We learn more about Slack’s future, Revolut adds new payment features and DoorDash pushes its IPO range upward. This is your Daily Crunch for December 4, 2020.
The big story: Slack and Salesforce execs explain their big acquisition
After Salesforce announced this week that it’s acquiring Slack for $27.7 billion, Ron Miller spoke to Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor to learn more about the deal.
Butterfield claimed that Slack will remain relatively independent within Salesforce, allowing the team to “do more of what we were already doing.” He also insisted that all the talk about competing with Microsoft Teams is “overblown.”
“The challenge for us was the narrative,” Butterfield said. “They’re just good [at] PR or something that I couldn’t figure out.”
Startups, funding and venture capital
Revolut lets businesses accept online payments — With this move, the company is competing directly with Stripe, Adyen, Braintree and Checkout.com.
Health tech venture firm OTV closes new $170M fund and expands into Asia — This year, the firm led rounds in telehealth platforms TytoCare and Lemonaid Health.
Zephr raises $8M to help news publishers grow subscription revenue — The startup’s customers already include publishers like McClatchy, News Corp Australia, Dennis Publishing and PEI Media.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
DoorDash amps its IPO range ahead of blockbuster IPO — The food delivery unicorn now expects to debut at $90 to $95 per share, up from a previous range of $75 to $85.
Enter new markets and embrace a distributed workforce to grow during a pandemic — Is this the right time to expand overseas?
Three ways the pandemic is transforming tech spending — All companies are digital product companies now.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
WH’s AI EO is BS — Devin Coldewey is not impressed by the White House’s new executive order on artificial intelligence.
China’s internet regulator takes aim at forced data collection — China is a step closer to cracking down on unscrupulous data collection by app developers.
Gift Guide: Games on every platform to get you through the long, COVID winter — It’s a great time to be a gamer.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
Ever since the pandemic hit the U.S. in full force last March, the B2B tech community keeps asking the same questions: Are businesses spending more on technology? What’s the money getting spent on? Is the sales cycle faster? What trends will likely carry into 2021?
Recently we decided to join forces to answer these questions. We analyzed data from the just-released Q4 2020 Outlook of the Coupa Business Spend Index (BSI), a leading indicator of economic growth, in light of hundreds of conversations we have had with business-tech buyers this year.
A former Battery Ventures portfolio company, Coupa* is a business spend-management company that has cumulatively processed more than $2 trillion in business spending. This perspective gives Coupa unique, real-time insights into tech spending trends across multiple industries.
Tech spending is continuing despite the economic recession — which helps explain why many startups are raising large rounds and even tapping public markets for capital.
Broadly speaking, tech spending is continuing despite the economic recession — which helps explain why many tech startups are raising large financing rounds and even tapping the public markets for capital. Here are our three specific takeaways on current tech spending:
Tech spending ranks among the hottest boardroom topics today. Decisions that used to be confined to the CIO’s organization are now operationally and strategically critical to the CEO. Multiple reasons drive this shift, but the pandemic has forced businesses to operate and engage with customers differently, almost overnight. Boards recognize that companies must change their business models and operations if they don’t want to become obsolete. The question on everyone’s mind is no longer “what are our technology investments?” but rather, “how fast can they happen?”
Spending on WFH/remote collaboration tools has largely run its course in the first wave of adaptation forced by the pandemic. Now we’re seeing a second wave of tech spending, in which enterprises adopt technology to make operations easier and simply keep their doors open.
SaaS solutions are replacing unsustainable manual processes. Consider Rhode Island’s decision to shift from in-person citizen surveying to using SurveyMonkey. Many companies are shifting their vendor payments to digital payments, ditching paper checks entirely. Utility provider PG&E is accelerating its digital transformation roadmap from five years to two years.
The second wave of adaptation has also pushed many companies to embrace the cloud, as this chart makes clear:
Image Credits: Battery Ventures (opens in a new window)
Similarly, the difficulty of maintaining a traditional data center during a pandemic has pushed many companies to finally shift to cloud infrastructure under COVID. As they migrate that workload to the cloud, the pie is still expanding. Goldman Sachs and Battery Ventures data suggest $600 billion worth of disruption potential will bleed into 2021 and beyond.
In addition to SaaS and cloud adoption, companies across sectors are spending on technologies to reduce their reliance on humans. For instance, Tyson Foods is investing in and accelerating the adoption of automated technology to process poultry, pork and beef.
Mention “digital product company” in the past, and we’d all think of Netflix. But now every company has to reimagine itself as offering digital products in a meaningful way.
When Salesforce bought Slack earlier this week for $27.7 billion, it was in some ways the end of a startup fairytale. Slack was the living embodiment of the Silicon Valley startup success fantasy. It started as a pivot from a game company, of all things. It raised $1.4 billion, went from zero to a $7 billion valuation to IPO, checking off every box on the startup founder’s wish list.
While we might not ever know the back (Slack) room maneuvering that went on to make the deal a reality, it is interesting to note that Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told me in an interview this week that he was not actually trying to sell the company when he approached Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor earlier this year. Instead, he wanted to buy something from them.
“I actually talked to Bret in the early days of the pandemic to see if they wanted to sell us Quip because I thought it would be good for us, and I didn’t really know what their plans were [for it]. He said he’d get back to me, and then got back to me six months later or so,” Butterfield said.
At that point, the conversation flipped and the companies began a series of discussions that eventually led to Salesforce acquiring Slack.
From the Salesforce perspective, Taylor says that the Slack deal was worth the money because it really allows his company to bring together all the pieces of their platform, one that has expanded over the years from pure CRM to include marketing, customer service, data visualization, workflow and more. Taylor also said that having Slack gives Salesforce a missing communication layer on top of its other products, something especially important when interactions with customers, partners or fellow employees, have become mostly digital.
“When we say we really want Slack to be this next generation interface for Customer 360, what we mean is we’re pulling together all these systems. How do you rally your teams around these systems in this digital work-anywhere world that we’re in right now where these teams are distributed and collaboration is more important than ever,” Taylor said.
