Saltbox raises $10.6M to help booming e-commerce stores store their goods

E-commerce is booming, but among the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs of online businesses are finding a place to store the items they are selling and dealing with the logistics of operating.

Tyler Scriven, Maxwell Bonnie and Paul D’Arrigo co-founded Saltbox in an effort to solve that problem.

The trio came up with a unique “co-warehousing” model that provides space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants to operate as well as store and ship goods, all under one roof. Beyond the physical offering, Saltbox offers integrated logistics services as well as amenities such as the rental of equipment and packing stations and access to items such as forklifts. There are no leases and tenants have the flexibility to scale up or down based on their needs.

“We’re in that sweet spot between co-working and raw warehouse space,” said CEO Scriven, a former Palantir executive and Techstars managing director.

Saltbox opened its first facility — a 27,000-square-foot location — in its home base of Atlanta in late 2019, filling it within two months. It recently opened its second facility, a 66,000-square-foot location, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that is currently about 40% occupied. The company plans to end 2021 with eight locations, in particular eyeing the Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles markets. Saltbox has locations slated to come online as large as 110,000 square feet, according to Scriven.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods, noted Scriven. Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient. 

Scriven personally met with challenges when starting his own e-commerce business, True Glory Brands, a retailer of multicultural hair and beauty products.

“We became aware of the lack of physical workspace for SMBs engaged in commerce,” Scriven told TechCrunch. “If you are in the market looking for 10,000 square feet of industrial warehouse space, you are effectively pushed to the fringes of the real estate ecosystem and then the entrepreneurial ecosystem at large. This is costing companies in significant but untold ways.”

Now, Saltbox has completed a $10.6 million Series A round of financing led by Palo Alto-based Playground Global that included participation from XYZ Venture Capital and proptech-focused Wilshire Lane Partners in addition to existing backers Village Capital and MetaProp. The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand into new markets.

The company’s customers are typically SMB e-commerce merchants “generating anywhere from $50,000 to $10 million a year in revenue,” according to Scriven.

He emphasizes that the company’s value prop is “quite different” from a traditional flex office/co-working space.

“Our members are reliant upon us to support critical workflows,” Scriven said. 

Besides e-commerce occupants, many service-based businesses are users of Saltbox’s offering, he said, such as those providing janitorial services or that need space for physical equipment. The company offers all-inclusive pricing models that include access to loading docks and a photography studio, for example, in addition to utilities and Wi-Fi.

Image Credits: Saltbox

Image Credits: Saltbox

The company secures its properties with a mix of buying and leasing by partnering with institutional real estate investors.

“These partners are acquiring assets and in most cases, are funding the entirety of capital improvements by entering into management or revenue share agreements to operate those properties,” Scriven said. He said the model is intentionally different from that of “notable flex space operators.”

“We have obviously followed those stories very closely and done our best to learn from their experiences,” he added. 

Investor Adam Demuyakor, co-founder and managing partner of Wilshire Lane Partners, said his firm was impressed with the company’s ability to “structure excellent real estate deals” to help them continue to expand nationally.

He also believes Saltbox is “extremely well-positioned to help power and enable the next generation of great direct to consumer brands.”

Playground Global General Partner Laurie Yoler said the startup provides a “purpose-built alternative” for small businesses that have been fulfilling orders out of garages and self-storage units.

Saltbox recently hired Zubin Canteenwalla  to serve as its chief operating offer. He joined Saltbox from Industrious, an operator co-working spaces, where he was SVP of Real Estate. Prior to Industrious, he was EVP of Operations at Common, a flexible residential living brand, where he led the property management and community engagement teams.

#atlanta, #business, #dallas, #denver, #e-commerce, #logistics, #los-angeles, #marketing, #model, #online-shopping, #palantir, #palo-alto, #paul, #playground-global, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #saltbox, #seattle, #self-storage, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #techstars, #village-capital, #warehouse, #wilshire-lane-partners

0

The TechCrunch Survey of Tech Startup Hubs in England and Wales

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the major European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words. For this survey we are interested in startup hubs in England and Wales. (Scotland will follow, and Northern Ireland is here).

So this is your chance to put your cities on the Techcrunch Map!

We’re like to hear from founders and investors. We are particularly interested in hearing from diverse founders and investors. These are our humble suggestions for the cities we’d most like to hear from:

Birmingham
Brighton
Bristol & Bath
Cambridge
Cardiff
Liverpool
Manchester
Newcastle
Oxford
Reading and Thames valley
York

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of the above cities please fill out the survey form here.

The more founders/investors we hear from in a particular city, the more likely it is that city will be featured in TechCrunch.

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last six or more months, largely in capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service that unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys, the cities we wrote about were largely capitals. You can see them listed here.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly unedited and are generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher.

#articles, #business, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #private-equity, #reading, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media, #york

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JXL turns Jira into spreadsheets

Atlassian’s Jira is an extremely powerful issue tracking and project management tool, but it’s not the world’s most intuitive piece of software either. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are pretty much the de facto standard for managing virtually anything in a business. It’s maybe no surprise then that there are already a couple of tools on the market that bring a spreadsheet-like view of your projects to Jira or connect it to services like Google Sheets.

The latest entrant in this field is JXL Spreadsheets for Jira (and specifically Jira Cloud), which was founded by two ex-Atlassian employees, Daniel Franz and Hannes Obweger. And in what has become a bit of a trend, Atlassian Ventures invested in JXL earlier this year.

Franz built the Good News news reader before joining Atlassian while his co-founder previously founded Radiant Minds Software, the makers of Jira Roadmaps (now Portfolio for Jira), which was acquired by Atlassian.

Image Credits: JXL

“Jira is so successful because it is awesome,” Franz told me. “It is so versatile. It’s highly customizable. I’ve seen people in my time who are doing anything and everything with it. Working with customers [at Atlassian] — at some point, you didn’t get surprised anymore, but what the people can do and track with JIRA is amazing. But no one would rock up and say, ‘hey, JIRA is very pleasant and easy to use.’”

As Franz noted, by default, Jira takes a very opinionated view of how people should use it. But that also means that users often end up exporting their issues to create reports and visualizations, for example. But if they make any changes to this data, it never flows back into Jira. No matter how you feel about spreadsheets, they do work for many people and are highly flexible. Even Atlassian would likely agree because the new Jira Work Management, which is currently in beta, comes with a spreadsheet-like view and Trello, too, recently went this way when it launched a major update earlier this year.

Image Credits: JXL

Over the course of its three-month beta, the JXL team saw how its users ended up building everything from cross-project portfolio management to sprint planning, backlog maintenance, timesheets and inventory management on top of its service. Indeed, Franz tells me that the team already has some large customers, with one of them having a 7,000-seat license.

Pricing for JXL seems quite reasonable, starting at $1/user/month for teams with up to 10 users. Larger teams get increasingly larger discounts, down to $0.45/user/month for licenses with over 5,000 seats. There is also a free trial.

