Oct
17
2019
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Pendo scores $100M Series E investment on $1 billion valuation

Pendo, the late-stage startup that helps companies understand how customers are interacting with their apps, announced a $100 million Series E investment today on a valuation of $1 billion.

The round was led by Sapphire Ventures . Also participating were new investors General Atlantic and Tiger Global, and existing investors Battery Ventures, Meritech Capital, FirstMark, Geodesic Capital and Cross Creek. Pendo has now raised $206 million, according to the company.

Company CEO and co-founder Todd Olson says that one of the reasons they need so much money is they are defining a market, and the potential is quite large. “Honestly, we need to help realize the total market opportunity. I think what’s exciting about what we’ve seen in six years is that this problem of improving digital experiences is something that’s becoming top of mind for all businesses,” Olson said.

The company integrates with customer apps, capturing user behavior and feeding data back to product teams to help prioritize features and improve the user experience. In addition, the product provides ways to help those users either by walking them through different features, pointing out updates and new features or providing other notes. Developers can also ask for feedback to get direct input from users.

Olson says early on its customers were mostly other technology companies, but over time they have expanded into lots of other verticals, including insurance, financial services and retail, and these companies are seeing digital experience as increasingly important. “A lot of this money is going to help grow our go-to-market teams and our product teams to make sure we’re getting our message out there, and we’re helping companies deal with this transformation,” he says. Today, the company has more than 1,200 customers.

While he wouldn’t commit to going public, he did say it’s something the executive team certainly thinks about, and it has started to put the structure in place to prepare should that time ever come. “This is certainly an option that we are considering, and we’re looking at ways in which to put us in a position to be able to do so, if and when the markets are good and we decide that’s the course we want to take.”

Oct
16
2019
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Edge computing startup Pensando comes out of stealth mode with a total of $278 million in funding

Pensando, an edge computing startup founded by former Cisco engineers, came out of stealth mode today with an announcement that it has raised a $145 million Series C. The company’s software and hardware technology, created to give data centers more of the flexibility of cloud computing servers, is being positioned as a competitor to Amazon Web Services Nitro.

The round was led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners and brings Pensando’s total raised so far to $278 million. HPE chief technology officer Mark Potter and Lightspeed Venture partner Barry Eggers will join Pensando’s board of directors. The company’s chairman is former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who is also one of Pensando’s investors through JC2 Ventures.

Pensando was founded in 2017 by Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani, a team of engineers who spearheaded the development of several of Cisco’s key technologies, and founded four startups that were acquired by Cisco, including Insieme Networks. (In an interview with Reuters, Pensando chief financial officer Randy Pond, a former Cisco executive vice president, said it isn’t clear if Cisco is interested in acquiring the startup, adding “our aspirations at this point would be to IPO. But, you know, there’s always other possibilities for monetization events.”)

The startup claims its edge computing platform performs five to nine times better than AWS Nitro, in terms of productivity and scale. Pensando prepares data center infrastructure for edge computing, better equipping them to handle data from 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications. While in stealth mode, Pensando acquired customers including HPE, Goldman Sachs, NetApp and Equinix.

In a press statement, Potter said “Today’s rapidly transforming, hyper-connected world requires enterprises to operate with even greater flexibility and choices than ever before. HPE’s expanding relationship with Pensando Systems stems from our shared understanding of enterprises and the cloud. We are proud to announce our investment and solution partnership with Pensando and will continue to drive solutions that anticipate our customers’ needs together.”

Oct
16
2019
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&Open helps businesses distribute gifts to reward customer loyalty

&Open is a startup with an unusual name, and one that fills an unusual niche in the business world. It has built a gift-giving platform, so that businesses can reward loyalty with a small token of appreciation. The gift depends on the business and the circumstances, but it could be something like a book or a tea towel and a recipe.

