Jul
15
2021
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Lightyear nabs $13M Series A as online network procurement takes shape

It seems like everything is being pushed online now, but network procurement stubbornly has remained an in-person or phone-based negotiation. Lightyear, an early-stage New York City startup, decided to change that last year, and the company announced a $13.1 million Series A today.

The round was led by Ridge Ventures with participation from Zigg Capital and a slew of individual investors. Today’s investment comes on the heels of a $3.7 million seed round last October, bringing the total raised to $16.8 million.

CEO and co-founder Dennis Thankachan says that the company has been able to gain customers by offering a new way to procure network resources, which was a great improvement over manual negotiating.

“Last year we launched Lightyear, which was the first tool for buying your telecom infrastructure on the web. And although changing behaviors and the way that enterprises have done things for years is difficult, the status quo in telecom has been zero transparency, no web-based ways to do things, and oftentimes interfacing with really, really large vendors where you have no negotiating leverage even if you’re a big enterprise. That experience was so poor that a lot of enterprises were extremely happy to see what we put in the market,” he said.

What Lightyear offers is an online marketplace where companies can interact with vendors and get a range of price quotes to make a more informed buying decision. The company spent a lot of time improving the product since last October when you could configure some basic stuff, get a price quote and Lightyear would help you buy it.

Now Thankachan says that the solution covers the full life cycle of services including configuring a bigger array of services, helping manage the installation of the services and helping reduce the amount of delays and errors in installs. Finally, they help track and manage network inventory and can automate renewal for a whole group of services.

That has resulted in 4X growth in just nine months since the last round. In addition, the company had relationships with 400 vendors in October and has grown that to mid-500 vendors today. The startup has also doubled the number of employees to around 20.

Thankachan says that as a person of color he is particularly cognizant about building a diverse and inclusive culture. “I’m a person of color, who has been a minority in different work environments in the past, and I know how that feels and how frustrating that can be for a person who feels like their voice is not heard. […] So I think we can start to build a culture that is not necessarily the norm in [the telecommunications industry] by trying to give opportunities to [underrepresented] people,” he said.

Yousuf Khan, a partner at Ridge Ventures, who is leading the round and will be joining the board under the terms of the deal, says that as a former CIO he found Lightyear’s approach quite appealing.

“As a former CIO and someone who has led global technology operations, it’s refreshing to see Lightyear transforming the way business infrastructure gets bought…I wish Lightyear existed during my years as a CIO,” Khan said in a statement.

 

Oct
27
2020
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Lightyear scores $3.7M seed to digitize networking infrastructure procurement

Lightyear, a New York City startup that wants to make it easier for large companies to procure networking infrastructure like internet and SD-WAN, announced a $3.7 million seed round today.

Amplo led the round with help from Susa Ventures, Ludlow Ventures, Mark Cuban, David Adelman and Operator Partners. While it was at it, the company announced that it was emerging from stealth and offering its solution in public beta.

Company CEO and co-founder Dennis Thankachan says that while so much technology buying has moved online, networking technology procurement still involves phone calls for price quotes that could sometimes take weeks to get. Thankachan says that when he was working at a hedge fund specializing in telecommunications he witnessed this first hand and saw an opportunity for a startup to fill the void.

“Our objective is to make the process of buying telecom infrastructure, kind of like buying socks on Amazon, providing a real consumer-like experience to the enterprise and empowering buyers with data because information asymmetry and a lack of transparent data on what things should cost, where providers are available, and even what’s existing already in your network is really at the core of the problem for why this is frustrating for enterprise buyers,” Thankachan explained.

The company offers the ability to simply select a service and find providers in your area with costs and contract terms if it’s a simple purchase, but he recognizes that not all enterprise purchases will be that simple and the startup is working to digitize the corporate buying process into the Lightyear platform.

To provide the data that he spoke of, the company has already formed relationships with over 400 networking providers worldwide. The pricing model is in flux, but could involve a monthly subscription or a percentage of the sale. That is something they are working out, but they are using the latter during beta testing to keep the product free for now.

The company already has 10 employees and flush with the new investment, it plans to double that in the next year. Thankachan says as he builds the company, particularly as a person of color himself, he takes diversity and inclusion extremely seriously and sees it as part of the company’s core values.

“Trying to enable people from non-traditional backgrounds to succeed will be really important to us, and I think providing economic opportunity to people that traditionally would not have been afforded several aspects of economic opportunity is the biggest ways to fix the opportunity gap in this country,” he said.

The company, which launched a year ago has basically grown up during the pandemic. That means he has yet to meet any of his customers or investors in person, but he says he has learned to adapt to that approach. While he is based in NYC, his investors are are in the Bay Area and so that remote approach will remain in place for the time being.

As he makes his way from seed to a Series A, he says that it’s up to him to stay focused and execute with the goal of showing product-market fit across a variety of company types. He believes if the startup can do this, it will have the data to take to investors when it’s time to take the next step.

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