Feb
26
2021
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Salesforce delivers, Wall Street doubts as stock falls 6.3% post-earnings

Wall Street investors can be fickle beasts. Take Salesforce as an example. The CRM giant announced a $5.82 billion quarter when it reported earnings yesterday. Revenue was up 20% year over year. The company also reported $21.25 billion in total revenue for the just-closed FY2021, up 24% YoY. If that wasn’t enough, it raised its FY2022 guidance (its upcoming fiscal year) to over $25 billion. What’s not to like?

You want higher quarterly revenue, Salesforce gave you higher revenue. You want high growth and solid projected revenue — check and check. In fact, it’s hard to find anything to complain about in the report. The company is performing and growing at a rate that is remarkable for an organization of its size and maturity — and it is expected to continue to perform and grow.

How did Wall Street react to this stellar report? It punished the stock with the price down over 6%, a pretty dismal day considering the company brought home such a promising report card.

2/6/21 Salesforce stock report with stock down 6.31%

Image Credits: Google

So what is going on here? It could be that investors simply don’t believe the growth is sustainable or that the company overpaid when it bought Slack at the end of last year for over $27 billion. It could be it’s just people overreacting to a cooling market this week. But if investors are looking for a high-growth company, Salesforce is delivering that.

While Slack was expensive, it reported revenue over $250 million yesterday, pushing it over the $1 billion run rate with more than 100 customers paying over $1 million in ARR. Those numbers will eventually get added to Salesforce’s bottom line.

Canaccord Genuity analyst David Hynes Jr. wrote that he was baffled by investors’ reaction to this report. Like me, he saw a lot of positives. Yet Wall Street decided to focus on the negative, and see “the glass half empty,” as he put it in his note to investors.

“The stock is clearly in the show-me camp, which means it’s likely to take another couple of quarters for investors to buy into the idea that fundamentals are actually quite solid here, and that Slack was opportunistic (and yes, pricey), but not an attempt to mask suddenly deteriorating growth,” Hynes wrote.

During the call with analysts yesterday, Brad Zelnick from Credit Suisse asked how well the company could accelerate out of the pandemic-induced economic malaise, and Gavin Patterson, Salesforce’s president and chief revenue officer, says the company is ready whenever the world moves past the pandemic.

“And let me reassure you, we are building the capability in terms of the sales force. You’d be delighted to hear that we’re investing significantly in terms of our direct sales force to take advantage of that demand. And I’m very confident we’ll be able to meet it. So I think you’re hearing today a message from us all that the business is strong, the pipeline is strong and we’ve got confidence going into the year,” Patterson said.

While Salesforce execs were clearly pumped up yesterday with good reason, there’s still doubt out in investor land that manifested itself in the stock starting down and staying down all day. It will be, as Hynes suggested, up to Salesforce to keep proving them wrong. As long as they keep producing quarters like the one they had this week, they should be just fine, regardless of what the naysayers on Wall Street may be thinking today.

Feb
26
2021
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EC roundup: BNPL startups, growth marketing tips, solid state battery market map, more

When I needed a new sofa several months ago, I was pleased to find a buy now, pay later (BNPL) option during the checkout process. I had prepared myself to make a major financial outlay, but the service fees were well worth the convenience of deferring the entire payment.

Coincidentally, I was siting on said sofa this morning and considering that transaction when Alex Wilhelm submitted a column that compared recent earnings for three BNPL providers: Afterpay, Affirm and Klarna.

I asked him why he decided to dig into the sector with such gusto.


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“What struck me about the concept was that we had just seen earnings from Affirm,” he said. “So we had three BNPL players with known earnings, and I had just covered a startup funding round in the space.”

“Toss in some obvious audience interest, and it was an easy choice to write the piece. Now the question is whether I did a good job and people find value in it.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week! Have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

As BNPL startups raise, a look at Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay earnings

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck

Smashing brick work with hammer

Image Credits: Colin Hawkins (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

I avoid running Extra Crunch stories that focus on best practices; you can find those anywhere. Instead, we look for “here’s what worked for me” articles that give readers actionable insights.

