efficiencies (and cost savings) you can get with automation, which in turn has become the centerpiece of how industry is investing in the buzz phrase of the moment, “digital transformation.”

“We believe Percepto AIM addresses a multi-billion-dollar issue for numerous industries and will change the way manufacturing sites are managed in the IoT, Industry 4.0 era,” said Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies, in a statement. “Percepto’s track record in autonomous technology and data analytics is impressive, and we believe it is uniquely positioned to deliver the remote operations center of the future. We look forward to partnering with the Percepto team to make this happen.”

The partnership with Boston Dynamics is notable for a couple of reasons: it speaks to how various robotics hardware will work together in tandem in an automated, unmanned world; and it speaks to how Boston Dynamics is pulling up its socks.

On the latter front, the company has been making waves in the world of robotics for years, specifically with its agile and strong dog-like (with names like “Spot” and “Big Dog”) robots that can cover rugged terrains and handle tussles without falling apart.

That led it into the arms of Google, which acquired it as part of its own secretive moonshot efforts, in 2013. That never panned out into a business, and probably gave Google more complicated optics at a time when it was already being seen as too powerful. Then, SoftBank stepped in to pick it up, along with other robotics assets, in 2017. That hasn’t really gone anywhere either, it seems, and just this month it was reported that Boston Dynamics was reportedly facing yet another suitor, Hyundai.

All of this is to say that partnerships with third parties that are going places (quite literally) become strong signs of how Boston Dynamics’ extensive R&D investments might finally pay off with enterprising dividends.

Indeed, while Percepto has focused on its own vertical integration, longer term and more generally there is an argument to be made for more interoperability and collaboration between the various companies building “connected” and smart hardware for industrial, physical applications. It means that specific industries can focus on the special equipment and expertise they require, while at the same time complementing that with hardware and software that are recognised as best-in-class. Abuhasira said that he expects the Boston Dynamics partnership to be the first of many.

That makes this first one an interesting template. It will see Spot carrying Percepto’s payloads for high resolution imaging and thermal vision “to detect issues including hot spots on machines or electrical conductors, water and steam leaks around plants and equipment with degraded performance, with the data relayed via AIM.” It will also mean a more thorough picture, beyond what you get from the air, and potentially a point at which the data that the pairing sources results even in repairs or other work to fix issues.

“Combining Percepto’s Sparrow drone with Spot creates a unique solution for remote inspection,” said Michael Perry, VP of Business Development at Boston Dynamics, in a statement. “This partnership demonstrates the value of harnessing robotic collaborations and the insurmountable benefits to worker safety and cost savings that robotics can bring to industries that involve hazardous or remote work.”

AvePoint to go public via SPAC valued at $2B


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

AvePoint, a company that gives enterprises using Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Teams a control layer on top of these tools, announced today that it would be going public via a SPAC merger with Apex Technology Acquisition Corporation in a deal that values AvePoint at around $2 billion.

The acquisition brings together some powerful technology executives with Apex run by former Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein and former Goldman Sachs head of technology investment banking Brad Koenig, who will now be working closely with AvePoint’s CEO Tianyi Jiang. Apex filed for a $305 million SPAC in September 2019.

Under the terms of the transaction, Apex’s balance of $352 million plus a $140 million additional private investment will be handed over to AvePoint. Once transaction fees and other considerations are paid for, AvePoint is expected to have $252 million on its balance sheet. Existing AvePoint shareholders will own approximately 72% of the combined entity, with the balance held by the Apex SPAC and the private investment owners.

Jiang sees this is a way to keep growing the company. “Going public now gives us the ability to meet this demand and scale up faster across product innovation, channel marketing, international markets and customer success initiatives,” he said in a statement.

AvePoint was founded in 2001 as a company to help ease the complexity of SharePoint installations, which at the time were all on-premise. Today, it has adapted to the shift to the cloud as a SaaS tool and primarily acts as a policy layer enabling companies to make sure employees are using these tools in a compliant way.

The company raised $200 million in January this year led by TPG Sixth Street Partners, with additional participation from prior investor Goldman Sachs, meaning that Koenig was probably familiar with the company based on his previous role.

The company has raised a total of $294 million in capital before today’s announcement. It expects to generate almost $150 million in revenue by the end of this year with ARR growing at over 30%. It’s worth noting that the company’s ARR and revenue has been growing steadily since Q12019. The company is projecting significant growth for the next two years with revenue estimates of $257 million and ARR of $220 million by the end of 2022.

