Lessons from Datto’s IPO pricing and revenue multiple


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

Last night Datto priced its IPO at $27 per share, the top end of its range that TechCrunch covered last week. The data and security-focused software company had targeted a $24 to $27 per-share IPO price range, meaning that its final per-share value was at the top of its estimates.


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The Datto IPO won’t draw lots of attention; its business is somewhat dull, as selling software to managed service providers rarely excites. But, the public offering matters for a different reason: it gives us a fresh lens into today’s IPO market.

That lens is the perspective of slower, more profitable growth. What is that worth?

The value of quickly-growing and unprofitable software and cloud companies is well known. Snowflake made a splash earlier this year on the back of huge growth and enormous losses. Investors ate its shares up, pushing its valuation to towering heights. And this year we’ve even seen rapid growth and profits valued by public investors in the form of JFrog’s IPO.

But slower growth, software margins and profitability? Datto’s financial picture feels somewhat unique among the IPOs that TechCrunch has covered this year.

It’s a similar bet to the one that Egnyte is making; the enterprise software company crested $100 million ARR last year and announced that it grew by around 22% in the first half of 2020. And, it is profitable on an EBITDA basis. Therefore, the Datto IPO could provide a clue as to what companies like Egnyte and the rest of the late-stage startup crop content to grow more slowly, but with the benefit of actually making money.

Lessons from Datto’s IPO pricing and revenue multiple

Here are the deal’s nuts and bolts:

Intel agrees to sell its NAND business to SK Hynix for $9 billion


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

SK Hynix, one of the world’s largest chip makers, announced today it will pay $9 billion for Intel’s flash memory business. Intel said it will use proceeds from the deal to focus on artificial intelligence, 5G and edge computing.

“For Intel, this transaction will allow us to to further prioritize our investments in differentiated technology where we can play a bigger role in the success of our customers and deliver attractive returns to our stockholders,” said Intel chief executive officer Bob Swan in the announcement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported earlier this week that the two companies were nearing an agreement, which will turn SK Hynix into one of the world’s largest NAND memory makers, second only to Samsung Electronics.

The deal with SK Hynix is the latest one Intel has made so it can double down on developing technology for 5G network infrastructure. Last year, Intel sold the majority of its modem business to Apple for about $1 billion, with Swan saying that the time that the deal would allow Intel to “[put] our full effort into 5G where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base.”

Once the deal is approved and closes, Seoul-based SK Hynix will take over Intel’s NAND SSD and NAND component and wafer businesses, and its NAND foundry in Dalian, China. Intel will hold onto its Optane business, which makes SSD memory modules. The companies said regulatory approval is expected by late 2021, and a final closing of all assets, including Intel’s NAND-related intellectual property, will take place in March 2025.

Until the final closing takes places, Intel will continue to manufacture NAND wafers at the Dalian foundry and retain all IP related to the manufacturing and design of its NAND flash wafers.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Dalian facility is Intel’s only major foundry in China, which means selling it to SK Hynix will dramatically reduce its presence there as the United States government puts trade restrictions on Chinese technology.

In the announcement, Intel said it plans to use proceeds from the sale to “advance its long-term growth priorities, including artificial intelligence, 5G networking and the intelligent, autonomous edge.”

During the six-month period ending on June 27, 2020, NAND business represented about $2.8 billion of revenue for its Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), and contributed about $600 million to the division’s operating income. According to the Wall Street Journal, this made up the majority of Intel’s total memory sales during that period, which was about $3 billion.

SK Hynix CEO Seok-Hee Lee said the deal will allow the South Korean company to “optimize our business structure, expanding our innovative portfolio in the NAND flash market segment, which will be comparable with what we achieved in DRAM.”

Juniper Networks acquires Boston-area AI SD-WAN startup 128 Technology for $450M


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

Today Juniper Networks announced it was acquiring smart wide area networking startup 128 Technology for $450 million.

This marks the second AI-fueled networking company Juniper has acquired in the last year and a half after purchasing Mist Systems in March 2019 for $405 million. With 128 Technology, the company gets more AI SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN is short for software-defined wide area networks, which means networks that cover a wide geographical area such as satellite offices, rather than a network in a defined space.

Today, instead of having simply software-defined networking, the newer systems use artificial intelligence to help automate session and policy details as needed, rather than dealing with static policies, which might not fit every situation perfectly.

Writing in a company blog post announcing the deal, executive vice president and chief product officer Manoj Leelanivas sees 128 Technology adding great flexibility to the portfolio as it tries to transition from legacy networking approaches to modern ones driven by AI, especially in conjunction with the Mist purchase.

“Combining 128 Technology’s groundbreaking software with Juniper SD-WAN, WAN Assurance and Marvis Virtual Network Assistant (driven by Mist AI) gives customers the clearest and quickest path to full AI-driven WAN operations — from initial configuration to ongoing AIOps, including customizable service levels (down to the individual user), simple policy enforcement, proactive anomaly detection, fault isolation with recommended corrective actions, self-driving network operations and AI-driven support,” Leelanivas wrote in the blog post.