Butterfield sees a natural connection between what people do in the course of their work, what machines do behind the scenes in these systems of record and engagement, and how Slack can help bridge the gap between humans and machines.
He says that by putting Slack in the middle of business processes, you can begin to eliminate friction that occurs in complex enterprise software like Salesforce. Instead of moving stuff through email, clicking a link, opening a browser, signing in, and then finally accessing the tool you want, the approval could be built into a single Slack message.
“If you have hundreds of those kinds of actions a day, there’s a real opportunity to increase the velocity and that has an impact, and not just in the minutes saved by the person doing the approval, but the speed of how the whole business operates,” Butterfield said.
While neither executive said the deal was about competing with Microsoft, it was likely an underlying reason that the companies decided to join forces. They may prove better together than they are separately, and both have complicated histories with Microsoft.
Slack has had an ongoing battle with Microsoft and its Teams product for years. It filed suit against the company last summer in the EU over what it called unfairly bundling of Teams for free with Office 365. In an interview last year with the Wall Street Journal, Butterfield said that he believes Microsoft sees his company as an existential threat. Hyperbole aside, there is tension and competition between the two enterprise software companies.
Salesforce and Microsoft also have a long history from lawsuits in the early days, to making friends and working together when it makes sense after Satya Nadella took over in 2014, while still competing hard in the market. It’s hard not to see the deal in that context.
In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Battery Ventures general partner Neeraj Agrawal said the deal was at least partially about catching Microsoft.
“To get to a market cap of $1 trillion, Salesforce now has to take MSFT head on. Until now, the company has mostly been able to stay in its own swim lane in terms of products,” Agrawal told TechCrunch.
As for Butterfield, while he saw the obvious competition, he denied the deal was about putting his company in a better position to compete with his rival.
“I don’t think that was really an important part of the rationale, at least for me,” he said, adding “the competition with Microsoft is overblown. The challenge for us was the narrative. They’re just good PR or something that I couldn’t figure out,” he said.
While Butterfield cited a list of large clients in enterprise tech, insurance and banking, the narrative has always been that Slack was favored by developer teams, which is where it initially gained traction. Whatever the reality, with Salesforce, Slack is definitely in a better position to compete with any and all comers in the enterprise communications space, and while it will be part of Salesforce, the two companies also have to figure out how to maintain some separation.
Taylor certainly recognizes that Slack’s current customers are watching closely to see how they handle the acquisition, and his company will have to walk a fine line between respecting the brand and product independence on one hand, while finding ways to create and build upon existing hooks into Salesforce to allow the CRM giant to take full advantage of its substantial investment.
It won’t be easy to do, but you can see a similar level of independence in some of Salesforce’s recent big-money purchases like MuleSoft, the company it bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion, and Tableau, the company it bought last year for over $15 billion. As Butterfield points out, those two companies have clearly maintained their brand identity and independence, and he sees them as role models for Slack.
“So there’s a layer of independence that’s like that [for Mulesoft and Tableau] because it’s not going to help anyone call us Chat Cloud or something like that. They paid a lot of money for us, so they want us to do more of what we were already doing,” he said.
Taylor, whose opinion matters greatly here, certainly sees it in similar terms.
“We want to make sure we have a real integrated value proposition, a real integrated platform for developers, but also maintain Slack’s technology independence, technology agnostic platform and its brand,” he said.
As for the companies coming together, both men see a lot of potential here to merge Slack communications with Salesforce’s enterprise software prowess to make something better, and Taylor sees Slack helping link the two with workflows and automations.
“When you think about automation, it’s event driven, these long running processes, automations. If you look at what people are doing with the Slack platform, it’s essentially incorporating workflows and bots and all these things. The combination of the Salesforce platform where I think we have the best automation intelligence capabilities with the Slack platform is incredible,” Taylor said.
The challenge these two men now face as they move forward with this acquisition, and all of the expectations inherent in a deal this large, is making it work. Salesforce has a lot of experience with large acquisitions, and they have handled some well, and some not so well. It’s going to be imperative for both companies that they get this right. It’s now up to Taylor and Butterfield to make sure that happens.
Thoma Bravo must really like Flexera, an IT asset management company out of Chicago. The private equity firm bought the company for the second time today. Sources told TechCrunch the price was $2.85 billion.
Technically, Thoma Bravo is getting a majority stake in the company, buying it from previous owners TA Associates and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. The firm originally bought Flexera in 2008 from Macrovision for just $200 million. It turned it around just three years later in 2011 for $1 billion profit, according to reports.
While reports last year had the company’s investors looking for $3 billion, they didn’t quite reach that mark, but it’s still a hefty profit as the company continues to change hands, giving each of its owners a substantial return on investment.
At $2.85 billion, Thoma Bravo will have a bigger challenge on its hands to make that same kind of return, but it sees a company it liked before and it still likes it, especially the management team, which to some degree at least remains intact.
“Jim [Ryan] and his team have positioned Flexera for sustained growth by focusing on the strategic challenges enterprises face with complex IT infrastructures,” Seth Boro, managing partner at Thoma Bravo said in a statement.
Ryan was pleased to see the company’s value continue to rise and to connect once again with Thoma Bravo. “This is a resounding vote of confidence in the growth Flexera has shown and the strategic initiatives we’ve undertaken to address the exponential challenges faced by organizations today,” he said in a statement.
Flexera was founded in 2008 and has bought 12 companies along the way, including five in the last couple of years, according to Crunchbase data. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next subject to regulatory approvals.
When the Salesforce-Slack deal was officially announced on Tuesday afternoon, and the number appeared, it was kind of hard to believe. Salesforce had shelled out more than $27 billion to buy Slack and bring it into the Salesforce family of products. The company sees a key missing piece in Slack, and that could explain why it was willing to spend such an astonishing amount of money to get it.
With Slack, Salesforce now has what CEO Marc Benioff called the interface to everything, something he says that the company has thought about for years. In 2010, they tried building it themselves with Chatter, a social tool that never really caught on in a big way. With Slack they finally have it.
