Jul
28
2020
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Explorium reels in $31M Series B as data discovery platform grows

In a world with growing amounts of data, finding the right set for a particular machine learning model can be a challenge. Explorium has created a platform to make that an easier task, and today the startup announced a $31 million Series B.

The round was led by Zeev Ventures, with help from Dynamic Loop, Emerge, 01 Advisors and F2 Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $50 million, according to the company.

CEO and co-founder Maor Shlomo says the company’s platform is designed to help people find the right data for their model. “The next frontier in analytics will not be about how you fine tune or improve a certain algorithm, it will be how do you find the right data to fit into those algorithms to make them as useful and impactful as possible,” he said.

He says that companies need this more than ever during the pandemic because this can help customers find more relevant data at a time when their historical data might not be useful to help build predictive models. For instance, if you’re a retailer, your historical shopping data won’t be relevant if you are in an area where you can no longer open your store, he says.

“There are so many environmental factors that are now influencing every business problem that organizations are trying to solve that Explorium is becoming this […] layer where you search for data to solve your business problems to fuel your predictive models,” he said.

When the pandemic hit in March, he worried about how it would affect his company, and he put a hold on hiring, but as he saw business increasing in April and May, he decided to accelerate again. The company currently has 87 employees between offices in Israel and the United States and he plans to be at 100 in the next couple of months.

When it comes to hiring, he says he doesn’t try to have hard and fast hiring rules like you have a certain degree or have gone to a certain school. “The only thing that’s important is getting good people hungry to succeed. The more diverse the culture is, the more diverse the group is, we find the more fun it is for people to discover each other and to discover different cultures,” Shlomo explained.

In terms of fundraising, while the company needs money to fuel its growth, at the same time it still had plenty of money in the bank from last year’s round. “We got into the pandemic and we didn’t know how long it’s going to last, and [early on] we didn’t yet know how it would impact the business. Existing investors were always bullish about the company. We decided to just go with that,” he said.

The company was founded in 2017 and previously raised a $19.1 million Series A round last year.

Mar
25
2020
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TripActions lays off hundreds amid COVID-19 travel freeze

The coronavirus demand crunch has taken another bite: Palo Alto-based corporate travel-focused unicorn TripActions has confirmed laying off hundreds of staff.

Per this post on Blind — written by someone with a verified TripActions email address — the company laid off 350 people. Business Insider reported the same figure yesterday, and the Wall Street Journal said the layoffs amount to between one-quarter to one-fifth of the startup’s total staff, citing a person familiar with the situation.

Update: A spokesman for TripActions told us the number of impacted employees impacted is “less than 300” — although he qualified the remark by saying the figure includes 25 people who were offered other roles within the company.

In an earlier email to Crunchbase News TripActions confirmed axing jobs in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis — saying it had “cut back on all non-essential spend.” It did not confirm exactly how many employees it had fired at that point.

“[We] made the very difficult decision to reduce our global workforce in line with the current climate,” TripActions wrote in the statement. “We look forward to when the strength of the global economy and business travel inevitably return and we can hire back our colleagues to rejoin us in our mission to make business travel effortless for our customers and users.”

“This global health crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes, and our hearts go out to everyone impacted around the world, including our own customers, partners, suppliers and employees,” it added. “The coronavirus has had [a] wide-reaching effect on the global economy. Every business has been impacted including TripActions. While we were fortunate to have recently raised funding and secured debt financing, we are taking appropriate steps in our business to ensure we are here for our customers and their travelers long into the future.”

Per the post on Blind, TripActions is providing one week of severance to sacked staff and medical cover until end of month. “With [the coronavirus pandemic] going on you think they would do better,” the OP wrote. The layoffs were made by Zoom call, they also said.

However TripActions’ spokesman disputed the details about severance and medical cover, saying it is offering severance packages for U.S. employees that include two months of company-paid COBRA health insurance coverage, extending health benefits through the end of June, along with a minimum of 3 weeks salary.

He added that U.S. employees who were given notice yesterday were told their last day would be April 1, 2020 — meaning their health benefits continue through the end of April.

Travel startups are facing an unprecedented nuclear winter as demand has fallen off a cliff globally — with little prospect of a substantial change to the freeze on most business travel in the coming months as rates of COVID-19 infections continue to grow exponentially outside China.

However, TripActions is one of the highest valued and best financed of such startups, securing a $500 million credit facility for a new corporate product only last month. At the time, Crunchbase recorded $480 million in tracked equity funding for the company, including a $250M Series D TripActions raised in June from investors including a16z, Group 11, Lightspeed and Zeev Ventures.

Before the layoffs, the company had already paused all hiring, per one former technical sourcer for the company writing on LinkedIn.

