Nov
20
2020
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Onit acquires legal startup McCarthyFinch to inject AI into legal workflows

Onit, a workflow software company based in Houston, announced this week that it has acquired 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alum McCarthyFinch. Onit intends to use the startup’s AI skills to beef up its legal workflow software offerings.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

After evaluating a number of companies in the space, Onit focused on McCarthyFinch, which gives it an artificial intelligence component the company’s legal workflow software had been lacking. “We evaluated about a dozen companies in the AI space and dug in deep on six of them. McCarthyFinch stood out from the pack. They had the strongest technology and the strongest team,” Eric M. Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit told TechCrunch.

The company intends to inject that AI into its existing Aptitude workflow platform. “Part of what really got me excited about McCarthyFinch was the very first conversation I had with their CEO, Nick Whitehouse. They considered themselves an AI platform, which complemented our approach and our workflow automation platform, Aptitude,” Elfman said.

McCarthyFinch CEO and co-founder Whitehouse says the startup was considering whether to raise more money or look at being acquired earlier this year when Onit made its interest known. At first, he wasn’t really interested in being acquired and was hoping to go the partner route, but over time that changed.

“I was very much on the partner track, and was probably quite dismissive to begin with because I was quite focused on that partner strategy. But as we talked, all egos aside, it just made sense [to move to acquisition talks],” Whitehouse said.

The talks heated up in May and the deal officially closed last week. With Onit headquartered in Houston and McCarthyFinch in New Zealand the negotiations and meetings all happened on Zoom. The two companies’ principals have never met in person. The plan is for McCarthyFinch to stay in place, even after the pandemic ends. Whitehouse expects to make a trip to Houston whenever it is safe to do so.

Whitehouse says his experience with Battlefield has had a huge influence on him. “Just the insights that we got through Battlefield, the coaching that we got, those things have stuck with me and they’ll stick with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The company had 45 customers and 17 employees at the time of the acquisition. It raised US$5 million along the way. Now it becomes part of Onit as the journey continues.

Nov
19
2020
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FireEye acquires Respond Software for $186M, announces $400M investment

The security sector is ever frothy and acquisitive. Just last week Palo Alto Networks grabbed Expanse for $800 million. Today it was FireEye’s turn, snagging Respond Software, a company that helps customers investigate and understand security incidents, while reducing the need for highly trained (and scarce) security analysts. The deal has closed, according to the company.

FireEye had its eye on Respond’s Analyst product, which it plans to fold into its Mandiant Solutions platform. Like many companies today, FireEye is focused on using machine learning to help bolster its solutions and bring a level of automation to sorting through the data, finding real issues and weeding out false positives. The acquisition gives them a quick influx of machine learning-fueled software.

FireEye sees a product that can help add speed to its existing tooling. “With Mandiant’s position on the front lines, we know what to look for in an attack, and Respond’s cloud-based machine learning productizes our expertise to deliver faster outcomes and protect more customers,” Kevin Mandia, FireEye CEO said in a statement announcing the deal.

Mike Armistead, CEO at Respond, wrote in a company blog post that today’s acquisition marks the end of a four-year journey for the startup, but it believes it has landed in a good home with FireEye. “We are proud to announce that after many months of discussion, we are becoming part of the Mandiant Solutions portfolio, a solution organization inside FireEye,” Armistead wrote.

While FireEye was at it, it also announced a $400 million investment from Blackstone Tactical Opportunities fund and ClearSky (an investor in Respond), giving the public company a new influx of cash to make additional moves like the acquisition it made today.

It didn’t come cheap. “Under the terms of its investment, Blackstone and ClearSky will purchase $400 million in shares of a newly designated 4.5% Series A Convertible Preferred Stock of FireEye (the ‘Series A Preferred’), with a purchase price of $1,000 per share. The Series A Preferred will be convertible into shares of FireEye’s common stock at a conversion price of $18.00 per share,” the company explained in a statement. The stock closed at $14.24 today.