That’s a much better use of your time and ours.

With that ethos in mind, Lucas Matney interviewed Pilot CEO Waseem Daher to deconstruct the pitch deck that helped his company land a $60M Series C round.

“If the Series A was about, ‘Do you have the right ingredients to make this work?’ then the Series B is about, ‘Is this actually working?’” Daher tells TechCrunch.

“And then the Series C is more, ‘Well, show me that the core business is really working and that you have unlocked real drivers to allow the business to continue growing.’”

Can solid state batteries power up for the next generation of EVs?

market-maps-battery-alt

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

A global survey of automobile owners found three hurdles to overcome before consumers will widely embrace electric vehicles:

  • 30-minute charging time
  • 300-mile range
  • $36,000 maximum cost

“Theoretically, solid state batteries (SSB) could deliver all three,” but for now, lithium-ion batteries are the go-to for most EVs (along with laptops and phones).

In our latest market map, we’ve plotted the new and established players in the SSB sector and listed many of the investors who are backing them.

Although SSBs are years away from mass production, “we are on the cusp of some pretty incredible discoveries using major improvements in computational science and machine learning algorithms to accelerate that process,” says SSB startup founder Amy Prieto.

 

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are the fastest?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

Help! Our startup needs to hire 50 engineers in artificial intelligence and related fields ASAP. Which visa and green card options are the quickest to get for top immigrant engineers?

And will Biden’s new immigration bill help us?

— Mesmerized in Menlo Park

 

Why F5 spent $2.2B on 3 companies to focus on cloud native applications

Dark servers data center room with computers and storage systems

Image Credits: Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

Founded in 1996, F5 has repositioned itself in the networking market several times in its history. In the last two years, however, it spent $2.2 billion to acquire Shape Security, Volterra and NGINX.

“As large organizations age, they often need to pivot to stay relevant, and I wanted to explore one of these transformational shifts,” said enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

“I spoke to the CEO of F5 to find out the strategy behind his company’s pivot and how he leveraged three acquisitions to push his organization in a new direction.”

 

DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market

Cloud online storage technology concept. Big data data information exchange available. Magnifying glass with analytics data

Image Credits: Who_I_am (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Cloud hosting company DigitalOcean filed to go public this week, so Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm unpacked its financials.

“AWS and Microsoft Azure will not be losing too much sleep worrying about DigitalOcean, but it is not trying to compete head-on with them across the full spectrum of cloud infrastructure services,” said John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research.

 

Oscar Health’s initial IPO price is so high, it makes me want to swear

I asked Alex Wilhelm to dial back the profanity he used to describe Oscar Health’s proposed valuation, but perhaps I was too conservative.

In March 2018, the insurtech unicorn was valued at around $3.2 billion. Today, with the company aiming to debut at $32 to $34 per share, its fully diluted valuation is closer to $7.7 billion.

“The clear takeaway from the first Oscar Health IPO pricing interval is that public investors have lost their minds,” says Alex.

His advice for companies considering an IPO? “Go public now.”

 

If Coinbase is worth $100 billion, what’s a fair valuation for Stripe?

Last week, Alex wrote about how cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase was being valued at $77 billion in the private markets.

As of Monday, “it’s now $100 billion, per Axios’ reporting.”

He reviewed Coinbase’s performance from 2019 through the end of Q3 2020 “to decide whether Coinbase at $100 billion makes no sense, a little sense or perfect sense.”

 

Winning enterprise sales teams know how to persuade the Chief Objection Officer

woman hand stop sign on brick wall background

Image Credits: Alla Aramyan (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

A skilled software sales team devotes a lot of resources to pinpointing potential customers.

Poring through LinkedIn and reviewing past speaker lists at industry conferences are good places to find decision-makers, for example.

Despite this detective work, GGV Capital investor Oren Yunger says sales teams still need to identify the deal-blockers who can spike a deal with a single email.

