Dec
06
2018
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LeanIX, the SaaS that lets enterprises map out their software architecture, closes $30M Series C

LeanIX, the Software-as-a-Service for “Enterprise Architecture Management,” has closed $30 million in Series C funding.

The round is led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from previous investors Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP), Capnamic Ventures and Iris Capital. It brings LeanIX’s total funding to nearly $40 million since the German company was founded in 2012.

Operating in the enterprise architecture space, previously the domain of a company’s IT team only, LeanIX’s SaaS might well be described as a “Google Maps for IT architectures.”

The software lets enterprises map out all of the legacy software or modern SaaS that the organisation is run on, including creating meta data on things like what business process it is used for or capable of supporting, what tech (and version) powers it, what teams are using or have access to it, who is responsible for it, as well as how the different architecture fits together.

From this vantage point, enterprises can not only keep a better handle on all of the software from different vendors they are buying in, including how that differs or might be better utilised across distributed teams, but also act in a more nimble way in terms of how they adopt new solutions or decommission legacy ones.

In a call with André Christ, co-founder and CEO, he described LeanIX as providing a “single source of truth” for an enterprise’s architecture. He also explained that the SaaS takes a semi-automatic approach to how it maps out that data. A lot of the initial data entry will need to be done manually, but this is designed to be done collaboratively across an organisation and supported by an “easy-to-use UX,” while LeanIX also extracts some data automatically via integrations with ServiceNow (e.g. scanning software on servers) or Signavio (e.g. how IT Systems are used in Business Processes).

More broadly, Christ tells me that the need for a solution like LeanIX is only increasing, as enterprise architecture has shifted away from monolithic vendors and software to the use of a sprawling array of cloud or on-premise software where each typically does one job or business process really well, rather than many.

“With the rising adoption of SaaS, multi-cloud and microservices, an agile management of the Enterprise Architecture is harder to achieve but more important than ever before,” he says. “Any company in any industry using more than a hundred applications is facing this challenge. That’s why the opportunity is huge for LeanIX to define and own this category.”

To that end, LeanIX says the investment will be used to accelerate growth in the U.S. and for continued product innovation. Meanwhile, the company says that in 2018 it achieved several major milestones, including doubling its global customer base, launching operations in Boston and expanding its global headcount with the appointment of several senior-level executives. Enterprises using LeanIX include Adidas, DHL, Merck and Santander, with strategic partnerships with Deloitte, ServiceNow and PwC, among others.

“For businesses today, effective enterprise architecture management is critical for driving digital transformation, and requires robust tools that enable collaboration and agility,” said Teddie Wardi, principal at Insight Venture Partners, in a statement. “LeanIX is a pioneer in the space of next-generation EA tools, achieved staggering growth over the last year, and is the trusted partner for some of today’s largest and most complex organizations. We look forward to supporting its continued growth and success as one of the world’s leading software solutions for the modernization of IT architectures.”

Nov
30
2018
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DoJ charges Autonomy founder with fraud over $11BN sale to HP

U.K. entrepreneur turned billionaire investor Mike Lynch has been charged with fraud in the U.S. over the 2011 sale of his enterprise software company.

Lynch sold Autonomy, the big data company he founded back in 1996, to computer giant HP for around $11 billion some seven years ago.

But within a year around three-quarters of the value of the business had been written off, with HP accusing Autonomy’s management of accounting misrepresentations and disclosure failures.

Lynch has always rejected the allegations, and after HP sought to sue him in U.K. courts he countersued in 2015.

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s own Serious Fraud Office dropped an investigation into the Autonomy sale in 2015 — finding “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But now the DoJ has filed charges in a San Francisco court, accusing Lynch and other senior Autonomy executives of making false statements that inflated the value of the company.

They face 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud, according to Reuters — a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

We’ve reached out to Lynch’s fund, Invoke Capital, for comment on the latest development.

