Sep
14
2021
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Sendoso nabs $100M as its corporate gifting platform passes 20,000 customers

Corporate gift services have come into their own during the COVID-19 pandemic by standing in as a proxy for other kinds of relationship-building activities — office meetings, lunches and hosting at events — that have traditionally been part and parcel of how people do business, but were no longer feasible during lockdowns, social distancing and offices closing their doors.

Now, Sendoso — a popular “end-to-end” gifting platform offering access to 30,000 products, including corporate swag, regular physical gifts, gift cards and more; and then providing services like logistics, packing and sending to get those gifts to the recipients — is announcing $100 million of funding to capitalize on this shift, led by a big new investor.

New backer SoftBank, via its Vision Fund 2, is leading this latest Series C round of funding. Oak HC/FT, Struck Capital, Stage 2 Capital, Craft Ventures, Signia Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures — all previous investors — are also participating.

The company has been on a strong growth trajectory for years now, but it specifically saw a surge of activity as the pandemic kicked off. It now has more than 20,000 businesses signed up and using its services, particularly for sales and marketing outreach, but also to help shore up morale among employees.

“Everyone was stuck at home by themselves, saturated with emails,” said Kris Rudeegraap, the CEO of Sendoso, in an interview. “Having a personal connection to sales prospects, employees and others just meant more.” It has now racked up some 3 million gifts sent since launching in 2016.

Sendoso is not disclosing its valuation, but Rudeegraap hinted that it was four times higher than the startup’s Series B valuation from 2020. PitchBook estimates that to be $160 million, which would make the current valuation $640 million. The company has now raised more than $150 million.

Rudeegraap said Sendoso will be using the funds in part to invest in a couple of areas. First, to hire more talent: It has 500 employees now and plans to grow that by 30% by the end of this year. And second, international expansion: It is setting up a European HQ in Dublin, Ireland to complement its main office in San Francisco.

Comcast, Kimpton Hotels, Thomson Reuters, Nasdaq and eBay are among its current customers — so this is in part to serve those customers’ global user bases, as well as to sign up new gifters. He estimated that the bigger market for corporate gifting is about $100 billion annually, so there is a lot to play for here.

The company was co-founded by Rudeegraap and Braydan Young (who is its chief alliances officer) on the back of a specific need Rudeegraap identified while working as a sales executive. Gifting is a very standard practice in the world of sales and marketing, but he was finding a lot of traction with potential and current customers by taking a personalized approach to this act.

“I was manually packing boxes, grabbing swag, coming up with handwritten notes,” he recalled. “It was inefficient, but it worked so well. So I dreamed up an idea: why not be able to click a button in Salesforce to do this automatically? Sometimes the best company is one that solves a pain point of your own.”

And this is essentially what Sendoso does. The startup’s platform integrates with a company’s existing marketing, sales and management software — Salesforce, HubSpot, SalesLoft among them — and then lets users use this to organize and order gifts through these channels, for example as part of larger sales, marketing or HR strategies. The gifts are wide-ranging, covering corporate swag, other physical presents, gift cards and more, and there are also integrations you can include to share gifting across teams of salespeople, to analyze the campaigns and more.

The Sendoso platform itself, meanwhile, positions itself as having the “marketplace selection and logistics precision of Amazon.com.” But Sendoso also believes it’s better than someone simply using Amazon.com itself since it ultimately takes a more personalized approach in how it presents the gift.

“There are a lot of things we do uniquely in terms of what we have built throughout our software, gifting options and logistics centre. We really personalize our gifts at scale with handwritten notes, special boxing, and more,” something that Amazon cannot do, he added. “We have built a lot of unique technology and logistics software that would make it hard for Amazon to compete.” He said that one of Sendoso’s integrations is actually with Amazon, so Sendoso users can order through there, but then the gift is first routed to Sendoso to be repackaged in a nicer way before being sent out.

At its heart, the startup has built a way of knitting together disparate work practices — some codified in software, and some based on human interactions and significantly more infused with randomness, emotion and ad hoc approaches — and built it all into a technology platform. The ability to scale what feels like an otherwise bespoke level of service is what has helped Sendoso gain traction not just with users, but investors, too.