“I call this person the Chief Objection Officer.

 

3 strategies for elevating brand authority in 2021

Young woman standing on top of tall green bar graph against white background

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Every startup wants to raise its profile, but for many early-stage companies, marketing budgets are too small to make a meaningful difference.

Providing real value through content is an excellent way to build authority in the short and long term,” says Amanda Milligan, marketing director at growth agency Fractl.

 

RIBS: The messaging framework for every company and product

Grilled pork ribs with barbecue sauce on wooden background

Image Credits: luchezar (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The most effective marketing uses good storytelling, not persuasion.

According to Caryn Marooney, general partner at Coatue Management, every compelling story is relevant, inevitable, believable and simple.

“Behind most successful companies is a story that checks every one of those boxes,” says Marooney, but “this is a central challenge for every startup.”

 

Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig: The objective of pricing is to become less wrong over time

On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, Ironclad founder and CEO Jason Boehmig and Accel partner Steve Loughlin discussed the pitch that brought them together almost four years ago.

Since that $8 million Series A, Loughlin joined Ironclad’s board. “Both agree that the work they put in up front had paid off” when it comes to how well they work together, says Jordan Crook.

“We’ve always been up front about the fact that we consider the board a part of the company,” said Boehmig.


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Feb
25
2021
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DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market

This morning DigitalOcean, a provider of cloud computing services to SMBs, filed to go public. The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”

DigitalOcean’s offering comes amidst a hot streak for tech IPOs, and valuations that are stretched by historical norms. The cloud hosting company was joined by Coinbase in filing its numbers publicly today.

DigitalOcean’s offering comes amidst a hot streak for tech IPOs.

However, unlike the cryptocurrency exchange, DigitalOcean intends to raise capital through its offering. Its S-1 filing lists a $100 million placeholder number, a figure that will update when the company announces an IPO price range target.

This morning let’s explore the company’s financials briefly, and then ask ourselves what its results can tell us about the cloud market as a whole.

DigitalOcean’s financial results

TechCrunch has covered DigitalOcean with some frequency in recent years, including its early-2020 layoffs, its early-2020 $100 million debt raise and its $50 million investment from May of the same year that prior investors Access Industries and Andreessen Horowitz participated in.

From those pieces we knew that the company had reportedly reached $200 million in revenue during 2018, $250 million in 2019 and that DigitalOcean had expected to reach an annualized run rate of $300 million in 2020.

Those numbers held up well. Per its S-1 filing, DigitalOcean generated $203.1 million in 2018 revenue, $254.8 million in 2019 and $318.4 million in 2020. The company closed 2020 out with a self-calculated $357 million in annual run rate.

During its recent years of growth, DigitalOcean has managed to lose modestly increasing amounts of money, calculated using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and non-GAAP profit (adjusted EBITDA) in rising quantities. Observe the rising disconnect:

Feb
25
2021
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Why F5 spent $2.2B on 3 companies to focus on cloud native applications

It’s essential for older companies to recognize changes in the marketplace or face the brutal reality of being left in the dust. F5 is an old-school company that launched back in the 90s, yet has been able to transform a number of times in its history to avoid major disruption. Over the last two years, the company has continued that process of redefining itself, this time using a trio of acquisitions — NGINX, Shape Security and Volterra — totaling $2.2 billion to push in a new direction.

While F5 has been associated with applications management for some time, it recognized that the way companies developed and managed applications was changing in a big way with the shift to Kubernetes, microservices and containerization. At the same time, applications have been increasingly moving to the edge, closer to the user. The company understood that it needed to up its game in these areas if it was going to keep up with customers.

Taken separately, it would be easy to miss that there was a game plan behind the three acquisitions, but together they show a company with a clear opinion of where they want to go next. We spoke to F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou to learn why he bought these companies and to figure out the method in his company’s acquisition spree madness.

