May
16
2018
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Parsable secures $40M investment to bring digital to industrial workers

As we increasingly hear about automation, artificial intelligence and robots taking away industrial jobs, Parsable, a San Francisco-based startup sees a different reality, one with millions of workers who for the most part have been left behind when it comes to bringing digital transformation to their jobs.

Parsable has developed a Connected Worker platform to help bring high tech solutions to deskless industrial workers who have been working mostly with paper-based processes. Today, it announced a $40 million Series C cash injection to keep building on that idea.

The round was led by Future Fund with help from B37 and existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures and Aramco Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total to nearly $70 million.

The Parsable solution works on almost any smartphone or tablet and is designed to enter information while walking around in environments where a desktop PC or laptop simply wouldn’t be practical. That means being able to tap, swipe and select easily in a mobile context.

Photo: Parsable

The challenge the company faced was the perception these workers didn’t deal well with technology. Parsable CEO Lawrence Whittle says the company, which launched in 2013, took its time building its first product because it wanted to give industrial workers something they actually needed, not what engineers thought they needed. This meant a long period of primary research.

The company learned, it had to be dead simple to allow the industry vets who had been on the job for 25 or more years to feel comfortable using it out of the box, while also appealing to younger more tech-savvy workers. The goal was making it feel as familiar as Facebook or texting, common applications even older workers were used to using.

“What we are doing is getting rid of [paper] notebooks for quality, safety and maintenance and providing a digital guide on how to capture work with the objective of increasing efficiency, reducing safety incidents and increasing quality,” Whittle explained.

He likens this to the idea of putting a sensor on a machine, but instead they are putting that instrumentation into the hands of the human worker. “We are effectively putting a sensor on humans to give them connectivity and data to execute work in the same way as machines,” he says.

The company has also made the decision to make the platform flexible to add new technology over time. As an example they support smart glasses, which Whittle says accounts for about 10 percent of its business today. But the founders recognized that reality could change and they wanted to make the platform open enough to take on new technologies as they become available.

Today the company has 30 enterprise customers with 30,000 registered users on the platform. Customers include Ecolab, Schlumberger, Silgan and Shell. They have around 80 employees, but expect to hit 100 by the end of Q3 this year, Whittle says.

May
16
2018
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Dashdash, a platform to create web apps using only spreadsheet skills, nabs $8M led by Accel

Sometimes I think of spreadsheets as the dirty secret of the IT world today. We’ve seen a huge explosion in the number of productivity tools on the market tailored to help workers with different aspects of doing their job and organising their information, in part to keep them from simply dumping lots of information into Excel or whatever program they happen to use. And yet, spreadsheets are still one of the very, very most common pieces of software in use today to organise and share information: Excel alone now has around 1 billion users, and for those who are devotees, spreadsheets are not going to go away soon.

So it’s interesting that there are now startups — and larger companies like Microsoft — emerging that are tapping into that, creating new services that still appear like spreadsheets in the front end, while doing something completely different in the back.

One of the latest is a startup called dashdash, a startup out of Berlin and Porto that is building a platform for people, who might to be programmers but know their way around a spreadsheet, to use those skills to build, modify and update web apps.

The dashdash platform looks and acts like a spreadsheet up front, but behind the scenes, each ‘macro’ links to a web app computing feature, or a design element, to build something that ultimately will look nothing like a spreadsheet, bypassing all the lines of code that traditionally go into building web apps.

The startup is still in stealth mode, with plans to launch formally later this year. Today, it’s announcing that it has received $8 million in Series A funding to get there, with the round being led by Accel, with participation from Cherry Ventures, Atlantic Labs, and angel investors including Felix Jahn, founder of Home24. (It’s raised $9 million to date including $1 million in seed funding.)

Co-founded by serial entrepreneurs Humberto Ayres Pereira and Torben Schulz — who had also been co-founders of food delivery startup EatFirst — Ayres Pereira said that the idea came out of their own observations in work life and the bottleneck of getting things fixed or modified in a company’s apps (both internal and customer-facing).

“People have a lot of frustration with the IT department, and their generally access to it,” he said in an interview. “If you are part of an internet business, it’s very hard to get features prioritised in an app, no matter how small they are. Tech is like a big train on iron tracks, and it can be hard to steer it in a different direction.”

