Fivetran hauls in $565M on $5.6B valuation, acquires competitor HVR for $700M

Fivetran, the data connectivity startup, had a big day today. For starters it announced a $565 million investment on $5.6 billion valuation, but it didn’t stop there. It also announced its second acquisition this year, snagging HVR, a data integration competitor that had raised over $50M, for $700 million in cash and stock.

The company last raised a $100 million Series C on a $1.2 billion valuation, increasing the valuation by over 5x. As with that Series C, Andreessen Horowitz was back leading the round with participation from other double dippers General Catalyst, CEAS Investments, Matrix Partners and other unnamed firms or individuals. New investors ICONIQ Capital, D1 Capital Partners and YC Continuity also came along for the ride. The company reports it has now raised $730 million.

The HVR acquisition represents a hefty investment for the startup, grabbing a company for a price that is almost equal to all the money it has raised to date, but it provides a way to expand its market quickly by buying a competitor. Earlier this year Fivetran acquired Teleport Data as it continues to add functionality and customers via acquisition.

“The acquisition — a cash and stock deal valued at $700 million — strengthens Fivetran’s market position as one of the data integration leaders for all industries and all customer types,” the company said in a statement.

While that may smack of corporate marketing speak, there is some truth to it, as pulling data from multiple sources, sometimes in siloed legacy systems is a huge challenge for companies and both Fivetran and HVR have developed tools to provide the pipes to connect various data sources and put it to work across a business.

Data is central to a number of modern enterprise practices including customer experience management, which takes advantage of customer data to deliver customized experiences based on what you know about them, and data is the main fuel for machine learning models, which use it to understand and learn how a process works. Fivetran and HVR provide the nuts and bolts infrastructure to move the data around to where it’s needed, connecting to various applications like Salesforce, Box or Airtable, databases like Postgres SQL or data repositories like Snowflake or Databricks.

Whether bigger is better remains to be seen, but Fivetran is betting that it will be in this case as it makes its way along the startup journey. The transaction has been approved by both company’s boards. The deal is still subject to standard regulatory approval, but Fivetran is expecting it to close in October

#andreessen-horowitz, #cloud, #data-pipelines, #enterprise, #exit, #fivetran, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #recent-funding, #startups

Gingko Bioworks, valued at $15B, begins trading today: Here’s how their business works

Gingko Bioworks, a synthetic biology company now valued at around $15 billion, begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange today.

Gingko’s market debut is one of the largest in biotech history. It’s expected to raise about $1.6 billion for the company. It’s also one of the biggest SPAC deals done to date — Gingko is going public through a merger with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp., which was announced in May. 

Shares opened at $11.15 each this morning under the ticker DNA — biotech dieharders will recognize it as the former ticker used by Genentech. 

The exterior of the NYSE is decked out in Gingko decor. The imagery is clearly sporting Jurassic Park themes, as MIT Tech Review’s Antonio Regalado pointed out. It’s probably intentional: Jason Kelly, the CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, has been re-reading Jurassic Park this week, he tells TechCrunch. 

The decor also sports a company motto: “Grow everything.”

Ginkgo was founded in 2009, and now bills itself as a synthetic biology platform. That’s essentially premised on the idea that one day, we’ll use cells to “grow everything,” and Gingko’s plan is to be that platform used to do that growing. 

Kelly, who often uses language borrowed from computing to describe his company, likens DNA to code. Gingko, he says, aims to “program cells like you can program computers.” Ultimately, those cells can be used to make stuff: like fragrances, flavors, materials, drugs or food products. 

The biggest lingering question over Gingko, ever since the SPAC deal was announced, has centered on its massively high valuation. When Moderna, now a household name thanks to its Covid-19 vaccines, went public in 2018, the company was valued at $7.5 billion. Gingko’s valuation is double that number. 

“I think that surprises people to be honest,” Kelly says. 

How is Gingko going to make money? 

Ginkgo’s massive valuation seems even starker when you look at its existing revenues. SEC documents show that the company pulled in $77 million in revenue in 2020, which increased to about $88 million in the first 6 months of 2021 (per an August investor call) The company has also reported losses: including $126.6 million in December 2020 and $119.3 million in 2019. 

Gingko is aiming to increase revenue a significant amount in 2021. SEC documents initially noted that the company aimed to draw about $150 million in revenue in 2021, but the August earning call updated that total for the year to over $175 million. 

Gingko aims to make money in two ways: first it contracts with manufacturers during the research and development phase (i.e. while the company works out how to manufacture a cell that spits out a certain fragrance, bio-based nylon, or a meatless burger). That process happens in Gingko’s “foundry” a massive factory for bioengineering projects. 

This source of money is already starting to flow. Gingko reported $59 million in foundry revenue for 2020, and anticipates $100 million in 2021, per the August investor call

This revenue, though, isn’t covering the full costs of Gingko’s operations according to the information shared by the company in SEC documents. It is covering an increasing share, though, and as Gingko scales up its platform, costs will come down. Based on fees alone, Kelly projects Gingko will break even by 2024 or 2025. 

The second type of revenue comes from royalties, milestone payments, or in some cases equity stakes in the companies that go on to sell products, like fragrances or meatless burgers, made using Gingko’s facilities or know-how. It’s this source of income that will make up the vast majority of the company’s future worth according to its expectations. 

Once the product is made and marketed by another company, it requires little to no more work on Gingko’s part – all the company does is collect cash. 

The company is often hesitant to incorporate these earnings into projections, because they rely on other companies bringing products to market. That means it’s hard to know for sure when these downstream payments will emerge. “In our models, we are very sensitive that, at the end of the day, they’re not our products. I cannot predict when Roche might bring a drug to market and give me my milestones,” says Kelly. 

Kelly says there’s evidence this model will start to work in the near-term. 

Gingko earned a “bolus” milestone payment of 1.5 million shares of The Cronos Group, a cannabis company, for developing a commercially viable, lab grown rare cannabinoid called CBG for commercial use (there are seven more in strains development, says Kelly). These milestone payments (in cash or shares) are earned when a company achieves some predetermined goal using Gingko’s platform. 

Gingko has also worked with Aldevron to manufacture an enzyme critical to the production of mRNA vaccines, and plans to collect royalty payments from that relationship — though no foundry fees were collected from this project. 

Finally, Gingko has negotiated an equity stake in Motif Foodworks, a spinout company based on its technology. That company has so far raised about $226 million, and will aim to launch a lab-grown beef product developed at Gingko’s foundry, paying Gingko the aforementioned foundry fees already for this contribution.

“The biggest value driver” of Gingko, according to Kelly

This rich source of cash will depend a lot on the outside contractor’s ability to manufacture and sell products made using Gingko’s platform. This opens the company up to some risk that’s beyond its control. Maybe, for instance, it turns people don’t want bio-manufactured meat as much as many anticipated – that means some types of downstream payments may not materialize. 

Kelly says he’s not particularly worried about this. Even if one particular program fails, he’s planning on having so many programs running that one or two are bound to succeed. 

“I’m just sorta like: some will work, some won’t work. Some will take a year, some will take three years. It doesn’t really matter, as long as everybody is working with us,” he says. “Apple doesn’t stress about what apps are going to be the next big app in the app store,” he continues.  

One key metric to watch for Gingko going forward will be how many new cell programs they’re managing to close. So far, Gingko has added thirty programs this year, says Kelly. Last year, there were 50 programs. 

Remember: some of the projects are Gingko spinouts, like Motif Foodworks, not customers that come to the platform on their own. And historically, the number of companies Gingko has partnered with has been a point of criticism. Per SEC documents, the majority of revenue came from two large partners in 2020 – though Kelly told Business Insider that this was a pandemic-related downturn. 

The more programs Gingko has, the more it becomes insulated from the success or failure of any one product. Plus it’s a sign that people are at least using the “app store” for biology. 

“The biggest value driver of Gingko is how quickly we add programs,” Kelly says. 

#biotech, #dna, #exit, #gingko-bioworks, #initial-public-offering, #ipo, #soaring-eagle-acquisition-corp, #spac, #startups, #tc

Intuit’s $12B Mailchimp acquisition is about expanding its small business focus

At first blush, the $12 billion Intuit-Mailchimp deal might not make a heck of a lot of sense. But people tend to pigeonhole companies, and in this case they might see Intuit as purely a financial software company and Mailchimp as an email marketing firm and nothing more. If that’s as far as your perspective goes, the deal is confusing. From a wider lens, however, there’s more to both companies than you might think.

Let’s start with Intuit. If you go to the company website and scan the product set, it’s clearly all about managing finances for consumer and small businesses alike. The latter category appears to be what the company wants to exploit and expand upon with this deal.

Prior to yesterday’s news, Intuit’s biggest acquisition had been on the consumer side buying Credit Karma for $7.1 billion last year. That deal gave the company’s customers a way to access their credit scores outside of the big three reporting companies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Apparently not content with only that transaction, it set its sights on Mailchimp to throw some money at the business side of the house.

#email-marketing, #exit, #fundings-exits, #intuit, #ma, #mailchimp, #marketing-automation, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #small-businesses, #startups, #tc

Quizlet plans for IPO over a year after hitting unicorn status

Quizlet, a flashcard tool turned artificial intelligence-powered tutoring platform, is planning an initial public offering nearly a year after it was valued at $1 billion. According to people familiar with the matter, Quizlet is considerably far along in the process to go public. A recent job filing shows that it is hiring for senior roles to “help build the financial systems and processes as we move towards an IPO.”

In an email to TechCrunch, the San Francisco-based edtech startup declined to comment. Quizlet hasn’t said much about its revenue specifics or if it’s profitable. Last year, the still-private startup claimed it was growing revenue 100% annually. On its website, Quizlet says that it has 60 million monthly learners, up 10 million learners compared to its 2018 totals.

Quizlet has built a large-scale business around simple to share and simple to use products. Its free flashcard maker helps students spin up study guides on topics to prepare for exams. Those insights fuel Quizlet Plus, the startup’s subscription product that charges $47.88 a year for access to more features, including tutoring services.

Quizlet’s tutoring arm, also known as Quizlet Learn, is the company’s most popular offering, per CEO Matthew Glotzbach. As a student goes through the system, Quizlet Learn consistently assesses students to see where they are making mistakes — and where they are making progress.

“It obviously doesn’t yet replace and can’t come anywhere close to replacing a human, but it can provide that guidance and point you in the right direction and help you spend your time in the right places,” he said. “Just even helping you set goals is such a critical step in learning.”

Most recently, Quizlet announced the launch of explanations, a feature that offers a step-by-step solution guide for problem sets from popular textbooks. The feature is “written and verified by experts” and is aimed to help “students better understand the reasoning and thought process behind study questions so they can practice and apply their learnings on their own,” it said in a statement. It also reclaimed the Q from its less fortunate predecessor, amid an entire rebrand.

