Mar
08
2019
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Okta to acquire workflow automation startup Azuqua for $52.5M

During its earnings report yesterday afternoon, Okta announced it intends to acquire Azuqua, a Seattle, Wash. workflow automation startup, for $52.5 million.

In a blog post announcing the news, Okta co-founder and COO Frederic Kerrest saw the combining of the two companies as a way to move smoothly between applications in a complex workflow without having to constantly present your credentials.

“With Okta and Azuqua, IT teams will be able to use pre-built connectors and logic to create streamlined identity processes and increase operational speed. And, product teams will be able to embed this technology in their own applications alongside Okta’s core authentication and user management technology to build…integrated customer experiences,” Kerrest wrote.

In a modern enterprise, people and work are constantly shifting and moving between applications and services and combining automation software with identity and access management could offer a seamless way to move between them.

This represents Okta’s largest acquisition to-date and follows Stormpath almost exactly two years ago and ScaleFT last July. Taken together, you can see a company that is trying to become a more comprehensive identity platform.

Azuqua, which has raised $16 million since it launched in 2013, appears to have given investors a pretty decent return. When the deal closes, Okta intends to move the Azuqua team to its Bellevue offices, increasing its presence in the Northwest. Okta’s headquarters are in San Francisco. Azuqua customers include Airbnb, McDonald’s, VMware and HubSpot,

Okta was founded in 2009 and raised over $229 million before going public April, 2017.

Mar
05
2019
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SurveyMonkey acquires web survey company Usabilla for $80M

SurveyMonkey announced today that it has acquired Usabilla, an Amsterdam-based website and app survey company, for $80 million in cash and stock.

Zander Lurie, CEO at SurveyMonkey, said Usabilla filled in a missing piece in its survey toolkit. “A key product that we identified that we really wanted to add to the portfolio, which is really adjacent to our VOC (voice of the customer) solution is a website feedback collector helping people on the web or on mobile apps really understand what users are doing on their site,” Lurie told TechCrunch.

Usabilla CEO Marc van Agteren says his company is adding a complementary product to SurveyMonkey. “If you compare us to the SurveyMonkey enterprise solution where you create surveys that you need to send out via social media or email, our software sits on a website and instantly provides feedback,” he said. For example, if there is a bug on the page, the user can click the Usabilla tool, capture the area of the page that’s problematic as a screenshot and send it with a comment to the website or app owner for review.

Conversely the website or app owner could display a question for the visitor to answer before he or she exits. This provides a way to get immediate feedback about design or why they are leaving without finishing a transaction, as examples.

Qualtrics, another survey company, was about to go public last fall when it was acquired by SAP for $8 billion, but Lurie doesn’t necessarily see this move as a reaction to that. He said that today’s acquisition was really related to enhancing the company’s enterprise product.

As for Qualtrics, he says that with the acquisition, it is more aligned with SAP now, and therefore really being marketed to SAP customers. He sees plenty of room in the survey market with customers of Adobe, Salesforce and Microsoft and others, whom he says probably aren’t looking for an SAP solution. 

With Usabilla, SurveyMonkey gains a stronger foothold in the EU as the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam will become the SurveyMonkey’s largest EU office. The transaction also adds 130 new employees to the SurveyMonkey family, bringing the total number to more than 1,000. In addition, it can now access Usabilla’s 450 customers, which include Lufthansa, Philips and Vodafone. Lurie said there is some customer overlap, but given that the majority of Usabilla’s customers are outside the U.S., there would likely be a net customer gain from the purchase.

SurveyMonkey was founded in 1999 and went public last September. This is the company’s sixth acquisition and the first in three years, according to Lurie. Usabilla was founded in 2009 and raised a modest $1 million along the way.

The deal is subject to the normal regulatory approval process and is expected to close some time in the second quarter this year.

Jan
15
2019
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Smartsheet acquires Slope to help creatives collaborate

Smartsheet, the project management and collaboration tool that went public last April, announced the acquisition of Seattle-based TernPro, Inc., makers of Slope, a collaboration tool designed for sharing creative assets.

The companies did not share the acquisition price.

Bringing Slope into the fold will enable Smartsheet users to share assets like video and photos natively inside the application, and also brings the ability to annotate, comment or approve these assets. Smartsheet sees this native integration through a broad enterprise lens. It might be HR sharing training videos, marketing sharing product photos or construction company employees inspecting a site and sharing photos of a code violation, complete with annotations to point out the problem.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who specializes in collaboration tools in the enterprise, sees this as a significant enhancement to the product. “Smartsheet’s focus is on being more than just project management, but instead helping coordinate end-to-end business processes. Slope is going to allow content to become more of a native part of those processes, rather than people having to switch context to another tool,” he explained.

