Was Snowflake’s IPO mispriced or just misunderstood?


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

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. 

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Was Snowflake’s IPO mispriced or just misunderstood?

With an ocean of neat stuff to get through below, we’ll be quick today on our thought bubble focused on Snowflake’s IPO. Up front it was a huge success as a fundraising event for the data-focused unicorn.

At issue is the mismatch between the company’s final IPO price of $120 and where it opened, which was around $245 per share. The usual forces were out on Twitter arguing that billions were left on the table, with commentary on the question of a mispriced IPO even reaching our friends at CNBC.

A good question given the controversy is how the company itself felt about its IPO price given that it was the party that, theoretically, left a few billion on some metaphorical table. As it turns out, the CEO does not give a shit.

Alex Konrad at Forbes — a good chap, follow him on Twitter here — caught up with Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman about the matter. He called the “chatter” that his company left money on the table “nonsense,” adding that he could have priced higher but that he “wanted to bring along the group of investors that [Snowflake] wanted, and [he] didn’t want to push them past the point where they really started to squeal.”

So Slootman found a new, higher price at which to value his company during its debut. He got the investors he wanted. He got Berkshire and Salesforce in on the deal. And the company roared out of the gate. What an awful, terrible, no-good, mess of an IPO.

Adding to the mix, I was chatting with a few SaaS VCs earlier this week, and they largely didn’t buy into the money-left-on-the-table argument, as presuming that a whole block of shares could be sold at the opening trade price is silly. Are IPOs perfect? Hell no. Are bankers out for their own good? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that Snowflake screwed up.

Market Notes

No time to waste at all, let’s get into it:

  • Lots of IPOs this week, and everyone did well. Snowflake was explosive while JFrog was merely amazing. Sumo Logic and Unity had more modest debuts, but good results all the same. Notes from JFrog and Sumo execs in a moment.
  • Disrupt was a big damn deal this week, with tech’s famous and its up and coming leaders showing up to chatter with TechCrunch about what’s going on today, and what’s going on tomorrow. You can catch up on the sessions here, which I recommend. But I wanted to take a moment and thank the TechCrunch sales, partnership, and events teams. They killed it and get 0.1% of the love that they deserve. Thank you.
  • Why is Snowflake special? This tweet by GGV’s Jeff Richards has the story in one chart.
  • What are the hottest categories for SaaS startups in 2020? We got you.
  • There’s a new VC metric in town for startups to follow. Folks will recall the infamous T2D3 model, where startups should triple twice, and then double three times. That five-year plan got most companies to $100M in ARR. Now Shasta Ventures’ Issac Roth has a new model for contention, what he’s calling “C170R,” and according to a piece from his firm, he reckons it could be the “new post-COVID SaaS standard.” (We spoke with Roth about API-focused startups the other day.)
  • So what is it? Per his own notes: “If a startup entering COVID season with $2-20M in revenue is on track for 170% of their 2019 revenue AND is aligned with the new normal of remote, they will be able to raise new capital on good terms and are set up for future venture success.” He goes to note that there’s less of a need to double or treble this year.
  • Our thought bubble: If this catches on, a lot more SaaS startups would prove eligible for new rounds than we’d thought. And as Shasta is all-in on SaaS, perhaps this metric is a welcome mat of sorts. I wonder what portion of VCs agree with Shasta’s new model?
  • And, closing, our dive into no-code and low-code startups continues.

Various and Sundry

Again, there’s so much to get to that there is no space to waste words. Onward:

  • Chime raised an ocean of capital, which is notable for a few reasons. First, a new $14.5B valuation, which is up a zillion percent from their early 2019 round, and up around 3x from its late 2019 round. And it claims real EBITDA profitability. And with the company claiming it will be IPO ready in 12 months I am hype about the company. Because not every company that manages a big fintech valuation is in great shape.
  • I got on the phone with the CEO and CFO of JFrog after their IPO this week to chat about the offering. The pair looked at every IPO that happened during COVID, they said, to try to get their company to a “fair price,” adding that from here out the market will decide what’s the right number. The CEO Shlomi Ben Haim also made a fun allusion to a tweet comparing JFrog’s opening valuation to the price that Microsoft paid for GitHub. I think that this is the tweet.
  • JFrog’s pricing came on the back of it making money, i.e. real GAAP net income in its most recent quarter. According to JFrog’s CFO Jacob Shulman “investors were impressed with the numbers,” and were also impressed by its “efficient market model” that allowed it find “viral adoption inside the enterprise.”
  • That last phrase sounds to us like efficient sales and marketing spend.
  • Moving to Sumo Logic, which also went out this week (S-1 notes here). I caught up with the company’s CTO Christian Beedgen.
  • Beedgen, I just want to say, is a delight to chat with. But more on topic, the company’s IPO went well and I wanted to dig into more of the nitty-gritty of the market that Sumo is seeing. After Beedgen walked me through how he views his company’s TAM ($50 billion) and market dynamics (not winner-takes-all), I asked about sales friction amongst enterprise customers that Slack had mentioned in its most recent earnings report. Beedgen said:
  • “I don’t see that as a systemic problem personally. […] I think people in economies are very flexible, and you know the new normal is what it is now. And you know these other guys on the other side [of the phone], these businesses they also need to continue to run their stuff and so they’re gonna continue to figure out how we can help. And they will find us, we will find them. I really don’t see that as a systemic problem.”
  • So, good news for enterprise startups everywhere!
  • Wix launched a non-VC fund that looks a bit like a VC fund. Called Wix Capital, the group will “invest in technology innovators that are focused on the future of the web and that look to accelerate how businesses operate in today’s evolving digital landscape,” per the company.
  • Wix is a big public shop these days, with elements of low and no-code to its core. (The Exchange talked to the company not too long ago.)
  • And, finally my friends, I call this the Peloton Effect, and am going to write about it if I can find the time.

