May
29
2020
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Cisco to acquire internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes

When Cisco bought AppDynamics in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before the IPO, the company sent a clear signal it wanted to move beyond its pure network hardware roots into the software monitoring side of the equation. Yesterday afternoon the company announced it intends to buy another monitoring company, this time snagging internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes.

Cisco would not comment on the price when asked by TechCrunch, but published reports from CNBC and others pegged the deal at around $1 billion. If that’s accurate, it means the company has paid around $4.7 billion for a pair of monitoring solutions companies.

Cisco’s Todd Nightingale, writing in a blog post announcing the deal said that the kind of data that ThousandEyes provides around internet user experience is more important than ever as internet connections have come under tremendous pressure with huge numbers of employees working from home.

ThousandEyes keeps watch on those connections and should fit in well with other Cisco monitoring technologies. “With thousands of agents deployed throughout the internet, ThousandEyes’ platform has an unprecedented understanding of the internet and grows more intelligent with every deployment, Nightingale wrote.

He added, “Cisco will incorporate ThousandEyes’ capabilities in our AppDynamics application intelligence portfolio to enhance visibility across the enterprise, internet and the cloud.”

As for ThousandEyes, co-founder and CEO Mohit Lad told a typical acquisition story. It was about growing faster inside the big corporation than it could on its own. “We decided to become part of Cisco because we saw the potential to do much more, much faster, and truly create a legacy for ThousandEyes,” Lad wrote.

It’s interesting to note that yesterday’s move, and the company’s larger acquisition strategy over the last decade is part of a broader move to software and services as a complement to its core networking hardware business.

Just yesterday, Synergy Research released its network switch and router revenue report and it wasn’t great. As companies have hunkered down during the pandemic, they have been buying much less network hardware, dropping the Q1 numbers to seven year low. That translated into a $1 billion less in overall revenue in this category, according to Synergy.

While Cisco owns the vast majority of the market, it obviously wants to keep moving into software services as a hedge against this shifting market. This deal simply builds on that approach.

ThousandEyes was founded in 2010 and raised over $110 million on a post valuation of $670 million as of February 2019, according to Pitchbook Data.

May
27
2020
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Kentik raises $23.5M for its network intelligence platform

Kentik, the company once known as CloudHelix, today announced that it has raised a $23.5 million growth funding round led by Vistara Capital Partners, with existing investors August Capital, Third Point Ventures, DCVC and Tahoma Ventures also participating. With this round, Kentik has now raised a total of $61.7 million.

The company’s platform allows enterprises to monitor their networks, no matter whether that’s over the internet, inside their own data centers or in public clouds.

“The world has become even more internet-centric, and we are seeing growth in traffic levels, product engagement and revenue across both our enterprise and service provider customers,” said Avi Freedman, the co-founder and CEO of Kentik when I asked him why he was raising a round now. “We’ve seen an increased pace of adoption of the kind of hybrid and internet-centric architectures that Kentik is built for and thought it was a great time to increase investment, especially in product, as well as go-to-market and partner expansion to support market demand.”

Freedman says the company has been growing 100% compounded year-over-year since it launched in 2015 and now has customers in 25 countries. These include leading enterprises, SaaS companies, content providers, gaming companies, content providers and cloud and communication service providers, he tells me. Current customers include the likes of IBM, Zoom, Dropbox, eBay, Cisco and GoDaddy.

The company says it will use the new funding to invest in its product and for go-to-market investments.

One notable fact about this new round is that it is a combination of equity and growth debt. Why growth debt? “Growth debt is an attractive option for startups with the right scale and strong unit economics, especially with the changes to capital markets in response to current economic conditions,” said Freedman. “Another element that makes long-term debt attractive is that unlike equity financing, long-term debt limits dilution for everyone, but especially benefits our employees who hold common stock.” That, it’s worth noting, is also something that lead investor Vistara Capital has made one of the core tenets of its investment philosophy. “Since Kentik is now at a scale where we have enough data on the business fundamentals to be able to make growth investments using debt while still being able to repay it over time, it made sense to us and our investors,” noted Freedman.

