Mar
22
2021
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Box shares rise on report company is exploring sale

Shares of Box, a well-known content-and-collaboration company that went public in 2015, rose today after Reuters reported that the company is exploring a sale. TechCrunch previously discussed rising investor pressure for Box to ignite its share-price after years in the public-market wilderness.

At the close today Box’s equity was worth $23.65 per share, up around 5% from its opening value, but lower than its intraday peak of $26.47, reached after the news broke. The company went public a little over five years ago at $14 per share, only to see its share price rise to around the same level it returned today during its first day’s trading.

Box, famous during its startup phase thanks in part to its ubiquitous CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie, has continued to grow while public, albeit at a declining pace. Dropbox, a long-term rival, has also seen its growth rate decline since going public. Both have stressed rising profitability over revenue expansion in recent quarters.

But the problem that Box has encountered while public, namely hyper-scale platform companies with competing offerings, could also prove a lifeline; Google and Microsoft could be a future home for Levie’s company, after years of the duo challenging Box for deals.

As recently as last week, Box announced a deal for tighter integration with Microsoft Office 365. Given the timing of the release, it was easy to speculate the news could be landing ahead of a potential deal. The Reuters article adds fuel to the possibility.

While we can’t know for sure if the Reuters article is accurate, the possible sale of Box makes sense.

The article indicated that one of the possible acquisition options for Box could be taking it private again via private equity. Perhaps a firm like Vista or Thoma Bravo, two firms that tend to like mature SaaS companies with decent revenue and some issues, could swoop in to buy the struggling SaaS company. By taking companies off the market, reducing investor pressure and giving them room to maneuver, software companies can at times find new vigor.

Consider the case of Marketo, a company that Vista purchased in 2016 for $1.6 billion before turning it around and selling to Adobe in 2018 for $4.75 billion. The end result generated a strong profit for Vista, and a final landing for Marketo as part of a company with a broader platform of marketing tools.

If there are expenses at Box that could be trimmed, or a sales process that could be improved is not clear. But Box’s market value of $3.78 billion could put it within grasp of larger private-equity funds. Or well within the reaches of a host of larger enterprise software companies that might covet its list of business customers, technology, or both.

If the rumors are true, it could be a startling fall from grace for the company, moving from Silicon Valley startup-darling to IPO to sold entity in just six years. While it’s important to note these are just rumors, the writing could be on the wall for the company and it could just be a matter of when and not if.

Feb
03
2021
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Box acquires e-signature startup SignRequest for new content workflows

Box announced this morning that it has agreed to acquire e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million. The acquisition gives the company a native signature component it has been lacking and opens up new workflows for the company.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says the company has seen increased demand from customers to digitize more of their workflows, and this acquisition is about giving them a signature component right inside Box that will be known as Box Sign moving forward. “With Box Sign, customers can have a seamless e-signature experience right where their content already lives,” Levie told me.

While Box has partnerships with other e-signature vendors, this gives it one to call its own, one that will be built into Box starting this summer. As we have learned during this pandemic, the more work we can do remotely, the safer it is. Even after the pandemic ends and we get back to more face-to-face interactions, being able to do things fully in the cloud and removing paper from the workflow will speed up everything.

“The massive push to remote work effectively instantly highlighted for every enterprise where their digital workflows were breaking down. And e-signature was a major part of that — too many industries still rely on paper-based processes,” he said.

Levie says that the signature component has been a key missing piece from the platform. “As for our platform, when you look at Snowflake, they’re the data cloud. Salesforce is the sales cloud. Adobe is the marketing cloud. We want to build the content cloud. Imagine one platform that can power the entire lifecycle of content. E-signature has been a major missing link for critical workflows,” he said.

He believes this will open up the platform for a number of scenarios, that while possible before, could not flow as easily between Box components. “Having SignRequest gets us more natively into mission-critical workflows like customer contracts, vendor onboarding, healthcare onboarding and supply chain collaboration,” Levie explained.

