Nov
09
2018
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Growing pains at venture-backed Moogsoft lead to layoffs

Eight months after bringing in a $40 million Series D, Moogsoft‘s co-founder and chief executive officer Phil Tee confirmed to TechCrunch that the IT incident management startup had shed 18 percent of its workforce, or just over 30 employees.

The layoffs took place at the end of October; shortly after, Moogsoft announced two executive hires. Among the additions was Amer Deeba, who recently resigned from Qualys after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with insider trading.

Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Moogsoft provides artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) to help teams work more efficiently and avoid outages. The startup has raised $90 million in equity funding to date, garnering a $220 million valuation with its latest round, according to PitchBook. It’s backed by Goldman Sachs, Wing Venture Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Dell’s corporate venture capital arm, Singtel Innov8, Northgate Capital and others. Wing VC founder and long-time Accel managing partner Peter Wagner and Redpoint partner John Walecka are among the investors currently sitting on Moogsoft’s board of directors.

Tee, the founder of two public companies (Micromuse and Riversoft) admitted the layoffs affected several teams across the company. The cuts, however, are not a sign of a struggling business, he said, but rather a right of passage for a startup seeking venture scale.

“We are a classic VC-backed startup that has sort of grown up,” Tee told TechCrunch earlier today. “In pretty much every successful company, there is a point in time where there’s an adjustment in strategy … Unfortunately, when you do that, it becomes a question of do we have the right people?”

Moogsoft doubled revenue last year and added 50 Fortune 200 companies as customers, according to a statement announcing its latest capital infusion. Tee said he’s “extremely chipper” about the road ahead and the company’s recent C-suite hires.

Moogsoft’s newest hires, CFO Raman Kapur (left) and COO Amer Deeba (right).

Moogsoft announced its latest executive hires on November 2, only one week after completing the round of layoffs, a common strategy for companies looking to cast a shadow on less-than-stellar news, like major staff cuts. Those hires include former Splunk vice president of finance Raman Kapur as Moogsoft’s first-ever chief financial officer and Amer Deeba, a long-time Qualys executive, as its chief operating officer.

Deeba spent the last 17 years at Qualys, a publicly traded provider of cloud-based security and compliance solutions. In August, he resigned amid allegations of insider trading. The SEC announced its charges against Deeba on August 30, claiming he had notified his two brothers of Qualys’ missed revenue targets before the company publicly announced its financial results in the spring of 2015.

“Deeba informed his two brothers about the miss and contacted his brothers’ brokerage firm to coordinate the sale of all of his brothers’ Qualys stock,” the SEC wrote in a statement. “When Qualys publicly announced its financial results, it reported that it had missed its previously-announced first-quarter revenue guidance and that it was revising its full-year 2015 revenue guidance downward. On the same day, Deeba sent a message to one of his brothers saying, ‘We announced the bad news today.’ The next day, Qualys’s stock price dropped 25%. Although Deeba made no profits from his conduct, Deeba’s brothers collectively avoided losses of $581,170 by selling their Qualys stock.”

Under the terms of Deeba’s settlement, he is ineligible to serve as an officer or director of any SEC-reporting company for two years and has been ordered to pay a $581,170 penalty.

Tee, for his part, said there was never any admission of guilt from Deeba and that he’s already had a positive impact on Moogsoft.

“[Deeba] is a tremendously impressive individual and he has the full confidence of myself and the board,” Tee said.

 

Nov
09
2018
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LinkedIn Learning now includes 3rd party content and Q&A interactive features

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network for the working world with some 580 million users, took a big step into professional development and education when it acquired Lynda.com for $1.5 billion and used it as the anchor for LinkedIn Learning. Now, with 13,000 courses on the platform, LinkedIn is announcing two new developments to get more people using the service. It will now offer videos, tutorials and courses from third-parties such as Treehouse and the publishing division of Harvard Business School. And in a social twist, people who use LinkedIn Learning — the students and teachers — will now be able to ask and answer questions around LinkedIn Learning sessions, as well as follow instructors on LinkedIn, and see others’ feedback on courses.

Unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning comes when a person pays for LinkedIn’s Premium Career tier, which costs around $30/month, or when a company takes an enterprise team subscription for the Learning service. Today, LinkedIn tells me that it has around 11,000 enterprise customers; it doesn’t break out how much traffic it has overall on LinkedIn, but says that there has been a 64 percent growth in paid learners since the start of 2017 — a number that it’s clearly looking to boost with these new features.

James Raybould, the director of product for LinkedIn Learning, said that the third-party expansion will come slowly at first, with a handful of partners getting access to integrate with LinkedIn Learning. Over time, this could expand to be a public API for anyone to integrate content, he added, but for now, LinkedIn is doing the curating.

Notably, he also said that LinkedIn itself is not planning on curtailing the amount of content it will continue to produce for Learning: it’s currently adding more than 70 new courses each week on average, he said.

The content in this first wave of third-party providers feels like a natural extension of the influencer-based content that LinkedIn has been running in its main newsfeed: it runs the gamut from actual courses to learn new skills in specific disciplines, to the more nebulous area of professional development.

The first group includes Harvard Business Publishing (e.g. leadership development courses from Harvard Business School’s publishing arm); getAbstract (a Blinkist-style service that provides 10,000+ non-fiction book summaries plus TED talks); Big Think: 500 short-form videos on topics of the day (these are not so much “courses” as they are “life lessons” — subjects include organizing activism and an explainer on how to end bi-partisan politics); Treehouse, with courses on coding and product design skills; and Creative Live, with courses and tutorials for professionals in the creative industries to improve their skills and business acumen.

The fact that LinkedIn is adding more learning material that’s a natural extension of the kind of content it already offers to users in their timelines is not the only parallel between main LinkedIn and LinkedIn Learning. Raybould said that to help users discover content that might be most interesting to them, it uses data about what users browse and click on in the regular site.

“We have rich information about the network, including on engagement,” he said, and that helps LinkedIn’s algorithms suggest what to populate in individual learning libraries.

This is also, presumably, one of the reasons why third-parties will want to integrate: to get new audiences that are more targeted to the kind of content they are producing.

“At Harvard Business Publishing, we work to create the world’s best learning experiences to help organizations discover new ways to solve their most pressing leadership development challenges,” said Rich Gravelin, director of Partnerships and Alliances at Harvard Business Publishing, in a statement. “As an inaugural partner in the LinkedIn Learning Content Partner Program, we are bringing rich leadership development content to professionals across the globe, helping them navigate today’s complex business landscape. Thanks to the robust platform that LinkedIn Learning has built, we’re able to meet learners where they are and provide them with the unique and personalized learning experiences they need to succeed in their organizations.”

The social features also follow this model. Last year, LinkedIn rolled out a mentorship product across selected markets to pair users with people who steer them on their career development. That product set a precedent for how LinkedIn might use its wider social network and communication features to engage users in different ways, in the name of professional development.

The addition of Q&A features follows on from that, giving those taking courses or watching videos a way of interacting and following up with those who are doing the teaching. Adding that it could see more engagement across the whole of the Learning product.

It’s a surprise, in a way, that it’s taken this long for LinkedIn to add an interactive Q&A feature, considering that direct messaging and users interacting with each other has been a cornerstone of the product. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if it proves to be a compelling enough feature to bring in more users to LinkedIn, luring them away from the Udemys and Skillsofts of the world.

Nov
08
2018
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Datacoral raises $10M Series A for its data infrastructure service

Datacoral aims to make it easier for enterprises to build data products by abstracting away all of the complex infrastructure to organize and process data. The company today announced that it has raised a $10 million Series A financing round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Social Capital, which also led its $4 million seed round in 2017.

Datacoral CEO Raghu Murthy tells me that the company plans to use the new funding to grow its business team in order to be able to reach more potential customers and to expand its engineering team.

The promise of Datacoral is to offer enterprises an end-to-end data infrastructure that will allow businesses and their data scientists to focus on generating insights over having to manage and integrate their data sources. Because nobody wants to move large amounts of data between clouds — and take the performance hit that comes with that — Datacoral sits right inside a company’s AWS systems. It’s still a fully managed service, though, but the data is encrypted and never leaves a customer’s virtual private cloud.

“As companies look to their data to deliver value – data practitioners are finding that configuring and managing their own data infrastructure is a time-consuming job that is expensive and fraught with errors,” said Murthy. “We have built a platform that easily and automatically brings together data from different applications and databases, organizes that data in any query engine and acts on insights that are critical to running their business. A crucial component is that it works securely and privately within the customer’s cloud, instead of us ingesting data from their systems.”