That last point is particularly important, as today’s collaboration tools, whether Slack or Microsoft Teams or any other similar tool, have been working hard to provide that kind of integration to keep people focused on the task at hand without having to switch applications.

Mike Gotta, a longtime analyst at Gartner, says collaboration that happens within the flow of work can help make employees more productive, but being able to build specific use cases is even more critical. “The collaboration space remains open for innovation and new ways to addressing old challenges. For organizations though, the trick is how to create a collaboration portfolio that balances broad-based foundational investments with the more domain-specific or situational scenarios they might have where this type of use-case driven collaboration can make more sense,” Gotta told TechCrunch.

That is precisely what Smartsheet is trying to achieve with this purchase, giving them the ability to incorporate workflows involving creative assets, whether that’s including all of the documents required to onboard a new employee or a training workflow that includes learning objectives, lesson plans, photos, videos and so forth.

Smartsheet, which launched in 2005, raised more than $113 million before going public last April. The company’s stock price has held up, gaining ground in a volatile stock market. It sits above its launch price of $19.50, closing at $25.24 yesterday.

Slope was founded in 2014 and has raised $1.4 million, according to Crunchbase data. Customers include Microsoft, CBS Sports and the Oakland Athletics baseball team. The company’s employees, including co-founders Dan Bloom and Brian Boschè, have already joined Smartsheet.

Dec
19
2018
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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $87 billion this year

M&A activity was brisk in the enterprise market this year with 10 high-profile deals totaling almost $88 billion. Companies were opening up their wallets and pouring money into mega acquisitions. It’s worth noting that the $88 billion figure doesn’t include Dell paying investors over $23 billion for VMware tracking stock to take the company public again or several other deals of over a billion dollars that didn’t make our list.

Last year’s big deals included Intel buying MobileEye for $15 billion and Cisco getting AppDynamics for $3.7 billion, but there were not as many big ones. Adobe, which made two large acquisitions this year was mostly quiet last year only make a minor purchase. Salesforce too was mostly quiet in 2017, only buying a digital creative agency, after an active 2016. SAP also made only one purchase in 2017, paying $350 million for Gigya. Microsoft was active buying 9 companies, but these were primarily minor. Perhaps everyone was saving their pennies for 2018.

This year by contrast was go big or go home, and we saw action across the board from the usual suspects. Large companies looking to change their fortunes or grow their markets went shopping and came home with some expensive trinkets for their collections. Some of the deals are still waiting to pass regulatory hurdles and won’t be closing until 2019. Regardless, it’s too soon to judge whether these big-bucks ventures will pay the dividends that the their buyers hope, or if they end up being M&A dust in the wind.

IBM acquires Red Hat for $34 billion

By far the biggest and splashiest deal of the year goes to IBM, which bet the farm to acquire Red Hat for a staggering $34 billion. IBM sees this acquisition as a way to build out its hybrid cloud business. It’s a huge bet and one that could determine the success of Big Blue as an organization in the coming years.

Broadcom nets CA Technologies for $18.5 billion

This deal was unexpected as Broadcom, a chip maker, spent the second largest amount of money in a year of big spending. What Broadcom got for its many billions was an old school IT management and software solutions provider. Perhaps Broadcom felt it needed it to branch out beyond pure chip making and CA offered a way to do it, albeit a rather expensive one.

SAP buys Qualtrics for $8 billion

While not anywhere close to the money IBM or Broadcom spent, SAP went out and nabbed Qualtrics last month just before the company was about to IPO, still paying a healthy $8 billion. The company believes that the new company could help build a bridge between SAP operational data inside its back-end ERP systems and Qualtrics customer data on the front end. Time will tell if they are right.

Microsoft gets Github for $7.5 billion

In June, Microsoft swooped in and bought Github, giving it a key developer code repository. It was a lot of money to pay, and Diane Greene expressed regret that Google hadn’t been able to get it. That’s because cloud companies are working hard to win developer hearts and minds. Microsoft has a chance to push Github users toward its products, but it has to tread carefully because they will balk if Microsoft goes too far.

Salesforce snares Mulesoft for $6.5 billion

Salesforce wasn’t about to be left out of the party in 2018 and in March, the CRM giant announced it was buying API integration vendor, Mulesoft for a cool $6.5 billion. It was a big deal for Salesforce, which tends to be acquisitive, but typically on smaller deals. This one was a key purchase though because it gives the company the ability to access data wherever it lives, on premises or in the cloud, and that could be key for them moving forward.