Looking back, looking forward

F5, which was founded in 1996, has found itself at a number of crossroads in its long history, times where it needed to reassess its position in the market. A few years ago it found itself at one such juncture. The company had successfully navigated the shift from physical appliance to virtual, and from data center to cloud. But it also saw the shift to cloud native on the horizon and it knew it had to be there to survive and thrive long term.

“We moved from just keeping applications performing to actually keeping them performing and secure. Over the years, we have become an application delivery and security company. And that’s really how F5 grew over the last 15 years,” said Locoh-Donou.

Today the company has over 18,000 customers centered in enterprise verticals like financial services, healthcare, government, technology and telecom. He says that the focus of the company has always been on applications and how to deliver and secure them, but as they looked ahead, they wanted to be able to do that in a modern context, and that’s where the acquisitions came into play.

As F5 saw it, applications were becoming central to their customers’ success and their IT departments were expending too many resources connecting applications to the cloud and keeping them secure. So part of the goal for these three acquisitions was to bring a level of automation to this whole process of managing modern applications.

“Our view is you fast forward five or 10 years, we are going to move to a world where applications will become adaptive, which essentially means that we are going to bring automation to the security and delivery and performance of applications, so that a lot of that stuff gets done in a more native and automated way,” Locoh-Donou said.

As part of this shift, the company saw customers increasingly using microservices architecture in their applications. This means instead of delivering a large monolithic application, developers were delivering them in smaller pieces inside containers, making it easier to manage, deploy and update.

At the same time, it saw companies needing a new way to secure these applications as they shifted from data center to cloud to the edge. And finally, that shift to the edge would require a new way to manage applications.

Feb
24
2021
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Google Cloud puts its Kubernetes Engine on autopilot

Google Cloud today announced a new operating mode for its Kubernetes Engine (GKE) that turns over the management of much of the day-to-day operations of a container cluster to Google’s own engineers and automated tools. With Autopilot, as the new mode is called, Google manages all of the Day 2 operations of managing these clusters and their nodes, all while implementing best practices for operating and securing them.

This new mode augments the existing GKE experience, which already managed most of the infrastructure of standing up a cluster. This ‘standard’ experience, as Google Cloud now calls it, is still available and allows users to customize their configurations to their heart’s content and manually provision and manage their node infrastructure.

Drew Bradstock, the Group Product Manager for GKE, told me that the idea behind Autopilot was to bring together all of the tools that Google already had for GKE and bring them together with its SRE teams who know how to run these clusters in production — and have long done so inside of the company.

“Autopilot stitches together auto-scaling, auto-upgrades, maintenance, Day 2 operations and — just as importantly — does it in a hardened fashion,” Bradstock noted. “[…] What this has allowed our initial customers to do is very quickly offer a better environment for developers or dev and test, as well as production, because they can go from Day Zero and the end of that five-minute cluster creation time, and actually have Day 2 done as well.”

Image Credits: Google

From a developer’s perspective, nothing really changes here, but this new mode does free up teams to focus on the actual workloads and less on managing Kubernetes clusters. With Autopilot, businesses still get the benefits of Kubernetes, but without all of the routine management and maintenance work that comes with that. And that’s definitely a trend we’ve been seeing as the Kubernetes ecosystem has evolved. Few companies, after all, see their ability to effectively manage Kubernetes as their real competitive differentiator.

All of that comes at a price, of course, in addition to the standard GKE flat fee of $0.10 per hour and cluster (there’s also a free GKE tier that provides $74.40 in billing credits), plus additional fees for resources that your clusters and pods consume. Google offers a 99.95% SLA for the control plane of its Autopilot clusters and a 99.9% SLA for Autopilot pods in multiple zones.

Image Credits: Google

Autopilot for GKE joins a set of container-centric products in the Google Cloud portfolio that also include Anthos for running in multi-cloud environments and Cloud Run, Google’s serverless offering. “[Autopilot] is really [about] bringing the automation aspects in GKE we have for running on Google Cloud, and bringing it all together in an easy-to-use package, so that if you’re newer to Kubernetes, or you’ve got a very large fleet, it drastically reduces the amount of time, operations and even compute you need to use,” Bradstock explained.

