FreshRSS

🔒
❌ About FreshRSS
There are new available articles, click to refresh the page.
Today — December 1st 2020Your RSS feeds

Bottom-up SaaS: A framework for mapping pricing to customer value

By Walter Thompson
Caryn Marooney Contributor
Caryn Marooney is general partner at Coatue Management and sits on the boards of Zendesk and Elastic. In prior roles she oversaw communications for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus and co-founded The OutCast Agency, which served clients like Salesforce.com and Amazon.
David Cahn Contributor
David Cahn is an investor at Coatue, where he focuses on software investments. David is passionate about open-source and infrastructure software and previously worked in the Technology Investment Banking Group at Morgan Stanley.

A few years ago, building a bottom-up SaaS company – defined as a firm where the average purchasing decision is made without ever speaking to a salesperson – was a novel concept. Today, by our count, at least 30% of the Cloud 100 are now bottom-up.

For the first time, individual employees are influencing the tooling decisions of their companies versus having these decisions mandated by senior executives. Self-serve businesses thrive on this momentum, leveraging individuals as their evangelists, to grow from a single use-case to small teams, and ultimately into whole company deployments.

In a truly self-service model, individual users can sign up and try the product on their own. There is no need to get compliance approval for sensitive data or to get IT support for integrations — everything can be managed by the line-level users themselves. Then that person becomes an internal champion, driving adoption across the organization.

Today, some of the most well-known software companies such as Datadog, MongoDB, Slack and Zoom, to name a few, are built with a primarily bottom-up product-led sales approach.

In this piece, we will take a closer look at this trend — and specifically how it has fundamentally altered pricing — and at a framework for mapping pricing to customer value.

Aligning value with pricing

In a bottom-up SaaS world, pricing has to be transparent and standardized (at least for the most part, see below). It’s the only way your product can sell itself. In practice, this means you can no longer experiment as you go, with salespeople using their gut instinct to price each deal. You need a concrete strategy that aligns customer value with pricing.

To do this well, you need to deeply understand your customers and how they use your product. Once you do, you can “MAP” them to help align pricing with value.

The MAP customer value framework

The MAP customer value framework requires deeply understanding your customers in order to clearly identify and articulate their needs across Metrics, Activities and People.

Not all elements of MAP should determine your pricing, but chances are that one of them will be the right anchor for your pricing model:

Metrics: Metrics can include things like minutes, messages, meetings, data and storage. What are the key metrics your customers care about? Is there a threshold of value associated with these metrics? By tracking key metrics early on, you’ll be able to understand if growing a certain metric increases value for the customer. For example:

  • Zoom — Minutes: Free with a 40-minute time limit on group meetings.
  • Slack — Messages: Free until 10,000 total messages.
  • Airtable — Records: Free until 1,200 records.

Activity: How do your customers really use your product and how do they describe themselves? Are they creators? Are they editors? Do different customers use your product differently? Instead of metrics, a key anchor for pricing may be the different roles users have within an organization and what they want and need in your product. If you choose to anchor on activity, you will need to align feature sets and capabilities with usage patterns (e.g., creators get access to deeper tooling than viewers, or admins get high privileges versus line-level users). For example:

Yesterday — November 30th 2020Your RSS feeds

Vista acquires Gainsight for $1.1B, adding to its growing enterprise arsenal

By Ron Miller

Vista Equity Partners hasn’t been shy about scooping up enterprise companies over the years, and today it added to a growing portfolio with its purchase of Gainsight. The company’s software helps clients with customer success, meaning it helps create a positive customer experience when they interact with your brand, making them more likely to come back and recommend you to others. Sources pegged the price tag at $1.1 billion.

As you might expect, both parties are putting a happy face on the deal, talking about how they can work together to grow Gainsight further. Certainly, other companies like Ping Identity seem to have benefited from joining forces with Vista. Being part of a well-capitalized firm allowed them to make some strategic investments along the way to eventually going public last year.

Gainsight and Vista are certainly hoping for a similar outcome in this case. Monti Saroya, co-head of the Vista Flagship Fund and senior managing director at the firm, sees a company with a lot of potential that could expand and grow with help from Vista’s consulting arm, which helps portfolio companies with different aspects of their business like sales, marketing and operations.

“We are excited to partner with the Gainsight team in its next phase of growth, helping the company to expand the category it has created and deliver even more solutions that drive retention and growth to businesses across the globe,” Saroya said in a statement.

Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta likes the idea of being part of Vista’s portfolio of enterprise companies, many of whom are using his company’s products.

“We’ve known Vista for years, since 24 of their portfolio companies use Gainsight. We’ve seen Gainsight clients like JAMF and Ping Identity partner with Vista and then go public. We believe we are just getting started with customer success, so we wanted the right partner for the long term and we’re excited to work with Vista on the next phase of our journey,” Mehta told TechCrunch.

Brent Leary, principle analyst at CRM Essentials, who covers the sales and marketing space, says that it appears that Vista is piecing together a sales and marketing platform that it could flip or go public in a few years.

“It’s not only the power that’s in the platform, it’s also the money. And Vista seems to be piecing together an engagement platform based on the acquisitions of Gainsight, Pipedrive and even last year’s Acquia purchase. Vista isn’t afraid to spend big money, if they can make even bigger money in a couple years if they can make these pieces fit together,” Leary told TechCrunch.

While Gainsight exits as a unicorn, the deal might not have been the outcome it was looking for. The company raised more than $187 million, according to PitchBook data, though its fundraising had slowed in recent years. Gainsight raised $50 million in April of 2017 at a post-money valuation of $515 million, again per PitchBook. In July of 2018 it added $25 million to its coffers, and the final entry was a small debt investment raised in 2019.

It could be that the startup saw its growth slow down, leaving it somewhere between ready for new venture investment and profitability. That’s a gap that PE shops like Vista look for, write a check, shake up a company and hopefully exit at an elevated price.

Gainsight hired a new chief revenue officer last month, notably. Per Forbes, the company was on track to reach “about” $100 million ARR by the end of 2020, giving it a revenue multiple of around 11x in the deal. That’s under current market norms, which could imply that Gainsight had either lower gross margins than comparable companies, or as previously noted, that its growth had slowed.

A $1.1 billion exit is never something to bemoan — and every startup wants to become a unicorn — but Gainsight and Mehta are well known, and we were hoping for the details only an S-1 could deliver. Perhaps one day with Vista’s help that could happen.

As Slack acquisition rumors swirl, a look at Salesforce’s six biggest deals

By Ron Miller

The rumors ignited last Thursday that Salesforce had interest in Slack. This morning, CNBC is reporting the deal is all but done and will be announced tomorrow. Chances are, this is going to a big number, but this won’t be Salesforce’s first big acquisition. We thought it would be useful in light of these rumors to look back at the company’s biggest deals.

Salesforce has already surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, and the company has a history of making a lot of deals to fill in the road map and give it more market lift as it searches for ever more revenue.

The biggest deal by far so far was the $15.7 billion Tableau acquisition last year. The deal gave Salesforce a missing data visualization component and a company with a huge existing market to feed the revenue beast. In an interview in August with TechCrunch, Salesforce president and chief operating officer Bret Taylor (who came to the company in the $750 million Quip deal in 2016), sees Tableau as a key part of the company’s growing success:

“Tableau is so strategic, both from a revenue and also from a technology strategy perspective,” he said. That’s because as companies make the shift to digital, it becomes more important than ever to help them visualize and understand that data in order to understand their customers’ requirements better.”

