Jul
26
2018
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Facebook acquires Redkix to enhance communications on Workplace by Facebook

Facebook had a rough day yesterday when its stock plunged after a poor earnings report. What better way to pick yourself up and dust yourself off than to buy a little something for yourself. Today the company announced it has acquired Redkix, a startup that provides tools to communicate more effectively by combining email with a more formal collaboration tool. The companies did not reveal the acquisition price.

Redkix burst out of the gate two years ago with a $17 million seed round, a hefty seed amount by any measure. What prompted this kind of investment was a tool that combined a collaboration tool like Slack or Workplace by Facebook with email. People could collaborate in Redkix itself, or if you weren’t a registered user, you could still participate by email, providing a more seamless way to work together.

Alan Lepofsky, who covers enterprise collaboration at Constellation Research, sees this tool as providing a key missing link. “Redkix is a great solution for bridging the worlds between traditional email messaging and more modern conversational messaging. Not all enterprises are ready to simply switch from one to the other, and Redkix allows for users to work in whichever method they want, seamlessly communicating with the other,” Lepofsky told TechCrunch.

As is often the case with these kinds of acquisitions, the company bought the technology  itself along with the team that created it. This means that the Redkix team including the CEO and CTO will join Facebook and they will very likely be shutting down the application after the acquisition is finalized.

Lepofsky thinks that enterprises that are adopting Facebook’s enterprise tool will be able to more seamlessly transition between the two modes of communication, the Workplace by Facebook tool and email, as they prefer.

Although a deal like this has probably been in the works for some time, after yesterday’s earning’s debacle, Facebook could be looking for ways to enhance its revenue in areas beyond the core Facebook platform. The enterprise collaboration tool does offer a possible way to do that in the future, and if they can find a way to incorporate email into it, it could make it a more attractive and broader offering.

Facebook is competing with Slack, the darling of this space and others like Microsoft, Cisco and Google around communications and collaboration. When it launched in 2015, it was trying to take that core Facebook product and put it in a business context, something Slack had been doing since the beginning.

To succeed in business, Facebook had to think differently than as a consumer tool, driven by advertising revenue and had to convince large organizations that they understood their requirements. Today, Facebook claims 30,000 organizations are using the tool and over time they have built in integrations to other key enterprise products, and keep enhancing it.

Perhaps with today’s acquisition, they can offer a more flexible way to interact with the platform and could increase those numbers over time.

Jul
18
2018
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Okta nabs ScaleFT to build out ‘Zero Trust’ security framework

Okta, the cloud identity management company, announced today it has purchased a startup called ScaleFT to bring the Zero Trust concept to the Okta platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While Zero Trust isn’t exactly new to a cloud identity management company like Okta, acquiring ScaleFT gives them a solid cloud-based Zero Trust foundation on which to continue to develop the concept internally.

“To help our customers increase security while also meeting the demands of the modern workforce, we’re acquiring ScaleFT to further our contextual access management vision — and ensure the right people get access to the right resources for the shortest amount of time,” Okta co-founder and COO Frederic Kerrest said in a statement.

Zero Trust is a security framework that acknowledges work no longer happens behind the friendly confines of a firewall. In the old days before mobile and cloud, you could be pretty certain that anyone on your corporate network had the authority to be there, but as we have moved into a mobile world, it’s no longer a simple matter to defend a perimeter when there is effectively no such thing. Zero Trust means what it says: you can’t trust anyone on your systems and have to provide an appropriate security posture.

The idea was pioneered by Google’s “BeyondCorp” principals and the founders of ScaleFT are adherents to this idea. According to Okta, “ScaleFT developed a cloud-native Zero Trust access management solution that makes it easier to secure access to company resources without the need for a traditional VPN.”

Okta wants to incorporate the ScaleFT team and, well, scale their solution for large enterprise customers interested in developing this concept, according to a company blog post by Kerrest.

“Together, we’ll work to bring Zero Trust to the enterprise by providing organizations with a framework to protect sensitive data, without compromising on experience. Okta and ScaleFT will deliver next-generation continuous authentication capabilities to secure server access — from cloud to ground,” Kerrest wrote in the blog post.

ScaleFT CEO and co-founder Jason Luce will manage the transition between the two companies, while CTO and co-founder Paul Querna will lead strategy and execution of Okta’s Zero Trust architecture. CSO Marc Rogers will take on the role of Okta’s Executive Director, Cybersecurity Strategy.

