Jan
12
2021
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Cockroach Labs scores $160M Series E on $2B valuation

Cockroach Labs, makers of CockroachDB, have been on a fundraising roll for the last couple of years. Today the company announced a $160 million Series E on a fat $2 billion valuation. The round comes just eight months after the startup raised an $86.6 million Series D.

The latest investment was led by Altimeter Capital, with participation from new investors Greenoaks and Lone Pine, along with existing investors Benchmark, Bond, FirstMark, GV, Index Ventures and Tiger Global. The round doubled the company’s previous valuation and increased the amount raised to $355 million.

Co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball says the company’s revenue more than doubled in 2020 in spite of COVID, and that caught the attention of investors. He attributed this paradoxical rise to the rapid shift to the cloud brought on by the pandemic that many people in the industry have seen.

“People became more aggressive with what was already underway, a real move to embrace the cloud to build the next generation of applications and services, and that’s really fundamentally where we are,” Kimball told me.

As that happened, the company began a shift in thinking. While it has embraced an open-source version of CockroachDB along with a 30-day free trial on the company’s cloud service as ways to attract new customers to the top of the funnel, it wants to try a new approach.

In fact, it plans to replace the 30-day trial with a newer version later this year without any time limits. It believes this will attract more developers to the platform and enable them to see the full set of features without having to enter credit card information. What’s more, by taking this approach, it should end up costing the company less money to support the free tier.

“What we expect is that you can do all kinds of things on that free tier. You can do a hackathon, any kind of hobby project […] or even a startup that has ambitions to be the next DoorDash or Airbnb,” he said. As he points out, there’s a point where early-stage companies don’t have many users, and can remain in the free tier until they achieve product-market fit.

“That’s when they put a credit card down, and they can extend beyond the free tier threshold and pay for what they use,” he said. The newer free tier is still in the beta testing phase, but will be rolled out during this year.

Kimball says the company wasn’t necessarily looking to raise, although he knew that it would continue to need more cash on the balance sheet to run with giant competitors like Oracle, AWS and the other big cloud vendors, along with a slew of other database startups. As the company’s revenue grows, he certainly sees an IPO in its future, but he doesn’t see it happening this year.

The startup ended the year with 200 employees and Kimball expects to double that by the end of this year. He says growing a diverse group of employees takes good internal data and building a welcoming and inclusive culture.

“I think the starting point for anything you want to optimize in a business is to make sure that you have the metrics in front of you, and that you’re constantly looking at them […] in order to measure how you’re doing,” he explained.

He added, “The thing that we’re most focused on in terms of action is really building the culture of the company appropriately and that’s something we’ve been doing for all six years we’ve been around. To the extent that you have an inclusive environment where people actually really view the value of respect, that helps with diversity.”

Kimball says he sees a different approach to running the business when the pandemic ends, with some small percentage going into the office regularly and others coming for quarterly visits, but he doesn’t see a full return to the office post-pandemic.

Jan
07
2021
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Lacework lands $525M investment as revenue grows 300%

As the pandemic took hold in 2020, companies accelerated their move to cloud services. Lacework, the cloud security startup, was in the right place at the right time as customers looked for ways to secure their cloud native workloads. The company reported that revenue grew 300% year over year for the second straight year.

It was rewarded for that kind of performance with a $525 million Series D today. It did not share an exact valuation, only saying that it exceeded $1 billion, which you would expect on such a hefty investment. Sutter Hill and Altimeter Capital led the round with help from D1 Capital Management, Coatue, Dragoneer Investment Group, Liberty Global Ventures, Snowflake Ventures and Tiger Global Management. The company has now raised close to $600 million.

Lacework CEO Dan Hubbard says one of the reasons for such widespread interest from investors is the breadth of the company’s security solution. “We enable companies to build securely in the cloud, and we span across multiple different categories of markets, which enable the customers to do that,” he said.

He says that encompasses a range of services, including configuration and compliance, security for infrastructure as code, build time and runtime vulnerability scanning and runtime security for cloud native environments like Kubernetes and containers.

