Oct
15
2018
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Truphone, an eSIM mobile carrier that works with Apple, raises another $71M, now valued at $507M

Truphone — a UK startup that provides global mobile voice and data services by way of an eSIM model for phones, tablets and IoT devices — said that it has raised another £18 million ($23.7 million) in funding; plus it said it has secured £36 million ($47 million) more “on a conditional basis” to expand its business after signing “a number of high-value deals.”

It doesn’t specify which deals these are, but Truphone was an early partner of Apple’s to provide eSIM-based connectivity to the iPad — that is, a way to access a mobile carrier without having to swap in a physical SIM card, which has up to now been the standard for GMSA-based networks. Truphone is expanding on this by offering a service for new iPhone XS and XR models, taking advantage of the dual SIM capability in these devicews. Truphone says that strategic partners of the company include Apple (“which chose Truphone as the only carrier to offer global data, voice and text plans on the iPad and iPhone digital eSIM”); Synopsys, which has integrated Truphone’s eSIM technology into its chipset designs; and Workz Group, a SIM manufacturer, which has a license from Truphone for its GSMA-accredited remote SIM provisioning platform and SIM operating system.

The company said that this funding, which was made by way of a rights issue, values Truphone at £386 million ($507 million at today’s rates) post-money. Truphone told TechCrunch that the funding came from Vollin Holdings and Minden Worldwide — two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the Chelsea football club, among other things — along with unspecified minority shareholders. Collectively, Abramovich-connected entities control more than 80 percent of the company.

We have asked the company for more detail on what the conditions are for the additional £36 million in funding to be released and all it is willing to say is that “it’s KPI-driven and related to the speed of growth in the business.” It’s unclear what the state of the business is at the moment because Truphone has not updated its accounts at Companies House (they are overdue). We have asked about that, too.

For some context, Truphone most recently raised money almost exactly a year ago, when it picked up £255 million also by way of a rights issue, and also from the same two big investors. The large amount that time was partly being raised to retire debt. That deal was done at a valuation of £370 million ($491 million at the time of the deal). Going just on sterling values, this is a slight down-round.

Truphone, however, says that business is strong right now:

“The appetite for our technology has been enormous and we are thrilled that our investors have given us the opportunity to accelerate and scale these groundbreaking products to market,” said Ralph Steffens, CEO, Truphone, in a statement. “We recognised early on that the more integrated the supply chain, the smoother the customer experience. That recognition paid off—not just for our customers, but for our business. Because we have this capability, we can move at a speed and proficiency that has never before seen in our industry. This investment is particularly important because it is testament not just to our investors’ confidence in our ambitions, but pride in our accomplishments and enthusiasm to see more of what we can do.”

Truphone is one of a handful of providers that is working with Apple to provide plans for the digital eSIM by way of the MyTruphone app. Essentially this will give users an option for international data plans while travelling — Truphone’s network covers 80 countries — without having to swap out the SIMs for their home networks.

The eSIM technology is bigger than the iPhone itself, of course: some believe it could be the future of how we connect on mobile networks. On phones and tablets, it does away with users ordering, and inserting or swapping small, fiddly chips into their devices (that ironically is also one reason that carriers have been resistant to eSIMs traditionally: it makes it much easier for their customers to churn away). And in IoT networks where you might have thousands of connected, unmanned devices, this becomes one way of scaling those networks.

“eSIM technology is the next big thing in telecommunications and the impact will be felt by everyone involved, from consumers to chipset manufacturers and all those in-between,” said Steve Alder, chief business development officer at Truphone. “We’re one of only a handful of network operators that work with the iPhone digital eSIM. Choosing Truphone means that your new iPhone works across the world—just as it was intended.” Of note, Alder was the person who brokered the first iPhone carrier deal in the UK, when he was with O2.

However, one thing to consider when sizing up the eSIM market is that rollout has been slow so far: there are around 10 countries where there are carriers that support eSIM for handsets. Combining that with machine-to-machine deployments, the market is projected to be worth $254 million this year. However, forecasts put that the market size at $978 million by 2023, possibly pushed along by hardware companies like Apple making it an increasingly central part of the proposition, initially as a complement to a “home carrier.”

Truphone has not released numbers detailing how many devices are using its eSIM services at the moment — either among enterprises or consumers — but it has said that customers include more than 3,500 multinational enterprises in 196 countries. We have asked for more detail and will update this post as we learn more.

