Could Claap, an asynchronous video meetings platform, end the tyranny of Zoom calls?

Because of the pandemic, we’re all a lot more familiar with remote working than we used to be, whether we like it or not. But the remote tools of the pre-pandemic era – Slack, Trello, Zoom, Asana, etc, etc, etc – are, if we admit it to ourselves, barely scratching the surface of what we really need to be productive. Luckily a new era of remote-working tools is fast emerging. As I recently tweeted, we need to think far more in asynchronous terms if remote working is to be productive (and healthy!), long term.

Older tools can offer asynchronous collaboration, but a new wave of tools is coming. Loom, for instance, is one-way video for ’show and tell’. It’s raised $203.6M – however, it has a drawback: it doesn’t have many collaboration features.

Now a new European startup hopes to address this.

Claap, an asynchronous meeting platform with video and collaboration, thinks it might have part of the solution and a private beta launch is planned for this month.

It’s now raised $3 million in pre-seed funding from LocalGlobe, Headline, E.Ventures, Kima Ventures and angels including Front co-founder Mathilde Collin, Oyster co-founder Tony Jamous, Nest and GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and Automattic’s head of product Aadil Mamujee. It also includes a group of 30 angels such as Ian Hogarth (Songkick), Olivier Godement (Stripe), Roxanne Varza (Station F), Chris Herd (FirstBase), and Xavier Niel (Kima), Shane Mac (investor in Remote).

We all now know that what were previously small catch-ups are now 30-minute Zoom calls, which are pointless. ‘Asynchronous meetings’ could be the way forward.

Claap says its product allows employees to record a short video update on a topic, allow others to comment on the relevant part, and set a due date for team members to respond. Colleagues then view the video and respond in their own time. Claap bulls itself as the remote working equivalent of the ‘quick hallway catch-up’. It integrates with other workplace tools such as Trello or Jira so that when a decision is made on a project, it’s recorded for everyone on the team to see and refer back to. A subscription model is planned which will have a sliding scale depending on team size.

Because it doesn’t require real-time interaction, you don’t need t find a time that suits everyone for a meeting, so in fact the ‘meeting’ sort of disappears. . Instead, the platform creates a space for feedback and iterations.

Founders Robin Bonduelle and Pierre Touzeau looked at solutions already adopted by companies such as Automattic, and GitLab. Touzeau was previously at 360Learning which employed a strict limiting policy for meetings. Bonduelle has 10 years of product management experience, working at various startups and scaleups including Ogury where he was VP of Product, and Rocket Internet. He developed asynchronous communication habits while managing 50 people across 4 different countries and time zones. Touzeau has worked for businesses including L’Oreal and 360Learning, where he was most recently VP of Marketing.

However, asynchronous communication is not always perfect. As we know, Emails and Slack messages can go unread. Video MIGHT be the solution.

Robin Bonduelle, co-founder and CEO at Claap, said: “After a year of working remotely, people are realizing the benefits of not working in an office but at the same time grappling with one of its worst consequences: back-to-back video meetings. A query that in the office would take five minutes to solve now takes at least 30, leaving everyone more exhausted in the process. Claap is designed to solve this issue, allowing colleagues the tools to keep them engaged and connected but without taking up all their time. It’s a new meeting format that allows people to make quick decisions.”

Touzeau said: “Meetings are a necessary part of working, but it doesn’t need to be your entire day. Asynchronous meetings are the key to freeing up our calendars but making sure work still gets done and deadlines are met. We’re excited by the potential Claap has to empower people to work from anywhere.”

George Henry, General Partner at LocalGlobe, said: “We were impressed with Robin and Pierre’s vision and the potential for Claap to allow employees to connect on a project when they need to and facilitate the ability to work from anywhere.”

Jonathan Userovici, Partner at Headline, said: “Zoom may have been the go-to enterprise app over the past 12 months but for the thousands of businesses that are now going to be remote-first, video conferencing alone won’t be enough to keep teams connected and get work done. Claap is the challenger tool to end video-calling fatigue.”

#articles, #asana, #automattic, #chris-herd, #e-ventures, #europe, #general-partner, #gitlab, #gocardless, #groupware, #ian-hogarth, #jonathan-userovici, #kima-ventures, #localglobe, #matt-robinson, #rocket-internet, #songkick, #station-f, #tc, #technology, #telecommunications, #telecommuting, #trello, #video-conferencing, #web-conferencing, #zoom

Almanac is building a faster doc editor for the remote work era

Few things have captured Silicon Valley-based investors’ attention in recent years quite like the quest to back the successor[s] to Google Docs. The estimable and entrenched productivity suite has been unbundled and repackaged into products that a number of multi-billion dollar tech startups have been built around.

All the while, entrepreneurs are continuing to poke holes in their predecessors’ lore, creating something faster, sleeker or more intuitive. For plenty of the current generation productivity startups, the journey to replace Google Docs and Microsoft Office got a historic shot in the arm this past year as a global pandemic gave remote work software companies a jot of attention.

“Covid has made everybody realize that the way that we were working had to change,” Almanac CEO Adam Nathan told TechCrunch. “The core tools we used for productivity, Microsoft Word and Google Docs were for when we did a completely different type of work.”

Almanac is trying to revamp the document editor in a package that’s quicker than products like Notion and far more intuitive than legacy software suites, Nathan says. Last year, the startup raised a $9 million seed round led by Floodgate and has been quietly building out its network of users in early access beta.

The document editor found its way into a diverse number of offices outside tech startups — from a Domino’s branch to a veterinary office — through its open source template library Core, a hub for user-submitted guides on everything from how to run a one-on-one meeting to how to structure salaries for your customer service team. There are 5,000 documents on Core which are accessible to any logged-in user, something that has been a sizable customer channel for the startup as more companies and offices across the country have begun to question some entrenched ways of doing things.

“There are way more people working in docs outside of Silicon Valley than in it,” Nathan says.

As a document editor, Almanac’s core offering is the ability to keep files organized in the way that companies actually organize themselves.

One of its hallmark features is the ability to track document changes in a way that makes Google Docs look completely unintelligible. User can easily make their own copies of documents, merge them with the original and quickly approve changes. Users can also get approval from their manager or another user in their network and ask for feedback along the way.

For tasks that require a bit more thought, people can use Almanac to add tasks to another users to-do list inside the documents themselves, a feature that they might have needed a project management tool like Asana to handle in the past. Updates for items a user has been assigned or has assigned to others live inside their own inbox where notifications flow automatically as documents evolve. The team believes that functionality like this inside Almanac will help teams cut down on unnecessary Slacking and let the documents speak for themselves.

The company is quickly iterating itself into new workflows — they recently launched a feature specifically around building and updating handbooks, and they also just shipped a feature called Snippets which allows users to save oft-used blocks of texts so they can quickly build up new documents.

In a crowded productivity software space, Almanac’s sell relies on users fully committing to the offering, that’s been a central struggle in the post-Microsoft Office era where users have often seen their productivity toolsets swell with tools claiming to cut down on confusion. This often isn’t the fault of the tools themselves, but with how organizations adopt new software. Almanac hopes that by focusing on common workflows inside documents, its users can resist the urge to open another app and instead realize the gains that come from centralizing feedback in one platform.

