Jun
10
2019
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Salesforce is officially making Seattle its second HQ after its Tableau acquisition

Here’s an interesting by-product of the news today that Salesforce would be acquiring Tableau for $15.7 billion: the company is going to make Seattle, Wash. (home of Tableau) the official second headquarters of San Francisco-based Salesforce, putting the company directly in the face of tech giants and Salesforce frenemies Microsoft and Amazon.

“An HQ2, if you will,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff quipped right after he dropped the news during the press and analyst call.

HQ2, of course, is a reference to Amazon and its year-long, massively publicised, often criticised and ultimately botched search (it eventually cancelled plans to build an HQ in NYC, but kept Arlington) for its own second headquarters, which it also branded “HQ2.”

If real estate sends a message — and if you’ve ever seen Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, you know it does for this company — Salesforce is sending one here. And that message is: Hello, Microsoft and Amazon, we’re coming at you.

As we pointed out earlier today, there is a clear rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce that first began to simmer in the area of CRM but has over time expanded to a wider array of products and services that cater to the needs of enterprise knowledge workers.

The most well-known of these was the tug-of-war between the two to acquire LinkedIn, a struggle that Microsoft ultimately won. Over the years, as both have continued to diversify their products to bring in a wider swathe of enterprise users, and across a wider range of use cases, that competition has become a little more pointed. (Indeed, here’s some perfect timing: just today, Microsoft expanded its business analytics tools.)

I’d argue that the competitive threat of Amazon is a little more remote. At the moment, in fact, the two work very closely: specifically in September last year, Amazon and Salesforce extended an already years-long deal to integrate AWS and Salesforce products to aid in enterprise “digital transformation” (one of Salesforce’s catch phrases).

Placing Salesforce physically closer to Amazon could even underscore how the two might work closer together in the future — not least because cloud storage is now a notably missing jewel in Salesforce’s enterprise IT crown as it squares up to Microsoft, which has Azure. (And it’s not just a Seattle thing. Google, which has Google Cloud Platform, acquired Tableau competitor Looker last week.)

On the other hand, you have to wonder about the longer-term trajectory for Salesforce and its ambitions. The Tableau deal takes it firmly into a new area of business that up to now has been more of a side-gig: data and analytics. Coming from two different directions — infrastructure for AWS and customer management for Salesforce — enterprise data has been a remote battleground for both companies for years already, and it will be interesting to see how the two sides approach it.

Notably, this is not Salesforce’s first efforts to lay down roots in the city. It established an engineering office in the city in 2017 and, as Benioff pointed out today, putting deeper roots into what he described as a “unique market with tremendous talent” will open up the company to tapping it even more.

Jun
10
2019
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Salesforce is buying data visualization company Tableau for $15.7B in all-stock deal

On the heels of Google buying analytics startup Looker last week for $2.6 billion, Salesforce today announced a huge piece of news in a bid to step up its own work in data visualization and (more generally) tools to help enterprises make sense of the sea of data that they use and amass: Salesforce is buying Tableau for $15.7 billion in an all-stock deal.

The latter is publicly traded and this deal will involve shares of Tableau Class A and Class B common stock getting exchanged for 1.103 shares of Salesforce common stock, the company said, and so the $15.7 billion figure is the enterprise value of the transaction, based on the average price of Salesforce’s shares as of June 7, 2019.

This is a huge jump on Tableau’s last market cap: it was valued at $10.79 billion at close of trading Friday, according to figures on Google Finance. (Also: trading has halted on its stock in light of this news.)

The two boards have already approved the deal, Salesforce notes. The two companies’ management teams will be hosting a conference call at 8am Eastern and I’ll listen in to that as well to get more details.

This is a huge deal for Salesforce as it continues to diversify beyond CRM software and into deeper layers of analytics.

The company reportedly worked hard to — but ultimately missed out on — buying LinkedIn (which Microsoft picked up instead), and while there isn’t a whole lot in common between LinkedIn and Tableau, this deal will also help Salesforce extend its engagement (and data intelligence) for the customers that Salesforce already has — something that LinkedIn would have also helped it to do.

This also looks like a move designed to help bulk up against Google’s move to buy Looker, announced last week, although I’d argue that analytics is a big enough area that all major tech companies that are courting enterprises are getting their ducks in a row in terms of squaring up to stronger strategies (and products) in this area. It’s unclear whether (and if) the two deals were made in response to each other, although it seems that Salesforce has been eyeing up Tableau for years.

“We are bringing together the world’s #1 CRM with the #1 analytics platform. Tableau helps people see and understand data, and Salesforce helps people engage and understand customers. It’s truly the best of both worlds for our customers–bringing together two critical platforms that every customer needs to understand their world,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and co-CEO, Salesforce, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to welcome Adam and his team to Salesforce.”