Oct
11
2018
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New Relic acquires Belgium’s CoScale to expand its monitoring of Kubernetes containers and microservices

New Relic, a provider of analytics and monitoring around a company’s internal and external facing apps and services to help optimise their performance, is making an acquisition today as it continues to expand a newer area of its business, containers and microservices. The company has announced that it has purchased CoScale, a provider of monitoring for containers and microservices, with a specific focus on Kubernetes.

Terms of the deal — which will include the team and technology — are not being disclosed, as it will not have a material impact on New Relic’s earnings. The larger company is traded on the NYSE (ticker: NEWR) and has been a strong upswing in the last two years, and its current market cap its around $4.6 billion.

Originally founded in Belgium, CoScale had raised $6.4 million and was last valued at $7.9 million, according to PitchBook. Investors included Microsoft (via its ScaleUp accelerator), PMV and the Qbic Fund, two Belgian investors.

We are thrilled to bring CoScale’s knowledge and deeply technical team into the New Relic fold,” noted Ramon Guiu, senior director of product management at New Relic. “The CoScale team members joining New Relic will focus on incorporating CoScale’s capabilities and experience into continuing innovations for the New Relic platform.”

The deal underscores how New Relic has had to shift in the last couple of years: when the company was founded years ago, application monitoring was a relatively easy task, with the web and a specified number of services the limit of what needed attention. But services, apps and functions have become increasingly complex and now tap data stored across a range of locations and devices, and processing everything generates a lot of computing demand.

New Relic first added container and microservices monitoring to its stack in 2016. That’s a somewhat late arrival to the area, New Relic CEO Lew Cirne believes that it’s just at the right time, dovetailing New Relic’s changes with wider shifts in the market.

‘We think those changes have actually been an opportunity for us to further differentiate and further strengthen our thesis that the New Relic  way is really the most logical way to address this,” he told my colleague Ron Miller last month. As Ron wrote, Cirne’s take is that New Relic has always been centered on the code, as opposed to the infrastructure where it’s delivered, and that has helped it make adjustments as the delivery mechanisms have changed.

New Relic already provides monitoring for Kubernetes, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and RedHat Openshift, and the idea is that CoScale will help it ramp up across that range, while also adding Docker and OpenShift to the mix, as well as offering new services down the line to serve the DevOps community.

“The visions of New Relic and CoScale are remarkably well aligned, so our team is excited that we get to join New Relic and continue on our journey of helping companies innovate faster by providing them visibility into the performance of their modern architectures,” said CoScale CEO Stijn Polfliet, in a statement. “[Co-founder] Fred [Ryckbosch] and I feel like this is such an exciting space and time to be in this market, and we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the amazing team at New Relic, the leader in monitoring modern applications and infrastructure.”

Oct
09
2018
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Pitch, from the founders of Wunderlist, raises $19M to take on Powerpoint in presentations

Microsoft’s Powerpoint today has over 1 billion installs, 500 million users, and some 95 percent market share, making it the most ubiquitous presentation software in the world. But that doesn’t make it the most loved. Now, a new startup out of Berlin called Pitch is emerging from stealth with plans to challenge it, by making what CEO and co-founder Christian Reber describes as “a presentation tool for the Slack generation.”

And to do so, the company is announcing $19 million in Series A funding, ahead of a projected launch date of summer 2019.

The Slack reference is intentional, and not just because of how the product will be built (more on that below). Part of the funding is coming from the Slack Fund, the arm of the work-chat unicorn that makes strategic investments into like-minded startups.

Others in the round include Index Ventures and BlueYard as leads, along with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, Framer CEO Koen Bok, Elastic Co-Founder Simon Willnauer, Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel, Wunderlist-backer Frank Thelen, and Metalab Founder Andrew Wilkinson. Blue Yard led Pitch’s seed funding as well: the company has raised $22 million to date.

“Pitch is one of Europe’s few true product-centric companies breaking new ground in software for businesses,” said Neil Rimer, partner at Index Ventures, in a statement. “From messaging to file sharing, software companies like Slack and Dropbox have transformed how teams work together and unlocked greater productivity as a result. We believe Pitch has the potential to redefine the presentation space and become a central hub for content collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and ultimately a platform for better decision-making.” Rimer’s also joining the board.