As the company has grown revenue, it has been adding employees quickly. It started the year with 92 employees and closed with more than 200, with plans to double that by the end of this year. As he looks at hiring, Hubbard is aware of the need to build a diverse organization, but acknowledges that tech in general hasn’t done a great job so far.

He says they are working with the various teams inside the company to try and change that, while also working to support outside organizations that are helping educate underrepresented groups to get the skills they need and then building from that. “If you can help solve the problem at an earlier stage, then I think you’ve got a bigger opportunity [to have a base of people to hire] there,” he said.

The company was originally nurtured inside Sutter Hill and is built on top of the Snowflake platform. It reports that $20 million of today’s total comes from Snowflake’s new venture arm, which is putting some money into an early partner.

“We were an alpha Snowflake customer, and they were an alpha customer of ours. Our platform is built on top of the Snowflake data cloud and their new venture arm has also joined the round with an investment to further strengthen the partnership there,” Hubbard said.

As for Sutter Hill, investor Mike Speiser sees Lacework as one of his firm’s critical investments. “[Much] like Snowflake at a similar point in its evolution, Lacework is growing revenue at over 300% per year making Lacework one of Sutter Hill Ventures’ most important and promising portfolio companies,” he said in a statement.

Sep
02
2020
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Transposit scores $35M to build data-driven runbooks for faster disaster recovery

Transposit is a company built by engineers to help engineers, and one big way to help them is to get systems up and running faster when things go wrong — as they always will at some point. Transposit has come up with a way to build runbooks for faster disaster recovery, while using data to update them in an automated fashion.

Today, the company announced a $35 million Series B investment led by Altimeter Capital, with participation from existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, SignalFire and Unusual Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $50.4 million, according to the company.

Company CEO Divanny Lamas and CTO and founder Tina Huang see technology issues as less an engineering problem and more as a human problem, because it’s humans who have to clean up the messes when things go wrong. Huang says forgetting the human side of things is where she thinks technology has gone astray.

“We know that the real superpower of the product is that we focus on the human and the user side of things. And as a result, we’re building an engineering culture that I think is somewhat differentiated,” Huang told TechCrunch.

Transposit is a platform that at its core helps manage APIs, connections to other programs, so it starts with a basic understanding of how various underlying technologies work together inside a company. This is essential for a tool that is trying to help engineers in a moment of panic figure out how to get back to a working state.

When it comes to disaster recovery, there are essentially two pieces: getting the systems working again, then figuring out what happened. For the first piece, the company is building data-driven runbooks. By being data-driven, they aren’t static documents. Instead, the underlying machine learning algorithms can look at how the engineers recovered and adjust accordingly.

Transposit diaster recovery dashboard

Image Credits: Transposit

“We realized that no one was focusing on what we realize is the root problem here, which is how do I have access to the right set of data to make it easier to reconstruct that timeline, and understand what happened? We took those two pieces together, this notion that runbooks are a critical piece of how you spread knowledge and spread process, and this other piece, which is the data, is critical,” Huang said.

Today the company has 26 employees, including Huang and Lamas, who Huang brought on board from Splunk last year to be CEO. The company is somewhat unique having two women running the organization, and they are trying to build a diverse workforce as they build their company to 50 people in the next 12 months.

The current make-up is 47% female engineers, and the goal is to remain diverse as they build the company, something that Lamas admits is challenging to do. “I wish I had a magic answer, or that Tina had a magic answer. The reality is that we’re just very demanding on recruiters. And we are very insistent that we have a diverse pipeline of candidates, and are constantly looking at our numbers and looking at how we’re doing,” Lamas said.

She says being diverse actually makes it easier to recruit good candidates. “People want to work at diverse companies. And so it gives us a real edge from a kind of culture perspective, and we find that we get really amazing candidates that are just tired of the status quo. They’re tired of the old way of doing things and they want to work in a company that reflects the world that they want to live in,” she said.