Next on the Salesforce acquisition hit parade was the $6.5 billion Mulesoft acquisition in 2018. Mulesoft gave Salesforce access to something it didn’t have as an enterprise SaaS company — data locked in silos across the company, even in on-prem applications. The CRM giant could leverage Mulesoft to access data wherever it lived, and when you put the two mega deals together, you could see how you could visualize that data and also give more fuel to its Einstein intelligence layer.

In 2016, the company spent $2.8 billion on Demandware to make a big splash in e-Commerce, a component of the platform that has grown in importance during the pandemic when companies large and small have been forced to move their businesses online. The company was incorporated into the Salesforce behemoth and became known as Commerce Cloud.

In 2013, the company made its first billion dollar acquisition when it bought ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. This represented the first foray into what would become the Marketing Cloud. The purchase gave the company entree into the targeted email marketing business, which again would grow increasingly in importance in 2020 when communicating with customers became crucial during the pandemic.

Last year, just days after closing the Mulesoft acquisition, Salesforce opened its wallet one more time and paid $1.35 billion for ClickSoftware. This one was a nod to the company’s Service cloud, which encompasses both customer service and field service. This acquisition was about the latter, and giving the company access to a bigger body of field service customers.

The final billion deal (until we hear about Slack perhaps) is the $1.33 billion Vlocity acquisition earlier this year. This one was a gift for the core CRM product. Vlocity gave Salesforce several vertical businesses built on the Salesforce platform and was a natural fit for the company. Using Vlocity’s platform, Salesforce could (and did) continue to build on these vertical markets giving it more ammo to sell into specialized markets.

While we can’t know for sure if the Slack deal will happen, it sure feels like it will, and chances are this deal will be even larger than Tableau as the Salesforce acquisition machine keeps chugging along.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

AliveCor, which helps its users manage their heart health, scores another FDA approval

By Connie Loizos

Last week, AliveCor, a nine-year-old, 92-person company whose small, personal electrocardiogram devices help users detect atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, and tachycardia from heart rate readings taken from their own kitchen tables, raised $65 million from investors.

Today, it’s clearer why investors — who’ve now provided the Mountain View, Ca., company with $169 million altogether —  are excited about its prospects. AliveCor just received its newest FDA clearance under the agency’s software as a medical device designation for an upgrade that generates enough detail and fidelity that AliveCor says its cardiological services can now serve as stand-in for the vast majority of cases when cardiac patients are not in front of their doctor.

Specifically, the company says the FDA-cleared update can detect premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, sinus rhythm with wide QRS.

In a world where the pandemic continues to rage and people remain hesitant to visit a hospital, these little steps add up. In fact, CEO Priya Abani, along with AliveCor founder and chief medical officer David Albert, formerly the chief clinical scientist of cardiology at GE, say AliveCor’s “Kardia” devices have been used to record nearly 15 million EKG recordings since March of this year, which is up over 70% year-over-year.

They also claim a 25% increase year-over-year in what they call physician-patient connections, meaning doctors specifically asking their patients to use the device, either at their medical office or at the patient’s home. Indeed, the pair says that while the company has focused historically on consumer sales, so much new business is coming through doctor referrals that roughly one out of every two of its devices is now sold through these recommendations.

Patients still need to pay out of pocket for AliveCor’s personal EKG devices, one of which currently sells for $89 while a more sophisticated model sells for $139.

The company also more recently rolled out a subscription product for $99 per year that “unlocks” additional features, including monthly summaries of a customer’s heart data, and hopefully soon, says Abani, access to cardiologists who will be able to answer questions in lieu of one’s own cardiologist.

Abani — who joined AliveCor last year from Amazon, where she was a general manager and director of Alexa — says other offerings are also in the works that should help customers measure their hypertension and blood pressure. She adds that the company more broadly sees itself as becoming a way for people to manage chronic conditions from home and that, if things go AliveCor’s way, employers will begin offering the service to employees as a way for them to take better care of their own heart health.

In the meantime, AliveCor’s bigger push into the enterprise appears tied not only to COVID and its ripple effects but also to competition on the consumer front from Apple Watch, which also now enables wearers to records the electrical pulses that make one’s heart beat and to determine whether the upper and lower chambers are their heart are in rhythm.

Though the company has sung Apple’s praises for raising awareness around heart health, last year, owing to shrinking sales, AliveCor stopped making an earlier product called the KardiaBand that was an FDA-cleared ECG wristband designed for use with Apple Watches.

AliveCor’s products are currently sold in 12 countries, including India, South Korea, and Germany, and it has clearance to sell in more than 37 altogether.

In addition to selling directly to customers through its site, its devices are available to buy through Best Buy, CVS, and Walgreens.

Very worth noting: Neither Apple nor AliveCor can detect actual heart attacks. While both can detect atrial fibrillation, acute heart attacks are not associated with atrial fibrillation.

AvePoint to go public via SPAC valued at $2B

By Ron Miller

AvePoint, a company that gives enterprises using Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Teams a control layer on top of these tools, announced today that it would be going public via a SPAC merger with Apex Technology Acquisition Corporation in a deal that values AvePoint at around $2 billion.

The acquisition brings together some powerful technology executives with Apex run by former Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein and former Goldman Sachs head of technology investment banking Brad Koenig, who will now be working closely with AvePoint’s CEO Tianyi Jiang. Apex filed for a $305 million SPAC in September 2019.

Under the terms of the transaction, Apex’s balance of $352 million plus a $140 million additional private investment will be handed over to AvePoint. Once transaction fees and other considerations are paid for, AvePoint is expected to have $252 million on its balance sheet. Existing AvePoint shareholders will own approximately 72% of the combined entity, with the balance held by the Apex SPAC and the private investment owners.

Jiang sees this is a way to keep growing the company. “Going public now gives us the ability to meet this demand and scale up faster across product innovation, channel marketing, international markets and customer success initiatives,” he said in a statement.

AvePoint was founded in 2001 as a company to help ease the complexity of SharePoint installations, which at the time were all on-premise. Today, it has adapted to the shift to the cloud as a SaaS tool and primarily acts as a policy layer enabling companies to make sure employees are using these tools in a compliant way.

The company raised $200 million in January this year led by TPG Sixth Street Partners, with additional participation from prior investor Goldman Sachs, meaning that Koenig was probably familiar with the company based on his previous role.

The company has raised a total of $294 million in capital before today’s announcement. It expects to generate almost $150 million in revenue by the end of this year with ARR growing at over 30%. It’s worth noting that the company’s ARR and revenue has been growing steadily since Q12019. The company is projecting significant growth for the next two years with revenue estimates of $257 million and ARR of $220 million by the end of 2022.

Graph of revenue and projected revenue

Image Credits: AvePoint

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. Upon close the company will continue to be known as AvePoint and be publicly traded on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol AVPT.

Grouparoo snares $3M seed to build open source customer data integration framework

By Ron Miller

Creating a great customer experience requires a lot of data from a variety of sources, and pulling that disparate data together has captured the attention of companies and big and small from Salesforce and Adobe to Segment and Klaviyo. Today, Grouparoo, a new startup from three industry vets is the next company up with an open source framework designed to make it easier for developers to access and make use of customer data.

The company announced a $3 million seed investment led by Eniac Ventures and Fuel Capital with participation from Hack VC, Liquid2, SCM Advisors and several unnamed angel investors.