The BBC has obtained a statement from his lawyers, Chris Morvillo of Clifford Chance and Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson, which describes the indictment as “a travesty of justice,”

The statement also claims Lynch is being made a scapegoat for HP’s failures, framing the allegations as a business dispute over the application of U.K. accounting standards. 

Two years ago we interviewed Lynch onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt London and he mocked the morass of allegations still swirling around the acquisition as “spin and bullshit.”

Following the latest developments, the BBC reports that Lynch has stepped down as a scientific adviser to the U.K. government.

“Dr. Lynch has decided to resign his membership of the CST [Council for Science and Technology] with immediate effect. We appreciate the valuable contribution he has made to the CST in recent years,” a government spokesperson told it.

Nov
29
2018
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Asana, a work management platform, nabs $50M growth round at a $1.5B valuation

Asana, a service that teams and individuals use to plan and track the progress of work projects, is doubling down on its own project: to shape “the future of work,” in the words of co-founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz. The startup, whose products are used by millions of free and paying users, today is announcing that it has raised another $50 million in funding — a Series E that catapults Asana into unicorn status with a $1.5 billion valuation — to invest in international and product expansion.

Asana has been on a funding tear: It raised $75 million just 11 months ago at a $900 million post-money valuation, bringing the total this year to $125 million, and $213 million since being founded in 2008.

Led by Generation Investment Management — the London firm co-founded by former US Vice President Al Gore that also led that Series D in January — this latest round also includes existing investors 8VC, Benchmark Capital and Founders Fund as well as new investors Lead Edge Capital and World Innovation Lab.

Asana has lately been focused on international growth — half of its new sales are already coming from outside the US — and expanding its product as it inches toward profitability. These are the areas where its latest investment will go, too.

Specifically, it plans to open an AWS-based data center in Frankfurt in the first half of next year, and it will set down more roots in Asia-Pacific, with offices in Sydney and Tokyo. It is also hiring in both markets. Asana has customers in 195 countries and six languages, and it looks like it’s homing in on these two regions because it’s seeing the most traction there.

On the product side, the company has been gradually adding machine learning, predictive and other AI features and it will continue to do that as part of a “long-term vision for marrying computer and human intelligence to run entire companies.”

“Our role is to help leaders understand where their attention can be most useful and what to be focused on,” Moskovitz, pictured right with co-founder Justin Rosenstein, said to me in an interview earlier this month when describing the company’s AI push.

The funding caps off an active year for Asana.

In addition to raising $75 million in January, it announced 50,000 paying organizations and “millions” of free users in September. It also introduced new products and features, such as a paid tier, Asana for Business, for larger organizations managing multiple projects; Timelines for drilling into sequential tasks and milestones; and its first steps into AI, services that start to anticipate what users need to see first and prioritise, based on previous behaviour, which team the user is on, and so on:

Asana has been close to profitability this year, although it doesn’t look like it has quite reached that point yet. Moskovitz told me that in fact, it has held on to most of its previous funding (that’s before embarking on this next wave of ambitious expansions, though).

“We have so much money in the bank that we have quite a lot of options [and are in a] strong position so choose what makes the most sense strategically,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate with investors. The prime thing is vision match: do they think about the long-term future in the same way we do? Do they have the same values and priorities? Generation nailed that on so many levels as a firm.”

How Asana fits into the mix with Slack, Box and others

Asana’s growth and mission both mirror trends in the wider world of enterprise IT and collaboration within it.

Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace from Facebook and other messaging and chat apps have transformed how coworkers communicate with each other, both within single offices and across wider geographies: they have replaced email, phone and other communication channels to some extent.

Meanwhile, the rise of cloud-based services like Dropbox, Box, Google Cloud, AWS and Microsoft’s Azure have transformed how people in organizations manage and ultimately collaborate on files: the rise of mobile and mobile working have increased the need for more flexible file management and access.

The third area that has been less covered is work management: as people continue to multitask on multiple projects – partly spurred by the rise in the other two collaboration categories – they need a platform that helps keep them organised and on top of all that work. This is where Asana sits.