The company, which launched in 2016, took a few years to build the first piece, the underlying API platform. This year it added the disaster recovery piece on top of that platform, and has been running its beta since the beginning of the summer. They hope to add additional beta customers before making it generally available later this year.

Aug
24
2020
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Sutter Hill strikes ice-cold, $2.5B pre-market return with Snowflake’s IPO filing

Today is the day for huge VC returns.

We talked a bit about Sequoia’s coming huge win with the IPO of game engine Unity this morning. Now, Sequoia might actually have the second largest return among companies filing to go public with the SEC today.

Snowflake filed its S-1 this afternoon, and it looks like Sutter Hill is going to make bank. The long-time VC firm, which invests heavily in the enterprise space and generally keeps a lower media profile, is the big winner across the board here, coming out with an aggregate 20.3% stake in the data management platform, which was last privately valued at $12.4 billion earlier this year. At its last valuation, Sutter Hill’s full stake is worth $2.5 billion. My colleagues Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm looked a bit at the financials of the IPO filing.

Sutter Hill has been intimately connected to Snowflake’s early build-out and success, providing a $5 million Series A funding back in 2012, the year of the company’s founding, according to Crunchbase.

Now, there are some caveats on that number. Sutter Hill Ventures (aka “the fund”) owns roughly 55% of the firm’s total stake, with the balance owned by other entities owned by the firm’s management committee members. Michael Speiser, the firm’s partner who sits on Snowflake’s board, owns slightly more than 10% of Sutter Hill’s stake directly himself according to the SEC filing.

In addition to Sutter Hill, Sequoia also got a large slice of the data computing company: its growth fund is listed as having an 8.4% stake in the coming IPO. That makes for two Sequoia Growth IPOs today — a nice way to start the week this Monday afternoon.

Finally, Altimeter Capital, which did the Series C, owns 14.8%; ICONIQ owns 13.8%; and Redpoint, which did the Series B, owns 9.0%.

To see the breakdown in returns, let’s start by taking a look at the company’s share price and carrying values for each of its rounds of capital:

On top of that, what’s interesting is that Snowflake broke down the share purchases by firm for the last four rounds (D through G-1) the company fundraised:

That level of detail actually allows us to grossly compare the multiples on invested capital for these firms.

Sutter Hill, despite owning large sections of the company early on, continued to buy up shares all the way through the Series G, investing an additional $140 million in the later-stage rounds of the company. Adding in the entirety of its $5 million Series A round and a bit from the Series B assuming pro rata, the firm is looking on the order of a 16x return (assuming the IPO price is at least as good as the last round price).

Outside Sutter Hill, Redpoint has the best multiple return profile, given that it only invested $60 million in these later-stage rounds while still maintaining a 9.0% ownership stake. Both Sutter Hill and Redpoint purchased roughly 20% of their overall stakes in these later-stage rounds. Doing some roughly calculating, Redpoint is looking at a return of about 12-13x.

Sequoia’s multiple on investment is capped a bit given that it only invested in the most recent funding rounds. Its 8.4% stake was purchased for nearly $272 million, all of which came in these late-stage rounds. At Snowflake’s last round valuation of $12.4 billion, Sequoia’s stake is valued at $1.04 billion — a return of slightly less than 4x. That’s very good for mezzanine capital, but nothing like the multiple that Sutter Hill or Redpoint got for investing early.

Doing the same back-of-the-envelope math and Altimeter is looking at a better than 6x return, and ICONIQ got 7x. As before, if the stock zooms up, those returns will look all the better (and of course, if the stock crashes, well…)

One final note: The pattern for these last four funding rounds is unusual for venture capital: Snowflake appears to have “spread the love around,” having multiple firms build up stakes in the startup over several rounds rather than having one definitive lead.

May
05
2020
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Cockroach Labs scores $86.6M Series D as scalable database resonates

Cockroach Labs, the NYC enterprise database company, announced an $86.6 million Series D funding round today. The company was in no mood to talk valuations, but was happy to have a big chunk of money to help build on its recent success and ride out the current economic malaise.