Co-founder and CEO Jonathan Legge says the Dublin-based startup fits most easily in the corporate gift-giving category, but he sees the company handling much more than that. “We are more about gifting for loyalty and customer retention. We grew out of a B2C operation in which we got visibility on this market, and then quickly evolved &Open to fulfill this market,” Legge explained.

In fact, the company developed out of a business Legge had prior to launching &Open, producing high-end gifts. As part of that business, he was finding that he would get requests from CMOs of big companies like Google, Airbnb and Jameson’s to develop gifts for their events. From that, Legge saw the potential for a full-fledged business based on that idea and he launched &Open.

He sees a world in which transactions increasingly take place in the digital realm, yet consumers still crave physical interactions with businesses beyond an email or a text thanking them. That’s where &Open can help.

“We’re filling the space of helping businesses connect with their customers and showing they care, and not by kind of devaluing their own product and putting on sales. It’s more working with the customer support team, the loyalty team or the marketing team to watch the life cycle of the customer and make sure they’re being gifted at key moments in the life cycle and within their journey with a brand,” he said.

He says this definitely is not swag like you would get a conference, but something more personal that shows the brand cares about the customer. Nor is it a set of generic gifts that every &Open customer can select from. Instead it’s a catalog it creates with each one to reflect that brand’s values.

&Open welcome screen

Image: &Open

“We will design a catalog of gifts for our clients, and then they will be grouped into subsets of situations based on price. For Airbnb, the gift set could depend on whether it’s for a host or guest, and there’s different gifts within those situations. So for a host, it will be more stuff for the home such as a recipe book, a tea towel with a recipe or a guest book,” Legge said.

The company has been around since 2017 and is already in 52 countries. To make this all work, it has developed a three-part system. In addition to building a custom catalog for each brand, it has a logistics component to distribute the gift and make sure it has been delivered, and finally a technology platform that brings these different systems together.

The way it works for most customers is that the customer service team or the social media team will see situations where they think a gift is warranted, and they will log into the &Open system and choose a gift based on whatever the circumstances are — such as an apology for bad service or a reward for loyalty.

Today, the company has 25 employees, most of whom are in Dublin. The company is self-funded so far and has not sought outside investment.

Oct
16
2019
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Autify raises $2.5M seed round for its no-code software testing platform

Autify, a platform that makes testing web application as easy as clicking a few buttons, has raised a $2.5 million seed round from Global Brain, Salesforce Ventures, Archetype Ventures and several angels. The company, which recently graduated from the Alchemist accelerator program for enterprise startups, splits its base between the U.S., where it keeps an office, and Japan, where co-founders Ryo Chikazawa (CEO) and Sam Yamashita got their start as software engineers.

The main idea here is that Autify, which was founded in 2016, allows teams to write tests by simply recording their interactions with the app with the help of a Chrome extension, then having Autify run these tests automatically on a variety of other browsers and mobile devices. Typically, these kinds of tests are very brittle and quickly start to fail whenever a developer makes changes to the design of the application.

Autify gets around this by using some machine learning smarts that give it the ability to know that a given button or form is still the same, no matter where it is on the page. Users can currently test their applications using IE, Edge, Chrome and Firefox on macOS and Windows, as well as a range of iOS and Android devices.

Scenario Editor

Chikazawa tells me that the main idea of Autify is based on his own experience as a developer. He also noted that many enterprises are struggling to hire automation engineers who can write tests for them, using Selenium and similar frameworks. With Autify, any developer (and even non-developer) can create a test without having to know the specifics of the underlying testing framework. “You don’t really need technical knowledge,” explained Chikazawa. “You can just out of the box use Autify.”

There are obviously some other startups that are also tackling this space, including SpotQA, for example. Chikazawa, however, argues that Autify is different, given its focus on enterprises. “The audience is really different. We have competitors that are targeting engineers, but because we are saying that no coding [is required], we are selling to the companies that have been struggling with hiring automating engineers,” he told me. He also stressed that Autify is able to do cross-browser testing, something that’s also not a given among its competitors.

