Feb
13
2020
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Google closes $2.6B Looker acquisition

When Google announced that it was acquiring data analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion, it was a big deal on a couple of levels. It was a lot of money and it represented the first large deal under the leadership of Thomas Kurian. Today, the company announced that deal has officially closed and Looker is part of the Google Cloud Platform.

While Kurian was happy to announce that Looker was officially part of the Google family, he made it clear in a blog post that the analytics arm would continue to support multiple cloud vendors beyond Google.

“Google Cloud and Looker share a common philosophy around delivering open solutions and supporting customers wherever they are—be it on Google Cloud, in other public clouds, or on premises. As more organizations adopt a multi-cloud strategy, Looker customers and partners can expect continued support of all cloud data management systems like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Teradata,” Kurian wrote.

As is typical in a deal like this, Looker CEO Frank Bien sees the much larger Google giving his company the resources to grow much faster than it could have on its own. “Joining Google Cloud provides us better reach, strengthens our resources, and brings together some of the best minds in both analytics and cloud infrastructure to build an exciting path forward for our customers and partners. The mission that we undertook seven years ago as Looker takes a significant step forward beginning today,” Bien wrote in his post.

At the time the deal was announced in June, the company shared a slide, which showed where Looker fits in what they call their “Smart Analytics Platform,” which provides ways to process, understand, analyze and visualize data. Looker fills in a spot in the visualization stack while continuing to support other clouds.

Slide: Google

Looker was founded in 2011 and raised more than $280 million, according to Crunchbase. Investors included Redpoint, Meritech Capital Partners, First Round Capital, Kleiner Perkins, CapitalG and PremjiInvest. The last deal before the acquisition was a $103 million Series E investment on a $1.6 billion valuation in December 2018.

Feb
05
2020
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Clear gets $13M Series A to build high-volume transaction system on the blockchain

Clear is an early-stage startup with a big ambition. It wants to build a blockchain for high-volume transaction systems like payments between telcos. Today it announced a $13 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Eight Roads with participation from Telefónica Innovation Ventures, Telekom Innovation Pool of Deutsche Telekom, HKT and Singtel Innov8.

That the strategic investors were telcos is not a coincidence. The early use case for Clear’s blockchain transaction network involves moving payments between worldwide telcos, a system that today is highly manual and prone to errors.

Clear co-founder Gal Hochberg says what his company does is to take commercial contracts and turn them into digital representations, often known in digital ledger terms as a smart contract.

“What that lets us do is create a trusted view of the true status of the relationship within the company’s business partners because they’re now looking at the same pricing and usage. They can find any issues in real time, either in commercial information or in service delivery, and they can even actually resolve those inside our platform,” Hochberg explained.

By putting these high-volume, cross-border transactions onto the blockchain with these smart contracts to act as automated enforcer of the terms, it means that instead of waiting until the end of the month to find errors and begin a resolution process, this can be done in real time, reducing time to payment and speeding up conflict resolution.

“We use blockchain technology to create those interactions in ways that it is auditable, cryptographically secure and ensures that both sides are synced and seeing the same information,” Hochberg said.

For starters, the company is working with worldwide telco companies because the number of transactions, and the way they cross borders make this a good test case, but Hochberg says this is only the starting point. They are not in full-blown production yet, but he says they have proven they can process hundreds of millions of billable events.

The money should help the company get into full carrier-grade production some time in the first half of this year, and then begin to expand into other verticals beyond telcos with the help of today’s investment.

Feb
03
2020
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HPE acquires cloud native security startup Scytale

HPE announced today that it has acquired Scytale, a cloud native security startup that is built on the open-source Secure Production Identity Framework for Everyone (SPIFFE) protocol. The companies did not share the acquisition price.

Specifically, Scytale looks at application-to-application identity and access management, something that is increasingly important as more transactions take place between applications without any human intervention. It’s imperative that the application knows it’s OK to share information with the other application.

This is an area that HPE wants to expand into, Dave Husak, HPE fellow and GM of cloudless initiative wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “As HPE progresses into this next chapter, delivering on our differentiated, edge to cloud platform as-a-service strategy, security will continue to play a fundamental role. We recognize that every organization that operates in a hybrid, multi-cloud environment requires 100% secure, zero trust systems, that can dynamically identify and authenticate data and applications in real-time,” Husak wrote.