I am chatting with a Unity exec this evening, but too late to make it into this newsletter. Perhaps next week. Hugs until then, and stay safe.

Alex

Unity Software has strong opening, gaining 31% after pricing above its raised range


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Whoever said you can’t make money playing video games clearly hasn’t taken a look at Unity Software’s stock price.

On its first official day of trading, the company rose more than 31%, opening at $75 per share before closing the day at $68.35. Unity’s share price gains came after last night’s pricing of the company’s stock at $52 per share, well above the range of $44 to $48 which was itself an upward revision of the company’s initial target.

Games like “Pokémon GO” and “Iron Man VR” rely on the company’s software, as do untold numbers of other mobile gaming applications that use the company’s toolkit for support. The company’s customers range from small gaming publishers to large gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Niantic, Ubisoft and Tencent.

Unity’s IPO comes on the heels of other well-received debuts, including Sumo Logic, Snowflake and JFrog .

TechCrunch caught up with Unity’s CFO, Kim Jabal, after-hours today to dig in a bit on the transaction.

According to Jabal, hosting her company’s roadshow over Zoom had some advantages, as her team didn’t have to focus on tackling a single geography per day, allowing Unity to “optimize” its time based on who the company wanted to meet, instead, of say, whomever was free in Boston or Chicago on a particular Tuesday morning.

Jabal’s comments aren’t the first that TechCrunch has heard regarding roadshows going well in a digital format instead of as an in-person presentation. If the old-school roadshow survives, we’ll be surprised, though private jet companies will miss the business.

Talking about the transaction itself, Jabal stressed the connection between her company’s employees, value  and their access to that same value. Unity’s IPO was unique in that existing and former employees were able to trade 15% of their vested holdings in the company on day one, excluding “current executive officers and directors,” per SEC filings.

That act does not seemed to have dampened enthusiasm for the company’s shares, and could have helped boost early float, allowing for the two sides of the supply and demand curves to more quickly meet close to the company’s real value, instead of a scarcity-driven, more artificial figure.

Regarding Unity’s IPO pricing, Jabal discussed what she called a “very data-driven process.” The result of that process was an IPO price that came in above its raised range, and still rose during its first day’s trading, but less than 50%. That’s about as good an outcome as you can hope for in an IPO.

One final thing for the SaaS nerds out there. Unity’s “dollar-based net expansion rate” went from very good to outstanding in 2020, or in the words of the S-1/A:

Our dollar-based net expansion rate, which measures expansion in existing customers’ revenue over a trailing 12-month period, grew from 124% as of December 31, 2018 to 133% as of December 31, 2019, and from 129% as of June 30, 2019 to 142% as of June 30, 2020, demonstrating the power of this strategy.

We had to ask. And the answer, per Jabal, was a combination of the company’s platform strength and how customers tend to use more of Unity’s services over time, which she described as growing with their customers. And the second key element was 2020’s unique dynamics that gave Unity a “tailwind” thanks to “increased usage, particularly in gaming.”

Looking at our own gaming levels in 2020 compared to 2019, that checks out.

This post closes the book on this week’s IPO class. Tired yet? Don’t be. Palantir is up next, and then Asana .

Amid layoffs and allegations of fraud, the FBI has arrested NS8’s CEO following its $100+ million summer financing


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

The tagline from today’s announcement from the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York says it all: “Adam Rogas Allegedly Raised $123 Million from Investors Using Financial Statements that Showed Tens of Millions of Dollars of Revenue and Assets that Did Not Exist”.

Rogas, the co-founder and former chief executive and chief financial officer and board member of the Las Vegas-based fraud prevention company, NS8, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged in Manhattan court with securities fraud, fraud in the offer of sale of securities, and wire fraud earlier today.

Last week, the company laid off hundreds of staff as reports of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission surfaced, according to a report in Forbes.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” Lightspeed Ventures told Forbes in a statement. “We are shocked by the news and have taken steps to inform our LPs. It would be premature to comment further at this time.” Lightspeed Ventures helped lead NS8’s $123 million Series A this June. Other investors include Edison Partners, Lytical Ventures, Sorenson Ventures, Arbor Ventures, Hillcrest Venture Partners, Blu Venture Investors, and Bloomberg Beta, per Crunchbase data.

The allegations are, indeed, shocking.

“As alleged, Adam Rogas was the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. “While raising over $100 million from investors for his fraud prevention company, Rogas himself allegedly was engaging in a brazen fraud.  Today’s arrest of Rogas ensures that he will be held accountable for his alleged scheme.”

Allegedly, while Rogas was in control of the bank accounts and spreadsheets that detailed its transactions with customers, he cooked the books to show millions in transactions that did not exist.

From January 2019 through February 2020, the FBI alleges that somewhere between 40 percent and 95 percent of the purported total assets on NS8’s balance sheet were fictitious, according to the statement. Over the same period bank Rogas altered bank statements to reflect $40 million in revenue that simply were not there, according to the Justice Department’s allegations.

On the back of that fake financial data, NS8 was able to raise over $120 million from some top tier investment firms including Lightspeed Venture Partners and AXA Ventures. 

Rogas managed to hoodwink not just the investment firms, but the auditors who were conducting due diligence on their behalf. After the round was completed, NS8 did a secondary offering which let Rogas cash out of $17.5 million through personal sales and through a company he controlled, according to the statement from the DOJ.