Murthy was an early engineer at Facebook and part of the team that was in charge of scaling that company’s data infrastructure and ran a part of the engineering team at Bebop, Diane Greene’s startup that was later acquired by Google.

To scale Datacoral, the team is betting on a serverless platform itself. It’s making extensive use of AWS Lambda and other PaaS solutions on Amazon’s cloud computing platform. That doesn’t mean Datacoral plans to only support AWS, though. Murthy tells me that Azure support is next. “We plan to work across all of the top cloud providers by leveraging their unique services and provide a consistent ‘data-centric interface’ to our customers — essentially be ‘cloud best’ instead of ‘cloud agnostic.’”

Current Datacoral users include Greenhouse, Front, Ezetap, Swing Education, mPharma and Mason Finance.

Nov
07
2018
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CircleCI launches Orbs, a package manager for software delivery automation

DevOps platform CircleCI today announced a new partner program that will open up its platform and allow third-party tools to integrate with it. In addition, the company is launching Orbs, which it describes as “the world’s first package manager designed specifically for configuration of software delivery automation.”

Fresh off its $31 million funding round earlier this year, CircleCI is clearly on a mission to firmly plant its stake in the increasingly competitive continuous integration and delivery space. Its launch partners today include the likes of Cypress, JFrog, Pulumi, Sauce Labs, Sonatype and WhiteSource.

That partner program, though, mostly sets the stage for Orbs. The idea behind Orbs is to give the company’s users the ability to share their preferred CI/CD configuration across teams and projects by allowing them to package their commands, executors and jobs into a few lines of code. It’s basically a way to allow teams to automate more of their build/test/deploy workflow and share their best practices for configuring their software pipelines. For new users, these Orbs will also make it easier to get started without having to write a lot of boilerplate code.

CircleCI will offer its own set of certified Orbs, as well as those written by its partners. Currently, there are Orbs for working with Heroku and Amazon’s S3 and CodeDeploy, for example, as well as the obligatory Slack notification Orb. In total, CircleCI is launching 25 packages today.

“CircleCI Orbs are the most exciting thing in the CI world since Docker containers,” said Gleb Bahmutov, VP of Engineering at Cypress and an early-access orbs customer and contributor. “From a developer’s standpoint, orbs are a much-needed improvement from the regular ‘read the docs, copy/paste example, tweak for 30 minutes until CI passes’ — an outdated workflow. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.”

Nov
06
2018
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RapidSOS, an emergency response data provider, raises $30M as it grows from 10K users to 250M

Every day, there are around 650,000 emergency service callouts via 911 for medical, police and fire assistance in the U.S.; and by their nature these are some of the most urgent communications that we will ever make.

But ironically for the age of smartphones, connected things and the internet, these 911 calls are also some of the most antiquated — with a typical emergency response center still relying on humans making the calls to tell them the most basic of information about their predicaments before anything can be actioned.

Now a new generation of startups has been emerging to tackle that gap to make emergency responses more accurate and faster; and one of them today is announcing a significant round of funding on the back of very strong growth. RapidSOS, a New York-based startup that helps increase the funnel of information that is transmitted to emergency services alongside a call for help, has raised another $30 million in funding — money that it’s going to use to continue enhancing its product, and also to start pushing into more international markets.

The opportunity internationally is greater than the U.S. alone: while the U.S. sees 240 million calls per year to 911 numbers, globally the figure is 2 billion.

The funding — which comes only about six months after RapidSOS’s  href=”https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rapidsos-raises-16m-to-provide-life-saving-data-to-first-responders-300631998.html”>last round of $16 million — is being led by Playground Global, the VC firm and “startup studio” co-founded by Android co-creator Andy Rubin.

Others in the round include a mix of previous and new investors (and a lot of illustrious names): Highland Capital Partners, M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Fund), Two Sigma Ventures, Forte Ventures, The Westly Group, CSAA IG, three former FCC chairmen and Ralph de la Vega, the former AT&T vice chairman and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions and International. It brings the total raised by the startup to $65 million.