The acquisition allows the Okta to move beyond purely managing identity into broader cyber security, at least conceptually. Certainly Roger’s new role suggests the company could have other ideas to expand further into general cyber security beyond Zero Trust.

ScaleFT was founded in 2015 and has raised $2.8 million over two seed rounds, according to Crunchbase data.

Jul
10
2018
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Box acquires Butter.ai to make search smarter

Box announced today that it has acquired Butter.ai, a startup that helps customers search for content intelligently in the cloud. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Butter.AI team will be joining Box.

Butter.AI was started by two ex-Evernote employees, Jack Hirsch and Adam Walz. The company was partly funded by Evernote founder and former CEO Phil Libin’s Turtle Studios. The latter is a firm established with a mission to use machine learning to solve real business problems like finding the right document wherever it is.

Box has been adding intelligence to its platform for some time, and this acquisition brings the Butter.AI team on board and gives them more machine learning and artificial intelligence known-how while helping to enhance search inside of the Box product.

“The team from Butter.ai will help Box to bring more intelligence to our Search capabilities, enabling Box’s 85,000 customers to more easily navigate through their unstructured information — making searching for files in Box more contextualized, predictive and personalized,” Box’s Jeetu Patel wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

That means taking into account the context of the search and delivering documents that make sense given your role and how you work. For instance, if you are a salesperson and you search for a contract, you probably want a sales contract and not one for a freelancer or business partnership.

For Butter, the chance to have access to all those customers was too good to pass up. “We started Butter.ai to build the best way to find documents at work. As it turns out, Box has 85,000 customers who all need instant access to their content. Joining Box means we get to build on our original mission faster and at a massive scale,” company CEO and co-founder Jack Hirsch said.

The company launched in September 2017, and up until now it has acted as a search assistant inside Slack you can call upon to search for documents and find them wherever they live in the cloud. The company will be winding down that product as it becomes part of the Box team.

As is often the case in these deals, the two companies have been working closely together and it made sense for Box to bring the Butter.AI team into the fold where it can put its technology to bear on the Box platform.

“After launching in September 2017 our customers were loud and clear about wanting us to integrate with Box and we quickly delivered. Since then, our relationship with Box has deepened and now we get to build on our vision for a MUCH larger audience as part of the Box team,” the founders wrote in a Medium post announcing the deal.

The company raised $3.3 million over two seed rounds. Investors included Slack and General Catalyst.

Jun
13
2018
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Tableau gets AI shot in the arm with Empirical Systems acquisition

When Tableau was founded back in 2003, not many people were thinking about artificial intelligence to drive analytics and visualization, but over the years the world has changed and the company recognized that it needed talent to keep up with new trends. Today, it announced it was acquiring Empirical Systems, an early stage startup with AI roots.

Tableau did not share the terms of the deal.

The startup was born just two years ago from research on automated statistics at the MIT Probabilistic Computing Project. According to the company website, “Empirical is an analytics engine that automatically models structured, tabular data (such as spreadsheets, tables, or csv files) and allows those models to be queried to uncover statistical insights in data.”

The product was still in private Beta when Tableau bought the company. It is delivered currently as an engine embedded inside other applications. That sounds like something that could slip in nicely into the Tableau analytics platform. What’s more, it will be bringing the engineering team on board for some AI knowledge, while taking advantage of this underlying advanced technology.

Francois Ajenstat, Tableau’s chief product officer says this ability to automate findings could put analytics and trend analysis into the hands of more people inside a business. “Automatic insight generation will enable people without specialized data science skills to easily spot trends in their data, identify areas for further exploration, test different assumptions, and simulate hypothetical situations,” he said in a statement.

Richard Tibbetts, Empirical Systems CEO, says the two companies share this vision of democratizing data analysis. “We developed Empirical to make complex data modeling and sophisticated statistical analysis more accessible, so anyone trying to understand their data can make thoughtful, data-driven decisions based on sound analysis, regardless of their technical expertise,” Tibbets said in a statement.

Instead of moving the team to Seattle where Tableau has its headquarters, it intends to leave the Empirical Systems team in place and establish an office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Empirical was founded in 2016 and has raised $2.5 million.

Jun
11
2018
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Splunk nabs on-call management startup VictorOps for $120M

In a DevOps world, the operations part of the equation needs to be on call to deal with issues as they come up 24/7. We used to use pagers. Today’s solutions like PagerDuty and VictorOps have been created to place this kind of requirement in a modern digital context. Today, Splunk bought VictorOps for $120 million in cash and Splunk securities.