“We think about collaboration as three markets,” Moskovitz said, “file collaboration, messaging, and work management. Each of these has a massive surface area and depth to them. We think it’s important that all companies have tools that they use from each of these big buckets.”

It is not the only one in that big bucket.

Asana alternatives include Airtable, Wrike, Trello and Basecamp. As we have pointed out before, that competitive pressure is another reason Asana is on the path to continue growing and making its service more sticky.

Indeed, just earlier this month Airtable raised $100 million at a $1.1 billion valuation. Airtable has a different approach – its platform can be used for more than project management – but it’s most definitely used to build templates precisely to track projects.

You might even argue that Airtable’s existing offering could present a type of product roadmap for what might be considered next for Asana.

For now, though, Asana is building up big customers for its existing services.

The product initially got its start when Moskovitz and Rosenstein – as respectively as co-founder and early employee of Facebook – built something to help their coworkers  at the social network manage their workloads. Now, it has a range of users that include a number of other tech firms, but also others.

London’s National Gallery, for example, uses Asana to plan and launch exhibitions and business projects; the supermarket chain Tesco’s digital campaigns; Sony Music, which also uses it for marketing management but also to track a digitization project for its back music catalog; Uber, which has managed some 600 city expansions through Asana to date.

“At Generation Investment Management, we’re grounded in the philosophy that through strategic investments in leading, mission-driven companies we can move towards a more sustainable future,” said Colin le Duc, co-founder and partner, Generation Investment Management, in a statement.

“We see Collaborative Work Management as a distinct and rapidly expanding segment, and Asana has the right product and team to lead the market. Through Dustin and the team, Asana is changing how businesses around the world collaborate, epitomizing what it means to deliver results with a mission-driven ethos.”

Nov
24
2018
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Upflow turbocharges your invoices

Meet Upflow a French startup that wants to help you deal with your outstanding invoices — the company first started at eFounders. If you’re running a small business, chances are you’re either wasting a ton of time or a ton of money on accounts receivable.

Most companies currently manage invoices using Excel spreadsheets, outdated banking interfaces and unnecessary conversations. Every time somebody signs a deal, they generate an invoice and file it in a spreadsheet somewhere.

Some companies will pay a few days later. But let’s be honest. Too many companies wait 30 days, 40 days or even more before even thinking about paying past due invoices. You end up sending emails, calling your clients and wasting a ton of time just collecting money. You might even feel bad about asking for money even though you already signed a deal.

In France, most companies use bank transfers to pay invoices. But business banking APIs are not there yet. It means that you have to log in to a slow banking website every day to check if somebody paid you. You can then tick a box in an Excel spreadsheet.

If everything I described resonates with you, Upflow wants to manage your invoices for you. It doesn’t replace your bank account, it doesn’t generate invoices for you. It integrates seamlessly with your existing workflow.

After signing up, you can send invoices to your client and cc Upflow in your email thread. Upflow then uses optical character recognition and automatically detects relevant data — the customer name, the amount, the due date, etc.

You can view all your outstanding invoices in Upflow’s interface to see where you stand. The service gives you a list of actionable tasks to get your money. For instance, Upflow tells you if you have overdue payments and tells you to contact your client again.

You can set up different rules depending on your clients. For instance, if you have many small clients, you can automate some of those messages. But if you only work with a handful of clients, you want to make sure that somebody has manually reviewed each message before Upflow sends them.

By default, you write your emails in Upflow so that your other team members can see what happened. You can browse invoices by client to see if somebody has multiple unpaid invoices. Upflow lets you assign actions to a particular team member if they’re more familiar with this specific client.

But all of this is just one part of the product. Upflow also generates banking information with the help of Treezor. This way, you can put your Upflow banking information on your invoices.

When a customer pays you, Upflow automatically matches invoices with incoming payments. This feature alone lets you save a ton of time. The startup transfers money back to your company’s bank account every day.