“We’ve always had the vision of the social enterprise at Salesforce for more than a decade. Oh, we’ve had Dreamforces entirely dedicated to the vision of what a collaborative interface, a high production interface with applications and an ecosystem would look like wrapped on top of our Customer 360,” Benioff said.
He added that ironically in a building right next door to Salesforce Park you’ll find Slack headquarters. They won’t have to go far to collaborate (or you know, they can just use Slack).
Neeraj Agrawal, general partner at Battery Ventures says that Benioff has had an interest in enterprise social going back years and this is his way of finally delivering.”Remember Chatter? Benioff was dead on with this trend. He lost Yammer to Microsoft (when Microsoft acquired it for $1.2 billion) about 7-8 years ago, and then launched Chatter. It was a huge bet, but didn’t work. Slack is really Chatter 2.0,” he said.
Chuck Ganapathi, CEO and co-founder at Tact.ai was product lead on the Chatter product at Salesforce in the 2009 timeframe. He wrote in a soon-to-be-published blog post he shared with TechCrunch, that it failed for a lot of reasons, but mostly because at its core, Salesforce was still a bunch of database guys and enterprise social was a very different animal.
“Salesforce is a database-centric company, founded by Oracle ex-pats on a relational DB foundation. Messaging apps must be architected to handle unstructured data, with a big focus on UX, which weren’t core competencies at Salesforce. Sometime after I left, the company seemed to lose interest in improving Chatter, except maybe as a component of other products,” he wrote.
But Benioff never lost interest in the concept of incorporating social into the Salesforce platform. It just took another 10 years or so and bushel of money to make it happen.
Leyla Seka, a partner at Operator Capital, who formerly ran the AppExchange at Salesforce, sees good things ahead with a combined Slack and Salesforce. “Salesforce and Slack together will offer a powerful duo of applications that will help companies work more effectively together. I think that COVID-19 has shown us how critical it is to get employees the data they need to do their job, but also the community they need to thrive at their job. The marriage of Salesforce and Slack promises to do just that,” Seka told me.
Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials was knocked out by the price tag, but says it shows that Salesforce is not afraid to go after what it wants, even if it has to pay a hefty price to get it. “This goes to show Salesforce has absolutely no fear in them when it comes to this deal. They are willing to throw down the big bucks on this acquisition because they see a huge payoff by adding this piece into their platform,” he said.
As for Slack, he sees it as a way for them to take the fast track to the enterprise big leagues. “And for Slack they go from competing with AMOSS (Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce) to joining the one of them, and the company that really made the most sense for them to team up with,” he said.
Laurie McCabe, an analyst and founder at SMB Group agrees with Leary’s take, saying Salesforce doesn’t hesitate when it thinks the value is there. “In this case, Slack gives them a strong collaboration offering that will help them compete more effectively against Microsoft’s growing cloud portfolio, which of course includes CRM and Teams,” she said.
Battery’s Agrawal believes this deal is all about generating revenue, and it was willing to pay a premium to move the needle in billion dollar chunks. The end game he believes is about catching Microsoft, or at the very least getting to $1 trillion (with a T, folks) in market cap.
It’s worth noting that investors are not showing signs, initially at least, of liking this deal with the stock down over 8% today and 16.5% since the rumor of Salesforce’s interest in Slack surfaced last week before the Thanksgiving holiday. That translates into over $18 billion in lost market cap, probably not the reaction that they were hoping for. But Salesforce is big enough that it can afford to play a long game, and reach its financial goals with the help of Slack.
“To get to a market cap of $1 trillion, Salesforce now has to take MSFT head on. Until now, the company has mostly been able to stay in its own swim lane in terms of products. […] To get to a trillion dollars in market cap, Salesforce needs to try to grow in two massive markets,” Agrawal said. Those would be either knowledge worker/desktop (see the 2016 Quip acquisition) or cloud (see the Hyperforce announcement). Agrawal says chances are the company’s best bet is the former, and it was willing to pay top dollar to get it.
“The deal will help Salesforce maintain a 20%+ growth rate over next few years,” he said. Ultimately, he sees it moving the revenue needle, which should eventually drive market cap higher and help achieve those goals.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce president and CEO Bret Taylor said while they intend to integrate Slack deeply into the Salesforce product family, they recognize the power and utility of Slack as a stand-alone product and they don’t intend to do anything that would mess with that.
“Fundamentally, we want to make sure that Slack remains as a kind of technology agnostic platform. We know that Slack is used by millions and millions of people every day to connect every tool under the sun. The most remarkable thing is just how many customers have also just integrated their own custom internal tools as well into this is really kind of the central nervous system for the teams that use it, and we would never want to change that,” he said.
It’s hard to judge a deal this large until we have some hindsight and see how well the two companies have meshed, how well they can incorporate Slack into the Salesforce ecosystem, while allowing that independence Taylor alluded to. If they can find a way to walk that line and Slack becomes that wrapper, that operating system, that glue that holds the Salesforce ecosystem together it will be a good deal, but if Slack stops innovating and withers under the weight of its corporate overlords, then it might not be money well spent.
Time will tell which is the case.
For much of its existence, Salesforce was a cloud service on its own with its own cloud resources available for its customers, but as the company and cloud computing in general has evolved, Salesforce has moved some of its workloads to other clouds like AWS, Azure and Google. Now, it wants to allow customers to do the same.
To help facilitate that, the company announced Hyperforce today at its Dreamforce customer conference, a new architecture designed from the ground up to help customers deliver workloads to the public cloud of choice.
The idea behind Hyperforce is to enable customers to take all of the data in what Salesforce calls Customer 360 — that’s the company’s detailed view of the customer across channels, Salesforce products and even other systems outside the Salesforce family — and be able to store that in whichever public cloud you want in whatever region you happen to operate. For now, they are in India and Germany, but there are plans to add support for 10 additional countries over the next year.
Company president and CTO Bret Taylor introduced the new approach. “We call this new capability Hyperforce. Simply put, we’ve been working to enable us to deliver Salesforce on public cloud infrastructure all around the world,” Taylor said.
Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says the underlying architecture running the Salesforce system is long overdue for an overhaul. At over 20 years old, it’s been around a long time now, but Mueller says that it’s about more than modernizing. “The pandemic requires SaaS vendors to move their offerings from their own data centers to [public cloud] data centers, so they can offer both architectural and commercial elasticity to their customers,” he said.
Mueller added that by bringing Salesforce data into the public cloud, besides the obvious data sovereignty issues it solves, it bring all of the advantages of using public cloud resources.
“Salesforce can now offer both architectural and commercial elasticity to their customers. Commercial elasticity matters a lot to CIOs and CTOs these days because when your business slows down, you pay less, and when your business accelerates, then you can afford to pay more,” he said. He says that Salesforce is bringing an early generation SaaS product and pulling it into the modern age, something that is imperative at this point in the company’s evolution.
But while moving forward, Taylor was careful to point out that they rebuilt the system in such a way as to be fully backwards compatible, so you don’t have to throw out all of the applications and investment you’ve made over the years, something that most companies couldn’t afford to do.”For you developers out there, This is the most remarkable thing. It is 100% backwards compatible, your apps will work with no changes and you can benefit from all of this automatically,” he said.
The company will be rolling out Hyperforce over the next year and beyond as it opens in more regions.
Fylamynt, a new service that helps businesses automate their cloud workflows, today announced both the official launch of its platform as well as a $6.5 million seed round. The funding round was led by Google’s AI-focused Gradient Ventures fund. Mango Capital and Point72 Ventures also participated.
At first glance, the idea behind Fylamynt may sound familiar. Workflow automation has become a pretty competitive space, after all, and the service helps developers connect their various cloud tools to create repeatable workflows. We’re not talking about your standard IFTTT- or Zapier -like integrations between SaaS products, though. The focus of Fylamynt is squarely on building infrastructure workflows. While that may sound familiar, too, with tools like Ansible and Terraform automating a lot of that already, Fylamynt sits on top of those and integrates with them.
“Some time ago, we used to do Bash and scripting — and then [ … ] came Chef and Puppet in 2006, 2007. SaltStack, as well. Then Terraform and Ansible,” Fylamynt co-founder and CEO Pradeep Padala told me. “They have all done an extremely good job of making it easier to simplify infrastructure operations so you don’t have to write low-level code. You can write a slightly higher-level language. We are not replacing that. What we are doing is connecting that code.”
So if you have a Terraform template, an Ansible playbook and maybe a Python script, you can now use Fylamynt to connect those. In the end, Fylamynt becomes the orchestration engine to run all of your infrastructure code — and then allows you to connect all of that to the likes of DataDog, Splunk, PagerDuty Slack and ServiceNow.
The service currently connects to Terraform, Ansible, Datadog, Jira, Slack, Instance, CloudWatch, CloudFormation and your Kubernetes clusters. The company notes that some of the standard use cases for its service are automated remediation, governance and compliance, as well as cost and performance management.
The company is already working with a number of design partners, including Snowflake.
Fylamynt CEO Padala has quite a bit of experience in the infrastructure space. He co-founded ContainerX, an early container-management platform, which later sold to Cisco. Before starting ContainerX, he was at VMWare and DOCOMO Labs. His co-founders, VP of Engineering Xiaoyun Zhu and CTO David Lee, also have deep expertise in building out cloud infrastructure and operating it.
“If you look at any company — any company building a product — let’s say a SaaS product, and they want to run their operations, infrastructure operations very efficiently,” Padala said. “But there are always challenges. You need a lot of people, it takes time. So what is the bottleneck? If you ask that question and dig deeper, you’ll find that there is one bottleneck for automation: that’s code. Someone has to write code to automate. Everything revolves around that.”
Fylamynt aims to take the effort out of that by allowing developers to either write Python and JSON to automate their workflows (think “infrastructure as code” but for workflows) or to use Fylamynt’s visual no-code drag-and-drop tool. As Padala noted, this gives developers a lot of flexibility in how they want to use the service. If you never want to see the Fylamynt UI, you can go about your merry coding ways, but chances are the UI will allow you to get everything done as well.
One area the team is currently focusing on — and will use the new funding for — is building out its analytics capabilities that can help developers debug their workflows. The service already provides log and audit trails, but the plan is to expand its AI capabilities to also recommend the right workflows based on the alerts you are getting.
“The eventual goal is to help people automate any service and connect any code. That’s the holy grail. And AI is an enabler in that,” Padala said.
Gradient Ventures partner Muzzammil “MZ” Zaveri echoed this. “Fylamynt is at the intersection of applied AI and workflow automation,” he said. “We’re excited to support the Fylamynt team in this uniquely positioned product with a deep bench of integrations and a nonprescriptive builder approach. The vision of automating every part of a cloud workflow is just the beginning.”
The team, which now includes about 20 employees, plans to use the new round of funding, which closed in September, to focus on its R&D, build out its product and expand its go-to-market team. On the product side, that specifically means building more connectors.
The company offers both a free plan as well as enterprise pricing and its platform is now generally available.
With a pandemic raging across many parts of the world, many companies have customer service agents spread out as well, creating a workforce management nightmare. It wasn’t easy to manage and route requests when CSAs were in one place, it’s even harder with many working from home.
To help answer that problem Salesforce is developing a new product called Service Cloud Workforce Engagement. Bill Patterson, EVP and General Manager for CRM Applications at Salesforce points out that with these workforces spread out, it’s a huge challenge for management to distribute work and keep up with customer volume, especially as customers have moved online during COVID.
“With Service Cloud Workforce Engagement, Salesforce will arm the contact center with a connected solution — all on one platform so our customers can remain resilient and agile no matter what tomorrow may bring,” Patterson said in a statement.
Like many Salesforce products, this one is made up of several key components to deliver a complete solution. For starters, there is Service Forecast for Customer 360, a tool that helps predict workforce requirements and uses AI to distribute customer service requests in a way that makes sense. This can help in planning at a time with a likely predictable uptick in service requests like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or even those times when there is an unexpected spike.
Next up is Omnichannel Capacity Planning, which helps managers distribute CSAs across channels such as phone, messaging or email wherever they are needed most based on the demand across a given channel.
