Jul
29
2019
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The Exit: The acquisition charting Salesforce’s future

Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money.

Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand why the entire tech industry took notice when the cloud CRM giant announced its priciest acquisition ever last month.

The deal to acquire the Seattle-based data visualization powerhouse Tableau was substantial enough that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff publicly announced it was turning Seattle into its second HQ. Tableau’s acquisition doesn’t just mean big things for Salesforce. With the deal taking place just days after Google announced it was paying $2.6 billion for Looker, the acquisition showcases just how intense the cloud wars are getting for the enterprise tech companies out to win it all.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at lucas@techcrunch.com]

Scott Sandell, a general partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates) who has now been at the firm for 25 years, was one of those investors arguing with two of Tableau’s co-founders, Chris Stolte and Christian Chabot. Desperate to close the 2004 deal over their lunch meeting, he went on to agree to the Tableau founders’ demands of a higher $20 million valuation, though Sandell tells me it still feels like he got a pretty good deal.

NEA went on to invest further in subsequent rounds and went on to hold over 38% of the company at the time of its IPO in 2013 according to public financial docs.

I had a long chat with Sandell, who also invested in Salesforce, about the importance of the Tableau deal, his rise from associate to general partner at NEA, who he sees as the biggest challenger to Salesforce, and why he thinks scooter companies are “the worst business in the known universe.”

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Lucas Matney: You’ve been at this investing thing for quite a while, but taking a trip down memory lane, how did you get into VC in the first place? 

Scott Sandell: The way I got into venture capital is a little bit of a circuitous route. I had an opportunity to get into venture capital coming out of Stanford Business School in 1992, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And so I had an interest, but I didn’t have the right opportunity.

Jun
10
2019
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Qubole launches Quantum, its serverless database engine

Qubole, the data platform founded by Apache Hive creator and former head of Facebook’s Data Infrastructure team Ashish Thusoo, today announced the launch of Quantum, its first serverless offering.

Qubole may not necessarily be a household name, but its customers include the likes of Autodesk, Comcast, Lyft, Nextdoor and Zillow . For these users, Qubole has long offered a self-service platform that allowed their data scientists and engineers to build their AI, machine learning and analytics workflows on the public cloud of their choice. The platform sits on top of open-source technologies like Apache Spark, Presto and Kafka, for example.

Typically, enterprises have to provision a considerable amount of resources to give these platforms the resources they need. These resources often go unused and the infrastructure can quickly become complex.

Qubole already abstracts most of this away, offering what is essentially a serverless platform. With Quantum, however, it is going a step further by launching a high-performance serverless SQL engine that allows users to query petabytes of data with nothing else but ANSI-SQL, giving them the choice between using a Presto cluster or a serverless SQL engine to run their queries, for example.

The data can be stored on AWS and users won’t have to set up a second data lake or move their data to another platform to use the SQL engine. Quantum automatically scales up or down as needed, of course, and users can still work with the same metastore for their data, no matter whether they choose the clustered or serverless option. Indeed, Quantum is essentially just another SQL engine without Qubole’s overall suite of engines.

Typically, Qubole charges enterprises by compute minutes. When using Quantum, the company uses the same metric, but enterprises pay for the execution time of the query. “So instead of the Qubole compute units being associated with the number of minutes the cluster was up and running, it is associated with the Qubole compute units consumed by that particular query or that particular workload, which is even more fine-grained,” Thusoo explained. “This works really well when you have to do interactive workloads.”

Thusoo notes that Quantum is targeted at analysts who often need to perform interactive queries on data stored in object stores. Qubole integrates with services like Tableau and Looker (which Google is now in the process of acquiring). “They suddenly get access to very elastic compute capacity, but they are able to come through a very familiar user interface,” Thusoo noted.

 

Jun
10
2019
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With Tableau and Mulesoft, Salesforce gains full view of enterprise data

Back in the 2010 timeframe, it was common to say that content was king, but after watching Google buy Looker for $2.6 billion last week and Salesforce nab Tableau for $15.7 billion this morning, it’s clear that data has ascended to the throne in a business context.