It’s worth noting that Dropbox acquired HelloSign for $230 million two years ago to provide it with a similar kind of functionality and workflow capability, but analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe from Deep Analysis, a firm that follows the content management market, says this wasn’t really in reaction to that.

“I think what is interesting here is that Box is going to integrate SignRequest and bundle it as part of the standard service. That’s what really caught my eye as the challenge with e-sig is that it’s typically a separate product and so gets limited use. They bought it partly in response to Dropbox, but it was a hole that needed fixing regardless so would have done so anyway,” Pelz-Sharpe explained.

As for SignRequest, the company was founded in the Netherlands in 2014. Neither PitchBook nor Crunchbase has a record of it raising funds. The plan is for the company’s employees to join Box and help build the signature component that will become Box Sign. According to a message to customers on the company website, existing customers will have the opportunity over the next year to move to Box Sign, and get all of the other components of the Box platform.

Levie says the basic Box Sign function will be built into the platform at no additional charge, but there will be more advanced features coming that they could charge for. The deal is expected to close soon with the SignRequest team remaining in The Netherlands.

Jan
27
2021
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Following acquisition, Episerver rebrands as Optimizely

After acquiring Optimizely last fall, content management company Episerver is adopting the Optimizely name for the entire organization.

CEO Alex Atzberger told me that the company will be rolling out new branding in the next coming months, as well as renaming its entire product suite to reflect the Optimizely brand.

“We believe it’s no longer just about personalizing the experience or driving recommendations,” Atzberger said. “The brand and word Optimizely really signifies optimal performance. Companies today of any size, any scale [need to be] much more sophisticated in terms of how they digitally connect with their customers. It’s a never-ending story.”

At the same time, he emphasized that Episerver is making the change from “a position of strength,” with the combined company seeing double-digit revenue growth last year and going live with more than 250 new customers.

Asked whether adopting the Optimizely name was always part of the post-acquisition plan, Atzberger replied, “When we acquired Optimizely, we knew that we would be acquiring not just a great product, not just a great customer base, but also acquiring a very well-known brand. We had not yet decided on [rebranding], but it was certainly something that, for me, was part of the consideration.”

In addition to announcing the new company name, Episerver/Optimizely is also announcing a new platform that it’s calling Optimization-as-a-Service, which integrates aspects of Optimizely and Episerver products to offer web targeting, testing and recommendations. As Atzberger put it, this new platform allows customers to determine “who to show something to, what content to show and how to actually show this content.”

Aug
27
2020
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Box benefits from digital transformation as it raises its growth forecast

Box has always been a bit of an enigma for Wall Street, and perhaps for enterprise software in general. Unlike vendors who shifted to the cloud tools like HR, CRM or ERP, Box has been building a way to manage content in the cloud. It’s been a little harder to understand than these other enterprise software stalwarts, but slowly but surely Box has shifted into a more efficient, and dare we say, profitable public company.

Yesterday the company filed its Q2 2021 earnings report and it was solid. In fact, the company reported revenue of $192.3 million. That’s an increase of 11% year over year and it beat analyst’s expectations of $189.6 million, according to the company. Meanwhile the guidance looked good too, moving from a range of $760 to $768 million for the year to a range of $767 to $770 million.

All of this points to a company that is finding its footing. Let’s not forget, Starboard Value bought a 7.5% stake in the company a year ago, yet the activist investor has mostly stayed quiet and Box seems to be rewarding its patience as the pandemic acts as a forcing function to move customers to the cloud faster — and that seems to be working in Box’s favor.

Let’s get profitable

Box CEO Aaron Levie has not been shy about talking about how the pandemic has pushed companies to move to the cloud much more quickly than they probably would have. He said as a digital company, he was able to move his employees to work from home and remain efficient because of tools like Slack, Zoom, Okta and, yes, Box were in place to help them do that.

All of that helped keep the business going, and even thriving, through the extremely difficult times the pandemic has wrought. “We’re fortunate about how we’ve been able to execute in this environment. It helps that we’re 100% SaaS, and we’ve got a great digital engine to perform the business,” he said.