“It seems ironic that the co-founder of a company designed to prevent online fraud would engage in fraudulent activity himself, but today that’s exactly what we allege Adam Rogas did. Rogas allegedly raised millions of dollars from investors based on fictitious financial affirmations, and in the end, walked away with nearly $17.5 million worth of that money,” said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. “Within our complex financial crimes branch, securities fraud cases remain among our top priorities. We’ve seen far too many examples of unscrupulous actors engaging in this type of criminal activity, and we continue to work diligently to weed out this behavior whenever and wherever we find it.”

Chime adds $485M at a $14.5B valuation, claims EBITDA profitability


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

In the midst of IPO week we have to add another name to our future debuts’ list, namely Chime, which announced a huge new round of capital today. The $485 million Series F values the consumer fintech giant at $14.5 billion, a huge figure given that Chime was most recently worth $5.8 billion after raising $700 million last December.

Even more stark is the company’s $1.5 billion valuation set in early 2019. From $1.5 billion to $14.5 billion in less than two years is quite a run for any startup. Powering the latest round there were a host of familiar names, including Tiger, ICONIQ and General Atlantic, along with Dragoneer and DST Global. Names I’m less familiar with like Whale Rock Capital and Access Technology Ventures also took part.

Tucked inside a CNBC article that broke the story was news that Chime is now EBITDA profitable and could be “IPO-ready” in its CEO’s eyes in around a year’s time.

TechCrunch reached out to Chime for clarification on the EBITDA point, asking if the figure is adjusted or not, as many EBTIDA metrics remove the cost of share-based compensation given to their employees. According to Chime, the metric is “true EBITDA,” to which we award an extra five points. In response to a growth question, Chime said that its “transaction and top-line” has tripled compared to the year ago period.

The Chime round and news of its nascent, non-GAAP profitability comes on the heels of a grip of reports on the financial health of a number of European neobanks, or challenger banks as they are often called. The numbers showed huge growth, and steep losses. If Chime’s numbers hold up when we get its eventual S-1 — start your countdowns — it will be among the healthiest of the startups in its cohort in financial terms, we reckon.

Finally, the company is trying to paint itself as something of a software company, and not a fintech company. This is a move to attract better revenue multiples when it comes time to defend its new $14.5 billion valuation. Software companies have flat-out bonkers multiples these days, as evinced by the blockbuster Snowflake debut.

Here’s how Chime thinks of itself, via CNBC:

“We’re more like a consumer software company than a bank,” Britt said. “It’s more a transaction-based, processing-based business model that is highly predictable, highly recurring and highly profitable.”

The key phrases there are “software company” and “highly predictable, highly recurring and highly profitable.” In effect Chime will argue that interchange revenues should fit under the SaaS umbrella given their regularity. Investors will decide how to view that pitch. If it works, maybe fintechs are more valuable than expected. And those fintechs with obvious SaaS components, like Acorns, could be sitting pretty when it comes to making the fintech v. SaaS argument.

Regardless, it’s another huge round for Chime, which makes it a good day for the highly-valued fintech sector.

It’s game on as Unity begins trading


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Unity Software, which sells a game development toolkit primarily for mobile phone app developers, raised $1.3 billion in its initial public offering.

The company, which will begin trading today with the ticker symbol “U”, priced its shares at the top end of its expected range, selling 25 million shares at $52 per share.

The company’s final IPO price came in far ahead of what Unity initially anticipated. The company initially expected to price its public offering between $34 and $42 per share, later raising its offering to $44 and $48 per share.

The public offering values the company at around $13.7 billion, a good step-up from its final private valuation of around $6 billion.

For Unity, the journey to the public markets has been long. The company was founded and as a business that creates software for developers to make and manage their games. In that sense, the company is more like an Adobe or an Autodesk, than a game studio like Activision Blizzard or King.com.

As TechCrunch explained in an earlier story profiling Unity and its public offering:

Users import digital assets (often from Autodesk’s Maya) and add logic to guide each asset’s behavior, character interactions, physics, lighting and countless other factors that create fully interactive games. Creators then export the final product to one or more of the 20 platforms Unity supports, such as Apple iOS and Google Android, Xbox and Playstation, Oculus Quest and Microsoft HoloLens, etc.

The company organizes its business into two areas: tools for content creation and tools for managing and monetizing content. In actuality, the revenue from the managing and monetizing content actually outstrips the revenue the company makes from content creation.

The Unity public offering will be the first big test of investor appetite for this new approach to game development and the business-to-business tools that enable the new wave of gaming.

And it’s important to note (as we do here) that Unity doesn’t generate a lot of revenue off of its position as arguably the most popular game development platform. In fact, Unity has been pretty bad at monetizing the game development engine. It’s the ancillary services for in-game advertising, player matchmaking and other features that have made Unity the bulk of its money.

And there’s still the company’s biggest competitor, Epic Games, waiting in the wings. Here again, the analysis from TechCrunch’s previous reporting is helpful.

[Unity] also will want to benefit from comparisons to Epic Games, given [Epic] was just valued at $17 billion and has much greater public name recognition and hype.

To accomplish this, Unity seems to be underplaying the significance of its advertising business (adtech companies trade at much lower revenue multiples). In the past, Unity referred to its operations in three divisions: Create, Operate and Monetize. At the start of August, the SVP and VP leading the Monetize business switched titles to SVP and VP of Operate Solutions, respectively, and then Unity reported the monetization business as a subset of its Operate division in the S-1.

Consolidating Operate and Monetize into one reporting segment obscures specifics about how much revenue the ads business and the live services portfolio each contribute. As noted above, this segment appears to be dominated by ad revenue which means anywhere from 30% to 50% of Unity’s overall revenue is from ads. That should reduce the revenue multiple public investors are willing to value Unity at relative to recent and upcoming SaaS IPOs.

