Apr
18
2019
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Microsoft delves deeper into IoT with Express Logic acquisition

Microsoft has never been shy about being acquisitive, and today it announced it’s buying Express Logic, a San Diego company that has developed a real-time operating system (RTOS) aimed at controlling the growing number of IoT devices in the world.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

Express Logic is not some wide-eyed, pie-in-the-sky startup. It has been around for 23 years, building (in its own words) “industrial-grade RTOS and middleware software solutions for embedded and IoT developers.” The company boasts some 6.2 billion (yes, billion) devices running its systems. That number did not escape Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft, but as he wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, there is a reason for this popularity.

“This widespread popularity is driven by demand for technology to support resource constrained environments, especially those that require safety and security,” George wrote.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, says that market share also gives Microsoft instant platform credibility. “This is a key acquisition for Microsoft: on the strategy side Microsoft is showing it is serious with investing heavily into IoT, and on the product side it’s a key step to get into the operating system code of the popular RTOS,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

The beauty of Express Logic’s approach is that it can work in low-power and low-resource environments and offers a proven solution for a range or products. “Manufacturers building products across a range of categories — from low-capacity sensors like lightbulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices and network appliances — leverage the size, safety and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market,” George wrote.

Writing in a blog post to his customers announcing the deal, Express Logic CEO William E. Lamie, expressed optimism that the company can grow even further as part of the Microsoft family. “Effective immediately, our ThreadX RTOS and supporting software technology, as well as our talented engineering staff join Microsoft. This complements Microsoft’s existing premier security offering in the microcontroller space,” he wrote.

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business. The acquisition is part of a $5 billion investment in IoT the company announced last April that includes a number of Azure pieces, such as Azure Sphere, Azure Digital Twins, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Maps and Azure IoT Central.

“With this acquisition, we will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure and enable new intelligent capabilities. Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS joins Microsoft’s growing support for IoT devices and is complementary with Azure Sphere, our premier security offering in the microcontroller space,” George wrote.

Apr
17
2019
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Spotinst, the startup enabling companies to purchase and manage excess cloud capacity, acquires StratCloud

Spotinst, the cloud automation and optimization startup founded in Tel Aviv but now with offices in San Francisco, New York and London, has acquired AWS partner StratCloud. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m hearing it combines both cash and stock and was somewhere in the region of $5 million.

As part of the acquisition, StratCloud’s team of 15 people will be joining Spotinst, including founder Patrick Gartlan, who will become VP, Cloud Services at Spotinst. StratCloud hadn’t raised any venture capital but instead was bootstrapped by Gartlan, who was the former CTO of cloud optimization company CloudCheckr.

Founded in 2015, Spotinst enables enterprises to optimize their cloud infrastructure usage by automating the process of using excess — and therefore cheaper — capacity from leading cloud providers.

As TechCrunch’s Ron Miller previously explained, cloud platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, all of which Spotinst supports, have to maintain more resources than they need at any given time. All three companies offer steep discounts to customers who want to access these resources, but they come with a strict condition that the platforms can take those resources back whenever they need them — which is where Spotinst (and today’s acquisition of StratCloud) comes in.

Spotinst’s platform manages the process of acquiring spare capacity, powered by predictive AI, and seamlessly switches providers before it’s withdrawn. This ensures that cloud computing “workloads” keep functioning, while the customer still receives the best possible price.

Meanwhile, StratCloud tech is described as an “optimization platform” that buys, sells and converts reserved capacity, therefore maximizing savings for on-demand infrastructure. “This leads to lower compute payments, without engineers having to change anything in the applications and infrastructure they manage,” explains Spotinst.

Related to this, Spotinst will migrate StratCloud’s several dozen customers to the Spotinst platform, where they’ll continue to receive all of the current functionality.

Overall, the acquisition means Spotinst can now offer a complete solution for cloud users, including offering reserved instances and unused computer power so that enterprises can run any workload and support large-scale migrations on any cloud provider. In addition, Spotinst says the combined technologies give Managed Service Providers (MSPs) a comprehensive tool to optimize cloud workloads for all of their managed customers.

Spotinst claims more than 1,500 enterprise customers in 52 countries, including Samsung, N26, Duolingo, Ticketmaster and Wix. The company currently employs approximately 150 staff across its four offices and has raised $52 million in VC funding to date.