He added, “And at the same time, as we’ve talked about, we’ve been driving greater profitability. So the efficiency of the businesses has also improved dramatically, and the result was that overall we had a very strong quarter with better growth than expected and better profitability than expected. As a result, we were able to raise our targets on both revenue growth and profitability for the rest of the year,” Levie told TechCrunch.

Let’s get digital

Box is seeing existing customers and new customers alike moving more rapidly to the cloud, and that’s working in its favor. Levie believes that companies are in the process of reassessing their short and longer term digital strategy right now, and looking at what workloads they’ll be moving to the cloud, whether that’s cloud infrastructure, security in the cloud or content.

“Really customers are going to be trying to find a way to be able to shift their most important data and their most important content to the cloud, and that’s what we’re seeing play out within our customer base,” Levie said.

He added, “It’s not really a question anymore if you’re going to go to the cloud, it’s which cloud are you going to go to. And we’ve obviously been very focused on trying to build that leading platform for companies that want to be able to move their data to a cloud environment and be able to manage it securely, drive workflows on it, integrate it across our applications and that’s what we’re seeing,” he said.

That translated into a 60% increase quarter over quarter on the number of large deals over $100,000, and the company crossed 100,000 customers globally on the platform in the most recent quarter, so the approach seems to be working.

Let’s keep building

As with Salesforce a generation earlier, Box decided to build its product set on a platform of services. It enabled customers to tap into these base services like encryption, workflow and metadata and build their own customizations or even fully functional applications by taking advantage of the tools that Box has already built.

Much like Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor told TechCrunch recently, that platform approach has been an integral part of its success, and Levie sees it similarly for Box. calling it fundamental to his company’s success, as well.

“We would not be here without that platform strategy,” he said. “Because we think about Box as a platform architecture, and we’ve built more and more capabilities into that platform, that’s what is giving us this strategic advantage right now,” he said.

And that hasn’t just worked to help customers using Box, it also helps Box itself to develop new capabilities more rapidly, something that has been absolutely essential during this pandemic when the company has had to react quickly to rapidly changing customer requirements.

Levie is 15 years into his tenure as CEO of Box, but he still sees a company and a market that is just getting started. “The opportunity is only bigger, and it’s more addressable by our product and platform today than it has been at any point in our history. So I think we’re still in the very early stages of digital transformation, and we’re in the earliest stages for how document and content management works in this modern era.”

Jul
15
2020
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Atlassian brings a table view to Trello

Atlassian today announced a number of updates to both its Confluence workspace and its Trello collaboration and project management tool. The focus here, the company says, is on supporting “the next phase of remote work.” Trello alone saw a 73% rise in signups in mid-March 2020, just as companies started shifting to work-from-home, compared to the same time a year ago.

The actual new features are pretty straightforward. The highlight for Trello users is surely the beta version of a table view. This marks the first time the service is giving users this spreadsheet-like overview of what is happening across their various Trello boards. It reminds me quite a bit of Airtable, but what’s maybe more important here than the feature itself is that the Trello team says this is the first of a series of new ways to view data across multiple projects in the application.

Image Credits: Atlassian

As for Confluence, a lot of the new features here are about saving users time (or measuring it). Coming soon, for example, is a bulk content management feature that will allow users to do things like archive multiple pages with a single click, label them or export them, among other things.

Available now are Confluence Smart Links that let you preview content from across the web so that users don’t have to leave their workspace to see important information, as well as real-time feedback on the content in Confluence, with the ability to view, create and resolve in-line comments while in the service’s edit mode.

Image Credits: AtlassianThe last new Confluence feature is Page Insights, which is all about metrics. With this, Confluence adds estimated read time to its page view counts, “making it easier to form quick decisions about when and how to consume content in a busy workday. […] This simplifies the mental process of navigating the endless sea of content.” Who still has the time and energy to read all of those long documents, after all?