One of the reasons the company can offer this kind of pricing is because it only needs a very simple backend. None of a customer’s data sits on JXL’s servers. Instead, it sits right on top of Jira’s APIs, which in turn also means that changes are synced back and forth in real time.

JXL is now available in the Atlassian Marketplace and the team is actively hiring as it looks to build out its product (and put its new funding to work).

#atlassian, #atlassian-ventures, #business, #co-founder, #google, #jira, #management, #software, #spreadsheets, #tc, #trello

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European tech event mainstays Shift and TOA find new homes, new models, post-COVID

Given the pandemic, huge changes are being wrought in tech events, something which used to be the lifeblood of the industry. Many a startup has pitched to win funding, and many a hackathon has formed teams that went on to greater things. It’s a sad fact that this era is over, at least until the pandemic has fully passed, but this could take some time. Two significant European events have now had to change in order to carry their brands into new realms.

European breakout success story Infobip (which has raised over $200 million) was born out of Croatia. And so was the seminal developer conference Shift. With Infobipo needing that engineering community, and Shift needing a more stable home in uncertain times, it seems only natural that Infobip would put developers front and center of their company strategy with the acquisition of Shift, and appointing its founder and CEO Ivan Burazinto the board as Chief Developer Experience Officer. Shift will now form the basis of Infobip’s all-new Developer Experience department.
 
As Burazin said: “The vision was always to become one of the largest developer conferences in the world, and also to strengthen Croatia’s connection to the world of software developers. So now with the backing of a Unicorn and the freedom to keep working on independently – the vision seems to have finally become possible.”

He says Shift won’t disappear, but will now expand globally, first to the US and then to Latin America and southeast Asia, initially in remote events.
 
Infobip CEO Silvio Kutić said: “Infobip is on a growth trajectory to expand rapidly into the B2C vertical, or more specifically Business-to-Developer (B2D) space. Having Ivan on board with his experience as the founder of Codeanywhere, a B2D SaaS company, and creator of Shift, the largest developer conference in the region, will be an asset to us going forward.”
  
Meanwhile, a key startup and founder/investor-oriented conference “Tech Open Air Berlin” is also changing.

Tech Open Air (TOA), was known for its technology and startup festival, which attracted upwards of 20,000 people in Berlin every summer, but it has now pivoted into a new brand: TOA Klub. This will now be a “cohort-based learning and doing platform.” The 4-6 weeks of online programs will be aimed at help professionals progress in the tech industry.

TOA Klub will offer Founders Klub (for founders learning to startup); Investors Klub (for newbie investors); Crypto Klub (a “crash course in the crypto field”); and Co-Creators Klub (for founders looking to pivot and grow).

The first confirmed mentors and speakers include Rolf Schrömgens (Founder, Trivago), Dominik Richter (Founder, HelloFresh) or Jeanette zu Fürstenberg (Founding Partner, La Famiglia VC).

Nikolas Woischnik, founder of TOA said: “The world will come out of this pandemic having digitally aged by decades, not years.  The complexity of our business environment has greatly accelerated. At TOA this gives our long-time mission of “making people, organizations and the planet futureproof” ever more purpose. With the launch of Klub, it is time for us to leverage technology to deliver on our mission in a more impactful and accessible way.”

I for one am glad these greats brands have found new homes, because I know the brands and the founders both carry huge respect in the European startup scene.

#articles, #berlin, #business, #ceo, #codeanywhere, #croatia, #europe, #founder, #hellofresh, #latin-america, #south-east-asia, #startup-company, #tc, #trivago, #united-states

0

Norwegian corporate training startup Attensi raises $26M from NYC’s Lugard Road, DX Ventures

Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.

Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.

With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.

This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.

Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”

The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.

Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”

#articles, #business, #companies, #daimler, #delivery-hero, #europe, #gamification, #gaming, #lugard-road-capital, #new-york, #north-america, #norway, #oslo, #partner, #sap, #simulation, #startup-company, #tc

0

Tines raises $26M Series B for its no-code security automation platform

Tines, a no-code automation platform co-founded by two senior cybersecurity operators, today announced that it has raised a $26 million Series B funding round led by Addition. Existing investors Accel and Blossom Capital participated in this round, which also includes strategic investments from CrowdStrike and Silicon Valley CISO Investments. After this round, which brings the total funding in the company to $41.1 million, Tines is now valued at $300 million.

Given that Tines co-founders Eoin Hinchy and Thomas Kinsella were both in senior security roles at DocuSign before they left to start their own company in 2018, it’s maybe no surprise that the company’s platform launched with a strong focus on security operations. As such, it combines security orchestration and robotic process automation with a low-code/no-code user interface.

“Tines is on a mission to allow frontline employees to focus on more business-critical tasks and improve their wellbeing by reducing the burden of ‘busy work’ by helping automate any manual workflow and making existing teams more efficient, effective, and engaged,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

The idea here is to free analysts from spending time on routine repetitive tasks and allow them to focus on those areas where they can have the most impact. The tools features pre-configured integrations with a variety of business and security tools, but for more sophisticated users, it also features the ability to hook into virtually any API.

Image Credits: Tines

The company argues that even non-technical employees should be able to learn the ins and outs of its platform within about three hours (sidenote: it’s nice to see a no-code platform acknowledge that users will actually need to spend some time with it before they can become productive).

“If software is eating the world, automation is eating the enterprise,” Hinchy said. “Yet, the majority of progress in this space still requires non-technical teams to depend on software engineers to implement their automation. Other platforms are generally either too hard to use, not flexible enough or not sufficiently robust for mission-critical workflows like cybersecurity. Tines empowers enterprise teams to automate any of their own manual workloads independently, making their jobs more rewarding while simultaneously delivering enormous value for their organizations.”

Current Tines customers include the likes of Box, Canva, OpenTable and Sophos.

The company, which was founded in Dublin, Ireland and recently opened an office in Boston, plans to use the new funding to double its 18-person team in order to support its product growth.

“Tines has quickly established itself as a market leader in enterprise automation,” said Lee Fixel, founder of Addition. “We look forward to supporting Eoin and the Tines team as they continue to scale the business and enhance their product — which is beloved by their unmatched customer base.”

Image Credits: Tines

#addition, #api, #automation, #boston, #box, #business, #business-process-automation, #canva, #crowdstrike, #docusign, #dublin, #ireland, #lee-fixel, #low-code, #market-leader, #no-code, #opentable, #recent-funding, #security, #security-tools, #silicon-valley-ciso-investments, #sophos, #startups, #tc, #tines, #tools

0

Putting Belfast on the TechCrunch map — TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.

This is your chance to put Belfast on the Techcrunch Map!

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in the city please fill out the survey form here.

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last six or more months, largely in capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service that unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys, the cities we wrote about were largely capitals. You can see them listed here.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly unedited and are generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher.

#articles, #business, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media

0

Put your city on the TC map — TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.

This is your chance to put your city on the Techcrunch Map!