“We believe Sendoso offers the most comprehensive end-to-end gifting platform in the market,” said Priya Saiprasad, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “Their platform includes a global marketplace of curated vendors, seamless integration with existing tools, global logistics, and deep analytics. As a result, Sendoso serves as the backbone to enterprises’ engagement programs with prospective customers, existing customers, employees and other key stakeholders. We’re excited to lead this Series C round to help Sendoso accelerate its vision.”

Dec
16
2019
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OneConnect’s drastic IPO value cut underscores the risk of high-growth, high-burn companies

OneConnect’s U.S.-listed IPO flew under our radar last week, which won’t do. The company’s public offering is both interesting and important, so let’s take a few minutes this morning to understand what we missed and why we care.

The now-public company sells financial technology that banks in China and select foreign countries can use to bring their services into the modern era. OneConnect charges mostly for usage of its products, driving over three-quarters of its revenue from transactions, including API calls.

After pricing its shares at $10 apiece, the SoftBank Vision Fund-backed company wrapped last week worth the same: $10 per share.

One one hand, OneConnect is merely another China-based IPO listing domestically here in the United States, making it merely one member of a crowd. So, why do we care about its listing?

A few reasons. We care because the listing is another liquidity event for SoftBank and its Vision Fund. As the Japanese conglomerate revs up its second Vision Fund cycle (Vision Fund 2, more here), returns and proof of its ability to pick winners and fuel them with capital are key. OneConnect’s success as a public company, therefore, matters.

And for us market observers, the debut is doubly exciting from a financial perspective. No, OneConnect doesn’t make money (very much the opposite). What’s curious about the company is that it brought huge losses to sale when it was pitching its equity. Which, in a post-WeWork world, are supposed to be out of style. Let’s see how well it priced.

What’s it worth?

OneConnect targeted a $9 to $10 per-share IPO price. That makes its final, $10 per-share pricing the top of its range. That said, given how narrow its range was, the result doesn’t look like much of a coup for the company. That’s doubly true when we recall that OneConnect lowered its IPO price range from $12 to $14 per share (a more standard price band) to the lower figures. So, the company managed to price at the top of its expectations, but only after those were cut to size.

When it all wrapped, OneConnect was worth about $3.7 billion at its IPO price, according to math from The New York Times. TechCrunch’s own calculations value the firm at a slightly richer $3.8 billion. Regardless, the figure was a disappointment.

When OneConnect raised from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in early 2018, $650 million was invested at a $6.8 billion pre-money valuation, according to Crunchbase data. That put a $7.45 billion post-money price tag on the Ping An-sourced business. To see the company forced to cut its IPO valuation so far is difficult for OneConnect itself, its parent Ping An and its backer SoftBank.

Why so little?

I promised to be brief when we started, so let’s stay curt: OneConnect’s business was worth far less than expected because while it posted impressive revenue gains, the company’s deep unprofitability made it less palatable than expected to public investors.

OneConnect managed to post revenue growth of more than 70% in the first three quarters of 2019, expanding top line to $217.5 million in the period. However, during that time it generated just $70.9 million in gross profit, the sum it could use to cover its operating costs. The company’s cost structure, however, was far larger than its gross profit.

Over the same nine-month period, OneConnect’s sales and marketing costs alone outstripped its total gross profit. All told, OneConnect posted operating costs of $227.6 million in the first three quarters of 2019, leading to an operating loss of $156.6 million in the period.

The company will, therefore, burn lots of cash as it grows; OneConnect is still deep in its investment motion, and far from the sort of near-profitability that we hear is in vogue. In a sense, OneConnect bears the narrative out. It had to endure a sharp valuation reduction to get out. You can see the market’s changed mood in that fact alone.

Photo by Roberto Júnior on Unsplash

Jul
02
2019
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Kabbage secures $200M to fuel its AI-based loans platform for small businesses

Kabbage, the AI-based small business loans platform backed by SoftBank and others, is adding more firepower to its lending machine: the Atlanta-based startup has secured an additional $200 million in the form of a revolving credit facility from an unnamed subsidiary of a large life insurance company, managed and administered by 20 Gates Management, and Atalaya Capital Management.