Quizlet’s quiet march toward the public markets has been slow yet steady. The startup was founded in 2005 by a 15-year-old, Andrew Sutherland. It was fully bootstrapped until 2015. Glotzbach, who was previously an executive at YouTube, then joined in 2016. The startup still doesn’t appear to have a CFO, which is rare for companies that are going public.

Quizlet has raised a majority of its $62 million in venture capital under Glotzbach. Now, investors in the company include General Atlantic, Owl Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Costanoa Ventures and Altos Ventures.

Quizlet’s pursuit of the public markets comes as other edtech companies are proving the market’s reception to the sector. Duolingo, for example, is another consumer-focused education company, albeit one that focuses on one vertical versus Quizlet’s choice to stay broad. Duolingo went public in July, and is currently trading above its open price at $169.75 per share.

 

#edtech, #education, #exit, #ipo, #public-markets, #quizlet, #startups, #tc

Epic Games to shut down Houseparty in October, including the video chat ‘Fortnite Mode’ feature

Houseparty, the social video chat app acquired by Fortnite maker Epic Games for a reported $35 million back in 2019, is shutting down. The company says Houseparty will be discontinued in October when the app will stop functioning for its existing users; it will be pulled from the app stores today, however. Related to this move, Epic Games’ “Fortnite Mode” feature, which leveraged Houseparty to bring video chat to Fortnite gamers, will also be discontinued.

Founded in 2015, Houseparty offered a way for users to participate in group video chats with friends and even play games, like Uno, trivia, Heads Up and others. Last year, Epic Games integrated Houseparty with Fortnite, initially to allow gamers to see live feeds from friends while gaming, then later adding support to livestream gameplay directly into Houseparty. At the time, these integrations appeared to be the end goal that explained why Epic Games had bought the social startup in the first place.

Now, just over two years after the acquisition was announced, and less than half a year since support for livestreaming was added to the app, Houseparty is shutting down.

The company didn’t offer any solid insight into what, at first glance, feels like an admission of failure to capitalize on its acquisition. But the reality is that Epic Games may have something larger in store beyond just video chat. That said, all Epic Games would say today is that the Houseparty team could no longer give the app the attention it required — a statement that indicates an executive decision to shift the team’s focus to other matters.

While none of the Houseparty team members are being let go as a result of this move, we’re told, they will be joining other teams where they will work on new ways to allow for “social interactions” across the Epic Games family of products. The company’s announcement hinted that those social features would be designed and built at the “metaverse scale.”

The “metaverse” is an increasingly used buzzword that references a shared virtual environment, like those provided by large-scale online gaming platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox and others. Facebook, too, claims the metaverse is the next big gambit for social networking, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg having described it as an “embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.”

To some extent, Fortnite has begun to embrace the metaverse by offering non-gaming experiences like online concerts you attend as your avatar, and other live events. Ahead of its shutdown, Houseparty also toyed with live events that users would co-watch and participate in alongside their friends.

An Epic Games spokesperson tells TechCrunch the Houseparty team has worked on (and continues to work on) a number of other projects that focus on social. But some of the “multiple, larger projects” Epic Games has in the works remain undisclosed, we’re told.

In terms of social products, Houseparty’s technology now underpins all of Fortnite voice chat and the features they built are widely available for free to developers through Epic Games Services. They also worked on building out new social experiences, which have ranged from the social RSVP functions for Fortnite’s global events, like the recent Ariana Grande concert, to the upcoming “Operation: Sky Fire” event for collaborating quests and other game mechanics. More social functionality and new experiences are also being built into Fortnite’s user-generated content platform, Create Mode.

While it may seem odd to close an app that only last year experienced a boost in usage due to the pandemic, it appears the COVID bump didn’t have staying power.

At the height of lockdowns, Houseparty had reported it had gained 50 million new sign-ups in a month’s time as users looked to video apps to connect with family and friends while the world was shut down. But as the pandemic wore on, other video chat experiences gained more ground. Zoom, which had established itself as an essential tool for remote work, became a tool for hanging out with friends after-hours, as well. Facebook also started to eat Houseparty’s lunch with its debut of drop-in video chat “Rooms” last year, which offered a similar group video experience. And bored users shifted to audio-based social networking on apps like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces.

Image Credits: Apptopia

According to data from Apptopia, Houseparty has been continually declining since the pandemic bump. To date, its app has seen a total of 111 million downloads across iOS and Android, with the majority (63 million) on iOS. The U.S. was Houseparty’s largest market, accounting for 43.4% of downloads, followed by the U.K. (9.8%), then Germany (5.6%).

Epic Games, meanwhile, said the app served “tens of millions” of users worldwide. It insists the closure wasn’t decided lightly, nor was the decision to shutter “Fortnite Mode” made due to lack of adoption.

Houseparty will alert users to the shutdown via in-app notifications ahead of its final closure in October. At that point, Fortnite Mode will also no longer be available.

#android, #app-store, #apps, #computing, #epic-games, #exit, #facebook, #fortnite, #gaming, #houseparty, #mark-zuckerberg, #metaverse, #mobile, #online-games, #roblox, #social, #social-networking, #software, #uno, #video-gaming

Microsoft acquires video creation and editing software maker Clipchamp

Video editing software may become the next big addition to Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it’s acquiring Clipchamp, a company offering web-based video creation and editing software that allows anyone to put together video presentations, promos or videos meant for social media destinations like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. According to Microsoft, Clipchamp is a “natural fit” to extend its exiting productivity experiences in Microsoft 365 for families, schools, and businesses.

The acquisition appealed to Microsoft for a few reasons. Today, more people are creating and using video, thanks to a growing set of new tools that allow anyone — even non-professionals — to quickly and easily perform advanced edits and produce quality video content. This, explains Microsoft, has allowed video to establish itself as a new type of “document” for businesses to do things like pitch an idea, explain a process, or communicate with team members.

The company also saw Clipchamp as an interesting acquisition target due to how it combined “the simplicity of a web app with the full computing power of a PC with graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration,” it said. That makes the software a good fit for the Microsoft Windows customer base, as well.

Clipchamp itself had built a number of online tools in the video creation and editing space, including its video maker Clipchamp Create, which offers features for trimming, cutting, cropping, rotating, speed control, and adding text, audio, images, colors, and filters. It also provides other tools that make video creation easier, like templates, free stock video and audio libraries, screen recorders, text-to-speech tools, and others for simplifying a brand’s fonts, colors and logos for use in video. A discontinued set of utilities called Clipchamp Utilities had once included a video compressor and converters, as well as an in-browser webcam recorder. Some of this functionality was migrated over to the new Clipchamp app, however.

After producing the videos with Clipchamp, creators can choose between different output styles and aspect ratios for popular social media networks, making it a popular tool for online marketers.

Image Credits: Clipchamp

Since its founding in 2013, Clipchamp grew to attract over 17 million registered users and has served over 390,000 companies, growing at a rate of 54% year-over-year. As the pandemic forced more organizations towards remote work, the use of video has grown as companies adopted the medium for training, communication, reports, and more. During the first half of 2021, Clipchamp saw a 186% increase in video exports. Videos using the 16:9 aspect ratio grew by 189% while the 9:16 aspect ratio for sharing to places like Instagram Stories and TikTok grew by 140% and the 1:1 aspect ratio for Instagram grew 72%. Screen recording also grew 57% and webcam recording grew 65%.

In July, Clipchamp CEO Alexander Dreiling commented on this growth, noting the company had nearly tripled its team over the past year.

“We are acquiring two times more users on average than we did at the same time a year ago while also doubling the usage rate, meaning more users are creating video content than ever before. While social media videos have always been at the forefront of business needs, during the past year we’ve also witnessed the rapid adoption of internal communication use cases where there is a lot of screen and webcam recording taking place in our platform,” he said.

Microsoft didn’t disclose the acquisition price, but Clipchamp had raised over $15 million in funding according to Crunchbase.

This is not Microsoft’s first attempt at entering the video market.

The company was recently one of the suitors pursuing TikTok when the Trump administration was working to force a sale of the China-owned video social network which Trump had dubbed a national security threat. (In order to keep TikTok running in the U.S., ByteDance would have needed to have divested TikTok’s U.S. operations. But that sale never came to be as the Biden administration paused the effort.) Several years ago, Microsoft also launched a business video service called Stream, that aimed to allow enterprises to use video as easily as consumers use YouTube. In 2018, it acquired social learning platform Flipgrid, which used short video clips for collaboration. And as remote work became the norm, Microsoft has been adding more video capabilities to its team collaboration software, Microsoft Teams, too.

Microsoft’s deal follows Adobe’s recent $1.28 acquisition of the video review and collaboration platform Frame.io, which has been used by over a million people since its founding in 2014. However, unlike Clipchamp, whose tools are meant for anyone to use at work, school, or home, Frame.io is aimed more directly at creative professionals.

Dreiling said Clipchamp will continue to grow at Microsoft, with a focus on making video editing accessible to more people.

“Few companies in tech have the legacy and reach that Microsoft has. We all grew up with iconic Microsoft products and have been using them ever since,” he explained. “Becoming part of Microsoft allows us to become part of a future legacy. Under no other scenario could our future look more exciting than what’s ahead of us now. At Clipchamp we have always said that we’re not suffering from a lack of opportunity, there absolutely is an abundance of opportunity in video. We just need to figure out how to seize it. Inside Microsoft we can approach seizing our opportunity in entirely new ways,” Dreiling added.

Microsoft did not say when it expected to integrate Clipchamp into its existing software suite, saying it would share more at a later date.

 

#biden-administration, #bytedance, #ceo, #collaboration-software, #computing, #exit, #facebook, #instagram, #ma, #microsoft, #microsoft-teams, #microsoft-windows, #mobile-software, #online-tools, #productivity-tools, #software, #technology, #tiktok, #trump, #trump-administration, #united-states, #video, #web-app, #webcam

DigitalOcean enhances serverless capabilities with Nimbella acquisition

As developers look for ways to simplify how they create software, serverless solutions, which enable them to write code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure required to run their applications, is becoming increasingly popular. DigitalOcean announced today that it is enhancing its existing offering in this area with the acquisition of serverless startup Nimbella. The companies did not share the terms of the deal.

With Nimbella, the company is getting a platform for building serverless applications that is built on the open source container orchestration platform, Kubernetes and Apache OpenWhisk, which is itself an open source serverless development platform.

DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, who took over two years ago, refers to Nimbella’s capabilities as Function as a Service with the goal being to simplify serverless development in an open source context for its target customers.”Serverless kinds of capabilities are taking a whole level of the infrastructure burden away from developers and businesses and we absorb that. We’ll allow our customers to have more configurability around the tools, which just removes burdens for them and allows them to go faster,” he said.

