Jan
16
2020
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Visa’s Plaid acquisition shows a shifting financial services landscape

When Visa bought Plaid this week for $5.3 billion, a figure that was twice its private valuation, it was a clear signal that traditional financial services companies are looking for ways to modernize their approach to business.

With Plaid, Visa picks up a modern set of developer APIs that work behind the scenes to facilitate the movement of money. Those APIs should help Visa create more streamlined experiences (both at home and inside other companies’ offerings), build on its existing strengths and allow it to do more than it could have before, alone.

But don’t take our word for it. To get under the hood of the Visa-Plaid deal and understand it from a number of perspectives, TechCrunch got in touch with analysts focused on the space and investors who had put money into the erstwhile startup.

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.

Jan
01
2020
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These 10 enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

Dec
30
2019
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VMware completes $2.7 billion Pivotal acquisition

VMware is closing the year with a significant new component in its arsenal. Today it announced it has closed the $2.7 billion Pivotal acquisition it originally announced in August.

The acquisition gives VMware another component in its march to transform from a pure virtual machine company into a cloud native vendor that can manage infrastructure wherever it lives. It fits alongside other recent deals like buying Heptio and Bitnami, two other deals that closed this year.

They hope this all fits neatly into VMware Tanzu, which is designed to bring Kubernetes containers and VMware virtual machines together in a single management platform.

“VMware Tanzu is built upon our recognized infrastructure products and further expanded with the technologies that Pivotal, Heptio, Bitnami and many other VMware teams bring to this new portfolio of products and services,” Ray O’Farrell, executive vice president and general manager of the Modern Application Platforms Business Unit at VMware, wrote in a blog post announcing the deal had closed.

Craig McLuckie, who came over in the Heptio deal and is now VP of R&D at VMware, told TechCrunch in November at KubeCon that while the deal hadn’t closed at that point, he saw a future where Pivotal could help at a professional services level, as well.

“In the future when Pivotal is a part of this story, they won’t be just delivering technology, but also deep expertise to support application transformation initiatives,” he said.

Up until the closing, the company had been publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but as of today, Pivotal becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of VMware. It’s important to note that this transaction didn’t happen in a vacuum, where two random companies came together.

In fact, VMware and Pivotal were part of the consortium of companies that Dell purchased when it acquired EMC in 2015 for $67 billion. While both were part of EMC and then Dell, each one operated separately and independently. At the time of the sale to Dell, Pivotal was considered a key piece, one that could stand strongly on its own.

Pivotal and VMware had another strong connection. Pivotal was originally created by a combination of EMC, VMware and GE (which owned a 10% stake for a time) to give these large organizations a separate company to undertake transformation initiatives.

It raised a hefty $1.7 billion before going public in 2018. A big chunk of that came in one heady day in 2016 when it announced $650 million in funding led by Ford’s $180 million investment.

The future looked bright at that point, but life as a public company was rough, and after a catastrophic June earnings report, things began to fall apart. The stock dropped 42% in one day. As I wrote in an analysis of the deal:

The stock price plunged from a high of $21.44 on May 30th to a low of $8.30 on August 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $5.828 billion on May 30th to $2.257 billion on August 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.

VMware came to the rescue and offered $15.00 a share, a substantial premium above that August low point. As of today, it’s part of VMware.

Dec
20
2019
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F5 acquires Shape Security for $1B

F5 got an expensive holiday present today, snagging startup Shape Security for approximately $1 billion.

What the networking company gets with a shiny red ribbon is a security product that helps stop automated attacks like credential stuffing. In an article earlier this year, Shape CTO Shuman Ghosemajumder explained what the company does:

We’re an enterprise-focused company that protects the majority of large U.S. banks, the majority of the largest airlines, similar kinds of profiles with major retailers, hotel chains, government agencies and so on. We specifically protect them against automated fraud and abuse on their consumer-facing applications — their websites and their mobile apps.

F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou sees a way to protect his customers in a comprehensive way. “With Shape, we will deliver end-to-end application protection, which means revenue generating, brand-anchoring applications are protected from the point at which they are created through to the point where consumers interact with them—from code to customer,” Locoh-Donou said in a statement.

As for Shape, CEO Derek Smith said that it wasn’t a huge coincidence that F5 was the buyer, given his company was seeing F5 consistently in its customers. Now they can work together as a single platform.