The money comes on the heels of a $700 million securitization Kabbage secured just three months ago and it is notable not just for its size but its terms: it’s a four-year facility, a length of time that underscores a level of confidence in the company’s performance.

Kabbage, which loans up to $250,000 in a single deal to small and medium businesses, has built a platform that harnesses the long tail of big data from across the web. It uses not just indicators from a company’s own public activities, but also sources comparative information from across a wider group of similar companies, with “2 million live data connections” currently helping to feed its algorithm.

Together, these help Kabbage determine whether to provide the loans, and at what rates. Notably, the whole process takes mere minutes, making Kabbage disruptive to the traditional route of applying for loans from banks, which can come at higher rates, often take longer to close and may never get approved.

The company was last valued at $1.2 billion in its most recent equity round from the Vision Fund in 2017, with about $500 million raised in equity to date from it and other investors, including BlueRun Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Rob Frohwein, the co-founder and CEO, confirmed to me via email that there are “no plans on the equity side right now.” We’ve asked about IPO plans and will update if we learn anything more on that front.

More importantly, alongside its equity story is the company’s business story: Kabbage has to date loaned out $7 billion in capital — amassed through securitizations and other facilities alongside that — to 185,000 businesses, and the company has seen an acceleration of business activity over the last two years. Nearly $700 million was loaned out in Q2 of this year, passing the record in Q1 of $600 million. This puts Kabbage on track to loan out between $2.4 billion and $3 billion this year.

“This transaction further diversifies Kabbage’s committed sources of funding and prepares us to meet the escalating demand for capital access among small businesses,” said Kabbage head of Capital Markets, Deepesh Jain, in a statement. “2019 has proven to be a tide-shifting year as customers accessed more than $670 million from Kabbage in Q2 2019, well surpassing our previously set record last quarter.”

While a lot of Kabbage’s business has come out of its direct consumer relationships, it’s also been expanding by way of more third-party relationships. It has white-label partnerships with banks to power their own loan offerings for SMBs, and earlier this year it was also tapped by e-commerce giant Alibaba to provide loans to its small business customers of up to $150,000 to help finance purchases, part of the latter company’s redoubled efforts to build out its business in the U.S. by way of its quiet acquisition of OpenSky.

Jun
11
2018
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SoftBank Vision Fund leads $250M Series D for Cohesity’s hyperconverged data platform

San Jose-based Cohesity has closed an oversubscribed $250M Series D funding round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, bringing its total raised to date to $410M. The enterprise software company offers a hyperconverged data platform for storing and managing all the secondary data created outside of production apps.

In a press release today it notes this is only the second time SoftBank’s gigantic Vision Fund has invested in an enterprise software company. The fund, which is almost $100BN in size — without factoring in all the planned sequels, also led an investment in enterprise messaging company Slack back in September 2017 (also a $250M round).

Cohesity pioneered hyperconverged secondary storage as a first stepping stone on the path to a much larger transformation of enterprise infrastructure spanning public and private clouds. We believe that Cohesity’s web-scale Google-like approach, cloud-native architecture, and incredible simplicity is changing the business of IT in a fundamental way,” said Deep Nishar, senior managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a supporting statement.

Also participating in the financing are Cohesity’s existing strategic investors Cisco Investments, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, along with early investor Sequoia Capital and others.

The company says the investment will be put towards “large-scale global expansion” by selling more enterprises on the claimed cost and operational savings from consolidating multiple separate point solutions onto its hyperconverged platform. On the customer acquisition front it flags up support from its strategic investors, Cisco and HPE, to help it reach more enterprises.

Cohesity says it’s onboarded more than 200 new enterprise customers in the last two quarters — including Air Bud Entertainment, AutoNation, BC Oil and Gas Commission, Bungie, Harris Teeter, Hyatt, Kelly Services, LendingClub, Piedmont Healthcare, Schneider Electric, the San Francisco Giants, TCF Bank, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force, and WestLotto — and says annual revenues grew 600% between 2016 and 2017.

In another supporting statement, CEO and founder Mohit Aron, added: “My vision has always been to provide enterprises with cloud-like simplicity for their many fragmented applications and data — backup, test and development, analytics, and more.

“Cohesity has built significant momentum and market share during the last 12 months and we are just getting started.”

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