In practical terms, Nimbella CEO Anshu Agarwal says that means they are providing a specific set of tools to build sophisticated serverless applications and connect to other DigitalOcean services. “The capabilities that we will be adding to DigitalOcean portfolio are a fast solution, a function as a service solution that also integrates with the underlying DigitalOcean services [like] managed databases, storage and other services that make it make it easier for a developer to develop full applications, not just addressing events, but doing things which are completely stateless,” Agarwal explained.

Spruill said that this wasn’t the company’s first foray into serverless. That began last year when it offered its initial serverless tooling, but it wanted to build on its current offering and Nimbella fit the bill.

DigitalOcean is a cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service provider, aiming at individual developers, startups and SMBs. While DigitalOcean’s $318 million 2020 revenue was a fraction of the $129 billion cloud market, it is proof that there is still money to be made even with a small slice of that market.

The companies did not discuss the terms of the deal, the number of employees involved or even the title that Agarwal would have when the deal closed, but the plan is to fully integrate Nimbella into the DigitalOcean portfolio and eventually make it a DigitalOcean-branded product some time in the first half of next year.

#cloud, #cloud-infrastructure-market, #digitalocean, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #open-source, #serverless, #startups, #tc

HomeLight closes on $100M Series D at a $1.6B valuation as revenue surges

HomeLight, which operates a real estate technology platform, announced today that it has secured $100 million in a Series D round of funding and $263 million in debt financing.

Return backer Zeev Ventures led the equity round, which also included participation from Group 11, Stereo Capital, Menlo Ventures and Lydia Jett of the SoftBank Vision Fund. The financings bring the San Francisco-based company’s total raised since its 2012 inception to $530 million. The equity financing brings HomeLight’s valuation to $1.6 billion, which is about triple of what it was when it raised its $109 million in debt and equity in a Series C that was announced in November of 2019.

Zeev Ventures led that funding round, as well as its Series A in 2015.

The latest capital comes ahead of projected “3x” year-over-year growth, according to HomeLight founder and CEO Drew Uher, who projects that the company’s annual revenue will triple to over $300 million in 2021. Doing basic math, we can deduce that the company saw around $100 million in revenue in 2020.

Over the years, like many other real estate tech platforms, HomeLight has evolved its model. HomeLight’s initial product focused on using artificial intelligence to match consumers and real estate investors to agents. Since then, the company has expanded to also providing title and escrow services to agents and home sellers and matching sellers with iBuyers. In July 2019, HomeLight acquired Eave as an entry into the (increasingly crowded) mortgage lending space.

“Our goal is to remove as much friction as possible from the process of buying or selling a home,” Uher said.

In January 2020, HomeLight launched its flagship financial products, HomeLight Trade-In and HomeLight Cash Offer. Since then, it has grown those products by over 700%, Uher said, in part fueled by the pandemic.

HomeLight’s Trade-In product gives its clients greater control over the timeline of their move and ability to transact, and Cash Offer gives people a way to make all cash offers on homes, “even if they need a mortgage,” he said. 

“The pandemic only highlighted many of the pain points in the real estate transaction process that we’ve been focused on solving since our founding,” Uher told TechCrunch. “Between the real estate industry’s historic information asymmetry, outdated processes and unreasonable costs — not to mention today’s record-low inventory and all-time high bidding wars — buying or selling a home can be an incredibly difficult process, even without the challenges put in place by a global pandemic.”

Image Credits: HomeLight

Then in August 2020, the company acquired Disclosures.io and launched HomeLight Listing Management, with the goal of making it easier for agents to share property information, monitor buyer interest and manage offers in one place. 

In June of 2021, HomeLight appointed Lyft chairman and former Trulia CFO Sean Aggarwal to its board.

Uher founded HomeLight after he and his wife felt the pain of trying to buy a home in the competitive Bay Area market.

“The process of buying a home in San Francisco was so frustrating it made me want to bang my head against the wall,” Uher told me at the time of HomeLight’s Series C. “I realized there were so many things wrong with the real estate industry. I went through a few real estate agents before finding the right match. So when I did find one, it made me feel empowered to compete and win against the other buyers.”

He started HomeLight with a single product, its agent matching platform, which uses “proprietary machine-learning algorithms” to analyze millions of real estate transactions and agent profiles. It claims to connect a client to a real estate agent on average “every 90 seconds.”

Over the years, Uher said that hundreds of thousands of agents have applied to be a part of the HomeLight agent network and that it has worked with over 1 million homebuyers and sellers in the U.S. Today, the company works closely with the top 28,000 of those agents across the country. HomeLight maintains that it is not trying to replace real estate agents, but instead work more collaboratively with them.

Uher said the company plans to use its new capital in part toward expanding to new markets its Trade-In and Cash Offer operations. HomeLight Trade-In and Cash Offer are currently available in California, Texas and, more recently, in Colorado.

“We plan to expand as quickly as we can across the entire country,” Uher said. “We also plan to hire aggressively in 2021 and beyond.”

HomeLight presently has over 500 employees, up from about 350 at the end of last year. The company has offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Tampa, and plans to open new sites throughout the U.S. in the coming months. 

Oren Zeev, founding partner at Zeev Ventures, said he believes that HomeLIght is better positioned than any other proptech company “to reinvent the transaction experience” for agents and their clients.

“With the onset of iBuyers and other technology introduced in the past decade, many proptech companies are building products to cut agents out of the transaction process entirely,” Zeev wrote via email. “This is where HomeLight uniquely differs — and excels — from its competitors…They’re in the perfect position to revolutionize the industry.”

#exit, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #homelight, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-technology, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #startups, #venture-capital, #zeev-ventures

Vista Equity to acquire majority stake in SaaS startup Drift, taking it to unicorn status

Private equity firm Vista Equity Partners announced today that it is taking a majority stake in Drift, a company which aims to be the Amazon of businesses, with a “growth investment” that propels the venture-backed startup to unicorn status.

Unfortunately, neither party would disclose the amount of the investment, or Drift’s new valuation. But co-founder and CEO David Cancel did say the SaaS company saw 70% growth in its annual recurring revenue (ARR) in 2020 compared to the year prior and is on target for a similar metric this year. It is not yet profitable, as it is focused on growth, he added.

Prior to this financing, Boston-based Drift had raised $107 million in funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital, CRV and General Catalyst since its 2015 inception.

So just what does the company do exactly? The startup says it is out to ”reimagine the B2B buying experience,” according to Cancel. By using its software, Drift’s 50,000 customers are able to bring together sales and marketing teams on one platform to “deliver personalized conversations” that the company says build trust and accelerate revenue. 

Its customers include ServiceNow, Okta, Grubhub, Mindbody, Adobe, Ellie May and Snowflake, among others. Today 75% of Drift’s customers are mid-market enterprise, according to Cancel. 

Over the past five years, Drift has worked to create and define something it describes as “Conversational Marketing” with the goal of helping marketers “harness the digital experience for lead generation.” Or to put it more simply, Drift subscribers can use chatbots to help turn web visits into sales.

The company says it is out to remove the friction between buyers and sellers so they can not only get more leads, but also close more sales. This led Drift to expand its focus to build a platform that includes conversational sales, which integrates chat, email, video and artificial intelligence to power conversations, not just on a customer’s website, but for the sales team too. 

Cancel said that Vista’s strategic growth investment will help the company move even faster, expand globally and launch a new B2B category called “Conversation Commerce,” an interactive approach to conversations that Drift believes has the potential to “transform the entire B2B revenue function.”

Basically, the company is trying to make the B2B buying/selling experience similar to that of a B2C one. At least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for, but expect, a buying experience similar to that of a B2C customer, according to Cancel.

So far in 2021, Drift’s customers generated $5 billion in pipeline value by making the customer side of the buying process easier, he said.

For Cancel, a serial entrepreneur who previously founded and sold four other companies, the notion of owning a company with a unicorn valuation was not something he and co-founder and CTO Elias Torres were overly consumed with.

But what did appeal to the pair was the opportunity to add to the too-short list of U.S.-based unicorns with Latin founders and serve as an inspiration for other entrepreneurs of Latin descent. Cancel’s parents emigrated from Puerto Rico and Cuba while Torres emigrated from Nicaragua in his teens.

“I didn’t really care about that [unicorn] status except for one reason and the reason was that we are both Latino and if we hit this milestone, then we would be part of the less than 1% of Latinos that had ever done that,” Cancel told TechCrunch. “And that was important to us because we believe that we have the responsibility to pay it forward and to help people and to inspire other people who are like us and are often marginalized. We want to show that they can do this too.”

Torres agreed, saying that he and Cancel were “proud to be one of the only Latino-founded companies to ever achieve over $1 billion valuation – a rare, Latino-founded unicorn.”

“We want to see more of us do the same and we will pave the way for other Latino founders and leaders to achieve success,” he added.

By having a majority owner in Vista, which focuses exclusively on backing enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses, Cancel believes that Drift can “get more efficient in some areas.” He also thinks that the firm can help it ramp up its acquisitions pace. (So far it has made three.)

The nearly 600-person company still has its sights on going public, according to Cancel, and believes that by working with Vista, it will have a “clearer path” to do so.

“It’s something we think about a lot,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s still in our future.”

Monti Saroya, co-head of the Flagship Fund and senior managing director at Vista, thinks that Drift represents a “compelling” opportunity for Vista.

“Drift is a company that is experiencing hypergrowth at scale, we and we believe the conversational marketing and sales tools it offers will continue to be in high demand as companies race to modernize their B2B commerce strategies,” he told TechCrunch.

Earlier this year, Vista — which has over $77 billion in assets under management — invested $242 million to acquire a minority stake in Vena, a Canadian company focused on the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software space.

Meanwhile, Vista’s acquisition of Drift is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

#apps, #boston, #david-cancel, #drift, #elias-torres, #exit, #fundings-exits, #private-equity, #saas, #startups, #tc, #vista-equity-partners

ForgeRock files for IPO as identity and access management business grows

ForgeRock filed its form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this morning as the identity management provider takes the next step toward its IPO.

The company did not provide initial pricing for its shares, which will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol FORG. The IPO is being led by Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., with the company being valued as high as $4 billion, according to Bloomberg, which is a significant uplift over the $730 million post-money value that PitchBook had for the company after its last round in 2020.

With the ever-increasing volume of cybersecurity attacks against organizations of all sizes, the need to secure and manage user identities is of growing importance. Based in San Francisco, ForgeRock has raised $233 million in funding across multiple rounds. The company’s last round was a $93.5 million Series E announced in April 2020, which was led by Riverwood Capital alongside Accenture Ventures. At that time, CEO Fran Rosch told TechCrunch that the round would be the last before an IPO, which was also what former CEO Mike Ellis told us after the startup’s $88 million Series D in September 2017.