On the other hand, even among the less technical staff, there will be proficiency with certain software, including spreadsheets. “Programming and spreadsheets already store and transform data,” Ayers Pereira said. “There are already a lot of people trying to do more with incumbent spreadsheets, and [combining that with] non-IT people frustrated at having no solution for working on apps, we saw an opportunity to use this to build an elegant platform the empower people. We can’t teach people to program but we can provide them with the tools to do the exact same job.”

While in stealth mode, he said that early users have ranged from smaller businesses such as pharmacies, to “a multi-billion-dollar internet company.” (No names, of course, but it’s interesting to me that this problem even exists at large tech businesses.)

Dashdash is not the only company that is tapping this opportunity. The other week, and IoT startup called Hanhaa launched a service that would let those using Hanhaa IoT sensors in their networks to monitor and interact with them by way of an Excel spreadsheet — another tip of the hat to the realisation that those who might need to keep tabs on devices in the network might not be the people who are the engineers and technicians who have set them up.

That, in turn, is part of a bigger effort from Microsoft to catapult Excel from its reputation as a piece of clunky legacy software into something much more dynamic, playing on the company’s push into cloud services and Office 365.

In September of 2017, Microsoft gave a developer preview of new “streaming functions” for Excel on Office 365, which lets developers, IT professionals and end users the ability to bring streams of data from a variety of sources such as websites, stock tickers and hardware directly into a cell or cells in an Excel spreadsheet, by way of a custom function. “Because Excel is so widely used and familiar to so many people, the ability to do all kinds of amazing things with that data and without complex integration is now possible,” said Ben Summers, a senior product manager for the Office 365 ecosystem team, in a statement to TechCrunch.

That ability to remove the bottleneck from web app building, combined with the track record of the founders, are two of the reasons that Accel decided to invest before the product even launched.

“We believe in dashdash’s mission to democratise app creation and are excited to back Humberto and Torben at such an early stage in their journey,” said Andrei Brasoveanu, the Accel principal who led the deal. “The team has the experience and vision to build a high-impact company that brings computing to the fingertips of a broad audience. Over the past decade we’ve seen a proliferation of web services and APIs, but regular business users still need to rely on central IT and colleagues with development skills to leverage these in their day-to-day processes. With dashdash anyone will be able to access these powerful web services directly with minimal effort, empowering them to automate their day to day tasks and work more effectively.”

With every tool that emerges that frees up accessibility to more people — be they employees or consumers — there are inevitably questions about how that power will be used. In the case of dashdash, my first thought is about those who I know who work in IT: they generally don’t want anyone able to modify or “fix” their code, lest it just creates more problems. And that’s before you start wondering about how all these democratised web apps will look, and if they might inadvertently will add to more overall UI and UX confusion.

Ayres Pereira said dashdash is mindful of the design question, and will introduce ways of helping to direct this, for example for companies to implement their own house styles. And similarly, a business can put in place other controls to help channel how web apps created through dashdash’s spreadsheet interface ultimately get applied.

May
15
2018
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MemSQL raises $30M Series D round for its real-time database

MemSQL, a company best known for the real-time capabilities of its eponymous in-memory database, today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series D round, bringing the company’s overall funding to $110 million. The round was led by GV (the firm you probably still refer to as Google Ventures) and Glynn Capital. Existing investors Accell, Caffeinated Capital, Data Collective and IA Ventures also participated.

The MemSQL database offers a distributed, relational database that uses standard SQL drivers and queries for transactions and analytics. Its defining feature is the combination of its data ingestions technology that allows users to push millions of events per day into the service while its users can query the records in real time. The company recently showed that its tools can deliver a scan rate of over a trillion rows per second on a cluster with 12 servers.

The database is available for deployments on the major public clouds and on-premises.

MemSQL recently announced that it saw its fourth-quarter commercial booking hit 200 percent year-over-year growth — and that’s typically the kind of growth that investors like to see, even as MemSQL plays in a very competitive market with plenty of incumbents, startups and even open-source projects. Current MemSQL users include the likes of Uber, Akamai, Pinterest, Dell EMC and Comcast.

“MemSQL has achieved strong enterprise traction by delivering a database that enables operational analysis at unique speed and scale, allowing customers to create dynamic, intelligent applications,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, in today’s announcement. “The company has demonstrated measurable success with its growing enterprise customer base and we’re excited to invest in the team as they continue to scale.”