Grouparoo CEO and co-founder Brian Leonard says that his company has created this open source customer data framework based on his own experience and difficulty getting customer data into the various tools he has been using since he was technical founder at TaskRabbit in 2008.

“We’re an open source data framework that helps companies easily sync their customer data from their database or warehouse to all of the SaaS tools where they need it. [After you] install it, you teach it about your customers, like what properties are important in each of those profiles. And then it allows you to segment them into the groups that matter,” Leonard explained.

This could be something like high earners in San Francisco along with names and addresses. Grouparoo can grab this data and transfer it to a marketing tool like Marketo or Zendesk and these tools could then learn who your VIP customers are.

For now the company is just the three founders Leonard, CTO Evan Tahler and COO Andy Jih, and while he wasn’t ready to commit to how many people he might hire in the next 12 months, he sees it being less than 10. At this early stage, the three co-founders have already been considering how to build a diverse and inclusive company, something he helped contribute to while he was at TaskRabbit.

“So, coming from [what we built at TaskRabbit] and starting something new, it’s important to all three of us to start [building a diverse company] from the beginning, and especially combined with this notion that we’re building something open source. We’ve been talking a lot about being open about our culture and what’s important to us,” he said.

TaskRabbit also comes into play in their investment where Fuel GP Leah Solivan was also founder of TaskRabbit. “Grouparoo is solving a real and acute issue that companies grapple with as they scale — giving every member of the team access to the data they need to drive revenue, acquire customers and improve real-time decision making. Brian, Andy and Evan have developed an elegant solution to an issue we experienced firsthand at TaskRabbit,” she said.

For now the company is taking an open source approach to build a community around the tool. It is still pre-revenue, but the plan is to find a way to build something commercial on top of the open source tooling. They are considering an open core license where they can add features or support or offer the tool as a service. Leonard says that is something they intend to work out in 2021.

Zilliz raises $43 million as investors rush to China’s open-source software

By Rita Liao

For years, founders and investors in China had little interest in open-source software because it did not seem like the most viable business model. Zilliz‘s latest financing round shows that attitude is changing. The three-year-old Chinese startup, which builds open-source software for processing unstructured data, recently closed a Series B round of $43 million.

The investment, which catapults Zilliz’s to-date raise to more than $53 million, is a sizable amount for any open-source business around the world. Storied private equity firm Hillhouse Capital led the round joined by Trustbridge Partners, Pavilion Capital and existing investors 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside) and Yunqi Partners.

Investors are going after Zilliz as they increasingly recognize open source as an effective software development strategy, Charles Xie, founder and CEO of Zilliz, told TechCrunch at an open-source meetup in Shenzhen where he spoke as the first Chinese board chairperson for Linux Foundation’s AI umbrella, LF AI.

“Investors are seeing very good exits for open-source companies around the world in recent years, from Elastic to MongoDB,” he added.

“When Starlord [Xie’s nickname] first told us his vision for data processing in the future digital age, we thought it was a crazy idea, but we chose to believe,” said 5Y Capital’s partner Liu Kai.

There’s one caveat for investing in the area: Don’t expect to make money in the first three to five years. “But if you’re looking at an eight to 10-year cycle, these [open source] companies can gain valuation at tens of billions of dollars,” Xie reckoned.

After six years as a software engineer at Oracle, Xie left the U.S. and headed home to start Zilliz in China. Like many Chinese entrepreneurs these days, Xie named his startup in English to mark the firm’s vision to be “global from day one.” While Zilliz set out in Shanghai, the goal is to relocate its headquarters to Silicon Valley when the firm delivers “robust technology and products” in the next 12 months, Xie said. China is an ideal starting point both for the cheaper engineering talents and the explosive growth of unstructured data — anything from molecular structure, people’s shopping behavior, audio information to video content.

“The amount of unstructured data in a region is in proportion to the size of its population and the level of its economic activity, so it’s easy to see why China is the biggest data source,” Xie observed.

On the other hand, China has seen rapid development in mobile internet and AI, especially in terms of real-life applications, which Xie argued makes China a suitable testing ground for data processing software.

So far Zilliz’s open-source product Milvus has been “starred” more than 4,440 times on GitHub and attracted some 120 contributors and 400 enterprise users around the world, half of whom are outside China. It’s done so without spending a penny on advertising; rather, user acquisition has come from its active participation on GitHub, Reddit and other online developer communities.

Going forward, Zilliz plans to deploy its fresh capital in overseas recruitment, expanding its open-source ecosystem, as well as research and development in its cloud-based products and services, which will eventually become a revenue driver as it starts monetizing in the second half of 2021.

Sales readiness platform MindTickle raises $100 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

By Manish Singh

MindTickle, a startup that is helping hundreds of small and large firms improve their sales through its eponymous sales readiness platform, said on Monday it has raised $100 million in a new financing round.

The Pune and San Francisco-headquartered startup’s new financing round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The round is a combination of debt and equity, the startup said. Existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Accel Partners, Canaan, NEA, NewView Capital, and Qualcomm Ventures also participated in the round, which according to a person familiar with the matter, valued the eight-year-old startup at roughly $500 million, up from about $250 million last year.

The vast majority of this $100 million fund is equity investment, said Krishna Depura, co-founder and chief executive of MindTickle, in an interview with TechCrunch. He declined to disclose the specific amount, however, or comment on the valuation.

We used to live in a seller’s world, where buyers had a small selection of choices from which they could pick their products. “You wanted to buy a car, there would be only one new car model every four years. Things have changed,” said Depura, noting that customers today have no shortage of companies trying to sell them similar lines of products.

While that’s great for customers, it means that companies have to put more effort to make a sale. A decade ago, as Depura watched Facebook and gaming firms like Zynga develop addictive products and services, he wondered if some of these learnings could be baked directly into modern age sales efforts.

That was the inception of MindTickle, which now helps companies guide their customer-facing teams. Regardless of what these firms are attempting to sell, they are competing with dozens of firms, if not more, and customers have ever-so-declining patience to hear them.

MindTickle, whose name is inspired from the idea of gamifying mindsets, allows companies to train and upskill their salespeople at scale, and uses role playing methods to help them practice their pitch, and how to handle a customer’s queries.

Depura said the platform helps salespeople measure their improvement in revenue metrics and offers feedback on the calls they made. The platform utilizes machine learning engines to serve personalized remediations and reinforcements to salespeople, he said.

More than 200 enterprises, including more than 40 of the Fortune 500 and Forbes Global 2000 firms, are among MindTickle’s clients today — though, citing confidential agreements, the firm said it can’t disclose several names. Some of the names it did share include MongoDB, Nutanix, Qualtrics, Procore, Square, Janssen, Cloudera, Dexcom, Merck & Co., and Benetton Group.

As of this writing, MindTickle was ranked the fifth best product for sales on G2, a popular marketplace for software and services.

“MindTickle’s track record of growth, quality of product and marquee customer base highlights their strengths,” said Sumer Juneja, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “By delivering engaging and personalized training to users, MindTickle is uniquely placed to support businesses to increase revenue generation and extend critical capabilities within their existing workforce.” The Japanese investment group, which began conversations with MindTickle about three months ago, is exploring more investments in SaaS categories.

The new funding capital will allow MindTickle, which employs about 400 people in the U.S., Europe, and India, to further establish this new category, said Depura. The startup is developing new product features and will deploy the new funds to further grow in Europe, and the U.S., which is already one of its key markets.