He also was careful to stress that HPE would continue to be good stewards of the SPIFFE and SPIRE (the SPIFFE Runtime Environment) projects, both of which are under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Scytale co-founder Sunil James, writing in a blog post about the deal, indicated that this was important to the founders that HPE respect the startup’s open-source roots. “Scytale’s DNA is security, distributed systems, and open-source. Under HPE, Scytale will continue to help steward SPIFFE. Our ever-growing and vocal community will lead us. We’ll toil to maintain this transparent and vendor-neutral project, which will be fundamental in HPE’s plans to deliver a dynamic, open, and secure edge-to-cloud platform,” he wrote.

Scytale was founded in 2017 and had raised $8 million, according to PitchBook data. The bulk of that was in a $5 million Series A last March led by Bessemer. The deal closed today.

Feb
01
2020
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What Nutanix got right (and wrong) in its IPO roadshow

Back in 2016, Nutanix decided to take the big step of going public. Part of that process was creating a pitch deck and presenting it during its roadshow, a coming-out party when a company goes on tour prior to its IPO and pitches itself to investors of all stripes.

It’s a huge moment in the life of any company, and after talking to CEO Dheeraj Pandey and CFO Duston Williams, one we better understood. They spoke about how every detail helped define their company and demonstrate its long-term investment value to investors who might not have been entirely familiar with the startup or its technology.

Pandey and Williams reported going through more than 100 versions of the deck before they finished the one they took on the road. Pandey said they had a data room checking every fact, every number — which they then checked yet again.

In a separate Extra Crunch post, we looked at the process of building that deck. Today, we’re looking more closely at the content of the deck itself, especially the numbers Nutanix presented to the world. We want to see what investors did more than three years ago and what’s happened since — did the company live up to its promises?

Plan of attack

Jan
28
2020
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ServiceNow acquires conversational AI startup Passage AI

ServiceNow announced this morning that it has acquired Passage AI, a startup that helps customers build chatbots in multiple languages, something that should come in handy as ServiceNow continues to modernize its digital service platform. The companies did not share terms of the deal.

With Passage AI, ServiceNow gets a bushel of AI talent, which in itself has value, but it also gets AI technology, which should fit in nicely with ServiceNow’s mission. For starters, the company’s chatbot solutions gives ServiceNow an automated way to respond to customer/user inquiries.

Even more interesting for ServiceNow, Passage includes an IT automation component that uses ” a conversational interface to submit tickets, handle queries and take direct action through APIs,” according to the company website. It also gets an HR automation piece, giving the company an intelligent tool it could incorporate across its Now Platform in tools like ServiceNow Virtual Agent and Service Portal, as well as Workspaces in multiple languages.

The multilingual support was an aspect of the deal that appeals to Debu Chatterjee, senior director of AI Engineering at ServiceNow. “Building deep learning, conversational AI capabilities into the Now Platform will enable a work request initiated in German or a customer inquiry initiated in Japanese to be solved by Virtual Agent,” he said in a statement.

Companies are increasingly looking for ways to solve common customer problems using chatbots, while only bringing humans into the loop when the bot can’t answer the query. Passage AI gives ServiceNow much deeper knowledge in this growing area.

Passage AI, which launched in 2016, has raised $10.3 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company website lists a variety of large customers, including Mastercard, Shell, Mercedes-Benz and SoftBank. The acquisition comes less than a week after the company purchased another AI-focused startup, Loom Systems, one that concentrates on automating operations data.

The deal is expected to close this quarter. ServiceNow will be announcing earnings on Wednesday afternoon.

Jan
22
2020
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ServiceNow acquires Loom Systems to expand AIOps coverage

ServiceNow announced today that it has acquired Loom Systems, an Israeli startup that specializes in AIOps. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

IT operations collects tons of data across a number of monitoring and logging tools, way too much for any team of humans to keep up with. That’s why there are startups like Loom turning to AI to help sort through it. It can find issues and patterns in the data that would be challenging or impossible for humans to find. Applying AI to operations data in this manner has become known as AIOps in industry parlance.

ServiceNow is first and foremost a company trying to digitize the service process, however that manifests itself. IT service operations is a big part of that. Companies can monitor their systems, wait until a problem happens and then try to track down the cause and fix it — or, they can use the power of artificial intelligence to find potential dangers to the system health and neutralize them before they become major problems. That’s what an AIOps product like Loom’s can bring to the table.

Jeff Hausman, vice president and general manager of IT Operations Management at ServiceNow, sees Loom’s strengths merging with ServiceNow’s existing tooling to help keep IT systems running. “We will leverage Loom Systems’ log analytics capabilities to help customers analyze data, automate remediation and reduce L1 incidents,” he told TechCrunch.