Apr
17
2019
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Google Cloud brings on 27-year SAP veteran as it doubles down on enterprise adoption

Thomas Kurian, the newly minted CEO of Google Cloud, used the company’s Cloud Next conference last week to lay out his vision for the future of Google’s cloud computing platform. That vision involves, in part, a hiring spree to give businesses that want to work with Google more people to talk to and get help from. Unsurprisingly, Kurian is also looking to put his stamp on the executive team, too, and today announced that former SAP executive Robert Enslin is joining Google Cloud as its new president of Global Customer Operations.

Enslin’s hire is another clear signal that Kurian is focused on enterprise customers. Enslin, after all, is a veteran of the enterprise business, with 27 years at SAP, where he served on the company’s executive board until he announced his resignation from the company earlier this month. After leading various parts of SAP, including as president of its cloud product portfolio, president of SAP North America and CEO of SAP Japan, Enslin announced that he had “a few more aspirations to fulfill.” Those aspirations, we now know, include helping Google Cloud expand its lineup of enterprise customers.

“Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States—this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world,” Kurian writes in today’s announcement.

For the last two years, Google Cloud already had a president of Global Customer Operations, though, in the form of Paul-Henri Ferrand, a former Dell exec who was brought on by Google Cloud’s former CEO Diane Greene . Kurian says that Ferrand “has decided to take on a new challenge within Google.”

Apr
17
2019
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The Exit: an AI startup’s McPivot

Five years ago, Dynamic Yield was courting an investment from The New York Times as it looked to shift how publishers paywalled their content. Last month, Chicago-based fast food king McDonald’s bought the Israeli company for $300 million, a source told TechCrunch, with the purpose of rethinking how people order drive-thru chicken nuggets.

The pivot from courting the grey lady to the golden arches isn’t as drastic as it sounds. In a lot of ways, it’s the result of the company learning to say “no” to certain customers. At least, that’s what Bessemer’s Adam Fisher tells us.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. 

Fisher

Fisher was Dynamic Yield founder Liad Agmon’s first call when he started looking for funds from institutional investors. Bessemer bankrolled the bulk of a $1.7 million funding round which valued the startup at $5 million pre-money back in 2013. The firm ended up putting about $15 million into Dynamic Yield, which raised ~$85 million in total from backers including Marker Capital, Union Tech Ventures, Baidu and The New York Times.

Fisher and I chatted at length about the company’s challenging rise and how Israel’s tech scene is still being underestimated. Fisher has 11 years at Bessemer under his belt and 14 exits including Wix, Intucell, Ravello and Leaba.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Saying “No”

Lucas Matney: So, right off the bat, how exactly did this tool initially built for publishers end up becoming something that McDonalds wanted?

Adam Fisher: I mean, the story of Dynamic Yield is unique. Liad, the founder and CEO, he was an entrepreneur in residence in our Herzliya office back in 2011. I’d identified him earlier from his previous company, and I just said, ‘Well, that’s the kind of guy I’d love to work with.’ I didn’t like his previous company, but there was something about his charisma, his technology background, his youth, which I just felt like “Wow, he’s going to do something interesting.” And so when he sold his previous company, coincidentally to another Chicago based company called Sears, I invited him and I think he found it very flattering, so he joined us as an EIR.

And really only at the very end of his residence did he come up with this idea that would become Dynamic Yield. He came about it very much focused on the problem he saw with publishers being outwitted by ad buyers. He felt like all the big publishers really didn’t understand their digital businesses, didn’t understand their users, didn’t understand how performance ad buying was working, and he began to build a product that could dynamically optimize a publisher’s website to maximize revenue, hence the yield … the dynamic yield.

But very quickly, we told him, ‘That’s interesting, but we’re not sure how big that market is. And, you know it’s not always great to sell to those kind of weak customers. Sometimes they’re weak for a reason.’

Apr
17
2019
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Airbase launches with $7M Series A to simplify spending control systems

Airbase is a startup with a plan to change the way you think about accounting around spending. Instead of multiple workflows, it wants to create a simpler one involving, well, Airbase. It’s a bold move for any startup to take on something as entrenched as financials, but it’s giving it a shot, and today the company launched with a $7 million Series A investment.

First Round Capital was lead investor. Maynard Webb, Village Global, BoxGroup and Quiet Capital also participated. The deal closed at the end of November last year. This is the first external funding for the company, which company founder and CEO Thejo Kote had bootstrapped previously with $300,000 of his own money.