There isn’t a publicly-traded game engine company to directly benchmark Unity against, nor a roster of equity research analysts at big banks who have expertise in gaming infrastructure. Adobe and Autodesk appear to be relevant businesses to benchmark Unity against with regard to the nature of the non-advertising components of the business and Unity’s stated vision. Compared to Unity, those companies have lower growth rates and generate operating profits though; more recent public listings of SaaS companies like Zscaler and Cloudflare are likely to be valuation comps by investors to the extent they focus on its subscription and usage-based revenue streams since their revenue growth and margins are closer to Unity’s.

Both Epic and Unity are moving to meet each other, Epic by moving downstream, and Unity by moving to higher end applications. And both companies are looking beyond core gaming at other applications as well.

As companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Niantic and others evolve their augmented and virtual reality ecosystems, Epic and Unity may find new worlds to conquer. If public markets can find the cash.

In its 4th revision to the SEC, Palantir tries to explain what the hell is going on


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

For a company vaunted for its clandestine government work and strong engineering culture, you can’t help but wonder if the government’s bureaucratic norms and paperwork pushing are starting to flood into the Shire.

When most companies go public, they file a Form S-1 with the SEC, wait a few weeks through the investor road show, and then submit an amended filing with the final details of the offering before trading commences. Simple, easy, effective. No one wants to mess with the SEC, and so top securities law firms work diligently to ensure that everything is in order when that initial form is filed.

Palantir has done nothing of the sort. It filed a confidential draft registration statement back in July. It filed an amendment. It filed another amendment. It filed its official S-1. Then an amendment, and an amendment, and an amendment, and an amendment. And it’s still not trading, so another amendment is in the offing.

Palantir is not a complicated business. It’s a software business (mostly) today with 125 customers, making real revenues, and with a decent story to tell investors. And yet, you can’t help but look agog at the level of complication and paperwork the company has created for itself by just trying to be a little bit different from everyone else.

One part of that compilation was its invention of a direct listing with a lockup. When a company directly lists on a stock exchange, recent tradition holds that insiders are not locked up, which means that they will be allowed to start buying and selling their shares as soon as the company hits the market. For reasons that are known only to Palantir, the company decided to mostly block employee trading, limiting the float that can be expected when it begins trading.

So in today’s 4th amendment to its S-1, we have some updated figures of what the lockup will look like. Palantir will lock up about 80% of shares in the company, allowing about 380 million shares to trade on opening day. Eight million more shares will come on the market in November when certain restricted stock units vest for company employees, and other vested RSUs will also not be beholden to the lockup agreement as they come next year.

This direct listing with lockup was compilation number one. Complication number two is the absolute byzantine ownership structure that Palantir has selected for itself. In a note added this morning in its filing, the company admits that “This is a novel capital structure that differs significantly from those of other companies that have dual or multiple class capital structures.” That’s quite an understatement.

In Palantir’s governance structure, it will have three classes of shares. Class A shares have 1 vote, Class B shares have 10 votes, and Class F shares (for “Founder”) have a variable number of votes that will ensure that Palantir’s founders Alex Karp, Stephen Cohen and Peter Thiel maintain 49.999999% control of the company essentially in perpetuity (or at least, until they want to give it up by selling).

Today, the company provided a handy table on exactly what that all means, since it’s not simple at all. Let’s take a look at a cleaned-up version of their voting table, based on which founders are employed at Palantir at a specific time:

The key here is that so long as the three founders are all actively working at Palantir, their ownership is meant to be capped at 49.999999% of the company. In other words, any other shares they own of the Class A and Class B varietals are included within that ownership number. This is something I have gotten wrong, so mea culpa, although frankly, if you need to file a half dozen amendments to the SEC to explain what you are doing, I feel like I am in good company.

Where it gets bizarre is if one of the three founders leaves. In those scenarios, the three of them collectively will have even more power than if they all actually work at the company simultaneously. For instance, if Thiel leaves the company (which in his case means resigning from the board), the three founders actually increase their voting power collectively from 49.999999% to 64.999999%, assuming Thiel doesn’t sell any of his own shares.What do those calculations ultimately mean? Well, Palantir was graceful enough to put an explanation in its fourth amendment on exactly what it all boils down to:

While the Board retains the power to hire and remove members of our management, which currently includes two of our Founders, the Founders would continue to beneficially own shares of Class F common stock and Class B common stock and be able to exercise control over matters submitted to a vote of our stockholders so long as our Founders who are then party to the Founder Voting Agreement and certain of their affiliates collectively meet the Ownership Threshold on the applicable record date, even if one or more of our Founders resigns from the Company or is terminated. (Emphasis mine)

In other words, if you strike them down, they shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine, Shareholder.

Palantir in this filing also made clear that there is at least some floor by which the three founders have to collectively own the company. With all three of them onboard, they have to maintain ownership over 100 million shares of the company, or slightly less than 5%. So they can’t, say, own 0.0001% of the company and control 49.999999% of the vote. What a relief!

Look, founder control is a mainstay of modern Silicon Valley tech IPOs. But we’ve never seen such an extensive, interlocking set of systems designed to make a company absolutely impregnable to any form of external governance. I can understand the concerns with Palantir, given its work, its controversies, and the extreme media attention it receives. It probably needs some form of governance that provides it stability amidst the maelstrom. But all of this sets such a bad precedent for the rest of Silicon Valley that I hope it’s recognized in their share price.