The company introduced its closed beta version in March and is currently testing the service with about a hundred companies. It integrates with development platforms like TestRail, Jenkins and CircleCI, as well as Slack.

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Oct
16
2019
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Canva, now valued at $3.2 billion, launches an enterprise product

Canva, the Australian-based design tool maker, has today announced that it has raised an additional $85 million to bring its valuation to $3.2 billion, up from $2.5 billion in May.

Investors in the company include Mary Meeker’s Bond, General Catalyst, Bessemer Venture Partners, Blackbird and Sequoia China.

Alongside the new funding and valuation, Canva is also making its foray into enterprise with the launch of Canva for Enterprise.

Thus far, Canva has offered users a lightweight tool set for creating marketing and sales decks, social media materials, and other design products mostly unrelated to product design. The idea here is that, outside of product designers, the rest of the organization is often left behind with regards to keeping brand parity in the materials they use.

Canva is available for free for individual users, but the company has addressed the growing need within professional organizations to keep brand parity through Canva Pro, a premium version of the product available for $12.95/month.

The company is now extending service to organizations with the launch of Canva for Enterprise. The new product will not only offer a brand kit (Canva’s parlance for Design System), but will also offer marketing and sales templates, locked approval-based workflows, and even hide Canva’s massive design library within the organization so employees only have access to their approved brand assets, fonts, colors, etc.

Canva for Enterprise also adds another layer of organization, allowing collaboration across comments, a dashboard to manage teams and assign roles, and team folders.

“We’re in a fortunate place because the market has been disaggregated,” said Canva CEO and founder Melanie Perkins. “The way we think about the pain point consumers have is that people are being inconsistent with the brand, and there are huge inefficiencies within the organization, which is why people have been literally asking us to build this exact product.”

More than 20 million users sign into Canva each month across 190 countries, with 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies using the product, according to the company.

Perkins says that the ultimate goal is to have every person in the world with access to the internet and a design need to be on the platform.

Oct
11
2019
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Descartes Labs snaps up $20M more for its AI-based geospatial imagery analytics platform

Satellite imagery holds a wealth of information that could be useful for industries, science and humanitarian causes, but one big and persistent challenge with it has been a lack of effective ways to tap that disparate data for specific ends.

That’s created a demand for better analytics, and now, one of the startups that has been building solutions to do just that is announcing a round of funding as it gears up for expansion. Descartes Labs, a geospatial imagery analytics startup out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is today announcing that it has closed a $20 million round of funding, money that CEO and founder Mark Johnson described to me as a bridge round ahead of the startup closing and announcing a larger growth round.

The funding is being led by Union Grove Venture Partners, with Ajax Strategies, Crosslink Capital, and March Capital Partners (which led its previous round) also participating. It brings the total raised by Descartes Labs to $60 million, and while Johnson said the startup would not be disclosing its valuation, PitchBook notes that it is $220 million ($200 million pre-money in this round).

As a point of comparison, another startup in the area of geospatial analytics, Orbital Insight, is reportedly now raising money at a $430 million valuation (that data is from January of this year, and we’ve contacted the company to see if it ever closed).

Santa Fe — a city popular with retirees that counts tourism as its biggest industry — is an unlikely place to find a tech startup. Descartes Labs’ presence there is a result of that fact that it is a spinoff from the Los Alamos National Laboratory near the city.

Johnson — who had lived in San Francisco before coming to Santa Fe to help create Descartes Labs (his previous experience building Zite for media, he said, led the Los Alamos scientists to first conceive of the Descartes Labs IP as the basis of a kind of search engine) — admitted that he never thought the company would stay headquartered there beyond a short initial phase of growth of six months.

However, it turned out that the trends around more distributed workforces (and cloud computing to enable that), engineers looking for employment alternatives to living in pricey San Francisco, plus the heated competition for talent you get in the Valley all came together in a perfect storm that helped Descartes Labs establish and thrive on its home turf.