“At a high level, Airbase is the first all-in-one spend management system. It replaces a number of different systems that companies use to manage how they spend money,” Kote told TechCrunch.

He knows of what he speaks. Prior to starting this company, Kote co-founded Automatic, a startup that he sold to SiriusXM for more than $100 million in 2017. As a founder, he saw just how difficult it was to track the vast variety of spending inside a company, from supplies to subscriptions to food and drink.

“Think about the hundreds of things that companies spend money on, and the way in which the management of that happens is a pretty broken process today,” he said. For starters, it usually involves some sort of approval request in a tool like Slack, Jira or Google forms.

Once approved, the person requesting the expense will put that on a company credit card, then have to submit expense reports at the end of each month using a tool like Expensify. If you purchase from a vendor, then that involves an invoice and that has to be processed and paid. Finally it would need to be reconciled and accounted for in accounting software. Each step of this process ends up being time-consuming and costly for an organization.

Kote’s idea was to take this process and streamline it by removing the friction, which he saw as being related to the disparate systems in place to get the work done. He believed by creating a single workflow on a unified, single platform he could create a smoother system for everyone involved.

He is putting that single system between the bank and the accounting system, including a virtual Airbase Visa card to take the place of physical cards. Request for spending happens inside Airbase instead of an external tool. When the virtual card gets charged, bookkeeping and reconciliation gets handled in Airbase and pushed to your accounting package of choice.

Airbase workflow. Diagram: Airbase

This could be a difficult proposition for companies with existing systems in place, but could be attractive to startups and small companies whose accounting systems have not yet hardened. Perhaps that’s why most of Airbase’s customers are startups or SMBs with between 500 and 5,000 employees, such as Gusto, Netlify and Segment.

Bill Trenchard, general partner at lead investor First Round Capital, says he has seen very little innovation in this space and that’s what drew him to Airbase. “Airbase has taken a bold step forward to create an entirely new paradigm. It delivers a real solution to the biggest problems finance teams face as their companies grow,” Trenchard said in a statement.

The company was founded in 2017 and has 22 employees. It has a sales office in San Francisco, but other employees are spread across four countries.

Apr
17
2019
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Meet the first judges for The Europas Awards (27 June) and enter your startup now!

I’m excited to announce that The Europas Awards for European Tech Startups is really shaping up! The awards will be held on 27 June 2019, in London, U.K. on the front lawn of the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, London — creating a fantastic and fun garden party atmosphere in the heart of London’s tech startup scene.

TechCrunch is once more the exclusive media sponsor of the awards and conference, alongside new “tech, culture & society” event creator The Pathfounder.

Here’s how to enter and be considered for the awards.

You can nominate a startup, accelerator or venture investor that you think deserves to be recognized for their achievements in the last 12 months.

*** The deadline for nominations is 1 May 2019 ***

For the 2019 awards, we’ve overhauled the categories to a set that we believe better reflects the range of innovation, diversity and ambition we see in the European startups being built and launched today. There are now 20 categories, including new additions to cover AgTech / FoodTech, SpaceTech, GovTech and Mobility Tech.

Attendees, nominees and winners will get discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.

The Europas “Diversity Pass”

We’d like to encourage more diversity in tech! That’s why, for the upcoming invitation-only “Pathfounder” event held on the afternoon before The Europas Awards, we’ve reserved a tranche of free tickets to ensure that we include more women and people of colour who are “pre-seed” or “seed-stage” tech startup founders. If you are a women founder or person of colour founder, apply here for a chance to be considered for one of the limited free diversity passes to the event.

The Pathfounder event will feature premium content and invitees, designed be a “fast download” into the London tech scene for European founders looking to raise money or re-locate to London.

The Europas Awards

The Europas Awards results are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself.

But key to it is that there are no “off-limits areas” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs.