While the timing of its IPO might have been unclear over the last few years, the company has been on a positive trajectory for growth. In its S-1, ForgeRock reported that as of June 30, its annual recurring revenue (ARR) was $155 million, representing 30% year-over-year growth. 

While revenue is growing, losses are narrowing as the company reported a $20 million net loss down from $36 million a year ago. There certainly is a whole lot of room to grow, as the company estimates that the total global addressable market for identity services to be worth $71 billion. 

Among the many competitors that ForgeRock faces is Okta, which went public in 2017 and has been growing in the years since. In March, Okta acquired cloud identity startup Auth0 for $6.5 billion in a deal that raised a few eyebrows. Another competitor is Ping Identity, which went public in 2019 and is also growing, reporting on August 4 that its ARR hit $279.6 million in its quarter ended June 30, for a 19% year-over-year gain. There have also been a few big exits in the space over the years, including Duo Security, which was acquired by Cisco for $2.35 billion in 2018.

“ForgeRock has a good access management tool and they continue to be a strong player in customer identity and access management (CIAM),” commented Michael Kelley, senior research director at Gartner.

Kelley noted that in 2020, ForgeRock converted most of its core access management services to a SaaS delivery model, which helped the company catch up with the rest of the market that already offered access management as SaaS. Also last year the company expanded into identity governance, introducing a brand new identity, governance and administration (IGA) product.

“I think one of the more interesting products that ForgeRock offers is ForgeRock Trees, which is a no-code/low-code orchestration tool for building complex authentication and authorization journeys for customers, which is particularly helpful in the CIAM market,” Kelly added.

ForgeRock was founded in 2010, but its roots go back even further to an open-source single sign-on project known as OpenSSO that was created by Sun Microsystems in 2005. When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in early 2010, a number of its open-source efforts were left to languish, which is what led a number of former Sun employees to start ForgeRock. 

Over the last decade, ForgeRock has expanded significantly beyond just providing a single sign-on to providing an identity platform that can handle consumer, enterprise and IoT use-cases. The company’s platform today handles identity and access management as well as identity governance.

The ability to scale is a key selling point that ForgeRock makes in the S-1, noting that its platform can handle over 60,000 user-based access transactions per second per customer. 

“As of June 30, 2021, we had four customers with 100 million or more licensed identities, the company stated in the S-1. “Our ability to serve mission-critical needs in complex environments for large customers enables us to grow our base of large customers and expand within each of them. “

 

#access-management, #cloud-applications, #duo-security, #exit, #forgerock, #identity-management, #initial-public-offering, #ipo, #okta, #ping-identity, #san-francisco, #security, #startups

Elastic acquires build.security for security policy definition and enforcement

Less than a year after raising its $6 million seed funding round, Tel Aviv and Sunnyvale-based startup Build.security is being acquired by Elastic. Financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed at this time. The deal is expected to close in Elastic’s Q2 FY22, ending Oct. 31, 2021.

In an email to TechCrunch, Ash Kulkarni, chief product officer at Elastic, said that once the acquisition closes, the build.security technical team will continue as a unit in the Elastic Security organization. Kulkarni added that the acquisition will also become the foundation for a growing Elastic presence in Israel, with Amit Kanfer, co-founder and CEO of build.security set to become the site lead for the region.

Build.security is focused on security policy management for applications. A core element of the company’s technology approach is the Open Policy Agent (OPA) open source project, which is part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which is also home to Kubernetes. OPA was originally started by startup Styra, which itself has raised $40 million in funding to help build out policy management and authorization technology. Part of OPA is the Rego query language which is used to structure security and authorization configuration policies.

“We see policy as a fundamental cornerstone of security,” Kulkarni said. “OPA and Rego provide an open, standards-based way to define, manage, and enforce policies everywhere.”

Kulkarni noted that security policy technology is complementary to Elastic’s efforts in security and observability. He added that Elastic sees potential for using OPA and the technology that build.security has built on top of OPA to power deployment time, and in the future, build-time security for cloud-native environments. 

YL Venture partner John Brennan who helped to lead the seed round of build.security sees the acquisition as being a good fit for both companies, as they are both creating solutions for developers that are based on open source technologies.

“This move by a market leader like Elastic validates the need for transformation in the authorization space,” Brennan said. “This partnership will accelerate build.security’s shift left vision of efficiently embedding access protection from the start, rather than trying to bolt it on after the fact or, worse, ignoring it completely.”

Elastic is known for its Elastic Stack, which provides Elasticsearch search capability, Logstash log monitoring and Kibana data visualization. In recent years the company has expanded into the security space, acquiring Endgame Security in 2019 for $234 million. On Aug. 3, Elastic announced its Limitless XDR capabilities which brings together endpoint security with security information and event management (SIEM).

With its new acquisition, Kulkarni said the goal is to go even deeper into security moving toward cloud security enforcement. He explained that after the acquisition closes and as the technology is integrated, users will be able to leverage the Elastic Stack to visualize and manage compliance policies and policy decisions at scale. An initial use-case for the build.security technology will be developing a Kubernetes security and compliance product based on OPA.

 

#cloud-native-computing-foundation, #elastic, #elasticsearch, #exit, #opa, #security, #tel-aviv

Brex buys Weav, a universal API for commerce platforms, for $50M

Fintech Brex first partnered with Weav, a developer of a universal API for commerce platforms, last summer.

In March, Brex launched Instant Payouts for Shopify sellers using the startup’s technology.

The results were impressive enough that by April, Brex co-founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi participated in Weav’s $4.3 million seed round as strategic angel investors.

Over the past few months, the pair determined that Weav’s technology — and team — was too good to share. So today, the fintech is announcing that it is acquiring one-year-old Weav for $50 million in its first significant acquisition, TechCrunch has learned exclusively.

Interestingly, the deal was forged without the founders of either company having met — which may have been more unusual before the COVID-19 pandemic but is likely more commonplace these days. (Although they have since met.) Brex has previously made ‘acquihires’ but has not previously acquired both a company’s team and technology.

Brex started working with Weav “pretty early on” in the company’s life as a partner, Dubugras said. 

“We were so impressed with [CEO] Nadav [Lidor] and his team, how fast they were building and how good the technology is, that we wanted to expand to a more strategic partnership,” he told TechCrunch. “Then, we started talking about an acquisition.”

TechCrunch talked with Dubugras and Weav CEO and co-founder Lidor to find out the details of the deal, and why it’s significant for both companies.

For one, as part of the acquisition, Brex will be expanding its global presence by building an “innovation hub” and hiring employees in Israel beyond Weav’s nine-person team, which is located in Israel and New York. CEO Lidor will head up Brex’s new Israeli office.

Besides expanding its global reach, the technology that Brex is acquiring will help accelerate the fintech’s connectivity of its platform, Dubugras said. Currently, Brex offers credit cards, business cash accounts, spend management and bill pay software together in a single dashboard for its customers. Its goal is to continue expanding its product and services portfolio to become “a fully-integrated and holistic financial platform for businesses.” 

“Weav’s technology helps make Brex even better for our customers,” he said.

Founded last year by engineers Ambika Acharya, Avikam Agur and Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch, Weav was among the wave of fintech infrastructure companies that aimed to give fintechs and financial institutions a boost. Specifically, Weav’s embedded technology was designed to give organizations access to “real time, user-permissioned” commerce data that they could use to create new financial products for small businesses.  

Its products will allow customers to connect to multiple platforms with a single API that was developed specifically for the commerce platforms that businesses use to sell products and accept payments. Weav has operated under the premise that allowing companies to build and embed new financial products creates new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs. 

Since its inception last year, Weav’s API call volume has grown by 300% each month.

The increased adoption of cloud and SaaS technologies has led to data being stored in a variety of disparate systems. Weav’s API aims to build digital connections that enable automatic sharing and analysis, thus (as mentioned above) allowing commerce platforms to access their customers’ standardized transaction data in real time. This is important to Brex because the premise is that by using Weav, businesses can get financial services and new products “more quickly and precisely.” 

“We want to build this all-in-one finance platform,” Dubugras told TechCrunch. “That was already the direction we were headed with the partnership but this acquisition helps us so that we can build a better integration across all our financial products, and we can do more, and a lot faster than what we were originally planning.”

For example, he added, Brex integrates with platforms such as Shopify. With the acquisition of Weav, it intends to build more lending, visualization and insights products for its customers.

“The Weav team will basically manage any third-party integration,” Dubugras said, “so that Brex can be your financial operating system no matter where your data is. You can have everything in one place.” 

Lidor admits that Weav did not expect to be exiting so soon after founding. But the companies found themselves on the same page, he said.

 “Our goal has always been to connect businesses, creators, and other entrepreneurs with fintech to expand financial access, and this aligns with Brex’s mission,” Lidor added. “After working with Henrique and Pedro, we realized they couldn’t be a better partner. We too were so impressed with the Brex team, and had a great time learning from them, and building with them.”

The company did not disclose its valuation at the time of its $4.3 million seed round earlier this year. The $50 million price tag represents a “healthy multiple for all involved,” Dubugras said.

The expansion into Israel is also exciting to the Brex team, which went remote last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic with operations in the United States, Canada and Brazil.

Founded in 2017, San Francisco-based Brex earlier this year was valued at $7.4 billion after raising a $425 million Series D led by Tiger Global. The company has raised $1.2 billion in debt and equity financing, according to Crunchbase data.

Earlier this year, the company announced it had put together a new service called Brex Premium that costs $49 per month. 

“The number of premium subscribers that we now have definitely blew away our expectations,” Dubugras said.

In February, Brex was the latest fintech to apply for a bank charter.

The company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups, with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, had submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.

Earlier this month, the company said it would voluntarily withdraw its bank charter and federal deposit insurance applications. 

“This will permit us to modify and strengthen our application and resubmit at a later date,” the company said. “We appreciate the support and thoughtful guidance from the Utah DFI and FDIC.”

#acquisition, #brex, #exit, #finance, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #henrique-dubugras, #israel, #ma, #nadav-lidor, #payments, #startup, #startups, #tc, #weav

Cisco beefing up app monitoring portfolio with acquisition of Epsagon for $500M

Cisco announced on Friday that it’s acquiring Israeli applications monitoring startup Epsagon at a price pegged at $500 million. The purchase gives Cisco a more modern microservices-focused component for its growing applications monitoring portfolio.

The Israeli business publication Globes reported it had gotten confirmation from Cisco that the deal was for $500 million, but Cisco would not confirm that price with TechCrunch.

The acquisition comes on top of a couple other high profile app monitoring deals including AppDynamics, which the company bought in 2018 for $3.7 billion and ThousandEyes, which it nabbed last year for $1 billion.

With Epsagon, the company is getting a way to monitor more modern applications built with containers and Kubernetes. Epsagon’s value proposition is a solution built from the ground up to monitor these kinds of workloads, giving users tracing and metrics, something that’s not always easy to do given the ephemeral nature of containers.

