Dec
09
2020
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Arthur.ai snags $15M Series A to grow machine learning monitoring tool

At a time when more companies are building machine learning models, Arthur.ai wants to help by ensuring the model accuracy doesn’t begin slipping over time, thereby losing its ability to precisely measure what it was supposed to. As demand for this type of tool has increased this year, in spite of the pandemic, the startup announced a $15 million Series A today.

The investment was led by Index Ventures with help from newcomers Acrew and Plexo Capital, along with previous investors Homebrew, AME Ventures and Work-Bench. The round comes almost exactly a year after its $3.3 million seed round.

As CEO and co-founder Adam Wenchel explains, data scientists build and test machine learning models in the lab under ideal conditions, but as these models are put into production, the performance can begin to deteriorate under real-world scrutiny. Arthur.ai is designed to root out when that happens.

Even as COVID has wreaked havoc throughout much of this year, the company has grown revenue 300% in the last six months smack dab in the middle of all that. “Over the course of 2020, we have begun to open up more and talk to [more] customers. And so we are starting to get some really nice initial customer traction, both in traditional enterprises as well as digital tech companies,” Wenchel told me. With 15 customers, the company is finding that the solution is resonating with companies.

It’s interesting to note that AWS announced a similar tool yesterday at re:Invent called SageMaker Clarify, but Wenchel sees this as more of a validation of what his startup has been trying to do, rather than an existential threat. “I think it helps create awareness, and because this is our 100% focus, our tools go well beyond what the major cloud providers provide,” he said.

Investor Mike Volpi from Index certainly sees the value proposition of this company. “One of the most critical aspects of the AI stack is in the area of performance monitoring and risk mitigation. Simply put, is the AI system behaving like it’s supposed to?” he wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.

When we spoke a year ago, the company had eight employees. Today it has 17 and it expects to double again by the end of next year. Wenchel says that as a company whose product looks for different types of bias, it’s especially important to have a diverse workforce. He says that starts with having a diverse investment team and board makeup, which he has been able to achieve, and goes from there.

“We’ve sponsored and work with groups that focus on both general sort of coding for different underrepresented groups as well as specifically AI, and that’s something that we’ll continue to do. And actually I think when we can get together for in-person events again, we will really go out there and support great organizations like AI for All and Black Girls Code,” he said. He believes that by working with these groups, it will give the startup a pipeline to underrepresented groups, which they can draw upon for hiring as the needs arise.

Wenchel says that when he can go back to the office, he wants to bring employees back, at least for part of the week for certain kinds of work that will benefit from being in the same space.

Oct
08
2020
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Grid AI raises $18.6M Series A to help AI researchers and engineers bring their models to production

Grid AI, a startup founded by the inventor of the popular open-source PyTorch Lightning project, William Falcon, that aims to help machine learning engineers work more efficiently, today announced that it has raised an $18.6 million Series A funding round, which closed earlier this summer. The round was led by Index Ventures, with participation from Bain Capital Ventures and firstminute. 

Falcon co-founded the company with Luis Capelo, who was previously the head of machine learning at Glossier. Unsurprisingly, the idea here is to take PyTorch Lightning, which launched about a year ago, and turn that into the core of Grid’s service. The main idea behind Lightning is to decouple the data science from the engineering.

The time argues that a few years ago, when data scientists tried to get started with deep learning, they didn’t always have the right expertise and it was hard for them to get everything right.

“Now the industry has an unhealthy aversion to deep learning because of this,” Falcon noted. “Lightning and Grid embed all those tricks into the workflow so you no longer need to be a PhD in AI nor [have] the resources of the major AI companies to get these things to work. This makes the opportunity cost of putting a simple model against a sophisticated neural network a few hours’ worth of effort instead of the months it used to take. When you use Lightning and Grid it’s hard to make mistakes. It’s like if you take a bad photo with your phone but we are the phone and make that photo look super professional AND teach you how to get there on your own.”

As Falcon noted, Grid is meant to help data scientists and other ML professionals “scale to match the workloads required for enterprise use cases.” Lightning itself can get them partially there, but Grid is meant to provide all of the services its users need to scale up their models to solve real-world problems.

