Aug
12
2021
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Consumer goods software company Aforza bags $22M to open US headquarters

Aforza, developing cloud and mobile apps for consumer goods companies, announced a $22 million Series A round led by DN Capital.

The London-based company’s technology is built on the Salesforce and Google Cloud platforms so that consumer goods companies can digitally transform product distribution and customer engagement to combat issues like unprofitable promotions and declining market share, Aforza co-founder and CEO Dominic Dinardo told TechCrunch. Using artificial intelligence, the company recommends products and can predict the order a retailer can make with promotions and pricing based on factors like locations.

The global market for consumer packaged goods apps is forecasted to reach $15 billion by 2024. However, the industry is still using outdated platforms that, in some cases, lead to a loss of 5% of sales when goods are out of stock, Dinardo said.

Aforza’s trade promotion designer mobile image. Image Credits: Aforza

Dinardo and his co-founders, Ed Butterworth and Nick Eales, started the company in 2019. All veterans of Salesforce, they saw how underserved the consumer goods industry was in terms of moving to digital.

Aforza is Dinardo’s first time leading a company. However, from his time at Salesforce he feels he got an education like going to “Marc Benioff’s School of SaaS.” The company raised an undisclosed seed round in 2019 from Bonfire Ventures, Daher Capital, DN Capital, Next47 and Salesforce Ventures.

Then the pandemic happened, which had many of the investors leaning in, which was validation of what Aforza was doing, Dinardo said.

“Even before the pandemic, the consumer goods industry was challenged with new market entrants and horrible legacy systems, but then the pandemic turned off pathways to customers,” he added. “Our mission is to improve the lives of consumers by bringing forth more sustainable products and packaging, but also helping companies be more agile and handle changes as the biggest change is happening.”

Joining DN Capital in the round were Bonfire Ventures, Daher Capital and Next47.

Brett Queener, partner at Bonfire Ventures, said he helped incubate Aforza with Dinardo and Eales, something his firm doesn’t typically do, but saw a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

Also working at Salesforce, he saw the consumer goods industry as a major industry with a compelling reason to make a technology shift as customers began expecting instant availability and there were tons of emerging startups coming into the direct-to-consumer space.

Those startups don’t have a year or two to pull together the kind of technology it took to scale. With Aforza, they can build a product that works both online and off on any device, Queener said. And rather than planning promotions on a quarterly basis, companies can make changes to their promotional spend in real time.

“It is time for Aforza to tell the world about its technology, time to build out its footprint in the U.S. and in Europe, invest more in R&D and execute the Salesforce playbook,” he said. “That is what this round is about.”

Dinardo intends on using the new funding to continue R&D and to double its employee headcount over the next six months as it establishes its new U.S. headquarters in the Northeast. It is already working with customers in 20 countries.

As to growth, Dinardo said he is using his past experiences at startups like Veeva and Vlocity, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2020, as benchmarks for Aforza’s success.

“We have the money and the expertise — now we need to take a moment to breathe, hire people with the passion to do this and invest in new product tiers, digital assets and even payments,” he said.

 

Apr
16
2020
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VAST Data lands $100M Series C on $1.2B valuation to turn storage on its head

VAST Data, a startup that has come up with a cost-effective way to deliver flash storage, announced a $100 million Series C investment today on a $1.2 billion valuation, both unusually big numbers for an enterprise startup in Series C territory.

Next47, the investment arm of Siemens, led the round with participation from existing investors 83North, Commonfund Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greenfield Partners, Mellanox Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $180 million.

That’s a lot of cash any time, but especially in the middle of a pandemic. Investors believe that VAST is solving a difficult problem around scaled storage. It’s one where customers tend to deal with petabytes of data and storage price tags beginning at a million dollars, says company founder and CEO Renen Hallak.

As Hallak points out, traditional storage is delivered in tiers with fast, high-cost flash storage at the top of the pyramid all the way down to low-cost archival storage at the bottom. He sees this approach as flawed, especially for modern applications driven by analytics and machine learning that rely on lots of data being at the ready.

VAST built a system they believe addresses these issues around the way storage has traditionally been delivered.”We build a single system. This as fast or faster than your tier one, all-flash system today and as cost effective, or more so, than your lowest tier five hard drives. We do this at scale with the resilience of the entire [traditional storage] pyramid. We make it very, very easy to use, while breaking historical storage trade-offs to enable this next generation of applications,” Hallak told TechCrunch.

The company, which was founded in 2016 and came to market with its first solution in 2018, does this by taking advantage of some modern tools like Intel 3D XPoint technology, a kind of modern non-volatile memory along with consumer-grade QLC flash, NVMe over Fabrics protocol and containerization.

“This new architecture, coupled with a lot of algorithmic work in software and types of metadata structures that we’ve developed on top of it, allows us to break those trade-offs and allows us to make much more efficient use of media, and also allows us to move beyond scalability limits, resiliency limits and problems that other systems have in terms of usability and maintainability,” he said.

They have a large average deal size; as a result, the company can keep its cost of sales and marketing to revenue ratio low. They intend to use the money to grow quickly, which is saying something in the current economic climate.

But Hallak sees vast opportunity for the kinds of companies with large amounts of data who need this kind of solution, and even though the cost is high, he says ultimately switching to VAST should save companies money, something they are always looking to do at this kind of scale, but even more so right now.