It’s a company that makes a lot of sense for Splunk, a log management tool that has been helping customers deal with oodles of information being generated from back-end systems for many years. With VictorOps, the company gets a system to alert the operations team when something from that muddle of data actually requires their attention.

Splunk has been making moves in recent years to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help make sense of the data and provide a level of automation required when the sheer volume of data makes it next to impossible for humans to keep up. VictorOps fits within that approach.

“The combination of machine data analytics and artificial intelligence from Splunk with incident management from VictorOps creates a ‘Platform of Engagement’ that will help modern development teams innovate faster and deliver better customer experiences,” Doug Merritt, president and CEO at Splunk said in a statement.

In a blog post announcing the deal, VictorOps founder and CEO Todd Vernon said the two companies’ missions are aligned. “Upon close, VictorOps will join Splunk’s IT Markets group and together will provide on-call technical staff an analytics and AI-driven approach for addressing the incident lifecycle, from monitoring to response to incident management to continuous learning and improvement,” Vernon wrote.

It should come as no surprise that the two companies have been working together even before the acquisition. “Splunk has been an important technical partner of ours for some time, and through our work together, we discovered that we share a common viewpoint that Modern Incident Management is in a period of strategic change where data is king, and insights from that data are key to maintaining a market leading strategy,” Vernon wrote in the blog post.

VictorOps was founded 2012 and has raised over $33 million, according to data on Crunchbase. The most recent investment was a $15 million Series B in December 2016.

The deal is expected to close in Splunk’s fiscal second quarter subject to customary closing conditions, according to a statement from Splunk.

Jun
08
2018
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Workday acquires Rallyteam to fuel machine learning efforts

Sometimes you acquire a company for the assets and sometimes you do it for the talent. Today Workday announced it was buying Rallyteam, a San Francisco startup that helps companies keep talented employees by matching them with more challenging opportunities in-house.

The companies did not share the purchase price or the number of Rallyteam employees who would be joining Workday .

In this case, Workday appears to be acquiring the talent. It wants to take the Rallyteam team and incorporate it into the company’s engineering unit to beef up its machine learning efforts, while taking advantage of the expertise it has built up over the years connecting employees with interesting internal projects.

“With Rallyteam, we gain incredible team members who created a talent mobility platform that uses machine learning to help companies better understand and optimize their workforces by matching a worker’s interests, skills and connections with relevant jobs, projects, tasks and people,” Workday’s Cristina Goldt wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Rallyteam, which was founded in 2013, and launched at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in September 2014, helps employees find interesting internal projects that might otherwise get outsourced. “I knew there were opportunities that existed [internally] because as a manager, I was constantly outsourcing projects even though I knew there had to be people in the company that could solve this problem,” Rallyteam’s Huan Ho told TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois at the launch. Rallyteam was a service designed to solve this issue.

Last fall the company raised $8.6 million led by Norwest Ventures with participation from Storm Ventures, Cornerstone OnDemand and Wilson Sonsini.

Workday provides a SaaS platform for human resources and finance, so the Rallyteam approach fits nicely within the scope of the Workday business. This is the 10th acquisition for Workday and the second this year.

Chart: Crunchbase

Workday raised over $230 million before going public in 2012.

Jun
04
2018
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Microsoft promises to keep GitHub independent and open

Microsoft today announced its plans to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock. Unsurprisingly, that sent a few shock waves through the developer community, which still often eyes Microsoft with considerable unease. During a conference call this morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, incoming GitHub CEO (and Xamarin founder) Nat Friedman and GitHub co-founder and outgoing CEO Chris Wanstrath laid out the plans for GitHub’s future under Microsoft.

The core message everybody on today’s call stressed was that GitHub will continue to operate as an independent company. That’s very much the approach Microsoft took with its acquisition of LinkedIn, but to some degree, it’s also an admission that Microsoft is aware of its reputation among many of the developers who call GitHub their home. GitHub will remain an open platform that any developer can plug into and extend, Microsoft promises. It’ll support any cloud and any device.

Unsurprisingly, while the core of GitHub won’t change, Microsoft does plan to extend GitHub’s enterprise services and integrate them with its own sales and partner channels. And Nadella noted that the company will use GitHub to bring Microsoft’s developer tools and services “to new audiences.”