128 Technologies was founded in 2014 and raised over $96 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent round was a $30 million Series D investment in September 2019 led by G20 Ventures and The Perkins Fund.

In addition to the $450 million, Juniper has asked 128 Technology to issue retention stock bonuses to encourage the startup’s employees to stay on during the transition to the new owners. Juniper has promised to honor this stock under the terms of the deal. The deal is expected to close in Juniper’s fiscal fourth quarter, subject to normal regulatory review.

Lawmatics raises $2.5M to help lawyers market themselves


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

Lawmatics, a San Diego startup that’s building marketing and CRM software for lawyers, is announcing that it has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

CEO Matt Spiegel used to practice law himself, and he told me that even though tech companies have a wide range of marketing tools to choose from, “lawyers have not been able to adopt them,” because they need a product that’s tailored to their specific needs.

That’s why Spiegel founded Lawmatics with CTO Roey Chasman. He said that a law firm’s relationship with its clients can be divided into three phases — intake (when a client is deciding whether to hire a firm); the active legal case; and after the case has been resolved. Apparently most legal software is designed to handle phase two, while Lawmatics focuses on phases one and three.

The platform includes a CRM system to manage the initial client intake process, as well as tools that can automate a lot of what Spiegel called the “blocking and tackling” of marketing, like sending birthday messages to former clients — which might sound like a minor task, but Spiegel said it’s crucial for law firms to “nurture” those relationships, because most of their business comes from referrals.

Lawmatics’ early adopters, Spiegel added, have consisted of the firms in areas where “if you need a lawyer, you go to Google and start searching ‘personal injury,’ ‘bankruptcy,’ ‘estate planning,’ all these consumer-driven law firms.” And the pandemic led to accelerated the startup’s growth, because “lawyers are at home now, their business is virtual and they need more tools.”

Spiegel’s had success selling technology to lawyers in the past, with his practice management software startup MyCase acquired by AppFolio in 2012 (AppFolio recently sold MyCase to a variety of funds for $193 million). He said that the strategies for growing both companies are “almost identical” — the products are different, but “it’s really the same segment, running the same playbook, only with additional go-to-market strategies.”

The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and Forefront Venture Partners, with participation from Revel Ventures and Bridge Venture Partners.

“In my 10 years investing I have witnessed few teams more passionate, determined, and capable of revolutionizing an industry,” said Eniac’s Tim Young in a statement. “They have not only created the best software product the legal market has seen, they have created a movement.”

 

Application security platform NeuraLegion raises $4.7 million seed led by DNX Ventures


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

A video call group photo of NeuraLegion's team working remotely around the world

A video call group photo of NeuraLegion’s team working remotely around the world

Application security platform NeuraLegion announced today it has raised a $4.7 million seed round led by DNX Ventures, an enterprise-focused investment firm. The funding included participation from Fusion Fund, J-Ventures and Incubate Fund. The startup also announced the launch of a new self-serve, community version that allows developers to sign up on their own for the platform and start performing scans within a few minutes.

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, NeuraLegion also has offices in San Francisco, London and Mostar, Bosnia. It currently offers NexDAST for dynamic application security testing, and NexPLOIT to integrate application security into SDLC (software development life cycle). It was launched last year by a founding team that includes chief executive Shoham Cohen, chief technology officer Bar Hofesh, chief scientist Art Linkov and president and chief commercial officer Gadi Bashvitz.

When asked who NeuraLegion views as its closest competitors, Bashvitz said Invicti Security and WhiteHat Security. Both are known primarily for their static application security testing (SAST) solutions, which Bashvitz said complements DAST products like NeuraLegion’s.

“These are complementary solutions and in fact we have some information partnerships with some of these companies,” he said.

Where NeuraLegion differentiates from other application security solutions, however, is that it was created specifically for developers, quality assurance and DevOps workers, so even though it can also be used by security professionals, it allows scans to be run much earlier in the development process than usual while lowering costs.

Bashvitz added that NeuraLegion is now used by thousands of developers through their organizations, but it is releasing its self-serve, community product to make its solutions more accessible to developers, who can sign up on their own, run their first scans and get results within 15 minutes.

In a statement about the funding, DNX Ventures managing partner Hiro Rio Maeda said, “The DAST market has been long stalled without any innovative approaches. NeuraLegion’s next-generation platform introduces a new way of conducting robust testing in today’s modern CI/CD environment.”

Twilio is buying customer data startup Segment for between $3B and $4B


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

Sources have told TechCrunch that Twilio intends to acquire customer data startup Segment for between $3 and $4 billion. Forbes broke the story on Friday night, reporting a price tag of $3.2 billion.

We have heard from a couple of industry sources that the deal is in the works and could be announced as early as Monday.

Twilio and Segment are both API companies. That means they create an easy way for developers to tap into a specific type of functionality without writing a lot of code. As I wrote in a 2017 article on Segment, it provides a set of APIs to pull together customer data from a variety of sources:

Segment has made a name for itself by providing a set of APIs that enable it to gather data about a customer from a variety of sources like your CRM tool, customer service application and website and pull that all together into a single view of the customer, something that is the goal of every company in the customer information business.