As Cisco’s Liz Centoni wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, Epsagon adds to the company’s concept of a full-stack offering in their applications monitoring portfolio. Instead of having a bunch of different applications monitoring tools for different tasks, the company envisions one that works together.

“Cisco’s approach to full-stack observability gives our customers the ability to move beyond just monitoring to a paradigm that delivers shared context across teams and enables our customers to deliver exceptional digital experiences, optimize for cost, security and performance and maximize digital business revenue,” Centoni wrote.

That experience point is particularly important because when an application isn’t working, it isn’t happening in a vacuum. It has a cascading impact across the company, possibly affecting the core business itself and certainly causing customer distress, which could put pressure on customer service to field complaints, and the site reliability team to fix it. In the worst case, it could result in customer loss and an injured reputation.

If the application monitoring system can act as an early warning system, it could help prevent the site or application from going down in the first place, and when it does go down, help track the root cause to get it up and running more quickly.

The challenge here for Cisco is incorporating Epsagon into the existing components of the application monitoring portfolio and delivering that unified monitoring experience without making it feel like a Frankenstein’s monster of a solution globbed together from the various pieces.

Epsagon launched in 2018 and has raised $30 million. According to a report in the Israeli publication, Calcalist, the company was on the verge of a big Series B round with a valuation in the range of $200 million when it accepted this offer. It certainly seems to have given its early investors a good return. The deal is expected to close later this year.

#applications-performance-monitoring, #cisco, #containers, #enterprise, #epsagon, #exit, #fundings-exits, #israeli-startups, #kubernetes, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc

Medal.tv, a video clipping service for gamers, enters the livestreaming market with Rawa.tv acquisition

Medal.tv, a short-form video clipping service and social network for gamers, is entering the live streaming market with the acquisition of Rawa.tv, a Twitch rival based in Dubai, which had raised around $1 million to date. The seven-figure, all cash deal will see two of Rawa’s founders, Raya Dadah and Phil Jammal, now joining Medal and further integrations between the two platforms going forward.

The Middle East and North African region (MENA) is one of the fastest-growing markets in gaming and still one that’s mostly un-catered to, explained Medal.tv CEO Pim de Witte, as to his company’s interest in Rawa.

“Most companies that target that market don’t really understand the nuances and try to replicate existing Western or Far-Eastern models that are doomed to fail,” he said. “Absorbing a local team will increase Medal’s chances of success here. Overall, we believe that MENA is an underserved market without a clear leader in the livestreaming space, and Rawa brings to Medal the local market expertise that we need to capitalize on this opportunity,” de Witte added.

Medal.tv’s community had been asking for the ability to do livestreaming for some time, the exec also noted, but the technology would have been too expensive for the startup to build using off-the-shelf services at its scale, de Witte said.

“People increasingly connect around live and real-time experiences, and this is something our platform has lacked to date,” he noted.

But Rawa, as the first livestreaming platform dedicated to Arab gaming, had built out its own proprietary live and network streaming technology that’s now used in all its products. That technology is now coming to Medal.tv.

Image Credits: Medal.tv

The two companies were already connected before today, as Rawa users have been able to upload their gaming clips to Medal.tv, and some Rawa partners had joined Medal’s skilled player program. Going forward, Rawa will continue to operate as a separate platform, but it will become more tightly integrated with Medal, the company says. Currently, Rawa sees around 100,000 active users on its service.

The remaining Rawa team will continue to operate the livestreaming platform under co-founder Jammal’s leadership following the deal’s close, and the Rawa HQ will remain based in Dubai. However, Rawa’s employees have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, and it’s unclear if that will change in the future, given the uncertainty of Covid-19’s spread.

Medal.tv detailed its further plans for Rawa on its site, where the company explained it doesn’t aim to build a “general-purpose” livestreaming platform where the majority of viewers don’t pay — a call-out that clearly seems aimed at Twitch. Instead, it says it will focus on matching content with viewers who would be interested in subscribing to the creators. This addresses on of the challenges that has faced larger platforms like Twitch in the past, where it’s been difficult for smaller streamers to get off the ground.

The company also said it will remain narrowly focused on serving the gaming community as opposed to venturing into non-gaming content, as others have done. Again, this differentiates itself from Twitch which, over the years, expanded into vlogs and even streaming old TV shows. And it’s much different from YouTube or Facebook Watch, where gaming is only a subcategory of a broader video network.

The acquisition follows Medal.tv’s $9 million Series A led by Horizons Ventures in 2019, after the startup had grown to 5 million registered users and “hundreds of thousands” of daily active users. Today, the company says over 200,000 people create content every day on Medal, and 3 million users are actively viewing that content every month.

#apps, #clips, #digital-media, #dubai, #exit, #gamer, #gamers, #games, #horizons-ventures, #livestreaming, #ma, #mass-media, #media, #mena, #middle-east, #mobile, #new-media, #player, #social-network, #startups, #streaming, #streaming-media, #twitch, #video, #video-clipping, #video-games

John Deere buys autonomous tractor startup Bear Flag Robotics

In the world of robotic startups, acquisition is often as good an outcome as any. And when it comes to robotic tractor startups, you could do worse than being acquired by John Deere. The agricultural technology giant announced today that it’s set to acquire Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million.

The Bay Area-based firm, which specializes in autonomous farming heavy machinery, was founded in 2017. They first crossed our radar the following year, as a member of YC’s Winter 2018 cohort.

“We got a tour of an orchard and just how pronounced the labor problem is,” co-founder Aubrey Donnellan told TechCrunch at the time. “They’re struggling to fill seats on tractors. We talked to other growers in California. We kept hearing the same thing over and over: Labor is one of the most significant pain points. It’s really hard to find quality labor. The workforce is aging out. They’re leaving the country and going into other industries.”

In the intervening years, John Deere tapped Bear Flag for its own Startup Collaborator initiative. And the robotics firm has also begun to deploy its technology to an undisclosed (“limited,” per their wording) number of sites in the U.S.

“One of the biggest challenges farmers face today is the availability of skilled labor to execute time-sensitive operations that impact farming outcomes. Autonomy offers a safe and productive alternative to address that challenge head on,” co-founder and CEO Igino Cafiero, says in a release. “Bear Flag’s mission to increase global food production and reduce the cost of growing food through machine automation is aligned with Deere’s and we’re excited to join the Deere team to bring autonomy to more farms.”

Agricultural is one of several robotics categories that have seen a spike in interest in the past year, due to labor shortages that predate but were exacerbated by the global pandemic. Of course, that interest doesn’t make anyone immune from the difficulties of launching a robotics startup.

Last month, apple-picking robotics firm Abundant confirmed it was closing up shop, noting, “After a series of promising commercial trials with prototype apple harvesters, the company was unable to raise enough investment funding to continue development and launch a production system,” the company noted at the time.

An acquisition seems like a reasonable outcome for a company like Bear Flag. The startup gains a lot of resources from its massive new owner, and its new owner adds some new tech to its portfolio. Indeed, John Deere has been pretty aggressively looking to expand into more cutting-edge technologies like robotics and drones in recent years.

Bear Flag will retain operations in the Bay Area.

 

#bear-flag-robotics, #exit, #hardware, #john-deere, #ma, #robotics, #startups

Marvell nabs Innovium for $1.1B as it delves deeper into cloud ethernet switches

Marvell announced this morning it intends to acquire Innovium for $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. The startup, which raised over $400 million according to Crunchbase data, makes networking ethernet switches optimized for the cloud.

Marvell president and CEO Matt Murphy sees Innovium as a complementary piece to the $10 billion Inphi acquisition last year, giving the company, which makes copper-based chips, more ways to work across modern cloud data centers.

“Innovium has established itself as a strong cloud data center merchant switch silicon provider with a proven platform, and we look forward to working with their talented team who have a strong track record in the industry for delivering multiple generations of highly successful products,” Marvell CEO Matt Murphy said in a statement.

Innovium founder and CEO Rajiv Khemani, who will remain on as an advisor post-close, told a familiar tale from a startup CEO being acquired, seeing the sale as a way to accelerate more quickly as part of a larger organization than it could on its own. “As we engaged with Marvell, it became clear that our data center optimized portfolio combined with Marvell’s scale, leading technology platform and complementary portfolio, can accelerate our growth and vision of delivering breakthrough switch silicon for the cloud and edge,” he wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal.

The company, which was founded in 2014, raised over $143 million last year on a post money valuation of $1.3 billion, according to Pitchbook data. The question is was this a reasonable deal for the company given that valuation?

No company wants to sell for less than it was last valued by its investors. In some cases, such deals can still be accretive for early backers of the selling concern, but not always. In this case TechCrunch is not privy to all the details of the Innovium cap table and what its later investors may have built into their deals with the company in the form of downside protection; such measures can tilt the value of the sale of company more towards its later and final investors. This is usually managed at the expense of its earlier backers and employees.

Still, the Innovium deal should not be seen as a failure. Building a company that sells for north of $1 billion in equity value is impressive. The deal appears to be slightly smaller in enterprise value terms. In the business world, enterprise value is a useful method of valuing the true cost of an acquisition. In the case of Innovium, a large cash position, what was described as “Innovium cash and exercise proceeds expected at closing of approximately $145 million,” lowered the cost of the transaction to a more modest $955 million in net outlays.

Our general perspective is that the sale is probably not the outcome that Innovium’s backers had hoped for, but that it may still prove lucrative to early workers and early investors, and still works at that lower figure. It’s also notable how in today’s market of mega-rounds and surfeit unicorns, an exit north of the $1 billion mark in equity terms can be viewed as a disappointment in any terms. Innovium is selling for around the price that Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012, a deal that at the time was so large that it dominated technology headlines around the world.

But with so much capital available today, private valuations are soaring and mega deals abound. And recent rounds north of $100 million, much like Innovium’s 2020-era, $143 million round, can set companies up with rich valuations and a narrow path in front of them to beat those heightened expectations.

What likely happened? Perhaps Innovium found itself with more cash than opportunities to spend it; perhaps it simply needed a large partner to help it better sell into its market. With expected revenues of $150 million in Marvell’s fiscal 2023, its next fiscal period, Innovium did not fail to reach scale. It may have simply grown well as a private, independent company, and stalled out after its last round.

Regardless, a billion dollar exit is a billion dollar exit. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year. While both company boards have approved the deal, it still must clear regular closing hurdles including approval by Innovium’s private stock holders.

#chips, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #hardware, #ma, #marvell, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups

Twitter ‘acqui-hires’ the team from subscription news app, Brief

Twitter’s recent acquisition spree continues today as the company announces it has acqui-hired the team from news aggregator and summary app Brief. The startup from former Google engineers launched last year to offer a subscription-based news summary app that aimed to tackle many of the problems with today’s news cycle, including information overload, burnout, media bias, and algorithms that promoted engagement over news accuracy.