May
15
2018
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Auth0 snags $55M Series D, seeks international expansion

Auth0, a startup based in Seattle, has been helping developers with a set of APIs to build authentication into their applications for the last five years. It’s raised a fair bit of money along the way to help extend that mission, and today the company announced a $55 million Series D.

This round was led by led by Sapphire Ventures with help from World Innovation Lab, and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, Meritech Capital and K9 Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $110 million. The company did not want to share its valuation.

CEO Eugenio Pace said the investment should help them expand further internationally. In fact, one of the investors, World Innovation Lab, is based in Japan and should help with their presence there. “Japan is an important market for us and they should help explain to us how the market works there,” he said.

The company offers an easy way for developers to build in authentication services into their applications, also known as Identification as a Service (IDaaS). It’s a lot like Stripe for payments or Twilio for messaging. Instead of building the authentication layer from scratch, they simply add a few lines of code and can take advantage of the services available on the Auth0 platform.

That platform includes a range of service such as single-sign on, two-factor identification, passwordless log-on and breached password detection.

They have a free tier, which doesn’t even require a credit card, and pay tiers based on the types of users — regular versus enterprise — along with the number of users. They also charge based on machine-to-machine authentication. Pace reports they have 3500 paying customers and tens of thousands of users on the free tier.

All of that has added up to a pretty decent business. While Pace would not share specific numbers, he did indicate the company doubled its revenue last year and expected to do so again this year.

With a cadence of getting funding every year for the last three years, Pace says this round may mark the end of that fundraising cycle for a time. He wasn’t ready to commit to the idea of an IPO, saying that is likely a couple of years away, but he says the company is close to profitability.

With the new influx of money, the company does plan to expand its workforce as moves into markets across the world . They currently have 300 employees, but within a year he expects to be between 400 and 450 worldwide.

The company’s last round was a $30 million Series C last June led by Meritech Capital Partners.

Apr
24
2018
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Etleap scores $1.5 million seed to transform how we ingest data

Etleap is a play on words for a common set of data practices: extract, transform and load. The startup is trying to place these activities in a modern context, automating what they can and in general speeding up what has been a tedious and highly technical practice. Today, they announced a $1.5 million seed round.

Investors include First Round Capital, SV Angel, Liquid2, BoxGroup and other unnamed investors. The startup launched five years ago as a Y Combinator company. It spent a good 2.5 years building out the product, says CEO and founder Christian Romming. They haven’t required additional funding until now because they have been working with actual customers. Those include Okta, PagerDuty and Mode, among others.

Romming started out at adtech startup VigLink and while there he encountered a problem that was hard to solve. “Our analysts and scientists were frustrated. Integration of the data sources wasn’t always a priority and when something broke, they couldn’t get it fixed until a developer looked at it.” That lack of control slowed things down and made it hard to keep the data warehouse up-to-date.

He saw an opportunity in solving that problem and started Etleap . While there were (and continue to be) legacy solutions like Informatica, Talend and Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services, he said when he studied these at a deeply technical level, he found they required a great deal of help to implement. He wanted to simplify ETL as much as possible, putting data integration into the hands of much less technical end users, rather than relying on IT and consultants.

One of the problems with traditional ETL is that the data analysts who make use of the data tend to get involved very late after the tools have already been chosen, and Romming says his company wants to change that. “They get to consume whatever IT has created for them. You end up with a bread line where analysts are at the mercy of IT to get their jobs done. That’s one of the things we are trying to solve. We don’t think there should be any engineering at all to set up an ETL pipeline,” he said.

Etleap is delivered as managed SaaS or you can run it within your company’s AWS accounts. Regardless of the method, it handles all of the managing, monitoring and operations for the customer.

Romming emphasizes that the product is really built for cloud data warehouses. For now, they are concentrating on the AWS ecosystem, but have plans to expand beyond that down the road. “We want to help more enterprise companies make better use of their data, while modernizing data warehousing infrastructure and making use of cloud data warehouses,” he explained.

The company currently has 15 employees, but Romming plans to at least double that in the next 12-18 months, mostly increasing the engineering team to help further build out the product and create more connectors.