Adobe snags Marketo for $4.75 billion

Adobe has built a strong company primarily on the strength of its Creative Cloud, but it has been trying to generate more revenue on the marketing side of the business. To that end, it acquired Marketo for $4.75 billion and immediately boosted its marketing business, especial when combined with the $1.68 billion Magento purchase earlier in the year.

SAP acquires CallidusCloud for $2.4 billion

SAP doesn’t do as many acquisitions as some of its fellow large tech companies mentioned here, but this year it did two. Not only did it buy Qualtrics for $8 billion, it also grabbed CallidusCloud for $2.4 billion. SAP is best known for managing back office components with its ERP software, but this adds a cloud-based, front-office sales process piece to the mix.

Cisco grabs Duo Security for $2.35 billion

Cisco has been hard at work buying up a variety of software services over the years, and this year it added to its security portfolio when it acquired Duo Security for $2.35 billion. The Michigan-based company helps companies secure applications using their own mobile devices and could be a key part of the Cisco security strategy moving forward.

Twilio buys SendGrid for $2 billion

Twilio got into the act this year too. While not in the same league as the other large tech companies on this list, it saw a piece it felt would enhance its product set and it was willing to spend big to get it. Twilio, which made its name as a communications API company, saw a kindred spirit in SendGrid, spending $2 billion to get the API-based email service.

Vista snares Apttio for $1.94 billion

Vista Equity Partners is the only private equity firm on the list, but it’s one with an appetite for enterprise technology. With Apttio, it gets a company that can help companies understand their cloud assets alongside their on-prem ones. The company had been public before Vista bought it for $1.94 billion last month.

Dec
18
2018
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Cisco to acquire silicon photonics chip maker Luxtera for $660 million

As networks get put under increasing pressure from ever-growing amounts of data, network equipment manufacturers are facing huge challenges to increase data transmission speeds over farther distances. As a premier networking equipment company, Cisco wants to be prepared to meet that demand. Today, it opened up its checkbook and announced its intent to acquire Luxtera for $660 million.

Luxtera, which was founded in 2001 and raised more than $130 million, will give Cisco a photonic solution for that data networking problem. Rob Salvagno, head of Cisco’s M&A and venture investment team, sees a company that can help modernize Cisco’s networking equipment.

“That’s why today we announced our intent to acquire Luxtera, Inc., a privately-held semiconductor company that uses silicon photonics technology to build integrated optics capabilities for webscale and enterprise data centers, service provider market segments, and other customers. Luxtera’s technology, design and manufacturing innovation significantly improves performance and scale while lowering costs,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Photonics uses light to move large amounts of data at higher speeds over increased distances via fiber optic cable. Cisco sees this as a way to future-proof customer networking requirements, while keeping them on Cisco equipment. “The combination of Cisco’s and Luxtera’s capabilities in 100GbE/400GbE optics, silicon and process technology will enable customers to build future-proof networks optimized for performance, reliability and cost,” Salvagno wrote.

While Cisco has been acquiring its share of high-profile software properties in recent years, including AppDyanmics for $3.7 billion in 2017 and Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion in 2016, it also acquired Israeli chip designer Leaba Semiconductor for $320 million in 2016 for its advanced chip making capability.

Today’s announcement would seem to build on that earlier purchase as Cisco tries to modernize its hardware offerings to meet increasingly stringent demands inside large-scale data centers.

The acquisition is subject to the typical regulatory scrutiny, but Cisco expects it to close in its fiscal year 2019 Q3. It reported its Q1 2019 earnings in November.

Dec
14
2018
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GE’s digital future looking murkier with move to spin off Industrial IoT biz

When I visited the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York in April 2017, I thought I saw a company that was working hard to avoid disruption, but perhaps the leafy campus, the labs and experimental projects hid much larger problems inside the company. Yesterday GE announced that it is spinning out its Industrial IoT business and selling most of its stake in ServiceMax, the company it bought in 2016 for $915 million.

For one thing, Jeff Immelt, the CEO who was leading that modernization charge, stepped down six months after my visit and was replaced by John Flannery, who was himself replaced just a year into his tenure by C. Lawrence Culp, Jr. It didn’t seem to matter who was in charge, nobody could stop the bleeding stock price, which has fallen this year from a high of $18.76 in January to $7.20 this morning before the markets opened (and had already lost another .15 a share as we went to publication).

It hasn’t been a great year for GE stock. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Immelt at least recognized that the company needed to shift to a data-centered Industrial Internet of Things future where sensors fed data that provided ways to understand the health of a machine or how to drive the most efficient use from it. This was centered around the company’s Predix platform where developers could build applications using that data. The company purchased ServiceMax in 2016 to extend that idea and feed service providers the data they needed to anticipate when service was needed even before the customer was aware of it.