Finally, there is a teaching component that helps coach customer service agents to give the correct answer in the correct way for a given situation. “To increase agent engagement and performance, companies will be able to quickly onboard and continually train agents by delivering bite-size, guided learning paths directly in the agent’s workspace during their shift,” the company explained.
The company says that Service Cloud Workforce Engagement will be available in the first half of next year.
In the same week that Amazon is holding its big AWS confab, Google is also announcing a move to raise its own enterprise game with Google Cloud. Today the company announced that it is acquiring Actifio, a data management company that helps companies with data continuity to be better prepared in the event of a security breach or other need for disaster recovery. The deal squares Google up as a competitor against the likes of Rubrik, another big player in data continuity.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement; we’re looking and will update as we learn more. Notably, when the company was valued at over $1 billion in a funding round back in 2014, it had said it was preparing for an IPO (which never happened). PitchBook data estimated its value at $1.3 billion in 2018, but earlier this year it appeared to be raising money at about a 60% discount to its recent valuation, according to data provided to us by Prime Unicorn Index.
It had raised around $461 million, with investors including Andreessen Horowitz, TCV, Tiger, 83 North, and more.
With Actifio, Google is moving into what is one of the key investment areas for enterprises in recent years. The growth of increasingly sophisticated security breaches, coupled with stronger data protection regulation, has given a new priority to the task of holding and using business data more responsibly, and business continuity is a cornerstone of that.
Google describes the startup as as a “leader in backup and disaster recovery” providing virtual copies of data that can be managed and updated for storage, testing, and more. The fact that it covers data in a number of environments — including SAP HANA, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and MySQL, virtual machines (VMs) in VMware, Hyper-V, physical servers, and of course Google Compute Engine — means that it also gives Google a strong play to work with companies in hybrid and multi-vendor environments rather than just all-Google shops.
“We know that customers have many options when it comes to cloud solutions, including backup and DR, and the acquisition of Actifio will help us to better serve enterprises as they deploy and manage business-critical workloads, including in hybrid scenarios,” writes Brad Calder, VP, engineering, in the blog post. :In addition, we are committed to supporting our backup and DR technology and channel partner ecosystem, providing customers with a variety of options so they can choose the solution that best fits their needs.”
The company will join Google Cloud.
“We’re excited to join Google Cloud and build on the success we’ve had as partners over the past four years,” said Ash Ashutosh, CEO at Actifio, in a statement. “Backup and recovery is essential to enterprise cloud adoption and, together with Google Cloud, we are well-positioned to serve the needs of data-driven customers across industries.”
While Salesforce made a big splash yesterday with the announcement that it’s buying Slack for $27.7 billion, it’s not the only thing going on for the CRM giant this week. In fact, Dreamforce, the company’s customer extravaganza, is also on the docket. While it is virtual this year, there are still product announcements aplenty, and today the company announced Einstein Automate, a new AI-fueled set of workflow solutions.
Sarah Franklin, EVP & GM of Platform, Trailhead and AppExchange at Salesforce says that she is seeing companies facing a digital imperative to automate processes as things move ever more quickly online, being driven there even faster by the pandemic. “With Einstein Automate, everyone can change the speed of work and be more productive through intelligent workflow automation,” she said in a statement.
Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that combined these tools are designed to help customers get to work more quickly. “It’s not only about identifying the insight, it’s about making it easier to leverage it at the the right time. And this should make it easier for users to do it without spending more time and effort,” Leary told TechCrunch.
Einstein is the commercial name given to Salesforce’s artificial intelligence platform that touches every aspect of the company’s product line, bringing automation to many tasks and making it easier to find the most valuable information on customers, which is often buried in an avalanche of data.
Einstein Automate encompasses several products designed to improve workflows inside organizations. For starters, the company has created Flow Orchestrator, a tool that uses a low-code, drag and drop approach for building workflows, but it doesn’t stop there. It also relies on AI to provide help suggest logical next steps to speed up workflow creation.
Salesforce is also bringing MuleSoft, the integration company it bought for $6.5 billion in 2018 into the mix. Instead of processes like a mortgage approval workflow, the Mulesoft piece lets IT build complex integrations between applications across the enterprise, and the Salesforce family of products more easily.
To make it easier to build these workflows, Salesforce is announcing the Einstein Automate collection page available in AppExchange, the company’s application marketplace. The collection includes over 700 pre-built connectors so customers can grab and go as they build these workflows, and finally it’s updating the OmniStudio, their platform for generating customer experiences. As Salesforce describes it, “Included in OmniStudio is a suite of resources and no-code tools, including pre-built guided experiences, templates and more, allowing users to deploy digital-first experiences like licensing and permit applications quickly and with ease. ”
Per usual with Salesforce Dreamforce announcements, the Flow Orchestrator being announced today won’t be available in beta until next summer. The Mulesoft component will be available in early 2021, but the OmniStudio updates and the Einstein connections collection are available today.
Space tourism startup Space Perspective has raised a new $7 million in seed funding, from investors including Prime Movers Lab and Base Ventures . The company, founded by Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, who previously founded stratospheric balloon company World View, is focused on developing Spaceship Neptune, a pressurized passenger capsule that is meant to be carried by an ultra-high altitude balloon to the very edge of space to provide passengers with an unparalleled view.
Spaceship Neptune is designed to carry up to eight passengers per trip, on a six-hour journey that will include two hours spent at the upper edge of Earth’s atmosphere and a water landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The first test flight is currently targeted for the end of the first quarter of 2021, according to Space Perspective, and it will involve flying an uncrewed Neptune capsule prototype, which also won’t have the pressurized cabin of the final version.
From there, the plan is to test and develop systems necessary for Neptune to take up its first human passengers, with the goal of doing that by sometime around 2024, with ticket pre-sales launching from 2021 for interested, deep-pocketed parties.
Poynter and MacCallum’s prior venture World View originally included human stratospheric space tourism trips as part of its business model, but the company has since pivoted to focus on scientific and commercial communication and observation payloads exclusively under its current leadership. World View appointed Ryan Hartman as CEO in 2018, replacing Poynter in the top spot.