“Teams around the world were forced into working remotely, but now many organizations are considering a permanent move to a more distributed work environment,” said Pratima Arora, head of Confluence at Atlassian. “With so many work streams across departments and individuals, it becomes impossible to rely on the old system of email chains as a vehicle for planning and managing work. Leaders need to look at whether they have the right work management system to support collaboration across the organization for the long term.”

Jun
17
2020
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Contentful raises $80M Series E round for its headless CMS

Headless CMS company Contentful today announced that it has raised an $80 million Series E funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst, Salesforce Ventures and a number of other new and existing investors. With this, the company has now raised a total of $158.3 million and a Contentful spokesperson tells me that it is approaching a $1 billion valuation.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has hired Bridget Perry as its CMO. She previously led Adobe’s marketing efforts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Currently, 28% of the Fortune 500 use Contentful to manage their content across platforms. The company says it has a total of 2,200 paying customers right now and these include the likes of Spotify, ITV, the British Museum, Telus and Urban Outfitters.

Steve Sloan, the company’s CEO who joined the company late last year, attributes its success to the fact that virtually every business today is in the process of figuring out how to become digital and serve its customers across platforms — and that’s a process that has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ten or 15 years ago, when these content platforms or content management systems were created, they were a) really built for a web-only world and b) where the website was a complement to some other business,” he said. “Today, the mobile app, the mobile web experience is the front door to every business on the planet. And that’s never been any more clear than in this recent COVID crisis, where we’ve seen many, many businesses — even those that are very traditional businesses — realize that the dominant and, in some cases, only way their customers can interact with them is through that digital experience.”

But as they are looking at their options, many decide that they don’t just want to take an off-the-shelf product, Sloan argues, because it doesn’t allow them to build a differentiated offering.

Image Credits: Contentful

Perry also noted that this is something she saw at Adobe, too, as it built its digital experience business. “Leading marketing at Adobe, we used it ourselves,” she said. “And so the challenge that we heard from customers in the market was how complex it was in some cases to implement, to organize around it, to build those experiences fast and see value and impact on the business. And part of that challenge, I think, stemmed from the kind of monolithic, all-in-one type of suite that Adobe offered. Even as a marketer at Adobe, we had challenges with that kind of time to market and agility. And so what’s really interesting to me — and one of the reasons why I joined Contentful — is that Contentful approaches this in a very different way.”

Sloan noted that putting the round together was a bit of an adventure. Contentful’s existing investors approached the company around the holidays because they wanted to make a bigger investment in the company to fuel its long-term growth. But at the time, the company wasn’t ready to raise new capital yet.

“And then in January and February, we had inbound interest from people who weren’t yet investors, who came to us and said, ‘hey, we really want to invest in this company, we’ve seen the trend and we really believe in it.’ So we went back to our insiders and said, ‘hey, we’re going to think about actually moving in our timeline for raising capital,” Sloan told me. “And then, right about that time is when COVID really broke out, particularly in Western Europe in North America.”

That didn’t faze Contentful’s investors, though.

“One of the things that really stood out about our investors — and particularly our lead investor for this round Sapphire — is that when everybody else was really, really frightened, they were really clear about the opportunity, about their belief in the team and about their understanding of the progress we had already made. And they were really unflinching in terms of their support,” Sloan said.

Unsurprisingly, the company plans to use the new funding to expand its go-to-market efforts (that’s why it hired Perry, after all), but Sloan also noted that Contentful plans to invest quite a bit into R&D, as well, as it looks to help its customers solve more adjacent problems.

Jun
16
2020
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New Box tools should help ease creation of digitally driven workflows

As COVID-19 has forced companies to move employees from office to home, cloud services have seen a burst in business. Box has been speeding up its product roadmap to help companies that are in the midst of this transition. Today, the company announced the Box Relay template library, which includes a series of workflow templates to help customers build digital workflows faster.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says that the rapid shift to work from home has been a massive accelerant to digital transformation, in some cases driving years of digital transformation into a matter of weeks and months. He says that has made the need to digitize business processes more urgent than ever.