Shape launched in 2011 and raised $183 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors included Kleiner Perkins, Tomorrow Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Baseline Ventures and C5 Capital. In its most recent round in September, the company raised $51 million on a valuation of $1 billion.

F5 has been in a spending mood this year. It also acquired NGINX in March for $670 million. NGINX is the commercial company behind the open-source web server of the same name. It’s worth noting that prior to that, F5 had not made an acquisition since 2014.

It was a big year in security M&A. Consider that in June, four security companies sold in one three-day period. That included Insight Partners buying Recorded Future for $780 million and FireEye buying Verodin for $250 million. Palo Alto Networks bought two companies in the period: Twistlock for $400 million and PureSec for between $60 and $70 million.

This deal is expected to close in mid-2020, and is of course, subject to standard regulatory approval. Upon closing Shape’s Smith will join the F5 management team and Shape employees will be folded into F5. The company will remain in its Santa Clara headquarters.

Dec
16
2019
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Cisco acquires ultra-low latency networking specialist Exablaze

Cisco today announced that it has acquired Exablaze, an Australia-based company that designs and builds advanced networking gear based on field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The company focuses on solutions for businesses that need ultra-low latency networking, with a special emphasis on high-frequency trading. Cisco plans to integrate Exablaze’s technology into its own product portfolio.

“By adding Exablaze’s segment leading ultra-low latency devices and FPGA-based applications to our portfolio, financial and HFT customers will be better positioned to achieve their business objectives and deliver on their customer value proposition,” writes Cisco’s head of corporate development Rob Salvagno.

Founded in 2013, Exablaze has offices in Sydney, New York, London and Shanghai. While financial trading is an obvious application for its solutions, the company also notes that it has users in the big data analytics, high-performance computing and telecom space.

Cisco plans to add Exablaze to its Nexus portfolio of data center switches. The company also argues that in addition to integrating Exablaze’s current portfolio, the two companies will work on next-generation switches, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for expanding its solutions into AI and ML segments.

“The acquisition will bring together Cisco’s global reach, extensive sales and support teams, and broad technology and manufacturing base, with Exablaze’s cutting-edge low-latency networking, layer 1 switching, timing and time synchronization technologies, and low-latency FPGA expertise,” explains Exablaze co-founder and chairman Greg Robinson.

Cisco, which has always been quite acquisitive, has now made six acquisitions this year. Most of these were software companies, but with Acacia Communications, it also recently announced its intention to acquire another fabless semiconductor company that builds optical interconnects.

 

Dec
12
2019
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DataRobot is acquiring Paxata to add data prep to machine learning platform

DataRobot, a company best known for creating automated machine learning models known as AutoML, announced today that it intends to acquire Paxata, a data prep platform startup. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

Paxata raised a total of $90 million before today’s acquisition, according to the company.

Up until now, DataRobot has concentrated mostly on the machine learning and data science aspect of the workflow — building and testing the model, then putting it into production. The data prep was left to other vendors like Paxata, but DataRobot, which raised $206 million in September, saw an opportunity to fill in a gap in their platform with Paxata.

“We’ve identified, because we’ve been focused on machine learning for so long, a number of key data prep capabilities that are required for machine learning to be successful. And so we see an opportunity to really build out a unique and compelling data prep for machine learning offering that’s powered by the Paxata product, but takes the knowledge and understanding and the integration with the machine learning platform from DataRobot,” Phil Gurbacki, SVP of product development and customer experience at DataRobot, told TechCrunch.

Prakash Nanduri, CEO and co-founder at Paxata, says the two companies were a great fit and it made a lot of sense to come together. “DataRobot has got a significant number of customers, and every one of their customers have a data and information management problem. For us, the deal allows us to rapidly increase the number of customers that are able to go from data to value. By coming together, the value to the customer is increased at an exponential level,” he explained.

DataRobot is based in Boston, while Paxata is in Redwood City, Calif. The plan moving forward is to make Paxata a west coast office, and all of the company’s almost 100 employees will become part of DataRobot when the deal closes.

While the two companies are working together to integrate Paxata more fully into the DataRobot platform, the companies also plan to let Paxata continue to exist as a standalone product.

DataRobot has raised more than $431 million, according to PitchBook data. It raised $206 million of that in its last round. At the time, the company indicated it would be looking for acquisition opportunities when it made sense.

This match-up seems particularly good, given how well the two companies’ capabilities complement one another, and how much customer overlap they have. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

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