Michael Martin, CEO and co-founder of RapidSOS, said the startup is not disclosing its valuation, but he did point me to the company’s stunning growth over the last year. “We went from 10,000 users to 250 million,” he said, noting the range of agencies and other partners the startup is integrating with to provide more detailed information across the emergency services ecosystem.

Partners on the two sides of RapidSOS’s marketplace include, on one side, Apple, Google, Uber, car companies and others making connected devices and apps — which integrate RapidSOS’s technology to provide 911 response centers with more data such as a user’s location and diagnostic details that can help determine what kind of response is needed, where to go, and so on. And on the other side, you have the emergency services that need that information to do their work and organize assistance.

RapidSOS offers a few different products to the market. Its most popular, the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, works either with a response center’s existing software, or by way of a web application. This product now covers some 180 million people in the U.S. in terms of the number of people touched by those different emergency response services, the company says.

The RapidSOS API, meanwhile, is used by a number of device makers and apps to be able to channel that information into the RapidSOS system, so that when a response center is using RapidSOS and a caller is using a device or app with the API integrated with it, that information gets conveyed.

The startup also offers a rescue and recovery app called Haven, and found its profile getting a huge boost after Haven went viral in the wake of a succession of natural disasters in the U.S.

The company generates revenue in different ways across that range of services. On mobile, the service is free to consumers, with licensing for the integrations paid for by large tech partners like Apple, Google, etc. In the areas of safety and security (including integrations with home security, digital health, medical alert, personal emergency response (PERS) and vehicle crash response providers), RapidSOS is “typically bundled in with the service offering,” Martin said.

Martin — who co-founded the company with now-CTO Nicholas Horelik (respectively Harvard and MIT grads) after Martin said he was mugged in New York City — said that he sees a big opportunity for RapidSOS, and indeed emergency services in general, once we start to join up the dots better between the trove of data that we can now pick up with connected objects, and conveying what’s important in that trove in order to make emergency calls more effective.

“Most emergency communication today uses infrastructure established between the 1960s and the 1980s, and it means that if you need 911 but can’t have a conversation you are in trouble. 911 doesn’t even know your name when you call,” he said in an interview. “But there is all this rich information today, and so our job is to help make that available when you really need it.”

(I should note he spoke to me while driving on a freeway, but he noted that the car he was in was part of a RapidSOS pilot, and so if he did have an accident, at least the responders would be more aware of what happened… Not a huge comfort, but interesting.)

When you consider the number of connected wearables, connected cars and other inanimate objects that are now becoming “smart” through internet-based, wireless controls, sensors and operating systems, you can see the strong potential of harnessing that for this particular use case.

RapidSOS is not the only company that’s addressing this gap in the market. Carbyne out of Israel raised a growth round earlier this year led by Founders Fund in its first investment in an Israeli startup, also to build systems to provide more data for emergency services responders.

(Carbyne, by coincidence, was also borne out of the CEO getting mugged: necessity really is the mother of invention.)

“We are completely different from Carbyne,” Martin said of the other startup. “They are trying to provide more modern software to the industry” — where companies like Motorola have long dominated — “and it’s great to see new innovation on that front. But when we looked at industry, we found the challenge was not software but the data that was being provided. There is a lot of information out there, but no data flow, which is limited by the typical emergency response system to 512 bytes of data.”

He says that RapidSOS, in that regard, works with multiple vendors, including Carbyne, to transmit that data.

And it’s that platform-agnostic approach that interestingly caught the eye of Playground.

“RapidSOS is on the forefront of emergency technology, working with companies like Apple, Google, Uber, and Microsoft to transform emergency communication,” said Bruce Leak, co-founder of Playground Global, in a statement. “We see endless opportunities for connected device data to enhance emergency response and are eager to work with RapidSOS to expand their life-saving platform.”

Nov
06
2018
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VMware acquires Heptio, the startup founded by 2 co-founders of Kubernetes

During its big customer event in Europe, VMware announced another acquisition to step up its game in helping enterprises build and run containerised, Kubernetes-based architectures: it has acquired Heptio, a startup out of Seattle that was co-founded by Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, who were two of the three people who co-created Kubernetes back at Google in 2014 (it has since been open sourced).