Loom co-founder and CEO Gabby Menachem not surprisingly sees a similar value proposition. “By joining forces, we have the unique opportunity to bring together our AI innovations and ServiceNow’s AIOps capabilities to help customers prevent and fix IT issues before they become problems,” he said in a statement.

Loom has raised $16 million since it launched in 2015, according to PitchBook data. Its most recent round for $10 million was in November 2019. Today’s deal is expected to close by the end of this quarter.

Jan
15
2020
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The crypto rich find security in Anchorage

Not the city, the $57 million-funded cryptocurrency custodian startup. When someone wants to keep safe tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in Bitcoin, Ethereum or other coins, they put them in Anchorage’s vault. And now they can trade straight from custody so they never have to worry about getting robbed mid-transaction.

With backing from Visa, Andreessen Horowitz and Blockchain Capital, Anchorage has emerged as the darling of the cryptocurrency security startup scene. Today it’s flexing its muscle and war chest by announcing its first acquisition, crypto risk modeling company Merkle Data.

Anchorage Founders

Anchorage has already integrated Merkle’s technology and team to power today’s launch of its new trading feature. It eliminates the need for big crypto owners to manually move assets in and out of custody to buy or sell, or to set up their own in-house trading. Instead of grabbing some undisclosed spread between the spot price and the price Anchorage quotes its clients, it charges a transparent per transaction fee of a tenth of a percent.

It’s stressful enough trading around digital fortunes. Anchorage gives institutions and token moguls peace of mind throughout the process while letting them stake and vote while their riches are in custody. Anchorage CEO Nathan McCauley tells me, “Our clients want to be able to fund a bank account with USD and have it seamlessly converted into crypto, securely held in their custody accounts. Shockingly, that’s not yet the norm — but we’re changing that.”

Buy and sell safely

Founded in 2017 by leaders behind Docker and Square, Anchorage’s core business is its omnimetric security system that takes out of the equation passwords that can be lost or stolen. Instead, it uses humans and AI to review scans of your biometrics, nearby networks and other data for identity confirmation. Then it requires consensus approval for transactions from a set of trusted managers you’ve whitelisted.

With Anchorage Trading, the startup promises efficient order routing, transparent pricing and multi-venue liquidity from OTC desks, exchanges and market makers. “Because trading and custody are directly integrated, we’re able to buy and sell crypto from custody, without having to make risky external transfers or deal with multiple accounts from different providers,” says Bart Stephens, founder and managing partner of Blockchain Capital.

Trading isn’t Anchorage’s primary business, so it doesn’t have to squeeze clients on their transactions, and can instead try to keep them happy for the long-term. That also sets up Anchorage to be a foundational part of the cryptocurrency stack. It wouldn’t disclose the terms of the Merkle Data acquisition, but the Pantera Capital-backed company brings quantitative analysts to Anchorage to keep its trading safe and smart.

“Unlike most traditional financial assets, crypto assets are bearer assets: In order to do anything with them, you need to hold the underlying private keys. This means crypto custodians like Anchorage must play a much larger role than custodians do in traditional finance,” says McCauley. “Services like trading, settlement, posting collateral, lending and all other financial activities surrounding the assets rely on the custodian’s involvement, and in our view are best performed by the custodian directly.”

Anchorage will be competing with Coinbase, which offers integrated custody and institutional brokerage through its agency-only OTC desk. Fidelity Digital Assets combines trading and brokerage, but for Bitcoin only. BitGo offers brokerage from custody through a partnership with Genesis Global Trading. But Anchorage hopes its experience handling huge sums, clear pricing and credentials like membership in Facebook’s Libra Association will win it clients.

McCauley says the biggest threat to Anchorage isn’t competitors, though, but hazy regulation. Anchorage is building a core piece of the blockchain economy’s infrastructure. But for the biggest financial institutions to be comfortable getting involved, lawmakers need to make it clear what’s legal.

Jan
14
2020
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Google acquires AppSheet to bring no-code development to Google Cloud

Google announced today that it is buying AppSheet, an eight-year-old no-code mobile-application-building platform. The company had raised more than $17 million on a $60 million valuation, according to PitchBook data. The companies did not share the purchase price.

With AppSheet, Google gets a simple way for companies to build mobile apps without having to write a line of code. It works by pulling data from a spreadsheet, database or form, and using the field or column names as the basis for building an app.

It is integrated with Google Cloud already integrating with Google Sheets and Google Forms, but also works with other tools, including AWS DynamoDB, Salesforce, Office 365, Box and others. Google says it will continue to support these other platforms, even after the deal closes.