More to follow…

Extra Crunch roundup: Inside DoorDash’s IPO, first-person founder stories, the latest in fintech VC and more

By Walter Thompson

One of my favorite series of Monty Python sketches is built around the concept of surprise:

Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

[JARRING CHORD]

[Three cardinals burst in]

Cardinal Ximénez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

I was reminded of this today when I needed to reschedule a few stories so we could cover DoorDash’s S-1 filing from multiple angles. First, Managing Editor Danny Crichton looked at how well the company’s co-founders and many investors stand to make out. Alex Wilhelm covered the IPO announcement in depth on TechCrunch before writing an Extra Crunch column that studied the role the COVID-19 pandemic played in the home-delivery platform’s recent growth.

Our all-hands-on-deck coverage of DoorDash’s S-1 is a good illustration of Extra Crunch’s mission: timely analysis of current and future technology trends that serves founders and investors. We have a talented team, and as today’s coverage shows, they’re just as good as they are fast.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. The full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week. I hope you have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder

Why I left edtech and got into gaming

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

We frequently run posts by guest contributors, but two stories we published this week were written in the first person, which is a bit of a departure.

In Why I left edtech and got into gaming, Darshan Somashekar brought us inside his decision to pivot away from a sector that’s been growing hotter in 2020.

His post is a unique take on two oft-discussed categories, but it also examines one founder/investor’s thought process when it comes to evaluating new opportunities.

Andy Areitio, a partner at early-stage fund TheVentureCity, wrote What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder, a reflection on the “classic mistakes” founders tend to make when it’s time to fundraise.

“Error number one (and two) is to raise the wrong amount of money and to do it at the wrong time,” he says. “They can also put all their eggs in one basket too early. I made that mistake.”

You can find business writing that explores best practices anywhere, which is why we hunt down stories that are firmly rooted in data or personal experience (which includes success and failure).

How COVID-19 accelerated DoorDash’s business

doordash dasher bicycle delivery person

Image Credits: DoorDash

The coronavirus pandemic looms large in DoorDash’s S-1 filing.

According to the food-delivery platform, “58% of all adults and 70% of millennials say that they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago,” and “the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these trends.”

As in other sectors, the pandemic didn’t wave a magic wand — instead, it hastened trends that were already in play: consumers love convenience, which means DoorDash’s gross order volume and revenue were tracking well before the virus started to shape our lives.

“It’s your call on how to balance the factors and decide whether or not to buy into the IPO, but this one is going to be big,” writes Alex Wilhelm in a supplemental edition of today’s The Exchange.

 

The VC and founder winners of DoorDash’s IPO

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 05: DoorDash CEO Tony Xu speaks onstage during Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

None of us knew DoorDash would release its S-1 filing today, but Danny Crichton jumped on the story “so we can see who is raking in the returns on the country’s delivery startup champion.”

After estimating the value of the respective ownership stakes held by DoorDash’s four co-founders, he turned to the investors who participated in rounds seed through Series H.

Some growth funds are about to look very good after this IPO, and each founder is looking at hundreds of millions, he found.

But even so, their diminished haul of about $1.3 billion is “a sign of just how much dilution the co-founders took given the sheer amount of capital the company fundraised over its life.”

 

Fintech VC keeps getting later, larger and more expensive

Investors sent stacks of cash to late-stage fintech companies in Q3 2020, but these sizable rounds may also point to shrinking opportunities for early-stage firms, reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.

2020 could be a record year for fintech VC in Europe and North America, but are these “huge late-stage dollars” actually “a dampener for new fintech startups trying to get off the ground?”

 

Accelerators embrace change forced by pandemic

Devin Coldewey interviewed the leaders of three startup accelerators to learn more about the adaptations they’ve made in recent months:

  • David Brown, founder and CEO, Techstars
  • Cyril Ebersweiler, founder HAX, venture partner at SOSV
  • Daniela Fernandez, founder, Ocean Solutions Accelerator

Due to travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other unknowns, they’ve all shifted to virtual. But accelerators are intensive programs designed to indoctrinate founders and elicit brutally honest feedback in real time.

Despite the sudden shift, that boot-camp mindset is still in effect, Devin reports.

“Cutting out the commute time in a busy city leaves founders with more time for workshops, mentor matchmaking, pitch practice and other important sessions,” said Fernandez. “Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility.”

Said Ebersweiler: “People are for some reason more participative and have more feedback than physically — it’s pretty strange.”

Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on ‘shifting left’ in cybersecurity and the future of enterprise startups

Asheem Chandna

Image Credits: Greylock

In a recent interview with Greylock partner Asheem Chandna, Managing Editor Danny Crichton asked him about the buzz around no-code platforms and what’s happening in early-stage enterprise startups before segueing into a discussion about “shift left” security:

“Every organization today wants to bring software to market faster, but they also want to make software more secure,” said Chandna.

“There is a genuine interest today in making the software more secure, so there’s this concept of shift left — bake security into the software.”

 

Square and PayPal earnings bring good (and bad) news for fintech startups

If you missed Wednesday’s The Exchange, Alex scoured earnings reports from PayPal and Square to see what the near future might hold for several fintech startups currently waiting in the wings.

Using Square and PayPal’s recent numbers for stock purchases, card usage and consumer payment activity as a proxy, he attempts to “see what we can learn, and to which unicorns it might apply.”

 

Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty

Concept of knowledge, data and protection. Paper human head with pad lock.

Image Credits: jayk7 (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

In California, non-competition agreements can’t be enforced and a court has ruled that customer contact lists aren’t trade secrets.

That doesn’t mean salespeople who switch jobs can start soliciting their former customers on their first day at the new gig, however.

Before you jump ship — or hire a salesperson who already has — read this overview of California’s trade secret laws.

“Even without litigation, a former employer can significantly hamper a departing salesperson’s career,” says Nick Saenz, a partner at Lewis & Llewellyn LLP, who focuses on employment and trade secret issues.

As public investors reprice edtech bets, what’s ahead for the hot startup sector?

light bulb flickering on and off

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

News of a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine appeared to drive down prices of the three best-known publicly traded edtech companies: 2U, Chegg and Kahoot saw declines of about 20%, 10% and 9%, respectively after the report.

Are COVID-19 tailwinds dissipating, or did the market make a correction because “edtech has been categorically overhyped in recent months?”

 

Dear Sophie: What does a Biden win for tech immigration?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?

I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?

— Anticipation in Albany

 

Join us for a live Q&A with Bessemer’s Byron Deeter next Tuesday at 3 p.m ET, noon PT

By Alex Wilhelm

The Extra Crunch Live series rolls along with a big new installment next week as Jordan Crook and Alex Wilhelm will welcome Bessemer Venture PartnersByron Deeter to the conversation.

Deeter is an obvious addition to the collection of investors, founders and tech luminaries that TechCrunch has interviewed so far in the Live series — for a taste, here’s a look at our discussion with Unusual Ventures’ John Vrionis and Sarah Leary, and our chat with Plaid co-founder Zach Perret.

Why talk to a Bessemer partner in the current moment? The firm is well-known for its investments into SaaS and cloud companies, a key startup cohort that has performed well. Recent days have shaken that narrative as Q4 races to the halfway mark, with public investors seeming to rotate into other equities, punishing software firms that had been the market’s favored bet for most of the year.