While Twilio’s main focus since it launched in 2008 has been on making it easy to embed communications functionality into any app, it signaled a switch in direction when it released the Flex customer service API in March 2018. Later that same year, it bought SendGrid, an email marketing API company for $2 billion.

Twilio’s market cap as of Friday was an impressive $45 billion. You could see how it can afford to flex its financial muscles to combine Twilio’s core API mission, especially Flex, with the ability to pull customer data with Segment and create customized email or ads with SendGrid.

This could enable Twilio to expand beyond pure core communications capabilities and it could come at the cost of around $5 billion for the two companies, a good deal for what could turn out to be a substantial business as more and more companies look for ways to understand and communicate with their customers in more relevant ways across multiple channels.

As Semil Shah from early stage VC firm Haystack wrote in the company blog yesterday, Segment saw a different way to gather customer data, and Twilio was wise to swoop in and buy it.

Segment’s belief was that a traditional CRM wasn’t robust enough for the enterprise to properly manage its pipe. Segment entered to provide customer data infrastructure to offer a more unified experience. Now under the Twilio umbrella, Segment can continue to build key integrations (like they have for Twilio data), which is being used globally inside Fortune 500 companies already.

Segment was founded in 2011 and raised over $283 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent raise was $175 million in April on a $1.5 billion valuation.

Twilio stock closed at $306.24 per share on Friday up $2.39%.

Segment declined to comment on this story. We also sent a request for comment to Twilio, but hadn’t heard back by the time we published.  If that changes, we will update the story.

Tone raises $4M to help e-commerce brands text with their customers


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

While many companies are using chatbots and other forms of automation to manage their communication with customers, Boston-based Tone is betting that humans will remain a key part of the equation.

“The traditional models of bots and humans is, ‘Hello, I’m a bot, now you get to battle with me finally get to a human,’” said Tone CEO Tivan Amour. “Our verison of that is, ‘I’m a human using AI to get you the answers you need more quickly.’”

Amour and his co-founder Vlad Pick previously created a bicycle startup called Fortified Bicycle, and he said they “figured out that the best way to close our customers on these $750 to $7,000 orders was to actually engage them in text message conversations.”

After all, when it comes to “high consideration” purchases like bicycles, people usually want discuss their questions and concerns with another human being. Over time, the Fortified team built what Amour said was a “semi-automated system” to help its sales team stay on top of these conversations.

“We started bragging about it to our friends about it, ‘You’ve gotta do this, it’s the future of mobile commerce,’” he recalled. “And they’d say, ‘Okay, that’s cool, but we don’t have any of the systems of doing that, we don’t have the salespeople.’”

Tone’s founders

So after selling Fortified Bicycle, Amour and Pick created Tone to help any e-commerce business manage similar text message conversations. Tone employs its own team of human agents to actually do the texting, assisted by software that helps them find the information they need.

It integrates with e-commerce systems like Shopify and Magento, and it’s already working with more than 1,000 brands like ThirdLove, Peak Design and Usual Wines — who are seeing as much as a 26% increase in revenue and a 15% increase in order size.

Amour also noted that specific Tone agents are assigned to specific brands, which means that customers will be talking to the same person whenever they have a question for that business. In some cases, customers have been talking to the same agent for months or years.

“Particularly in a post-COVID world, it’s pretty clear that online shopping has become the dominant form of shoping, but I think nobody has thought about how you replace that human experience that you get in traditional retail,” he said.

Tone is announcing today that it has raised $4 million in seed funding from led by Bling Capital, with participation from Day One Ventures, One Way Ventures, TIA Ventures and executives from Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Uber.

With the new funding, Amour said Tone will be able to build out the “relationship automation” aspect of the product. He also suggested that the platform could eventually expand beyond text messaging, but it sounds like that’s not a big priority.

“In theory, we’re a conversational sales platform more than we are an SMS company,” he said. “However there are a bunch of trends right now [such as the growth of mobile commerce] that make SMS be the most obvious place for this sort of innovation.”

Printing giant Vistaprint acquires 99designs


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

Vistaprint announced today that its parent company Cimpress has acquired freelance design marketplace 99designs.

The companies say that 99designs will become part of Vistaprint while also operating as a separate brand, with 99designs CEO Patrick Llewelyn continuing lead his team and reporting to Cimpress/Vistaprint CEO Robert Keane.

The acquisition announcement emphasizes the opportunity of connecting 99designs’ freelance designers with the 20 million small businesses who use Vistaprint to print signs, banners, business cards and other marketing materials — so they can their design and printing needs handled in one place.

Apparently Vistaprint has already been expanding into design services, with offerings that include a design service that businesses have used for to create custom face masks during the pandemic.