Welcome, the HR software that helps organizations make and close offers to new candidates, announced the close of a $6 million seed round today, led by FirstMark Capital. Participating investors include Ludlow Ventures, Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, and Keenan Rice and Ben Porterfield (which were existing investors), as well as a wide array of angels.
TechCrunch last covered Welcome in August, when it announced a $1.4 million funding round. That the startup was able to raise more as quickly as it has is testament to how hot the early-stage venture capital market is today, and likely an endorsement of Welcome’s economic profile and recent growth.
Past the new capital, Welcome is also launching a new product today called Total Rewards, which helps not just new candidates but also existing employees get a complete, easy-to-understand picture of their compensation, across salary, benefits, equity, etc.
But let’s back up.
Welcome was founded in 2019 by Nick Gavronsky and Rick Pereira, with a mission to help organizations close offers on candidates by providing a much clearer picture of compensation, particularly around equity. Cofounder and CEO Nick Gavronsky explained that many candidates don’t truly understand the value of the equity they’re offered, or how it works.
“A lot of recruiting teams aren’t well-equipped to use it as a selling tool and explain it effectively and showcase the value to candidates to help them think about their ownership at the company,” he added.
Image Credits: Welcome
Welcome allows companies to organize their compensation offers based on level and position, and deliver that information digitally to candidates in a way that makes sense.
The startup integrates with a variety of other software providers including Slack, Lever, Greenhouse, ADP and Justworks to name a few, simplifying onboarding for Welcome clients and bringing a broad array of information into one place.
Offers sent through Welcome show a description of the role, equity details, total compensation and even include a welcome note and video. This is in stark contrast to the black and white legal PDF often sent to candidates.
The next phase for the company comes in the form of the launch of Total Rewards, which is meant to help retain existing employees, helping them understand their compensation value and their potential at the company.
“Painting a better picture becomes a pre-retention tool,” said Gavronsky. “An employee will sometimes leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don’t understand what they’re walking away from. A lot of times companies will wait until that person is going to resign. Let me now bring up all the things that are great about our company and talk through your stock options. But the decision’s already made. So we wanted something that we can kind of put in with performance reviews.”
Welcome also has plans to offer a third product pillar in the form of real-time accurate industry-wide compensation data, helping companies understand where they fit into the larger ecosystem with regards to compensation.
Thus far, Welcome has 40 companies on the platform, including Uncork and Betterment, with hundreds on the waitlist according to the cofounders. The company plans to use the funding to build out the team and the product.
Jitsu, a graduate of the Y Combinator Summer 2020 cohort, is developing an open source data integration platform that helps developers send data to a data warehouse. Today, the startup announced a $2 million seed investment.
Costanoa Ventures led the round with participation from YCombintaor, The House Fund and SignalFire.
In addition to the open source version of the software, the company has developed a hosted version that companies can pay to use, which shares the same name as the company. Peter Wysinski, Jitsu’s co-founder and CEO, says a good way to think about his company is an open source Segment, the customer data integration company that was recently sold to Twilio for $3.2 billion.
But he says, it goes beyond what Segment by allowing you to move all kinds of data whether customer data, connected device data or other types. “If you look at the space in general, companies want more granularity. So let’s say for example, a couple years ago you wanted to sync just your transactions from QuickBooks to your data warehouse, now you want to capture every single sale at the point of sale. What Jitsu lets you do is capture essentially all of those events, all of those streams, and send them to your data warehouse,” Wysinski explained.
Among the data warehouses it currently supports include Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, PostGres and Snowflake.
The founders built the open source project called EventNative to help solve problems they themselves were having moving data around at their previous jobs. After putting the open source version on GitHub a few months ago, they quickly attained 1000 stars, proving that they had delivered something that solved a common problem for data teams. They then built the hosted version, Jitsu, which went live a couple of weeks ago.
For now, the company is just the two co-founders, Wysinski and CTO Vladimir Klimontovich, but they intend to do some preliminary hiring over the next year to grow the company, most likely adding engineers. As they begin to build out the startup, Wysinski says that being open source will help drive diversity and inclusion in their hiring.
“The goal is essentially to go after that open source community and hire people from anywhere because engineers aren’t just […] one color or one race, they’re everywhere, and being open source, and especially being in a remote world, makes it so so much simpler [to build a diverse workforce], and a lot of companies I feel are going down that road,” he said.
He says along that line, the plan is to be a fully remote company, even after the pandemic ends, as they hire from anywhere. The goal is to have quarterly offsite meetings to check in with employees, but do the majority of the work remotely.
Salesforce announces its acquisition of Slack, Amazon brings the Mac mini to the cloud and Google Maps gets a newsfeed. This is your Daily Crunch for December 1, 2020.
The big story: Salesforce buys Slack for $27.7B
“This is a match made in heaven,” said Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff. “Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.”
This cash-and-stock deal should make Salesforce a more serious competitor in the enterprise communication market. It also seems that Slack (which went public last year) was an obvious target for a takeover, due to an underwhelming stock price and a net loss of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending on July 31 of this year.
The tech giants
Google Maps takes on Facebook with launch of its own news feed — The feed is designed to make it easier to find the most recent news and recommendations from trusted local sources.
Facebook’s self-styled ‘oversight’ board selects first cases, most dealing with hate speech — The Facebook-funded body that the tech giant set up to distance itself from tricky content moderation decisions has announced the first set of cases it will consider.
Startups, funding and venture capital
SoftBank takes a $690M stake in cloud-based Swedish customer engagement company Sinch — Sinch provides cloud-based “omnichannel” voice, video and messaging services to help enterprises communicate with customers.
Voi, the European ‘micromobility’ rental company, raises $160M additional equity and debt funding — Voi says the new funding will be used to invest in technology development, fuel growth in current Voi markets and bring its latest e-scooter model to more cities.
Floww raises $6.7M for its data-driven marketplace matching founders with investors, based on merit — Having made more than 160 investments himself, founder Martijn De Wever says he recognized the need for a platform connecting investors and startups.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Bottom-up SaaS: A framework for mapping pricing to customer value — For the first time, individual employees are influencing the tooling decisions of their companies.