Apr
16
2020
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Verizon is buying B2B videoconferencing firm BlueJeans

US carrier Verizon* has splashed out to buy veteran B2B videoconferencing platform, BlueJeans Network — shelling out less than $500 million on the acquisition, according to the Wall Street Journal which first reported the news.

A Verizon spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch that the price-tag is sub-$500M but did not provide a more exact figure. Videoconferencing platform Blue Jeans has raised ~$175M since being founded around a decade ago, per Crunchbase, with US investor NEA leading a Series E round back in 2015.

In a press release announcing the deal, Verizon said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the enterprise-grade videoconferencing and event platform in order to expand its “immersive unified communications portfolio”.

“Customers will benefit from a BlueJeans enterprise-grade video experience on Verizon’s high-performance global networks. In addition, the platform will be deeply integrated into Verizon’s 5G product roadmap, providing secure and real-time engagement solutions for high growth areas such as telemedicine, distance learning and field service work,” it wrote.

“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools,” added Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, in a supporting statement. “Collaboration and communications have become top of the agenda for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors in recent months. We are excited to combine the power of BlueJeans’ video platform with Verizon Business’ connectivity networks, platforms and solutions to meet our customers’ needs.”

The acquisition comes at a time when videoconferencing is seeing a massive uptick in usage as white collar workers around the world log on to meetings from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it’s BlueJeans’ rival, Zoom, that’s been the most high profile name linked to the viral videoconferencing boom in recent weeks. The latter recently revealed that daily meeting participants on its platform jumped from a modest 10M in December to 200M in March.

However such booming growth and consumer usage has brought increased scrutiny for Zoom — leading to a spate of warnings (and even some bans), related to security and privacy concerns. And earlier this month the company said it would freeze product dev to focus on the laundry list of issues that have surfaced as users have piled in and kicked its tires, taking a little of the shine off of surging growth. 

On the sheer usage front BlueJeans is certainly small fish in comparison to Zoom — having remained b2b focused. A BlueJeans spokeswoman told us it has more than $100M ARR and over 15,000 customers at this point. (Some notable users include Facebook and Disney.)

But it’s paying users that are likely of most interest to Verizon, hence talk of telemedicine, distance learning and field service work — areas ripe for coronavirus-accelerated digitization. Carriers generally, meanwhile, haven’t been able to translate increased usage during the pandemic into a revenue growth story — as a result of a combination of fixed costs, debt and market disruption that’s been hitting their shares during the coronavirus crisis, per Reuters. Bolting on more b2b tools looks to be one way of growing network revenues.

“The combination of BlueJeans’ world class enterprise video collaboration platform and trusted brand with Verizon Business’ next generation edge computing innovation will deliver highly differentiated and compelling solutions to our joint customers,” said Quentin Gallivan, BlueJeans CEO, in a statement. “We are very excited about joining the Verizon team and we truly believe the future of business communications starts today!”

Verizon said today that said BlueJeans founders and “key management” will join the company as part of the acquisition, with BlueJeans employees set to become Verizon employees immediately following the close of the deal — which is expected in the second quarter, pending customary closing conditions.

BlueJeans co-founder Krish Ramakrishnan has a history of exits, selling a couple of his previous startups to networking giant Cisco — where he has also worked, in between spinning out his own companies.

*Disclosure: Verizon is also TechCrunch’s parent company

Dec
16
2019
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Cisco acquires ultra-low latency networking specialist Exablaze

Cisco today announced that it has acquired Exablaze, an Australia-based company that designs and builds advanced networking gear based on field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The company focuses on solutions for businesses that need ultra-low latency networking, with a special emphasis on high-frequency trading. Cisco plans to integrate Exablaze’s technology into its own product portfolio.

“By adding Exablaze’s segment leading ultra-low latency devices and FPGA-based applications to our portfolio, financial and HFT customers will be better positioned to achieve their business objectives and deliver on their customer value proposition,” writes Cisco’s head of corporate development Rob Salvagno.

Founded in 2013, Exablaze has offices in Sydney, New York, London and Shanghai. While financial trading is an obvious application for its solutions, the company also notes that it has users in the big data analytics, high-performance computing and telecom space.

Cisco plans to add Exablaze to its Nexus portfolio of data center switches. The company also argues that in addition to integrating Exablaze’s current portfolio, the two companies will work on next-generation switches, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for expanding its solutions into AI and ML segments.