We’ll dig into what’s changing on the private side of that coin, looking to understand today’s software venture capital dynamics, and what Deeter sees happening in 2021.

But there’s more to Bessemer’s active portfolio than SaaS. The venture group has also dropped dollars into Discord, which is seeing both revenue and usage explode, and Betterment, which plays in the active fintech savings and investing space. There’s lots to get into.

If you are an Extra Crunch Live veteran — you rock star, you! — or a brand-new participant — make sure your Extra Crunch membership is live! — bring a question or two as we’ll try to work in a few from the audience as we go.

Chat with you next Tuesday afternoon! (Oh, and you can now pre-submit questions down below, which is a great improvement over the old system which only allowed for live submissions!)

Details

Bootstrapped Clearfind wants to cut your software spend, for a small fee

By Jordan Crook

Software is eating the world, and that grub can be costly. As the market for enterprise tools and software continues to balloon, organizations are spending more and more on that software across an increasingly complicated and rapidly evolving landscape.

That’s where Clearfind comes in.

Clearfind was founded (and bootstrapped) by James Layfield and Jocelyn Simons. The startup aims to provide clarity and transparency to organizations looking to buy enterprise software. Over the past two years, Clearfind has been building out its backend, which is a mix of machine learning and humans, to distill a software offering down to its features.

When clients join the Clearfind platform, they give the startup access to their backend through integrations with products like Sage, Quickbooks, SAP, etc. so that Clearfind can take a look at their overall software spend. CIOs or CTOs can then see if there are any redundancies in their current software suite. These executives can also input the use case they’re looking to solve and Clearfind will deliver a detailed report on which SaaS products have the features to solve for it.

Before Clearfind, this process could be incredibly manual or costs tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars through a consultancy. And even then, those consultants may likely be recommending the products that have paid for top placement, not necessarily the best fit.

Image Credits: Clearfind

Clearfind makes money by charging 1.2 cents per dollar of annual software spend. The company says that it usually reduces spend by about 30 percent for most of the companies it works with by helping them optimize their software ecosystem and eliminate redundancies.

Clearfind also generates revenue through referral fees that come from search within Clearfind. Layfield and Simons were clear that vendors can not pay to influence search results or for placement on the Clearfind front-end, but rather pay for the leads that come through. These fees vary from vendor to vendor.

“When a vendor gets a lead from us, they prioritize it because it’s the most qualified lead they’ll ever get,” said Layfield. “That vendor will know everything. about the buyer and that the buyer is looking for all the criteria their product meets, and how much the buyer is willing to pay. That’s a level of qualified lead that just does not exist.”

Layfield explained there is an even more important reason for vendors to pay a referral fee, which is the implied LTV of a Clearfind lead. A customer that actually wants and needs the product, and the features it provides, is far less likely to churn.

Clearfind isn’t alone in the space. YC-backed Vendr, which is already profitable, is also looking to reduce SaaS spend and Intello, which doesn’t just give a view of software in use but also includes a compliance component.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna wants to completely transform his organization

By Ron Miller

When IBM announced it was spinning out its infrastructure services business last month, it was surely a sign that the company was going all in on hybrid cloud. Today in an interview with Jon Fortt at the CNBC Evolve summit, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna made it clear that his whole focus is going to be on transforming his organization into a hybrid cloud management vendor moving forward.

That means that instead of trying to primarily sell its own infrastructure or software services — although it will continue to do that — it will concentrate on leveraging Red Hat, the company it bought for $34 billion in 2018, to help customers manage their hybrid environments regardless of location. That could be on prem or it could be with any of the public cloud providers or anything in between.

Krishna sees this acquisition as a key part of the transition strategy to capture what he estimates is a trillion dollar opportunity in the hybrid cloud management market, and he believes his company is well positioned to grab a piece of that. “The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence,” Krishna told CNBC.

While he recognizes that Microsoft and Amazon are powerful players in the public cloud, he doesn’t see them as competitors, so much as partners in this new approach. In fact, mixing in a broad variety of third party partners is a big part of this.

“I look at both Microsoft and Amazon as likely partners in this journey, not as being the one and two [in market share]. In the hybrid world the question is where does the client want to decide where the workload runs? They could run it on Amazon. They can run on Microsoft. They can run it on IBM or they can run it on premises,” he said.

He believes that Red Hat can be the glue to hold this environment together and let customers have a single way of managing this complexity. The key question for IBM is whether customers see IBM and by extension Red Hat, as the key vendor for this role.

He recognizes that this isn’t just about adding and subtracting technology pieces. When it comes to transforming the way you do business in this way, it requires a massive cultural shift, one we saw Satya Nadella pull off when he took over as CEO at Microsoft in 2014. Much like Nadella, Krishna was promoted from within. He understands how things operate and that he needs to change the way things have traditionally been done at Big Blue if he’s going to succeed.

“I’ve talked a lot internally about a growth mindset, and about being much more entrepreneurial. And we can be entrepreneurs, even within large companies. But it comes from having extreme focus. So when we provide the focus of being focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, which I believe are the two fundamental forces, then you say how do you unlock everybody being able to go after that,” he said.

That’s going to be the big key for him moving forward as transforming a company the size of IBM is going to be a tremendous challenge for him as a leader. As Fortt pointed out, IBM salespeople are used to focusing on IBM products. This approach means they have to look at the market much more broadly, and that requires a new mindset. It will be up to Krishna to lead the way and make sure that his employees are on the same page about this. The success of this approach depends on that.

Software companies are reporting a pretty good third quarter

By Alex Wilhelm

What a difference a week makes.

This time last week, in the wake of earnings from tech’s five largest American companies and early results from other software companies, it appeared that tech shares were in danger of losing their mojo.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


But then, this week’s rally launched, and more earnings results came in. Generally speaking, the Q3 numbers from SaaS and cloud companies have been medium-good, or at least good enough to protect historically stretched valuations when comparing present-day revenue multiples to historical norms.

This is great news for yet-private startups that have had to deal with a recession, an uneven and at-times uncertain funding market, an election cycle and other unknowns this year. Wrapping 2020 with a market rally and strong earnings from public comps should give private software companies a halo heading into the new year, assisting them with both fundraising and valuation defense.

Of course, there’s still a lot more data to come in, markets are fickle and many SaaS companies will report next month, having a fiscal calendar offset by a month from how you and I track the year. But after spending time on the phone this week with JFrog’s CEO, BigCommerce’s CEO and Ping Identity’s CFO, I think things are turning out just fine.

Let’s get into what we’ve learned.

Growth and expectations

Kicking off, Redpoint’s Jamin Ball, a venture capitalist who unconsciously moonlights as the research desk for the The Exchange during earnings season, has a roundup of earnings results from this week’s set of SaaS and cloud stocks that reported. As you will recall, last week we were slightly unimpressed by its cohort of results.

Here’s this week’s tally:

As we can see, there was a single miss amongst the group in Q3. Unsurprisingly, that company, SurveyMonkey, was also one of three SaaS companies to project Q4 revenue under street expectations. My read of that chart is seeing a little less than 80% of the group that did project Q4 guidance that bests expectations is bullish, as were the Q3 results, which included a good number of companies that topped targets by at least 10%.

Inside of the data are two narratives that I want to explore. The first is about COVID-related friction, and the second is about COVID-related acceleration. Every company in the world is experiencing at least some of the former. For example, even companies that are seeing a boom in demand for their products during the pandemic must still deal with a sales market in which they cannot operate as they would like to.