As Immelt put it in a 2014 quote on Twitter:

That entire approach had substance. In fact, if you look at what Salesforce announced earlier this month around service and the Internet of Things, you will see a similar strategy. As Salesforce’s SVP and GM for Salesforce Field Service Lightning Paolo Bergamo described in a blog post, “Drawing on IoT signals surfaced in the Service Cloud console, agents can gauge whether device failure is imminent, quickly determine the source of the problem (often before the customer is even aware a problem exists) and dispatch the right mobile worker with the right skill set.”

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The ServiceMax acquisition and the Predix Platform were central to this, and while the idea was sound, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says that the execution was poor and the company needed to change. “The vision for GE Digital made sense as they crafted a digital industrial strategy, yet the execution inside GE was not the best. As GE spins out many of its units, this move is designed to free up the unit to deliver its services beyond GE and into the larger ecosystem,” Wang told TechCrunch.

Current CEO Culp sees the spin-out as a way to breathe new life into the business “As an independently operated company, our digital business will be best positioned to advance our strategy to focus on our core verticals to deliver greater value for our customers and generate new value for shareholders,” Culp explained in a statement.

Maybe so, but it seems it should be at the center of what the company is doing, not a spin-off — and with only a 10 percent stake left in ServiceMax, the service business component all but goes away. Bill Ruh, GE Digital CEO, the man who was charged with implementing the mission (and apparently failed) has decided to leave the company with this announcement. In fact, the new Industrial IoT company will operate as a wholly owned GE subsidiary with its own financials and board of directors, separate from the main company.

With this move though, GE is clearly moving the Industrial IoT out of the core business as it continues to struggle to find a combination that brings its stock price back to life. While the Industrial Internet of Things idea may have been poorly executed, selling and spinning off the pieces that need to be part of the digital future seem like a short-sighted way to achieve the company’s longer term goals.

Dec
10
2018
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Trello acquires Butler to add power of automation

Trello, the organizational tool owned by Atlassian, announced an acquisition of its very own this morning when it bought Butler for an undisclosed amount.

What Butler brings to Trello is the power of automation, stringing together a bunch of commands to make something complex happen automatically. As Trello’s Michael Pryor pointed out in a blog post announcing the acquisition, we are used to tools like IFTTT, Zapier and Apple Shortcuts, and this will bring a similar type of functionality directly into Trello.

Screenshot: Trello

“Over the years, teams have discovered that by automating processes on Trello boards with the Butler Power-Up, they could spend more time on important tasks and be more productive. Butler helps teams codify business rules and processes, taking something that might take ten steps to accomplish and automating it into one click,” Pryor wrote.

This means that Trello can be more than a static organizational tool. Instead, it can move into the realm of light-weight business process automation. For example, this could allow you to move an item from your To Do board to your Doing board automatically based on dates, or to share tasks with appropriate teams as a project moves through its life cycle, saving a bunch of manual steps that tend to add up.

The company indicated that it will be incorporating the Alfred’s capabilities directly into Trello in the coming months. It will make it available to all levels of users, including the free tier, but they promise more advanced functionality for Business and Enterprise customers when the integration is complete. Pryor also suggested that more automation could be coming to Trello. “Butler is Trello’s first step down this road, enabling every user to automate pieces of their Trello workflow to save time, stay organized and get more done.”

Atlassian bought Trello in 2017 for $425 million, but this acquisition indicates it is functioning quasi-independently as part of the Atlassian family.

Dec
07
2018
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IBM selling Lotus Notes/Domino business to HCL for $1.8B

IBM announced last night that it is selling the final components from its 1995 acquisition of Lotus to Indian firm HCL for $1.8 billion.

IBM paid $3.5 billion for Lotus back in the day. The big pieces here are Lotus Notes, Domino and Portal. These were a big part of IBM’s enterprise business for a long time, but last year Big Blue began to pull away, selling the development part to HCL, while maintaining control of sales and marketing.

This announcement marks the end of the line for IBM involvement. With the development of the platform out of its control, and in need of cash after spending $34 billion for Red Hat, perhaps IBM simply decided it no longer made sense to keep any part of this in-house.

As for HCL, it sees an opportunity to continue to build the Notes/Domino business, and it’s seizing it with this purchase. “The large-scale deployments of these products provide us with a great opportunity to reach and serve thousands of global enterprises across a wide range of industries and markets,” C Vijayakumar, president and CEO at HCL Technologies, said in a statement announcing the deal.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who keeps close watch on the enterprise collaboration space, says the sale could represent a fresh start for software that IBM hasn’t really been paying close attention to for some time. “HCL is far more interested in Notes/Domino than IBM has been for a decade. They are investing heavily, trying to rejuvenate the brand,” Lepofsky told TechCrunch.