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last 6 or more months, largely in capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service which unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys (as you can see below) the cities we wrote about were largely capitals.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly un-edited, and generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Austria: Graz, Linz
Belgium: Antwerp
Croatia: Zagreb, Osjek
Czech Republic: Brno, Ostrava, Plzen
England: Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester
Estonia: Tartu
France: Toulouse, Lyon, Lille
Germany: Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Bielefeld, Frankfurt
Greece: Thessaloniki
Ireland: Cork
Israel: Jerusalem
Italy: Trieste, Bologna, Turin, Florence, Milan
Netherlands: Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht
Northern Ireland: Belfast, Derry
Poland: Gdańsk, Wroclaw, Krakow, Poznan
Portugal: Porto, Braga
Romania: Cluj, Lasi, Timisoara, Oradea, Brasov
Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow
Spain: Valencia
Sweden: Malmo
Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher

Here are the cities that previously participated in The Great TechCrunch Survey of Europe’s VCs:

Amsterdam/Netherlands

Athens/Greece

Berlin/Germany

Brussels/Belgium

Bucharest/Romania

Copenhagen/Denmark

Dublin/Ireland

Helsinki/Finland

Lisbon/Portugal

London/UK

Madrid & Barcelona/Spain (Part 1 & Part 2)

Oslo/Norway

Paris/France

Prague/Czech Republic

Rome, Milan/Italy

Stockholm/Sweden

Tel Aviv/Israel

Vienna/Austria

Warsaw/Poland (Part 1 & Part 2)

Zurich/Switzerland

#articles, #austria, #bristol, #business, #cambridge, #cologne, #economy, #edinburgh, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #florence, #hamburg, #munich, #oxford, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #trieste, #verizon-media

0

E-commerce roll-ups are the next wave of disruption in consumer packaged goods

This year is all about the roll-ups. No, not those fruity snacks you used to find in your lunchbox; roll-ups are the aggregation of smaller companies into larger firms, creating a potentially compelling path for equity value.

Right now, all eyes are on Thrasio, the fastest company to reach unicorn status, and its cadre of competitors, such as Heyday, Branded and Perch, all vying to become the modern model of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.

Making things even more interesting, famed investor and operator Keith Rabois recently announced that he too is working on a roll-up concept called OpenStore with Atomic co-founder Jack Abraham.

Like any investment firm, to be successful, a roll-up should have a thesis or two providing it with a cohesive strategy across its portfolio.

Thrasio has been reaping the benefits of the e-commerce market’s Cambrian explosion in 2020, in which over $1 billion of capital was invested in firms on a mission to acquire independent Amazon sellers and brands.

This catalyst can be attributed to a few key factors, the first and most notable being the pandemic accelerating spending on Amazon and e-commerce more broadly. Next is the low cost of capital, a reflection of interest rates making markets flush with cash; this has made it easier to raise both equity and debt capital.

The third is the emerging and quantifiable proofs of concept: Thrasio is one of several raising hundreds of millions of dollars, and Anker, a primarily Amazon-native brand, went public. Both stories have provided further validation that a meaningful brand can be built on top of Amazon’s marketplace.

Still, the interest in creating value through e-commerce brands is particularly striking. Just a year ago, digitally native brands had fallen out of favor with venture capitalists after so many failed to create venture-scale returns. So what’s the roll-up hype about?

Roll-ups are another flavor of investing

Roll-ups aren’t a new concept; they’ve existed for a while. In the offline world, roll-ups often achieve much greater exit multiples, known as “multiple arbitrage,” so it’s no surprise that the trend is making its way online.

Historically, though, roll-ups haven’t been all that successful; HBR notes that more than two-thirds of roll-ups fail to create value for investors. While roll-ups are often effective at building larger companies, they don’t always increase profits or operating cash flows.

Acquirers, i.e., those rolling up smaller companies, need to uncover new operating approaches for their acquired companies to increase equity value, and the only way to increase equity value is to increase operating cash flow. There are four ways to do this: reducing overhead costs, reducing operating costs without sacrificing price or volume, increasing pricing without sacrificing volume or increasing volume without increasing unit costs.

E-commerce could present a new and different opportunity, or at least that’s what investors and smart money are betting on. Let’s explore how this new wave of roll-ups is approaching both growth and value creation.

Channel your enthusiasm: Why every roll-up needs a thesis

Like any investment firm, to be successful, a roll-up should have a thesis or two providing it with a cohesive strategy across its portfolio. There are a few that are trending in this particular wave.

The first is the primary distribution channel upon which a company grows. Evaluating companies with a common distribution channel can be helpful for creating economies of scale, focusing marketing and growth resources in a specific channel versus diluting resources across several.

On the downside, these companies become reliant on this distribution strategy and any changes could create vulnerabilities for their portfolio companies. As a study, let’s take a look at how two companies take different approaches:

#amazon, #business, #column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-consumer-applications, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #roll-ups, #tc

0

Homebrew backs Higo’s effort to become the “Venmo for B2B payments” in LatAm

The B2B payments space has been on fire for a while, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only fueled mass adoption of digitizing finances.

In regions like Latin America, the need for innovation in the sector is even more paramount than in the United States with so many people still relying on outdated processes.

One Mexico City-based startup, Higo.io, is out to transform B2B payments for SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) in Latin America, starting with its home country.

Rodolfo Corcuera, Juan José Fernández and Daniel Tamayo founded the company in January 2020, recognizing that the process of paying vendors for business owners is largely “manual and cumbersome.”

“In Mexico, small businesses mostly handle payables with nothing more than spreadsheets and email and legacy bank accounts,” CEO Corcuera said.

The trio formed Higo to automate processes and provide visibility into cash flow, particularly for small businesses. “Informal” businesses make up about 23% of Mexico’s GDP, according to data from INEGI, the government’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Higo launched its SaaS platform last November.

And now the startup has raised $3.3 million from a group of U.S.-based investors including Homebrew (which led the round), Susa Ventures, Haystack and J Ventures. The financing is the latest in a string of fintech-related fundings in Mexico that TechCrunch has covered as of late.

Higo wants shake up the payments scene in the region by creating an alternative to traditional banking for businesses to pay each other. 

“We want to build the Venmo for B2B payments in Latin America,” Corcuera told TechCrunch. 

Ultimately, the goal is to help SMB owners deal less with tedious tasks and more on generating revenues and profits for their businesses. Customers so far include hundreds of small business owners and the company aims to have “thousands” of customers by year’s end.

“E-invoicing is ubiquitous in the States and in the U.S., receiving a PDF invoice is enough,” Corcuera told TechCrunch. “But in Mexico, it has to be electronic to be [tax] deductible by law. With our platform, invoices are automatically populated so businesses can have visibility into what has to be paid, what vendors they owe and when they owe.”

Corcuera is no stranger to running companies, having launched a housecleaning marketplace at the age of 23 in 2013. He also founded Tandem, an office management platform, in 2018, to help office managers streamline their procurement needs. As is often the case for founders, it was during the process of growing that company that Corcuera realized how painful and time consuming it was for businesses to manage their payables and receivables. That led him to come up with the concept behind Higo.io. 