For software companies, reportedly in the midst of a hastening digital transformation, the question becomes whether or not the COVID’s minuses are outweighing its pluses. We’ll explore the matter through the lens of three companies that The Exchange spoke with this week after they reported their Q3 results.

Ping Identity

Of our three companies this week, Ping Identity had the hardest go of it; its stock fell sharply after it dropped its Q3 numbers, despite beating earnings expectations for the period.

The company’s revenue fell 3%, while its annual recurring revenue (ARR) rose by 17%. Why did its stock fall if it came in ahead of expectations? You could read its Q4 guidance as slightly soft. In the above chart it’s marked as a slight beat, but its low-end came in under analyst expectations, creating the possibility of a projected miss.

Investors, betting on Ping’s move to SaaS being accretive both now and in the long-term, were not stoked by its Q4 forecast.

Here’s how fast a few dozen startups grew in Q3 2020

By Alex Wilhelm

Earlier this week I asked startups to share their Q3 growth metrics and whether they were performing ahead of behind of their yearly goals.

Lots of companies responded. More than I could have anticipated, frankly. Instead of merely giving me a few data points to learn from, The Exchange wound up collecting sheafs of interesting data from upstart companies with big Q3 performance.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Naturally, the startups that reached out were the companies doing the best. I did not receive a single reply that described no growth, though a handful of respondents noted that they were behind in their plans.

Regardless, the dataset that came together felt worthy of sharing for its specificity and breadth. And so other startup founders can learn from how some of their peer group are performing. (Kidding.)

Let’s get into the data, which has been segmented into buckets covering fintech, software and SaaS, startups focused on developers or security and a final group that includes D2C and fertility startups, among others.

Q3 performance

Obviously, some of the following startups could land in several different groups. Don’t worry about it! The categories are relaxed. We’re here to have fun, not split hairs!

Fintech

  • Numerated: According to Numerated CEO Dan O’Malley, his startup that helps companies more quickly access banking products had a big Q3. “Revenue for the first three quarters of 2020 is 11X our origination 2020 plan, and 18X versus the same period in 2019,” he said in an email. What’s driving growth? Bank digitization, O’Malley says, which has “been forced to happen rapidly and dramatically” in 2020.
  • BlueVineBlueVine does banking services for SMBs; think things like checking accounts, loans and payments. The company is having a big year, sharing with TechCrunch via email that has expanded its customer base “by 660% from Q1 2020 to” this week. That’s not a revenue metric, and it’s not Q3 specific, but as both Numerated and BlueVine cited the PPP program as a growth driver, it felt worthy of inclusion.
  • Harvest Platform: A consumer-focused fintech, Harvest helps folks recover fees, track their net worth and bank. In an email, Harvest said it “grew well over 1000%+” in the third quarter and is “ahead of its 2020 plan” thanks to more folks signing up for its service and what a representative described as “economic tailwinds.” The savings and investing boom continues, it appears.

Software/SaaS

  • Uniphore: Uniphore provides AI-based conversational software products to other companies used for chatting to customers and security purposes. According to Uniphore CEO Umesh Sachdev, the company grew “320% [year-over-year] in our Q2 FY21 (July-sept 2020),” or a period that matches the calendar Q3 2020. Per the executive, that result was “on par with [its] plan.” Given that growth rate, is Uniphore a seed-stage upstart? Er, no, it raised a $51 million Series C in 2019. That makes its growth metrics rather impressive as its implied revenue base from which it grew so quickly this year is larger than we’d expect from younger companies.
  • Text Request: A SMS service for SMBs, Text Request grew loads in Q3, telling TechCrunch that it “billed 6x more than we did in 2019’s Q3,” far ahead of its target for doubling billings. A company director said that while “customer acquisition was roughly on par with expectations,” the value of those customers greatly expanded. I dug into the numbers and was told that the 6x figure is for total dollars billed in Q3 2020 inclusive of recurring and non-recurring incomes. For just the company’s recurring software product, growth was a healthy 56% in Q3.
  • Notarize: Digital notarization startup Notarize — Boston-based, most recently raised a $35 million Series C — is way ahead of where it expected to be, with a VP at the company telling TechCrunch that during “the first week of lockdowns, Notarize’s sales team got 3,000+ inquiries,” which it managed to turn into revenues. The same person added that the startup is “probably 5x ahead of [its] original 2020 plan,” with the substance measured being annual recurring revenue, or ARR. We’d love some hard numbers as well, but that growth pace is spicy. (Notarize also announced it grew 400% from March to July, earlier this year.)
  • BurnRate.io: Acceleprise-backed Burnrate.io hasn’t raised a lot of money, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing quickly. According to co-founder and CEO Robert McLaws, BurnRate “started selling in Q4 of last year” so it did not have a pure Q3 2019 v. Q3 2020 metric to share. But the company managed to grow 3.3x from Q4 2019 to Q3 2020 per the executive, which is still great. BurnRate provides software that helps startups plan and forecast, with the company telling TechCrunch with yearly planning season coming up, it expects sales to keep growing.
  • Gravy AnalyticsLocation data as a service! That’s what Gravy Analytics appears to do and apparently it’s been a good run thus far in 2020. The company told TechCrunch that it has seen sales rise 80% year-to-date over 2019. This is a bit outside our Q3 scope as it’s more 2020 data, but we can be generous and still include it.
  • ChartHopTechCrunch covered ChartHop earlier this year when it raised $5 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. A number of other investors took part, including Cowboy Ventures and Flybridge Capital. Per our coverage, ChartHop is a “new type of HR software that brings all the different people data together in one place.” The model is working well, with the startup reporting that since its February seed round — that $5 million event — it has grown 10x. The company recently raised a Series A. Per a rep via email, ChartHop is “on-target” for its pre-pandemic business plan, but “far ahead” of what it expected at the start of the pandemic.
  • Credo: Credo is a marketplace for digital marketing talent. It’s actually a company I’ve known for a long-time, thanks to founder John Doherty. According to Doherty, Credo has “grown revenue 50% since June, while only minimally increasing burn.” Very good.
  • Canva: Breaking my own rules about only including financial data, I’m including Canva because it sent over strong product data that implies strong revenue growth. Per the company, Canva’s online design service has seen “increased growth over both Q2 and Q3, with an increase of 10 million users in Q3 alone (up from 30 million users in June).” 33% user growth from 30 to 40 million is impressive. And, the company added that it saw more team-based usage since the start of the pandemic, which we presume implies the buying of more expensive, group subscriptions. Next time real revenue, please, but this was still interesting.

Developer/Security

Customer experience and digital transformation concepts are merging during the pandemic

By Ron Miller

Customer experience and digital transformation are two terms we’ve been hearing about for years, but have often remained nebulous in many organizations — something to aspire to perhaps, but not take completely seriously. Yet the pandemic has been a forcing event for both concepts, thrusting the ideas front and center.

Suddenly startups that help with either of these concepts are seeing rising demand, even in a year with an overall difficult economic climate. If you are fortunate enough to be helping companies digitize a process or improve how customers interact with companies, you may be seeing increased interest from customers and potential acquirers (and this was true even before this year). A case in point is Twilio acquiring Segment for $3.2 billion recently to help build data-fueled applications to interact with customers.