Tableau has about 86,000 business customers, including Charles Schwab, Verizon (which owns TC), Schneider Electric, Southwest and Netflix. Salesforce said Tableau will operate independently and under its own brand post-acquisition. It will also remain headquartered in Seattle, Wash., headed by CEO Adam Selipsky along with others on the current leadership team.

Indeed, later during the call, Benioff let it drop that Seattle would become Salesforce’s official second headquarters with the closing of this deal.

That’s not to say, though, that the two will not be working together.

On the contrary, Salesforce is already talking up the possibilities of expanding what the company is already doing with its Einstein platform (launched back in 2016, Einstein is the home of all of Salesforce’s AI-based initiatives); and with “Customer 360,” which is the company’s product and take on omnichannel sales and marketing. The latter is an obvious and complementary product home, given that one huge aspect of Tableau’s service is to provide “big picture” insights.

“Joining forces with Salesforce will enhance our ability to help people everywhere see and understand data,” said Selipsky. “As part of the world’s #1 CRM company, Tableau’s intuitive and powerful analytics will enable millions more people to discover actionable insights across their entire organizations. I’m delighted that our companies share very similar cultures and a relentless focus on customer success. I look forward to working together in support of our customers and communities.”

“Salesforce’s incredible success has always been based on anticipating the needs of our customers and providing them the solutions they need to grow their businesses,” said Keith Block, co-CEO, Salesforce. “Data is the foundation of every digital transformation, and the addition of Tableau will accelerate our ability to deliver customer success by enabling a truly unified and powerful view across all of a customer’s data.”

May
14
2019
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Algorithmia raises $25M Series B for its AI automation platform

Algorithmia, a Seattle-based startup that offers a cloud-agnostic AI automation platform for enterprises, today announced a $25 million Series B funding round led by Norwest Partners. Madrona, Gradient Ventures, Work-Bench, Osage University Partners and Rakuten Ventures also participated in this round.

While the company started out five years ago as a marketplace for algorithms, it now mostly focuses on machine learning and helping enterprises take their models into production.

“It’s actually really hard to productionize machine learning models,” Algorithmia CEO Diego Oppenheimer told me. “It’s hard to help data scientists to not deal with data infrastructure but really being able to build out their machine learning and AI muscle.”

To help them, Algorithmia essentially built out a machine learning DevOps platform that allows data scientists to train their models on the platform and with the framework of their choice, bring it to Algorithmia — a platform that has already been blessed by their IT departments — and take it into production.

“Every Fortune 500 CIO has an AI initiative but they are bogged down by the difficulty of managing and deploying ML models,” said Rama Sekhar, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, who has now joined the company’s board. “Algorithmia is the clear leader in building the tools to manage the complete machine learning life cycle and helping customers unlock value from their R&D investments.”

With the new funding, the company will double down on this focus by investing in product development to solve these issues, but also by building out its team, with a plan to double its headcount over the next year. A year from now, Oppenheimer told me, he hopes that Algorithmia will be a household name for data scientists and, maybe more importantly, their platform of choice for putting their models into production.

“How does Algorithmia succeed? Algorithmia succeeds when our customers are able to deploy AI and ML applications,” Oppenheimer said. “And although there is a ton of excitement around doing this, the fact is that it’s really difficult for companies to do so.”

The company previously raised a $10.5 million Series A round led by Google’s AI fund. It’s customers now include the United Nations, a number of U.S. intelligence agencies and Fortune 500 companies. In total, more than 90,000 engineers and data scientists are now on the platform.

May
13
2019
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Market map: the 200+ innovative startups transforming affordable housing

In this section of my exploration into innovation in inclusive housing, I am digging into the 200+ companies impacting the key phases of developing and managing housing.

Innovations have reduced costs in the most expensive phases of the housing development and management process. I explore innovations in each of these phases, including construction, land, regulatory, financing, and operational costs.

Reducing Construction Costs

This is one of the top three challenges developers face, exacerbated by rising building material costs and labor shortages.

Dec
11
2018
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The Cloud Native Computing Foundation adds etcd to its open-source stable

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the open-source home of projects like Kubernetes and Vitess, today announced that its technical committee has voted to bring a new project on board. That project is etcd, the distributed key-value store that was first developed by CoreOS (now owned by Red Hat, which in turn will soon be owned by IBM). Red Hat has now contributed this project to the CNCF.

Etcd, which is written in Go, is already a major component of many Kubernetes deployments, where it functions as a source of truth for coordinating clusters and managing the state of the system. Other open-source projects that use etcd include Cloud Foundry, and companies that use it in production include Alibaba, ING, Pinterest, Uber, The New York Times and Nordstrom.

“Kubernetes and many other projects like Cloud Foundry depend on etcd for reliable data storage. We’re excited to have etcd join CNCF as an incubation project and look forward to cultivating its community by improving its technical documentation, governance and more,” said Chris Aniszczyk, COO of CNCF, in today’s announcement. “Etcd is a fantastic addition to our community of projects.”