#asana, #ceo, #chemistry, #dominos, #silicon, #silicon-valley, #tc

Gatheround raises millions from Homebrew, Bloomberg and Stripe’s COO to help remote workers connect

Remote work is no longer a new topic, as much of the world has now been doing it for a year or more because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies — big and small — have had to react in myriad ways. Many of the initial challenges have focused on workflow, productivity and the like. But one aspect of the whole remote work shift that is not getting as much attention is the culture angle.

A 100% remote startup that was tackling the issue way before COVID-19 was even around is now seeing a big surge in demand for its offering that aims to help companies address the “people” challenge of remote work. It started its life with the name Icebreaker to reflect the aim of “breaking the ice” with people with whom you work.

“We designed the initial version of our product as a way to connect people who’d never met, kind of virtual speed dating,” says co-founder and CEO Perry Rosenstein. “But we realized that people were using it for far more than that.” 

So over time, its offering has evolved to include a bigger goal of helping people get together beyond an initial encounter –– hence its new name: Gatheround.

“For remote companies, a big challenge or problem that is now bordering on a crisis is how to build connection, trust and empathy between people that aren’t sharing a physical space,” says co-founder and COO Lisa Conn. “There’s no five-minute conversations after meetings, no shared meals, no cafeterias — this is where connection organically builds.”

Organizations should be concerned, Gatheround maintains, that as we move more remote, that work will become more transactional and people will become more isolated. They can’t ignore that humans are largely social creatures, Conn said.

The startup aims to bring people together online through real-time events such as a range of chats, videos and one-on-one and group conversations. The startup also provides templates to facilitate cultural rituals and learning & development (L&D) activities, such as all-hands meetings and workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Gatheround’s video conversations aim to be a refreshing complement to Slack conversations, which despite serving the function of communication, still don’t bring users face-to-face.

Image Credits: Gatheround

Since its inception, Gatheround has quietly built up an impressive customer base, including 28 Fortune 500s, 11 of the 15 biggest U.S. tech companies, 26 of the top 30 universities and more than 700 educational institutions. Specifically, those users include Asana, Coinbase, Fiverr, Westfield and DigitalOcean. Universities, academic centers and nonprofits, including Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, are also customers. To date, Gatheround has had about 260,000 users hold 570,000 conversations on its SaaS-based, video platform.

All its growth so far has been organic, mostly referrals and word of mouth. Now, armed with $3.5 million in seed funding that builds upon a previous $500,000 raised, Gatheround is ready to aggressively go to market and build upon the momentum it’s seeing.

Venture firms Homebrew and Bloomberg Beta co-led the company’s latest raise, which included participation from angel investors such as Stripe COO Claire Hughes Johnson, Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman, Li Jin and Lenny Rachitsky. 

Co-founders Rosenstein, Conn and Alexander McCormmach describe themselves as “experienced community builders,” having previously worked on President Obama’s campaigns as well as at companies like Facebook, Change.org and Hustle. 

The trio emphasize that Gatheround is also very different from Zoom and video conferencing apps in that its platform gives people prompts and organized ways to get to know and learn about each other as well as the flexibility to customize events.

“We’re fundamentally a connection platform, here to help organizations connect their people via real-time events that are not just really fun, but meaningful,” Conn said.

Homebrew Partner Hunter Walk says his firm was attracted to the company’s founder-market fit.

“They’re a really interesting combination of founders with all this experience community building on the political activism side, combined with really great product, design and operational skills,” he told TechCrunch. “It was kind of unique that they didn’t come out of an enterprise product background or pure social background.”

He was also drawn to the personalized nature of Gatheround’s platform, considering that it has become clear over the past year that the software powering the future of work “needs emotional intelligence.”

“Many companies in 2020 have focused on making remote work more productive. But what people desire more than ever is a way to deeply and meaningfully connect with their colleagues,” Walk said. “Gatheround does that better than any platform out there. I’ve never seen people come together virtually like they do on Gatheround, asking questions, sharing stories and learning as a group.” 

James Cham, partner at Bloomberg Beta, agrees with Walk that the founding team’s knowledge of behavioral psychology, group dynamics and community building gives them an edge.

“More than anything, though, they care about helping the world unite and feel connected, and have spent their entire careers building organizations to make that happen,” he said in a written statement. “So it was a no-brainer to back Gatheround, and I can’t wait to see the impact they have on society.”

The 14-person team will likely expand with the new capital, which will also go toward helping adding more functionality and details to the Gatheround product.

“Even before the pandemic, remote work was accelerating faster than other forms of work,” Conn said. “Now that’s intensified even more.”

Gatheround is not the only company attempting to tackle this space. Ireland-based Workvivo last year raised $16 million and earlier this year, Microsoft  launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform.”

#asana, #bloomberg-beta, #chan-zuckerberg-initiative, #cloud-storage, #coinbase, #computing, #digitalocean, #facebook, #funding, #fundings-exits, #groupware, #homebrew, #hunter-walk, #hustle, #li-jin, #meetup, #obama, #operating-systems, #perry-rosenstein, #recent-funding, #remote-work, #saas, #scott-heiferman, #social-media, #startup, #startups, #telecommuting, #united-states, #venture-capital, #walk

Co-founded by a leader of SpaceX’s missions operations, Epsilon3 wants to be the OS for space launches

Laura Crabtree spent a good chunk of her childhood watching rocket launches on television and her entire professional career launching rockets, first at Northrup Grumman and then at SpaceX.

Now, the former senior missions operations engineer at SpaceX is the co-founder and chief executive of a new LA-based space startup called Epsilon3, which says it has developed the operating system for launch operations.

“The tools I had wanted did not exist,” said Crabtree. So when she left SpaceX to pursue her next opportunity, it was a no-brainer to try and develop the toolkit she never had, the first-time entrepreneur said. “I started looking at ways in which I could help the space industry become more efficient and reduce errors.”

Joining Crabtree in the new business is Max Mednik, a serial entrepreneur whose last company, Epirus, raised at least $144.7 million from investors including 8VC, Bedrock Capital and L3 Harris Technologies, and Aaron Sullivan, a former Googler who serves as the chief software engineer. Mednik worked at Google too before turning his attention to entrepreneurship. His previous businesses ranged from financial services software to legal services software, Mednik too had an interest in aerospace. His first job offers out of school were with SpaceX, JPL, and Google. And Aaron Sullivan another former

Part of a growing network of SpaceX alumni launching businesses, Epsilon3, like its fellow travelers First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge, is creating a product around an aspect of the design, manufacturing mission management and operations of rockets that had previously been handled manually or with bespoke tools.

“They make mission management software for the launchers and for the satellite companies that are going to be the payload of the rocket companies,” said Alex Rubacalva, the founder and managing partner of Stage Venture Partners, an investor in the company’s recent seed round. “It’s not just the design and spec but for when they’re actually working what are they doing; when you’re uplinking and downlinking data and changing software.”

Rubacalva acknowledged that the market for Epsilon3 is entirely new, but it’s growing rapidly.

“This was an analysis based on the fact that access to space used to be really expensive and used to be the provenance of governments and ten or 20 commercial satellite operators in the world. And it was limited by the fact that there were only a handful of companies that could launch,” Rubacalva said. “Now all of a sudden there’s going to be thirty different space flights. Thirty different companies that have rockets… access to space used to scarce, expensive, and highly restricted and it’s no longer any of those things now.” 

Relativity Space's Terran 1 rocket, artist's rendering

Image Credits: Relativity Space

The demand for space services is exploding with some analysts estimating that the launch services industry could reach over $18 billion by 2026.