Beda and McLuckie and their team will all be joining VMware in the transaction.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed — VMware said in a release that they are not material to the company — but as a point of reference, when Heptio last raised money — a $25 million Series B in 2017, with investors including Lightspeed, Accel and Madrona — it was valued at $117 million post-money, according to data from PitchBook.

Given the pedigree of Heptio’s founders, this is a signal of the big bet that VMware is taking on Kubernetes, and the belief that it will become an increasing cornerstone in how enterprises run their businesses. The larger company already works with 500,000+ customers globally, and 75,000 partners. It’s not clear how many customers Heptio worked with but they included large, tech-forward businesses like Yahoo Japan.

It’s also another endorsement of the ongoing rise of open source and its role in cloud architectures, a paradigm that got its biggest boost at the end of October with IBM’s acquisition of RedHat, one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time at $34 billion.

Heptio provides professional services for enterprises that are adopting or already use Kubernetes, providing training, support and building open-source projects for managing specific aspects of Kubernetes and related container clusters, and this deal is about VMware expanding the business funnel and margins for Kubernetes within it its wider cloud, on-premise and hybrid storage and computing services with that expertise.

“Kubernetes is emerging as an open framework for multi-cloud infrastructure that enables enterprise organizations to run modern applications,” said Paul Fazzone, senior vice president and general manager, Cloud Native Apps Business Unit, VMware, in a statement. “Heptio products and services will reinforce and extend VMware’s efforts with PKS to establish Kubernetes as the de facto standard for infrastructure across clouds upon closing. We are thrilled that the Heptio team led by Craig and Joe will be joining VMware to help us guide customers as they move to a multi-cloud world.”

VMware and its Pivotal business already offer Kubernetes-related services by way of PKS, which lets organizations run cloud-agnostic apps. Heptio will become a part of that wider portfolio.

“The team at Heptio has been focused on Kubernetes, creating products that make it easier to manage multiple clusters across multiple clouds,” said Craig McLuckie, CEO and co-founder of Heptio. “And now we will be tapping into VMware’s cloud native resources and proven ability to execute, amplifying our impact. VMware’s interest in Heptio is a recognition that there is so much innovation happening in open source. We are jointly committed to contribute even more to the community—resources, ideas and support.”

VMware has made some 33 acquisitions overall, according to Crunchbase, but this appears to have been the first specifically to boost its position in Kubernetes.

The deal is expected to close by fiscal Q4 2019, VMware said.

Nov
01
2018
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Foursquare partners with TripAdvisor

Foursquare, the former location-based social network turned enterprise location data platform, has today announced a new partnership with TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor will be using Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK, launched in March 2017, to help the platform better serve users with contextually relevant, real-time information based on their location.

Alongside the 13 billion check-ins accumulated on Foursquare’s apps since inception, the company also has analytics based on a consumer panel of more than 70 million people in the U.S. — 10 million of whom have opted into always-on location sharing. This data is the same data that powers Foursquare’s own apps, like, for example, when you get a push notification with a menu tip as you sit down for dinner at a restaurant.

Pilgrim SDK and Foursquare’s other enterprise products give other apps the ability to communicate with users with contextual relevance, and that’s what TripAdvisor is looking to do through this partnership.

TripAdvisor recently launched a new app and website that focuses on social sharing and personalized recommendations. Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK complements TripAdvisor technology, ensuring that hyper-personalized recommendations are truly accurate.

TripAdvisor reaches more than half a billion users worldwide, which significantly increases the pool of user data Foursquare can potentially access.

This comes on the heels of Foursquare’s Series F financing round, which was announced last month.

Nov
01
2018
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Retail-as-a-service provider Leap raises $3M and launches first store

The past decade in retail has been the golden age of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) that use the internet to communicate with customers, execute transactions, handle distribution and offer better economics.

But as small independent startups have scaled into unicorn territory and as countless brands have saturated digital channels, customer acquisition has gotten harder and costlier. Companies are now trying to meet customers with different purchase habits by developing physical stores. 

However, building an effective brick-and-mortar presence can be expensive and risky for DNVBs, requiring resources outside their core competencies. Chicago-based startup Leap is hoping to make it easier for digital brands to grow physical retail footprints without the typical risks of store development by taking care of the entire process for them.

