Apr
30
2020
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Material Bank, a logistics platform for sourcing architectural and design samples, raises $28M

Material Bank, a logistics platform for the architectural and design industry, has announced the close of a $28 million Series B financing today, led by Bain Capital Ventures. Bain’s Merritt Hummer led the round on behalf of the firm and will join the board of directors at Material Bank, along with Jeff Sine, cofounder and partner at The Raine Group.

Existing investors Raine Ventures and Starwood Capital Group cofounder, Chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht also participated in the round.

Material Bank launched in January 2019, founded by Adam I. Sandow. Its platform is meant to serve designers, architects and others who source and purchase the very building blocks of our physical world: materials.

Most architectural firms and designers have their own physical library of materials in their office, like carpet swatches, wall covering samples, tiles, and hardwoods for flooring. These libraries are nearly impossible to keep up to date — not only do styles change over time (just like clothes or anything else) but architects pull this or that binder of wall coverings or carpets and there’s no telling if or when that binder returns to the library, or if the binder will still be complete when it does return.

The other big obstacle for designers and architects is that there’s no real aggregation across the many, many manufacturers of these materials.

Sandow likens it to searching for a flight in the old days.

“We all used to book airline travel through an agent, and then the airlines offered websites,” said Sandow. “We thought ‘this is great! I can just go to AA.com or Delta.com to book my flights.’ Until we wanted to price shop. Then you had to search four or five different websites and write down all the prices and by the time you found the price you wanted, it may be gone.”

Then came Expedia and Hotwire.

That’s how Sandow thinks of Material Bank for the architectural industry.

Material Bank aggregates materials across hundreds of vendors, giving users the ability to filter around multiple parameters to find a selection of materials in minutes instead of hours.

But aggregation and powerful search are only half the battle. Designers and architects are also burdened by the time it takes to get their samples. One package may arrive tomorrow, with two others in the next three days, and still more coming in one week.

This leads to a confusing experience of getting all these samples together to show a client, and is a huge environmental waste with dozens of boxes arriving at the same exact location over several days.

To combat this waste, Material Bank built a facility in Memphis directly next door to FedEx’s sorting center. This facility is the very last stop that FedEx makes each night before sorting and sending off its overnight packages by plane.

That means that Material Bank users can place an order by midnight EST and get their samples, from any vendor on Material Bank, by 10am ET the next morning. These samples come in a single box with a tray that can be repurposed into a return package to send back unneeded samples.

Obviously, Material Bank’s facility would require hundreds of workers to turn around orders that come in late to be picked up by FedEx if it weren’t for advancements in robotics. Material Bank partners with Locus Robotics in its facility, and is thus able to pay $17.50 an hour to its human workers in the building.

Sandow says that coronavirus has not hampered the business at all, with the company seeing record revenues in March and with expectations to beat that record in April. That is partially due to the fact that those physical sample libraries in architectural and design firms are no longer accessible to employees who have had to shift to working from home.

Material Bank doesn’t charge architects or designers for the service, but does have a hybrid SaaS model in place for manufacturers and vendors on the platform. Manufacturers pay a monthly fee to access and use the platform, listing their SKUs, as well as a transactional fee to get access to the architects and designers placing orders for samples of their materials. Essentially, the manufacturers pay for the lead generation and hand-off to potential customers.

Sandow spent the last two decades growing a media network of architectural and design-focused magazines and knew early on that a reliance on advertising wouldn’t cut it as media moved online, with plans to build tools and services instead.

Material Bank was born out of that effort, and spun out of Sandow group relatively early on in its life.

The company has raised a total of $55 million since inception.

Sep
25
2019
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Netdata, a monitoring startup with 50-year-old founder, announces $17M Series A

Nearly everything about Netdata, makers of an open-source monitoring tool, defies standard thinking about startups. Consider that the founder is a polished, experienced 50-year-old executive who started his company several years ago when he became frustrated by what he was seeing in the monitoring tools space. Like any good founder, he decided to build his own, and today the company announced a $17 million Series A led by Bain Capital.

Marathon Ventures also participated in the round. The company received a $3.7 million seed round earlier this year, which was led by Marathon.

Costa Tsaousis, the company’s founder and CEO, was working as an executive for a company in Greece in 2014 when he decided he had had enough of the monitoring tools he was seeing. “At that time, I decided to do something about it myself — actually, I was pissed off by the industry. So I started writing a tool at night and on weekends to simplify monitoring significantly, and also provide a lot more insights,” Tsaousis told TechCrunch.

Mind you, he was a 45-year-old executive who hadn’t done much coding in years, but he was determined, as any startup founder tends to be, and he took two years to create his monitoring tool. As he tells it, he released it to open source in 2016 and it just took off. “In 2016, I released this project to the public, and it went viral, I wrote a single Reddit post, and immediately started building a huge community. It grew up about 10,000 GitHub stars in a matter of a week,” he said. Even today, he says that it gets a half million downloads every single day, and hundreds of people are contributing to the open-source version of the product, relieving him of the burden of supporting the product himself.

Panos Papadopoulos, who led the investment at Marathon, says Tsaousis is not your typical early-stage startup founder. “He is not following many norms. He is 50 years old, and he was a C-level executive. His presentation and the depth of his thinking, and even his core materials, are unlike anything else have seen in an early-stage startup,” he said.

What he created was an open-source monitoring tool, one that he says simplifies monitoring significantly, and also provides a lot more insights, offering hundreds of metrics as soon as you install it. He says it is also much faster, providing those insights every second, and it’s distributed, meaning Netdata doesn’t actually collect the data, just provides insights on it wherever it lives.

Screenshot 2019 09 25 09.58.36

Live dashboard on the Netdata website

Today, the company has 24 employees and Tsaousis has set up shop in San Francisco. In addition, to the open-source version of the product, there is a SaaS version, which also has what he calls a “massively free plan.” He says the open-source monitoring agent is “a gift to the world.” The SaaS tool is about democratizing monitoring and the pay version is even different from most monitoring tools, charging by the seat instead of by the amount of infrastructure you are monitoring.

Tsaousis wants no less than to lead the monitoring space eventually, and believes that the free tiers will lead the way. “I think Netdata can change the way people perceive and understand monitoring, but in order to do this, I think that offering free services in a massive way is essential. Otherwise, it will not work. So my aim is to lead monitoring. This may sound arrogant, and Netdata is not there yet, but I think it can be,” he said.

Dec
22
2016
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Xplenty raises another $4 million to help you integrate all your data

Network of light streams in cloudy sky The internet has changed a lot over the last two decades, but many companies are still using legacy technologies to extract, transform and load their data into warehouses. One new entrant, Xplenty, is hoping that its fresh approach, prioritizing cloud services, will provide a solid foothold in the massive market for data integration tools. Having grown to serve over 100 customers, Xplenty… Read More

Jul
21
2016
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Redis Labs raises $14M for its in-memory NoSQL database services

data server Redis Labs, the company behind the open source Redis data structure store, today announced that it has raised a $14 million Series C round led by Bain Capital Ventures and Carmel Ventures. The company’s existing investors, including Silicon Valley Bank and Tamar Ventures managing partner Zohar Gilon, also participated in this round. With this round, which follows the company’s… Read More

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