3 VCs discuss the state of SaaS investing in 2020


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

Yesterday during Disrupt 2020 I sat down with three investors who know the SaaS startup market very well, hoping to get my head around how hot things are today. Coming on the heels of the epic Snowflake IPO (more to come on that in this weekend’s newsletter), it was a great time for a chat.


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


I’ve boiled our 40-minute discussion down to my favorite parts, getting you the goods in quick fashion.

What follows are notes on:

  • how fast the SaaS investing market is today
  • why Snowflake priced where it did and what that tells us about today’s market
  • how SaaS companies are seeing different growth results based on their sales motion
  • why some private-market SaaS multiples can get so high
  • which software sectors are accelerating
  • and what I learned about international SaaS.

There are more things to pull out later, like the investors’ thoughts regarding diversity in their part of the venture world and SaaS startups, but I want to give that topic its own space.

So, into today’s SaaS market with an eye on the future, guided by commentary from Canaan’s Maha Ibrahim, Andreessen Horowitz’s David Ulevitch and Bessemer’s Mary D’Onofrio.

Inside SaaS

To help us get through a good bit of the written word without slowing down, I’ll introduce an idea, share a quote and provide a little commentary. This should be good fun.

Schools are closing their doors, but Opendoor isn’t


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

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Natasha Mascarenhas, Danny Crichton and myself hosted a live taping at Disrupt for a digital reception. It was good fun, though of course we’re looking forward to bringing the live show back to the conference next year, vaccine allowing.

Thankfully we had Chris Gates behind the scenes tweaking the dials, Alexandra Ames fitting us into the program and some folks to watch live.

What did we talk about? All of this (and some very, very bad jokes):

And then we tried to play a game that may or may not make it into the final cut. Either way, it was great to have Equity back at Disrupt. More to come. Hugs from us!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Demand Sage raises $3M to make sales and marketing data more accessible


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

Demand Sage, a new startup from the founders of recently-acquired mobile analytics company Localytics, announced this morning that it has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Eniac Ventures and Underscore VC.

When I spoke to CEO Raj Aggarwal, CTO Henry Cipolla and CPO Randy Dailey back in February, they outlined a vision to make it easier for marketers to get the data and insights they need, initially by automatically generating Google Sheets reports using data from HubSpot.

More recently, Demand Sage has been expanding into sales data.

“From our solid base with marketers we noticed sales leaders pulling us in to help them too,” Aggarwal told me via email. “We’ve been able to give them visibility they didn’t have, in areas such as where deals are getting stuck and which activities actually drive revenue. It makes sense since there is a ton of overlap between the sales and marketing functions, especially in SMBs. ”

Aggarwal also said that Demand Sage has expanded its product lineup beyond pre-built report templates by introducing a no-code “Report Builder,” and by testing out an insights tools that could, for example, help salespeople determine which deals need their attention.

In a statement, Vinayak Ranade, CEO of Demand Sage customer Drafted, said, “With every sales and marketing tool I’ve used, eventually you give up and export data to a spreadsheet to dig into the numbers,” whereas with Demand Sage, it’s “like having a Google Sheets power-user that automatically makes the spreadsheets that you really want to see.”

As for how the business has fared during the pandemic, Aggarwal said, “Demand has really jumped. Companies need more cost-effective solutions and greater flexibility as business models shift.”

Which 5 cloud startup categories are the hottest?


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

Hello from the midst of Disrupt 2020: after this short piece for you I am wrapping my prep for a panel with investors from Bessemer, a16z and Canaan about the future of SaaS. Luckily, The Exchange this morning is on a very similar topic.


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


Today we’re parsing some data that Bessemer and Forbes shared regarding their yearly Cloud 100 list. It’s a grouping of private cloud and SaaS companies, giving us a good look into valuation trends over time and also where the most valuable startups are focusing their efforts.

The data show a changing focus from the biggest and most impressive private SaaS and cloud companies. And the valuation trends show how growing private valuations could limit future returns, given historical results.

Of course, modern cloud valuations make it hard to be bearish on SaaS revenue multiples, but all the same, how much higher can they go? Every startup looks cheap when money is cheap. Let’s get into the numbers.

A changing sector focus

The Cloud 100 cycles companies in and out as time passes. As the list is focused on private companies, cloud and SaaS firms that sell to another company or go public leave the cohort. And new companies join, keeping the total group at precisely 100 companies.

Here are the top five sectors those 100 companies are focused on, in order of popularity:

Which 5 cloud startup categories are the hottest?


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

Hello from the midst of Disrupt 2020: after this short piece for you I am wrapping my prep for a panel with investors from Bessemer, a16z and Canaan about the future of SaaS. Luckily, The Exchange this morning is on a very similar topic.


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


Today we’re parsing some data that Bessemer and Forbes shared regarding their yearly Cloud 100 list. It’s a grouping of private cloud and SaaS companies, giving us a good look into valuation trends over time and also where the most valuable startups are focusing their efforts.

The data show a changing focus from the biggest and most impressive private SaaS and cloud companies. And the valuation trends show how growing private valuations could limit future returns, given historical results.

Of course, modern cloud valuations make it hard to be bearish on SaaS revenue multiples, but all the same, how much higher can they go? Every startup looks cheap when money is cheap. Let’s get into the numbers.

A changing sector focus

The Cloud 100 cycles companies in and out as time passes. As the list is focused on private companies, cloud and SaaS firms that sell to another company, or go public leave the cohort. And new companies join, keeping the total group at precisely 100 companies.