In fact, when he appeared on Extra Crunch Live last month, he indicated that businesses still have way too many manual processes:

We think we’re [in] an environment that anything that can be digitized probably will be. Certainly as this pandemic has reinforced, we have way too many manual processes in businesses. We have way too slow ways of working together and collaborating. And we know that we’re going to move more and more of that to digital platforms.

Box Relay is the company’s workflow tool, and while it has had the ability to create workflows, it required a certain level of knowledge and way of thinking to make that happen. Levie says that they wanted to make it as simple as possible for customers to build workflows to digitize manual processes.

“We are announcing an all new set of Box Relay templates, which are going straight to the heart of how do you automate and digitize business processes across the entire enterprise and make it really simple to do that,” he explained.

This could include things like a contract review, change order process or budget review to name a few examples. The template includes the pieces to get going, but the customer can customize the process to meet the needs of the individual organization’s requirements.

Image Credits: Box

While this is confined to Box-built templates for now, Levie says that down the road this could include the ability for customers to deploy templates of their own, or even for third parties like systems integrators to build industry or client-specific templates. But for today, it’s just about the ones you get out of the box from Box.

At the same time, the company is announcing the File Request feature, a name Levie admits doesn’t really do the feature justice. The idea is that in a workflow such as a paperless bank loan process, the individual has to submit multiple documents without having a Box account. After the company receives the documents, it can kick off a workflow automatically based on receiving the set of documents.

He says the combination of these two new capabilities will give customers the ability to digitize more and more of their processes and bring in a level of automation that wasn’t previously possible in Relay. “The combination of these two features is about driving automation across the entire enterprise and digitizing many more paper-based and manual processes in the enterprise,” Levie said.

Box will not be charging additional fees for these new features to customers using Box Relay. File Request should be available at the end of this month, while the template library should be available by the end of July, according to the company.

May
07
2020
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Box makes quick decision to add new collaboration capabilities in face of pandemic

When the shutdown began six weeks ago, the powers that be at Box sat down for a meeting to discuss the situation. They weren’t in the same room of course. They were like everyone else, separated by the virus, but they saw this as a key moment for Box as a company.

They had been talking about digital transformation for years, trying to help customers get there with their cloud content management platform, and this was a pivotal moment with millions of employees working at home.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says the company’s executives had to decide if the change in work style they were seeing at that moment was going to be a temporary event or something that changed work forever.

After some debate, they concluded that it was going to change things for the long term, and that meant accelerating the product road map. “We made the bet six weeks ago that this was going to be a long-term change about how business works, and even if offices opened back up, we thought that companies were going to want to be resilient for this type of event in the future,” Levie explained.

From Box’s perspective, they saw this playing it in three crucial ways. Employees would need to be able to share files securely (their sweet spot). They would need to collaborate with folks inside and outside the organization. Finally, as you are working inside other cloud applications, what is the best way to interact with files stored in Box?

These are all scenarios that Levie has been talking about for years, and to some extent Box offered already, but they wanted to tighten everything up, while adding some new functionality. For starters, they are offering a cleaner interface to make it easier for users to interact with and share files.

They are also helping users organize those files with a new feature called Collections, which lets them group their files and folders in ways that make sense to them. This is organized on an individual basis, but Levie says they are already hearing requests to be able to publish collections inside the organization, something that could come down the road.

Next, they are adding an annotations capability that makes it easy to add comments either as a single editor or in a group discussion about a file. Think Google Docs collaboration tools, but for any document, allowing an individual or group to comment on a file remotely in real time, something many folks need to do right now.

Image Credit: Box

Finally, external partners and customers can share files in Box from a special landing page. Levie says that this is working in conjunction with Box Shield, and the malware detection capability announced last month to make sure these files are shared in a secure fashion.