Respond, which was founded in 2016, raised $32 million, including a $12 million Series A in 2017 led by CRV and Foundation Capital and a $20 million Series B led by ClearSky last year, according to Crunchbase data.

Nov
18
2020
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IBM is acquiring APM startup Instana as it continues to expand hybrid cloud vision

As IBM transitions from software and services to a company fully focussed on hybrid cloud management, it announced  its intention to buy Instana, an applications performance management startup with a cloud native approach that fits firmly within that strategy.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

With Instana, IBM can build on its internal management tools, giving it a way to monitor containerized environments running Kubernetes. It hopes by adding the startup to the fold it can give customers a way to manage complex hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

“Our clients today are faced with managing a complex technology landscape filled with mission-critical applications and data that are running across a variety of hybrid cloud environments – from public clouds, private clouds and on-premises,” Rob Thomas, senior vice president for cloud and data platform said in a statement. He believes Instana will help ease that load, while using machine learning to provide deeper insights.

At the time of the company’s $30 million Series C in 2018, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois described the company this way. “What really makes Instana stand out is its ability to automatically discover and monitor the ever-changing infrastructure that makes up a modern application, especially when it comes to running containerized microservices.” That would seem to be precisely the type of solution that IBM would be looking for.

As for Instana, the founders see a good fit for the two companies, especially in light of the Red Hat acquisition in 2018 that is core to IBM’s hybrid approach. “The combination of Instana’s next generation APM and Observability platform with IBM’s Hybrid Cloud and AI technologies excited me from the day IBM approached us with the idea of joining forces and combining our technologies,” CEO Mirko Novakovic wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Indeed, in a recent interview IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told CNBC’s Jon Fortt, that they are betting the farm on hybrid cloud management with Red Hat at the center. When you combine that with the decision to spin out the company’s managed infrastructure services business, this purchase shows that they intend to pursue every angle

“The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open-source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence,” Krishna told CNBC.

Instana, which is based in Chicago with offices in Munich, was founded in 2015 in the early days of Kubernetes and the startup’s APM solution has evolved to focus more on the needs of monitoring in a cloud native environment. The company raised $57 million along the way with the most recent round being that Series C in 2018.

The deal per usual is subject to regulatory approvals, but the company believes it should close in the next few months.

Nov
11
2020
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Palo Alto Networks to acquire Expanse in deal worth $800M

Palo Alto Networks has been on a buying binge for the last couple of years, and today it added to its haul, announcing a deal to acquire Expanse for $800 million in cash and equity awards. The deal breaks down to $670 million in cash and stock and another $130 million in equity awards to Expanse employees.

Expanse provides a service to help companies understand and protect their attack surface, where they could be most vulnerable to attack. It works by giving the security team a view of how the company’s security profile could look to an attacker trying to gain access.

The plan is to fold Expanse into Palo Alto’s Cortex Suite, an AI-driven set of tools designed to detect and prevent attacks in an automated way. Expanse should provide Palo Alto with a highly valuable set of data to help feed the AI models.

“By integrating Expanse’s attack surface management capabilities into Cortex after closing, we will be able to offer the first solution that combines the outside view of an organization’s attack surface with an inside view to proactively address all security threats,” Palo Alto Networks chairman and CEO Nikesh Arora said in a statement.

Expanse sees the acquisition as a way to accelerate the company road map using the resources of a larger company like Palo Alto, a typical argument from companies being acquired. “Joining forces with Palo Alto Networks will let us achieve our most important business goals years ahead of schedule. During the course of conversations with Palo Alto Networks leadership, we shared optimism that the right combination of technology and people can solve many cybersecurity challenges that to date have seemed intractable,” the startup’s founders wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

The two co-founders, Dr. Tim Junio and Dr. Matt Kraning, will be joining Palo Alto under the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in Palo Alto’s fiscal second quarter, assuming it passes regulatory muster.