“The driving force behind Vistaprint’s future with 99designs is our passion to help small businesses,” Keane said in a statement. “We know how critical great design is for entrepreneurs on their journey. 99designs and Vistaprint have shared values and vision to be a trusted partner to business owners and creators, which lay the foundation for something bigger and more valuable than either of our teams could create alone.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Cimpress is publicly-traded, while 99designs has remained private, despite Llewellyn’s plans to go public a couple of years ago. The design company was founded in 2008n and raised a total of $45 million from Accel and Recruit Strategic Partners.

 

With $18M in new funding, Braintrust says it’s creating a fairer model for freelancers


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

Braintrust, a network for freelance technical and design talent that launched over the summer, is announcing that it has raised $18 million in new funding.

Co-founder and CEO Adam Jackson has written for TechCrunch about how tech companies need to treat independent contractors with more empathy. He told me via email that the San Francisco-based startup is making that idea a reality by offering a very different approach than existing marketplaces for freelance work.

For one thing, Braintrust only charges the companies doing the hiring — freelancers won’t have to pay to join or to bid on a project, and Braintrust won’t charge a fee on their project payments. In addition, the startup is using a cryptocurrency token that it calls Btrust to reward users who build the network, for example by inviting new customers or vetting freelancers. Apparently, the token will give users a stake in how the network evolves in the future.

“Just imagine if Uber had given all of its drivers some ownership in the company what a different company it would be today,” Jackson said. “Braintrust will be 100% user-owned. Everyone who participates on the platform has skin in the game.”

And for companies, Braintrust is supposed to allow them to tap freelancers for work that they’d normally do in-house. The startup’s clients already include Nestlé, Pacific Life, Deloitte, Porsche, Blue Cross Blue Shield and TaskRabbit.

According to Jackson, most of the talent on the platform consists of career freelancers, but with many people losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, “we’ve seen an influx of talent coming looking to join the ranks of the freelancers.”

He added that the startup already became profitable after raising its $6 million seed round, so the new funding will allow it to build the core team and also bring in more work.

“We exist to help companies accelerate their product roadmaps and innovation, and this injection of funding will help us do just that,” Jackson said.

The new funding was led by ACME and Blockchange, with participation from new investors Pantera, Multicoin and Variant.

SAP continues to build out customer experience business with Emarsys acquisition


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

SAP seemed to be all in on customer experience when it acquired Qualtrics for $8 billion in 2018. It continued on that journey today when it announced it was acquiring Austrian cloud marketing company Emarsys for an undisclosed amount of money.

Emarsys, which raised over $55 million according to PitchBook data, gives SAP customer personalization technology. If you spoke to any marketing automation vendor over the last several years, the focus has been on using a variety of data and touch points to understand the customer better, and deliver more meaningful online experiences.

With the pandemic closing or limiting access to brick and mortar stores, personalization has taken a new urgency as customers are increasingly shopping online and companies need to meet them where they are.

With Emarsys, the company is getting an omnichannel marketing solution that they say is designed to deliver messages to customers wherever they are, including e-mail, mobile, social, SMS and the web, and deliver that at scale.

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics a couple of months ago, just 20 months after buying it, it left some question about whether SAP was fully committed to the customer experience business.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that the acquisition shows that SAP is still very much in the game. “This illustrates that SAP is serious about CX and competing in a highly competitive space. Emarsys adds industry-specific customer engagement capabilities that should help SAP CX customers accelerate their efforts to provide their customers with the experiences they expect as their needs change over time,” Leary told TechCrunch.

As an ERP company at its core, SAP has traditionally focused on back-office kinds of operations. But Bob Stutz, president, SAP Customer Experience, sees this acquisition as a way to continue bringing back-office and front-office operations together.

“With Emarsys technology, SAP Customer Experience solutions can link commerce signals with the back office and activate the preferred channel of the customer with a relevant and consistently personalized message, allowing customers the freedom to choose their own engagement,” Stutz said in a statement.

The company, which is based in Austria, was founded back in 2000, when marketing was a very different world. It has built a customer base of 1,500 companies with 800 employees in 13 offices across the globe. All of this will become part of SAP, of course, and come under Stutz’s purview.

As with all transactions of this type it will be subject to regulatory approval, but the deal is expected to close this quarter.

NUVIA raises $240M from Mithril to make climate-ready enterprise chips


This post is by Danny Crichton from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Climate change is on everyone’s minds these days, what with the outer Bay Area on fire, orange skies above San Francisco, and a hurricane season that is bearing down on the East Coast with alacrity (and that’s just the United States in the past two weeks).

A major — and growing — source of those emissions is data centers, the cloud infrastructure that powers most of our devices and experiences. That’s led to some novel ideas, such as Microsoft’s underwater data center Project Natick, which just came back to the surface for testing a bit more than a week ago.

Yet, for all the fun experiments, there is a bit more of an obvious solution: just make the chips more energy efficient.

That’s the thesis of NUVIA, which was founded by three ex-Apple chip designers who led the design of the “A” series chip line for the company’s iPhones and iPads for years. Those chips are wicked fast within a very tight energy envelope, and NUVIA’s premise is essentially what happens when you take those sorts of energy constraints (and the experience of its chip design team) and apply them to the data center.