Leap offers a full-service platform covering the complete life cycle of a brand’s brick-and-mortar launch.  In addition to owning the lease and the financial commitments that come with it, Leap covers everything from staffing, experiential design, tech integration and even day-to-day operations. 

(Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images)

Less than a year since its founding, Leap announced today the launch of its first store and the close of a $3 million seed round, led by Costanoa Ventures, with participation from Equal Ventures and Brand Foundry Ventures.

The debut store will act as the first Chicago location for Koio, the high-end D2C sneaker brand backed by headline-grabbing names like the Winklevoss twins, director Simon Kinberg and actor Miles Teller. 

Instead of paying a monthly lease fee, along with all the other variable costs associated with operating a physical store, companies like Koio pay Leap on a percent of sales basis, effectively minimizing risk and incentivizing performance. 

On top of minimizing development expense for brands, Leap believes its customer insights and intelligent logistics platform can help improve shopper engagement, increase customer traffic and drive brand lift. If the startup’s thesis proves true, brands can improve both sides of their brick-and-mortar unit economics by reducing customer acquisition costs and amplifying customer value.

At its core, Leap simplifies a DNVB’s physical retail operations into a single line item on its P&L, allowing the company to focus on brand building and supply chain rather than retail strategy, while also allowing them to scale faster. 

With the latest fundraise, the company hopes to build out its team and continue new location expansion.  Longer-term, Leap’s co-founders hope to build a vast network of sites that can help provide intelligence around new store development and shopper preference.

“We want to be the platform to help brands go to market in the offline space”, said co-founder Amish Tolia.  “We want to help brands build direct-to-consumer relationships in local neighborhoods across the country and enable them to focus on what they’re best at. Enable them to focus on product innovation, supply chain management, great marketing and brand building.”

A glimpse into the future retail

While Leap’s value proposition is straightforward, its business model points to a bigger trend in the world of retail.  

By opting to sell its software and brick-and-mortar services rather than creating its own brands, Leap effectively acts as a “retail-as-a-service” platform. The as-a-service strategy is already quietly growing in popularity in the retail space, with companies like b8ta, the Internet of Things gadget retailer, launching its hardware-oriented “Built by b8ta” platform earlier this year.

Though likely heavy in upfront capital costs, retail-as-a-service businesses don’t have the same constant concern around supply chain, manufacturing, consumer acquisition and marketing spend. And in certain pricing models based on a monthly fee or percent of square footage basis, platforms can see more stable revenues relative to pure retail startups.

From a brand perspective, DNVBs have been looking for ways to extend growth runways while minimizing the cost and uncertainty that deterred them from physical stores in the first place. The as-a-service model can make brick-and-mortar retail a much more scalable engine, possibly even cooling rising concern around bubbling consumer valuations.

As more of the young digitally born D2C giants resort to as-a-service companies to find marginal customers, we may see the rise of a new set of startups fighting to establish themselves as the platform on which brands operate.

If the last decade was defined by retail online, it’s possible that the next decade will be defined by retail-as-a-service.

And if you find yourself in Chicago, feel free to check out the Leap-enabled Koio Store at 924 W Armitage in Lincoln Park.

Nov
01
2018
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Asana launches $19.99 Business tier to help managers handle multiple projects

Asana, the platform where people can create and track the progress of work projects, made its name originally as a place where individuals and smaller teams can create and track the progress of a specific project. Now, as the startup courts bigger organizations among its 50,000 paying organizations and millions of (paying and free) users globally, it is adding another tier for enterprises that are using Asana for multiple projects: Asana Business, priced at $19.95 per user, per month.

Aimed primarily at teams that have managers or executives overseeing multiple projects simultaneously — sometimes in the thousands for a single organization — the idea is that Business will have extra features to help designated people handle and triage that workload more effectively.

Asana co-founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz

“Our role is to help leaders understand where their attention can be most useful and what to be focused on,” Dustin Moskovitz, pictured, the co-founder and CEO of Asana, said to me in an interview recently.

That focus on executives and managers is one part of the company’s bigger vision of where it sees its own place in the range of productivity tools that a business might use, alongside other areas like efficient storage (à la Dropbox, Box or another cloud-based service) or communication (e.g. Slack, Workplace, Teams, etc.).