The complete list of categories is here:

  1. AgTech / FoodTech
  2. CleanTech
  3. Cyber
  4. EdTech
  5. FashTech
  6. FinTech
  7. Public, Civic and GovTech
  8. HealthTech
  9. MadTech (AdTech / MarTech)
  10. Mobility Tech
  11. PropTech
  12. RetailTech
  13. Saas/Enterprise or B2B
  14. SpaceTech
  15. Tech for Good
  16. Hottest Blockchain Project
  17. Hottest Blockchain Investor
  18. Hottest VC Fund
  19. Hottest Seed Fund
  20. Grand Prix

Timeline of The Europas Awards deadlines:
* 6 March 2019 – Submissions open
* 1 May 2019 – Submissions close
* 10 May 2019 – Public voting begins
* 18 June 2019 – Public voting ends
* 27 June 2019 – Awards Bash

Amazing networking

We’re also shaking up the awards dinner itself. Instead of a sit-down gala dinner, we’ve taken feedback for more opportunities to network. Our awards ceremony this year will be in the setting of a garden lawn party, where you’ll be able to meet and mingle more easily, with free-flowing drinks and a wide-selection of street food (including vegetarian/vegan). The ceremony itself will last approximately 75 minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to networking. If you’d like to talk about sponsoring or exhibiting, please contact dianne@thepathfounder.com

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

The Europas Awards have been going for the last 10 years, and we’re the only independent and editorially driven event to recognise the European tech startup scene. The winners have been featured in Reuters, Bloomberg, VentureBeat, Forbes, Tech.eu, The Memo, Smart Company, CNET, many others — and of course, TechCrunch.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the speakers

• Key founders and investors attending

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

Meet the first set of our 20 judges:


Brent Hoberman
Executive Chairman and Co-Founder
Founders Factory


Videesha Böckle
Founding Partner
signals Venture Capital


Bindi Karia
Innovation Expert + Advisor, Investor
Bindi Ventures


Christian Hernandez Gallardo
Co-Founder and Venture Partner at White Star Capital

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.

Apr
16
2019
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Salesforce ‘acquires’ Salesforce.org for $300M in a wider refocus on the nonprofit sector

Salesforce yesterday announced a move to reposition how it provides software to and works with nonprofits like educational institutions and charities: the company announced that it would integrate Salesforce.org — which had been a reseller of Salesforce software and services to the nonprofit sector — into Salesforce itself as part of a larger, new nonprofit and education vertical. The new vertical, in turn, will be led by Rob Acker, the current CEO of Salesforce.org.

As part of the deal, Salesforce said it would pay $300 million in cash for all shares of Salesforce.org. The latter had existed as a California public benefit corporation, and now it will be converting into a California business corporation.

Salesforce said that the $300 million, in turn, will be distributed to another independent public benefit corporation called the Salesforce.com Foundation, which will use it for philanthropic purposes. Salesforce will be making further contributions to the Foundation, but did not specify the amount.

Salesforce also said that the combination will add between about $150 million and $200 million to the company’s full-year revenues, depending on when the deal closes.

Salesforce.org had been a vehicle for the company to provide nonprofits, educational institutions and philanthropic organizations free or very discounted licenses to use its software, to the tune of some $260 million in grants distributed to over 40,000 organizations. Salesforce will continue that practice, but now that effort, it seems, will come in line with a bigger business operation in which Salesforce will also develop and sell commercial software and services as well.

“Combining Salesforce and Salesforce.org into a new nonprofit and education vertical reinforces the strength of Salesforce’s philanthropic model,” the company notes. “Salesforce will extend this model by continuing to provide free and highly discounted software to nonprofits and education institutions around the world and investing in local communities through employee volunteering, strategic grants and matching employee giving up to $5,000 per employee annually.”

The new organization will include sales, marketing and the company’s Salesforce Customer Success Platform tailored for the nonprofit and education communities, and all future development of the company’s Nonprofit Cloud, Education Cloud and Philanthropy Cloud vertical applications.

Education, nonprofits and philanthropy might not be the most lucrative sectors that come to mind when you think of enterprise IT, but by virtue of their sheer size and ubiquity, and the fact that these organizations also very much need better technology to operate more efficiently, there is a big opportunity.

Some of that will firmly never catapult into the world of big money — and nor should it, in my opinion — but as Newsela and its backer TCV, and Microsoft, identified recently, schools are still big buyers of IT, and the same goes for other nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

I’m not sure how Salesforce will bring the different sides of the business together, but it makes sense for the company to at least think of them in a more cohesive way, providing financial help where it’s needed and selling where it is not.

Salesforce said that it expects the deal to close in Q2 or Q3 of this year, pending approval from the Attorney General of California and “other customary closing conditions.”