If $22 million sounds like a lot of money for a product that hasn’t launched, in a field that already has a very dominant player, Pitch is not your average contender. It’s being built by the same founders who created Wunderlist, a popular to-do app that — coincidentally — Microsoft acquired to supercharge its existing list-making and to-do software. You could say that Pitch knows just what it is pitching, when it goes after a problem that already appears to be “solved.”

In an interview, Reber said that he and the team — which includes founders Vanessa Stock; Marvin Labod; Adam Renklint; Charlette Prevot; Jan Martin; Eric Labod; and Misha Karpenko and 12 others — have been at work on the app for about nine months already and that it is in private beta with a few businesses.

As for the app itself, Reber would not show it off to me, but he did provide some detail about what it’s setting out to do.

The premise behind Pitch is to make “a presentation tool for the Slack generation,” he said, in reference to the workplace communications tool that became a runaway hit with organizations because of its ease of use, its speed, and the fact that it positions itself as a platform, integrating with just about any app that a person might use in the normal course of a working day, turning itself into a communication layer underpinning all those apps, too.

The same will go for Pitch. “Pitch integrates with everything you already use,” Reber said, describing Pitch presentations as “living documents” that will essentially update with information as data in other documents gets modified.

There will also be a social element, a la SlideShare, the cloud-based presentation app that was acquired by LinkedIn many years ago but has seen few updates since, and of course now is part of Microsoft too.

In the case of Pitch, users will be able to create documents for their own ends, but they can also use Pitch as a distribution platform, either to a selected group of users (for example, if you are pitching your startup to investors), or to a wider audience who are also Pitch users.

It’s ironic that Reber, who joined Microsoft along with the rest of the Wunderlist team when the startup was acquired, left the mothership rather than potentially trying to either build another presentation tool within Microsoft, or moving to PowerPoint to work on updating that product.

The reasons, I suspect, are the same ones that keep large tech giants from being able to move quickly on ideas, and to often live with bad ones for too long: leviathans are too big and too entrenched, and their halls are rife with politics.

Reber — who jokes that he seems to have a knack for trying to build things “that others have already built” — said that another reason is that he also has a little regret for selling Wunderlist when they did.

“I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished my goal,” he said reflecting on the sale. (For the reasons why he sold anyway, you might speak to a lot of other founders who have exited, and I’d guess that the multiple reasons are often the same.) “So, a year after the exit I thought I would like a chance to start from scratch and be more strategic in how I built my startup.”

The choice to tackle presentations came, as many startup ideas often do, out of his own frustrations — and possibly yours, too, if you have been PowerPointed at some moment in your life.

The most popular presentation tools that exist today are just outdated, he said, with different versions out in the wild, across different platforms, making for a challenge in sharing presentations with others. Reber describes the Pitch-nee-Wunderlist team as “design driven,” so you can imagine how that kind of lack of aesthetic consistency might grate.

He noted that Pitch is built on Electron — the application framework that’s used for WhatsApp, WordPress and many other apps — to smooth out some of those bumps across platforms.

Pitch is most certainly going into business with its eyes open, knowing that even if you put Microsoft’s PowerPoint and SlideShare to the side, there are yet others, such as Keynote from Apple, the web-based Prezi, and Slides from Google. But there are plenty of precedents that nevertheless indicate opportunity.

“It’s really fascinating for me why new products win,” Reber said. “Just look at the business communications space. The market was saturated, and Hipchat dominated the startup world, but then all of the sudden Slack came and everything change. It just took over. There will be a similar shift, I think.”

Besides, he added, having multiple competitors is a good thing. “It just means that the best product will come out the winner.” Let’s hope so.

Sep
25
2018
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Snyk raises $22M on a $100M valuation to detect security vulnerabilities in open source code

Open source software is now a $14 billion+ market and growing fast, in use in one way or another in 95 percent of all enterprises. But that expansion comes with a shadow: open source components can come with vulnerabilities, and so their widespread use in apps becomes a liability to a company’s cybersecurity.

Now, a startup out of the UK called Snyk, which has built a way to detect when those apps or components are compromised, is announcing a $22 million round of funding to meet the demand from enterprises wanting to tackle the issue head on.