And while GKE is a key part of Anthos, that service is more about brining Google’s config management, service mesh and other tools to an enterprise’s own data center. Autopilot of GKE is, at least for now, only available on Google Cloud.

“On the serverless side, Cloud Run is really, really great for an opinionated development experience,” Bradstock added. “So you can get going really fast if you want an app to be able to go from zero to 1000 and back to zero — and not worry about anything at all and have it managed entirely by Google. That’s highly valuable and ideal for a lot of development. Autopilot is more about simplifying the entire platform people work on when they want to leverage the Kubernetes ecosystem, be a lot more in control and have a whole bunch of apps running within one environment.”

 

Feb
24
2021
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Hydrolix snares $10M seed to lower the cost of processing log data at scale

Many companies spend a significant amount of money and resources processing data from logs, traces and metrics, forcing them to make trade-offs about how much to collect and store. Hydrolix, an early stage startup, announced a $10 million seed round today to help tackle logging at scale, while using unique technology to lower the cost of storing and querying this data.

Wing Venture Capital led the round with help from AV8 Ventures, Oregon Venture Fund and Silicon Valley Data Capital.

Company CEO and co-founder Marty Kagan noted that in his previous roles, he saw organizations with tons of data in logs, metrics and traces that could be valuable to various parts of the company, but most organizations couldn’t afford the high cost to maintain these records for very long due to the incredible volume of data involved. He started Hydrolix because he wanted to change the economics to make it easier to store and query this valuable data.

“The classic problem with these cluster-based databases is that they’ve got locally attached storage. So as the data set gets larger, you have no choice but to either spend a ton of money to grow your cluster or separate your hot and cold data to keep your costs under control,” Kagan told me.

What’s more, he says that when it comes to querying, the solutions out there like BigQuery and Snowflake are not well suited for this kind of data. “They rely really heavily on caching and bulk column scans, so they’re not really useful for […] these infrastructure plays where you want to do live stream ingest, and you want to be able to do ad hoc data exploration,” he said.

Hydrolix wanted to create a more cost-effective way of storing and querying log data, while solving these issues with other tooling. “So we built a new storage layer which delivers […] SSD-like performance using nothing but cloud storage and diskless spot instances,” Kagan explained. He says that this means that there is no caching or column scales, enabling them to do index searches. “You’re getting the low cost, unlimited retention benefits of cloud storage, but with the interactive performance of fully indexed search,” he added.

Peter Wagner, founding partner at investor Wing Venture Capital, says that the beauty of this tool is that it eliminates tradeoffs, while lowering customers overall data processing costs. “The Hydrolix team has built a real-time data platform optimized not only to deliver superior performance at a fraction of the cost of current analytics solutions, but one architected to offer those same advantages as data volumes grow by orders of magnitude,” Wagner said in a statement.

It’s worth pointing out that in the past couple of weeks SentinelOne bought high speed logging platform Scalyr for $155 million, then CrowdStrike grabbed Humio, another high speed logging tool for $400 million, so this category is getting attention.

The product is currently compatible with AWS and offered through the Amazon Marketplace, but Kagan says they are working on versions for Azure and Google Cloud and expect to have those available later this year. The company was founded at the end of 2018 and currently has 20 employees spread out over six countries with headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Feb
24
2021
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Acumen nabs $7M seed to keep engineering teams on track

Engineering teams face steep challenges when it comes to staying on schedule, and keeping to those schedules can have an impact on the entire organization. Acumen, an Israeli engineering operations startup, announced a $7 million seed investment today to help tackle this problem.

Hetz, 10D, Crescendo and Jibe participated in the round, designed to give the startup the funding to continue building out the product and bring it to market. The company, which has been working with beta customers for almost a year, also announced it was emerging from stealth today.