And here are the top five sectors those 100 companies are focused on, in order of popularity:

Join Accel’s Andrew Braccia and Sonali De Rycker for a live Q&A on September 22 at 2 pm EDT/11 am PDT


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

In the midst of Disrupt 2020, we’re busy keeping tabs on all the panels, chats, demos and battling startups, but we’re also prepping for what comes next. Next Tuesday, the Extra Crunch Live series of Q&As with founders and investors resumes, this time with guests Andrew Braccia and Sonali De Rycker from Accel.

If you are just catching up to Extra Crunch Live, we’ve been hosting live discussions since the early COVID-19 days here in the United States with folks like Mark Cuban, Plaid founder Zach Perret and Sequoia’s Roelof Botha taking part.

The Accel chat is going to be interesting for a few reasons, one of which is that Braccia is the opposite of loud — TechCrunch has noted his general reticence to public comment in prior reporting. But Braccia was early money into Slack, which means he’ll have good perspective into the direct listing market, the IPO market writ large, SaaS and the remote-work boom. We’ll make sure to get the latest.

De Rycker is a bit more active in the public sphere and has lead deals into companies like Sennder (which recently did a deal with Uber), Shift Technology and Avito, which sold to Naspers for north of $1 billion last year. As you can tell from that string of deals, De Rycker will be able to give us a working dig into what’s up in the European startup scene.

And as De Rycker worked as an investment banker before VC, we’ll see what she has to say regarding today’s M&A and IPO climes.

All in all, it’s going to be a good time that I am looking forward to hosting. Login details follow for Extra Crunch folks, and you can snag a cheap trial here if you need access.

Until then, enjoy Disrupt and we’ll see you on Tuesday. Don’t forget to bring your best questions, and we might get to one of them!

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Go public now while software valuations make no sense, Part II


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

On August 5th, TechCrunch wrote that startups should “go public while software valuations make no sense.” What came next was a happy coincidence. Just a few weeks after that post, Unity, JFrog, Asana, Snowflake and Sumo Logic all filed to go public.

Today we’re seeing some data from those debuts, most notably the incredibly strong pricing runs from both JFrog and Snowflake. But even more, Snowflake just opened at either $245 or $269.50, depending on your data source. Regardless, the company’s stock is currently worth $276.2 per share, some 130% higher than its IPO price. Which, as we noted earlier, was already pretty high, given the company’s most recent revenue results.

Adding to the Snowflake example, JFrog opened worth around $71.30 today, sharply higher than its above-an-already-raised-range IPO price of $44. That’s wild! JFrog is now worth around $7 billion, despite having posted revenue in its last quarter of just $36.4 million.

The message from today’s debuts appears to be that valuations are unmoored from old rules — for the moment, that is — and thus companies that can post 100% growth or greater have little in the way of a cap on their upper limit.

Our takeaway: Go public now.

Adding to the good news is that some of the valuations we’ve understood less than others are holding up. First-day pop-and-drop today’s market isn’t. For example, Lemonade is still up about 50% from its IPO price, and OneMedical is up 100% from its own. So, software valuations are so wild that even software-adjacent companies are benefiting!

This is excellent news for a great number of unicorns. The good times are still here, amazingly, while the economy is still pretty bad and the election looms. All those old rules about having successive quarters of profitability and not going public during more turbulent years is, for now, bullshit.

Normalcy will re-emerge at some point. Things will eventually quiet down. But not yet, so get that S-1 out and take advantage of the good times while they last.

Unity raises IPO price range after JFrog, Snowflake target steep debut valuations


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

On the heels of two IPOs pricing above raised ranges, Unity boosted the value of its own impending debut this morning. The well-known unicorn is currently set to begin trading this Friday, pricing after the bell Thursday.

If that happens, the gaming platform company expects to be worth between $44 and $48 per share, up from its preceding $34 to $42 per-share IPO price range that it initially set.

Unity raising its price range for its IPO is not a surprise, given that software companies have been on a strong run lately. Just last night developer-focused software concern JFrog and data-focused cloud operation Snowflake each priced their public debuts above raised price intervals.

There’s plenty of demand for growth-oriented software equities on today’s public markets. And Unity has what investors are generally looking for inside that sector: greater than 40% revenue growth, gross margins in the high-70s to low-80s, and falling losses in both percent-of-revenue and gross dollar terms.

At $48 per share, Unity would sell $1.20 billion in stock, and be valued at around $12.6 billion. Given its most recent quarter’s revenue ($184.3 million) and annualized run-rate ($737.4 million), Unity is valued at around 17.1x revenues. (You can make that multiple larger by using a trailing revenue metric instead of an annualized run-rate statistic, or lower it by using a forward revenue estimate.)

We’ll have a better feel for how hot the public markets are later today when Snowflake and JFrog start, but Unity’s upward pricing bodes well for all three firms. Unity investors are set to do well, regardless of its final price. The company last raised $125 million in mid-2019 at a valuation of around $6.0 billion. Earlier shareholders will do even better in the transaction.

Sumo Logic is also expected to debut this week. More on that IPO here, if you are so inclined.

JFrog and Snowflake’s aggressive IPO pricing point to strong demand for cloud shares


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

After raising their IPO price ranges, both JFrog and Snowflake priced above their refreshed intervals last night. At their final IPO prices, the two debuts are aggressively valued, showing continued optimism amongst public investors that cloud shares are an attractive bet, even if their growth is financed through a history of steep losses, as in the case of Snowflake .


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


The JFrog IPO pricing is notable because it shows how much public investors are willing to pay for 50% growth and recent profits from a SaaS company. And Snowflake’s pricing is noteworthy for showing the value of huge growth and improving economics.

This morning we’ll explore the two companies’ final values, compare those results to their initial IPO price ranges and calculate their current revenue multiples based on last-quarter’s annual run rates. This is going to be fun.