Expanse was founded in 2012 and has raised $136 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent raise was a $70 million Series C last year, which was led by TPG.

Today’s acquisition is Palo Alto’s third in 2020 and the 10th since 2018. Palo Alto stock was up 2.15% in early trading.

Nov
09
2020
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Adobe acquires marketing workflow startup Workfront for $1.5B

Adobe just announced that it is acquiring marketing workflow management startup Workfront for $1.5 billion. Bloomberg first reported the sale earlier today.

Workfront was founded back in 2001, making it a bit long in the tooth for a private company that has raised $375 million, according to Crunchbase. (It’s worth noting that $280 million of that was secondary money raised last year.)

The acquisition gives Adobe more online marketing tooling to fit into its Experience Cloud. This one helps companies manage complex projects inside the marketing department (or elsewhere in the company, for that matter).

Suresh Vittal, VP of platform and product for Adobe Experience Cloud, said that the two companies often work together and encounter one another’s sales teams. As the pandemic has played out, it began to make more sense to bring in-house this kind of tooling that works well in a distributed environment, and over the last several months the deal came together.

“The new normal distributed marketing team, distributed experience delivery teams, people having to work remotely — we started to see new use cases emerge around the idea of work management, around the idea of content velocity, around the idea of providing compliance and governance capabilities so no asset escapes the organization, and it goes through this process of passing through creative and the marketing teams and getting out there and really representing your brand in the right way,” Vittal explained.

Workfront CEO Alex Shootman sees the deal as a way to accelerate the roadmap while working with a much larger company. “We are barely scratching the surface of marketing and we could grow tremendously, just by having that great kind of integrated relationship,” he said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says the acquisition will help Adobe customers manage the complexities of marketing project management. “Scheduling and managing work had gotten orders of magnitude more complex for enterprises, and Adobe is accounting for that with the acquisition of Workfront, providing better tool support for the new future of work,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

Workfront’s 960 employees will become part of Adobe and become part of the Adobe Experience Cloud. Shootman will continue to run it and report to Anil Chakravarthy, executive vice president and general manager of the digital experience business at Adobe.

Workfront’s customers include Home Depot, T-Mobile and Deloitte, and the two companies share 1,000 common customers among Workfront’s 3,000 total customer base. In fact, it has APIs that connect to Adobe Creative Cloud and Experience Cloud, two parts of the company’s product family that marketers frequently access.

As Adobe battles Salesforce, SAP and Oracle in the marketing automation space, it’s been using its checkbook to acquire additional fire power in recent years. This acquisition comes after Adobe spent $1.6 billion for Magento and $4.75 billion for Marketo in 2018. That’s almost $8 billion for three companies in less than two years, even as it builds out parts of its Adobe Experience Cloud in-house. Combined, it shows just how serious the company is about making headway in this valuable area.

Customer experience has always been an essential element of online and in-person transactions, making sure the customer feels good about the interactions it has with a brand. It not only keeps them coming back, but it encourages them to act as ambassadors on behalf of a company, something that has incredible value.

Conversely, a bad experience can lead to the opposite impact, causing a prospective or even loyal customer to abandon a brand and speak badly about it to friends online and in person. Adobe hopes that by bringing another marketing tool into the fold, it can help its customers increase the likelihood of a positive online customer experience. This one should allow marketing personnel working at a company to move marketing projects through a workflow from idea to delivery.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of Adobe’s fiscal year. Per usual, it will be subject to typical regulatory scrutiny.

Nov
03
2020
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Intel has acquired Cnvrg.io, a platform to manage, build and automate machine learning

Intel continues to snap up startups to build out its machine learning and AI operations. In the latest move, TechCrunch has learned that the chip giant has acquired Cnvrg.io, an Israeli company that has built and operates a platform for data scientists to build and run machine learning models, which can be used to train and track multiple models and run comparisons on them, build recommendations and more.