Upflow co-founder and CEO Alexandre Louisy drew me the following chart when we met. It’s probably easier to understand after reading my explanations:

In other words, Upflow has created a brick that sits between your company’s back office and your customers. Eventually, you could imagine more services built on top of this brick as Upflow is learning many things on your company.

According to Louisy, small and medium companies really need this kind of product — and not necessarily tech companies. Those companies don’t have a lot of money on their bank accounts, don’t have a big staff and need to save as much time as possible.

Now let’s see if it’s easy to sell a software-as-a-service solution to a family business that has been around for decades.

Nov
23
2018
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BlueCargo optimizes stacks of containers for maximum efficiency

Meet BlueCargo, a logistics startup focused on seaport terminals. The company was part of Y Combinator’s latest batch and recently raised a $3 million funding round from 1984 Ventures, Green Bay Ventures, Sound Ventures, Kima Ventures and others.

If you picture a terminal, chances are you see huge piles of containers. But current sorting methods are not efficient at all. Yard cranes end up moving a ton of containers just to reach a container sitting at the bottom of the pile.

BlueCargo wants to optimize those movements by helping you store containers at the right spot. The first container that is going to leave the terminal is going to be at the top of the pile.

“Terminals spend a lot of time making unproductive or undesired movements,” co-founder and CEO Alexandra Griffon told me. “And yet, terminals only generate revenue every time they unload or load a container.”

Right now, ERP-like solutions only manage containers according to a handful of business rules that don’t take into account the timeline of a container. Empty containers are all stored in one area, containers with dangerous goods are in another area, etc.

The startup leverages as much data as possible on each container — where it’s coming from, the type of container, if it’s full or empty, the cargo ship that carried it, the time of the year and more.

Every time BlueCargo works with a new terminal, the startup collects past data and processes it to create a model. The team can then predict how BlueCargo can optimize the terminal.

“At Saint-Nazaire, we could save 22 percent on container shifting,” Griffon told me.

The company will test its solution in Saint-Nazaire in December. It integrates directly with existing ERP solutions. Cranes already scan container identification numbers. BlueCargo could then instantly push relevant information to crane operators so that they know where to put down a container.

Saint-Nazaire is a relatively small port compared to the biggest European ports. But the company is already talking with terminals in Long Beach, one of the largest container ports in the U.S.

BlueCargo also knows that it needs to tread carefully — many companies already promised magical IT solutions in the past. But it hasn’t changed much in seaports.

That’s why the startup wants to be as seamless as possible. It only charges fees based on shifting savings — 30 percent of what it would have cost you with the old model. And it doesn’t want to alter workflows for people working at terminals — it’s like an invisible crane that helps you work faster.

There are six dominant players managing terminals around the world. If BlueCargo can convince those companies to work with the startup, it would represent a good business opportunity.

Nov
13
2018
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Cognigo raises $8.5M for its AI-driven data protection platform

Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures.

The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting up these kinds of systems and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months.

To do this, the company tells me, it’s using pre-trained language models for data classification. That model has been trained to detect common categories like payslips, patents, NDAs and contracts. Organizations can also provide their own data samples to further train the model and customize it for their own needs. “The only human intervention required is during the systems configuration process, which would take no longer than a single day’s work,” a company spokesperson told me. “Apart from that, the system is completely human-free.”

The company tells me that it plans to use the new funding to expand its R&D, marketing and sales teams, all with the goal of expanding its market presence and enhancing awareness of its product. “Our vision is to ensure our customers can use their data to make smart business decisions while making sure that the data is continuously protected and in compliance,” the company tells me.

Oct
15
2018
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Truphone, an eSIM mobile carrier that works with Apple, raises another $71M, now valued at $507M

Truphone — a UK startup that provides global mobile voice and data services by way of an eSIM model for phones, tablets and IoT devices — said that it has raised another £18 million ($23.7 million) in funding; plus it said it has secured £36 million ($47 million) more “on a conditional basis” to expand its business after signing “a number of high-value deals.”