Apr
05
2018
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Suplari raises $10.3M Series A round to bring AI to procurement

Procurement isn’t the most exciting topic in the world, but for large businesses, it’s an area where inefficiencies can quickly affect the bottom line. Simply getting a complete view of all of the products and services that a company buys is a challenge in itself, though, which in turn makes it hard to find savings, ensure compliance with company policy or government regulations or detect potential fraud. Suplari wants to change this by bringing its AI systems to bear on this problem.

The company today announced that it has raised a $10.3 million Series A round led by Shasta Ventures. Existing investors Madrona Ventures and Amplify Partners also joined this round, as well as new investors Two Sigma Ventures and Workday Ventures.

Suplari uses advanced artificial intelligence on top of existing enterprise systems to proactively uncover the highest-value opportunities to pursue and empower the CFO or Chief Procurement Officer to unlock savings and profit that can be invested in growth, innovation, and their people,” said Suplari CEO and co-founder Nikesh Parekh in today’s announcement.

The company’s cloud-based service allows businesses to analyze all of their procurement data across platforms and formats. This data can include contracts, purchasing data, product usage information and data from corporate credit card accounts.

A number of Fortune 1000 customers have already signed up for the service and Supplari argues that it has helped its customers save software licensing fees by 33 percent and consolidate $200 million in professional service and temporary labor suppliers.

Apr
03
2018
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Stackery lands $5.5 million for serverless platform

When Stackery’s founders were still at New Relic in 2014, they recognized there was an opportunity to provide instrumentation for the emerging serverless tech market. They left the company after New Relic’s IPO and founded Stackery with the goal of providing a governance and management layer for serverless architecture.

The company had a couple of big announcements today starting with their $5.5 million round, which they are calling a “seed plus” — and a new tool for tracking serverless performance called the Health Metrics Dashboard.

Let’s start with the funding round. Why the Seed Plus designation? Company co-founder and CEO Nathan Taggart says they could have done an A round, but the designation was a reflection of the reality of where their potential market is today. “From our perspective, there was an appetite for an A, but the Seed Plus represents the current stage of the market,” he said. That stage is still emerging as companies begin to see the benefits of the serverless approach.

HWVP led the round. Voyager Capital, Pipeline Capital Partners, and Founders’ Co-op also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $7.3 million since the company was founded in 2016.

Serverless computing like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions is a bit of a misnomer. There is a server underlying the program, but instead of maintaining a dedicated server for your particular application, you only pay when there is a trigger event. Like cloud computing that came before, developers love it because it saves them a ton of time configuring (or begging) for resources for their applications.

But as with traditional cloud computing — serverless is actually a cloud service — developers can easily access it. If you think back to the Consumerization of IT phenomenon that began around 2011, it was this ability to procure cloud services so easily that resulted in a loss of control inside organizations.

As back then, companies want the advantages of serverless technology, but they also want to know how much they are paying, who’s using it and that it’s secure and in compliance with all the rules of the organization. That’s where Stackery comes in.

As for the new Health Metrics Dashboard, that’s an extension of this vision, one that fits in quite well with the monitoring roots of the founders. Serverless often involves containers, which can encompass many functions. When something goes wrong it’s hard to trace what the root cause was.

Stackery Health Metrics Dashboard. Photo: Stackery

“We are showing architecture-wide throughput and performance at each resource point and [developers] can figure out where there are bottlenecks, performance problems or failure.

The company launched in 2016. It is based in Portland, Oregon and currently has 9 employees, of which five are engineers. They plan to bring on three more by the end of the year.

Apr
03
2018
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SalesLoft soars with $50 M Series C

SalesLoft, an Atlanta-based startup that helps companies manage the contact phase of the sales process, announced a $50 million Series C today.

Insight Venture Partners was lead investor with participation from LinkedIn and Emergence Capital, which also participated in the company’s A and B rounds. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $75 million, so this was a significant capital infusion.

What attracted investors was that SalesLoft has concentrated on an area of the sales pipeline called ‘sales engagement.’ It provides a framework for sales people around how to contact potential customers, how often and with what language. It is significant enough that it caught the attention of Jeff Horing, co-founder and managing director at Insight Venture Partners, who was willing to write a big check.

He sees sales engagement an emerging and fast-growing area of the sales stack. “SalesLoft consistently helps customers increase their pipelines, but also strengthen their relationships with buyers — that’s a huge differentiator,” Horing said in a statement.