Intel confirmed the acquisition to us with a short note. “We can confirm that we have acquired Cnvrg,” a spokesperson said. “Cnvrg will be an independent Intel company and will continue to serve its existing and future customers.” Those customers include Lightricks, ST Unitas and Playtika.

Intel is not disclosing any financial terms of the deal, nor who from the startup will join Intel. Cnvrg, co-founded by Yochay Ettun (CEO) and Leah Forkosh Kolben, had raised $8 million from investors that include Hanaco Venture Capital and Jerusalem Venture Partners, and PitchBook estimates that it was valued at around $17 million in its last round. 

It was only a week ago that Intel made another acquisition to boost its AI business, also in the area of machine learning modeling: it picked up SigOpt, which had developed an optimization platform to run machine learning modeling and simulations.

While SigOpt is based out of the Bay Area, Cnvrg is in Israel, and joins an extensive footprint that Intel has built in the country, specifically in the area of artificial intelligence research and development, banked around its Mobileye autonomous vehicle business (which it acquired for more than $15 billion in 2017) and its acquisition of AI chipmaker Habana (which it acquired for $2 billion at the end of 2019).

Cnvrg.io’s platform works across on-premise, cloud and hybrid environments and it comes in paid and free tiers (we covered the launch of the free service, branded Core, last year). It competes with the likes of Databricks, Sagemaker and Dataiku, as well as smaller operations like H2O.ai that are built on open-source frameworks. Cnvrg’s premise is that it provides a user-friendly platform for data scientists so they can concentrate on devising algorithms and measuring how they work, not building or maintaining the platform they run on.

While Intel is not saying much about the deal, it seems that some of the same logic behind last week’s SigOpt acquisition applies here as well: Intel has been refocusing its business around next-generation chips to better compete against the likes of Nvidia and smaller players like GraphCore. So it makes sense to also provide/invest in AI tools for customers, specifically services to help with the compute loads that they will be running on those chips.

It’s notable that in our article about the Core free tier last year, Frederic noted that those using the platform in the cloud can do so with Nvidia-optimized containers that run on a Kubernetes cluster. It’s not clear if that will continue to be the case, or if containers will be optimized instead for Intel architecture, or both. Cnvrg’s other partners include Red Hat and NetApp.

Intel’s focus on the next generation of computing aims to offset declines in its legacy operations. In the last quarter, Intel reported a 3% decline in its revenues, led by a drop in its data center business. It said that it’s projecting the AI silicon market to be bigger than $25 billion by 2024, with AI silicon in the data center to be greater than $10 billion in that period.

In 2019, Intel reported some $3.8 billion in AI-driven revenue, but it hopes that tools like SigOpt’s will help drive more activity in that business, dovetailing with the push for more AI applications in a wider range of businesses.

Nov
02
2020
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Coupa Software snags Llamasoft for $1.5B to bring together spending and supply chain data

Coupa Software, a publicly traded company that helps large corporations manage spending, announced that it was buying Llamasoft, an 18-year-old Michigan company that helps large companies manage their supply chain. The deal was pegged at $1.5 billion.

This year Llamasoft released its latest tool, an AI-driven platform for managing supply chains intelligently. This capability in particular seemed to attract Coupa’s attention, as it was looking for a supply chain application to complement its spend management capabilities.

Coupa CEO and chairman Rob Bernshteyn says when you combine that supply chain data with Coupa’s spending data, it can produce a powerful combination.

“Llamasoft’s deep supply chain expertise and sophisticated data science and modeling capabilities, combined with the roughly $2 trillion of cumulative transactional spend data we have in Coupa, will empower businesses with the intelligence needed to pivot on a dime,” Bernshteyn said in a statement.

The purchase comes at a time when companies are focusing more and more on digitizing processes across enterprise, and when supply chains can be uncertain, depending on the location of COVID hotspots at any particular time.