Descartes Labs — named after the seminal philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes — describes itself as a “data refinery”. By this, it means it injests a lot of imagery and unstructured data related to the earth that is picked up primarily by satellites but also other sensors (Johnson notes that its sources include data from publicly available satellites; data from NASA and the European space agency, and data from the companies themselves); applies AI-based techniques including computer vision analysis and machine learning to make sense of the sometimes-grainy imagery; and distills and orders it to create insights into what is going on down below, and how that is likely to evolve.

Screenshot 2019 10 11 at 13.26.33

This includes not just what is happening on the surface of the earth, but also in the air above it: Descartes Labs has worked on projects to detect levels of methane gas in oil fields, the spread of wildfires, and how crops might grow in a particular area, and the impact of weather patterns on it all.

It has produced work for a range of clients that have included governments (the methane detection, pictured above, was commissioned as part of New Mexico’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), energy giants and industrial agribusiness, and traders.

“The idea is to help them take advantage of all the new data going online,” Johnson said, noting that this can help, for example, bankers forecast how much a commodity will trade for, or the effect of a change in soil composition on a crop.

The fact that Descartes Labs’ work has connected it with the energy industry gives an interesting twist to the use of the phrase “data refinery”. But in case you were wondering, Johnson said that the company goes through a process of vetting potential customers to determine if the data Descartes Labs provides to them is for a positive end, or not.

“We have a deep belief that we can help them become more efficient,” he said. “Those looking at earth data are doing so because they care about the planet and are working to try to become more sustainable.”

Johnson also said (in answer to my question about it) that so far, there haven’t been any instances where the startup has been prohibited to work with any customers or countries, but you could imagine how — in this day of data being ‘the new oil’ and the fulcrum of power — that could potentially be an issue. (Related to this: Orbital Insight counts In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, as one of its backers.)

Looking ahead, the company is building what it describes as a “digital twin” of the earth, the idea being that in doing so it can better model the imagery that it injests and link up data from different regions more seamlessly (since, after all, a climatic event in one part of the world inevitably impacts another). Notably, “digital twinning” is a common concept that we see applied in other AI-based enterprises to better predict activity: this is the approach that, for example, Forward Networks takes when building models of an enterprise’s network to determine how apps will behave and identify the reasons behind an outage.

In addition to the funding round, Descartes Labs named Phil Fraher its new CFO, and is announcing Veery Maxwell, Director for Energy Innovation and Patrick Cairns, who co-founded UGVP, as new board observers.

Oct
10
2019
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Top VCs, founders share how to build a successful SaaS company

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, we hosted a panel on the Extra Crunch stage on “How to build a billion-dollar SaaS company.” A better title probably would have been “How to build a successful SaaS company.”

We spoke to Whitney Bouck, COO at HelloSign; Jyoti Bansal, CEO and founder at Harness, and Neeraj Agrawal, a partner at Battery Ventures to get their view on how to move through the various stages to build that successful SaaS company.

While there is no magic formula, we covered a lot of ground, including finding a product-market fit, generating early revenue, the importance of building a team, what to do when growth slows and finally, how to resolve the tension between growth and profitability.

Finding product-market fit

Neeraj Agrawal: When we’re talking to the market, what we’re really looking for is a repeatable pattern of use cases. So when we’re talking to prospects — the words they use, the pain point they use — are very similar from call to call to call? Once we see that pattern, we know we have product-market fit, and then we can replicate that.

Jyoti Bansal: Revenue is one measure of product-market fit. Are customers adopting it and getting value out of it and renewing? Until you start getting a first set of renewals and a first set of expansions and happy successful customers, you don’t really have product-market fit. So that’s the only way you can know if the product is really working or not.