Twitter declined to share deal terms.

Before starting Brief, co-founder and CEO Nick Hobbs was a Google product manager who had worked on AR, Google Assistant, Google’s mobile app, and self-driving cars, among other things. Co-founder and CTO Andrea Huey, meanwhile, was a Google senior software engineer, who worked on the Google iOS app and had a prior stint at Microsoft.

Image Credits: Brief

While Brief’s ambitious project to fix news consumption showed a lot of promise, its growth may have been hampered by the subscription model it had adopted. The app required a $4.99 per month commitment, despite not having the brand-name draw of a more traditional news outlet. For comparison, The New York Times’ basic digital subscription is currently just $4 per week for the first year of service, thanks to a promotion.

Twitter says the startup’s team, which also includes two other Brief employees, will join Twitter’s Experience.org group where they’ll work on areas that support the public conversation on Twitter, including Twitter Spaces and Explore.

While Twitter wouldn’t get into specifics as to what those tasks may involve, the company did tell TechCrunch it hopes to leverage the founders’ expertise with Brief to build out and accelerate projects in both those areas.

Explore, of course, is Twitter’s “news” section, where top stories across categories are aggregated alongside trending topics. But what it currently lacks is a comprehensive approach to distilling the news down to the basic facts and presenting balance, as Brief’s app had offered. Instead, Twitter’s news items include a headline and a short description of the story, followed by notable tweets. There’s certainly room for improvement there.

It’s also possible to imagine some sort of news-focused product built into Twitter’s own subscription service, Twitter Blue — but that’s just speculation at this point.

Twitter says it proactively reached out to Brief with its offer. As part of its current M&A strategy, the company is on the hunt for acquiring talent that will complement its existing teams and help to accelerate its product developments.

Over the past year, Twitter has made similar acqui-hires, including those for distraction-free reading service Scroll, social podcasting app Breaker, social screen-sharing app Squad, and API integration platform Reshuffle. It also bought products, like newsletter platform Revue, which it directly integrated. The company even held acquisition talks with Clubhouse and India’s ShareChat, which would have been much larger M&A deals.

“We’re really glad we ended up at Twitter,” Hobbs told TechCrunch.

“Andrea and I founded Brief to build news that fostered a healthy discourse, and Twitter’s genuine commitment to improve the public conversation is deeply inspiring,” he said. “While we can’t discuss specifics on future plans, we’re confident our experience at Brief will help accelerate the many exciting things happening at Twitter today,” he added.

Hobbs said the team remains optimistic about the future of paid journalism, too, as Brief demonstrated that some customers would pay for a new and improved news experience.

“Brief pioneered a fresh vision for journalism, focused on getting you just the news you need rather than as much as you could withstand,” remarked Ilya Kirnos, founding partner and CTO at SignalFire, who backed Brief at the seed stage. “That respect for its readers made SignalFire proud to support founders Nick Hobbs and Andrea Huey, who are now bringing that philosophy to the top source of breaking news — Twitter.”

To date, Brief had raised a million in seed funding from SignalFire and handful of angel investors, including Sequoia Scouts like David Lieb, Maia Bittner, and Matt Macinnis.

As a result of today’s deal, Brief will wind down its subscription app on July 31. The company says it will alert its current user base today via a notification about its forthcoming shutdown but the app will remain on the App Store offering new features that allow users to explore its archives.

#acquihire, #acquisition, #apps, #brief, #exit, #ma, #media, #mobile, #news, #news-aggregators, #nick-hobbs, #startups, #tc, #technology, #twitter

Digital lending platform Blend valued at over $4B in its public debut

Mortgages may not be considered sexy, but they are a big business.

And if you’ve refinanced or purchased a home digitally lately, you may or may not have noticed the company powering the software behind it — but there’s a good chance that company is Blend.

Founded in 2012, the startup has steadily grown to be a leader in the mortgage tech industry. Blend’s white label technology powers mortgage applications on the site of banks including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, for example, with the goal of making the process faster, simpler and more transparent. 

The San Francisco-based startup’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform currently processes over $5 billion in mortgages and consumer loans per day, up from nearly $3 billion last July.

And today, Blend made its debut as a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, trading under the symbol “BLND.” As of early afternoon, Eastern Time, the stock was trading up over 13% at $20.36.

On Thursday night, the company had said it would offer 20 million shares at a price of $18 per share, indicating the company was targeting a valuation of $3.6 billion.

That compares to a $3.3 billion valuation at the time of its last raise in January — a $300 million Series G funding round that included participation from Coatue and Tiger Global Management. Also, let’s not forget that Blend only became a unicorn last August when it raised a $75 million Series F. Over its lifetime, Blend had raised $665 million before Friday’s public market debut.

In filing its S-1 on June 21, Blend revealed that its revenue had climbed to $96 million in 2020 from $50.7 million in 2019. Meanwhile, its net loss narrowed from $81.5 million in 2019 to $74.6 million in 2020.

In 2020, the San Francisco-based startup significantly expanded its digital consumer lending platform. With that expansion, Blend began offering its lender customers new configuration capabilities so that they could launch any consumer banking product “in days rather than months.”

Looking ahead, the company had said it expects its revenue growth rate “to decline in future periods.” It also doesn’t envision achieving profitability anytime soon as it continues to focus on growth. Blend also revealed that in 2020, its top five customers accounted for 34% of its revenue.

Today, TechCrunch spoke with co-founder and CEO Nima Ghamsari about the company’s decision to go with a traditional IPO versus the ubiquitous SPAC or even a direct listing.

For one, Blend said he wanted to show its customers that it is an “around for a long time company” by making sure there’s enough on its balance sheet to continue to grow.

“We had to talk and convince some of the biggest investors in the world to invest in us, and that speaks to how long we’ll be around to serve these customers,” he said. “So it was a combination of our capital need and wanting to cement ourselves as a really credible software provider to one of the most regulated industries.”

Ghamsari emphasized that Blend is a software company that powers the mortgage process, and is not the one offering the mortgages. As such, it works with the flock of fintechs that are working to provide mortgages.

“A lot of them are using Blend under the hood, as the infrastructure layer,” he said.

Overall, Ghamsari believes this is just the beginning for Blend.

“One of the things about financial services is that it’s still mostly powered by paper. And so a lot of Blend’s growth is just going deeper into this process that we got started in years ago,” he said. As mentioned above, the company started out with its mortgage product but just keeps adding to it. Today, it also powers other loans such as auto, personal and home equity.

“A lot of our growth is actually powered by our other lines of business,” Ghamsari told TechCrunch. “There’s a lot to build because the larger digitization trends are just getting started in financial services. It’s relatively large industry that has lots of change.”

In May, digital mortgage lender Better.com announced it would combine with a SPAC, taking itself public in the second half of 2021.

 

#better-com, #blend, #coatue, #companies, #credible, #exit, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #leader, #loans, #money, #new-york-stock-exchange, #saas, #san-francisco, #software, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #startups, #tiger-global-management

ZoomInfo drops $575M on Chrous.ai as AI shakes up the sales market

ZoomInfo announced this morning it intends to acquire conversational sales intelligence tool Chorus.AI for $575 million. Shares of ZoomInfo are unchanged in pre-market trading following the news, per Yahoo Finance data.

Sales intelligence, Chorus’s market, is a hot space that uses AI to “listen” to sales conversations to help improve interactions between salespeople and customers. ZoomInfo is mostly known for providing information about customers, so the acquisition expands the acquiring company’s platform in a significant way.

The company sees an opportunity to bring together different parts of the sales process in a single platform by “combining ZoomInfo’s historic top-of-the-funnel strength with insights driven from the middle of the funnel in the customer conversations that Chorus captures,” it said in a release.

“With Chorus, the entire organization can make better decisions by surfacing insights and analytics that you would only get if you sat in on every sales or customer success call,” ZoomInfo CEO and founder Henry Schuck said in a blog post announcing the deal.

Ahead of the transaction, ZoomInfo was valued at just under $21 billion.

Chorus looks for what it calls “smart themes” in sales calls, which help managers steer sales teams towards the types of conversation and tone that is likely to drive more revenue. In fact, Chorus holds the largest patent portfolio related to conversational intelligence, according to the company.

Chorus was founded in 2015 and raised over $100 million along the way, according to Pitchbook data. The most recent round was a $45 million Series C last year.

Crunchbase News reports that at the time of its Series C round of funding, Chorus had “doubled its headcount to more than 100 employees and tripled its revenue over the past year.” That’s the sort of growth that venture capitalists covet, making the company’s 2020 funding round a non-surprise.

Notably PitchBook data indicates that the company’s final private valuation was around the $150 million mark; if accurate, it would imply that the company’s last private round was expensive in dilution terms. And that its investors did well in the exit, quickly more than trebling the capital that was last invested, with investors who put capital in earlier doing even better.

But we’re slightly skeptical of the company’s available valuation history given the growth that it claimed at the time of its Series C; it feels low. If that’s the case, the company’s exit multiple would decrease, making its final sale price slightly less impressive.

Of course a half-billion dollar exit is always material, even if venture capitalists in today’s red-hot, and expensive market are more interested in $1 billion exits and larger.

Chorus.ai will likely not be the final exit in the conversational intelligence space. Its rival Gong (often known by its URL, Gong.io) is one of the hotter startups in this space, having raised over $500 million. Its most recent raise was $250 million on a $7.25 billion valuation last month.

The implication of the Chrous.ai exit and Gong’s enormous private valuation is that the application of AI to audio data in a sales environment is incredibly useful, given the number of customers the two companies’ aggregate valuation implies.

#artificial-intelligence, #chorus-ai, #conversational-intelligence, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #revenue-intelligence, #sales-tools, #startups, #tc, #zoominfo

TravelPerk buys UK-based Click Travel in latest pandemic purchase

Business trip booking platform TravelPerk has bagged another rival — picking up UK-based Click Travel. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed but we’re told it’s the third — and largest — acquisition for TravelPerk to date.

The Barcelona-based startup has been on a bit of a shopping spree since the pandemic crisis hit Europe last year, picking up risk management startup Albatross in summer 2020 to bolster resilience to COVID-19’s impacts, before going on to acquire US-based NexTravel in January to expand its presence in the US market.

The latest acquisition deepens TravelPerk’s UK and European business, adding Click Travel’s 2,000+ SME clients (which includes the likes of Five Guys, Red Bull and Talk Talk) to its customer base — which will total just over 5,000 post-acquisition.

The UK company handles some £300M in business travel for its client base, which will bolster TravelPerk’s revenues going forward. The latter now bills itself as the “leading” travel management platform for the SME market globally and the UK as a whole.

“We are a global travel management platform but our core markets are the US and Europe and we expect both markets to be our primary growth areas this year,” said CEO and co-founder Avi Meir. “At the current moment, the US is our largest market due to the covid restrictions in the EU & UK.”