As Amit Zavery wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition, it’s about giving everyone a chance to build mobile applications, even companies lacking traditional developer resources to build a mobile presence. “This acquisition helps enterprises empower millions of citizen developers to more easily create and extend applications without the need for professional coding skills,” he wrote.

In a story we hear repeatedly from startup founders, Praveen Seshadri, co-founder and CEO at AppSheet, sees an opportunity to expand his platform and market reach under Google in ways he couldn’t as an independent company.

“There is great potential to leverage and integrate more deeply with many of Google’s amazing assets like G Suite and Android to improve the functionality, scale, and performance of AppSheet. Moving forward, we expect to combine AppSheet’s core strengths with Google Cloud’s deep industry expertise in verticals like financial services, retail, and media  and entertainment,” he wrote.

Google sees this acquisition as extending its development philosophy with no-code working alongside workflow automation, application integration and API management.

No code tools like AppSheet are not going to replace sophisticated development environments, but they will give companies that might not otherwise have a mobile app the ability to put something decent out there.

Jan
14
2020
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Equinix is acquiring bare metal cloud provider Packet

Equinix announced today that it is acquiring bare metal cloud provider Packet, the New York City startup that had raised over $36 million on a $100 million valuation, according to PitchBook data.

Equinix has a set of data centers and co-location facilities around the world. Companies that may want to have more control over their hardware could use their services, including space, power and cooling systems, instead of running their own data centers.

Equinix is getting a unique cloud infrastructure vendor in Packet, one that can provide more customized kinds of hardware configurations than you can get from the mainstream infrastructure vendors like AWS and Azure. Company COO George Karidis described what separated his company from the pack in a September, 2018 TechCrunch article:

“We offer the most diverse hardware options,” he said. That means they could get servers equipped with Intel, ARM, AMD or with specific nVidia GPUs in whatever configurations they want. By contrast public cloud providers tend to offer a more off-the-shelf approach. It’s cheap and abundant, but you have to take what they offer, and that doesn’t always work for every customer.

In a blog post announcing the deal, company co-founder and CEO Zachary Smith had a message for his customers, who may be worried about the change in ownership. “When the transaction closes later this quarter, Packet will continue operating as before: same team, same platform, same vision,” he wrote.

He also offered the standard value story for a deal like this, saying the company could scale much faster under Equinix than it could on its own, with access to its new company’s massive resources, including 200+ data centers in 55 markets and 1,800 networks.

Sara Baack, chief product officer at Equinix, says bringing the two companies together will provide a diverse set of bare metal options for customers moving forward. “Our combined strengths will further empower companies to be everywhere they need to be, to interconnect everyone and integrate everything that matters to their business,” she said in a statement.

While the companies did not share the purchase price, they did hint that they would have more details on the transaction after it closes, which is expected in the first quarter this year.

Jan
09
2020
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Insight Partners acquires data management company Veeam for $5B

Last year Insight Partners invested $500 million in cloud data management company Veeam. It apparently liked the company so much that today it announced it has acquired the Swiss startup for $5 billion.

Veeam helps customers with cloud data backup and disaster recovery. The company, which has been based in Baar, Switzerland, says that it had $1 billion in revenue last year. It boasts 365,000 customers worldwide, including 81% of the Fortune 500.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says that data management is an increasingly important tool for companies working with data on prem and in the cloud. “This is a smart move, as the data management space is rapidly consolidating. There’s a lot of investment in managing hybrid clouds, and data management is key to enterprise adoption,” Wang told TechCrunch.

The deal is coming with some major changes. Veeam’s EVP of Operations, William H. Largent, will be promoted to CEO. Danny Allan, who was VP of product strategy, will be promoted to CTO. In addition, the company will be moving its headquarters to the U.S. Veeam currently has around 1,200 employees in the U.S., but expects to expand that in the coming year.

New CEO Allan says in spite of their apparent success in the market, and the high purchase price, he believes under Insight’s ownership, the company can go further than it could have on its own. “While Veeam’s preeminence in the data management space, currently supporting 81% of the Fortune 500, is undeniable, this commitment from Insight Partners and deeper access to its unmatched business strategy [from its scale-up] division, Insight Onsite, will bring Veeam’s solutions to more businesses across the globe.”

Insight Onsite is Insight Partners’ strategy arm that is designed to help its portfolio companies be more successful. It provides a range of services in key business areas, like sales, marketing and product development.

Veeam has backup and recovery tools for both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, along with partnerships with a variety of large enterprise vendors, including Cisco, IBM, Dell EMC and HPE.

The company, which was founded in 2006, had a valuation of more than $1 billion prior to today’s acquisition, according to Crunchbase data. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter this year.

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