“With demand uncertainty on one hand, and supply volatility on the other, companies are in need of supply chain technology that can help them assess alternatives and balance trade-offs to achieve desired business results. LLamasoft provides these capabilities with an AI-powered cloud platform that empowers companies to make smarter supply chain decisions, faster,” the company wrote in a statement.

Llamasoft was founded in 2002 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has raised more than $56 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its largest raise was a $50 million Series B in 2015 led by Goldman Sachs .

The company generated more than $100 million in revenue and has 650 big customers, including Boeing, DHL, Kimberly-Clark and GM, according to company data.

Coupa has been extremely acquisitive over the years, buying 17 companies, according to Crunchbase data. This deal represents the fourth acquisition this year for the company. So far the stock market is not enamored with the acquisition; the company’s stock price is down 5.20% at publication.

Nov
02
2020
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Twilio wraps $3.2B purchase of Segment after warp-speed courtship

It was barely a month ago we began hearing rumors that Twilio was interested in acquiring Segment. The $3.2 billion deal was officially announced three weeks ago, and this morning the communications API company announced that the deal had closed, astonishingly fast for an acquisition of this size.

While we can’t know for sure, the speed with which the deal closed could suggest that it was in the works longer than we had known, and when we began hearing rumors of the acquisition, it could have already been signed, sealed and delivered. In addition, the fact that Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt knew one another before coming to terms might have helped accelerate the process.

Regardless, the two companies are a nice fit. Both deal with the API economy, providing a set of tools to help developers easily add a particular set of functions to their applications. For Twilio, that’s a set of communications APIs, while Segment focuses on customer data.

When you pull the two sets of tooling together, and combine that with Twilio’s 2018 SendGrid acquisition, you can see the possibility to build more complete applications for interacting with customers at every level, including basic communications like video, SMS and audio from Twilio, as well as customer data from Segment and customized emails and ads based on those interactions from SendGrid.

As companies increasingly focus on digital engagement, especially in the midst of a pandemic, Twilio’s Lawson believes the biggest roadblock to this type of engagement has been that data has been locked in silos, precisely the kind of problem that Segment has been attacking.

“With the addition of Segment, Twilio’s Customer Engagement Platform now enables companies to both understand their customer and engage with them digitally — the combination is key to building great digital experiences,” Lawson said in a statement.

In a recent post looking at the reasoning behind the deal, Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, saw it this way: “This move allows Twilio to impact the data-insight-interaction-experience transformation process by removing friction from developers using their platform,” Leary explained.

With the deal closed, Segment will become a division of Twilio. Reinhardt will continue to be CEO, and will report directly to Lawson.

Oct
29
2020
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Intel acquires SigOpt, a specialist in modeling optimization, to boost its AI business

Intel has been doubling down on building chips and related architecture for the next generation of computing, and today it announced an acquisition that will bolster its expertise and work specifically in one area of future technology: artificial intelligence.

The semiconductor giant today announced that it has acquired SigOpt, a startup out of San Francisco that has built an optimization platform that can be used to run modeling and simulations (two key applications of AI tech) in a better way. Anthony described SigOpt as a startup built to “optimize everything” when we covered its Series A, but Intel specifically will be integrating the tech into its AI business, specifically into its AI Analytics Toolkit, a spokesperson tells me.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but SigOpt already counted a number of large enterprises — “SigOpt’s customer base includes Fortune 500 companies across industries, as well as leading research institutions, universities and consortiums using its products” — among its customers. The product was still in a closed beta, however. Notably, it had raised money from an interesting group of investors that included In-Q-Tel (the firm associated with the CIA that makes strategic investments) and Andreessen Horowitz, and Y Combinator, among others. It had raised less than $10 million.

The plan will be to continue providing services to existing users, and to continue building out the company’s platform — co-founders Scott Clark (CEO) and Patrick Hayes (CTO) and their team are joining Intel.