“Assuming travel restrictions won’t be imposed again, we expect to grow by 200% in 2022 with strong growth in our core markets in the US & EU,” he added.

Click Travel, which is based in Birmingham, was founded all the way back in 1999 — and appears to have raised relatively little venture capital over the years, per Crunchbase. However, in 2018, the veteran player participated in the government-backed Future Fifty scale-up program — and also took in a “multi-million pound” investment from the UK-based Business Growth Fund.

Whether there will be any domestic hang-wringing over a high growth UK business being sold to a European rival remains to be seen.

In a statement on its sale to TravelPerk, CEO James McLean omitted to mention the pandemic’s impact on the travel sector — choosing instead to highlight what he couched as the pair’s shared “mission” to reduce the cost and complexity of business travel.

“Those shared objectives, combined with the natural cultural fit between our two companies, means we are incredibly excited to bring our teams together. Combining TravelPerk’s industry-leading knowledge, technology, experience and first class customer support with our own is a powerful proposition and we can’t wait to get started,” McLean added.

While Click Travel has focused on serving the UK market, TravelPerk has had a global focus from the start.

It has also attracted a large amount of external investment (totalling just under $300M) over its shorter run (founded in 2015).

Back in April, for example, it raised a $160M Series D round. It had also topped up its Series C round in July 2019 before the pandemic hit. So TravelPerk hasn’t been short of funds to ride out the COVID-19 revenue crunch — and as well as shopping for competitors it has also been able to avoid making any layoffs over the travel crisis. 

Per a press release, capital to fund the Click Travel acquisition was provided by Boston-based investment manager, The Baupost Group.

TravelPerk’s Meir remains bullish about the near-term prospects for growth in the business travel sector, despite ongoing concerns in Europe and the US about the more infectious ‘Delta’ variant of the virus which is contributing to surging rates of COVID-19 in some markets (including the UK) — claiming it’s already seeing green shoots of recovery in “key markets”.

“TravelPerk is outgrowing the market pace and is already at above 2019 revenue figures,” Meir told TechCrunch. “When it comes to the rest of the industry, the recovery of travel is well underway but moving at different speeds in different markets. For instance in the US, according to TSA Checkpoint figures, at the current rate of recovery the US travel market is expected to reach pre-pandemic volume at the end of August 2021.

“We anticipate the global market may take a little longer but are optimistic we will see close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.”

“We’re one of the few players in the travel industry that continued scaling and growing since the beginning of the pandemic with a strategy that didn’t involve any layoffs,” he also told us. “Since March last year, our strategy has been not to sit back but to be aggressive and invest massively in our product offering and in our global reach, so that we are in the best position possible to capitalise when travel makes its full recovery. Today’s news is a major part of that plan.

“We will aim to continue being aggressive in our growth strategy and we are open to more acquisitions if they make strategic sense and are aligned with our vision and culture.”

Per Meir, Click Travel and TravelPerk will initially continue to run as two independent platforms but he confirmed that an “eventual full integration” is planned — with both set to operate under the TravelPerk brand in time.

The startup also says it will retain all Click Travel’s staff — denying it has plans to axe any jobs. It also intends to hold onto the company’s Birmingham base — having the city as another UK hub for its business (in addition to its existing London office).

“The 150 amazing people working for Click Travel were a big reason why we wanted to acquire the company, and were priced into the deal,” said Meir. “We have no plans of redundancies. We rather aim to integrate the entire team into the TravelPerk Group.”

Asked if TravelPerk might consider expanding its focus to also target the enterprise segment, he noted that it’s seen interest from larger businesses — and said he’s “open” to the idea — but for now Meir said TravelPerk remains fully focused on the SME market: “where we think there is the biggest need, and the biggest growth potential”.

“That’s why this acquisition is so exciting for us; it makes us undoubtedly the leading travel management platform for SMEs globally,” he added.

Flexibility and sustainability

Discussing how the pandemic has changed business travel, Meir highlighted two “important trends” he said TravelPerk will continue to invest it: Namely flexibility for bookings; and sustainability so environmental impact can be reduced.

TravelPerk plans to invest more than $100M in two key products in these areas (aka: FlexiPerk and GreenPerk), per Meir.

“We’ve noticed on our platform that travellers are booking closer to their departure date: Before the pandemic, trip searches were usually conducted between 7 and 30 days prior to the selected departure date,” he said, elaborating on the importance of flexibility for the sector. “Now we are seeing most trip searches are for trips less than 6 days away. Flexibility is therefore one of the most in-demand perks in business travel. Travellers will rely on flexible fares to give them the peace of mind that they won’t lose money if they need to change or cancel a trip on short notice.”

On sustainability, Meir said businesses are already looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and general environmental impact, while consumers are also wanting to make conscientious decisions to reduce carbon emission — suggesting that train-based travel is set to gain ground (vs flights) as a result. (That might, ultimately, require some creative retooling of TravelPerk’s logo — which prominently features an airplane icon… )

“We expect to see significant interest in our carbon offsetting product, GreenPerk, as a result but we also expect to see changes in how people are choosing to travel,” he said.

“For instance, rail is undoubtedly the more environmentally-friendly travel option. In fact, taking a train over a domestic flight can reduce an individual’s carbon emissions by about 84%. We have been building out our rail inventory for a number of years now and we expect train travel to be an increasingly popular business travel option for customers this year and next.”

As for the changing mix of business-related travel in a pandemic-reconfigured world of remote work, Meir continues to argue that more businesses providing employees with remote working options will sum to more business travel overall.

“This might be bad news for the daily commute but it will result in more business travel,” he suggested. “Whether they are going fully remote and ‘working from anywhere’, or operating on a hybrid model, distributed teams will need (and want) to come together. We believe there will be a new type of business trip — one where team members will travel from different working hubs to get together for teambuilding and brainstorming sessions, for meetings with clients and colleagues, and even for ‘bleisure’ (business and leisure) trips.”

#avi-meir, #barcelona, #business-travel, #europe, #european-union, #exit, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #nextravel, #saas, #startups, #sustainability, #travel-industry, #travelperk, #united-kingdom

Robinhood is going public and we’re very excited

It’s a sweltering day here in New York City, and that means Wall Street is on fire, and so is Robinhood, apparently. The popular stock trading app officially filed its Form S-1 with the SEC a few hours ago to go public, where it will trade under the ticker “HOOD.”

The Equity crew has been yammering about Robinhood for years now, and we have been chomping on the bit to see those S-1 results for what feels like ages. Well, we finally got the numbers, we chomped that bit (or at least Alex and Danny did, since Natasha went on vacation about 15 minutes before the IPO hit the wires), and so here’s a special Equity Shot to talk about all the highlights.

We talked about so much in an itsy-bitsy 15-minute episode: crazy revenue growth, crazy revenue concentration from two major sources, regulatory hurdles that the company has been clearing up, better financials with a bit of nuance on the company’s Q1 finances, and the company’s special plan for its IPO.

Wowza.

Here’s what we got up to:

  • Historical growth and profitability.
  • Revenue mix and revenue concentration, along with constituent concerns.
  • The importance of options-related incomes for the company.
  • Dogecoin.
  • Why the company’s adjusted income may help it assuage investors who have their eyes pop out of their skulls when they see its GAAP Q1 2021 results.

And a lot more. Of course, if you hate Robinhood, we will be back with our normally-scheduled Friday episode of Equity tomorrow.

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

#crypto, #dogecoin, #equity-podcast, #exit, #finance, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #podcasts, #robinhood, #s-1, #sec, #startups

Zoom to acquire German startup to bring real-time translation to meetings

As companies expand worldwide, and meet online in tools like Zoom, the language barrier can be a real impediment to getting work done. Zoom announced that it intends to acquire German startup Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions or Kites for short, to bring real-time machine learning-based translation to the platform.

The companies did not share the terms of the deal, but with Kites, the company gets a team of top researchers, who can help enhance the machine learning translation knowledge at the company. “Kites’ talented team of 12 research scientists will help Zoom’s engineering team advance the field of [machine translation] to improve meeting productivity and efficiency by providing multi-language translation capabilities for Zoom users,” the company said in a statement.

The deal appears to be an acquihire as the company adds those 12 researchers to the Zoom engineering group. It intends to leave the team in place in Germany with plans to build a machine learning translation R&D center with additional hires over time as the company puts more resources into this area.

While the Kites website reveals little about it other than an address, the company About page on LinkedIn indicates that the startup was founded in 2015 by two researchers who taught at Carnegie Mellon and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology with the goal of building machine learning translation tooling.

“The Kites mission is to break down language barriers and make seamless cross language interaction a reality of everyday life,” the LinkedIn overview stated. It claims to be among a handful of companies, that include Google and Microsoft, to have developed “leading speech recognition and translation technologies,” which would suggest that Zoom has acquired some key technologies.

It does not appear the company had a commercial product, but the site does indicate that there is a machine learning translation platform that is in use in academia and government. Regardless, the fruits of the company’s research will now belong to Zoom.

#artificial-intelligence, #exit, #fundings-exits, #kites, #machine-learning, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc, #translation, #zoom

Uber to become the sole owner of grocery delivery startup Cornershop

Uber has reached a deal to become the sole owner of Latin American delivery startup Cornershop, just one year after acquiring a majority stake in the company. The ride-hailing giant said in a regulatory filing Monday that it will purchase the remaining 47% interest in Cornershop in exchange for 29 million shares. The transaction is expected to close in July.

Uber announced in 2019 plans to take a majority ownership in Cornershop. That transaction wasn’t completed until the third quarter of 2020 other than in Mexico, which closed in January 2021. This latest agreement, which was reached June 18 and reported Monday, will make Cornershop a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber. The deal is a logical next-step in the Uber-Cornershop relationship, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The deal suggests Uber’s bullishness in delivery hasn’t waned. With Cornershop as wholly owned subsidiary, Uber can beef up its grocery delivery options, a service made popular during the pandemic. The company started offering grocery delivery in select cities across Latin America, Canada and the U.S. last summer after it acquired Postmates in a deal valued at $2.65 billion. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement that the company’s grocery and new verticals business has exceeded a $3 billion annual bookings run rate for this year.

“That’s why we’re excited to deepen our commitment to the team at Cornershop and to support their vision as they scale globally,” he added. “Together, we will double down on the strategy of bringing same-day grocery delivery to the Uber platform worldwide.”

Cornershop, which is headquartered in Chile, was founded in 2015 by Oskar Hjertonsson, Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas. The company expanded its operations to eight countries up and down the Americas, including Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, the U.S. and Canada. The company raised $31.7 million over four rounds of funding from investors that include Accel and Jackson Square Ventures.