We did a deep profile of the company last year when it announced its $53 million Series A, so definitely read that to understand the founding story and the company’s mission. Now about one year later, it’s coming back to us with news of a whole bunch of more funding.

NUVIA announced today that it has closed on a $240 million Series B round led by Mithril Capital, with a bunch of others involved listed below.

Since we last chatted with the company, we now have a bit more detail of what it’s working on. It has two products under development, a system-on-chip (SoC) unit dubbed “Orion” and a CPU core dubbed “Phoenix.” The company previewed a bit of Phoenix’s performance last month, although as with most chip companies, it is almost certainly too early to make any long-term predictions about how the technology will settle in with existing and future chips coming to the market.

NUVIA’s view is that chips are limited to about 250-300 watts of power given the cooling and power constraints of most data centers. As more cores become common pre chip, each core is going to have to make do with less power availability while maintaining performance. NUVIA’s tech is trying to solve that problem, lowering total cost of ownership for data center operators while also improving overall energy efficiency.

There’s a lot more work to be done of course, so expect to see more product announcements and previews from the company as it gets its technology further finalized. With $240 million more dollars in the bank though, it certainly has the resources to make some progress.

Shortly after we chatted with the company last year, Apple sued company founder and CEO Gerald Williams III for breach of contract, with the company arguing that its former chip designer was trying to poach employees for his nascent startup. Williams counter-sued earlier this year, and the two parties are now in the discovery phase of their lawsuit, which remains ongoing.

In addition to lead Mithril, the round was done “in partnership with” the founders of semiconductor giant Marvell (Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai), funds managed by BlackRock, Fidelity, and Temasek, plus Atlantic Bridge and Redline Capital along with Series A investors Capricorn Investment Group, Dell Technologies Capital, Mayfield, Nepenthe LLC, and WRVI Capital.

Airship acquires SMS commerce company ReplyBuy


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

Airship is announcing that it has acquired mobile commerce startup ReplyBuy.

The startup (which was a finalist at TechCrunch’s 1st and Future competition in 2016) works with customers like entertainment venues and professional and college sports teams to send messages and sell tickets to fans via SMS. It raised $4 million in funding from Sand Hill Angels, Kosinski Ventures, SEAG Ventures, Enspire Capital, MRTNZ Ventures and others, according to Crunchbase.

Airship, meanwhile, has been expanding its platform beyond push notifications to cover customer communication across SMS, email, mobile wallets and more. But CEO Brett Caine said this is the first time the company is moving into commerce.

While sports and concerts tickets might not be a booming market right now, Caine suggested that the company is actually seeing increased purchasing activity “in and around the Airship platform” as businesses try to drive more in-app purchases. He also suggested that both the COVID-19 pandemic and increased restrictions on mobile data collection and ad targeting are going to “accelerate direct-to-consumer motion by large brands.”

Airship isn’t disclosing the deal price, but Caine said the seven-person ReplyBuy team will be joining the company, with CEO Brandon O’Halloran becoming Airship’s general manager of commerce and CTO Anthony Saia leading the commerce engineering team.

“Nobody directly connects more brands to mobile consumers than Airship,” O’Halloran said in a statement. “Joining Airship offers ReplyBuy the opportunity to serve the global market with a more comprehensive solution across more industries, and provide more valuable mobile customer experiences.”

Caine added, “These are really key roles, demonstrating the importance, in our view, of extending commerce to the customer engagement experience.”

He also said that Airship will continue to support ReplyBuy as a standalone product, while also integrating and extending its capabilities to other areas of the Airship platform.

“This one-to-one commerce at scale is a key part of the ReplyBuy solution,” he said. “We’re going to bring it into all the digital channels that Airship powers [to create] a seamless, fast, easy experience around commerce.”

Selling a startup can come with an emotional cost


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

Every founder dreams of building a substantial company. For those who make it through the myriad challenges, it typically results in an exit. If it’s through an acquisition, that can mean cashing in your equity, paying back investors and rewarding long-time employees, but it also usually results in a loss of power and a substantially reduced role.

Some founders hang around for a while before leaving after an agreed-upon time period, while others depart right away because there is simply no role left for them. However it plays out, being acquired can be an emotional shock: The company you spent years building is no longer under your control,

We spoke to a couple of startup founders who went through this experience to learn what the acquisition process was like, and how it feels to give up something after pouring your heart and soul into building it.

Knowing when it’s time to sell

There has to be some impetus to think about selling: Perhaps you’ve reached a point where growth stalls, or where you need to raise a substantial amount of cash to take you to the next level.

For Tracy Young, co-founder and former CEO at PlanGrid, the forcing event was reaching a point where she needed to raise funds to continue.

After growing a company that helped digitize building plans into a $100 million business, Young ended up selling it to Autodesk for $875 million in 2018. It was a substantial exit, but Young said it was more of a practical matter because the path to further growth was going to be an arduous one.