What exactly that looks like isn’t quite clear yet, though. “Imagine you can find any GitHub repository out there. You get a local copy on your laptop and without making any code changes you spin up 400 GPUs on AWS — all from your laptop using either a web app or command-line-interface. That’s the Lightning “magic” applied to training and building models at scale,” Falcon said. “It is what we are already known for and has proven to be such a successful paradigm shift that all the other frameworks like Keras or TensorFlow, and companies have taken notice and have started to modify what they do to try to match what we do.”

The service is now in private beta.

With this new funding, Grid, which currently has 25 employees, plans to expand its team and strengthen its corporate offering via both Grid AI and through the open-source project. Falcon tells me that he aims to build a diverse team, not in the least because he himself is an immigrant, born in Venezuela, and a U.S. military veteran.

“I have first-hand knowledge of the extent that unethical AI can have,” he said. “As a result, we have approached hiring our current 25 employees across many backgrounds and experiences. We might be the first AI company that is not all the same Silicon Valley prototype tech-bro.”

“Lightning’s open-source traction piqued my interest when I first learned about it a year ago,” Index Ventures’ Sarah Cannon told me. “So intrigued in fact I remember rushing into a closet in Helsinki while at a conference to have the privacy needed to hear exactly what Will and Luis had built. I promptly called my colleague Bryan Offutt who met Will and Luis in SF and was impressed by the ‘elegance’ of their code. We swiftly decided to participate in their seed round, days later. We feel very privileged to be part of Grid’s journey. After investing in seed, we spent a significant amount with the team, and the more time we spent with them the more conviction we developed. Less than a year later and pre-launch, we knew we wanted to lead their Series A.”

Jan
22
2020
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TriggerMesh scores $3M seed from Index and Crane to help enterprises embrace ‘serverless’

TriggerMesh, a startup building on top of the open-source Kubernetes software to help enterprises go “serverless” across apps running in the cloud and traditional data centers, has raised $3 million in seed funding.

The round is led by Index Ventures and Crane Venture Partners. TriggerMesh says the investment will be used to scale the company and grow its development team in order to offer what it bills as the industry’s first “cloud native integration platform for the serverless era.”

Founded by two prominent names in the open-source community — Sebastien Goasguen (CEO) and Mark Hinkle (CMO), based in Geneva and North Carolina, respectively — TriggerMesh’s platform will enable organizations to build enterprise-grade applications that span multiple cloud and data center environments, therefore helping to address what the startup says is a growing pain point as serverless architectures become more prevalent.

TriggerMesh’s platform and serverless cloud bus is said to facilitate “application flow orchestration” to consume events from any data center application or cloud event source and trigger serverless functions.

“As cloud-native applications use a greater number of serverless offerings in the cloud, TriggerMesh provides a declarative API and a set of tools to define event flows and functions that compose modern applications,” explains the company.

One feature TriggerMesh is specifically talking up and very relevant to legacy enterprises is its integration functionality with on-premise software. Via its wares, it says it is easy to connect SaaS, serverless cloud offerings and on-premises applications to provide scalable cloud-native applications at a low cost and quickly.

“There are huge numbers of disconnected applications that are unable to fully benefit from cloud computing and increased network connectivity,” noted Scott Sage, co-founder and partner at Crane Venture Partners, in a statement. “Most companies have some combination of cloud and on-premises applications and with more applications around, often from different vendors, the need for integration has never been greater. We see TriggerMesh’s solution as the ideal fit for this need which made them a compelling investment.”

Dec
11
2019
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Accel and Index back Tines, as the cybersecurity startup adds another $11M to its Series A

It was just a couple of months ago that Tines, the cybersecurity automation startup, raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Blossom Capital. The Dublin-based company is now disclosing an $11 million extension to the round.

This additional Series A funding is led by venture capital firm Accel, with participation from Index Ventures and previous backer Blossom Capital. The extra cash will be used to continue developing its cybersecurity automation platform and for further expansion into the U.S. and Europe.

Founded in February 2018 by ex-eBay, PayPal and DocuSign security engineer Eoin Hinchy, and subsequently joined by former eBay and DocuSign colleague Thomas Kinsella, Tines automates many of the repetitive manual tasks faced by security analysts so they can focus on other high-priority work. The pair had bootstrapped the company as recently as October.

“It was while I was at DocuSign that I felt there was a need for a platform like Tines,” explained Hinchy at the time of the initial Series A. “We had a team of really talented engineers in charge of incident response and forensics but they weren’t developers. I found they were doing the same tasks over and over again so I began looking for a platform to automate these repetitive tasks and didn’t find anything. Certainly nothing that did what we needed it to, so I came up with the idea to plug this gap in the market.”