With Nat Friedman taking over as CEO, GitHub will have a respected technologist at the helm. Microsoft’s acquisition and integration of Xamarin has, at least from the outside, been a success (and Friedman himself always seems very happy about the outcome when I talk to him), so I think this bodes quite well for GitHub. After joining Microsoft, Friedman ran the developer services team at the company. Wanstrath, who only took over the CEO role again after its last CEO was ousted after harassment scandal at the company, had long said that he wanted to step down and take a more active product role. And that’s what’s happening now that Friedman is taking over. Wanstrath will become a technical fellow and work on “strategic software initiatives” at Microsoft.

Indeed, during an interview after the acquisition was announced, Friedman repeatedly noted that he thinks GitHub is the most important developer company today — and it turns out that he started advocating for a closer relationship between the two companies right after he joined Microsoft two years ago.

During today’s press call, Friedman also stressed Microsoft’s commitment to keeping GitHub as open as it is today — but he also plans to expand the service and its community. “We want to bring more developers and more capabilities to GitHub, he said. “Because as a network and as a group of people in a community, GitHub is stronger, the bigger it is.”

Friedman echoed that in our interview later in the day and noted that he expected the developer community to be skeptical of the mashup of these two companies. “There is always healthy skepticism in the developer community,” he told me. “I would ask developers to look at the last few years of Microsoft history and really honestly Microsoft’s transformation into an open source company.” He asked developers to judge Microsoft by that and noted that what really matters, of course, is that the company will follow through on the promises it made today.

As for the product itself, Friedman noted that everything GitHub does should be about making a developer’s life easier. And to get started, that’ll mean making developing in the cloud easier. “We think broadly about the new and compelling types of ways that we can integrate cloud services into GitHub,” he noted. “And this doesn’t just apply to our cloud. GitHub is an open platform. So we have the ability for anyone to plug their cloud services into GitHub, and make it easier for you to go from code to cloud. And it extends beyond the cloud as well. Code to cloud. code to mobile, code to edge device, code to IoT. Every workflow that a developer wants to pursue, we will support.”

Another area the company will work on is the GitHub Marketplace. Microsoft says that it will offer all of its developer tools and services in the GitHub Marketplace.

And unsurprisingly, VS Code, Microsoft’s free and open source code editor, will get deeply integrated GitHub support.

“Our vision is really all about empowering developers and creating a home where you can use any language, any operating system, any cloud, any device for every developer, whether your student, a hobbyist, a large company, a startup or anything in between. GitHub is the home for all developers,” said Friedman. In our interview, he also stressed that his focus will be on making “GitHub better at making GitHub” and that he plans to do so by bringing Microsoft’s resources and infrastructure to the code hosting service, while at the same time leaving it to operate independently. 

It’s unclear whether all of these commitments today will easy developers’ fears of losing GitHub as a relatively neutral third-party in the ecosystem.

Nadella, who is surely aware of this, addressed this directly today. “We recognize the responsibility we take on with this agreement,” he said. “We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub community, which will retain its developer-first ethos operate independently and remain an open platform. We will always listen to develop a feedback and invest in both fundamentals as well as new capability once the acquisition closes.

In his prepared remarks, Nadella also stressed Microsoft’s heritage as a developer-centric company and that is it already the most active organization on GitHub. But more importantly, he addressed Microsoft’s role in the open source community, too. “We have always loved developers, and we love open source developers,” he said. “We’ve been on a journey ourselves with open source and the open source community. Today, we are all in with open source. We are active in the open source ecosystem. We contribute to open source project and some of our most vibrant developer tools and frameworks are open-sourced when it comes to our commitment to all source judges, by the actions we have taken in the recent past our actions today and in the future.”

May
17
2018
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Rackspace acquires Salesforce specialist RelationEdge

Rackspace today announced that it has acquired RelationEdge, a Salesforce implementation partner and digital agency. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition.

At first, this may sound like an odd acquisition. Rackspace is still best known for its hosting and managed cloud and infrastructure services, after all, and RelationEdge is all about helping businesses manage their Salesforce SaaS implementations. The company clearly wants to expand its portfolio, though, and add managed services for SaaS applications to its lineup. It made the first step in this direction with the acquisition of TriCore last year, another company in the enterprise application management space. Today’s acquisition builds upon this theme.