We have been hearing about Big Data for years, but we’ve probably reached a point in 2019 where the data onslaught is really having an impact on business. If you can find the key data nuggets in the big data pile, it can clearly be a competitive advantage, and companies like Google and Salesforce are pulling out their checkbooks to make sure they are in a position to help you out.

While Google, as a cloud infrastructure vendor, is trying to help companies on its platform and across the cloud understand and visualize all that data, Salesforce as a SaaS vendor might have a different reason — one that might surprise you — given that Salesforce was born in the cloud. But perhaps it recognizes something fundamental. If it truly wants to own the enterprise, it has to have a hybrid story, and with Mulesoft and Tableau, that’s precisely what it has — and why it was willing to spend around $23 billion to get it.

Making connections

Certainly, Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff has no trouble seeing the connections between his two big purchases over the last year. He sees the combination of Mulesoft connecting to the data sources and Tableau providing a way to visualize as a “beautiful thing.”

Jun
10
2019
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Salesforce is buying data visualization company Tableau for $15.7B in all-stock deal

On the heels of Google buying analytics startup Looker last week for $2.6 billion, Salesforce today announced a huge piece of news in a bid to step up its own work in data visualization and (more generally) tools to help enterprises make sense of the sea of data that they use and amass: Salesforce is buying Tableau for $15.7 billion in an all-stock deal.

The latter is publicly traded and this deal will involve shares of Tableau Class A and Class B common stock getting exchanged for 1.103 shares of Salesforce common stock, the company said, and so the $15.7 billion figure is the enterprise value of the transaction, based on the average price of Salesforce’s shares as of June 7, 2019.

This is a huge jump on Tableau’s last market cap: it was valued at $10.79 billion at close of trading Friday, according to figures on Google Finance. (Also: trading has halted on its stock in light of this news.)

The two boards have already approved the deal, Salesforce notes. The two companies’ management teams will be hosting a conference call at 8am Eastern and I’ll listen in to that as well to get more details.

This is a huge deal for Salesforce as it continues to diversify beyond CRM software and into deeper layers of analytics.

The company reportedly worked hard to — but ultimately missed out on — buying LinkedIn (which Microsoft picked up instead), and while there isn’t a whole lot in common between LinkedIn and Tableau, this deal will also help Salesforce extend its engagement (and data intelligence) for the customers that Salesforce already has — something that LinkedIn would have also helped it to do.

This also looks like a move designed to help bulk up against Google’s move to buy Looker, announced last week, although I’d argue that analytics is a big enough area that all major tech companies that are courting enterprises are getting their ducks in a row in terms of squaring up to stronger strategies (and products) in this area. It’s unclear whether (and if) the two deals were made in response to each other, although it seems that Salesforce has been eyeing up Tableau for years.

“We are bringing together the world’s #1 CRM with the #1 analytics platform. Tableau helps people see and understand data, and Salesforce helps people engage and understand customers. It’s truly the best of both worlds for our customers–bringing together two critical platforms that every customer needs to understand their world,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and co-CEO, Salesforce, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to welcome Adam and his team to Salesforce.”

Tableau has about 86,000 business customers, including Charles Schwab, Verizon (which owns TC), Schneider Electric, Southwest and Netflix. Salesforce said Tableau will operate independently and under its own brand post-acquisition. It will also remain headquartered in Seattle, Wash., headed by CEO Adam Selipsky along with others on the current leadership team.

Indeed, later during the call, Benioff let it drop that Seattle would become Salesforce’s official second headquarters with the closing of this deal.

That’s not to say, though, that the two will not be working together.

On the contrary, Salesforce is already talking up the possibilities of expanding what the company is already doing with its Einstein platform (launched back in 2016, Einstein is the home of all of Salesforce’s AI-based initiatives); and with “Customer 360,” which is the company’s product and take on omnichannel sales and marketing. The latter is an obvious and complementary product home, given that one huge aspect of Tableau’s service is to provide “big picture” insights.