It doesn’t specify which deals these are, but Truphone was an early partner of Apple’s to provide eSIM-based connectivity to the iPad — that is, a way to access a mobile carrier without having to swap in a physical SIM card, which has up to now been the standard for GMSA-based networks. Truphone is expanding on this by offering a service for new iPhone XS and XR models, taking advantage of the dual SIM capability in these devicews. Truphone says that strategic partners of the company include Apple (“which chose Truphone as the only carrier to offer global data, voice and text plans on the iPad and iPhone digital eSIM”); Synopsys, which has integrated Truphone’s eSIM technology into its chipset designs; and Workz Group, a SIM manufacturer, which has a license from Truphone for its GSMA-accredited remote SIM provisioning platform and SIM operating system.

The company said that this funding, which was made by way of a rights issue, values Truphone at £386 million ($507 million at today’s rates) post-money. Truphone told TechCrunch that the funding came from Vollin Holdings and Minden Worldwide — two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the Chelsea football club, among other things — along with unspecified minority shareholders. Collectively, Abramovich-connected entities control more than 80 percent of the company.

We have asked the company for more detail on what the conditions are for the additional £36 million in funding to be released and all it is willing to say is that “it’s KPI-driven and related to the speed of growth in the business.” It’s unclear what the state of the business is at the moment because Truphone has not updated its accounts at Companies House (they are overdue). We have asked about that, too.

For some context, Truphone most recently raised money almost exactly a year ago, when it picked up £255 million also by way of a rights issue, and also from the same two big investors. The large amount that time was partly being raised to retire debt. That deal was done at a valuation of £370 million ($491 million at the time of the deal). Going just on sterling values, this is a slight down-round.

Truphone, however, says that business is strong right now:

“The appetite for our technology has been enormous and we are thrilled that our investors have given us the opportunity to accelerate and scale these groundbreaking products to market,” said Ralph Steffens, CEO, Truphone, in a statement. “We recognised early on that the more integrated the supply chain, the smoother the customer experience. That recognition paid off—not just for our customers, but for our business. Because we have this capability, we can move at a speed and proficiency that has never before seen in our industry. This investment is particularly important because it is testament not just to our investors’ confidence in our ambitions, but pride in our accomplishments and enthusiasm to see more of what we can do.”

Truphone is one of a handful of providers that is working with Apple to provide plans for the digital eSIM by way of the MyTruphone app. Essentially this will give users an option for international data plans while travelling — Truphone’s network covers 80 countries — without having to swap out the SIMs for their home networks.

The eSIM technology is bigger than the iPhone itself, of course: some believe it could be the future of how we connect on mobile networks. On phones and tablets, it does away with users ordering, and inserting or swapping small, fiddly chips into their devices (that ironically is also one reason that carriers have been resistant to eSIMs traditionally: it makes it much easier for their customers to churn away). And in IoT networks where you might have thousands of connected, unmanned devices, this becomes one way of scaling those networks.

“eSIM technology is the next big thing in telecommunications and the impact will be felt by everyone involved, from consumers to chipset manufacturers and all those in-between,” said Steve Alder, chief business development officer at Truphone. “We’re one of only a handful of network operators that work with the iPhone digital eSIM. Choosing Truphone means that your new iPhone works across the world—just as it was intended.” Of note, Alder was the person who brokered the first iPhone carrier deal in the UK, when he was with O2.

However, one thing to consider when sizing up the eSIM market is that rollout has been slow so far: there are around 10 countries where there are carriers that support eSIM for handsets. Combining that with machine-to-machine deployments, the market is projected to be worth $254 million this year. However, forecasts put that the market size at $978 million by 2023, possibly pushed along by hardware companies like Apple making it an increasingly central part of the proposition, initially as a complement to a “home carrier.”