“It’s a very similar story and we all come from different places within SpaceX,” said Crabtree. First Resonance, provides software that moves from prototyping to production; Prewitt Ridge, provides engineering and management tools; and Epsilon3 has developed an operating system for launch operations.

“You’ve got design development, manufacturing, integration tests and operations. We’re trying to support that integration of tests and operations,” said Crabtree. 

While First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge have applications in aerospace and manufacturing broadly, Crabtree’s eyes, and her company’s mission, remain fixed on the stars.

“We’re laser focused on space and proving out that the software works in the highest stakes and most complex environments,” said Mednik. There are applications in other areas that require complex workflows for industries as diverse as nuclear plant construction and operations, energy, mining, and aviation broadly, but for now and the foreseeable future, it’s all about the space business.

Mednik described the software as an electronic toolkit for controlling and editing workflows and procedures. “You can think of it as Asana project management meets Github version control,” he said. “It should be for integration of subsystems or systems and operations of the systems.”

Named for the planet in Babylon Five, Epsilon3 could become an integral part of the rocket missions that eventually do explore other worlds. At least, that’s the bet that firms like Stage Venture Partners and MaC Ventures are making on the business with their early $1.8 million investment into the business.

Right now, the Epislon3’s early customers are coming from early stage space companies that are using the platform for live launches. These would be companies like Stoke Space and other new rocket entrants. 

“For us, space and deeptech is hot,” said MaC Ventures co-founder and managing partner, Adrian Fenty. The former mayor of Washington noted that the combination of Mednik’s serial entrepreneur status and Crabtree’s deep, deep expertise in the field.

“We had been looking at operating systems in general and thinking that there would be some good ones coming along,” Fenty said. In Epsilon3 the company found the combination of deep space, deep tech, and a thesis around developing verticalized operating systems that ticked all the boxes. 

“In doing diligence for the company… you just see how big space is and will become as a business,” said Michael Palank, a co-founder and managing partner at MaC Ventures predecessor, M Ventures alongside Fenty. “A lot of the challenges here on earth will and only can be solved in space. And you need better operating systems to manage getting to and from space.”

The view from Astra’s Rocket 3.2 second stage from space.

#adrian-fenty, #aerospace, #asana, #bedrock-capital, #elon-musk, #energy, #engineer, #entrepreneur, #github, #google, #hyperloop, #l3, #laser, #louisiana, #m-ventures, #mac-ventures, #managing-partner, #manufacturing, #mayor, #mining, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #outer-space, #project-management, #satellite, #serial-entrepreneur, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #washington

ClickUp CEO talks hiring, raising and scaling in the white-hot productivity space

Few young software companies have had as great a year as San Diego-based ClickUp . The company, which makes business productivity tools for task management, goals and docs, raised its first bit of outside funding in mid-2020.

Just six months later, it has reached a $1 billion valuation after doubling its customer base and revenue increased ninefold as businesses embraced remote work.

The new funding and valuation after just a few months of hefty growth show just how closely investors are watching the productivity software space. I spoke with ClickUp CEO Zeb Evans yesterday to get his insights on the challenges of hypergrowth and why it made sense to say “yes” to the check.

This interview has edited for length and clarity.


TechCrunch: This has been an awfully busy year for your team. What’s happened since we talked about your Series A?

Zeb Evans: The last time we chatted with you, we were at an inflection point where we had seen a lot of growth pre-COVID and then post-COVID we saw that growth continue. So we just really kept up those growth rates and really increased in some areas. Last time we chatted we had about 100,000 teams and now we’re over double that with over 200,000 teams that use our software. I think we were at about a million users and now we’re well over two million users that use the product as well.

CEO Zeb Evans. Image Credits: ClickUp

That’s interesting, so it sounds like you’ve found a sweet spot in terms of team size?

Yeah, our number of users per team ends up being around 10 people or a little bit more than that. And that’s really stayed true from six months ago to today.

How has your own team’s size changed?

We’re right around 200 people right now, so we’ve definitely more than doubled since the last time that we talked, and we’re going to double again hopefully in the next quarter so we’ve got an aggressive hiring plan to do that.

Cool, so you’ve doubled your user base in six months as well as your team. How has your team adjusted to scaling so quickly?

It’s a good question. I think that the biggest thing that we’ve always focused on is shipping a new version of ClickUp every week. That is our differentiation. We’ve kind of created these iterative cycles called natural product market fit and it’s been hard to keep up with that. I mean, we’ve done it but as you scale, you know you have many more users and more considerations to take into every feature that you change and feature that you develop.

I think that’s been like the biggest thing we’ve been focused on and listening to that community that that is ever-growing every week. Obviously hiring is always top of mind also, and we haven’t done that as fast as we’d like to. But we’re making improvements there and we’re getting there.

A lot of startups raised opportunistic rounds during what’s seemed to be a very hot market, at what point did you think that it might make sense to raise even more money after closing that Series A?

So, our Series A was our first outside capital and we didn’t really know what that would do at the time. What we saw when we raised that fund was that we were able to really accelerate our vision and our product. We’ve used these resources very efficiently and we saw great unit economics come out of that. And also as you mentioned, it’s certainly a good time and a great market to be in — the productivity market is just the hottest right now. So it was kind of a trifecta of that but the real reason to raise was certainly to be able to continue that product growth and the acceleration of scaling that comes with raising money.

#asana, #business, #ceo, #clickup, #cloud, #document-management, #microsoft, #player, #project-management, #salesforce, #software, #stephen-elop, #task-management, #tc, #trello, #webflow, #zeb-evans

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

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:

#asana, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #pricing, #saas, #startups, #verified-experts

Developer productivity tools startup Raycast raises $2.7M from Accel

Workplace SaaS tools for teams have seen rocket ship growth in the past several years, and that adoption has given rise to a host of software tools geared towards improving individual productivity. Many of the startups behind these tools see building a cult following among individual users as the best way to set themselves up for later enterprise-wide success.

Raycast is a developer-focused productivity tool that aims to be the quickest way to get common tasks done. Today, it’s launching into public beta and sharing with TechCrunch that the team has raised new funding from Accel months after graduating from Y Combinator.

The company has closed a $2.7 million seed round led by Accel with participation from YC, Jeff Morris Jr.’s Chapter One fund as well as angel investors Charlie Cheever, Calvin French-Owen and Manik Gupta .

The desktop software takes a note from peers like Superhuman and Command E, allowing users to quickly pull up and modify data with keyboard shortcuts. Users can easily create and re-modify issues in Jira, merge pull requests in Github and find documents. The software is very much a developer-focused version of the Apple’s Spotlight search that aims to help software engineers navigate all of the parts of their job that aren’t development work with a single tool.

Image via Raycast.

Like plenty of workplace tools startups, one of the keys for Raycast is building out a network of extensions that can encompass a user’s workflow. For now, the software supports integrations from Asana, Jira, Zoom, Linear, G Suite, Calendar, Github and Reminders alongside core functionality that can help manage system settings and a calculator that can handle complex math problems. As the startup launches out of public beta, they’re looking to double down on extensions and are rolling out a developer program for early access to their API.

The Mac-only software is free while in public beta, but the company does plan on charging a monthly subscription for the service eventually, though they aren’t quite ready to talk about pricing yet.