Today, etcd has well over 450 contributors and nine maintainers from eight different companies. The fact that it ended up at the CNCF is only logical, given that the foundation is also the host of Kubernetes. With this, the CNCF now plays host to 17 projects that fall under its “incubated technologies” umbrella. In addition to etcd, these include OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, gRPC, CoreDNS, containerd, rkt, CNI, Jaeger, Notary, TUF, Vitess, NATS Helm, Rook and Harbor. Kubernetes, Prometheus and Envoy have already graduated from this incubation stage.

That’s a lot of projects for one foundation to manage, but the CNCF community is also extraordinarily large. This week alone about 8,000 developers are converging on Seattle for KubeCon/CloudNativeCon, the organization’s biggest event yet, to talk all things containers. It surely helps that the CNCF has managed to bring competitors like AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle under a single roof to collaboratively work on building these new technologies. There is a risk of losing focus here, though, something that happened to the OpenStack project when it went through a similar growth and hype phase. It’ll be interesting to see how the CNCF will manage this as it brings on more projects (with Istio, the increasingly popular service mesh, being a likely candidate for coming over to the CNCF as well).

Oct
22
2018
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Pulumi raises $15M for its infrastructure as code platform

Pulumi, a Seattle-based startup that lets developers specify and manage their cloud infrastructure using the programming language they already know, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Madrona Venture Group. Tola Capital also participated in this round and Tola managing director Sheila Gulati will get a seat on the Pulumi board, where she’ll join former Microsoft exec and Madrona managing director S. Somasegar.

In addition to announcing its raise, the company also today launched its commercial platform, which builds upon Pulumi’s open-source work.

“Since launch, we’ve had a lot of inbound interest, both on the community side — so you’re seeing a lot of open source contributions, and they’re really impactful contributions, including, for example, community-led support for VMware and OpenStack,” Pulumi co-founder and CEO Eric Rudder told me. “So we’re actually seeing a lot of vibrancy in the open-source community. And at the same time, we have a lot of inbound interest on the commercial side of things. That is, teams wanting to operationalize Pulumi and put it into production and wanting to purchase the product.”

So to meet that opportunity, the team decided to raise a new round to scale out both its team and product. And now, that product includes a commercial offering of Pulumi with the company’s new ‘team edition.’ This new enterprise version includes support for unlimited users, integrations with third-party tools like GitHub and Slack, as well as role-based access controls and onboarding and 12×5 support. Like the free, single-user community edition, the team edition is delivered as a SaaS product and supports deployments to all of the major public and private cloud platforms.

“We’re all seeing the same things — the cloud is a foregone conclusion,” Tola’s Gulati told me when I asked her why she was investing in Pulumi. “Enterprises have a lot of complexity as they come over the cloud. And so dealing with VMs, containers and serverless is a reality for these enterprises. And the ability to do that in a way that there’s a single toolset, letting developers use real programming languages, letting them exist where they have skills today, but then allows them to bring the best of cloud into their organization. Frankly, Pulumi really has thought through the existing complexity, the developer reality, the IT and develop a relationship from both a runtime and deployment perspective. And they are the best that we’ve seen.”

Pulumi will, of course, continue to develop its open source tools, too. Indeed, the company noted that it would invest heavily in building out the community around its tools. The team told me that it is already seeing a lot of momentum but with the new funding, it’ll re-double its efforts.

With the new funding, the company will also work on making the onboarding process much easier, up to the point where it will become a full self-serve experience. But that doesn’t work for most large organizations, so Pulumi will also invest heavily in its pre- and post-sales organization. Right now, like most companies at this stage, the team is mostly composed of engineers.

Jul
13
2017
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BloomAPI locks down $2.4M to fix medical record releases

 Seattle-based BloomAPI is announcing a $2.4 million seed round this morning for its solution to the broken medical records release process. It’s no secret that the entire U.S. healthcare system is held back by antiquated technology — but unlike many competitors, BloomAPI offers a solution that works with, and not against, the old-school technologies. Read More

Apr
28
2017
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Tencent to open AI research center in Seattle

 Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent will be opening a new AI research center in Seattle, according to The Information. The company has long had a core office in Palo Alto, but this will be its first major machine intelligence R&D effort in the country. Earlier this week Tencent announced that it would open its first data center in Silicon Valley. Read More

Aug
11
2016
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Zenoti raises $15 million for spa bookings

Mobile-POS Zenoti The spa industry is in need of a technology makeover and Zenoti thinks it can help. The Seattle-based startup is raising $15 million in a round led by Norwest Venture Partners to help salons run their businesses. A cloud-based management platform, Zenoti helps spa chains with everything from billing to inventory management. They aim to create a tailored enterprise software experience for what… Read More

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