You don’t often see a unicorn valuation at Series C, especially right now, but Hallak doesn’t shy away from it at all. “I think it’s an indication of the trust that our investors put in our growth and our success. I think it’s also an indication of our very fast growth in our first year [with a product on the market], and the unprecedented adoption is an indication of the product-market fit that we have, and also of our market efficiency,” he said.

They count The National Institute of Health, General Dynamics and Zebra as customers.

Apr
18
2019
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CloudBees acquires Electric Cloud to build out its software delivery management platform

CloudBees, the enterprise continuous integration and delivery service (and the biggest contributor to the Jenkins open-source automation server), today announced that it has acquired Electric Cloud, a continuous delivery and automation platform that first launched all the way back in 2002.

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition, but CloudBees has raised a total of $113.2 million while Electric Cloud raised $64.6 million from the likes of Rembrandt Venture Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, RRE Ventures and Next47.

CloudBees plans to integrate Electric Cloud’s application release automation platform into its offerings. Electric Flow’s 110 employees will join CloudBees.

“As of today, we provide customers with best-of-breed CI/CD software from a single vendor, establishing CloudBees as a continuous delivery powerhouse,” said Sacha Labourey, the CEO and co-founder of CloudBees, in today’s announcement. “By combining the strength of CloudBees, Electric Cloud, Jenkins and Jenkins X, CloudBees offers the best CI/CD solution for any application, from classic to Kubernetes, on-premise to cloud, self-managed to self-service.”

Electric Cloud offers its users a number of tools for automating their release pipelines and managing the application life cycle afterward.

“We are looking forward to joining CloudBees and executing on our shared goal of helping customers build software that matters,” said Carmine Napolitano, CEO, Electric Cloud. “The combination of CloudBees’ industry-leading continuous integration and continuous delivery platform, along with Electric Cloud’s industry-leading application release orchestration solution, gives our customers the best foundation for releasing apps at any speed the business demands.”

As CloudBees CPO Christina Noren noted during her keynote at CloudBees’ developer conference today, the company’s customers are getting more sophisticated in their DevOps platforms, but they are starting to run into new problems now that they’ve reached this point.

“What we’re seeing is that these customers have disconnected and fragmented islands of information,” she said. “There’s the view that each development team has […] and there’s not a common language, there’s not a common data model, and there’s not an end-to-end process that unites from left to right, top to bottom.” This kind of integrated system is what CloudBees is building toward (and that competitors like GitLab would argue they already offer). Today’s announcement marks a first step into this direction toward building a full software delivery management platform, though others are likely to follow.

During his company’s developer conference, Labourey also today noted that CloudBees will profit from Electric Cloud’s longstanding expertise in continuous delivery and that the acquisition will turn CloudBees into a “DevOps powerhouse.”

Today’s announcement follows CloudBees’ acquisition of CI/CD tool CodeShip last year. As of now, CodeShip remains a standalone product in the company’s lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how CloudBees will integrate Electric Cloud’s products to build a more integrated system.

Apr
17
2019
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Enterprise events management platform Bizzabo scores $27M Series D

Bizzabo, the New York and Tel Aviv-based events management platform, has raised $27 million in Series D funding. Leading the round is Viola Growth, along with new investor Next47.

We’re also told that previous backers, including Pilot Growth, followed on. The new funding brings the total raised by the company to $56 million.

Originally launched in 2012 as a networking app for event attendees, Bizzabo now claims to be the leading end-to-end “Event Success Platform.” As it exists today, one way to describe the cloud-based software is akin to “Salesforce for events”: helping enterprises create, manage and execute every aspect of a live event.

As TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu previously wrote, the SaaS automates time-consuming event tasks related to email, social media and web marketing, and contact management.

There’s an increasing data play, too, with the ability to crunch and analyse event data to help event organisers garner more registrations, increase revenue and improve the overall attendee experience.

“Our vision is to provide a data-driven and personalized journey for attendees,” Bizzabo CEO and co-founder Eran Ben-Shushan tells me. “An 800-person conference should feel like 800 unique in-person event experiences. By leveraging hundreds of data points throughout the attendee journey, our customers can deliver extremely personalised promotion campaigns, custom-tailor the event agenda and proactively cater to each attendee action.”

As an example, Ben-Shushan says an attendee at a user conference can receive recommended sessions, business introductions and even sponsored offers based on interest and intent expressed before, during and after the event.

To that end, Bizzabo says its Series D will be used to expand the platform’s capabilities and continue to help enterprise and mid-market organizations “build data-driven, personalized and engaging professional event experiences.” That will include growing its R&D and own marketing teams, adding to the more than 120 current employees in its New York and Tel Aviv offices.

Ben-Shushan reckons that on average 25 percent of a B2B company’s marketing budget is spent on live events. This has resulted in the number of professional events increasing exponentially each year, such as conferences and seminars, trade shows or other experiences.

However, it remains a challenge to create, manage, market and measure the success of events while maximizing ROI — which is where Ben-Shushan says Bizzabo comes in.

Bizzabo’s better-known customers include Inbound, SaaStr, Forbes, Dow Jones, Gainsight and Drift. Meanwhile, the event management space as a whole is said to be worth $500 billion.

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