Raycast’s team is interested in appealing to individual users for now, but might eventually expand to becoming a teams-level enterprise product that could help onboard new employees faster by quickly orienting them with their office’s software suite, but that’s all a bit down the road, the team says.

“We’re staying focused on single-player mode for a while,” CEO Thomas Paul Mann tells TechCrunch.

#api, #asana, #ceo, #charlie-cheever, #computing, #github, #instabug, #jira, #manik-gupta, #software, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Jam raises $3.5 million to Figma-tize product collaboration

The web of collaboration apps invading remote work toolkits have led to plenty of messy workflows for teams that communicate in a language of desktop screenshots and DMs. Tracing a suggestion or flagging a bug in a company’s website forces engineers or designers to make sense of the mess themselves.  While task management software has given teams a funnel for the clutter, the folks at Jam question why this functionality isn’t just built straight into the product.

Jam co-founders Dani Grant and Mohd Irtefa tell TechCrunch they’ve closed on $3.5 million in seed funding and are ready to launch a public beta of their collaboration platform which builds chat, comments and task management directly onto a website, allowing developers and designers to track issues and make suggestions quickly and simply

The seed round was led by Union Square Ventures, where co-founder Dani Grant previously worked as an analyst. Version One Ventures, BoxGroup and Village Global also participated alongside some noteworthy angels including GitHub CTO Jason Warner, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, and former Robinhood VP Josh Elman.

Like most modern productivity suites, Jam is heavy on integrations so users aren’t forced to upend their toolkits just to add one more product into the mix. The platform supports Slack, Jira, GitHub, Asana, Loom and Figma, with a few more in the immediate pipeline. Data syncs from one platform to the other bidirectionally so information is always fresh, Grant says. It’s all built into a tidy sidebar.

Grant and Irtefa met as product managers at Cloudflare, where they started brainstorming better ways to communicate feedback in a way that felt like “leaving digital sticky notes all over a product,” Grant says. That thinking ultimately pushed the duo to leave their jobs this past May and start building Jam.

The startup, like so many conceived during this period, has a remote founding story. Grant and Irtefa have only spent four days together in-person since the company was started, they raised their seed round remotely and most of the employees have never met each other in-person.

The remote team hopes their software can help other remote teams declutter their workflows and focus on what they’re building.

“On a product team, the product is the first tab everyone opens and closes,” Grant says. “So we’re on top of your product instead of on some other platform”

Jam’s interface

#analyst, #asana, #ceo, #cloudflare, #co-founder, #computing, #cto, #git, #github, #gumroad, #jira, #josh-elman, #matthew, #matthew-prince, #sahil-lavingia, #software, #software-engineering, #task-management, #tc, #union-square-ventures, #version-control, #village-global

2020 IPO report card: Are tech’s newest public companies meeting expectations?

As the American election looms and the IPO cycle slows some, it’s a good time to review how well the public offerings we have seen thus far have performed.


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


Welcome to a Monday morning data rundown discussing how well the latest-stage startups that went public this year have performed after their first day. We’ll be awarding letter grades for post-IPO performance as well, because we can.

So, how did Snowflake do compared to Vroom, both stacked next to JFrog and One Medical? Let’s find out.

Ranking 2020’s IPOs

The fine folks at my former publication Crunchbase News have a running list of 2020 IPOs, which will help us not miss any names. Of course, we’re not going to include every possible deal; there have been some marginal debuts that we can leave behind.

But, the majors matter. So let’s get into them now:

Digging into the next wave of tech IPOs

After taking five consecutive business days off from my work laptop — and to shout at my personal laptop while losing games on Dominion online — I am back. I missed you. And while The Exchange’s regular columns were off this week (Friday aside, which you can read here), there’s still a hell of a lot to talk about.

First, a new website. If you click here, you’ll be taken to a sortable list (spreadsheet? database?) of startups with Black founders. Dubbed The Black Founder List, it’s a great asset and tool.

For folks like myself with a research and reporting focus, the list’s sortability of companies founded by Black entrepreneurs by gender, stage and market focus is amazing. And, for investors, it should provide potential dealflow. Do you write lots of Series C checks? The Black Founder List has 23 Series B startups with Black founders. Or if you prefer Series D checks, there are 11 Series C startups with Black founders to check out.

Who is writing the most checks to Black founders? Among the top names are M25, a midwest VC group, Techstars Boston and a number of angels.

The website was compiled by much the same team that TechCrunch highlighted earlier this year, when their data collection work concerning Black founders was more spreadsheet than app. So, please point your thanks for the new resource to Yonas Beshawred, Sefanit Tades, James Norman and Hans Yadav.

The Black Founder List also has a data submission button, so if you notice a missing name, add it. I want the data set to be as robust as possible, as, I reckon, it will prove a great reporting resource. And public data like this obviates certain excuses from the investing class.

Market Notes

  • I missed a lot this week that I was looking forward to, including the Asana and Palantir IPOs. For fuller thoughts, head here. Summaries follow:
  • Asana’s direct listing and resulting valuation and implied revenue multiples make its direct listing a win for the company, and the model. If other SaaS companies have the ability to raise ample pre-debut cash, perhaps the direct listing is not as dead as it seemed a few months ago when SPACs stole its spotlight, and most companies were pursuing traditional IPOs regardless.
  • Palantir’s direct listing did not feel hot until it dropped some strong revenue guidance. With that, its direct listing went fine despite its cosmically comedic voting structure. Watching Palantir’s higher-ups try to snuff public input while still providing a thin patina of democracy made me think more about Russia or Texas than a functioning democratic system.
  • Looking ahead, Airbnb is said to be hunting up $3 billion for its own IPO. Airbnb had to take on a lot of expensive cash when its business collapsed in the early COVID days. It wanted to direct list. Now it’s going to cash in a huge pile during its debut.
  • Good. More capital > less capital.
  • Sticking to our late-stage theme, when I left, Root was said to be pursuing an IPO, and when I came back, Roblox is now also tipped to be plotting with the public markets. (Root’s IPO in the wake of the successful Lemonade debut made sense. Insurtech is hot.)
  • The news should not be a surprise; Roblox’s model has found cachet with young gamers and has found a great way to make money at the same time. With a mix of Legos and video game design and Minecraft, perhaps it’s not a surprise that the company is doing well.
  • Reuters reports that Roblox could be worth $4 billion when it goes public. I believe it.
  • Datto is going public. Ron and Danny have the details here.
  • And I chatted with a few Accel investors, the juicy bits from which you can find here.

Various and Sundry

  • Draper Esprit, a Europe-focused venture capital fund that trades on the London Stock Exchange, raised £110 million this week. Esprit is a fun shop to track (I’ve known its denizen James since his LSE days), because it’s more transparent than most VC firms than you’re familiar with thanks to its structure.
  • According to the firm’s release, its share sale was “oversubscribed.” Tech.eu has more.
  • Mobile app spend grew to $29.3 billion in Q3, driven by 36.5 billion installs, per SensorTower. Revenue was up 32% year-over-year.
  • Uber sold $500 million worth of Uber Freight to a PE firm.
  • As noted, tech stocks had a bad September, but just how bad might surprise you.
  • And I covered Noyo’s Series A before I left, with the post going up on Monday.
  • In short, Noyo is doing the hard work to build APIs to connect the world of health insurance. It’s a huge, hard task.
  • The $12.5 million was “led by Costanoa Ventures and Spark Capital. Prior investors Core Innovation Capital, Garuda Ventures, the Webb Investment Network, Precursor Ventures and Homebrew upped their investment in the new round.”
  • (I can’t shake the thought that there’s something in the middle of the no-code/low-code boom, and startups delivering more of their products via APIs instead of as managed services. And please don’t say mashups, we left that phrase behind ages ago.)
  • I missed the window for officially commenting on the Coinbase culture dustup — the Equity crew did talk about it while I was AFK — so I will merely share this thread as my $0.02.
  • Also, read this from Eileen Burbidge on TechCrunch concerning the same matter. It’s good.