Gallardo was previously COO at Swap, a Mexican challenger bank, and also was one of the founding members of Uber’s Mexican operations.

Looking ahead, Higo plans to use its new capital in part to boost its six-person staff, particularly beefing up its engineering team so that it can “scale as fast as possible,” according to Corcuera.

For now, the company’s efforts are focused exclusively on the Mexican market, which in of itself is huge.

“Later we will expand in Latin America. We see a very clear opportunity in similar markets across the region,” Corcuera said.

Homebrew Partner Satya Patel said his San Francisco-based VC firm believes there’s a massive opportunity in Latin America given the move to digital payments. The investment in Higo marks Homebrew’s third in the region in the past 18 months.

“This is an exceptional team focused on a problem that is visceral for businesses in Mexico in particular,” Patel told TechCrunch. “They are able to provide businesses with a real-time view of their cash flow and working capital. Without it, they are at risk. So the opportunity is to tackle this acute pain point being felt by a lot of businesses.”

The region’s payments ecosystem, he said, is still very nascent.

“Being the intermediary for B2B tax information gives Higo an opportunity to provide a real alternative to the traditional way Mexicans are used to doing banking and business,” Patel added.

#accounts-payable, #banking, #business, #ceo, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #haystack, #homebrew, #invoice, #latin-america, #mexico, #payments, #recent-funding, #saas, #satya-patel, #startups, #susa-ventures, #swap, #tc, #uber, #united-states, #venmo, #venture-capital

0

Investors Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt are coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The transportation industry is abuzz with upstarts, legacy automakers, suppliers and tech companies working on automated vehicle technology, digital platforms, electrification and robotics. Then there are shared mobility companies from cars to scooters and mopeds to ebikes. And who can forget the emerging air taxi companies?

At the center of this evolving industry are the investors. Simply put: TechCrunch can’t hold an event on mobility without hearing from the people who are hunting for the best opportunities in the industry and tracking all of its changes. That’s why we’re happy to announce investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital will join us on our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. The virtual event, which features the best and brightest minds in the world of mobility, will be held on June 9.

p.s. Early Bird tickets to the show are now available – book today and save 35% before prices go up.

Brenner, Garcia and Holt will come on stage to discuss their near and long-term investment strategies, overlooked opportunities, and challenges that face startups trying to break into the transportation sector. They’ll lean on their considerable experience to provide the advice and insight that will help attendees understand the state of the industry and where it is headed.

Brenner is a serial co-founder. She is co-founder and managing partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, a venture capital firm that provides seed capital and regulatory support to entrepreneurs solving urban challenges. Urban Innovation Fund has backed curbflow, Electriphi and Kyte among others. She also co-founded Tumml, a startup hub for urban tech that provided 38 startups with seed funding and mentorship, and hosts events around urban innovation. In 2014, Forbes listed her as one of its “30 Under 30” for Social Entrepreneurship.

Garcia, a lifelong ‘car guy’ with an MS degree in management science and automotive engineering from Stanford University, is managing director at Autotech Ventures. He’s also a board director, board observer and advisory board member to a number of mobility companies including Lyft, Peloton Technology, and Connected Signals.

Garcia has been on the ground floor of startups, notably as part of the initial team at the electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place, where he was responsible for partnerships with automakers and parts suppliers while living in Israel, Japan and China.

Holt is co-founder and Managing Partner of early-stage venture firm Construct Capital, which is focused on finding founders that are trying to change foundational industries such as manufacturing and supply chain, logistics and transportation. The company’s transportation-focused investments include ChargeLab. Holt also sits on the board of MotoRefi.

Prior to Construct, Holt was at Uber, where she was one of the company’s first 30 employees. During her 8.5-year stint at Uber, Holt rose through the ranks of the company, including roles running the U.S.  and Canada “Rides” business as well as global marketing and customer support. She was a longtime member of the company’s executive leadership team. Her last position at Uber was leading the company’s new mobility organization, which focused on its e-bike and scooter businesses as well as running its incubator, which funded and developed new products and services.

Rachel began her career at Bain & Company, advising companies in the private equity, financial services and healthcare industries. She was ranked No. 9 on Fortune’s 40 under 40 and was named by Fast Company as One of the Most Creative People in Business.

We can’t wait to hear from this investor panel at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9. Make sure to grab your Early Bird pass before May 6 to save 35% on tickets and join the fun!

#articles, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #better-place, #board-member, #business, #canada, #china, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #e-bike, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #events, #executive, #fast-company, #financial-services, #forbes, #innovation, #israel, #japan, #lyft, #manufacturing, #motorefi, #peloton-technology, #private-equity, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #stanford-university, #startup-company, #supply-chain, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #techcrunch, #transportation, #uber, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #venture-capital

0

Appfire, provider of Atlassian apps, raises $100M to continue its buying spree

Appfire, a Boston-based provider of software development apps, announced Tuesday that it has received a $100 million investment from growth private equity firm TA Associates.

Founded in 2005, Appfire was bootstrapped until it got $49 million from Silversmith Capital Partners last May. Since that time, Appfire has acquired six companies in the Atlassian “ecosystem,” including Botron, Beecom, Innovalog, Navarambh, Artemis and Bolo.

The Boston-based company has been profitable for over a decade, according to Randall Ward, co-founder and CEO of Appfire. And while Ward declined to reveal valuation or hard revenue numbers, he did say that Appfire has seen its ARR more than double over the past year.

Since last June alone, the company says it has experienced:

  • A 103% year over year increase in ARR.
  • A 258% YOY increase in enterprise subscription revenue (data center only). 
  • A 182% YOY increase in all subscription revenue (data center and cloud).  

So why the need for institutional capital? With the latest funding, Appfire intends to extend its buying spree of complementary apps. 

Appfire has been acquiring businesses every six to eight weeks, and it plans to continue scooping them up at that pace, according to Ward.

It’s also looking to let shareholders cash in on their options.

Fun fact: Atlassian itself was bootstrapped for nearly a decade. The Australian enterprise software company was profitable from its inception in 2001 before taking its first round of external capital, a $60 million financing led by Accel, in July 2010. The financing was primarily secondary.

Some context

Appfire was initially a professional services company before transitioning into products in 2013. The company says it has “developed domain expertise in creating, launching and distributing apps” through the Atlassian marketplace. Today, the company has 85 products on that marketplace and more than 110,000 active installations globally spanning workflow automation, business intelligence, publishing and administrative tools. 

Specifically, the company’s Bob Swift, Feed Three and Wittified brand apps aim to help companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks streamline product development through improved collaboration, security, reporting and automation.

“We started this business 15 years ago with the goal of building software applications for customers,” Ward told TechCrunch. “At that time, there were no marketplaces, so iTunes marketplace didn’t exist, Google Play didn’t exist, but yet we were seeing that applications were getting smaller in size, Mozilla was putting out plugins. My co-founder and I were sitting on the floor of a warehouse in Maynard, Massachusetts and we conceived of this company called Appfire, and boy did we pick the right name.”