As an experienced startup founder, Acumen CEO and co-founder Nevo Alva has seen engineering teams struggle as they grow due to a lack of data and insight into how the teams are performing. He and his co-founders launched Acumen to give companies that missing visibility.

“As engineering teams scale, they face challenges due to a lack of visibility into what’s going on in the team. Suddenly prioritizing our tasks becomes much harder. We experience interdependencies [that have an impact on the schedule] every day,” Alva explained.

He says this manifests itself in a decrease in productivity and velocity and ultimately missed deadlines that have an impact across the whole company. What Acumen does is collect data from a variety of planning and communications tools that the engineering teams are using to organize their various projects. It then uses machine learning to identify potential problems that could have an impact on the schedule and presents this information in a customizable dashboard.

The tool is aimed at engineering team leaders, who are charged with getting their various projects completed on time with the goal of helping them understand possible bottlenecks. The software’s machine learning algorithms will learn over time which situations cause problems, and offer suggestions on how to prevent them from becoming major issues.

The company was founded in July 2019 and the founders spent the first 10 months working with a dozen design partners building out the first version of the product, making sure it could pass muster with various standards bodies like SOC-2. It has been in closed private beta since last year and is launching publicly this week.

Acumen currently has 20 employees with plans to add 10 more by the end of this year. After working remotely for most of 2020, Alva says that location is no longer really important when it comes to hiring. “It definitely becomes less and less important where they are. I think time zones are still a consideration when speaking of remote,” he said. In fact, they have people in Israel, the U.S. and eastern Europe at the moment among their 20 employees.

He recognizes that employees can feel isolated working alone, so the company has video meetings every day during which they spend the first part just chatting about non-work stuff as a way to stay connected. Starting today, Acumen will begin its go to market effort in earnest. While Alva recognizes there are competing products out there like Harness and Pinpoint, he thinks his company’s use of data and machine learning really helps differentiate it.

Feb
19
2021
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SailPoint is buying SaaS management startup Intello

SailPoint, an identity management company that went public in 2017, announced it was going to be acquiring Intello, an early-stage SaaS management startup. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

SailPoint believes that by helping its customers locate all of the SaaS tools being used inside a company, it can help IT make the company safer. Part of the problem is that it’s so easy for employees to deploy SaaS tools without IT’s knowledge, and Intello gives them more visibility and control.

In fact, the term “shadow IT” developed over the last decade to describe this ability to deploy software outside of the purview of IT pros. With a tool like Intello, they can now find all of the SaaS tools and point the employees to sanctioned ones, while shutting down services the security pros might not want folks using.

Grady Summers, EVP of product at SailPoint, says that this problem has become even more pronounced during the pandemic as many companies have gone remote, making it even more challenging for IT to understand what SaaS tools employees might be using.

“This has led to a sharp rise in ungoverned SaaS sprawl and unprotected data that is being stored and shared within these apps. With little to no visibility into what shadow access exists within their organization, IT teams are further challenged to protect from the cyber risks that have increased over the past year,” Summers explained in a statement. He believes that with Intello in the fold, it will help root out that unsanctioned usage and make companies safer, while also helping them understand their SaaS spend better.

Intello has always seen itself as a way to increase security and compliance and has partnered in the past with other identity management tools like Okta and OneLogin. The company was founded in 2017 and raised $5.8 million according to Crunchbase data. That included a $2.5 million extended seed in May 2019.

Yesterday, another SaaS management tool, Torii, announced a $10 million Series A. Other players in the SaaS management space include BetterCloud and Blissfully, among others.

Feb
18
2021
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Why do SaaS companies with usage-based pricing grow faster?

Today we know of HubSpot — the maker of marketing, sales and service software products — as a preeminent public company with a market cap above $17 billion. But HubSpot wasn’t always on the IPO trajectory.

For its first five years in business, HubSpot offered three subscription packages ranging in price from $3,000 to $18,000 per year. The company struggled with poor churn and anemic expansion revenue. Net revenue retention was near 70%, a far cry from the 100%+ that most SaaS companies aim to achieve.