Who’s building the grocery store of the future? — Startups offering cashierless checkout, software analytics and robotics will clean up on aisle five.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander successfully lands on the moon — China’s Chang’e-5 mission will be the third ever to bring back soil or rock samples from the moon.
US shopping app downloads on Black Friday reached a record 2.8M installs — Many U.S. consumers spent this year’s Black Friday sales event shopping from home on mobile devices.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
Today after the bell, Salesforce reported its third-quarter earnings for its fiscal 2021, a period that ended October 31, 2020. The CRM giant reported top-line revenue of $5.42 billion, up 20% from the year-ago period. Salesforce also had net income of $1.08 billion and earnings per share of $1.15.
Analysts had expected the company to earn $0.75 per share off revenues of $5.25 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.
Shares of Salesforce were off after-hours, falling around 3.6% at the time of writing. It was not clear if the company’s share price performance was due to its Q3 results, or its raised Q4 guidance, or its new fiscal 2022 expectations, or the newly announced Slack deal.
As TechCrunch reported moments ago, Salesforce will buy Slack for $27.7 billion in a cash and stock deal that was fully priced into shares of the smaller company, which dropped a little over a point on the news, having risen by nearly 50% since the deal’s existence first leaked.
Holders of Slack will be rewarded for their patience. Now it’s up to Salesforce leadership to prove that the huge buy will help boost the company’s growth.
Salesforce told investors today that it anticipates Q4 fiscal 2021 revenues of $5.665 billion to $5.675 billion, which works out to growth of around 17% from the year-ago period. The company also anticipates that it will grow around 17% in Q1 of its fiscal 2022.
But Salesforce expects to grow 21% in all of its fiscal 2022. How does it intend to accelerate? Its projections include Slack:
Full Year FY22 revenue guidance includes contributions from Slack Technologies, Inc. of approximately $600 million, net of purchase accounting, and assumes a closing date in late Q2 and Acumen Solutions, Inc. of approximately $150 million, net of purchase accounting, and assumes a closing date within Q2.
So, Salesforce investors, after two anticipated quarters of 17% growth coming up, your company will accelerate up to 21% growth for the next fiscal year. Is that worth $27.7 billion?
Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement
Every worker at every company needs to communicate, something that Slack can ably empower. What’s more, it also facilitates external communication with customers and partners, something that should be quite useful for a company like Salesforce and its family of offerings.
Ultimately, Slack was ripe for the taking. Entering 2020 it had lost around 40% of its value since it went public. Consider that after its most recent earnings report, the company lost 16% of its value, and before the Salesforce deal leaked, the company was worth only a few dollars per share more than its direct listing reference price. Toss in net losses of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending July 31, 2020, Slack’s uninspiring public valuation and its winding path to profitability and it was a sitting target for a takeover like this one.
The new deal also puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with its arch rival and sometime friend Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market. Microsoft, which passed on buying Slack in the past for a fraction of what Salesforce is paying today, has made Teams a key priority in recent quarters, loathe to cede any portion of the enterprise software market to another company.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce was interested in Twitter in 2016, the same year that Microsoft was reportedly interested in Slack, but eventually walked away from that deal when shareholders objected, not wanting to deal with the controversial side of the social platform.
What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they needed to do can be done in Slack.
Today’s deal comes after Salesforce’s purchase of Quip in 2016 for $750 million. Quip brought a way of socially sharing documents to the SaaS giant, and when paired with the Slack acquisition gives Salesforce a much more robust social story to tell than its internal option Chatter, an early attempt at enterprise social that never really caught on.
Slack was founded in 2013, but its origins go back to an online multiplayer game company called Glitch that was founded in 2009. While the game was ultimately a failure, the startup developed an internal messaging system in the process of building that company that later evolved into Slack.
The company’s historic growth helped Slack raise over $1 billion while private, earning an impressive $7 billion valuation before going public last year. But while the Glitch-to-unicorn story appears simple, Slack has always faced entrenched competition from the likes of not only Microsoft, but also Cisco, Facebook, Google and even Asana and Monday.com.
For Slack, the path to the public markets was fraught with hype and outsized expectation. The company was famous, or as famous as an enterprise software company can be. At the time it felt like the its debut was the start of a long tenure as an indie company. Instead, that public life has been cut short by a huge check. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of tech.
IT security software company Ivanti has acquired two security companies: enterprise mobile security firm MobileIron, and corporate virtual network provider Pulse Secure.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ivanti said it bought MobileIron for $872 million in stock, with 91% of the shareholders voting in favor of the deal; and acquired Pulse Secure from its parent company Siris Capital Group, but did not disclose the buying price.
The deals have now closed.
Ivanti was founded in 2017 after Clearlake Capital, which owned Heat Software, bought Landesk from private equity firm Thoma Bravo, and merged the two companies to form Ivanti. The combined company, headquartered in Salt Lake City, focuses largely on enterprise IT security, including endpoint, asset, and supply chain management. Since its founding, Ivanti went on to acquire several other companies, including U.K.-based Concorde Solutions and RES Software.
If MobileIron and Pulse Secure seem familiar, both companies have faced their fair share of headlines this year after hackers began exploiting vulnerabilities found in their technologies.
Just last month, the U.K. government’s National Cyber Security Center published an alert that warned of a remotely executable bug in MobileIron, patched in June, allowing hackers to break into enterprise networks. U.S. Homeland Security’s cybersecurity advisory unit CISA said that the bug was being actively used by advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, typically associated with state-backed hackers.
Meanwhile, CISA also warned that Pulse Secure was one of several corporate VPN providers with vulnerabilities that have since become a favorite among hackers, particularly ransomware actors, who abuse the bugs to gain access to a network and deploy the file-encrypting ransomware.
One of the areas that is often left behind when it comes to cloud computing is the industrial sector. That’s because these facilities often have older equipment or proprietary systems that aren’t well suited to the cloud. Amazon wants to change that, and today the company announced a slew of new services at AWS re:Invent aimed at helping the industrial sector understand their equipment and environments better.