The pair then stumbled upon a project by which a friend of a friend was looking for them to integrate two pieces of software with software from Atlassian.

“It was brand new to us — we had never heard of it — a software called JIRA and another piece of software called Confluence,” Ward recalls. “About three months later we launched a project and then got introduced to the co-founders of Atlassian.”

In 2017, Appfire decided it wanted to focus full time on becoming “the biggest app platform and aggregator.”

“So we decided to wind down all the other little special side projects for Atlassian delivering services to customers, and really put all of our eggs in this marketplace basket,” Ward recalls. 

It was at that point the company began looking for external capital. With this last raise, though, Ward says Appfire was not necessarily looking for more cash.

When approached by TA, Appfire asked if it could create more employee equity programs so the company could be an employee-led business. It also asked if it could take 1% of its equity and contribute to the Pledge 1% initiative.

“They said yes,” Ward said. “So that led us to this latest funding.”

Appfire is also moving into business intelligence and data analytics apps for Tableau and Microsoft Power BI.

As mentioned above, some of its latest funding will go back to existing shareholders, Ward said. The remainder will go into continuing to grow the business.

“We have a lot of organic and inorganic growth opportunities,” he added. “…That obviously takes some momentum.”

Michael Libert, a principal of TA Associates, said his firm had been tracking Appfire’s progress for “quite some time.” The company’s apps, he said, do not require complex training, allowing customers to improve productivity “at a low cost,” leading to further customer adoption and enabling “a solid land-and-expand strategy.”

“We found the company’s high-quality business model, impressive organic growth and recent significant acquisitive activity particularly attractive,” Libert told TechCrunch.

#appfire, #apps, #atlassian, #boston, #business, #business-intelligence, #cloud, #confluence, #economy, #enterprise-software, #funding, #fundings-exits, #jira, #massachusetts, #private-equity, #saas, #secondaries, #ta-associates, #tc

0

Noogata raises $12M seed round for its no-code enterprise AI platform

Noogata, a startup that offers a no-code AI solution for enterprises, today announced that it has raised a $12 million seed round led by Team8, with participation from Skylake Capital. The company, which was founded in 2019 and counts Colgate and PepsiCo among its customers, currently focuses on e-commerce, retail and financial services, but it notes that it will use the new funding to power its product development and expand into new industries.

The company’s platform offers a collection of what are essentially pre-built AI building blocks that enterprises can then connect to third-party tools like their data warehouse, Salesforce, Stripe and other data sources. An e-commerce retailer could use this to optimize its pricing, for example, thanks to recommendations from the Noogata platform, while a brick-and-mortar retailer could use it to plan which assortment to allocate to a given location.

Image Credits: Noogata

“We believe data teams are at the epicenter of digital transformation and that to drive impact, they need to be able to unlock the value of data. They need access to relevant, continuous and explainable insights and predictions that are reliable and up-to-date,” said Noogata co-founder and CEO Assaf Egozi. “Noogata unlocks the value of data by providing contextual, business-focused blocks that integrate seamlessly into enterprise data environments to generate actionable insights, predictions and recommendations. This empowers users to go far beyond traditional business intelligence by leveraging AI in their self-serve analytics as well as in their data solutions.”

Image Credits: Noogata

We’ve obviously seen a plethora of startups in this space lately. The proliferation of data — and the advent of data warehousing — means that most businesses now have the fuel to create machine learning-based predictions. What’s often lacking, though, is the talent. There’s still a shortage of data scientists and developers who can build these models from scratch, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more startups that are creating no-code/low-code services in this space. The well-funded Abacus.ai, for example, targets about the same market as Noogata.

“Noogata is perfectly positioned to address the significant market need for a best-in-class, no-code data analytics platform to drive decision-making,” writes Team8 managing partner Yuval Shachar. “The innovative platform replaces the need for internal build, which is complex and costly, or the use of out-of-the-box vendor solutions which are limited. The company’s ability to unlock the value of data through AI is a game-changer. Add to that a stellar founding team, and there is no doubt in my mind that Noogata will be enormously successful.”

#analytics, #artificial-intelligence, #big-data, #business, #business-intelligence, #computing, #data-warehouse, #e-commerce, #enterprise, #machine-learning, #noogata, #recent-funding, #salesforce, #startups, #stripe, #team8

0

WeWork unbundles its products in an attempt to make itself over, but will the strategy work?

For years, there was a debate as to whether WeWork was a tech company or more of a real estate play. At first, most people viewed WeWork as a real estate startup disguised as a tech startup.

And as it kept scooping up more and more property, the lines continued to blur. Then we all watched as the company’s valuation plummeted and its IPO plans went up in smoke. Today, WeWork is rumored to be going public via a SPAC at a $10 valuation, down significantly from the $47 billion it was valued at after raising $1 billion in its SoftBank-led Series H round in January 2019. 

Co-founder and then-CEO Adam Neumann notoriously stepped down later that year amid allegations of a toxic combination of arrogance and poor management. WeWork has since been very publicly trying to redeem itself and turn around investor — and public — perception.

Chairman Marcelo Claure kicked off a strategic, five-year turnaround plan in earnest in February 2020. That same month, the beleaguered company named a real estate — not tech — exec as its new CEO, a move that set tongues wagging.

WeWork then also set a target of becoming free cash flow positive by a year to 2022 as part of its plan, which was aimed at both boosting valuation and winning back investor trust. 

It likely saw the demise of competitor Knotel, which ended up filing for bankruptcy and selling assets to an investor, and realized it needed to learn from some of that company’s mistakes.

The question now is: Has WeWork legitimately turned a corner? 

Since the implementation of its turnaround plan, the company says it has exited out of over 100 pre-open or underperforming locations. (It still has over 800 locations globally, according to its website.) WeWork has also narrowed its net loss to $517 million in Q3 2020 from $1.2 billion in the third quarter of 2019. 

Meanwhile, revenue has taken a hit, presumably due to the impact of the coronavirus. Revenue slumped to $811 million the 2020 third quarter, compared with $934 million in Q3 2019.

The pandemic presented WeWork with challenges, but also — some might say — opportunity.

With so many people being forced to work from home and avoiding others during the work day, the office space in general struggled. WeWork either had to adapt, or potentially deal with a bigger blow to its valuation and bottom line.

WeWork’s dilemma is similar to  those of real estate companies around the world. With so many companies shifting to remote work not just temporarily, but also permanently, landlords everywhere have had to adjust. 

For example, as McKinsey recently pointed out, all landlords have been forced to be more flexible and restructure tenant leases. So in effect, anyone operating commercial real estate space has had to become more flexible, just as WeWork has.

For its part, WeWork has taken a few steps to adapt. For one, it realized its membership-only plan was not going to work anymore, and a dip in membership was evidence of that. So, it worked to open its buildings to more people through new On Demand and All Access options. The goal was to give people who were weary of working out of their own homes a place to go, say one day a week, to work. WeWork also saw an opportunity to work with companies to offer up its office space as a perk via an All Access offering, as well as with universities that wanted to give their students an alternative place to study. 