“When we got the offer from Autodesk, literally we would have had to execute flawlessly and the world had to stay good for the next three years for us to have the same outcome,” she said at a panel on exiting at TechCrunch Disrupt last week.

“As CEO, [my] job is to choose the best path forward for all stakeholders of the company — for our investors, for our team members, for our customers — and that was the path we chose.”

For Rami Essaid, who founded bot mitigation platform Distil Networks in 2011, slowing growth encouraged him to consider an exit. The company had reached around $25 million run rate, but a lack of momentum meant that shifting to a broader product portfolio would have been too heavy a lift.

Mirakl raises $300 million for its marketplace platform


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

French startup Mirakl has raised a $300 million funding round at a $1.5 billion valuation — the company is now a unicorn. Mirakl helps you launch and manage a marketplace on your e-commerce website. Many customers also rely on Mirakl-powered marketplaces for B2B transactions.

Permira Advisers is leading the round, with existing investors 83North, Bain Capital Ventures, Elaia Partners and Felix Capital also participating.

“We’ve closed this round in 43 days,” co-founder and U.S. CEO Adrien Nussenbaum told me. But the due diligence process has been intense. “[Permira Advisers] made 250 calls to clients, leads, partners and former employees.”

Many e-commerce companies rely on third-party sellers to increase their offering. Instead of having one seller selling to many customers, marketplaces let you sell products from many sellers to many customers. Mirakl has built a solution to manage the marketplace of your e-commerce platform.

300 companies have been working with Mirakl for their marketplace, such as Best Buy Canada, Carrefour, Darty and Office Depot. More recently, Mirakl has been increasingly working with B2B clients as well.

These industry-specific marketplaces can be used for procurement or bulk selling of parts. In this category, clients include Airbus Helicopters, Toyota Material Handling and Accor’s Astore. 60% of Mirakl’s marketplace are still consumer-facing marketplaces, but the company is adding as many B2B and B2C marketplaces these days.

“We’ve developed a lot of features that enable platform business models that go further than simple marketplaces,” co-founder and CEO Philippe Corrot told me. “For instance, we’ve invested in services — it lets our clients develop service platforms.”

In France, Conforama can upsell customers with different services when they buy some furniture for instance. Mirakl has also launched its own catalog manager so that you can merge listings, add information, etc.

The company is using artificial intelligence to do the heavy-lifting on this front. There are other AI-enabled features, such as fraud detection.

Given that Mirakl is a marketplace expert, it’s not surprising that the company has also created a sort of marketplace of marketplaces with Mirakl Connect.

“Mirakl Connect is a platform that is going to be the single entry point for everybody in the marketplace ecosystem, from sellers to operators and partners,” Corrot said.

For sellers, it’s quite obvious. You can create a company profile and promote products on multiple marketplaces at once. But the company is also starting to work with payment service providers, fulfillment companies, feed aggregators and other partners. The company wants to become a one-stop shop on marketplaces with those partners.

Overall, Mirakl-powered marketplaces have generated $1.2 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) during the first half of 2020. It represents a 111% year-over-year increase, despite the economic crisis.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand across all areas — same features, same business model, but with more resources. It plans to hire 500 engineers and scale its sales and customer success teams.

Socialbakers acquired by customer engagement company Astute


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

Astute, a customer engagement platform headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, is announcing that it has acquired social media marketing company Socialbakers.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Socialbakers CEO Yuval Ben-Itzhak will become president of Socialbakers for the combined company, and he told me via email that the entire Socialbakers team will be joining as well, resulting in a combined organization with more than 600 employees and $100 million in annual recurring revenue.

Socialbakers was one of the last independent players from the first wave of social analytics. Founded in 2008 and based in Prague, the company raised a total of $34 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, from investors including Earlybird Venture Capital and Index Ventures. And it’s used by more than 2,5000 brands globally.

Astute, meanwhile, has been around for 25 years, and focuses on unifying customer data. Ben-Itzhak said that by acquiring Socialbakers, Astute will be able to add social media-focused features like audience insights, content planning, influencer marketing and ad analytics.

“Socialbakers and Astute are already sharing dozens of mutual brand customers in the enterprise segment,” he said. “This is, in fact, how the acquisition talks came about. The platform integration process has already started and is expected to continue through Q4.”

In a statement, Astute CEO Mark Zablan also emphasized the comprehensiveness of the resulting platform.

“The lines between customer care, customer experience, and marketing have become increasingly blurred, presenting real challenges for companies,” Zablan said. “Combining the market-leading social media marketing capabilities of Socialbakers with Astute’s engagement suite not only helps our customers tackle this challenge more effectively, but also marks a major milestone along Astute’s journey towards becoming the end-to-end customer engagement platform that the Chief Customer Officer needs to succeed.”

DNX Ventures launches $315 million fund for U.S. and Japanese B2B startups


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

DNX Ventures, an investment firm that focuses on early-stage B2B startups in Japan and the United States, announced today that it has closed a new $315 million fund. This is DNX’s third flagship fund and along with supplementary annexed funds, brings its total managed so far to $567 million.