“Companies are going to need to make sure that no matter what happens — in the fall, next year or 10 years from now — that they can be resilient to an event where people can’t transact physically, where you don’t have manual processes, where employees can go work from home instantaneously, and so that’s going to change dramatically how you adjust your company’s priorities from a technology standpoint,” Levie said.

These new features may not answer all of those huge strategic questions, but this is a case where Box saw an opening for the company to address this change in how people work more directly, and they sped up the roadmap to seize it.

These features will be rolling out starting today and over the next weeks.

Apr
07
2020
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HubSpot unveils new content management system aimed at marketers

HubSpot, the Boston-based inbound marketing firm, announced today it is launching a standalone content management system designed to make it easy for marketing personnel to add and update content.

While content management, in a sense, has been core to HubSpot from the beginning — many companies use their blogging platform, for example — the company built this one from the ground up for marketers, says chief marketing officer Kipp Bodnar.

“For me, the marketer owning the website is one of the most thankless jobs you have. There’s a lot of pain associated with it. Your CEO asks you to update a bio or your legal team needs a new terms of service. Everybody’s coming at you from everywhere and the actual management of websites has just a huge amount of pain associated with it,” he said.

Angela DeFranco, the company’s director of product management, says that HubSpot wanted to address that problem with a product designed specifically for the marketing team. “We wanted to build a content management system and a suite of tools that could stand on its own and take away the pain of content management, not only from the marketer but also from the developer and the people that help the site run,” she said.

The product is built on the notion of themes that allow the marketer and developer helping to build the site to get the look and feel they want, while balancing what De Franco calls “the paradox between powerful and easy-to-use.”

It allows developers to use the languages they want to build the site, while taking advantage of the HubSpot CMS’s modular structure. At the same time, the modules give marketers a friendly interface to make frequent changes required in a modern website.

“When you actually get into the editor and you’re dragging in, for example, your event registration theme module, it inherits the styling and the characteristic, the look and feel of that theme overall that the developers had set up and custom built for your team,” she said.

“The theme module is really the crux of how we were able to achieve some of these more complex functionality features and power, while also allowing that with drag-and-drop ease of use to build a full site as a marketer,” DeFranco added.

HubSpot was founded in 2006. It raised over $100 million, according to Crunchbase data, before going public in 2014.

Feb
18
2020
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Egnyte unifies its security and productivity tooling into single platform

Egnyte announced today it was combining its two main products — Egnyte Protect and Egnyte Connect — into a single platform to help customers manage, govern and secure the data from a single set of tools.

Egynte co-founder and CEO Vineet Jain says that this new single platform approach is being driven chiefly by the sheer volume of data they are seeing from customers, especially as they shift from on-prem to the cloud.

“The underlying pervasive theme is that there’s a rapid acceleration of data going to the cloud, and we’ve seen that in our customers,” Jain told TechCrunch. He says that long-time customers have been shifting from terabytes to petabytes of data, while new customers are starting out with a few hundred terabytes instead of five or ten.

As this has happened, he says customers are asking for a way to deal with this data glut with a single platform because the volume of data makes it too much to handle with separate tools. “Instead of looking at this as separate problems, customers are saying they want a solution that helps address the productivity part at the same time as the security part. That’s because there is more data in the cloud, and concerns around data security and privacy, along with increasing compliance requirements, are driving the need to have it in one unified platform,” he explained.

The company is doing this because managing the data needs to be tied to security and governance policies. “They are not ultimately separate ideas,” Jain says.

Jain says, up until recently, the company saw the data management piece as the way into a customer, and after they had that locked down, they would move to layer on security and compliance as a value-add. Today, partly due to the data glut and partly due to compliance regulations, Jain says, these are no longer separate ideas, and his company has evolved its approach to meet the changing requirements of customers.

Egnyte was founded in 2007 and has raised over $138 million on a $460 million post valuation, according to Pitchbook data. Its most recent round was $75 million led by Goldman Sachs in September, 2018. Egnyte passed the $100 million ARR mark in November.

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