Whitney Bouck: It isn’t just about revenue — the measures of success at all phases have to somewhat morph. You’ve got to be looking at usage, at adoption, value renewals, expansion, and of course, the corollary, churn, to give you good health indicators about how you’re doing with product-market fit.

Generating early revenue

Jyoti Bansal: As founders we’ve realized, getting from idea to early revenue is one of the hardest things to do. The first million in revenue is all about street fighting. Founders have to go out there and win business and do whatever it takes to get to revenue.

As your revenue grows, what you focus on as a company changes. Zero to $1 million, your goal is to find the product-market fit, do whatever it takes to get early customers. One million to $10 million, you start scaling it. Ten million to $75 million is all about sales, execution, and [at] $75 million plus, the story changes to how do you go into new markets and things like that.

Whitney Bouck: You really do have to get that poll from the market to be able to really start the momentum and growth. The freemium model is one of the ways that we start to engage people — getting visibility into the product, getting exposure to the product, really getting people thinking about, and frankly, spreading the word about how this product can provide value.

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Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

 

Oct
10
2019
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Clari snags $60M Series D on valuation of around $500M

Clari uses AI to help companies find key information like the customers most likely to convert, the state of orders in the sales process or the next big sources of revenue. As its revenue management system continues to flourish, the company announced a $60 million Series D investment today.

Sapphire Ventures led the round with help from newcomer Madrona Venture Group and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital Ventures and Tenaya Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $135 million, according to the company.

The valuation, which CEO and co-founder Andy Byrne pegged at around a half a billion, appears to be a hefty raise from what the company was likely valued at in 2018 after its $35 million Series C. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden wrote at the time:

For some context, Clari, according to Pitchbook, had a relatively modest post-money valuation of $83.5 million in its last round in 2014, so my guess is that it’s now comfortably into hundred-million territory, once you add in this latest $35 million.

Byrne says the company wasn’t even really looking for a new round, but when investors came knocking, he couldn’t refuse. “On the fundraise side, what’s really interesting is how this whole thing went down. We weren’t out looking, but we had a massive amount of interest from a lot of firms. We decided to engage, and we got it done in less than three weeks, which the board was kind of blown away by,” Byrne told TechCrunch.

What’s motivating these companies to invest is that Clari is helping to define this revenue operations category, and has attracted companies like Okta, Zoom and Qualtrics as customers. What they are providing is this AI-fueled way to see where the best sales opportunities are to drive revenue, and that’s what every company is looking for. At the same time, Byrne says that he’s moving companies away from a spreadsheet-driven record keeping system, enabling them to see all of the data in one place.

“Clari is allowing a rep to really understand where they should spend time, automating a lot of things for them to close deals faster, while giving managers new insights they’ve never had before to allow them to drive more revenue. And then we’re getting them out of ‘Excel hell.’ They’re no longer in these spreadsheets. They’re in Clari, and have more predictability in their forecasting,” he said.

Clari was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif. It has more than 300 customers and just passed the 200 employee mark, a number that should increase as the company uses this money to begin to accelerate growth and expand the product’s capabilities.

Oct
08
2019
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Forward Networks raises $35M to help enterprises map, track and predict their networks’ behavior

Security breaches and other activities that cause network surges and outages are all on the rise in the enterprise, and today, a startup called Forward Networks, which has built a clever way to help businesses monitor their network traffic to identify when things are going wrong, has raised a round of $35 million to continue expanding its business to meet that demand.

The money, a Series C, is being led by Goldman Sachs, which in this case is both a strategic and financial investor. David Erickson, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, said the investment bank started out as a customer, and Joshua Matheus, MD for technology at Goldman Sachs, was so pleased with the results that he recommended the bank also invest in the company. Others participating in this round include Andreessen Horowitz, Threshold Ventures (previously DFJ Venture) and A. Capital, the three investors that were behind Forward Networks’ previous round of $16 million in 2017.