Led by Accel, with participation from GV plus previous investors Boldstart Ventures and Heavybit, this Series B notably is the second round raised by Snyk within seven months — it raised a $7 million Series A in March. That’s a measure of how the company is growing (and how enthusiastic investors are about what it has built so far). The startup is not disclosing its valuation but a source close to the deal says it is around $100 million now (it’s raised about $33 million to date).

As another measure of Snyk’s growth, the company says it now has over 200 paying customers and 150,000 users, with revenues growing five-fold in the last nine months. In March, it had 130 paying customers.

(Current clients include ASOS, Digital Ocean, New Relic and Skyscanner, the company said.)

Snyk plays squarely in the middle of how the landscape for enterprise services exists today. It provides options for organisations to use it on-premises, via the cloud, or in a hybrid version of the two, with a range of paid and free tiers to get users acquainted with the service.

Guy Podjarny, the company’s CEO who co-founded Snyk with Assaf Hefetz and Danny Grander, explained that Snyk works in two parts. First, the startup has built a threat intelligence system “that listens to open source activity.” Tapping into open-conversation platforms — for example, GitHub commits and forum chatter — Snyk uses machine learning to detect potential mentions of vulnerabilities. It then funnels these to a team of human analysts, “who verify and curate the real ones in our vulnerability DB.”

Second, the company analyses source code repositories — including, again, GitHub as well as BitBucket — “to understand which open source components each one uses, flag the ones that are vulnerable, and then auto-fix them by proposing the right dependency version to use and through patches our security team builds.”

Open source components don’t have more vulnerabilities than closed source ones, he added, “but their heavy reuse makes those vulnerabilities more impactful.” Components can be used in thousands of applications, and by Snyk’s estimation, some 77 percent of those applications will end up with components that have security vulnerabilities. “As a result, the chances of an organisation being breached through a vulnerable open source component are far greater than a security flaw purely in their code.”

Podjarny says the plan is not to tackle proprietary code longer term but to expand how it can monitor apps built on open source.

“Our focus is on two fronts – building security tools developers love, and fixing open source security,” he said. “We believe the risk from insecure use of open source code is far greater than that of your own code, and is poorly addressed in the industry. We do intend to expand our protection from fixing known vulnerabilities in open source components to monitoring and securing them in runtime, flagging and containing malicious and compromised components.”

While this is a relatively new area for security teams to monitor and address, he added that the Equifax breach highlighted what might happen in the worst-case scenario if such issues go undetected. Snyk is not the only company that has identified the gap in the market. Black Duck focuses on flagging non-compliant open source licences, and offers some security features as well.

However, it is Snyk — whose name derives from a play on the word “sneak”, combined with the acronym meaning “so now you know” — that seems to be catching the most attention at the moment.

“Some of the largest data breaches in recent years were the result of unfixed vulnerabilities in open source dependencies; as a result, we’ve seen the adoption of tools to monitor and remediate such vulnerabilities grow exponentially,” said Philippe Botteri, partner at Accel, who is joining the board with this round. “We’ve also seen the ownership of application security shifting towards developers. We feel that Snyk is uniquely positioned in the market given the team’s deep security domain knowledge and developer-centric mindset, and are thrilled to join them on this mission of bringing security tools to developers.”

Sep
05
2018
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German mobility startup Wunder Mobility raises $30M Series B

Wunder Mobility, the Hamburg-based startup that provides a range of mobility services, from carpooling to electric scooter rentals, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by KCK Group, with participation from previous backer Blumberg Capital and other non-disclosed investors.

The German company says the investment will be used to expand the company’s engineering team in its home country and to establish an international B2B sales organisation. Currently, Wunder Mobility has 70 employees working from four offices in Asia, Germany, and South America. The aim is to add another 100 employees over the next twelve months in the areas of product development and B2B sales.

Founded in Hamburg in 2014, but now with an international focus, including emerging markets, Wunder Mobility supplies software, hardware, and operational services for various “future-oriented” mobility concepts. These span smart shuttles, fleet management and carpooling, reaching more than two million users in a dozen countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, India, and the Philippines.

“We are enabling communities on four continents to address the global traffic challenge and to deploy more sustainable mobility options faster by hosting a full-stack urban mobility tech platform,” explains founder and CEO Gunnar Froh.

“Our three product lines either allow private people to share empty seats with people headed in the same direction (Wunder Carpool), match professional drivers with passengers in 6-10 seater vans (Wunder Shuttle), or give travellers the option to rent vehicles (electric scooters, cars) by the minute (Wunder Fleet)”.