Regular morning Exchange columns return Monday morning. It’s good to be back.

By the way, TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility is coming up next week. I am going! To help you get there, here’s a 50% off code for you to get full access to the event. Or if it’s your jam, this code will get you into the expo and breakout sessions for free.

Chat soon,

Alex

#apps, #asana, #datto, #europe, #fundings-exits, #palantir, #startups, #the-exchange, #the-techcrunch-exchange

Asana’s strong direct listing lights alternative path to public market for SaaS startups

This week’s pair of direct listings from Asana and Palantir were historic moments for each firm, but they also served as public business experiments.

For Palantir, the event tested how far corporate governance could be twisted while leaving an underlying remain worth buying in the eyes of public shareholders. And with Asana, its direct listing was a test of what sort of tech company can go public using the mechanism.


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


Asana is not as well-known as Spotify was during its famous direct listing, nor is it growing as quickly as Slack was when it also went public using the method. But Asana had charm of its own, including good growth. The question surrounding its debut was what sort of price it could secure given its rising losses and operating cash burn, and whether it would prove attractive enough to serve as a positive harbinger for yet-private SaaS startups.

How would investors react when it started to trade? Favorably, as it turns out.

Asana’s results augur well for other SaaS startups that may not find the traditional IPO process enticing but don’t want to wager their public debut on more exotic mechanisms like blank-check companies, especially the bulk of late-stage SaaS unicorns that are still cash-hungry and far from profitable on a GAAP basis.

Asana’s debut, then, is a lit torch for late-stage SaaS startups that have access to private cash and want to trade publicly.

A direct listing success

There was much to like in Asana’s IPO filing, along with a few cautionary notes. To avoid a full recap of our prior reporting, we’ll skate through only the most salient details as reminders.

#asana, #direct-listing, #palantir, #saas, #tc, #the-exchange

Lots of happy people as Palantir and Asana spike on first day of trading

The markets are closed and the verdicts are in: investors liked what they saw in Palantir and Asana .

The two companies, which debuted this morning in dual (and duel) direct listings, continued to prove that enterprise tech companies without the brand recognition of Spotify (which conducted its own direct listing back in 2018) can make direct listings work. So far, the evidence is decent that the mechanism isn’t throwing off investors.

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Asana closed its first trading day at $28.80 a share — a gain of 37% against its reference price of $21 a share. The company’s first trade was at $27. Meanwhile, Palantir closed the day at $9.73, a gain of 34% against its reference price of $7.25. Its first trade was at $10. Asana is valued at about $4.3 billion at close, while Palantir reached $24.8 billion, based on its fully diluted share count, including recent securities sold.

As an aside, my Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas and I did an “Equity Shot” talking more about these early numbers. Tune in if you want to hear our discussion and analysis:

That done, with big bold numbers on the board, there were a number of winners.

First and foremost, Founders Fund, which is the only major investor shared between the two companies, has a lot of capital incoming. The firm owns 5.8% of Asana and approximately 6.6% of Palantir, netting it somewhere around $1.8 billion given today’s valuations (that’s definitely back-of-the-envelope math mind you).

Meanwhile, Benchmark owns 9.3% of Asana, and a number of other investors including Japanese insurer SOMPO, Disruptive Technology Solutions, UBS, and 8VC own significant stakes in Palantir.

The other winners are the founders of these companies. Dustin Moskovitz retains a 36% stake in Asana, while his cofounder Justin Rosenstein holds a 16.1% stake. Over at Palantir, the trio of founders of Alex Karp, Stephen Cohen, and Peter Thiel now have liquid billions at their collective disposal.

Asana founders Justin Rosenstein and Dustin Moskovitz. Photo via Asana

Of course, employees will be happy to get liquidity as well. Asana does not have a lockup period, and so its employees and insiders are free to trade. Palantir coupled a direct listing with a lockup, and so only about 28% of the company’s shares are eligible for sale today. The remainder will be authorized to be sold over the next year.

In an interview with Moskovitz shortly after the markets closed today, he said that “it’s been an exciting morning, but ultimately it’s just one step in a much longer journey towards fulfilling our mission” (you can read more of our interview with Moskovitz on Extra Crunch).

While it’s just one trading day, it was a positive one for both companies, and that provides even more evidence that the classic IPO now has stiff competition from direct listings and other alternative methods like SPACs.

#alex-karp, #asana, #benchmark, #dustin-moskovitz, #founders-fund, #fundings-exits, #justin-rosenstein, #palantir-technologies, #peter-thiel, #stephen-cohen

Dustin Moskovitz discusses Asana’s first trading day

It’s a big day for Asana, the work management tool that debuted on the NYSE this morning in a direct listing. Founded back in 2009 by Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, the company has assiduously grown over the years, taking in about $213 million in venture capital the past decade and reaching almost $100 million in subscription revenue for the first six months of 2020.

TechCrunch sat down this afternoon with CEO Moskovitz and Asana’s head of product Alex Hood at the tail end of the company’s first trading day to talk about its early success, its future and how it feels to go public in a direct listing.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.

TechCrunch: Tell me how you’re feeling today — it’s been 10, 11 years since the company’s founding, what are your emotions on this first day?

Dustin Moskovitz: It’s been an exciting morning, but ultimately it’s just one step in a much longer journey towards fulfilling our mission and so, you know, we’re definitely pausing to celebrate but also looking ahead to what comes next because there’s going to be a lot more stuff to come after this.

What’s next?

Alex Hood: We really just feel like we’re getting started. The way that a billion and a quarter information workers work together really hasn’t changed all that much in the last 25 years — it’s really kind of based on the Microsoft Office suite form factor. We think that there’s a collaboration piece that really helps teams know who’s doing what by when and reduce the back and forth required to get work done.

#asana, #direct-listing, #dustin-moskovitz, #fundings-exits, #justin-rosenstein, #saas

Asana up 39% and Palantir still holding as both direct listings hit the public markets

Two direct listings in one day. Lots to talk about.

Asana started trading just a bit after noon Eastern today, quickly zooming to roughly $29 a share in early trading this afternoon. We are still waiting for the first trades of Palantir to hit the market.

Asana’s reference price was revealed yesterday by the NYSE, and it was set for $21 a share. The company had roughly 150 million shares of stock outstanding on a fully diluted basis, which gave it a pre-market reference value of $3.2 billion. Palantir for its part was assigned a reference price of $7.25 a share, giving it a $16 billion implied valuation. At its current share price, Asana is valued at roughly $4.4 billion.

The two companies trade on the NYSE, with Asana under ticker ASAN and Palantir under the ticker PLTR.