For starters, the company announced Amazon Monitron, which is designed to monitor equipment and send signals to the engineering team when the equipment could be breaking down. If industrial companies can know when their equipment is breaking, it allows them to repair on it their own terms, rather than waiting until after it breaks down and having the equipment down at what could be an inopportune time.
As AWS CEO Andy Jassy says, an experienced engineer will know when equipment is breaking down by a certain change in sound or a vibration, but if the machine could tell you even before it got that far, it would be a huge boost to these teams.
“…a lot of companies either don’t have sensors, they’re not modern powerful sensors, or they are not consistent and they don’t know how to take that data from the sensors and send it to the cloud, and they don’t know how to build machine learning models, and our manufacturing companies we work with are asking [us] just solve this [and] build an end-to-end solution. So I’m excited to announce today the launch of Amazon Monotron, which is an end-to-end solution for equipment monitoring,” Jassy said.
The company builds a machine learning model that understands what a normal state looks like, then uses that information to find anomalies and send back information to the team in a mobile app about equipment that needs maintenance now based on the data the model is seeing.
For those companies who may have a more modern system and don’t need the complete package that Monotron offers, Amazon has something for these customers as well. If you have modern sensors, but you don’t have a sophisticated machine learning model, Amazon can ingest this data and apply its machine learning algorithms to find anomalies just as it can with Monotron.
“So we have something for this group of customers as well to announce today, which is the launch of Amazon Lookout for Equipment, which does anomaly detection for industrial machinery,” he said.
In addition, the company announced the Panorama Appliance for companies using cameras at the edge who want to use more sophisticated computer vision, but might not have the most modern equipment to do that. “I’m excited to announce today the launch of the AWS Panorama Appliance which is a new hardware appliance [that allows] organizations to add computer vision to existing on premises smart cameras,” Jassy told AWS re:Invent today.
In addition, it also announced a Panorama SDK to help hardware vendors build smarter cameras based on Panorama.
All of these services are designed to give industrial companies access to sophisticated cloud and machine learning technology at whatever level they may require depending on where they are on the technology journey.
AWS today closed out its first re:Invent keynote with a focus on edge computing. The company launched two smaller appliances for its Outpost service, which originally brought AWS as a managed service and appliance right into its customers’ existing data centers in the form of a large rack. Now, the company is launching these smaller versions so that its users can also deploy them in their stores or office locations. These appliances are fully managed by AWS and offer 64 cores of compute, 128GB of memory and 4TB of local NVMe storage.
In addition, the company expanded its set of Local Zones, which are basically small extensions of existing AWS regions that are more expensive to use but offer low-latency access in metro areas. This service launched in Los Angeles in 2019 and starting today, it’s also available in preview in Boston, Houston and Miami. Soon, it’ll expand to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. Google, it’s worth noting, is doing something similar with its Mobile Edge Cloud.
The general idea here — and that’s not dissimilar from what Google, Microsoft and others are now doing — is to bring AWS to the edge and to do so in a variety of form factors.
As AWS CEO Andy Jassy rightly noted, AWS always believed that the vast majority of companies, “in the fullness of time” (Jassy’s favorite phrase from this keynote), would move to the cloud. Because of this, AWS focused on cloud services over hybrid capabilities early on. He argues that AWS watched others try and fail in building their hybrid offerings, in large parts because what customers really wanted was to use the same control plane on all edge nodes and in the cloud. None of the existing solutions from other vendors, Jassy argues, got any traction (though AWSs competitors would surely deny this) because of this.
The first result of that was VMware Cloud on AWS, which allowed customers to use the same VMware software and tools on AWS they were already familiar with. But at the end of the day, that was really about moving on-premises services to the cloud.
With Outpost, AWS launched a fully managed edge solution that can run AWS infrastructure in its customers’ data centers. It’s been an interesting journey for AWS, but the fact that the company closed out its keynote with this focus on hybrid — no matter how it wants to define it — shows that it now understands that there is clearly a need for this kind of service. The AWS way is to extend AWS into the edge — and I think most of its competitors will agree with that. Microsoft tried this early on with Azure Stack and really didn’t get a lot of traction, as far as I’m aware, but it has since retooled its efforts around Azure Arc. Google, meanwhile, is betting big on Anthos.
Google today introduced a new mobile management and security solution, Android Enterprise Essentials, which, despite its name, is actually aimed at small to medium-sized businesses. The company explains this solution leverages Google’s experience in building Android Enterprise device management and security tools for larger organizations in order to come up with a simpler solution for those businesses with smaller budgets.
The new service includes the basics in mobile device management, with features that allow smaller businesses to require their employees to use a lock screen and encryption to protect company data. It also prevents users from installing apps outside the Google Play Store via the Google Play Protect service, and allows businesses to remotely wipe all the company data from phones that are lost or stolen.
As Google explains, smaller companies often handle customer data on mobile devices, but many of today’s remote device management solutions are too complex for small business owners, and are often complicated to get up-and-running.
Android Enterprise Essentials attempts to make the overall setup process easier by eliminating the need to manually activate each device. And because the security policies are applied remotely, there’s nothing the employees themselves have to configure on their own phones. Instead, businesses that want to use the new solution will just buy Android devices from a reseller to hand out or ship to employees with policies already in place.
Though primarily aimed at smaller companies, Google notes the solution may work for select larger organizations that want to extend some basic protections to devices that don’t require more advanced management solutions. The new service can also help companies get started with securing their mobile device inventory, before they move up to more sophisticated solutions over time, including those from third-party vendors.
The company has been working to better position Android devices for use in workplace over the past several years, with programs like Android for Work, Android Enterprise Recommended, partnerships focused on ridding the Play Store of malware, advanced device protections for high-risk users, endpoint management solutions, and more.
Google says it will roll out Android Enterprise Essentials initially with distributors Synnex in the U.S. and Tech Data in the U.K. In the future, it will make the service available through additional resellers as it takes the solution global in early 2021. Google will also host an online launch event and demo in January for interested customers.