In recent months, transport companies as well as customers from the automotive industry in Japan, Europe and America have committed to using Wunder technology. The company is already processing around one million trips per month worldwide.

To that end, Froh describes Wunder Mobility’s typical B2C customers as the emerging middle class in mega cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Manila or Dehli.

“Many of these customers commute to work every day for several hours, are often first-time car owners and are open to sharing empty seats in their cars in order save on gas and car expenses,” he says.

On the B2B side, the startup’s customers are large OEMs, and public transit companies or suppliers, such as the Japanese conglomerate Marubeni. “We are working with Marubeni on ambitious new mobility services worldwide,” adds Froh.

Meanwhile, Wunder Mobility’s competitors are cited as Via in New York on the shuttle side. In Europe it perhaps competes most directly with Berlin’s Door2Door, and Vulog in Paris.

Sep
04
2018
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Encrypted cloud storage and collaboration company Tresorit secures €11.5M Series B

Tresorit, the Swiss-Hungarian company that provides end-to-end encrypted “file sync and sharing” for businesses, has closed €11.5 million in Series B financing. The round is led by European growth capital investor 3TS Capital Partners, alongside PortfoLion, a Central European venture capital.

A number of existing investors also participated, such as Andreas Kemi, an early investor in LogMeIn and co-founder of Scala Business Solutions, and Márton Anka, founder of LogMeIn. I also understand the round included some secondary funding, meaning not all of the cash has entered Tresorit’s balance sheet.

Operating in the enterprise cloud storage and collaboration market, Tresorit provides what it describes as zero-knowledge encryption technology and unique encryption key management. The high level pitch is that the company is able to offer on-premise equivalent security for businesses while offering the type of simple user experience we have come to expect in consumer apps. It serves more than 17,000 customers and says it has grown recurring revenue by an average of 3x every year in the last three years.

Meanwhile, Tresorit will use the new Series B funding to further accelerate this growth by tapping into what it says is rising demand for secure cloud solutions, in light of a plethora of high profiles security breaches seen at major enterprises in recent years. This will include beefing up its management team with the aim of scaling up marketing and sales, and establishing new channel partners.

“We are at an inflection point with our business as awareness regarding data protection and cybersecurity threats is getting stronger and demand is set to grow exponentially for our service in and outside of Europe,” says Tresorit founder and CEO Istvan Lam.

He also says there is large market potential in channeling traditional IT expenditure into the cloud, citing a recent Deloitte survey indicating that traditional IT expenditure still accounts for two-thirds of all IT spending, while only one-third goes towards IT-as-a-service.

“Many enterprises are holding back from migrating to the cloud due to security and privacy concerns. With security guaranteed by end-to-end encryption, more businesses can and will choose Tresorit’s cloud solution,” adds Lam.

To that end, Tresorit recently launched a Beta version of “Tresorit Send,” a standalone file sharing product that offers a secure and encrypted alternative to unreliable file transfer sites and email attachments. The idea, presumably, is for the product to act as a shop window for the Tresorit user experience and the company’s broader end-to-end encryption offering.

Jun
27
2018
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IQ Capital is raising £125M to invest in deep tech startups in the UK

The rapid pace of technology innovation and applications in recent decades — you could argue that just about every kind of business is a “tech” business these days — has spawned a sea of tech startups and larger businesses that are focused on serving that market, and equally demanding consumers, on a daily basis. Today, a venture capital firm in the UK is announcing a fund aimed at helping to grow the technologies that will underpin a lot of those daily applications.

Cambridge-based IQ Capital is raising £125 million ($165 million) that it will use specifically to back UK startups that are building “deep tech” — the layer of research and development, and potentially commercialised technology, that is considered foundational to how a lot of technology will work in the years and decades to come. So far, some £92 million has been secured, and partner Kerry Baldwin said that the rest is coming “without question” — pointing to strong demand.

There was a time when it was more challenging to raise money for very early stage companies working at the cusp of new technologies, even more so in smaller tech ecosystems like the UK’s. As Ed Stacey, another partner in the firm acknowledges, there is often a very high risk of failure at even more stages of the process, with the tech in some cases not even fully developed, let alone rolled out to see what kind of commercial interest there might be in the product.

However, there has been a clear shift in the last several years.