Founded in 2011, with offices in San Mateo, California and Tokyo, Japan, DNX has invested in more than 100 startups to date, and has thirteen exits under its belt. The firm, a member of the Draper Venture Network, focuses on cloud and enterprise software, cybersecurity, edge computing, sales and marketing automation, finance and retail. The companies it invests in are usually raising “seed plus” or Series A funding and DNX’s typical check size ranges from $1 million to $5 million, depending on the startup’s stage, managing director Q Motiwala told TechCrunch.

DNX isn’t disclosing the names of its third fund’s limited partners, but Motiwala said it includes more than 30 LPs, including financial institutions, banks and large conglomerates. DNX began working on the fund last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Motiwala says DNX is optimistic about the outlook for B2B startups, because past macroeconomic crises, including the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2001 dot-com burst, showed founders continue innovating as they figure out how to make their businesses more efficient while building urgently-needed solutions.

For example, DNX has always focused on sectors like cloud computing, cybersecurity, edge computing and robotics, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made those technologies even more relevant. For example, the massive upsurge in remote work means that companies need to adapt their tech infrastructure, while robots like the ones developed by Diligent Robotics, a DNX portfolio company, can help hospitals cope with with nursing shortages.

“Our overall theme has always been the digitization of traditional industries like construction, transportation or healthcare, and we’ve always been interested in how to make the reach to the customer much better, so sales and marketing automation, for example,” said Motiwala. “Then the last piece of this is, how do you make society or businesses function better through automation, and those might take things like robotics and other technology.”

The differences and similarities between U.S. and Japanese B2B startups

A graphic featuring DNX Ventures' team members

A graphic featuring DNX Ventures’ team members

One of the reasons DNX was founded nine years ago was because “Japan has very strong spending on enterprise,” Motiwala said. The firm launched with offices in the U.S. and Japan and has continued to focus on B2B while growing the size of its funds. The firm’s debut fund was $40 million and its second one, announced in 2016, was more than $170 million. Motiwala said the $315 million DNX raised for its third fund was more than the firm expected.

U.S. B2B startups tend to think about global expansion at an earlier stage than their Japanese counterparts, but that has started to change, he said, and many Japanese B2B companies launch with an eye on expanding into different countries. Instead of the U.S. or Europe, however, they tend to focus on Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, or Taiwan. Another difference is that U.S. startups make heavier initial investments in their technology or IP, while in Japan, companies focus on getting to revenue and breaking even earlier. Motiwala said this might be because the Japanese venture capital ecosystem is smaller than in the U.S., but that attitude is also changing.

Examples of DNX portfolio companies that have successfully entered new countries include Cylance, a U.S. company that develops antivirus software using machine learning and predictive math modeling to protect devices from malware. DNX helped Cylance establish operations in Europe and Japan. On the Japan side, software testing company Shift, an investment from DNX’s first fund, has done “phenomenally well” in Southeast Asia, Motiwala said.

In terms of going global, DNX doesn’t push its portfolio companies, but encourages them to expand when the timing is right, especially if a U.S. startup wants to enter Japan, or vice versa. “We like to use the fact that we have teams in both regions. What we’ve seen more is the U.S. companies entering channel partnerships for Japanese distribution,” Motiwala said. “It has been more difficult to show the same thing to Japanese companies, but at the same time what we’ve realized is that instead of saying they should come into the U.S., they’ve done amazing stuff going into the Philippines or Singapore.”

Progress snags software automation platform Chef for $220M


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

Progress, a Boston area developer tool company, boosted its offerings in a big way today when it announced it was acquiring software automation platform Chef for $220 million.

Chef, which went 100% open source last year, had annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $70 million from the commercial side of the house. Needless to say, Progress CEO Yogesh Gupta was happy to bring the company into the fold and gain not only that revenue, but a set of highly skilled employees, a strong developer community and an impressive customer list.

Gupta said that Chef fits with his company’s acquisition philosophy. “This acquisition perfectly aligns with our growth strategy and meets the requirements that we’ve previously laid out: a strong recurring revenue model, technology that complements our business, a loyal customer base and the ability to leverage our operating model and infrastructure to run the business more efficiently,” he said in a statement.

Chef CEO Barry Crist offered a typical argument for an acquired company, that Progress offered  a better path to future growth, while sending a message to the open source community and customers that Progress would be a good steward of the startup’s vision.

“For Chef, this acquisition is our next chapter, and Progress will help enhance our growth potential, support our Open Source vision, and provide broader opportunities for our customers, partners, employees and community,” Crist said in a statement.

Chef’s customer list is certainly impressive including tech industry stalwarts like Facebook, IBM and SAP, as well as non-tech companies like Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines and Capital One.

The company was founded in 2008 and had raised $105 million. according to Crunchbase data. It hadn’t raised any funds since 2015 when it raised a $40 million Series E led by DFJ Growth. Other investors along the way included Battery Ventures, Ignition Partners and Scale Venture Partners.

The transaction is expected to close next month pending normal regulatory approvals.