“Joining forces with Salesforce will enhance our ability to help people everywhere see and understand data,” said Selipsky. “As part of the world’s #1 CRM company, Tableau’s intuitive and powerful analytics will enable millions more people to discover actionable insights across their entire organizations. I’m delighted that our companies share very similar cultures and a relentless focus on customer success. I look forward to working together in support of our customers and communities.”

“Salesforce’s incredible success has always been based on anticipating the needs of our customers and providing them the solutions they need to grow their businesses,” said Keith Block, co-CEO, Salesforce. “Data is the foundation of every digital transformation, and the addition of Tableau will accelerate our ability to deliver customer success by enabling a truly unified and powerful view across all of a customer’s data.”

Jun
07
2019
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Google continues to preach multi-cloud approach with Looker acquisition

When Google announced it was buying Looker yesterday morning for $2.6 billion, you couldn’t blame some of the company’s 1,600 customers if they worried a bit if Looker would continue its multi-cloud approach. But Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian made clear the company will continue to support an open approach to its latest purchase when it joins the fold later this year.

It’s consistent with the messaging from Google Next, the company’s cloud conference in April. It was looking to portray itself as the more open cloud. It was going to be friendlier to open-source projects, running them directly on Google Cloud. It was going to provide a way to manage your workloads wherever they live, with Anthos.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says that in a multi-cloud world, Looker represented one of the best choices, and that could be why Google went after it. “Looker’s strengths include its centralized data-modeling and governance, which promotes consistency and reuse. It runs on top of modern cloud databases including Google BigQuery, AWS Redshift and Snowflake,” Wang told TechCrunch. He added, “They wanted to acquire a tool that is as easy to use as Microsoft Power BI and as deep as Tableau.”

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, also sees this deal as part of a consistent multi-cloud message from Google. “I do think it is in alignment with its latest strategy outlined at Google Next. It has talked about rich analytics tools that could pull data from disparate sources,” he said.

Kurian pushing the multi-cloud message

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who took over from Diane Greene at the end of last year, was careful to emphasize the company’s commitment to multi-cloud and multi-database support in comments to media and analysts yesterday. “We first want to reiterate, we’re very committed to maintaining local support for other clouds, as well as to serve data from multiple databases because customers want a single analytics foundation for their organization, and they want to be able to in the analytics foundation, look at data from multiple data sources. So we’re very committed to that,” Kurian said yesterday.

From a broader customer perspective, Kurian sees Looker providing customers with a single way to access and visualize data. “One of the things that is challenging for organizations in operationalizing business intelligence, that we feel that Looker has done really well, is it gives you a single place to model your data, define your data definitions — like what’s revenue, who’s a gold customer or how many servers tickets are open — and allows you then to blend data across individual data silos, so that as an organization, you’re working off a consistent set of metrics,” Kurian explained.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Looker CEO Frank Bien sought to ease concerns that the company might move away from the multi-cloud, multi-database support. “For customers and partners, it’s important to know that today’s announcement solidifies ours as well as Google Cloud’s commitment to multi-cloud. Looker customers can expect continuing support of all cloud databases like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Teradata and more,” Bien wrote in the post.

No antitrust concerns

Kurian also emphasized that this deal shouldn’t attract the attention of antitrust regulators, who have been sniffing around the big tech companies like Google/Alphabet, Apple and Amazon as of late. “We’re not buying any data along with this transaction. So it does not introduce any concentration risk in terms of concentrating data. Secondly, there are a large number of analytic tools in the market. So by just acquiring Looker, we’re not further concentrating the market in any sense. And lastly, all the other cloud players also have their own analytic tools. So it represents a further strengthening of our competitive position relative to the other players in the market,” he explained. Not to mention its pledge to uphold the multi-cloud and multi-database support, which should show it is not doing this strictly to benefit Google or to draw customers specifically to GCP.