For both companies, which are well capitalized, a direct listing seemed to be the right approach to give early employees and other insiders a liquidity option while continuing to maintain tight control of the ship. One difference between the two initiatives is that Asana has no lockup for employee and other insider shares as is typically customary with a direct listing. Palantir pioneered a lockup provision with a direct listing that will allow only roughly 29% of the company’s shares to be available potentially for trading today. The remainder of those shares become eligible for sale over the coming months.

As with all direct listings, no shares are offered by the company upon market debut, and the reference prices published by the NYSE are imaginary if important mental benchmarks for where bankers believe a hypothetical price lies for these two companies.

As my colleague Jon Shieber described a few weeks ago, Asana is an interesting entry into the markets as a long-time SaaS company stalwart that continues to lose buckets of revenue. Despite fast revenue growth of roughly 71%, the company lost $118.6 million on revenues of $142.6 million in fiscal 2020 (Asana has a Feb 1 fiscal year calendar, so those figures are for the bulk of 2019).

The company was last valued at $1.5 billion in late 2018. It secured a bit more than $200 million in venture financing since its founding in 2009, and its founders Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein hold large stakes in the company of roughly 36% and 16.1% respectively.

Over at Palantir, which we have covered extensively the past few weeks, the company is even more of an outlier, with large-contract government sales that accrue over many years. The company reported a total of 125 customers, losses of $580 million on revenues of $743 million last year, and projected revenues of just above $1 billion for 2020.

While Palantir’s reference price was below the final secondary trades held by the company in early September before it closed the window in the run up to its IPO, that price was well-above the average trading of the past 18 months.

For both companies now, the public markets beckon, and the first public quarterly results are coming due here in a few weeks. You can read more about Asana on the company’s investor relations page. Like so much else at Palantir, it doesn’t have an investor relations page (yet?) as of the time of writing this article, but presumably the company will want to connect with investors at some point in the near future, one would hope.

#asana, #direct-listing, #dustin-moskovitz, #finance, #fundings-exits, #justin-rosenstein, #palantir-technologies, #tc

Unity Software has strong opening, gaining 31% after pricing above its raised range

Whoever said you can’t make money playing video games clearly hasn’t taken a look at Unity Software’s stock price.

On its first official day of trading, the company rose more than 31%, opening at $75 per share before closing the day at $68.35. Unity’s share price gains came after last night’s pricing of the company’s stock at $52 per share, well above the range of $44 to $48 which was itself an upward revision of the company’s initial target.

Games like “Pokémon GO” and “Iron Man VR” rely on the company’s software, as do untold numbers of other mobile gaming applications that use the company’s toolkit for support. The company’s customers range from small gaming publishers to large gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Niantic, Ubisoft and Tencent.

Unity’s IPO comes on the heels of other well-received debuts, including Sumo Logic, Snowflake and JFrog .

TechCrunch caught up with Unity’s CFO, Kim Jabal, after-hours today to dig in a bit on the transaction.

According to Jabal, hosting her company’s roadshow over Zoom had some advantages, as her team didn’t have to focus on tackling a single geography per day, allowing Unity to “optimize” its time based on who the company wanted to meet, instead, of say, whomever was free in Boston or Chicago on a particular Tuesday morning.

Jabal’s comments aren’t the first that TechCrunch has heard regarding roadshows going well in a digital format instead of as an in-person presentation. If the old-school roadshow survives, we’ll be surprised, though private jet companies will miss the business.

Talking about the transaction itself, Jabal stressed the connection between her company’s employees, value  and their access to that same value. Unity’s IPO was unique in that existing and former employees were able to trade 15% of their vested holdings in the company on day one, excluding “current executive officers and directors,” per SEC filings.

That act does not seemed to have dampened enthusiasm for the company’s shares, and could have helped boost early float, allowing for the two sides of the supply and demand curves to more quickly meet close to the company’s real value, instead of a scarcity-driven, more artificial figure.

Regarding Unity’s IPO pricing, Jabal discussed what she called a “very data-driven process.” The result of that process was an IPO price that came in above its raised range, and still rose during its first day’s trading, but less than 50%. That’s about as good an outcome as you can hope for in an IPO.

One final thing for the SaaS nerds out there. Unity’s “dollar-based net expansion rate” went from very good to outstanding in 2020, or in the words of the S-1/A:

Our dollar-based net expansion rate, which measures expansion in existing customers’ revenue over a trailing 12-month period, grew from 124% as of December 31, 2018 to 133% as of December 31, 2019, and from 129% as of June 30, 2019 to 142% as of June 30, 2020, demonstrating the power of this strategy.

We had to ask. And the answer, per Jabal, was a combination of the company’s platform strength and how customers tend to use more of Unity’s services over time, which she described as growing with their customers. And the second key element was 2020’s unique dynamics that gave Unity a “tailwind” thanks to “increased usage, particularly in gaming.”

Looking at our own gaming levels in 2020 compared to 2019, that checks out.

This post closes the book on this week’s IPO class. Tired yet? Don’t be. Palantir is up next, and then Asana .

#asana, #fundings-exits, #jfrog, #mobile, #palantir, #startups, #tc, #unity-technologies

Frugal startups should pay attention to how JFrog’s IPO prices

In last week’s IPO wave, one company fell a bit by the wayside amongst filings from better-known companies like Asana and Palantir. JFrog, a company that TechCrunch reported helps allows developers and companies deliver application updates “in the background without disturbing the user experience” when it raised $165 million in 2018, is positioned for an exciting debut.

Why? The unicorn — the same 2018 round valued JFrog at around $1.2 billion according to PitchBook data — has a unique blend of growth, margins and profitability that should make its pricing cycle incredibly interesting.


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


JFrog will give us an insight into how Wall Street will value a fast-growing, managed software company that also doesn’t lose money. It’s not something we see often, and other market hopefuls like the aforementioned Asana and Palantir are far from similar levels of profitability.

Let’s take a quick look at what JFrog would be worth if it were a more normal — read: less profitable — SaaS company, and then ask what it might be worth as a cash-generating, recently profitable concern. The numbers are pretty surprising.

JFrog

If you want more on the basics of JFrog’s business and why developers and companies care about the company, head here. We’re only doing numbers today.

Back to the basics as a refresher from early last week, here’s what you need to know about JFrog’s business:

  • Revenue grew from $63.5 million in 2018 to $104.7 million in 2019 and from $46.1 million to $69.2 million from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020. Those gains of 65% and 60.1%, respectively, put JFrog on a comfortable growth pace for a company doing nine-figure revenues.
  • JFrog has lost less money as it has grown. From $1.00 per share in 2018 to $0.20 per share in 2019, and from $0.08 per-share in the first half of 2019 to just $0.02 per share in the first half of 2020.
  • JFrog’s gross margins have been 81% or better in every mutliquarter period we have record of.
  • JFrog’s operating cash flow has improved over time as well, rising from +$8.6 million in 2018 to $10 million in 2019, and from +$0.415 million in the first half of 2019 to +$5.9 million in the first half of 2020.
  • And, after some quarters of extremely limited losses, JFrog posted its first known (since Q1 2018) GAAP profitable quarter in Q2 2020, generating $1.7 million in net income off of revenues of $36.4 million in the same period.

Now ask yourself, what is that company worth?

#asana, #developer, #finance, #fundings-exits, #jfrog, #palantir, #saas, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #unicorn, #zscaler

Everyone filed to go public Monday

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We’re back out of sequence, because literally every company you can name (well, almost) dropped an S-1 yesterday so we had to sit down and parse them out a bit. That so many filings dropped during the same two days when we had Y Combinator’s two-day Demo Day at the same time meant that we were all a bit punchdrunk, but we rallied.