Even though building a positive customer experience has never been completely about digital, at a time where it’s difficult to interact with customers in person, the digital side of it has taken new urgency. As COVID-19 took hold this year, businesses, large and small, suddenly realized the only way to connect to their customers was digitally. At that point, digital transformation became customer experience’s buddy when other ways of contacting one another have been severely limited.

Pandemic brings changes

Just about every startup founder I talk to these days, along with bigger, more established companies, talk about how the pandemic has pushed companies to digitally transform much faster than they would have without COVID.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, says that the pandemic has certainly expedited the need to bring these two big ideas together and created opportunities as that happens. “The coronavirus, as terrible as it has been in so many ways to so many people, has created opportunities for companies to build direct-to-consumer (D2C) digital pipelines that can make them stronger companies despite the current hardships,” Leary told TechCrunch.

The cloud plays a big role in the digital transformation process, and for the last decade, we have seen companies make a slow but steady shift to the cloud. When you have a situation like we’ve had with the coronavirus, it speeds everything up. As it turns out, being in the cloud helps you move faster because you don’t have to worry about all of the overhead of running a business critical application as the SaaS vendors take care of all that for you.

This former Tesla CIO just raised $150 million more to pull car dealers into the 21st century

By Connie Loizos

“I have to choose my words carefully,” says Joe Castelino of Stevens Creek Volkswagen in San Jose, Ca., when asked about the software on which most car dealerships rely for inventory information, to manage marketing, to handle customer relationships and to otherwise help sell cars.

Castelino, the dealership’s service director, laughs as he says this. But the joke has apparently been on car dealers, most of whom have largely relied on a few frustratingly antiquated vendors for their dealer management systems over the years — along with many more sophisticated point solutions.

It’s the precise opportunity that former Tesla CIO, Jay Vijayan, concluded he was well-positioned to address while still in the employ of the electric vehicle giant.

As Vijayan tells it, he knew nothing about cars until joining Tesla in 2011, following a dozen years of working in product development at Oracle, then VMWare. Yet he learned plenty over the subsequent four years. Specifically, he says he helped to build with Elon Musk a central analysis system inside Tesla, a kind of brain that could see all of the company’s internal systems, from what was happening in the supply chain to its factory systems to its retail platform.

Tesla had to build it itself, says Vijayan; after evaluating the existing software of third company providers, the team “realized that none of them had anything close to what we needed to provide a frictionless modern consumer experience.”

It was around then that a lightbulb turned on. If Tesla could transform the experience for its own customers, maybe Vijayan could transform the buying and selling experience for the much bigger, broader automotive industry. Enter Tekion, a now four-year-old, San Carlos, Ca., company that now employs 470 people and has come far enough along that just attracted $150 million in fresh funding led by the private equity investor Advent International.

With the Series C round — which also included checks from Index Ventures, Airbus Ventures, FM Capital and Exor, the holding company of Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari — the company has now raised $185 million altogether. It’s also valued at north of $1 billion. (The automakers General Motors, BMW, and the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance are also investors.)

Eric Wei, a managing director at Advent, says that over the last decade, his team had been eager to seize on what’s approaching a $10 billion market annually. Instead, they found themselves tracking incumbents Reynolds & Reynolds, CDKGlobal and Dealertrack, which is owned by Cox Automotive, and waiting for a better player to emerge.

Then Wei was connected to Tekion through Jon McNeill, a former Tesla president and an advisory partner to Advent.

Says Wei of seeing its tech compared with its more established rivals: “It was like comparing a flip phone to an iPhone.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, McNeill, who worked at Tesla with Vijayan, also sings the company’s praises, noting that Tekion even bought a dealership in Gilroy — the “garlic capital” of California — to use as a kind of lab while it was building its technology from scratch.

Such praise is nice, but more importantly, Tekion is attracting the attention of dealers. Though citing competitive reasons, Vijayan declined to share how many have bought its cloud software —  which connects dealers with both manufacturers and car buyers and is powered by machine learning algorithms — he says it’s already being used across 28 states.

One of these dealerships is the national chain Serra Automotive, whose founder, Joseph Serra, is now an investor in Tekion.

Another is that Volkswagen dealership in San Jose, where Castelino — who doesn’t have a financial interest in Tekion — speaks enthusiastically about the time and expenses his team is saving because of Tekion’s platform.

For example, he says a customers need only log-in now to flag a particular issue. After that, with the help of an RFID tag, Stevens Creek knows exactly when that customer pulls into the dealership and what kind of help they need, enabling people to greet him or her on arrival. Tekion can also make recommendations based on a car’s history. It might, for instance, suggest to a customer a brake fluid flush “without an advisor having to look through a customer’s history,” he says.

As important, he says, the dealership has been able to cut ties with a lot of other software vendors, while also making more productive use of its time. Says Castelino, “As soon as a [repair order] is live, it’s in a dispatcher’s hand and a technician can grab the car.”

It’s like that with every step, he insists. “You’re saving 15 minutes again and again, and suddenly, you have three hours where your intake can be higher.”

Index nabs $2.6M seed to create BI dashboards without coding

By Ron Miller

Index founders, Xavier Pladevall and Eduardo Portet, have been friends since they were small children in the Dominican Republic. Both came to college in the U.S., and last year the two decided to launch a startup to help non-technical users build business intelligence dashboards without coding.

Today they get to keep building on that dream with the help of a $2.6 million seed investment from David Sacks, Slack, Gradient Ventures, Y Combinator and other individual investors.

What has attracted this investment is a couple of young founders who are passionate about making it simple to build a data dashboard without help from experts like engineers or data analysts.

“Essentially what we do is we help companies build their business metrics dashboards with as little code or technical knowledge as possible. The byproduct of that is that anyone in the company can build their own metrics for their teams,” co-founder Xavier Pladevall told TechCrunch.

End users can connect to a growing list of data sources and Index deals with building the queries and displaying the data for the users without data scientists or data analysts to help. For now, that includes Salesforce and Hubspot for CRM data, Stripe payments data and certain databases from Postgres and MongoDB.

(Xavier Pladevall (left) and Eduardo Portet (right) founders of Inex

Company co-founders Xavier Pladevall and Eduardo Portet. Image Credits: Index

As the founders build out the product, they want to stay lean with just the two founders and perhaps two additional engineers. “We’re actually looking to hire two people full time, and that’s going to take us to the Series A, and we’ve been very clear with investors about that,” he said.

As Latino immigrant founders, they want to build a company that’s diverse and inclusive. He says that’s it’s not hard for him and his co-founder to find people of color because they have formed friendships with a diverse  network of people they can tap into.

“Our job is to keep doing what we’re doing, which is to be friends with a bunch of different people because that is genuine and people can definitely tell you’re trying to meet some diversity quota versus when you’re generally a diversity-oriented type of company because it comes back to the founders themselves,” he said.

The two founders and their families have been friends since they were children. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, they didn’t have access to computer science classes, but they did have access to the internet and they got the startup bug from reading U.S. tech publications like this one, and learned to code from YouTube videos and StackOverflow. They both came to college in the U.S. and both interned at large companies — Pladevall at Facebook and Portet worked at Metadata in New York.

The idea came together because Pladevalll was part of a team at Facebook building a similar tool for internal use. He decided that it would be a viable commercial idea for companies without the resources of Facebook. He came together with his childhood friend and began building the company in January as the pandemic hit.