Kyle Porter, co-founder and CEO at SalesLoft says that what his company does is essentially create a contact workflow for the sales team. It provides a framework or blueprint, while applying a measurable structure to the process for management. Whether the sale is successful or not, there is an audit trail of all the interactions and what the software recommended for actions and what actions the sales person took.

That involves providing the sales team with the next best actions, which could be an email, a phone call or even a handwritten note.”The suggested email content and phone scripts come from experience with buyers. Here’s the right way to communicate,” Porter said. “At the end of the day, we are enabling our customers to deliver better sales experience,” he added.

The software can recommend the best person to email next with suggested text. Photo: SalesLoft

Machine learning will play an increasing role in building that workflow, as the system learns what types of interactions work best for certain types of customers, it will learn from that, and the system’s recommendations should improve over time.

It appears to be working. The company, which launched in 2011, currently has 230 employees and over 2000 customers including Square, Cisco, Alteryx, Dell and MuleSoft (which Salesforce bought last month for $6.5 billion.) The company reported that they have increased revenue over the last two years by 800 percent (yes, 800 percent).

Porter says this money sets them up to really scale the company with plans to reach 350 employees by the end of the year. In fact, they have more than 40 openings at the moment.

Mar
27
2018
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MariaDB acquires big analytics company MammothDB

MariaDB is best known as a drop-in replacement for the popular MySQL database. But the MariaDB Corporation, which was founded by MySQL founder Monty Widenius and which offers all of its software under an open source license, clearly has its sights set on a bigger market and is looking to expand and better challenge the likes of Oracle, the company today announced that it has acquired MammothDB, a big data business analytics service based in Bulgaria.

With MariaDB AX, MariaDB already offers an analytics and data warehousing system. The service launched in 2017 and, unsurprisingly, the company plans to bring the MammothDB’s expertise in this area to bear on MariaDB AX.

“The MammothDB team joins MariaDB at a critical point in our growth, bringing with them an impressive track record of delivering big data solutions,” said MariaDB CEO Michael Howard. “Over the past year, we’ve seen a major increase in demand for MariaDB AX as organizations seek to fill an open source analytics gap left by proprietary offerings such as Oracle and Teradata. The addition of MammothDB’s deep analytics expertise will be invaluable to helping MariaDB meet this growing need and continue to innovate our analytic products.”

The companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. MammothDB raised a $1.8 million seed round led by 3TS Capital Partners and Empower Capital in 2015 but it doesn’t look like the company ever raised any additional funding. MariaDB, on the other hand, closed a $54 million Series C round led by Alibaba Group and the European Investment Bank in late 2017, which was surely a factor in being able to make today’s acquisition.

Mar
27
2018
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Kloudless raises $6M for its integrations solution

Kloudless makes it easier for developers to connect their applications to a variety of third-party tools for file storage, customer management, calendaring and other services through a unified API. It’s a bit like an IFTTT for developers. Today, the company announced that it has raised a $6 million Series A round led by Aspect Ventures, with participation by Bow Capital, Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund, Heavybit, and Ajay Shah. These new investors join existing investors David Sacks and Tim Draper.

The company says that it saw a 200 percent revenue growth over the course of the last year and that its platform now has over 15,000 registered developers who are making more than 15 million API calls every day. Kloudless’s monetization plan mostly focuses on providing developers with different degrees of service, SLAs and features like single-sign on support and rules. Interestingly, the company doesn’t charge based on API calls and offers a generous 50GB of free transfer volume, even for free accounts, with additional transfer charges costing $20 per 100GB.

“Our mission at Kloudless is to tie together the business software stack,” said Eliot Sun, CEO and co-founder of Kloudless. “While we’re starting with a solution for software vendors, this is just a small piece of an enormous opportunity to help all businesses make the most of the data and functionalities from their software investments.”

The company plans to use the new funding to expand its connector ecosystem to support a wider variety of third-party services and to launch new tools to enable automation and custom integration capabilities.

“In the past year, Kloudless has seen accelerating traction across all key developer metrics, as developers have increasingly realized the efficiencies of a ‘build once, integrate many’ approach to meeting customer demand for integrations,” said Mark Kraynak of Aspect Ventures, who will be joining the board as a part of the financing. “We’re excited to support Kloudless and their efforts to capture what figures to be a multi-billion opportunity in connecting businesses to the cloud.”

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