“We will continue to work with SigOpt’s existing customers and will also integrate the technology into our product road map,” a spokesperson confirmed.

While Intel is working hard on streamlining its business around next-generation chips to better compete against the likes of Nvidia (which itself is growing substantially with the acquisition of ARM) and smaller players like GraphCore, in part by divesting more legacy operations, it seems a strong opportunity in providing services for its customers alongside those chips, and these services specifically will help customers with the compute loads that they will be running on those chips.

The focus for Intel has been on the next generation of computing to offset declines in its legacy operations. In the last quarter, even as it beat expectations, Intel reported a 3% decline in its revenues, led by a drop in its data center business. It said that it’s projecting the AI silicon market to be bigger than $25 billion by 2024, with AI silicon in the data center to be greater than $10 billion in that period.

In 2019, Intel reported some $3.8 billion in AI-driven revenue, but it hopes that tools like SigOpt’s will help drive more activity in that business, dovetailing with the push for more AI applications in a wider range of businesses.

“In the new intelligence era, AI is driving the compute needs of the future. It is even more important for software to automatically extract the best compute performance while scaling AI models,” said Raja Koduri, Intel’s chief architect and senior vice president of its discrete graphics division. “SigOpt’s AI software platform and data science talent will augment Intel software, architecture, product offerings and teams, and provide us with valuable customer insights. We welcome the SigOpt team and its customers to the Intel family.”

While there could potentially be a number of applications for SigOpt’s tech, this is a signal of how bigger players will continue to consolidate specific services around their bigger business, giving the small startup a much bigger horizon in terms of potential business (even if it is all tied to customers that only use Intel hardware).

“We are excited to join Intel and supercharge our mission to accelerate and amplify the impact of modelers everywhere. By combining our AI optimization software with Intel’s decades-long leadership in AI computing and machine learning performance, we will be able to unlock entirely new AI capabilities for modelers,” said Clark in a statement.

Oct
29
2020
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More chip industry action as Marvell is acquiring Inphi for $10B

It’s been quite a time for chip industry consolidation, and today Marvell joined the acquisition parade when it announced it is acquiring Inphi in a combination of stock and cash valued at approximately $10 billion, according to the company.

Marvell CEO Matt Murphy believes that by adding Inphi, a chip maker that helps connect internal servers in cloud data centers, and then between data centers, using fiber cabling, it will complement Marvell’s copper-based chip portfolio and give it an edge in developing more future-looking use cases where Inphi shines.

“Our acquisition of Inphi will fuel Marvell’s leadership in the cloud and extend our 5G position over the next decade,” Murphy said in a statement.

In the classic buy versus build calculus, this acquisition uses the company’s cash to push it in new directions without having to build all this new technology. “This highly complementary transaction expands Marvell’s addressable market, strengthens customer base and accelerates Marvell’s leadership in hyperscale cloud data centers and 5G wireless infrastructure,” the company said in a statement.

It’s been a busy time for the chip industry as multiple players are combining, hoping for a similar kind of lift that Marvell sees with this deal. In fact, today’s announcement comes in the same week AMD announced it was acquiring Xilinx for $35 billion and follows Nvidia acquiring ARM for $40 billion last month. The three deals combined come to a whopping $85 billion.

There appears to be prevailing wisdom in the industry that by combining forces and using the power of the checkbook, these companies can do more together than they can by themselves.

Certainly Marvell and Inphi are suggesting that. As they highlighted, their combined enterprise value will be more than $40 billion, with hundreds of millions of dollars in market potential. All of this of course depends on how well these combined entities work together, and we won’t know that for some time.

For what it’s worth, the stock market appears unimpressed with the deal, with Marvell’s stock down more than 7% in early trading — but Inphi stock is being bolstered in a big way by the announcement, up almost 23% this morning so far.

The deal, which has been approved by both companies’ boards, is expected to close by the second half of 2021, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

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