Something needed to change. So in 2011, they introduced usage-based pricing. As customers used the software to generate more leads, they would proportionally increase their spend with HubSpot.  This pricing change allowed HubSpot to share in the success of its customers.

In a usage-based model, expansion “just happens” as customers are successful.

By the time HubSpot went public in 2014, net revenue retention had jumped to nearly 100% — all without hurting the company’s ability to acquire new customers.

HubSpot isn’t an outlier. Public SaaS companies that have adopted usage-based pricing grow faster because they’re better at landing new customers, growing with them and keeping them as customers.

Image Credits: Kyle Poyar

Widen the top of the funnel

In a usage-based model, a company doesn’t get paid until after the customer has adopted the product. From the customer’s perspective, this means that there’s no risk to try before they buy. Products like Snowflake and Google Cloud Platform take this a step further and even offer $300+ in free usage credits for new developers to test drive their products.

Many of these free users won’t become profitable — and that’s okay. Like a VC firm, usage-based companies are making a portfolio of bets. Some of those will pay off spectacularly — and the company will directly share in that success.

Top-performing companies open up the top of the funnel by making it free to sign up for their products. They invest in a frictionless customer onboarding experience and high-quality support so that new users get hooked on the platform. As more new users become active, there’s a stronger foundation for future customer growth.

Feb
18
2021
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Torii announces $10M Series A to automate SaaS management

Today, that software is offered as a cloud service should be pretty much considered a given. Certainly any modern tooling is going to be SaaS, and as companies and employees add services, it becomes a management nightmare. Enter Torii, an early-stage startup that wants to make it easier to manage SaaS bloat.

Today, the company announced a $10 million Series A investment led by Wing Venture Capital, with participation from prior investors Entree Capital, Global Founders Capital, Scopus Ventures and Uncork Capital. The investment brings the total raised to $15 million, according to the company. Under the terms of the deal, Wing partner Jake Flomenberg is joining the board.

Uri Haramati, co-founder and CEO, is a serial entrepreneur who helped launch Houseparty and Meerkat. As a serial founder, he says that he and his co-founders saw firsthand how difficult it was to manage their companies’ SaaS applications, and the idea for Torii developed from that.

“We all felt the changes around SaaS and managing the tools that we were using. We were all early adopters of SaaS. We all [took advantage of SaaS] to scale our companies and we felt the same thing: The fact is that you just can’t add more people who manage more software, it just doesn’t scale,” Haramati told me.

He said they started Torii with the idea of using software to control the SaaS sprawl they were experiencing. At the heart of the idea was an automation engine to discover and manage all of the SaaS tools inside an organization. Once you know what you have, there is a no-code workflow engine to create workflows around those tools for key activities like onboarding or offboarding employees.

Torii no code workflow engine.

Torii Workflow Engine. Image Credits: Torii

The approach seems to be working. As the pandemic struck in 2020, more companies than ever needed to control and understand the SaaS tooling they had, and revenue grew 400% YoY last year. Customers include Delivery Hero, Chewy, Monday.com and Palo Alto Networks.

The company also doubled its employees from a dozen with which they started last year, with plans to get to 60 people by the end of this year. As they do that, as experienced entrepreneurs, Haramati told me they already understood the value of developing a diverse and inclusive workforce, certainly around gender. Today, the team is 25 people with 10 being women and they are working to improve those ratios as they continue to add new people.

Flomenberg invested in Torii because he was particularly impressed with the automation aspect of the company and how it took a holistic approach to the SaaS management problem, rather than attempting to solve one part of it. “When I met Uri, he described this vision. It was really to become the operating system for SaaS. It all starts with the right data. You can trust data that is gathered from [multiple] sources to really build the right picture and pull it together. And then they took all those signals and they built a platform that is built on automation,” he said.

Haramati admits that it’s challenging to scale in the midst of a pandemic, but the company is growing and is already working to expand the platform to include product recommendations and help with compliance and cost control.

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