There a lot more money floating around in tech these days — so much so that it’s created a stronger demand for projects to invest in. (Another consequence of that is that when you do get a promising startup, funds are potentially giving them hundreds of millions and causing other disruptions in how they grow and exit, which is another story…)

And while there are definitely a lot of startups out there in the world today, a lot of them are what you might describe as “me too”, or at least making something that is easily replicated by another startup, making the returns and the wins harder to find among them.

A new focus that we are seeing on “deep tech” is a consequence of both of those trends.

“The low-hanging fruit has been discovered… Shallow tech is a solved problem,” Stacey said, in reference to areas like the basics of e-commerce services and mobile apps. “These are easy to build with open source components, for example. It’s shallow when it can be copied very quickly.”

In contrast, deep tech is “by definition is something that can’t easily be copied,” he continued. “The underlying algorithm is deep, with computational complexity.”

But the challenges run deep in deep tech: not only might a product or technology never come together, or find a customer, but it might face problems scaling if it does take off. IQ Capital’s focus on deep tech is coupled with the company trying to  determine which ideas will scale, not just work or find a customer. As we see more deep tech companies emerging and growing, I’m guessing scalability will become an ever more prominent factor in deciding whether a startup gets backing.

IQ Capital’s investments to date span areas like security (Privitar), marketing tech (Grapeshot, which was acquired by Oracle earlier this year), AI (such as speech recognition API developer Speechmatics) and biotechnology (Fluidic Analytics, which measures protein concentrations), all areas that will be the focus of this fund, along with IoT and other emerging technologies and gaps in the current market.

IQ Capital is not the only fund starting to focus on deep tech, nor is its portfolio the only range of startups focusing on this (Allegro.AI and deep-learning chipmaker Hailo are others, to name just two).

LPs in this latest fund include family offices, wealth managers, tech entrepreneurs and CEOs from IQ’s previous investments, as well as British Business Investments, the commercial arm of the British Business Bank, the firm said.

Jun
20
2018
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Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

Jun
18
2018
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Blockchain startups woo enterprises with a private chain audit trail

By placing all the information about services or complex manufacturing and assembly processes on a private, permissioned blockchain, the idea is that a company can create an “immutable” audit trail of data. When you think about it, currently this involves a labor-intensive combination of paper and networks. But initial trials with private blockchains in the last couple of years have shown there is potential to reduce the identification process of a data trail from several days to minutes.

Indications that this is becoming a hot issue amongst startups arrives today in two pieces of news.

Firstly, London-based “Gospel”(yes, that really is their name…) has raised £1.4m in seed funding from investors led by European-focused LocalGlobe.

The blockchain startup says it has been working with an unnamed “aerospace and defence manufacturer” to develop a proof of concept to improve record keeping for its supply chain. What’s the betting it’s British Aerospace? They aren’t saying.

At any rate, Gospel says it has developed a way of securely distributing data across decentralised infrastructures, offering companies the potential to automate records for complex products that usually require significant manual management. The idea is that is shares only the information it needs to, securely, with other partners in its supply chain, potentially leading to improved efficiency and lower costs of information recall.

Founded in December 2016 by entrepreneur Ian Smith, Gospel uses a private blockchain that requires users to set up a network of “nodes” within their ecosystem. Each party controls their own node and all the nodes must agree before any transaction can be processed and put on the blockchain. The node network acts as a consensus and provides a mechanism of trust.

Smith says: “For manufacturers and other businesses dealing with critical data there is a problem of trust in data systems, particularly when there is a need to share that data outside the organization. With Gospel technology we can provide an immutable record store so that trust can be fully automated between systems of forward-thinking businesses.”

Prior to this seed round, Gospel was backed by a number of angel investors including Gumtree co-founder Michael Pennington and Vivek Kundra, the Chief Information Officer for the US Government during Barack Obama’s administration.

Secondly, Russia-based startup Waves, which has issued its own cryptocurrency, is getting into the space with the launch of Vostok, a universal blockchain solution for scalable digital infrastructure.

The idea is that public institutions and large enterprises can use the platform to enhance security, data storage, transparency and stability of their systems.

Vostok, which is named after the craft that carried Yuri Gagarin into space, claims to be significantly faster and cheaper than existing blockchain solutions, claiming 10,000 transactions per second (TPS) at only $0.000001 per a transaction. This is compared to Bitcoin which has transactional processing capacity of 3-6TPS and costs $0.951 per transaction. Vostok also uses a closed operational node set and Proof-of-Stake.