Gerard Brossard, the executive VP and general manager of Rackspace Application Services, told me that the company is still in the early days of its application management practice, but that it’s seeing good momentum as it’s gaining both new customers thanks to these offerings and as existing customers look to Rackspace for managing more than their infrastructure. “This allows us to jump into that SaaS management practice, starting with the leaders in the market,” he told me.

Why sell RelationEdge, a company that has gained some good traction and now has about 125 employees? “At the end of the day, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount organically with very little funding,” RelationEdge founder and CEO Matt Stoyka told me. “But there is a huge opportunity in the space that we can take advantage of. But to do that, we needed more than was available to us, but we needed to find the right home for our people and our company.” He also noted that the two companies seem to have a similar culture and mission, which focuses more on the business outcomes than the technology itself.

For the time being, the RelationEdge brand will remain and Rackspace plans to run the business “with considerable independence under its current leadership.” Brossard noted that the reason for this is RelationEdge’s existing brand recognition.

May
09
2018
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Google to acquire cloud migration startup Velostrata

Google announced today it was going to acquire Israeli cloud migration startup, Velostrata. The companies did not share the purchase price.

Velostrata helps companies migrate from on-premises datacenters to the cloud, a common requirement today as companies try to shift more workloads to the cloud. It’s not always a simple matter though to transfer those legacy applications, and that’s where Velostrata could help Google Cloud customers.

As I wrote in 2014 about their debut, the startup figured out a way to decouple storage and compute and that had wide usage and appeal. “The company has a sophisticated hybrid cloud solution that decouples storage from compute resources, leaving the storage in place on-premises while running a virtual machine in the cloud,” I wrote at the time.

But more than that, in a hybrid world where customer applications and data can live in the public cloud or on prem (or a combination), Velostrata gives them control to move and adapt the workloads as needed and prepare it for delivery on cloud virtual machines.

“This means [customers] can easily and quickly migrate virtual machine-based workloads like large databases, enterprise applications, DevOps, and large batch processing to and from the cloud,” Eyal Manor VP of engineering at Google Cloud wrote in the blog post announcing the acquisition.

This of course takes Velostrata from being a general purpose cloud migration tool to one tuned specifically for Google Cloud in the future, but one that gives Google a valuable tool in its battle to gain cloud marketshare.

In the past, Google Cloud head Diane Greene has talked about the business opportunities they have seen in simply “lifting and shifting” data loads to the cloud. This acquisition gives them a key service to help customers who want to do that with the Google Cloud.

Velostrata was founded in 2014. It has raised over $31 million from investors including Intel Capital and Norwest Venture partners.

Apr
21
2018
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Pivotal CEO talks IPO and balancing life in Dell family of companies

Pivotal has kind of a strange role for a company. On one hand its part of the EMC federation companies that Dell acquired in 2016 for a cool $67 billion, but it’s also an independently operated entity within that broader Dell family of companies — and that has to be a fine line to walk.

Whatever the challenges, the company went public yesterday and joined VMware as a  separately traded company within Dell. CEO Rob Mee says the company took the step of IPOing because it wanted additional capital.

“I think we can definitely use the capital to invest in marketing and R&D. The wider technology ecosystem is moving quickly. It does take additional investment to keep up,” Mee told TechCrunch just a few hours after his company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

As for that relationship of being a Dell company, he said that Michael Dell let him know early on after the EMC acquisition that he understood the company’s position. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said.

Mee says that independence is essential because Pivotal has to remain technology-agnostic and it can’t favor Dell products and services over that mission. “It’s necessary because our core product is a cloud-agnostic platform. Our core value proposition is independence from any provider — and Dell and VMware are infrastructure providers,” he said.

That said, Mee also can play both sides because he can build products and services that do align with Dell and VMware offerings. “Certainly the companies inside the Dell family are customers of ours. Michael Dell has encouraged the IT group to adopt our methods and they are doing so,” he said. They have also started working more closely with VMware, announcing a container partnership last year.

Photo: Ron Miller

Overall though he sees his company’s mission in much broader terms, doing nothing less than helping the world’s largest companies transform their organizations. “Our mission is to transform how the world builds software. We are focused on the largest organizations in the world. What is a tailwind for us is that the reality is these large companies are at a tipping point of adopting how they digitize and develop software for strategic advantage,” Mee said.

The stock closed up 5 percent last night, but Mee says this isn’t about a single day. “We do very much focus on the long term. We have been executing to a quarterly cadence and have behaved like a public company inside Pivotal [even before the IPO]. We know how to do that while keeping an eye on the long term,” he said.

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