Later today we’ll have updates on how they open to trade. For now, let’s get into the math and valuation nuance you and I both need to understand just where the public market is today as so many unicorns are either en route towards an IPO, or are standing just outside the pool with a single hoof dipped to check the temperature.

Price this, you filthy animal

JFrog priced its IPO at $44 per share, above its raised range of $39 to $41 per share and comically higher than its first price interval of $33 to $37 per share. Indeed, the company’s final IPO price was 33.3% higher than the lowend of its first proposed pricing range.

Though I doubt anyone expected the company to go for so little as $33 per share, JFrog’s pricing run shows strong demand even before it began to float.

Kleiner prints gold with Desktop Metal, netting a roughly 10x return


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

Desktop Metal is one of the most interesting startups to come out of Boston in some time, with a technology designed to “print metal.” That’s a potentially huge expansion for the 3D printing market, where flexible polymers are the norm, a material that limits the kinds of products that these machines can produce. Little surprise then that the company caught the eye of a SPAC a few weeks ago and if all goes well, will begin publicly trading later this year.

This morning, the SPAC (called Trine) and startup have filed their latest financial and shareholders report with the SEC, giving us some sense of who the big VC winners are here.

First, let’s take a look at Desktop Metal’s preferred share price since its Series A back in 2015. The company has seen its price soar over the past five years, from $0.53 for its Series A to just slightly more than $10 for its Series E shares it sold last year.

According to its filing, Desktop Metal’s largest VC investors are NEA with 17.66% ownership, Lux with 11.59%, Kleiner with 11.10%, GV (formerly Google Ventures) at 8.89%, Northern Trust with 6.96% and KDT, a Koch Industries subsidiary, with 5.89%.

Desktop Metal is valued at $1.83 billion of the total $2.5 billion SPAC price. The difference in those two figures comes from the $305 million of capital held by the SPAC and $275 million in a private investment into the company that will be conducted as part of the acquisition, along with fees and some other ancillary financials.

What does that look like from a returns perspective? Desktop Metal raised six rounds of capital (Series A through Series E & E-1), raising a total of $438 million according to the company’s filings. Using the numbers from these filings, we can do some back-of-the-envelope math to make some rough guesses at how the individual funds returned on their investment.

The biggest overall winner in terms of multiples on investment is Kleiner Perkins, which sits at a roughly 10x return on its full investment into the company. Kleiner took a fifth of the Series A, putting in roughly $3 million. It then proceeded to double down in the Series B, where it invested approximately $13 million, before tapering off its pro rata in later rounds. Given that its $20.4 million in invested capital is skewed toward the earliest rounds, that drove up its return multiple.

NEA, perhaps owing to its larger fund scale, constantly invested in the company across all of its rounds, ultimately investing about $57 million. It invested in Desktop Metal through its seed program, and also did about 43% of the Series A. It continued to invest heavily across all the company’s growth rounds as well. Ultimately, NEA had a computed multiple on investment of roughly 5.67x.

Finally among early-stage investors, Lux managed to secure a 5.31x return, and it similarly plowed money into the company across all of its rounds, albeit slightly less aggressively than NEA, ultimately investing about $40 million into Desktop Metal.

Heading over to the growth investors, GV started investing in the Series C round and invested a total of about $65 million across the later stage, securing a return of 2.5x. Northern Trust came in on the Series D and netted 1.6x, and KDT of Koch Industries ended up with about 1.44x through its mezzanine capital infusion.

This includes all investors with more than 5% ownership in the company, per SEC regulations. Approximately $100 million of the company’s $438 million in fundraising is not disclosed on its cap table, so there might be other VCs with swell returns that weren’t obligated to disclose their shares. In addition, I am not including some minor common share stakes held by these venture firms, which are small enough to not radically change their return profile.

Desktop Metal’s quick appreciation in value over just five years will also give these firms very strong IRRs for their investments.

Given that Desktop Metal is heading to the public markets through a SPAC, all of these investors have an option to sell their stakes or hold on to them going forward. If they hold and Desktop Metal performs well, their stakes could increase dramatically in value, driving much higher returns. The reverse is naturally also true. Once public, the firms have flexibility on if and when to exit, and that decision will ultimately determine their final realized returns to LPs.

For now though, this is a great checkpoint to see just how successful some of these venture firms were on this deal. Maybe firms can print gold with those 3D printers after all.

What’s ahead in IPO land for JFrog, Snowflake, Sumo Logic and Unity


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

Welcome to Tuesday of TechCrunch Disrupt week. In a few hours, I’m hosting a panel about how startups can reach $100 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) with the CEOs of Egnyte, GitLab and the President of Kaltura. It’s going to be a jam. Bring your questions!

Right now, however, let’s talk about some bigger companies, namely all the unicorns that are going public this week. We can set aside Corsair Gaming, Palantir and Asana, as they debut next week. This morning let’s get settled on what’s ahead for JFrog, Snowflake, Sumo Logic and Unity.


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


We explored the most recent pricing ranges for Snowflake and JFrog yesterday, helping set the stage. With both companies setting new, richer price targets for their debuts, the technology market looks hot. That’s good news for Sumo Logic and Unity, which should also begin trading this week.

Read on for your cheat sheet on all things upcoming from the realm of IPOs, and, in response to Twitter kerfuffle, notes on why Snowflake is seeing such investor demand despite a history of losses. It’s a good day to remind ourselves why some losses are very bad and others are pretty OK, given a certain set of circumstances.