Optimizely acquired by content management company Episerver


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

Episerver is announcing that it has reached an agreement to acquire Optimizely for an undisclosed sum.

Optimizely was founded in 2009 by Dan Siroker and Pete Koomen. It became synonymous with A/B testing, subsequently building a broader suite of tools for marketers to experiment with and personalize their websites and apps, with more than 1,000 customers including Gap, StubHub, IBM and The Wall Street Journal.

The company had raised more than $200 million in funding from Goldman Sachs, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, GV and others. Earlier this year, it laid off 15% of its staff, citing the impact of COVID-19.

Episerver, meanwhile, was founded in Stockholm back in 1994 and offers tools for marketers to manage their digital content. Accel-KKR  sold the company to Insight Partners for $1.1 billion in 2018. (Today’s announcement describes Insight as a “strategic advisor and sponsor” in the acquisition.)

In a statement, Episerver CEO Alex Atzberger said this is “the most significant transformation in our company’s history – one that will set a new industry standard for digital experience platforms.” It sounds like the idea is to extend Episerver’s capabilities around content and commerce with Optimizely’s experimentation tools.

“The breakthrough combination of Episerver and Optimizely will transform digital experience creation and optimization, enabling digital teams to replace guesswork with evidence-based outcomes,” Atzberger said. “This, along with our shared mission to empower growing companies to compete digitally, makes me thrilled to welcome the Optimizely team to Episerver, as we prove there are no extraordinary experiences without experimentation.”

A company spokesperson said the deal is for a mix of cash and stock. The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, with the companies remaining fully staffed and independent until then.

“Winning in today’s digital world requires delivering the best and most personalized digital experiences,” said Jay Larson, who replaced Siroker as Optimizely CEO in 2017, in a statement. “Episerver and Optimizely have a shared vision to optimize every customer touchpoint through the use of experimentation. Together, we will enable our customers to do more testing, in more places, with greater ease than ever before.”

Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing


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

Process automation startup Hypatos has raised a €10 million (~$11.8M) seed round of funding from investors including Blackfin Tech, Grazia Equity, UVC Partners and Plug & Play Ventures.

The Germany- and Poland-based company was spun out of AI for accounting startup, Smacc, at the back end of 2018 to apply deep learning tech to power a wider range of back-office automation, with a focus on industries with heavy financial document processing needs, such as the financial and insurance sectors.

Hypatos is applying language processing AI and computer vision tech to speed up financial document processing for business use-cases such as invoices, travel and expense management, loan application validation and insurance claims handling via — touting a training dataset of more than 10M annotated data entities.

It says the new seed funding will go on R&D to expand its portfolio of AI models so it can automate business processing for more types of documents, as well as for fuelling growth in Europe, North American and Asia. Its customer base at this point includes Fortune 500 companies, major accounting firms and more than 300 software companies.

While there are plenty of business process automation plays, Hypatos says its use of deep learning tech supports an “in-depth understanding” of document content — which in turn allows it to offer customers a ‘soup to nuts’ automation menu that covers document classification, information capturing, content validation, and data enrichment.

It dubs its approach “cognitive process automation” (CPA) vs more basic applications of business process automation with software robots (RPA) which it argues aren’t so contextually savvy — thereby claiming an edge.

As well as document processing solutions, it has developed machine learning modules for enhancing customers’ existing systems (e.g. ECM, ERP, CRM, RPA); and offers APIs for software providers to draw on its machine learning tech for their own applications.

“All offerings include machine learning pipeline software for continuous model training in the cloud or in on-premise deployments,” it notes in a press release.

“We have deep knowledge of how financial documents are processed and millions of data entities in our training data,” says chief commercial officer, Cem Dilmegani, discussing where Hypatos fits in the business process automation landscape. “We get compared to RPA companies like UiPath, enterprise content management (ECM) companies like Kofax Readsoft as well as generalist ML document automation companies like Hyperscience. However, we are quite different.

“We focus on end-to-end automation, we don’t only help companies capture data, we help them process it using our deep domain understanding, enabling higher rates of automation. For example, to automate incoming invoice processing (A/P automation) we apply our document understanding AI to capture all data, classify the document, identify the specific goods and services, validate for internal/external compliance and assign financial accounts, cost centers, cost categories etc. to automate all processing tasks.”

“Finally, we offer this technology as components easily accessible via APIs. This allows RPA or ECM users to leverage our technology and increase their level of automation,” he adds.

Hypatos claims it’s seeing uplift as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — noting it’s providing a service to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies to help with in-shoring efforts which it says are accelerating as a result of COVID-19 putting pressure on the traditional business process outsourcing model as offshore workforce productivity in lower wage regions is affected by coronavirus lockdowns.

“We believe that we are in a pivotal moment of machine learning adoption in large organizations,” adds Andreas Unseld, partner at UVC Partners, in a supporting statement. “Hypatos’ technology provides ample opportunity to transform many core business processes. We’re impressed by the Hypatos machine learning technology and see the team in a perfect position to take a leading role in the machine learning revolution to come.”