Graph of revenue and projected revenue

Image Credits: AvePoint

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. Upon close the company will continue to be known as AvePoint and be publicly traded on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol AVPT.

Onit acquires legal startup McCarthyFinch to inject AI into legal workflows


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

Onit, a workflow software company based in Houston with a legal component, announced this week that it has acquired 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alum McCarthyFinch.  Onit intends to use the startup’s AI skills to beef up its legal workflow software offerings.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

After evaluating a number of companies in the space, Onit focused on McCarthyFinch, which gives it an artificial intelligence component the company’s legal workflow software had been lacking. “We evaluated about a dozen companies in the AI space and dug in deep on six of them. McCarthyFinch stood out from the pack. They had the strongest technology and the strongest team,” Eric M. Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit told TechCrunch.

The company intends to inject that AI into its existing Aptitude workflow platform.”Part of what really got me excited about McCarthyFinch was the very first conversation I had with their CEO, Nick Whitehouse. They considered themselves an AI platform, which complemented our approach and our workflow automation platform, Aptitude,” Elfman said.

McCarthyFinch CEO and co-founder Whitehouse says the startup was considering whether to raise more money or look at being acquired earlier this year when Onit made its interest known. At first, he wasn’t really interested in being acquired and was hoping to go the partner route, but over time that changed.

“I was very much on the partner track, and was probably quite dismissive to begin with because I was quite focused on that partner strategy. But as we talked, all egos aside, it just made sense [to move to acquisition talks],” Whitehouse said.

The talks heated up in May and the deal officially closed last week. With Onit, headquartered in Houston and McCarthyFinch in New Zealand, the negotiations and meetings all happened on Zoom. The two companies’ principals have never met in person. The plan is for McCarthyFinch to stay in place, even after the pandemic ends. Whitehouse expects to make a trip to Houston whenever it is safe to do so.

Whitehouse says his experience with Battlefield has had a huge influence on him. “Just the insights that we got through Battlefield, the coaching that we got, those things have stuck with me and they’ll stick with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The company had 45 customers and 17 employees at the time of the acquisition. It raised $5 million US dollars along the way. Now it becomes part of Onit as the journey continues.

FireEye acquires Respond Software for $186M, announces $400M investment


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

The security sector is ever frothy and acquisitive. Just last week Palo Alto Networks grabbed Expanse for $800 million. Today it was FireEye’s turn, snagging Respond Software, a company that helps customers investigate and understand security incidents, while reducing the need for highly trained (and scarce) security analysts. The deal has closed, according to the company.

FireEye had its eye on Respond’s Analyst product, which it plans to fold into its Mandiant Solutions platform. Like many companies today, FireEye is focused on using machine learning to help bolster its solutions and bring a level of automation to sorting through the data, finding real issues and weeding out false positives. The acquisition gives them a quick influx of machine learning-fueled software.

FireEye sees a product that can help add speed to its existing tooling. “With Mandiant’s position on the front lines, we know what to look for in an attack, and Respond’s cloud-based machine learning productizes our expertise to deliver faster outcomes and protect more customers,” Kevin Mandia, FireEye CEO said in a statement announcing the deal.

Mike Armistead, CEO at Respond, wrote in a company blog post that today’s acquisition marks the end of a four-year journey for the startup, but it believes it has landed in a good home with FireEye. “We are proud to announce that after many months of discussion, we are becoming part of the Mandiant Solutions portfolio, a solution organization inside FireEye,” Armistead wrote.

While FireEye was at it, it also announced a $400 million investment from Blackstone Tactical Opportunities fund and ClearSky (an investor in Respond), giving the public company a new influx of cash to make additional moves like the acquisition it made today.

It didn’t come cheap. “Under the terms of its investment, Blackstone and ClearSky will purchase $400 million in shares of a newly designated 4.5% Series A Convertible Preferred Stock of FireEye (the ‘Series A Preferred’), with a purchase price of $1,000 per share. The Series A Preferred will be convertible into shares of FireEye’s common stock at a conversion price of $18.00 per share,” the company explained in a statement. The stock closed at $14.24 today.

Respond, which was founded in 2016, raised $32 million, including a $12 million Series A in 2017 led by CRV and Foundation Capital and a $20 million Series B led by ClearSky last year, according to Crunchbase data.