“The acquisition will bring together Cisco’s global reach, extensive sales and support teams, and broad technology and manufacturing base, with Exablaze’s cutting-edge low-latency networking, layer 1 switching, timing and time synchronization technologies, and low-latency FPGA expertise,” explains Exablaze co-founder and chairman Greg Robinson.

Cisco, which has always been quite acquisitive, has now made six acquisitions this year. Most of these were software companies, but with Acacia Communications, it also recently announced its intention to acquire another fabless semiconductor company that builds optical interconnects.

 

Oct
16
2019
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Edge computing startup Pensando comes out of stealth mode with a total of $278 million in funding

Pensando, an edge computing startup founded by former Cisco engineers, came out of stealth mode today with an announcement that it has raised a $145 million Series C. The company’s software and hardware technology, created to give data centers more of the flexibility of cloud computing servers, is being positioned as a competitor to Amazon Web Services Nitro.

The round was led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners and brings Pensando’s total raised so far to $278 million. HPE chief technology officer Mark Potter and Lightspeed Venture partner Barry Eggers will join Pensando’s board of directors. The company’s chairman is former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who is also one of Pensando’s investors through JC2 Ventures.

Pensando was founded in 2017 by Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani, a team of engineers who spearheaded the development of several of Cisco’s key technologies, and founded four startups that were acquired by Cisco, including Insieme Networks. (In an interview with Reuters, Pensando chief financial officer Randy Pond, a former Cisco executive vice president, said it isn’t clear if Cisco is interested in acquiring the startup, adding “our aspirations at this point would be to IPO. But, you know, there’s always other possibilities for monetization events.”)

The startup claims its edge computing platform performs five to nine times better than AWS Nitro, in terms of productivity and scale. Pensando prepares data center infrastructure for edge computing, better equipping them to handle data from 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications. While in stealth mode, Pensando acquired customers including HPE, Goldman Sachs, NetApp and Equinix.

In a press statement, Potter said “Today’s rapidly transforming, hyper-connected world requires enterprises to operate with even greater flexibility and choices than ever before. HPE’s expanding relationship with Pensando Systems stems from our shared understanding of enterprises and the cloud. We are proud to announce our investment and solution partnership with Pensando and will continue to drive solutions that anticipate our customers’ needs together.”

Sep
25
2019
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Symantec’s Sheila Jordan named to Slack’s board of directors

Workplace collaboration software business Slack (NYSE: WORK) has added Sheila Jordan, a senior vice president and chief information officer of Symantec, as an independent member of its board of directors. The hiring comes three months after the business completed a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Jordan, responsible for driving information technology strategy and operations for Symantec, brings significant cybersecurity expertise to Slack’s board. Prior to joining Symantec in 2014, Jordan was a senior vice president of IT at Cisco and an executive at Disney Destination for nearly 15 years.

With the new appointment, Slack appears to be doubling down on security. In addition to the board announcement, Slack recently published a blog post outlining the company’s latest security strategy in what was likely part of a greater attempt to sway potential customers — particularly those in highly regulated industries — wary of the company’s security processes. The post introduced new features, including the ability to allow teams to work remotely while maintaining compliance to industry and company-specific requirements.

Jordan joins Slack co-founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield, former Goldman Sachs executive Edith Cooper, Accel general partner Andrew Braccia, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, Andreessen Horowitz general partner John O’Farrell, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya and former Salesforce chief financial officer Graham Smith on Slack’s board of directors.

“I believe there is nothing more critical than driving organizational alignment and agility within enterprises today,” Jordan said in a statement. “Slack has developed a new category of enterprise software to help unlock this potential and I’m thrilled to now be a part of their story.”

Slack closed up nearly 50% on its first day of trading in June but has since stumbled amid reports of increased competition from Microsoft, which operates a Slack-like product called Teams.

Slack co-founder and chief technology officer Cal Henderson will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco next week to discuss the company’s founding, road to the public markets and path forward. Buy tickets here.

Jul
24
2019
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Duo’s Wendy Nather to talk security at TC Sessions: Enterprise

When it comes to enterprise security, how do you move fast without breaking things?