For example, Georgetown did a pretty unique partnership with WeWork to have one of its locations serve as “their replacement library and common space.” And, companies like Brandwatch have recently shifted from leveraging WeWork’s traditional spaces to instead offer employees access to WeWork locations around the globe via All Access passes. 

WeWork has also launched new product features. At the beginning of the year, the company launched the ability to book space on the weekend and outside of business hours. 

The unbundling of space

I talked with Prabhdeep Singh, WeWork’s global head of marketplace, who is overseeing the new products and also spearheading WeWork’s shift online, to learn more about the company’s new strategy.

“What we’ve essentially done is unbundle our space,” he said. “It used to be that the only way to enjoy our spaces was via a bundled subscription product and monthly memberships. But we realized with COVID, the world was shifting, and to open up our platform to a broader group of people and make it as flexible as humanly possible. So they can now book a room for a half hour or get a day pass, for example. The use cases are so wide.”

Since On Demand launched as a pilot in New York City in August 2020, demand has steadily been climbing, according to Singh. So far, reservations are up by 65% — and revenue up by 70% — over the 2020 fourth quarter. But of course, it’s still early and they were starting from a small base. Nearly two-thirds of On Demand reservations are made by repeat customers, he added.

“Over the last year and a half, we’ve been really figuring out what things we want to focus on what things we don’t,” Singh said. “As a flexible space provider, we are looking at where the world is going. And while we’re a small part of the whole commercial office space industry, we are working to use technology to enable a flexible workspace experience via a great app and the digitization of our spaces.”

For now, things seem to be looking up some. In February, WeWork says it had nearly twice as many active users compared to January. Also, people apparently like having the option to come in at off hours. Weekend bookings now account for an estimated 14.5% of total bookings.

Nearly double as many existing members purchased All Access passes in February 2020 compared to January to complement their existing private office space during COVID, the company said. 

In the beginning of the COVID-19, WeWork saw a higher departure of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) than of its enterprise members, partially due to the nature of their businesses and the need to more immediately manage cash flow, the company said. But in the third quarter of 2020, SMB desk sales were up 50% over the second quarter.

Interestingly, throughout the pandemic, WeWork has seen its enterprise segment grow at nearly double the rate of its SMBs, now making up over half of the company’s total membership base.

While it’s slowing down investing in new real estate assets in certain markets, it is still working to “right-size” its portfolio via exits.

And, when it comes to its finances, as of March 2, WeWork said its bonds were trading at the highest point since the summer of 2019, when the company failed to go public. That’s way up from a 52-week low of about 28%.

“At ~92% for a ~10% yield, the creditor sentiment is clearly positive and a testament to the overall market’s belief that WeWork’s flexible workspace product has a viable future in the future of real estate,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Just last March, WeWork’s bonds were trading at 43 cents on the dollar and S&P Global had lowered WeWork’s credit rating further into junk territory and put the company on watch for further downgrades, reported Forbes.

Still, the company is not done adapting. Singh told TechCrunch that to make WeWork’s value proposition even stronger, it’s working to offer a “business in a box.” Late last year, WeWork partnered with a number of companies to offer SMBs and startups, for example, services such as payroll, healthcare and business insurance.

A lot of people that come to WeWork are growing businesses,” Singh said. “So while we’ve stuck with our core business services, we’re working to offer more, as in a real suite of HR services that might be complex and expensive for a small business to manage on their own.”

It’s also working to be able to offer its On Demand product globally so that people can opt to work out of a WeWork space from any of its locations around the world.

“Right now, we are in the largest work from home experiment,” Singh said. “I think we’re about to shift to the largest return to work experiment ever. We are just going to be very well positioned.”

The company appears to be trying to become a more sophisticated real estate company that may not be as flashy as the one of the Adam Neumann era, but more stable and more in demand. But is it trying to do too much, too fast?

It will be interesting to see how it all goes.

 

#adam-neumann, #business, #business-services, #georgetown, #marcelo-claure, #new-york-city, #prabhdeep-singh, #real-estate, #softbank-group, #spokesperson, #wework

0

How nontechnical talent can break into deep tech

In a recent article, I shared more about how deep tech companies can hire growth talent. Here, I explore the other side: how nontechnical talent can build relationships with deep tech companies.

Startup hiring processes can be opaque, and breaking into the deep tech world as a nontechnical person seems daunting. As someone with no initial research background wanting to work in biotech, I felt this challenge personally. In the past year, I landed several opportunities working for and with deep tech companies.

Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned and offer tactical advice for finding, reaching out to, cultivating relationships with and working at deep tech companies as a nontechnical candidate.

To find these companies, create news alerts to be notified when companies in deep tech raise new rounds of funding.

Find companies by tracking fundraising

After startups raise capital, they are ready to spend the new funds on hiring. These companies are more likely to be posting new roles and actively hiring for a wide range of different teams, including nontechnical groups.

#business, #business-models, #column, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneurship, #job-search, #startup-company, #startups

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SoftBank-backed Volpe Capital raises $80M to invest in LatAm

In recent years, the tech and venture scene in Latin America has been growing at an accelerated pace. More global investors are backing startups in the region and certain sectors in particular, such as fintech, are exploding.

Global investors are not only pouring money into companies. They’re also investing in funds.

Today, Volpe Capital  announced the $80 million first close of its fund targeting high growth technology investments in Latin America. Notably, Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank, BTG and Banco Inter affiliates are anchor investors in the new fund, which is targeting aggregate commitments of $100 million with a hard cap of $150 million. Volpe also received a “large anchor investment” from its management team.

Andre Maciel, Gregory Reider and Milena Oliveira are the fund’s founding partners, and are based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Notably, Maciel is the former managing partner at SoftBank’s $5 billion Latin America-focused innovation fund. He launched Volpe in 2019 primarily with SoftBank’s backing. Reider formerly invested at Warburg Pincus.

Maciel said the fund’s raise was “significantly oversubscribed with firm commitments” and believed to be “among the best capital raises for a first-time fund in its asset class in Latin America.”

Volpe Capital plans to invest in about 15 companies over a two and half year time span, according to Maciel, who expects its average check size to be around $5 billion.

So far, it’s backed Uol Edtech, a subsidiary of Grupo Uol that aims to redefine the digital learning experience in Brazil. 

“We are in no rush,” Maciel told TechCrunch. “We are happy with our first deal and will take capital preservation in consideration. We believe markets are hot now and plan on taking advantage of the cycle by being patient.”

The fund’s strategy is to go after the companies that are not actively raising capital.

We want to invest in companies that are not necessarily raising capital when we approach them,” Maciel said.

The fund views itself as agnostic regarding stage and primary versus secondary.

It is seeking to back early-stage companies with less than $50 million in valuation as well as some later stage, high growth companies. The fund’s first investment — Uol Edtech — falls in the latter category with EBITDA margins above 30%, according to Maciel.