Erickson, along with other co-founders Nikhil Handigol, Brandon Heller and Peyman Kazemian, were all Stanford PhDs, and the company’s technology is based around work they did there around mathematical modeling. Here, that concept is applied to a company’s network to create essentially a replica of a company’s network architecture, which is in turn used to simulate individual processes and apps running on the network to figure out how they interact and what would represent “normal” versus “abnormal” behavior, which in turn is applied in real time to monitor the network and predict what might happen on it. This is not a fixing platform per se, but in developer operations, there is a fundamental need and gap in the market for products that help engineers identify what is not working in order to know what to try to fix.

If you are familiar with Honeycomb.io — a DevOps platform for running apps to determine when and where bugs or conflicts might arise (which itself recently raised funding) — this seems to be taking a similar approach, but on a network scale.

Considered together, it seems that we’re starting to see a new wave of services and platforms designed to provide more granular and intelligent pictures of how apps and networks behave in our modern technology landscapes.

Erickson tells me that today, the vast majority of Forward Networks’ customers are using the product to monitor on-premises rather than cloud architectures.

“We launched a public cloud product for AWS towards the end of last year, which today is in use by customers, but the dominant use case for us is on-prem,” Erickson said, who said that while the media (ahem) loves to talk about cloud, in many cases large enterprises have actually been slower to migrate processes in cases where legacy services still work well, and they still harbour distrust of public cloud security and reliability. “We see growth towards the cloud but it’s baby steps.”

The company has been growing steadily; today its network monitoring covers some 75,000 devices. In that context, Goldman Sachs is a significant client, with some 15,000 devices in its network alone.

Looking ahead, Erickson said that the funding would be used in part for R&D and in part to continue its business development. There are a number of other solutions and services out there that have identified the opportunity of providing better network management as a route to identifying security threats and other risks, so that also presents an opportunity for M&A for Forward, although Erickson declined to comment further on that.

“We continue to see the value that Forward Networks’ platform brings to large enterprises running complex networks,” said Bill Krause, board partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “They have solved a critical business problem, which presents a real growth opportunity.”

Oct
04
2019
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Annual Extra Crunch members can receive $1,000 in AWS credits

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Amazon Web Services for annual members of Extra Crunch. Starting today, qualified annual members can receive $1,000 in AWS credits. You also must be a startup founder to claim this Extra Crunch community perk.

AWS is the premier service for your application hosting needs, and we want to make sure our community is well-resourced to build. We understand that hosting and infrastructure costs can be a major hurdle for tech startups, and we’re hoping that this offer will help better support your team.

What’s included in the perk:

  • $1,000 in AWS Promotional Credit valid for 1 year
  • 2 months of AWS Business Support
  • 80 credits for self-paced labs

Applications are processed in 7-10 days, once an application is received. Companies may not be eligible for AWS Promotional Credits if they previously received a similar or greater amount of credit. Companies may be eligible to be “topped up” to a higher credit amount if they previously received a lower credit.

In addition to the AWS community perk, Extra Crunch members also get access to how-tos and guides on company building, intelligence on what’s happening in the startup ecosystem, stories about founders and exits, transcripts from panels at TechCrunch events, discounts on TechCrunch events, no banner ads on TechCrunch.com and more. To see a full list of the types of articles you get with Extra Crunch, head here.

You can sign up for annual Extra Crunch membership here.

Once you are signed up, you’ll receive a welcome email with a link to the AWS offer. If you are already an annual Extra Crunch member, you will receive an email with the offer at some point today. If you are currently a monthly Extra Crunch subscriber and want to upgrade to annual in order to claim this deal, head over to the “my account” section on TechCrunch.com and click the “upgrade” button.

This is one of several new community perks we’ve been working on for Extra Crunch members. Extra Crunch members also get 20% off all TechCrunch event tickets (email extracrunch@techcrunch.com with the event name to receive a discount code for event tickets). You can learn more about our events lineup here. You also can read about our Brex community perk here.

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