Enter Duo’s Wendy Nather, who will join us at TC Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco on September 5, where we will get the inside track on how to keep enterprise networks secure without slowing growth.

Nather is head of advisory CISOs at Duo Security, a Cisco company, and one of the most respected and trusted voices in the cybersecurity community as a regular speaker on a range of topics, from threat intelligence to risk analysis, incident response, data security and privacy issues.

Prior to her role at Duo, she was the research director at the Retail ISAC, and served as the research director of the Information Security Practice at independent analyst firm 451 Research.

She also led IT security for the EMEA region of the investment banking division of Swiss Bank Corporation — now UBS.

Nather also co-authored “The Cloud Security Rules,” and was listed as one of SC Magazine’s Women in IT Security “Power Players” in 2014.

We’re excited to have Nather discuss some of the challenges startups and enterprises face in security — threats from both inside and outside the firewall. Companies large and small face similar challenges, from keeping data in to keeping hackers out. How do companies navigate the litany of issues and threats without hampering growth?

Who else will we have onstage, you ask? Good question! We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Bill McDermott at SAP, Scott Farquhar at Atlassian, Julie Larson-Green at Qualtrics, Aaron Levie at Box and Andrew Ng at Landing AI and many, many more. See the whole agenda right here.

Early-bird tickets are on sale right now! For just $249 you can see Nather and these other awesome speakers live at TC Sessions: Enterprise. But hurry, early-bird sales end on August 9; after that, prices jump up by $100. Book here.

If you’re a student on a budget, don’t worry, we’ve got a super-reduced ticket for just $75 when you apply for a student ticket right here.

Enterprise-focused startups can bring the whole crew when you book a Startup Demo table for just $2,000. Each table gives you a primo location to be seen by attendees, investors and other sponsors, in addition to four tickets to enjoy the show. We only have a limited amount of demo tables and we will sell out. Book yours here.

May
16
2019
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Unveiling its latest cohort, Alchemist announces $4 million in funding for its enterprise accelerator

The enterprise software and services-focused accelerator Alchemist has raised $4 million in fresh financing from investors BASF and the Qatar Development Bank, just in time for its latest demo day unveiling 20 new companies.

Qatar and BASF join previous investors, including the venture firms Mayfield, Khosla Ventures, Foundation Capital, DFJ and USVP, and corporate investors like Cisco, Siemens and Juniper Networks.

While the roster of successes from Alchemist’s fund isn’t as lengthy as Y Combinator, the accelerator program has launched the likes of the quantum computing upstart Rigetti, the soft-launch developer tool LaunchDarkly and drone startup Matternet .

Some (personal) highlights of the latest cohort include:

  • Bayware: Helmed by a former head of software-defined networking from Cisco, the company is pitching a tool that makes creating networks in multi-cloud environments as easy as copying and pasting.
  • MotorCortex.AI: Co-founded by a Stanford engineering professor and a Carnegie Mellon roboticist, the company is using computer vision, machine learning and robotics to create a fruit packer for packaging lines. Starting with avocados, the company is aiming to tackle the entire packaging side of pick and pack in logistics.
  • Resilio: With claims of a 96% effectiveness rate and $35,000 in annual recurring revenue with another $1 million in the pipeline, Resilio is already seeing companies embrace its mobile app that uses a phone’s camera to track stress levels and application-based prompts on how to lower it, according to Alchemist.
  • Operant Networks: It’s a long-held belief (of mine) that if computing networks are already irrevocably compromised, the best thing that companies and individuals can do is just encrypt the hell out of their data. Apparently Operant agrees with me. The company is claiming 50% time savings with this approach, and have booked $1.9 million in 2019 as proof, according to Alchemist.
  • HPC Hub: HPC Hub wants to democratize access to supercomputers by overlaying a virtualization layer and pre-installed software on underutilized super computers to give more companies and researchers easier access to machines… and they’ve booked $92,000 worth of annual recurring revenue.
  • DinoPlusAI: This chip developer is designing a low latency chip for artificial intelligence applications, reducing latency by 12 times over a competing Nvidia chip, according to the company. DinoPlusAI sees applications for its tech in things like real-time AI markets and autonomous driving. Its team is led by a designer from Cadence and Broadcom and the company already has $8 million in letters of intent signed, according to Alchemist.
  • Aero Systems West: Co-founders from the Air Force’s Research Labs and MIT are aiming to take humans out of drone operations and maintenance. The company contends that for every hour of flight time, drones require seven hours of maintenance and check ups. Aero Systems aims to reduce that by using remote analytics, self-inspection, autonomous deployment and automated maintenance to take humans out of the drone business.