To remedy this, Tines lets companies automate parts of their manual security processes with the help of six software “agents,” with each acting as a multipurpose building block. The idea is that, regardless of the process being automated, it only requires combinations of these six agent types configured in different ways to replicate a particular workflow.

In addition, the platform doesn’t rely on pre-built integrations to interact with external systems. Instead, Tines is able to plug in to any system that has an API. “This means integration with commercial, off-the-shelf products, or existing in-house tools is quick and simple, with most security teams automating stories (workflows) within the first 24 hours,” says the startup. Its software is also starting to find utility beyond cybersecurity processes, with several Tines customers using it in IT, DevOps and HR.

“We heard that Eoin, a senior member of the security team at DocuSign (another Accel portfolio company), had recently left to start Tines, so we got in touch,” Accel’s Seth Pierrepont tells TechCrunch. “They were in the final stages of closing their Series A. However, we were so convinced by the founders, their product approach and the market timing, that we asked them to extend the round.”

Pierrepont also points out that a unique aspect of the Dublin ecosystem is that many of the world’s largest tech companies have their European headquarters in the country (often attracted by relatively low corporation tax), “so it’s an incredibly rich talent pool despite being a relatively small city.”

Asked whether Accel views Tines as a cybersecurity automation company or a more general automation play that puts automation in the hands of non-technical employees for a multitude of possible use cases, Pierrepont says, given Hinchy and Kinsella’s backgrounds, the cybersecurity automation sector should be the primary focus for the company in the short term. However, longer term it is likely that Tines will be adopted across other functions as well.

“From our investment in Demisto (which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks earlier this year), we know the security automation or SOAR category (as Gartner defines it) very well,” he says. “Demisto pioneered the category and was definitively the market leader when it was acquired. However, we think the category is just getting started and that there is still a ton of whitespace for Tines to go after.”

Meanwhile, in less than a year, Tines says it has on-boarded 10 enterprise customers across a variety of industries, including Box, Auth0 and McKesson, with companies automating on average 100,000 actions per day.

Oct
22
2019
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Figma’s Community lets designers share and remix live files

As designers grow both in sheer numbers and within the hierarchy of organizations, design tool makers are adapting to their evolving needs in different ways. Figma, the web-based collaborative design tool, is taking a note from the engineering revolution of the early aughts.

“What if there were a GitHub for designers?” mused Dylan Field, early on in the lifecycle of Figma as a company. Today, that vision is brought to life with the launch of Figma Community. (Figma Community is launching in a closed beta for now.)

In a crowded space, with competitors like Adobe, InVision, Sketch and more, Figma differentiates itself on its web-based multiplayer approach. Figma is a design tool that works like Google Docs, with multiple designers in the same file, working alongside one another without disrupting each other.

But that’s just the base level of the overall collaboration that Figma believes designers crave. Field told us that he sees a clear desire from designers to not only share their work, whether it’s on a portfolio webpage or on social media, as well as a desire to learn from the work of other designers.

And yet, when a creative shares a design on social media, it’s just a static image. Other designers can’t see how it went from a blank page to an interesting design, and are left to merely appreciate it without learning anything new.

With Figma Community, designers and even organizations can share live design files that others can inspect, remix and learn from.

Individual designers can set up their own public-facing profile page to show off their designs, as well as intra-organization profile pages so other team members within their organization can learn from each other. On the other hand, organizations can publicly share their design systems and philosophy on their own page.

For example, the city of Chicago has set up a profile on Figma Community for other designers to follow the city’s design system in their own materials.

Screen Shot 2019 10 22 at 11.26.39 AM

As far as remixing design files goes, Figma is using a CC4 license, which allows for a remix but forces attribution. That said, Field says the company is using this closed beta period to learn more about what the community wants around different license types.

Community is free and is not meant to drive revenue for the company, but rather offer further value to designers using the platform.

“It’s early,” said Dylan Field. “This is just the scaffolding of what’s to come. It’s the start of a lot of work that we’re going to be doing in the area of collaboration and community.”

Figma has raised a total of $83 million from investors like Index, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Grelock, according to Crunchbase.

Sep
08
2019
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Spendesk raises $38.4 million for its corporate card and expense service

French startup Spendesk has raised another $38.4 million in a Series B round, with existing investor Index Ventures leading the round. The company has raised $49.4 million (€45 million) over the years.