This post was updated with additional comment from TripActions

Sep
24
2019
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Tipalti collects $76M from Twitter alums’ 01 Advisors and more for its AI-based accounts payable solution

Accounting is one of the cornerstones to building a business, but for most companies, getting it right is more of a necessity than it is one of their core competencies. That has created a vacuum, and now, a company called Tipalti — which has developed a popular solution to automate accounting for businesses that are not accounting companies by nature — has raised a significant round of funding to underscore that demand.

Today, the Israeli-Californian startup is announcing that it has picked up $76 million, money it plans to use to continue expanding the functionality of its platform and growing its business.

The funding, a Series D that brings the total raised by Tipalti to $146 million, is interesting in part because of who is providing it. Led by Zeev Ventures, it also includes backing from previous investor Group 11, along with new backers 01 Advisors, Greenspring Associates and TrueBridge Capital Partners.

In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, 01 Advisors is the new investment firm co-founded by Twitter’s former CEO and COO, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain, respectively, which started raising money only last month and appears to have disclosed one other investment before this (in the esports startup PlayVS).

01 Advisors’ interest in backing Tipalti comes from the fact that Twitter is a longtime customer of Tipalti’s, dating back to when Costolo and Bain were running things. Chen Amit, CEO and co-founder of Tipalti, told me in an interview that the social media company signed up around the time that it was going public, ramping up its revenue-generating functions (mainly advertising), and needed a strong accounts payable solution to pay suppliers and others in its ecosystem that wouldn’t break the bank and would help it track all the taxes and other areas that would now be getting thoroughly audited.

That experience, along with Tipalti’s wider track record among other fast-growing tech businesses whose business models are built on working with large networks of partners — other customers include Uber, Roku, Zumba, GoDaddy, Zola, GoPro, Foursquare and Vimeo — is what compelled Costolo and company to invest.

“While at Twitter, we chose Tipalti and they played a pivotal role in enabling us to scale and grow,” he said in a statement. “Tipalti’s platform was crucial in helping us manage payments to thousands of our publishers and partners around the world with ease, while delivering a flawless experience. Investing in Tipalti allows us to help bring the same benefits we experienced as operators to the thousands of companies that need this support.”

Tipalti’s emergence and growth comes out of an interesting climate shift in the world of startups. The accounting department is not the first thing people usually think about when they consider an exciting tech startup. Indeed, there’s a longstanding belief among some founders and their investors that certain ideas are too good to adulterate early on with thoughts of generating revenue, especially when the startup is in high-growth mode. However, when the scale does tip over into making money (way earlier for some than others), it becomes a crucial area to get right.

Tipalti sits among a number of other startups that have emerged in recent years to help handle less-sexy, but very essential, back-office functions, the kind that can cripple or even kill off a business if not handled well. Others in the group include the likes of AppZen, which has built AI-based expense auditing tools that it now wants to expand into other finance-team functions; and Gusto, which helps manage payroll and benefits.

There are also a number of companies looking to build better tools for accounts payable automation, including the likes of AccessPay (which also covers accounts receivable functions), OneSource Virtual, and MineralTree. All of the big accounting software providers will provide a degree of automation in their products, too, although Tipalti’s Amit believes that these target much larger enterprises. RPA companies that are aiming to automate all back-office functions are also potential (if not existing) competitors, too.

Tipalti’s pitch is primarily to the midmarket, which is partly why it has been a big hit with startups that are growing fast but might not yet be at the point of considering solutions built for much larger companies. The tools are able to read, process, pay and account for invoices using its automation technology, and the startup measures its effectiveness in terms of how much human work it can take on.

In fact, it describes a slightly frighteningly precise efficiency equivalent: citing research from the Levvel Research Accounts Payable Survey, the average midmarket organization has “an average of 9.8 full-time accounts payable employees.” Tipalti says that its platform can provide 80% of that workload function. (The idea being that the remaining 1.96 of humans (!) left over after Tipalti has done its magic can work on other tasks and longer need to dedicate all of their time to accounts payable procedures.)

It’s not just about reducing human overhead, though.

Amit said that some 30%-40% of its customers are gig economy businesses, with a fair number working across different international markets. That makes for a very messy accounting operation. “When you have payees all over the world, that affects you every month,” he said, adding that regulations are becoming ever more stringent on how businesses account for revenues and pay out to people, with the rise in money laundering and using assets in nefarious ways. “Regulators want more information communicated around payments, or there can be a new embargo on an entity, and so you need to change that, your banking process and who you can work with.”

The big pitch with automating companies may be that they are not aiming to take humans out of work, but to free them up to work on other things that AI cannot replace — not yet, anyway — and as an added benefit, they are helping companies reduce their operational expenses and helping them to run things better. How that will play out in the longer term could indeed be great, or it could see even more people with too much time on their hands. But in the meanwhile, Tipalti has grown by leaps and bounds. The company says it’s now processing more than $8 billion in annual transactions, with its customer and business bookings doubling in the first half of 2019.

Tipalti is not disclosing its valuation with this round, but Amit said on the back of that growth it has tripled since it last raised money.

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