Watch a live stream of Alchemist’s demo day pitches, starting at 3PM, here.

 

May
09
2019
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Cisco open sources MindMeld conversational AI platform

Cisco announced today that it was open-sourcing the MindMeld conversation AI platform, making it available to anyone who wants to use it under the Apache 2.0 license.

MindMeld is the conversational AI company that Cisco bought in 2017. The company put the technology to use in Cisco Spark Assistant later that year to help bring voice commands to meeting hardware, which was just beginning to emerge at the time.

Today, there is a concerted effort to bring voice to enterprise use cases, and Cisco is offering the means for developers to do that with the MindMeld tool set. “Today, Cisco is taking a big step towards empowering developers with more comprehensive and practical tools for building conversational applications by open-sourcing the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform,” Cisco’s head of machine learning Karthik Raghunathan wrote in a blog post.

The company also wants to make it easier for developers to get going with the platform, so it is releasing the Conversational AI Playbook, a step-by-step guide book to help developers get started with conversation-driven applications. Cisco says this is about empowering developers, and that’s probably a big part of the reason.

But it would also be in Cisco’s best interest to have developers outside of Cisco working with and on this set of tools. By open-sourcing them, the hope is that a community of developers, whether Cisco customers or others, will begin using, testing and improving the tools; helping it to develop the platform faster and more broadly than it could, even inside an organization as large as Cisco.

Of course, just because they offer it doesn’t necessarily automatically mean the community of interested developers will emerge, but given the growing popularity of voice-enabled used cases, chances are some will give it a look. It will be up to Cisco to keep them engaged.

Cisco is making all of this available on its own DevNet platform starting today.

Apr
23
2019
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Harness hauls in $60M Series B investment on $500M valuation

Series B rounds used to be about establishing a product-market fit, but for some startups the whole process seems to be accelerating. Harness, the startup founded by AppDynamics co-founder and CEO Jyoti Bansal is one of those companies that is putting the pedal the metal with his second startup, taking his learnings and a $60 million round to build the company much more quickly.

Harness already has an eye-popping half billion dollar valuation. It’s not terribly often I hear valuations in a Series B discussion. More typically CEOs want to talk growth rates, but Bansal volunteered the information, excited by the startup’s rapid development.

The round was led by IVP, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and ServiceNow Ventures. Existing investors Big Labs, Menlo Ventures and Unusual Ventures also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $80 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Bansal obviously made a fair bit of money when he sold AppDynamics to Cisco in 2017 for $3.7 billion and he could have rested after his great success. Instead he turned his attention almost immediately to a new challenge, helping companies move to a new continuous delivery model more rapidly by offering Continuous Delivery as a Service.

As companies move to containers and the cloud, they face challenges implementing new software delivery models. As is often the case, large web scale companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix have the resources to deliver these kinds of solutions quickly, but it’s much more difficult for most other companies.

Bansal saw an opportunity here to package continuous delivery approaches as a service. “Our approach in the market is Continuous Delivery as a Service, and instead of you trying to engineer this, you get this platform that can solve this problem and bring you the best tooling that a Google or Facebook or Netflix would have,” Basal explained.

The approach has gained traction quickly. The company has grown from 25 employees at launch in 2017 to 100 today. It boasts 50 enterprise customers including Home Depot, Santander Bank and McAfee.

He says that the continuous delivery piece could just be a starting point, and the money from the round will be plowed back into engineering efforts to expand the platform and solve other problems DevOps teams face with a modern software delivery approach.

Bansal admits that it’s unusual to have this kind of traction this early, and he says that his growth is much faster than it was at AppDynamics at the same stage, but he believes the opportunity here is huge as companies look for more efficient ways to deliver software. “I’m a little bit surprised. I thought this was a big problem when I started, but it’s an even bigger problem than I thought and how much pain was out there and how ready the market was to look at a very different way of solving this problem,” he said.

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