He acknowledges the hardship of this year, but says it really helped them focus because there wasn’t anything else to do. While they are amazed at having $2.6 million in the bank, he says they still have the hunger that he believes is part of the immigrant founder ethos.

“It’s just hunger to just prove yourself and if coding is what it takes, learn how to code. If it’s going through an early visa process, which is by the way, way harder than raising millions of dollars and going through YC, in my opinion, [you do that]” he said. He said it’s about doing whatever it takes.

As the two friends take their first steps as a company, they have some early customers and continue to refine the product. With today’s funding they have some lofty goals for the next year, which include building out that product, reaching $1 million in ARR and building distribution for the dashboard.

If they can meet those goals, Pladevall says, they should be able to get their Series A. I wouldn’t bet against them.

Databricks crossed $350M run rate in Q3, up from $200M one year ago

By Alex Wilhelm

The Exchange regularly covers companies as they approach and crest the $100 million revenue mark. Our goal in tracking startups growing at scale is to scout future IPO candidates and better understand the late-stage financing market.

Today we’re digging into a company that is a little bit bigger than that. Namely Databricks, a data analytics company that was most recently valued at around $6.2 billion in its October, 2019 Series F when it raised $400 million.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


The former startup reached a run rate of around $350 million at the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in revenue in Q3 2019, putting it on a rapid growth pace for a former startup of its size.

To better dig into the company’s performance, I got on the phone with its CEO, Ali Ghodsi, hoping to better understand how Databricks has managed to grow as much as it has in recent years. Ghodsi took over as CEO in 2016 after serving as the company’s VP of engineering. He’s also a co-founder.

Databricks is an obvious IPO candidate, but it’s also a company with broad private-market options, given its revenue expansion and attractive economics. Today, let’s talk about Databricks’ growth history, how it changed its sales process, and what’s ahead for the unicorn more than six times over.

What does Databricks do?

What does Databricks actually do? Normally I’d be content to wave my hands at data analytics and call it a day. Chatting with Ghodsi, however, clarified the matter, so let me help.

Let’s say that a company has a lot of data on its machinery and wants to know when different pieces are going to fail. Or, perhaps a company wants find patterns in some economic data. How do they find that information?

Ghodsi reckons you need three things: First, data engineering, or getting customer data “massaged into the right forms so that you can actually start using it.” Second, data science, which Ghodsi describes as “the machine learning algorithms, the predictive algorithms that you need to have.” And third, on top, companies “more and more” also want data warehousing and some “basic analytics,” he added.

Vivun announces $18M Series A to keep growing pre-sales platform

By Ron Miller

Vivun’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Darrow used to run pre-sales at Zuora and he saw that pre-sales team members had a lot of insight into customers. He believed if he could capture that insight, it would turn into valuable data to be shared across the company. He launched Vivun to build upon that idea in 2018, and today the company announced an $18 million Series A.

Accel led the round with participation from existing investor Unusual Ventures. With today’s investment, Vivun has raised a total of $21 million, according to the company.

Darrow says that the company has caught the attention of investors because this is a unique product category and there has been a lot of demand for it. “It turns out that businesses of all sizes, startups and enterprises, are really craving a solution like Vivun, which is dedicated to pre-sales. It’s a big, expensive department, and there’s never been software for it before,” Darrow told TechCrunch.

He says that a couple of numbers stand out in the company’s first year in business. First of all, the startup grew annual recurring revenue (ARR) six fold (although he wouldn’t share specific numbers) and tripled the workforce growing from 10 to 30, all while doing business as an early stage startup in the midst of a pandemic.

Darrow said while the business has grown this year, he found smaller businesses in the pipeline were cutting back due to the impact of COVID’s, but larger businesses like Okta, Autodesk and Dell Secureworks have filled in nicely, and he says the product actually fits well in larger enterprise organizations.

“If we look at our value proposition and what we do, it increases exponentially with the size of the company. So the larger the team, the larger the silos are, the larger the organization is, the bigger the value of solving the problem for pre-sales becomes,” he said.

After going from a team of 10 to 30 employees in the last year, Darrow wants to double the head count to reach around 60 employees in the next year, fueled in part by the new investment dollars. As he builds the company, the founding team, which is made up of two men and two women, is focused on building a diverse and inclusive employee base.

“It is something that’s really important to us, and we’ve been working at it. Even as we went from 10 to 30, we’ve worked to pay close attention to [diversity and inclusion], and we continue to do so just as part of the culture of how we build the business,” he said.

He’s been having to build that workforce in the middle of COVID, but he says that even before the pandemic shut down offices, he and his founding partners were big on flexibility in terms of time spent in the office versus working from home. “We knew that for mental health strength and stability, that being in the office nine to five, five days a week wasn’t really a modern model that would cut it,” he said.

Even pre-COVID the company was offering two quiet periods a year to let people refresh their batteries. In the midst of COVID, he’s trying to give people Friday afternoons off to go out and exercise and relax their minds.

As the startup grows, those types of things may be harder to do, but it’s the kind of culture Darrow and his founding partners hope to continue to foster as they build the company.

Frontegg raises $5M to help SaaS companies build SaaS faster

By Frederic Lardinois

Frontegg, a Tel Aviv-based startup that helps SaaS companies build their products faster by giving them access to a set of enterprise-ready building blocks for often-used features like authentication and notifications, today announced that it has raised a $5 million seed round. The round was led by Pitango, with backing from i3 Equity and Global Founders Capital.

The founders of Frontegg, Sagi Rodin (CEO) and Aviad Mizrachi (CTO), met during their time at security company Check Point, where Mizrachi managed an R&D group and Rodin’s last role was that of director in its cloud security organization. Both have extensive experience in various management and engineering roles at other companies.

“Most of the SaaS products today kind of feel and act the same,” Rodin explained. “They provide the same capabilities and the same user experience around things like authentication, security, notification, reporting dashboards and capabilities like that. These are capabilities that have become the facto standard in the landscape of modern SaaS products.”

Frontegg, he hopes, can become the new standard for SaaS companies to build these kinds of features into their products.

“Over the last decade, the SaaS market has matured and customer expectations for SaaS features have become firmly established,” said Ayal Itzkovitz, managing partner at Pitango Early Stage, who will join the company’s board of directors. “SaaS companies building products powered by the Frontegg platform can supercharge SaaS innovation, simplifying the development process while delivering solutions with the confidence they will be secure, stable and scalable, all the while meeting high customer expectations for experience and performance.”

Image Credits: Frontegg

For the most part, these are also table stakes that take a long time to develop — or involve bringing in expensive third-party services — but that don’t help these companies differentiate and that take focus away from developing their own products. The idea behind Frontegg is to give dev teams the building blocks to integrate all of these capabilities into their own products.

Right now, the team is focusing on building out tools around three main areas: security, connectivity and engagement. That includes the ability to add enterprise-level authentication through third-party identity providers, setting up roles and permissions for users and audit logs, for example, as well as features like in-app alerts, push notifications and various reporting capabilities.

In part, the company’s philosophy is also to give these companies the ability to allow their own customers to self-manage everything on their own, so a lot of these building blocks focus on giving SaaS companies the ability to build these self-service capabilities into their products.

Interestingly, Rodin noted that a lot of companies that are using the service today aren’t starting from zero but are looking to integrate new capabilities quickly because their users are demanding them.

Right now, the one-year-old company has 16 employees, with plans to use the new funding to expand the team and build out the product.

Image Credits: Frontegg

❌