Volpe plans to avoid capital intensive industries, even if related to tech.

“Those are more suitable to investors with deeper pockets than Volpe,” Maciel said. 

Instead it’s eyeing edtech, healthtech, software and fintech investments (that are not credit-related).

“We like sectors that are prone for disruption in Latin America and that require local customization,” Maciel said. “Given the stage of the vc/growth industry in Latin America, we believe it is better to be a generalist.”

SoftBank International CEO Marcelo Claure describes Maciel as one of his “amazing founding partners for SoftBank in Latin America.”

“We are very happy to be one of Volpe’s anchor investors and look forward to continuing our relationship with them,” he added in a written statement.

Another anchor investor has a SoftBank tie. João Vitor Menin, CEO of Inter, a publicly traded fintech platform in Brazil with a market cap of over  $7 billion, points out that Maciel led an investment in Inter’s platform through SoftBank. He also “made valuable contributions” as a board member, according to Menin.

#board-member, #brazil, #business, #ceo, #companies, #finance, #funding, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #marcelo-claure, #sao-paulo, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant

Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning the practice known as ‘social listening’.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

IN a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its home-town of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with Angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5m from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Capital. That was followed by a $33M Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

#artificial-intelligence, #brandwatch, #business, #buzzsumo, #ceo, #cision, #communication, #content-marketing, #crimson-hexagon, #europe, #executive, #highland-capital, #highland-europe, #leader, #london, #machine-learning, #marketing, #media-monitoring, #nauta-capital, #partech-ventures, #saas, #social-media, #tc

0

Maple launches with $3.5 million in funding to become the SaaS backoffice for the family

Much of our daily lives have been transformed in one way or another by technology – and often through intentional efforts to innovate thanks to the advent of new technology. Now more than ever, we rely on shared collaboration platforms and digital workspaces in our professional lives, and yet most of the changes wrought by tech on our home and family lives seem like the accidental effects of broader trends, rather than intentional shifts. Maple, a new startup launching today, aims to change that.

Founded by former Shopify product director and Kit (which was acquired by Shopify in 2016) co-founder Michael Perry, Maple is billed as “the family tech platform,” and hopes to ease the burden of parenting, freeing up parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and kids to spend more quality time together. The startup, which is launching its app on iPhone and Android for all and onboarding new users from its waitlist over the next few weeks, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding – an impressive round for a company just about seven months into its existence. The round was led by Inspired Capital, and includes participation by Box Group, but is also supported by a number of angels who were Perry’s former colleagues at Shopify, including Shopify President Harley Finkelstein.

Perry and his co-founder Mike Taylor, who also co-founded Kit, decided to leave Shopify in order to pursue Perry’s vision of a platform that can help parents better manage their family lives – a platform made up of a social layer, a task-focused list of shared responsibilities, and a bourgeoning service marketplace that looks and feels a lot like the ecosystem Shopify has built for empowering e-commerce entrepreneurs. That’s by design, Perry says.

“I think you’re gonna see a lot of Shopify inspiration in this product – we think we’re the back office of every family,” Perry told me in an interview. “And we think we’re building the app ecosystem of apps, services, all kinds of things that are going to live on this platform that’s going to revolutionize parenting.”

In its current early incarnation, Maple’s primary interface for parents is a list of various tasks they need to take care of during the day. During onboarding, Maple asks parents what they’re typically responsible for in the household, and then uses some basic machine learning behind the scenes to build a customized schedule for getting those things done. Maple has signed on three initial partners to assist with accomplishing some of these tasks, including Evelyn Rusli’s Yumi food and nutrition brand for infants; Lalo, a DTC baby and toddler furniture and gear brand; and Haus, which will be providing date night packages for parents to enjoy for some getaway time.

Maple co-founder Micheal Perry with his son.

The platform will offer users the ability to tap others for help with tasks – these could be other family members added to the household, or the partners mentioned above (the plan is to bring on more, but to gate admittance initially while developing API endpoints that any company can potentially tap into). When interacting with family members, Maple also encourages smalls social interactions, like thanking someone for their help on a particular task or just showing general appreciation. Perry says this is a key ingredient he prioritized in product design.

“We have this cool thing that every day at eight o’clock, we give you an end of the day recap with your family,” Perry said. “So you click on it, and it will show me that, for example, Alex [Perry’s wife] completed three responsibilities for our family today, and how many I did for my family today, and how much help I received from other people today. And directly in app, you can send these cool little ‘Thank you ‘messages and say, you know, I love you, I appreciate you – we’re a great team. And Alex will get those messages. We believe in a world where this can be incredibly dynamic, in many different ways kto kind of bring some love and appreciation and make parenting feel more rewarding and easier.”

Perry is quick to note that what Maple offers today is only the beginning, and it’s clear he has bold ambitions for the platform. He talked about building “the family graph,” or a trove of data that can be used to not only build intelligent recommendations and develop ever more advanced machine learning to optimize family management, but also to provide partners with the tools they need to build products to best serve families. I asked Perry what that means for privacy, given that people are likely to be far more reluctant to share info around their families than they are about their work lives. He said the they team plans to go slow in terms of what it exposes to partners, when, and how, and that they’ll have user privacy in mind at each step – since, after all, Perry himself is a father and a husband and is wary of any incursions on his own private life.

For now, partners like Yumi only receive what users share with them through their own account creation and login mechanism, and they only pass back a basic attribution token – essentially letting Maple know the task was completed so it can mark it off in a user’s list.

Image Credits: Maple

Maple’s partners today are representative of the kind of businesses that might make use of the platform in future, but Perry has a much broader vision. He hopes that Maple can ultimately help parents handle their responsibilities across a wide range of needs and income levels. Right now, Perry points out, a lot of what’s available to parents in terms of support is only available to higher income brackets – ie., nannies and dedicated caregivers. Perry says that his experience growing up relatively poor with a single mother supporting the entire family led him to want to provide something better.

“You have 125 million households in America, you have 3 million children being born every year, you have 30% of the households in America being single parent-run households,” Perry said. “It’s hard. Some people are working one two jobs, most couples are working couples. Every industry that’s changed has been about making things more accessible. In the case of Shopify, at one point building, an online store required hundreds of thousands of dollars and a bunch of skilled people. Now you can start a store for $20 in five minutes – 20 years ago, that was unfathomable.”

For Perry, Maple represents a path to that kind of shift in the economics of parenting and a network of family services, including goods, care, leisure and more. The startup has plans to eventually enlist other parents to provide services, which Perry says will unlock part-time income generation for full-time parents, allowing parents to help each other at the same time.

I asked him if he thought people would be reluctant to treat their family lives with the same kind of optimization approach favored by enterprise and commercial platform tools, but he suggested that in fact, not taking advantage of those same technologies in our personal lives is a missed opportunity.

“We believe that, uniquely, we’re living through a generation where we can start creating more time for people,” Perry said. “I think what makes Maple so unique is that no company has approached this by asking ‘How do we create more time for you so that you can spend more time with your kids?’ in the consolidated way that we have.”