Apr
16
2019
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Adobe launches an Adobe XD accelerator to woo developers

The design world is in a state of full-fledged competition. Never in history have designers and their respective teams had so many options from which to choose. As both demand and supply grow, design players are working to build out the most comprehensive experience possible for their users.

Adobe, the incumbent in the space, is today launching the Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator. Essentially, individuals and teams interested in taking some time to build out plugins for Adobe XD can get themselves three months at Adobe’s HQ, access to Adobe’s product, design and engineering team, as well as a $20K per person stipend to offset expenses.

To be clear, Adobe is not taking equity in these projects and participants will leave Adobe HQ with 100 percent ownership over their built IP.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator is supported by Adobe’s Fund for Design, a $10 million venture fund launched in May 2018. Both the fund and the accelerator are meant to open up Adobe, which has historically been a more closed ecosystem.

“For a company like Adobe, we’re flexing a new muscle by working with outside parties, in house, at Adobe Headquarters,” said design principal at Adobe Khoi Vinh. “It’s a real change of thinking from the Adobe of five or 10 years ago, but we’re embracing the community’s energy here.”

It was less than a year ago that Adobe opened up Adobe XD to integrate with other tools, such as UserTesting and Airtable, among others.

Vinh says that, for now, Adobe isn’t sure exactly how many teams or individuals it will be accepted into the accelerator. As it’s the first time the company has done something like this, it’s not adhering to a specific number of participants or a rigid curriculum. Vinh says that some teams might have a clear vision of what they’re building and simply seek one-to-one advice from the engineering or product teams, whereas others might want a more collaborative environment to brainstorm and build out the idea itself.

One thing that is clear, however, is that Adobe is looking for hyper-early-stage projects.

“What ended up happening with the Fund for Design is that the grants and investments made a lot of sense for people who were founders and already had companies,” said Vinh. “The Plugin Accelerator is meant to target people who are even earlier-stage than a founder and maybe not ready to start their own company.”

The hope is that teams of one to three will have the chance to build great plug-ins for Adobe XD, making the platform more attractive to clients as Figma and InVision make a run for those same users.

Adobe isn’t the first design tool firm to launch a venture fund. InVision launched the $5 million Design Forward Fund in late 2017.

Folks interested in the Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator can apply here.

Apr
16
2019
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Leapwork raises $10M for its easy process automation platform, plans US expansion

Most work involving computers is highly repetitive, which is why companies regularly have developers write code to automate repetitive tasks. But that process is not very scalable. Ideally, individuals across an entire business would be able to create automated tasks, not just developers. This problem has created a new category called process automation. Startups in this space are all about making companies more efficient.
Most of the existing tools on the market are code-based and complicated, which tends to make it tough for non-technical people to automate anything. Ideally, you would allow them to train software robots to handle repetitive and mundane tasks.

This is the aim of Leapwork, which today announces a Series A investment of $10 million, from London’s DN Capital and e.ventures out of Berlin. The company already has many clients, from tier-one banks and global healthcare firms to aerospace and software companies, and now plans to expand in the U.S. Its customers typically already have a lot of experience with tools such as Tricentis, MicroFocus, UiPath and BluePrism, but employ Leapwork when code-based tools prove limiting.

Founded in 2015 and launched in April 2017, Leapwork has an entirely visual system, backed by a modern tech stack. Instead of using developer time, staff automate tasks themselves, without writing any code, with a simple user interface that is likened to learning PowerPoint or Excel. Leapwork estimates it can save 75 percent of an employee’s time.

Christian Brink Frederiksen, Leapwork’s CEO and co-founder said: “About half of our business comes from the U.S. and this investment will enable us to serve those customers better, as well as reaching new ones.”

Leapwork has found traction in the areas of software testing, data migration and robotic process automation in finance and healthcare. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Leapwork has offices in London, U.K., San Francisco, USA, Minsk, Belarus, and Gurugram, India.

Thomas Rubens, of DN Capital, said: “From the outset we were impressed by Leapwork’s product, which we believe will change the automation landscape. Every company has repetitive tasks that could be automated and few have the developer resource to make it happen.”

The founders began in June 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark, after having worked for almost two decades in enterprise software and business-critical IT. They launched their first pilot in July 2016 and, after working with Global2000 pilot customers in the U.S. and Europe, went live with the Leapwork automation platform in March 2017.

Prior to this funding the company was bootstrapped by the founders, as both had previous successful exits.

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