Truphone has not released numbers detailing how many devices are using its eSIM services at the moment — either among enterprises or consumers — but it has said that customers include more than 3,500 multinational enterprises in 196 countries. We have asked for more detail and will update this post as we learn more.

Oct
11
2018
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New Relic acquires Belgium’s CoScale to expand its monitoring of Kubernetes containers and microservices

New Relic, a provider of analytics and monitoring around a company’s internal and external facing apps and services to help optimise their performance, is making an acquisition today as it continues to expand a newer area of its business, containers and microservices. The company has announced that it has purchased CoScale, a provider of monitoring for containers and microservices, with a specific focus on Kubernetes.

Terms of the deal — which will include the team and technology — are not being disclosed, as it will not have a material impact on New Relic’s earnings. The larger company is traded on the NYSE (ticker: NEWR) and has been a strong upswing in the last two years, and its current market cap its around $4.6 billion.

Originally founded in Belgium, CoScale had raised $6.4 million and was last valued at $7.9 million, according to PitchBook. Investors included Microsoft (via its ScaleUp accelerator), PMV and the Qbic Fund, two Belgian investors.

We are thrilled to bring CoScale’s knowledge and deeply technical team into the New Relic fold,” noted Ramon Guiu, senior director of product management at New Relic. “The CoScale team members joining New Relic will focus on incorporating CoScale’s capabilities and experience into continuing innovations for the New Relic platform.”

The deal underscores how New Relic has had to shift in the last couple of years: when the company was founded years ago, application monitoring was a relatively easy task, with the web and a specified number of services the limit of what needed attention. But services, apps and functions have become increasingly complex and now tap data stored across a range of locations and devices, and processing everything generates a lot of computing demand.

New Relic first added container and microservices monitoring to its stack in 2016. That’s a somewhat late arrival to the area, New Relic CEO Lew Cirne believes that it’s just at the right time, dovetailing New Relic’s changes with wider shifts in the market.

‘We think those changes have actually been an opportunity for us to further differentiate and further strengthen our thesis that the New Relic  way is really the most logical way to address this,” he told my colleague Ron Miller last month. As Ron wrote, Cirne’s take is that New Relic has always been centered on the code, as opposed to the infrastructure where it’s delivered, and that has helped it make adjustments as the delivery mechanisms have changed.

New Relic already provides monitoring for Kubernetes, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and RedHat Openshift, and the idea is that CoScale will help it ramp up across that range, while also adding Docker and OpenShift to the mix, as well as offering new services down the line to serve the DevOps community.

“The visions of New Relic and CoScale are remarkably well aligned, so our team is excited that we get to join New Relic and continue on our journey of helping companies innovate faster by providing them visibility into the performance of their modern architectures,” said CoScale CEO Stijn Polfliet, in a statement. “[Co-founder] Fred [Ryckbosch] and I feel like this is such an exciting space and time to be in this market, and we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the amazing team at New Relic, the leader in monitoring modern applications and infrastructure.”

Oct
09
2018
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Pitch, from the founders of Wunderlist, raises $19M to take on Powerpoint in presentations

Microsoft’s Powerpoint today has over 1 billion installs, 500 million users, and some 95 percent market share, making it the most ubiquitous presentation software in the world. But that doesn’t make it the most loved. Now, a new startup out of Berlin called Pitch is emerging from stealth with plans to challenge it, by making what CEO and co-founder Christian Reber describes as “a presentation tool for the Slack generation.”

And to do so, the company is announcing $19 million in Series A funding, ahead of a projected launch date of summer 2019.

The Slack reference is intentional, and not just because of how the product will be built (more on that below). Part of the funding is coming from the Slack Fund, the arm of the work-chat unicorn that makes strategic investments into like-minded startups.

Others in the round include Index Ventures and BlueYard as leads, along with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, Framer CEO Koen Bok, Elastic Co-Founder Simon Willnauer, Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel, Wunderlist-backer Frank Thelen, and Metalab Founder Andrew Wilkinson. Blue Yard led Pitch’s seed funding as well: the company has raised $22 million to date.