Natasha and Danny and Chris and myself all piled back onto the mics to dig through all the numbers. Here’s a rundown of the companies we went through:

  • Palantir, which filed its formal S-1 during our recording session. Danny covered most of the news last Friday, but the public doc is now live, so happy sleuthing.
  • Unity’s huge IPO that shows how big gaming is. Natasha connected it to the broader Apple-Epic dustup, and we all reviled in its growth results.
  • Snowflake had Danny so excited he was conjuring scripted segues, and we were all impressed at its historical growth. Sure, it lost a lot of money last year, but, hey, Snowflake has dialed that back as well.
  • And then there was Asana, a company I’ve covered quite a lot over the years. Our general take is that the company’s growth has been good, if it is losing more money than we anticipated. Still, Asana could set a neat new precedent of raising debt ahead of a direct listing. This is one to watch.
  • And then we spent a little time on JFrog and Sumo Logic (more here), because we are nothing if not completionists.

Got all of that? It was a lot of facts to get through, but we did our best and we hope this helps. More tomorrow as we talk Y Combinator with a special guest host. Chat tomorrow!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#asana, #direct-listing, #equity, #ipo, #jfrog, #palantir, #podcasts, #s-1, #snowflake-computing, #sumo-logic, #unity-technologies, #venture-capital

Unity, JFrog, Asana, Snowflake and Sumo Logic file for IPOs in rapid-fire fashion

After far too few startups appeared ready to take advantage of warm public market conditions and ecstatic IPO receptions, a deluge of private companies filed to go public yesterday.

There was Sumo Logic in the morning and JFrog a bit later on. Unity filed in there as well. Snowflake also dropped, along with Asana later in the day. If you were dog-tired just reading Twitter, we understand. This morning, we’re going to catch you up on the key facts from each offering.


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


But we’re not going to discuss every recent IPO filing. We’re not including X-Peng, a Chinese electric vehicle company that feels a bit afield from the largely-SaaS cohort that just went public (more on it here, if you’d like). Or AmWell, which does health stuff. And we’re going to leave Corsair, a gaming hardware company that’s going public, alone as well.

We have to focus, so we’re niching down to the most traditional venture capital and startup fare on offer. It’s not like we’ll lack for things to say. What follows is a digest of basic facts and IPO details just for you.

Five IPOs and Alex’s funeral

For each company, we’ll discuss what they do, how much they have raised, their initial IPO raise expectations and their financial performance. We’ll wrap with valuation notes as we can.

In alphabetical order, then:

Asana

As losses expand, Asana is confident it has the ticket for a successful public listing

Asana, the project management software developer, dropped its filing for a direct listing on one of the busiest days of a surprisingly busy late summer.

The task management toolkit provider started by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and early FB employee Justin Rosenstein, isn’t as well known or as well financed as today’s other big public offerings — the game engine developer, Unity, and the $14 billion valued enterprise cloud storage provider Snowflake — but its modest $1.5 billion valuation may in some way make it a better bellwether for investor appetite in new tech offerings.

That’s because Asana is losing money … and losing money big. Its losses are expanding even as its growth increases. The company lost $118.6 million in fiscal 2020 even as it expanded its revenue to $142.6 million for the same period. In 2019 it saw revenues of $76.8 million and a net loss of $50.9 million. 

If the idea is that you have to spend money to make money, then Asana is doing exactly as it should, because the company has been growing. Revenue increased $19.7 million, or 71 percent, during the three months ending April 30, 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The company attributed that growth to a shift in its sales strategy toward higher-priced subscription plans and revenue from existing customers.

Cost of revenues for the company grew by 51 percent as gross margins slightly rose over the same period, according to the company.

One bright spot for Asana is the potential converts it still has yet to win over as paying customers. Asana boasts 3.2 million free accounts and has managed to make its bones off of only over 75,000 paying customers. Given the rapid transition to remote work for many knowledge workers, project management tools only become more important.

The path to the public markets has been a long one for Asana, which first appeared on the scene in 2008. The company’s last capital infusion came in 2018 with $125 million raised across two quick investment rounds led by Generation Investment Management, the investment fund co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

While Gore’s firm may have ponied up a lot of cash, the biggest winner in Asana’s public listing is likely to be Facebook co-founder Moskovitz. He owns a huge percentage of the company — roughly 35 percent. That’s a whole lot more than Rosenstein’s 16.2 percent haul.

Asana had telegraphed its intentions to access public markets via a direct listing earlier this year — even before the pandemic had made the market more receptive to collaboration software tools like the ones it offers.

#al-gore, #asana, #co-founder, #computing, #dustin-moskovitz, #facebook, #generation-investment-management, #justin-rosenstein, #software, #tc, #unity, #vice-president, #world-wide-web

Unicorn rodeo: 6 high-flying startups that are set to go public

This week Airbnb announced that it has privately filed to go public, putting the famous unicorn on a path to a quick IPO if it wants. The recent move matches reporting indicating that the home-sharing upstart could yet go public in 2020 despite the collapse of the travel industry.


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


But Airbnb is not the only venture-backed company of note that is looking to go public at the moment, or that has privately filed to go public. Indeed, so many unicorns are looking to get out the door in the next quarter or two, I’ve started to lose track of their status.

So, this morning, let’s gather a digest of each unicorn that has filed privately, is expected to debut shortly, or may go public in the next year or two. We’re talking Airbnb, Asana, ThredUp, Qualtrics, Palantir and Ant first, and then more loosely about the huge cadre of companies that could go public before the end of 2022, like UIPath, Intercom, and, sure, Robinhood as well.

Today is Friday, which means we can afford to take a minute, center ourselves and make sure that we’re ready for the news that next week will inevitably bring. So let’s have a little fun.

Upcoming unicorn IPOs

In order to keep this digestible, we’ll proceed in bulleted-list format. Starting with the biggest news, let’s remind ourselves of Airbnb’s decline and recovery, starting with revenue numbers:

No parties allowed at the Airbnb IPO

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

What happens when the entire podcast crew is a bit tired from, you know, everything, and does its very best? This episode, apparently. A big thanks to Chris Gates for helping us trim the fat and make something good for you.

Before we get into the topics of the week, don’t forget that Equity is not back on YouTube most weeks, so if you wanted to see us do the talking with some fun extra from the production team, you can do so here. More to come once I get my new external camera to work.

That done, here’s what Natasha and Danny and I got into this week:

Whew! We’re doing a lot over at TechCrunch.com, so, stay tuned and know that if we were a bit frazzled this week it’s because we’re working our backends off to bring you neat things. You will dig ’em.

Ok, chat Monday, a show that we’re already planning. Stay cool!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#airbnb, #apple, #asana, #carrot-fertility, #chamath-palihapitiya, #direct-listing, #equity, #ipo, #liquidity, #podcasts, #spac, #tc, #tesla, #venture-capital, #welcome

Carta’s former marketing VP is suing over gender discrimination after spearheading report on pay inequality

Emily Kramer joined the Silicon Valley company Carta to build up the company’s brand. Now, the company’s former VP of marketing is looking to shine a light on Carta for another reason: in a new lawsuit against Carta, which makes equity management software, Kramer accuses the eight-year-old outfit of gender discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and of violating the California Equal Pay Act.