Spendesk is an all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service. It lets you track expenses across your company, empower your employees with a clear approval process and simplify your bookkeeping.

The service essentially works like Revolut or N26, but for corporate needs. After you sign up, you get your own Spendesk account with an IBAN. You can top up that account and define different sets of policies.

For instance, you can set payment limits depending on everyone’s job and define who’s in charge of approving expensive payments. After that, everyone can generate virtual cards for online payments and get a physical card for business travel.

When you’re on the road, you can pay directly using Spendesk just like any corporate card. If you have to pay in cash or with another card, you can take a photo of the receipt from the Spendesk mobile app and get your money back.

Many Spendesk users also leverage the service for other use cases. For instance, you can define a marketing budget and let the marketing team spend it on Facebook or Google ads using a virtual card.

You also can track all your online subscriptions from the Spendesk interface to make sure that you don’t pay for similar tools. If you hire freelancers, you can upload all your invoices to the platform, export an XML with your outstanding invoices and import it to your banking portal.

Spendesk tries to be smarter than legacy expense solutions. For instance, the company tries to leverage optical character recognition (OCR) to match receipts with payments, autofill the VAT rate, etc.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to open offices in Berlin and London, add more currencies and develop new features. Over the past year, the company went from 20 employees to 120 employees. There are now 1,500 companies using Spendesk in Europe.

Aug
13
2019
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Clumio raises $51M to bring enterprise backup into the 21st century

Creating backups for massive enterprise deployments may feel like a solved problem, but for the most part, we’re still talking about complex hardware and software setups. Clumio, which is coming out of stealth today, wants to modernize enterprise data protection by eliminating the on-premise hardware in favor of a flexible, SaaS-style cloud-based backup solution.

For the first time, Clumio also today announced that it has raised a total of $51 million in a Series A and B round since it was founded in 2017. The $11 million Series A round closed in October 2017 and the Series B round in November 2018, Clumio founder and CEO Poojan Kumar told me. Kumar’s previous company, storage startup PernixData, was acquired by Nutanix in 2016. It doesn’t look like the investors made their money back, though.

Clumio is backed by investors like Sutter Hill Ventures, which led the Series A, and Index Ventures, which drove the Series B together with Sutter Hill. Other individual investors include Mark Leslie, founder of Veritas Technologies, and John Thompson, chairman of the board at Microsoft .

2019 08 12 1904

“Enterprise workloads are being ‘SaaS-ified’ because IT can no longer afford the time, complexity and expense of building and managing heavy on-prem hardware and software solutions if they are to successfully deliver against their digital transformation initiatives,” said Kumar. “Unlike legacy backup vendors, Clumio SaaS is born in the cloud. We have leveraged the most secure and innovative cloud services available, now and in the future, within our service to ensure that we can meet customer requirements for backup, regardless of where the data is.”

In its current iteration, Clumio can be used to secure data from on-premise, VMware Cloud for AWS and native AWS service workloads. Given this list, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Clumio’s backend, too, makes extensive use of public cloud services.

The company says that it already has several customers, though it didn’t disclose any in today’s announcement.

Jun
20
2018
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Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

Mar
14
2018
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Pilot raises $15M to bring bookkeeping into the modern era

The first time Waseem Daher, Jessica McKellar, and Jeff Arnold worked together on a startup, they built one that allowed administrators to patch security updates to a system without having to restart it.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise that the next big technical challenge the three MIT graduates want to tackle is bookkeeping . But after selling Ksplice to Oracle back in 2011, it was actually the financial software they had built internally that made the jaws of the finance teams at Oracle drop, Daher said. They had created a continuously-updating internal version of QuickBooks, keeping a close eye on their spending and accounting and not having do hire a bookkeeper to do so, out of pure frustration with the process. And today that’s basically launching as Pilot, a startup that has now raised $15 million in a financing round led by Index Ventures.

“If you look at the history of bookkeeping, it goes back to the 1400s,” Daher said. “Probably the oldest written records were of transactions. Around 1400s, we invented double-entry bookkeeping, a system for how money moves into and out of various accounts of companies. That system, as articulated in 1400 in Venice, is basically still what people do in every American business today. You hire a bookkeeper or bookkeeping firm, you send them all your stuff and they track and produce the set of books. The way it’s done today is the same way it’s done in the 90s, the 40s.”

