Aug
20
2020
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Figma CEO Dylan Field discusses fundraising, hiring and marketing in stealth mode

You’d be hard pressed to hang out with a designer and not hear the name Figma .

The company behind the largely browser-based design tool has made a huge splash in the past few years, building a massive war chest with more than $130 million from investors like A16Z, Sequoia, Greylock, Kleiner Perkins and Index.

The company was founded in 2012 and spent several years in stealth, raising both its seed and Series A without having any public product or user metrics.

At Early Stage, we spoke with co-founder and CEO Dylan Field about the process of hiring and fundraising while in stealth and how life at the company changed following its launch in 2016. Field, who was 20 when he founded the company, also touched on the lessons he’s learned from his team about leadership. Chief among them: the importance of empowering the people you hire.

You can check out the full conversation in the video embedded below, as well as a lightly edited transcript.

Raising a Series A a year behind schedule while still in stealth

I actually had approached John Lilly from Greylock in our seed round. For those who don’t know, John Lilly was the CEO of Mozilla and an amazing guy. He’s on a lot of really cool boards and has a bunch of interesting experience for Figma, with very deep roots in design. I had approached him for the seed round, and he basically said to us, “You know, I don’t think you guys know what you’re doing, but I’m very intrigued, so let’s keep in touch.” This is the famous line that you hear from every investor ever. It’s like “Yeah, let’s keep in touch, let me know if I can be helpful.” Sometimes, they actually mean it. In John’s case, he actually would follow up every few months or I would follow up with him. We’d grab coffee, and he helped me develop the strategy to a point that got us to what we are today. And that was a collaboration. I could really learn a lot from him on that one.

When we started off the idea was: Let’s have this global community around design, and you’ll be able to use the tool to post to the community and someday we’ll think about how people can pay us. Talking with John got me to the point where I realized we need to start with a business tool. We’ll build the community later. Now, we’re starting to work toward that.

At some point, John told me, “Hey, if you ever think about raising again, let me know.” A few weeks later, I told him maybe we would raise because I just wanted to work with him. We talked to a few other investors. I think it’s pretty important that there’s always a competitive dynamic in the round. But really, it was just him that we were really considering for that round. He really did us a solid. He really believed in us. At the time, it wasn’t like there were metrics to look at. He had conviction in the space, a conviction in the attack, and he had conviction in me and Evan, which I feel very, very honored by. He’s a dear mentor to this day, and he’s on our board. And it’s been a really deep relationship.

How to recruit while in stealth mode

Nov
05
2019
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Chronosphere launches with $11M Series A to build scalable, cloud-native monitoring tool

Chronosphere, a startup from two ex-Uber engineers who helped create the open-source M3 monitoring project to handle Uber-level scale, officially launched today with the goal of building a commercial company on top of the open-source project.

It also announced an $11 million investment led by Greylock, with participation from venture capitalist Lee Fixel.

While the founders, CEO Martin Mao and CTO Rob Skillington, were working at Uber, they recognized a gap in the monitoring industry, particularly around cloud-native technologies like containers and microservices. There weren’t any tools available on the market that could handle Uber’s scaling requirements — so like any good engineers, they went out and built their own.

“We looked around at the market at the time and couldn’t find anything in open source or commercially available that could really scale to our needs. So we ended up building and open sourcing our solution, which is M3. Over the last three to four years we’ve scaled M3 to one of the largest production monitoring systems in the world today,” Mao explained.

The essential difference between M3 and other open-source, cloud-native monitoring solutions like Prometheus is that ability to scale, he says.

One of the main reasons they left to start a company, with the blessing of Uber, was that the community began asking for features that didn’t really make sense for Uber. By launching Chronosphere, Mao and Skillington would be taking on the management of the project moving forward (although sharing governance for the time being with Uber), while building those enterprise features the community has been requesting.

The new company’s first product will be a cloud version of M3 to help reduce some of the complexity associated with managing an M3 project. “M3 itself is a fairly complex piece of technology to run. It is solving a fairly complex problem at large scale, and running it actually requires a decent amount of investment to run at large scale, so the first thing we’re doing is taking care of that management,” Mao said.

Jerry Chen, who led the investment at Greylock, saw a company solving a big problem. “They were providing such a high-resolution view of what’s going on in your cloud infrastructure and doing that at scale at a cost that actually makes sense. They solved that problem at Uber, and I saw them, and I was like wow, the rest of the market needs what guys built and I wrote the Series A check. It was as simple as that,” Chen told TechCrunch.

The cloud product is currently in private beta; they expect to open to public beta early next year.

Apr
03
2019
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Okta unveils $50M in-house venture capital fund

Identity management software provider Okta, which went public two years ago in what was one of the first pure-cloud subscription-based company IPOs, wants to fund the next generation of identity, security and privacy startups.

At its big customer conference Oktane, where the company has also announced a new level of identity protection at the server level, chief operating officer Frederic Kerrest (pictured above, right, with chief executive officer Todd McKinnon) will unveil a $50 million investment fund meant to back early-stage startups leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain technology.

“We view this as a natural extension of what we are doing today,” Okta senior vice president Monty Gray told TechCrunch. Gray was hired last year to oversee corporate development, i.e. beef up Okta’s M&A strategy.

Gray and Kerrest tell TechCrunch that Okta Ventures will invest capital in existing Okta partners, as well as other companies in the burgeoning identity management ecosystem. The team managing the fund will look to Okta’s former backers, Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock, for support in the deal sourcing process.

Okta Ventures will write checks sized between $250,000 and $2 million to eight to 10 early-stage businesses per year.

“It’s just a way of making sure we are aligning all our work and support with the right companies who have the right vision and values because there’s a lot of noise around identity, ML and AI,” Kerrest said. “It’s about formalizing the support strategy we’ve had for years and making sure people are clear of the fact we are helping these organizations build because it’s helpful to our customers.”

Okta Ventures’ first bet is Trusted Key, a blockchain-based digital identity platform that previously raised $3 million from Founders Co-Op. Okta’s investment in the startup, founded by former Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec executives, represents its expanding interest in the blockchain.

“Blockchain as a backdrop for identity is cutting edge if not bleeding edge,” Gray said.

Okta, founded in 2009, had raised precisely $231 million from Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, Khosla Ventures, Floodgate and others prior to its exit. The company’s stock has fared well since its IPO, debuting at $17 per share in 2017 and climbing to more than $85 apiece with a market cap of $9.6 billion as of Tuesday closing.

Mar
07
2014
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Workable Raises $1.5M From Greylock IL To Build Cloud-Based Recruitment Software For SMEs

Workable, a startup founded in Athens, Greece, that has developed a cloud-based recruitment platform for SMEs, has today confirmed a new investment of $1.5 million led by Greylock IL, the Israel/UK-based affiliate of Greylock Partners, an early investor in LinkedIn which now counts LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman as a partner. Previously, Workable had raised some $950,000 from individuals and the… Read More

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