Just this week, the company announced a partnership with Snowflake, the cloud data warehouse startup that has raised almost a billion dollars, to run on Google Cloud Platform. It already runs AWS and Microsoft Azure. In fact, Wang suggested that Snowflake could be next on Google’s radar as it tries to build a multi-cloud soup-to-nuts analytics offering.

Regardless, with Looker the company has a data analytics tool to complement its data processing tools, and together the two companies should provide a fairly comprehensive data solution. If they truly keep it multi-cloud, that should keep current customers happy, especially those who work with tools outside of the Google Cloud ecosystem or simply want to maintain their flexibility.

Jun
06
2019
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Daily Crunch: Google is acquiring Looker

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Google to acquire analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion

Google Cloud has been mired in third place in the cloud infrastructure market, and grabbing Looker gives it an analytics company with a solid track record. The startup has raised more than $280 million in funding.

Like other big acquisitions, this deal is subject to regulatory approval, but it is expected to close later this year if all goes well.

2. Uber Copter offers on-demand JFK helicopter service for top-tier users

Uber is adding regular helicopter air service with Uber Copter — a new service line launched today that will provide on-demand transportation from Lower Manhattan to JFK airport for, on average, between $200 and $225 per person. That price includes car service to and from the helipad at each end.

3. In trying to clear ‘confusion’ over anti-harassment policy, YouTube creates more confusion

After a series of tweets that made it seem as if YouTube was ignoring its own anti-harassment policies, the video platform published a blog post in an attempt to clarify its stance. Instead, the post raises more questions about YouTube’s commitment to fighting harassment and hate speech on its platform.

4. Sources: Bird is in talks to acquire scooter startup Scoot

The stage of the negotiations is not clear, but it sounds like the deal is not closed. Both Scoot and Bird declined to comment.

5. Apple’s global accessibility head on the company’s new features for iOS 13 and macOS Catalina

“One of the things that’s been really cool this year is the [accessibility] team has been firing on [all] cylinders across the board,“ Apple’s Sarah Herrlinger told us. “There’s something in each operating system and things for a lot of different types of use cases.”

6. A first look at Amazon’s new delivery drone

The drone has an ingenious hexagonal hybrid design with very few moving parts, and Amazon says it’s chock-full of sensors and a suite of compute modules to keep the drone safe.

7. This year’s Computex was a wild ride with dueling chip releases, new laptops and 467 startups

Computex picked up the pace this year, with dueling chip launches by rivals AMD and Intel and a slew of laptop releases. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Jun
06
2019
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Google to acquire analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion

Google made a big splash this morning when it announced it’s going to acquire Looker, a hot analytics startup that’s raised more than $280 million. It’s paying $2.6 billion for the privilege and adding the company to Google Cloud.

Thomas Kurian, the man who was handed the reins to Google Cloud at the end of last year, sees the two companies bringing together a complete data analytics solution for customers. “The combination provides an end-to-end analytics platform to connect, collect, analyze and visualize data across Google Cloud, Azure, AWS, on-premises databases and ISV applications,” Kurian explained at a media event this morning.

Google Cloud has been mired in third place in the cloud infrastructure market, and grabbing Looker gives it an analytics company with a solid track record. The last time I spoke to Looker, it was announcing a hefty $103 million in funding on a $1.6 billion valuation. Today’s price is a nice even billion over that.

As I wrote at the time, Looker’s CEO Frank Bien wasn’t all that interested in bragging about valuations; he wanted to talk about what he considered more important numbers:

He reported that the company has 1,600 customers now and just crossed the $100 million revenue run rate, a significant milestone for any enterprise SaaS company. What’s more, Bien reports revenue is still growing 70 percent year over year, so there’s plenty of room to keep this going.

Today, in a media briefing on the deal, he said that from the start, his company was really trying to disrupt the business intelligence and analytics market. “What we wanted to do was disrupt this pretty staid ecosystem of data visualization tools and data prep tools that companies were being forced to build solutions. We thought it was time to rationalize a new platform for data, a single place where we could really reconstitute a single view of information and make it available in the enterprise for business purposes,” he said.