“Pitch is one of Europe’s few true product-centric companies breaking new ground in software for businesses,” said Neil Rimer, partner at Index Ventures, in a statement. “From messaging to file sharing, software companies like Slack and Dropbox have transformed how teams work together and unlocked greater productivity as a result. We believe Pitch has the potential to redefine the presentation space and become a central hub for content collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and ultimately a platform for better decision-making.” Rimer’s also joining the board.

If $22 million sounds like a lot of money for a product that hasn’t launched, in a field that already has a very dominant player, Pitch is not your average contender. It’s being built by the same founders who created Wunderlist, a popular to-do app that — coincidentally — Microsoft acquired to supercharge its existing list-making and to-do software. You could say that Pitch knows just what it is pitching, when it goes after a problem that already appears to be “solved.”

In an interview, Reber said that he and the team — which includes founders Vanessa Stock; Marvin Labod; Adam Renklint; Charlette Prevot; Jan Martin; Eric Labod; and Misha Karpenko and 12 others — have been at work on the app for about nine months already and that it is in private beta with a few businesses.

As for the app itself, Reber would not show it off to me, but he did provide some detail about what it’s setting out to do.

The premise behind Pitch is to make “a presentation tool for the Slack generation,” he said, in reference to the workplace communications tool that became a runaway hit with organizations because of its ease of use, its speed, and the fact that it positions itself as a platform, integrating with just about any app that a person might use in the normal course of a working day, turning itself into a communication layer underpinning all those apps, too.

The same will go for Pitch. “Pitch integrates with everything you already use,” Reber said, describing Pitch presentations as “living documents” that will essentially update with information as data in other documents gets modified.

There will also be a social element, a la SlideShare, the cloud-based presentation app that was acquired by LinkedIn many years ago but has seen few updates since, and of course now is part of Microsoft too.

In the case of Pitch, users will be able to create documents for their own ends, but they can also use Pitch as a distribution platform, either to a selected group of users (for example, if you are pitching your startup to investors), or to a wider audience who are also Pitch users.

It’s ironic that Reber, who joined Microsoft along with the rest of the Wunderlist team when the startup was acquired, left the mothership rather than potentially trying to either build another presentation tool within Microsoft, or moving to PowerPoint to work on updating that product.

The reasons, I suspect, are the same ones that keep large tech giants from being able to move quickly on ideas, and to often live with bad ones for too long: leviathans are too big and too entrenched, and their halls are rife with politics.

Reber — who jokes that he seems to have a knack for trying to build things “that others have already built” — said that another reason is that he also has a little regret for selling Wunderlist when they did.

“I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished my goal,” he said reflecting on the sale. (For the reasons why he sold anyway, you might speak to a lot of other founders who have exited, and I’d guess that the multiple reasons are often the same.) “So, a year after the exit I thought I would like a chance to start from scratch and be more strategic in how I built my startup.”

The choice to tackle presentations came, as many startup ideas often do, out of his own frustrations — and possibly yours, too, if you have been PowerPointed at some moment in your life.

The most popular presentation tools that exist today are just outdated, he said, with different versions out in the wild, across different platforms, making for a challenge in sharing presentations with others. Reber describes the Pitch-nee-Wunderlist team as “design driven,” so you can imagine how that kind of lack of aesthetic consistency might grate.

He noted that Pitch is built on Electron — the application framework that’s used for WhatsApp, WordPress and many other apps — to smooth out some of those bumps across platforms.

Pitch is most certainly going into business with its eyes open, knowing that even if you put Microsoft’s PowerPoint and SlideShare to the side, there are yet others, such as Keynote from Apple, the web-based Prezi, and Slides from Google. But there are plenty of precedents that nevertheless indicate opportunity.

“It’s really fascinating for me why new products win,” Reber said. “Just look at the business communications space. The market was saturated, and Hipchat dominated the startup world, but then all of the sudden Slack came and everything change. It just took over. There will be a similar shift, I think.”