Disclosure: I worked at Shopify from 2018 to 2019 while Perry was employed there, but we did not work together directly.

#america, #android, #api, #business, #co-founder, #companies, #evelyn-rusli, #family, #food, #inspired-capital, #iphone, #machine-learning, #platform, #president, #publishing, #recent-funding, #shopify, #social, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #yumi

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Atlassian launches a whole new Trello

Trello, the Kanban board-centric project management tool acquired by Atlassian in 2017, today launched what is likely one of its most important updates in recent years. With significantly more than 50 million users, Trello is one of the most popular project management tools around ,and in many ways, it brought digital Kanban boards to the mainstream. That focus doesn’t change with today’s release, but the team is now adding a slew of new board views and new capabilities to the individual cards that make up those views, with a special focus on bringing more data from third-party tools right into those cards. That’s in addition to a number of changes to the overall look and feel of the service.

“Over the years, we’ve built this huge, passionate audience of people,” Michael Pryor, Trello’s co-founder and now Atlassian’s head of Trello, told me ahead of today’s announcement. “We have way over 50 million signups — and that 50 million numbers is from 2018 or something, they won’t let me yet give out the current number. […] Then last year, the pandemic hits. We talked about the future of work, right? And then, all of a sudden, it was like: nope, that’s just work. That’s how everyone works. Now, it’s all distributed. We just compressed it all at once. And we had this overnight shift. We would talk previously about this explosion of apps, we would talk about all the browser tabs, people getting lost in information sprawl. Now, it’s just turned up to eleven.”

The behind a lot of the new features was to make it easier for users to do more work inside of Trello and to get better macro views of what teams are working on themselves, but also what is happing across teams and inside an organization. In addition, the new Trello adds more ways to see data from other tools natively inside the service, without having to switch tools.

Image Credits: Atlassian

In practice, that means Trello is adding five new views to Trello (and making it easy to switch between them): team table view for tracking cross-company or cross-project work in a spreadsheet-like fashion; timeline view for managing roadblocks and making data adjustments; calendar view for tracking deadline and time-sensitive tasks; map view for users who have location-based projects; and finally dashboard view for better visualizing success metrics and building reports.

For the most part, the names here are self-explanatory. What’s maybe the most interesting feature here, though, is that the new team table view is Trello’s first view that brings in multiple boards.

“It raises your perspective up to the portfolio level — not just at a single board level,” Pryor said. “Eventually, all the views will do that same thing and so we will essentially have this ability that if you’re on a board, you can pivot your cards and look at them depending on what the project is and how you need them.” The idea here, he explained, was to use and extend Trello’s existing visual language to add these shared perspectives.

What’s also important here is that Trello plans to open this feature to third parties that may want to build their own views as well. The Trello team itself, for example, built a slide view that automatically creates slides for all of the cards in a project to make it easy for somebody to present them in a meeting, for example.

Image Credits: Atlassian

Pryor argues that what Trello is doing with its new cards, though, is maybe even more important. The team is adding over 30 new card types where, just by adding a URL that links to YouTube, Google Drive, Figma, JIRA  or even other Trello boards, you’ll be able to see previews of what you linked to right inside of Trello.

“What that does, I think, is that it elevates what that card represents from just being a thing that exists only within Trello to represent work that’s happening across all these other tools,” Pryor explained. “So now your JIRA tickets can exist alongside your Trello cards. And you’re categorizing that and moving and talking about it in a way that’s independent of what’s happening in JIRA — it could be connected to it, but it adds this ability to create a dashboard that brings all that work into one place.”

Image Credits: Atlassian

Pryor noted that the team wanted to leverage the simplicity and visual language that Trello’s users already love and then apply that to other tools. “We could get into a race and just build project management-type features. We’re really trying to build a project management app, instead of building an app that helps you manage all your projects. That’s distinct from going down this road where we’re just like: feature, feature, feature.” That approach, he argues, would just lead to bloat. Instead, the team wants to take its card metaphor, expand on that and allow its users to build new solutions inside of Trello, using a visual language they are already familiar with.

Another new feature that’s coming soon — and one that the Trello community has been expecting for a while — is mirror cards, which essentially allow you to share the same card between boards. All you have to do is link from a source card to a card on a card on another board and that new card will look just like the original card.

#atlassian, #business, #co-founder, #google, #head, #kanban, #software, #tc, #trello, #web-applications

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Citadel ID raises $3.5M for API-delivered income and employment verification

This morning Citadel ID announced a combined $3.5 million raise for its income and employment verification service. The startup provides an API to customer companies, allowing them to rapidly verify details of consumer employment.

The capital came from a blend of venture firms and angels. On the firm side, Abstract and Soma VC were in there, along with ChapterOne. Brianne Kimmel put capital in as well, according to the startup. And denizens with work histories at companies like Zynga (Mark Pincus), Stripe (Lachy Groom), Carta (Henry Ward), and others also put cash into the fundraise.

Citadel was founded back in June of 2020, before raising capital, snagging its first customer, and shipping its product all inside of the same year.

The idea for Citadel ID came when co-founder Kirill Klokov worked at Carta, the cap-table-as-a-service startup that recently built an exchange for the trading of private stock. Klokov discovered while working on the tech side of the company how hard it was to verify certain data, like employment and income and identity.

As Carta deals with money, stock, and the collection and distribution of both, you can imagine why having having a quick way to verify who worked where, and since when, mattered to the company. But Klokov came to realize that there wasn’t a good solution in the market for what Carta needed, sans building integrations to a host of payroll managers by hand and dealing with lots of data with varying taxonomies. That or using an in-the-market product, like Equifax’s The Work Number, which the founder described as expensive and offering relatively low coverage.

To fill the market void Klokov helped found Citadel ID, quickly building integrations into payrolls managers where there were hooks for code, and working around older login systems when needed. Citadel ID’s service allows regular folks to provide access to their employment data to others, allowing for the verification of their income (a rental group, perhaps), or employment (Carta, perhaps) quickly.

Per the startup the market demand for such verifications is in the hundreds of millions every year in the United States. So, Citadel should have plenty of market space to grow into. Citadel ID has around 20 customers today, it told TechCrunch, and charges on a per verification basis.

Finally, while Citadel also offers data via its website and not merely through its API, the startup still fits inside the growing number of startups we’ve seen in recent quarters foregoing traditional SaaS, and instead offering their products via a developer hook (sometimes referred to as a ‘headless’ approach). API-delivered startups are not new, after all Twilio went public years ago. But their model of product delivery feels like its gaining momentum over managed software offerings.

Let’s see how quickly Citadel ID can scale before it raises its Series A.

#brianne-kimmel, #business, #carta, #citadel-id, #co-founder, #companies, #computing, #entrepreneurship, #equifax, #fundings-exits, #henry-ward, #human-resources, #lending, #mark-pincus, #private-equity, #rental, #startup-company, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #twilio, #united-states, #verification, #zynga

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