Asana is also not alone in its category; other alternatives include Airtable, Write, Trello and Basecamp, another reason the company is on the path to continue innovating and finding ways to make its service more sticky.

The new Asana Business tier includes a couple of specific new tools that will differentiate it from Teams (Asana’s $9.99/user/month tier for groups of more than five) and Enterprise (the tier that you need to speak to an account manager to determine pricing). In all cases, the pricing is based on buying an annual subscription: prices are higher if you pay by the month.

The first, Portfolio, will give a manager a way of viewing what everyone in an organization is working on in Asana — a “mission control” that provides a single view of what is going on, which can be useful for figuring out more big-picture progress or to oversee a larger project that has multiple streams of work within it.

Alongside that, it’s also soon going to launch another feature in Business called Workloads, which will let managers then assign people to projects or redeploy them, based on what they are seeing progress through the Portfolios tool.

The two features, Asana hopes, will mean that organizations will not only get better insights into their current projects on the platform, but might be enticed to buy into using it for more of them. Alex Hood, the company’s head of product (who joined a year ago after many years at Intuit), noted that it’s something that companies had already been trying to address themselves to some degree. “We’ve seen customers hack solutions together,” he said. So, it seemed like time to make it into a more formal tool, Hood said.

The company’s move to add another tier to generate more revenue comes on the heels of Asana raising $75 million on a $900 million valuation earlier this year — money that Moskovitz told TechCrunch is still largely in the bank.

“We’re not yet profitable, but we’re rapidly approaching it,” he said, describing Asana to me as a “high-volume SaaS business, very efficient and very successful.” The company is not in sight of an IPO, he added, but it seems that it is just getting started on what more it might add to the platform to make it more sticky and useful to the average business user. 

Key on that roadmap, Hood said, is the use of more machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools in the creation of new features — something that the company first introduced through Timeline, introduced in March, which knits together different project threads to start creating a bigger overview of what is going on.

One new feature that Asana is working on is a way to highlight when projects might not be going to plan, or that there are areas that have yet to be addressed — and then suggest ways of helping to fix things through the redeployment of people.

Another area that Asana is exploring is how to use AI to match people better to projects. Hood said that it’s now working on a system that might be able to suggest where an employee or team member might get assigned — for example, using the profile of a person that invited you into a team as an indicator of where you might be working.

Nov
01
2018
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HashiCorp scores $100M investment on $1.9 billion valuation

HashiCorp, the company that has made hay developing open-source tools for managing cloud infrastructure, obviously has a pretty hefty commercial business going too. Today the company announced an enormous $100 million round on a unicorn valuation of $1.9 billion.

The round was led by IVP, whose investments include AppDynamics, Slack and Snap. Newcomer Bessemer Venture Partners joined existing investors GGV Capital, Mayfield, Redpoint Ventures and True Ventures in the round. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $179 million.

The company’s open-source tools have been downloaded 45 million times, according to data provided by the company. It has used that open-source base to fuel the business (as many have done before).

“Because practitioners choose technologies in the cloud era, we’ve taken an open source-first approach and partnered with the cloud providers to enable a common workflow for cloud adoption. Commercially, we view our responsibility as a strategic partner to the Global 2000 as they adopt hybrid and multi-cloud. This round of funding will help us accelerate our efforts,” company CEO Dave McJannet said in a statement.

To keep growing, it needs to build out its worldwide operations and that requires big bucks. In addition, as the company scales that means adding staff to beef up customer success, support and training teams. The company plans on making investments in these areas with the new funding.

HashiCorp launched in 2012. It was the brainchild of two college students, Mitchell Hashimoto and Armon Dadgar, who came up with the idea of what would become HashiCorp while they were still at the University of Washington. As I wrote in 2014 on the occasion of their $10 million Series A round:

After graduating and getting jobs, Hashimoto and Dadgar reunited in 2012 and launched HashiCorp. They decided to break their big problem down into smaller, more manageable pieces and eventually built the five open source tools currently on offer. In fact, they found as they developed each one, the community let them know about adjacent problems and they layered on each new tool to address a different need.

HashiCorp has continued to build on that early vision, layering on new tools over the years. It is not alone in building a business on top of open source and getting rewarded for their efforts. Just this morning, Neo4j, a company that built a business on top of its open-source graph database project, announced an $80 million Series E investment.

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