Sasha Ivanov, CEO and Founder of Vostok and Waves Platform, said: “Vostok is a multi- purpose solution, quite simple, but at the same time non-trivial. It will allow any large organisation to gain the benefits of blockchain without having to create new systems from scratch or retrain their staff.”

Jun
14
2018
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Pipedrive, a CRM and sales tool, raises $50M to take on Salesforce and Microsoft

While Salesforce and Microsoft have a dominant position in the world of sales software today, there are a number of startups nipping at their heels, and today one of the more promising of them has announced a growth round to help them in the effort. Pipedrive, a startup co-headquartered in Estonia and New York that offers tools to salespeople to help them close deals that are still in their pipeline, has picked up $50 million to expand its product, develop its business globally and potentially make acquisitions in the CRM space.

The Series C round was co-led by new investor Insight Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation also from Rembrandt Venture Partners and Atomico (which itself has Estonian roots: Atomico’s founder, Niklas Zennstrom, was the co-founder of Skype, which developed and built the core IP voice and messaging product in the country). It brings the total raised by Pipedrive to $80 million.

Timo Rein, Pipedrive’s co-founder and CEO (and a former salesman himself), would not disclose the company’s valuation, saying only that it was “a pretty good round.” For some more context, Pitchbook writes that Pipedrive’s last funding, in 2016, valued the company at $188 million. Sources very close to the company tell us that the valuation now is $300 million+. (We’re asking around and will update this as and when we learn more.)

The CRM market is currently estimated to be worth over $40 billion, according to Gartner, and so unsurprisingly there are a number of startups in the fray, from those that are infusing the process with AI (such as Clari) through to other startups that help organise leads to act on them better (such as Zoho and Hubspot), through to those focusing on specific verticals like software companies (Paddle out of the UK).

Rein said that there was some skepticism when the company first launched that it would be possible to make a dent in landscape dominated by the likes of Salesforce and Microsoft.

“When we entered the market in 2010, people asked us, ‘Why build a product in an area where Salesforce is already strong?’ But having been in sales for more than a decade ourselves, we realized that it’s not just the sheer number of features you offer users. The difference is finding the right spot on the spectrum where you are getting what you need out of a product that you can use,” Rein said. “We have proven that users are migrating from Salesforce and others and are coming to Pipedrive. We definitely have less functionality, but professional salespeople know that performance is largely about your personality.”

In the case of Pipedrive, this translates to a software platform whose aim is to cut down on busywork to focus you on selling: all of your activity across emails and phone calls gets and other actions (it integrates some 100 other apps used in business, for example Google Apps, Trello, Zapier, MailChimp, Yesware and PandaDoc) is tracked without you needing to update the system, with the aim of making it easier for you to see what you might tackle next (and that gets tracked, too).

This is not about finding sales leads, Rein said: that may be something the company would consider down the line, but for now it’s looking at what happens when you already have a lead and need to make it as easy as possible to close that deal.

Ironically, Rein said that Pipedrive hasn’t been using its own tools in the majority of its own sales efforts. “In areas where we can use Pipedrive, we do,” he said, “but the service we offer is almost the opposite of what we built.” Pipedrive is priced on a monthly, SaaS basis ranging from $12.50 per user per month to $62.50 depending on number of users and features.

One way to think of Pipedrive’s approach is akin to something like Razer for the gaming world, which touts its ethos as “For Gamers. By Gamers.”

“Pipedrive is built primarily for salespeople, not just their managers,” said Teddie Wardi, a partner at Insight who also led the company’s Series B when he was still at Atomico. “This principle has helped them to create a product loved by users around the world, differentiate from competitors and propel the company to stellar growth.”

And that growth has come: today the company has 75,000 customers in 170 countries, with triple digital revenue growth each year since it first opened for business in 2010.

The plethora of startups in the market focusing on different aspects of the sales cycle and the CRM that surrounds that creates a ripe landscape not just for what Pipedrive might choose to tackle next, but how it might go about that.

“Post-sales, when you already have a customer and now need to help manage it, is an opportunity,” Rein said. “But our main effort and focus has been a product to help sales people deal with their pressure, and their own need to stay focused on the steady flow of sales, from the beginning to the actual close.”

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