Besides, he added, having multiple competitors is a good thing. “It just means that the best product will come out the winner.” Let’s hope so.

Sep
25
2018
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Snyk raises $22M on a $100M valuation to detect security vulnerabilities in open source code

Open source software is now a $14 billion+ market and growing fast, in use in one way or another in 95 percent of all enterprises. But that expansion comes with a shadow: open source components can come with vulnerabilities, and so their widespread use in apps becomes a liability to a company’s cybersecurity.

Now, a startup out of the UK called Snyk, which has built a way to detect when those apps or components are compromised, is announcing a $22 million round of funding to meet the demand from enterprises wanting to tackle the issue head on.

Led by Accel, with participation from GV plus previous investors Boldstart Ventures and Heavybit, this Series B notably is the second round raised by Snyk within seven months — it raised a $7 million Series A in March. That’s a measure of how the company is growing (and how enthusiastic investors are about what it has built so far). The startup is not disclosing its valuation but a source close to the deal says it is around $100 million now (it’s raised about $33 million to date).

As another measure of Snyk’s growth, the company says it now has over 200 paying customers and 150,000 users, with revenues growing five-fold in the last nine months. In March, it had 130 paying customers.

(Current clients include ASOS, Digital Ocean, New Relic and Skyscanner, the company said.)

Snyk plays squarely in the middle of how the landscape for enterprise services exists today. It provides options for organisations to use it on-premises, via the cloud, or in a hybrid version of the two, with a range of paid and free tiers to get users acquainted with the service.

Guy Podjarny, the company’s CEO who co-founded Snyk with Assaf Hefetz and Danny Grander, explained that Snyk works in two parts. First, the startup has built a threat intelligence system “that listens to open source activity.” Tapping into open-conversation platforms — for example, GitHub commits and forum chatter — Snyk uses machine learning to detect potential mentions of vulnerabilities. It then funnels these to a team of human analysts, “who verify and curate the real ones in our vulnerability DB.”

Second, the company analyses source code repositories — including, again, GitHub as well as BitBucket — “to understand which open source components each one uses, flag the ones that are vulnerable, and then auto-fix them by proposing the right dependency version to use and through patches our security team builds.”

Open source components don’t have more vulnerabilities than closed source ones, he added, “but their heavy reuse makes those vulnerabilities more impactful.” Components can be used in thousands of applications, and by Snyk’s estimation, some 77 percent of those applications will end up with components that have security vulnerabilities. “As a result, the chances of an organisation being breached through a vulnerable open source component are far greater than a security flaw purely in their code.”

Podjarny says the plan is not to tackle proprietary code longer term but to expand how it can monitor apps built on open source.

“Our focus is on two fronts – building security tools developers love, and fixing open source security,” he said. “We believe the risk from insecure use of open source code is far greater than that of your own code, and is poorly addressed in the industry. We do intend to expand our protection from fixing known vulnerabilities in open source components to monitoring and securing them in runtime, flagging and containing malicious and compromised components.”

While this is a relatively new area for security teams to monitor and address, he added that the Equifax breach highlighted what might happen in the worst-case scenario if such issues go undetected. Snyk is not the only company that has identified the gap in the market. Black Duck focuses on flagging non-compliant open source licences, and offers some security features as well.

However, it is Snyk — whose name derives from a play on the word “sneak”, combined with the acronym meaning “so now you know” — that seems to be catching the most attention at the moment.

“Some of the largest data breaches in recent years were the result of unfixed vulnerabilities in open source dependencies; as a result, we’ve seen the adoption of tools to monitor and remediate such vulnerabilities grow exponentially,” said Philippe Botteri, partner at Accel, who is joining the board with this round. “We’ve also seen the ownership of application security shifting towards developers. We feel that Snyk is uniquely positioned in the market given the team’s deep security domain knowledge and developer-centric mindset, and are thrilled to join them on this mission of bringing security tools to developers.”

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