Altimeter Capital and Bond co-led the round with participation from Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Tiger Capital and FirstMark Capital. Today’s funding comes on top of a $55 million Series C last August, and brings the total raised to $195 million, according to the company.

Cockroach has a tough job. It’s battling both traditional databases like Oracle and modern ones from the likes of Amazon, but investors see a company with a lot of potential market building an open source, on prem and cloud database product. In particular, the open source product provides a way to attract users and turn some percentage of those into potential customers, an approach investors tend to favor.

CEO and co-founder Spenser Kimball says that the company had been growing fast before the pandemic hit. “I think the biggest change between now and last year has just been our go to market which is seeing pretty explosive growth. By number of customers, we’ve grown by almost 300%,” Kimball told TechCrunch.

He says having that three-pronged approach of open source, cloud an on-prem products has really helped fuel that growth. The company launched the cloud service in 2018, and it has helped expand its market. Whereas the on-prem version was mostly aimed at larger customers, the managed service puts Cockroach in reach of individual developers and teams who might not want to deal with all of the overhead of managing a complex database on their own.

Kimball says it’s really too soon to say what impact the pandemic will have on his business. He recognizes that certain verticals like travel, hospitality and some retail business are probably going to suffer, but other businesses that are accelerating in the crisis could make use of a highly scalable database like CockroachDB.

“Obviously it’s a new world right now. I think there are going to be some losers and some winners, but on balance I think [our] momentum will continue to grow for something that really does represent a best in class solution for businesses, whether they are startups or big enterprises, as they’re trying to figure out how to build for a cloud native future,” Kimball said.

The company intends to keep hiring through this, but is being careful and regularly evaluating what its needs are much more carefully than it might have done prior to this crisis with a much more open mind toward remote work.

Kimball certainly recognizes that it’s not an easy time to be raising this kind of cash, and he is grateful to have the confidence of investors to keep growing his company, come what may.

Aug
06
2019
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Cockroach Labs announces $55M Series C to battle industry giants

Cockroach Labs, makers of CockroachDB, sits in a tough position in the database market. On one side, it has traditional database vendors like Oracle, and on the other there’s AWS and its family of databases. It takes some good technology and serious dollars to compete with those companies. Cockroach took care of the latter with a $55 million Series C round today.

The round was led by Altimeter Capital and Tiger Global along with existing investor GV. Other existing investors, including Benchmark, Index Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, FirstMark Capital and Work-Bench, also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to more than $110 million, according to the company.

Spencer Kimball, co-founder and CEO, says the company is building a modern database to compete with these industry giants. “CockroachDB is architected from the ground up as a cloud native database. Fundamentally, what that means is that it’s distributed, not just across nodes in a single data center, which is really table stakes as the database gets bigger, but also across data centers to be resilient. It’s also distributed potentially across the planet in order to give a global customer base what feels like a local experience to keep the data near them,” Kimball explained.

At the same time, even while it has a cloud product hosted on AWS, it also competes with several AWS database products, including Amazon Aurora, Redshift and DynamoDB. Much like MongoDB, which changed its open-source licensing structure last year, Cockroach did as well, for many of the same reasons. They both believed bigger players were taking advantage of the open-source nature of their products to undermine their markets.

“If you’re trying to build a business around an open-source product, you have to be careful that a much bigger player doesn’t come along and extract too much of the value out of the open-source product that you’ve been building and maintaining,” Kimball explained.

As the company deals with all of these competitive pressures, it takes a fair bit of money to continue building a piece of technology to beat the competition, while going up against much deeper-pocketed rivals. So far the company has been doing well, with Q1 revenue this year doubling all of last year. Kimball indicated that Q2 could double Q1, but he wants to keep that going, and that takes money.

“We need to accelerate that sales momentum and that’s usually what the Series C is about. Fundamentally, we have, I think, the most advanced capabilities in the market right now. Certainly we do if you look at the differentiator around just global capability. We nevertheless are competing with Oracle on one side, and Amazon on the other side. So a lot of this money is going towards product development too,” he said.

Cockroach Labs was founded in 2015, and is based in New York City.

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