While this software may feel long in the tooth, Notes and Domino are still in use in many corners of the enterprise, and this is especially true in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and AP (Asia Pacific), Lepofsky said.

He added that IBM appears to be completely exiting the collaboration space with this sale. “It appears that IBM is done with collaboration, out of the game,” he said.

This move makes sense for IBM, which is moving in a different direction as it develops its cloud business. The Red Hat acquisition in October, in particular, shows that the company wants to embrace private and hybrid cloud deployments, and older software like Lotus Notes and Domino don’t really play a role in that world.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval processes, is expected to close in the middle of next year.

Nov
20
2018
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Autodesk agrees to buy PlanGrid for $875 million

Autodesk announced plans to acquire PlanGrid for $875 million today. The San Francisco startup helped move blueprints from paper to the iPad when it launched in 2011.

This digitization of construction fits with Autodesk’s vision of digitizing design in general, and CEO Andrew Anagnost certainly recognized the transformational potential of the company he was buying. “There is a huge opportunity to streamline all aspects of construction through digitization and automation. The acquisition of PlanGrid will accelerate our efforts to improve construction workflows for every stakeholder in the construction process,” he said in a statement.

The company, which is a 2012 graduate of Y Combinator, raised just $69 million, so this appears to be a healthy exit for the them. PlanGrid took what was a paper-intensive task and shifted it to digital, taking a world of hand-written mark-ups and sticky notes onto the fledgling iPad.

In an interview with CEO and co-founder Tracy Young in 2015 at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, she said the industry was ripe for change. “The heart of construction is just a lot of construction blueprints information. It’s all tracked on paper right now and they’re constantly, constantly changing,” Young said at the time.

Those manual changes often resulted in errors she said, and that was costly for the contractors. As an engineer working for a construction company, who was at one time responsible for making the paper copies, she recognized that the process could be improved by moving it into the digital realm.

PlanGrid CEO Tracy Young onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in 2015

Her idea, which was kind of radical in 2011 when she started the company, was to move all that paper to the cloud and display it on an iPad. It’s important to remember that the enterprise was not rushing to the cloud in 2011, and most people considered the iPad at the time to be a consumer device, so what she and her co-founders were attempting was a true kind of industry transformation.

Young sees joining Autodesk as a way to continue building on that early vision. “PlanGrid has excelled at building beautiful, simple field collaboration software, while Autodesk has focused on connecting design to construction. Together, we can drive greater productivity and predictability on the jobsite,” she said in a statement.

PlanGrid currently has 400 employees, 12,000 customers and 120,000 paid users, and has been used on over a million construction projects worldwide, according to data provided by the companies. They believe that under Autodesk’s umbrella and combined with their existing product set, they can provide a complete construction solution and grow the business faster than PlanGrid could have on its own — pretty much the standard argument in an acquisition like this.

PlanGrid was efficient with the money it took. In fact the last raise was $50 million almost exactly three years ago. The deal is expected to close at the end of January pending the normal regulatory approval process.

 

Nov
14
2018
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Microsoft to acquire Xoxco as focus on AI and bot developers continues

Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year.

“Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire Xoxco, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities,” Lili Cheng, corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 — long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots — has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings. The companies did not reveal the price, but it fits nicely with Microsoft’s overall acquisition strategy this year, and an announcement today involving a new bot building tool to help companies build conversational bots more easily.

When you call into a call center these days, or even interact on chat, chances are your initial interaction is with a conversational bot, rather than a human. Microsoft is trying to make it easier for developers without AI experience to tap into Microsoft’s expertise on the Azure platform (or by downloading the bot framework from its newly acquired GitHub).

“With this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate,” Cheng wrote.

The new Virtual Assistant Accelerator solution announced today also aligns with the Xoxco purchase. Eric Boyd, corporate VP for AI at Microsoft, says the Virtual Assistant Accelerator pulls together some AI tools such as speech-to-text, natural language processing and an action engine into a single place to simplify bot creation.

“It’s a tool that makes it much easier for you to go and create a virtual assistant. It orchestrates a number of components that we offer, but we didn’t make them easy to use [together]. And so it’s really simplifying the creation of a virtual assistant,” he explained.

Today’s acquisition comes on the heels of a number of AI-related acquisitions. The company bought Semantic Machines in May to give users a more life-like conversation with bots. It snagged Bonsai in June to help simplify AI development. And it grabbed Lobe in September, another tool for making it easier for developers to incorporate AI in their applications.

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