Diagram: Google & Looker

Slide: Google & Looker

Bien saw today’s deal as a chance to gain the scale of the Google cloud platform, and as successful as the company has been, it’s never going to have the reach of Google Cloud. “What we’re really leveraging here, and I think the synergy with Google Cloud, is that this data infrastructure revolution and what really emerged out of the Big Data trend was very fast, scalable — and now in the cloud — easy to deploy data infrastructure,” he said.

 

Kurian also emphasized that the company will intend to support multiple databases and multiple deployment strategies, whether multi-cloud, hybrid or on premises.

Perhaps, it’s not a coincidence that Google went after Looker as the two companies had a strong existing partnership and 350 common customers, according to Google. “We have many common customers we’ve worked with. One of the great things about this acquisition is that the two companies have known each other for a long time, we share very common culture,” Kurian said.

This is a huge deal for Google Cloud, easily topping the $625 million it paid for Apigee in 2016. It marks the first major deal in the Kurian era as Google tries to beef up its market share. While the two companies share common customers, the addition of Looker should bring a net gain that could help them upsell to other parts of the Looker customer base.

Per usual, this deal is going to be subject to regulatory approval, but it is expected to close later this year if all goes well.

Dec
06
2018
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Looker snags $103 million investment on $1.6 billion valuation

Looker has been helping customers visualize and understand their data for seven years, and today it got a big reward, a $103 million Series E investment on a $1.6 billion valuation.

The round was led by Premji Invest, with new investment from Cross Creek Advisors and participation from the company’s existing investors. With today’s investment, Looker has raised $280.5 million, according the company.

In spite of the large valuation, Looker CEO Frank Bien really wasn’t in the mood to focus on that particular number, which he said was arbitrary, based on the economic conditions at the time of the funding round. He said having an executive team old enough to remember the dot-com bubble from the late 1990s and the crash of 2008 keeps them grounded when it comes to those kinds of figures.

Instead, he preferred to concentrate on other numbers. He reported that the company has 1,600 customers now and just crossed the $100 million revenue run rate, a significant milestone for any enterprise SaaS company. What’s more, Bien reports revenue is still growing 70 percent year over year, so there’s plenty of room to keep this going.

He said he took such a large round because there was interest and he believed that it was prudent to take the investment as they move deeper into enterprise markets. “To grow effectively into enterprise customers, you have to build more product, and you have to hire sales teams that take longer to activate. So you look to grow into that, and that’s what we’re going to use this financing for,” Bien told TechCrunch.

He said it’s highly likely that this is the last private fundraising the company will undertake as it heads toward an IPO at some point in the future. “We would absolutely view this as our last round unless something drastic changed,” Bien said.

For now, he’s looking to build a mature company that is ready for the public markets whenever the time is right. That involves building internal processes of a public company even if they’re not there yet. “You create that maturity either way, and I think that’s what we’re doing. So when those markets look okay, you could look at that as another funding source,” he explained.

The company currently has around 600 employees. Bien indicated that they added 200 this year alone and expect to add additional headcount in 2019 as the business continues to grow and they can take advantage of this substantial cash infusion.

Sep
14
2017
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Looker’s latest looks to simplify data integrations

 Looker is holding its Join user conference this week, and these affairs often involve a new release to show off to customers. Today, the company released Looker 5, which they say will make it easier for employees to make use of data in their work lives. Company CEO Frank Bien believes there is a growing group of people, who need quick access to data to do their jobs. “At a high level,… Read More

Mar
30
2017
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Looker catches the fancy of CapitalG, Goldman and Geodesic with $81.5M Series D

 Business intelligence platform Looker is announcing an $81.5 million Series D today led by CapitalG. Rather than compete in segmented markets against visualization and data preparation startups, Looker wants to own the vertical of business intelligence. The company supports the adoption of enterprise machine learning by providing a source of clean and reliable data. Read More

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