Carta declined an interview request today, saying through a spokesperson that it isn’t commenting because the suit is a “pending legal matter.”  But we spoke earlier this afternoon with Kramer, who has separately outlined her side of the story in detail in a Medium post, where she accuses the company of both unfair labor practices and of being disingenuous in its stated “commitment to transparency and equality in equity.”

The equality piece is certainly the bigger of the two issues, by Kramer’s own telling. She says she learned that she was underpaid when, in the summer of  2018, roughly six months after she joined Carta, it partnered with the women-led investment collective #ANGELS to produce a report that highlighted ownership of venture-backed companies’ equity by gender.

The suspicion driving the report  — and later proved out by its findings — is that as with salary, where women continue to earn less than their male peers, they are also given less equity ownership in the startups for which they work. Kramer, who says she spearheaded the effort, posted the report, which included internal analysis that showed that Carta too, was allocating less equity to women than men.

In response, says the report, 40% of the women at Carta received an equity fix, compared to 32% of the men.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was through this same report that Kramer, the only female executive at Carta at the time, says she discovered she was herself underpaid by $50,000 relative to her peers, and that her original equity grant was one-third of the same amount of shares paid to comparable employees, who she says were all men.

Indeed, at the crux of her suit against Carta is that equity grant. While on the heels of the report, the company bumped up her pay by $50,000 and provided her nearly 300,000 more stock options in addition to the 150,000 options she was originally provided, it declined to backdate or accelerate the options to account for the previous six months of her tenure.

That might not seem like such a big deal. But given Carta’s ever-soaring valuation — it was marked at half a billion dollars when Kramer joined the company and it was more recently assigned a $3 billion valuation by its investors — that’s tantamount to a “significant” amount money, Kramer tells us. And she wasn’t about to leave it on the table.

The disparity wasn’t a complete shock to Kramer, who’d previously worked in marketing at Ticketfly, Asana, and Astro Technology (acquired by Slack) . According to her lawsuit, filed by attorney Sharon Vinick, Kramer emailed Carta’s founder and CEO, Henry Ward, when she was initially offered the job, noting that the equity offered was “lower than my expectations.”

According to Kramer, Ward told her that any more equity would be “unfair,” as compensation at her level was uniform for all employees. He also said Carta planned a company-wide review of its salaries and stock options later in the year, and that if it revealed that she was being underpaid, her compensation would be adjusted.

Clearly, Ward and Kramer have different views on whether or not that ultimately happened.

In our call with Kramer, she said still believes in the company’s mission to make equity more understandable for its users and that “therefore I believe it’s a solid product.”

She declined to say whether she has exercised any of her shares, but she said that Carta gives its employees a longer window to do this than many other startups. (How much time is is based in part on their tenure with the company, she’d added.)

Kramer also said that she hopes the company can “live up to”  how it markets itself externally, as an ally of women who are paid less for the same amount of work.

Kramer says her experience inside of Carta — which still has an exclusively male board of directors —  was not of a company that values women as much as men. She alleges that not only was she the only woman who reported directly to Ward during her tenure,  but that two other VP-level execs who joined at roughly the same that she did were promoted to C-level positions despite having “less, and less relevant” work experience in their respective fields whereas her efforts to be promoted went nowhere. (Asked if there were other VP-level male colleagues who were also not promoted during the same period, Vinick said that no one at the time had a comparable role to Kramer, who grew to oversee 27 other people.)

Kramer adds that she stopped being included in meetings where a marketing head would normally be included, fundraising meetings among them, and believes that her efforts to remedy what she perceived as a “sexist culture” within the male-dominated company were at the root of all of these developments.

Eventually, Kramer says, she felt she was forced to resign after a meeting with Ward turned heated and he said Kramer was in violation of the company’s “no asshole policy.” When she wrote him two days later to resign, he wrote back within eight minutes, accepting her resignation and suggesting that both might learn from their experience working together.

Vinick, Kramer’s attorney, tells us Carta is being sued for emotional, punitive, and economic distress and says that now that her law firm has filed the suit, Carta will be served officially with the complaint within another week or two, at which point the discovery process can begin.

Carta does not ask its employees to sign arbitration clauses in their employment agreements, so unless it settles with Kramer or a judge finds some reason to dismiss the case, which seems unlikely, it could eventually head to trial.

In the meantime, the decision to sue is a big gamble for Kramer, but Vinick says she is proud of her client. “Standing up to these situations is an extraordinarily difficult and potentially career-limiting move to take,” but will ultimately help “shine a light on the problem of this equity gap.”

Carta has raised more than $600 million from investors to date, including Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Ventures, and Goldman Sachs.

In April, as it was sealing it up its newest round of funding, it also conducted its first major layoff, parting ways with 161 employees. At the time, Business Insider spoke with eight former employees and one investor who described Carta as a “quickly changing company with huge vision but little focus, where hiring and hypergrowth” had become its core priorities.

#andreessen-horowitz, #asana, #carta, #diversity, #drama, #goldman-sachs, #henry-ward, #lawsuit, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #personnel, #secondaries, #tc, #venture-capital

IPOs that could happen soon, cannot happen soon enough

Earlier today we took a look at two companies that have filed to go public, nCino and GoHealth. The pair join Lemonade in a march toward the public markets.

But those three firms are hardly alone. We know that DoorDash filed privately earlier this year (it also raised a pile of cash lately, so its IPO may not be in a hurry), and Postmates filed privately last year.

Even more, there are a number of companies whose IPOs we anticipate in short order. So, what follows is our incredibly scientific survey of impending IPOs, starting with those closest to the gate. This list is focused on companies that were at one point venture-backed startups, even if they have become behemoths in the intervening years.

We’ll start with companies that have filed and are moving toward debuts in the next few weeks:

  • nCino: This SaaS company is growing nicely, and has pretty good overall economics. We covered its financial history here. Its debut will be a win for North Carolina.
  • GoHealth: A Chicago success story that was swallowed by private equity last year, GoHealth is now an incredibly complicated company and offering that features lots of long-term indebtedness. But, its exit should provide reasonable returns to its current owner’s backers, who held onto the firm for less than a year before trying to flip it.
  • Lemonade: Lemonade’s IPO is an important moment for a number of modern insurance companies like Root, MetroMile, Kin and others. Not that they all sell the same type of insurance, mind, they don’t. Lemonade does rental and home insurance, while Root and MetroMile are focused on autos, for example. But if Lemonade manages a strong offering, it could provide tailwind to its fellow neo-insurance providers all the same.
  • Agora: We’re catching up on the Agora debut. The China-based company’s IPO filing details a company that provides other companies and developers the ability to “embed real-time video and voice functionalities into their applications without the need to develop the technology or build the underlying infrastructure themselves” via APIs. This sounds a bit like what Daily.co is building, if you recall that round. Agora is a company that has good operating income and net income before “accretion on convertible redeemable preferred shares to redemption value.” With that in hand, the company’s earnings are sharply negative. Read that how you want. Agora wants to raise between $280 million and $315 million.

And, next, companies that have filed privately but are still hanging back:

And here are companies that are making the sort of noise that one might make before finally going public:

All of the above is a jam, and I am stoked to dig through the S-1 trenches with you.

#airbnb, #asana, #bigcommerce, #doordash, #exit, #initial-public-offering, #palantir, #startups, #tc, #vroom, #zoominfo