Big-ass IPO week

After trading today we expect to see JFrog and Snowflake price their IPOs. As a quick reminder, this is what the two companies are expecting, starting with developer-focused service provider JFrog:

Klarna raises $650 million at a $10.6 billion valuation


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

Fintech startup Klarna has raised a mega-round of funding led by Silver Lake. The company is raising $650 million at a post-money valuation of $10.65 billion. Klarna says it is now the highest-valued private fintech company in Europe following today’s funding round.

In addition to Silver Lake, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund) and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and HMI Capital are also participating in today’s funding round. Merian Chrysalis, TCV, Northzone and Bonnier have bought out existing shareholders.

Klarna’s main product is an alternative payment method on e-commerce platforms. It lets you buy now and pay later over three or four installments with 0% interest. It has been quite popular in different European markets as many customers don’t have credit cards and/or don’t want to pay the fees involved with revolving credit lines.

Merchants get paid when the initial transaction occurs with Klarna transparently managing credit lines for customers. In addition to transaction fees, the company also generates revenue from late fees.

More recently, the company expanded to the U.S. where it now has 9 million customers out of 90 million customers in total. It mainly competes with Affirm in the U.S. Klarna has also been expanding its offering by targeting consumers directly — not just e-commerce companies.

You can now download the Klarna app to see all your Klarna payments, access a marketplace of stores, track deliveries and set up price-drop notifications. Using the app, you can also create virtual cards to pay with Klarna on unsupported stores, such as Amazon. It’s not as straightforward as clicking Klarna when you check out, but it works. The app has 12 million monthly active users and 55,000 daily downloads.

The company launched a rewards program this summer called Vibe. It is only available in the U.S. for now. It lets you earn points for every dollar you spend using Klarna as your payment method. You can exchange points for gift cards at H&M, Amazon, Walmart, Uber, etc.

Klarna is now working with 200,000 retail partners, such as Sephora, Groupon and Ralph Lauren. During the first half of 2020, the company reported $466 million in revenue and $59.8 million in losses.

Bank-as-a-service startup Swan helps other companies issue cards, accounts and IBANs


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

Meet Swan, a new French startup that wants to let other companies offer financial services by issuing cards, bank accounts and IBANs with just a few lines of codes. The company could be considered as a bank-as-a-service platform, like Treezor or solarisBank.

Originally founded by startup studio eFounders, the startup just raised a $5.9M million (€5 million) seed round led by Creandum with Bpifrance’s Digital Venture fund also participating.

Swan has obtained an e-money license from the French regulator, which lets them operate payment services and hold user funds. Unlike a bank, it can’t issue credit lines. The company also handles risk, which means that it handles KYC processes (“know your customer”). Essentially, if you’re working with Swan, they take care of all the risky aspects of managing money.

Compared to other bank-as-a-service companies, Swan doesn’t necessarily want to power neobanks and help them get started. The startup thinks a ton of companies touch on financial services but can’t offer those services because it’s such a big investment.

For instance, you can imagine an invoicing product that generates IBANs for you so that it automatically matches incoming transactions to the right invoice (like Upflow). On-demand companies could issue cards to their delivery employees partners so that they can pay for groceries and food directly using a Swan-powered card. Marketplace companies could handle pay-ins and pay-outs at a more granular level with each client managing their own e-money wallet.

This vision is part of a bigger trend called embedded finance. By expanding your product to control a bigger stack of the experience, you can provide new products and services and make your customers stick around for a long time.

As a Swan customer, you can customize the branding with your own logo and colors. When you issue cards, you can choose between a physical Mastercard card or a virtual one. They work with Apple Pay and Google Pay. You pay €900 per month and a flat monthly fee for each account and card that you issue.

Swan is taking a developer-oriented approach. The company says it can take several months to integrate a banking-as-a-service product into your own product. With an API-driven approach, Swan wants to make it as easy as integrating Stripe on your e-commerce website.

Homage announces strategic partnership with Infocom, one of Japan’s largest healthcare IT providers


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

Homage, a Singapore-based caregiving and telehealth company, has taken a major step in its global expansion plan. The startup announced today that it has received strategic investment from Infocom, the Japanese information and communications technology company that runs one of the largest healthcare IT businesses in the country. Infocom’s solutions are used by more than 13,000 healthcare facilities in Japan.

During an interview with TechCrunch that will air as part of Disrupt tomorrow, Homage co-founder and chief executive Gillian Tee said “Japan has one of the most ageing populations in the world, and the problem is that we need to start building infrastructure to enable people to be able to access the kind of care services that they need.” She added that Homage and Infocom’s missions align because the latter is also building a platform for caregivers in Japan, in a bid to help solve the shortage of carers in the country.

Homage raised a Series B earlier this year with the goal of entering new Asian markets. The company, which currently operates in Singapore and Malaysia, focuses on patients who need long-term rehabilitation or care services, especially elderly people. This makes it a good match for Japan, where more than one in five of its population is currently aged 65 or over. In the next decade, that number is expected to increase to about one in three, making the need for caregiving services especially acute.

The deal includes a regional partnership that will enable Homage to launch its services into Japan, and Infocom to expand its reach in Southeast Asia. Homage’s services include a caregiver-client matching platform and a home medical service that includes online consultations and house calls, while Infocom’s technology covers a wide range of verticals, including digital healthcare, radiology, pharmaceuticals, medical imaging and hospital information management.

In a statement about the strategic investment, Mototaka Kuboi, Infocom’s managing executive officer and head of its healthcare business division, said, “We see Homage as an ideal partner given the company’s unique cutting-edge technology and market leadership in the long-term care segment, and we aim to drive business growth not only in Homage’s core and rapidly growing market in Southeast Asia, but also regionally.”