When a company starts working with Pilot, the actual core experience on the customer side doesn’t really change all that much: they still work with a human on the other end. But the bookkeeper from Pilot is working with the internal tools they have built to bring in the data from the company, organize it and structure it, and produce a set of books that are more accurate than someone might have produced than just doing it by hand. Customers will get the kinds of questions you might expect from a normal bookkeeper as they look to clarify what’s happening, but in the end the process happens much more seamlessly. They can integrate directly with their existing services like Expensify or Gusto (or ask Pilot to help out with that) and then go from there.

That kind of human-software mix is something that’s increasingly common in services businesses — like Pilot — as the tech industry figures out what should be automated and what should still be handled by a person. There are still a lot of things that a person can catch, but there’s also the actual human relationship, which isn’t a kind of repetitive task you’d want to automate with an algorithm. To begin, Pilot isn’t trying to force companies to completely rip out their bookkeeping software and start from scratch, and instead start to collect the electronic information they already have.

“Uber’s like that, the drivers are humans but the software makes them much more effective,” Index Ventures’ Mike Volpi said. “You can see it in a lot of applications where in IT support there’s a few businesses like this, you troubleshoot using software, and when you can’t you fix it pass it to humans. In customer service chats, a lot of times it’s an AI, and when the questions get tricky enough it rolls over to humans. It’s interesting because there are tasks which humans are fundamentally needed and there are tasks that are mundane that software can do and the human can avoid doing. It’s an interesting thesis around this hybrid.”

Prior to Pilot, the team sold another company to Dropbox called Zulip, and spent some time at the company as it continued to scale up (Dropbox is now in the process of going public). Some of the challenge alone was somehow assembling a team that found some fascination with the intersection of accounting, machine learning and working directly with customers, but so far McKellar said that they’ve been able to put one together thus far. And, more importantly, now that they are starting to roll out their service they can start getting some perspective on the industry as a whole.

“I think people can get motivated by almost any problem if you know you’re tackling a big problem for many people,” McKellar said. “But there’s quite a lot of subtlety to what we’re building. The rules and principles of bookkeeping are well define but the real world is really messy, and designing the right systems to automate bookkeeping at scale is actually a tricky thing. We have an incredible engineering team that is able to tackle this with the right mindset it. The analogy you can draw is self-driving cars — that’s a system normally done by a human, everyone understands what it takes to drive a car, what actions you should take. It’s difficult for people to put into words, what are the rules given a set of inputs, but it needs to work and be reliable.”

As more and more of this information comes in, and more and more companies start to work with Pilot, they can start spotting trends in the industry. For example, if a 17th SaaS business with a similar business model to other Pilot companies signs up, they could down the line take a look at their info and spot potential discrepancies based on anonymized trend data picked up from other comparables in the industry — or do a better job of spotting inefficiencies or others. And there are some obvious funnels for this already, like getting the right information for tax purposes to accountants.

There’s going to be a lot of increasing activity in this space, though. Already you’re seeing some funded projects like botkeeper, which are looking to find some ways to automate a bookkeeping service. There’s nothing quite so formalized and an obvious tool that looks to take out QuickBooks (and, again, a lot of these seem to be playing nice for now), and there’s always the chance that Intuit could try to take on the space itself. But at the end of the day, Volpi says it’s based on the team that they’ve assembled — and that combination of humans and algorithms — that gives them a shot at succeeding.

“If you look at a fundamental level, the bookkeeping for the doctor’s office or florist, it is really all following the same underlying principles,” McKellar said. “One of the engineering challenges is to build the tooling and systems and software in a way that’s intelligent. It has to be a set of processes that can flexibly accommodate every vertical over time. In some sense this company, why we raised this, was to validate a huge hypothesis — it’s possible to automate bookkeeping at scale across a range of industries.”

Here’s the rest of the investors in this round, since it’s a long list: Patrick and John Collison, Drew Houston, Diane Greene, Frederic Kerrest, Hans Robertson, Adam D’Angelo, Paul English, Howard Lerman, Joshua Reeves, Tien Tzuo, as well as many others.

Oct
18
2016
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SafetyCulture’s mobile safety management SaaS pulls in $23M Series B, led by Index

toolbox_meeting_iauditor SafetyCulture, the maker of a b2b inspection checklist app called iAuditor, has pulled in a $23 million Series B funding led by Index Ventures. Also participating Blackbird Ventures and Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar, who led its Series A round in 2014. Read More

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