Uber wasn’t the only grocery service with its eyes on Cornershop; the startup was supposed to be acquired by Walmart in a $225 million deal, but it ultimately fell through after Mexican antitrust regulators blocked the deal from moving forward. It is unclear whether this deal will be subject to the same risks.

Uber faces stiff competition from grocery retailers themselves, many of whom offer delivery through partnering with startups like DoorDash or Favor Fleet.

TechCrunch has reached out to Cornershop for comment. We will update the story if they respond.

The story has been updated to include Uber’s comments.

#apps, #cornershop, #dara-khosrowshahi, #exit, #grocery-delivery, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #uber

#DealMonitor – Aitme sammelt 9 Millionen ein – Xilinx kauft Silexica – ImmoScout24 übernimmt wg-suche.de


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 15. Juni werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Aitme
+++ HV Capital, Vorwerk Ventures, Global Founders Capital (GFC) und La Famiglia sowie Business Angel Oliver Ringleben investieren 9 Millionen Dollar in das Robotik-Startup Aitme. Insgesamt flossen nun schon  rund 12,5 Millionen Dollar in den Kantinen-Roboter. “Das frisch gewonnene Kapital wird Aitme für die Produktweiterentwicklung und nationaler Expansion im deutschen Markt nutzen”, teilt das Startup mit. Das von Foodora-Gründer Emanuel Pallua und Julian Stoß, zuletzt myTaxi, gegründete Unternehmen bietet vollautomatisierte Küchen für Unternehmen an. 20 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten derzeit für Aitme. Mehr über Aitme

Dance
+++ Ein ganzer Schwung Angel- und Promi-Investoren investiert in Dance – darunter Chance the Rapper, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sujay Jaswa, Julian Hönig, Lea-Sophie Cramer, Maisie Williams, Suneil Setiya, Greg Skinner und will.i.am. “Dance ist stolz darauf mit Koryphäen aus verschiedenen Branchen, Ländern und mit verschiedenen Hintergründen zusammenzuarbeiten”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Hinter Dance verbirgt sich ein Subscription-Service für E-Bikes, der von Alexander Ljung und Eric Quidenus sowie Jimdo-Macher Christian Springub gegründet wurde. Und auch Planet A Ventures investiert nun offiziell in Dance – wie im März exklusiv im Insider-Podcast berichtetMehr über Dance

FinList
+++ Das Unternehmen Strategis, das sich um Vertriebs- und Verwaltungslösungen in der Immobilienwirtschaft kümmert, investiert in FinList. Das junge Unternehmen positioniert sich als “digitaler Atlas für gewerbliche Immobilienfinanzierung”. Das Team beschreibt das Konzept so: “Finanzierungssuchende aus Deutschland und Österreich können hier Informationen zu passenden europäischen Kreditgebern für Fremd- und Nachrangkapital erhalten”. Gegründet wurde das FinTech aus Hohen Neuendorf von Sandra Olschewski und Florian Hollm.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Silexica
+++ Das amerikanische Unternehmen Xilinx, im Segment adaptives Computing unterwegs, übernimmt das Kölner Startup Silexica. Das Unternehmen, das 2014 gegründet wurde, entwickelt SLX-Programmierungstechnologien, die Unternehmen dabei unterstützen, intelligente Produkte wie selbstfahrende Autos vom Konzept bis zur Implementierung zu begleiten. Investoren wie EQT Ventures, Merus Capital, Paua Ventures, DSA Invest und der Seed Fonds Aachen investierten in den vergangen Jahren rund 28 Millionen in Silexica. “Silexica’s SLX FPGA tool suite empowers developers with an unparalleled development experience building applications on FPGAs and Adaptive SoCs. This technology will become integrated with the Xilinx Vitis™ unified software platform to substantially reduce the learning curve for software developers building sophisticated applications on Xilinx technology”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Der Verkaufspreis ist nicht bekannt. Mehr über Silexica

wg-suche.de
+++ Der Immobilien-Marktplatz ImmoScout24 übernimmt WG-suche.de komplett – siehe Gründerzene. “Für die Übernahme dürfte  ein Millionenbetrag geflossen sein”, heißt es im Artikel. ImmoScout24 stieg bereits 2017 bei wg-suche.de ein. Das Unternehmen sicherte sich damals 25 % an der jungen Firma, die WG-Zimmer und möblierte Wohnungen vermittelt. Die Investitionssumme lag vor vier Jahren im niedrigen siebenstelligen Bereich. Der WG-Dienst wurde zudem schon früh von You Is Now, dem inzwischen eingestellten Inkubator-Programm von Scout24, unterstützt. wg-suche.de ging 2012 an den Start. Gegründet wurde die Plattform von Natascha Wegelin (Madame Moneypenny) und Carsten Wagner.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aitme, #aktuell, #berlin, #dance, #exit, #finlist, #fintech, #global-founders-capital, #hohen-neuendorf, #hv-capital, #immoscout24, #koln, #la-famiglia, #mobility, #planet-a-ventures, #roboter, #silexica, #strategis, #venture-capital, #vorwerk-ventures, #wg-suche-de, #xilinx

Network security startup ExtraHop skips and jumps to $900M exit

Last year, Seattle-based network security startup ExtraHop was riding high, quickly approaching $100 million in ARR and even making noises about a possible IPO in 2021. But there will be no IPO, at least for now, as the company announced this morning it has been acquired by a pair of private equity firms for $900 million.

The firms, Bain Capital Private Equity and Crosspoint Capital Partners, are buying a security solution that provides controls across a hybrid environment, something that could be useful as more companies find themselves in a position where they have some assets on-site and some in the cloud.

The company is part of the narrower Network Detection and Response (NDR) market. According to Jesse Rothstein, ExtraHop’s chief technology officer and co-founder, it’s a technology that is suited to today’s threat landscape, “I will say that ExtraHop’s north star has always really remained the same, and that has been around extracting intelligence from all of the network traffic in the wire data. This is where I think the network detection and response space is particularly well-suited to protecting against advanced threats,” he told TechCrunch.

The company uses analytics and machine learning to figure out if there are threats and where they are coming from, regardless of how customers are deploying infrastructure. Rothstein said he envisions a world where environments have become more distributed with less defined perimeters and more porous networks.

“So the ability to have this high quality detection and response capability utilizing next generation machine learning technology and behavioral analytics is so very important,” he said.

Max de Groen, managing partner at Bain, says his company was attracted to the NDR space, and saw ExtraHop as a key player. “As we looked at the NDR market, ExtraHop, which […] has spent 14 years building the product, really stood out as the best individual technology in the space,” de Groen told us.

Security remains a frothy market with lots of growth potential. We continue to see a mix of startups and established platform players jockeying for position, and private equity firms often try to establish a package of services. Last week, Symphony Technology Group bought FireEye’s product group for $1.2 billion, just a couple of months after snagging McAfee’s enterprise business for $4 billion as it tries to cobble together a comprehensive enterprise security solution.

#bain-capital, #cloud, #crosspoint-capital, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-enterprise-applications, #enterprise, #exit, #extrahop, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity, #seattle, #security, #startups

Snap acquires AR startup WaveOptics, which provides tech for Spectacles, for over $500M

Snap yesterday announced the latest iteration of its Spectacles augmented reality glasses, and today the company revealed a bit more news: it is also acquiring the startup that supplied the technology that helps power them. The Snapchat parent is snapping up WaveOptics, an AR startup that makes the waveguides and projectors used in AR glasses. These overlay virtual images on top of the views of the real world someone wearing the glasses can see, and Snap worked with WaveOptics to build its latest version of Spectacles.

The deal was first reported by The Verge, and a spokesperson for Snap directly confirmed the details to TechCrunch. Snap is paying over $500 million for the startup, in a cash-and-stock deal. The first half of that will be coming in the form of stock when the deal officially closes, and the remainder will be payable in cash or stock in two years.

This is a big leap for WaveOptics, which had raised around $65 million in funding from investors that included Bosch, Octopus Ventures and a host of individuals, from Stan Boland (veteran entrepreneur in the UK, most recently at FiveAI) and Ambarish Mitra (the co-founder of early AR startup Blippar). PitchBook estimates that its most recent valuation was only around $105 million.

WaveOptics was founded in Oxford, and it’s not clear where the team will be based after the deal is closed — we have asked.

We have been covering the company since its earliest days, when it displayed some very interesting, early, and ahead-of-its-time technology: waveguides based on hologram physics and photonic crystals. The important and key thing is that its tech drastically compresses size and load of the hardware needed to process and display images, meaning a much wider and more flexible range of form factors for AR hardware based on WaveOptics tech.

It’s not clear whether WaveOptics will continue to work with other parties post-deal, but it seems that one obvious advantage for Snap would be making the startup’s technology exclusive to itself.

Snap has been on something of an acquisition march in recent times — it’s made at least three other purchases of startups since January, including Fit Analytics for an AR-fuelled move into e-commerce, as well as Pixel8Earth and StreetCred for its mapping tools.

This deal, however, marks Snap’s biggest acquisition to date in terms of valuation. That is not only a mark of the premium price that foundational artificial intelligence tech continues to command — in addition to the team of scientists that built WaveOptics, it also has 12 filed and in-progress patents — but also Snap’s financial and, frankly, existential commitment to having a seat at the table when it comes not just to social apps that use AR, but hardware, and being at the centre of not just using the tech, but setting the pace and agenda for how and where that will play out.

That’s been a tenacious and not always rewarding place for it to be, but the company — which has long described itself as a “camera company” — has kept hardware in the mix as an essential component for its future strategy.

 

#ar, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #computer-vision, #europe, #exit, #glasses, #snap, #snapchat, #spectacles, #tc, #waveguides, #waveoptics

Netflify snags YC alum FeaturePeek to add design review capabilities

Netlify, the startup that’s bringing a micro services approach to building websites, announced today that it has acquired YC alum FeaturePeek. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

With FeaturePeek, the company gets a major upgrade in its design review capability. While Netlify has had a previewing capability called Deploy Previews in the platform since 2016, it lacked a good way for reviewers to discuss and comment on the design. The preview alone was useful as far as it goes, but having the ability to collaborate on the design remained a missing piece until today.

With FeaturePeek, the company can expand on Deploy Previews to not only preview the design, but also enable all the stakeholders in the design process to add their opinions, edits and changes as the design moves through the creation process instead of having to wait until the end or gather the comments in a separate document or communications channel.

As FeaturePeek co-founder Eric Silverman told me at the time of their seed funding last year, his product removed a lot of frustration when the web coders would get all their review comments at the last minute:

“Right now, there’s no dedicated place to give feedback on that new work until it hits their staging environment, and so we’ll spin up ad hoc deployment previews, either on commit or on pull requests and those fully running environments can be shared with the team. On top of that, we have our overlay where you can file bugs, you can annotate screenshots, record video or leave comments.”

Matt Biilmann, CEO and co-founder, Netlify says that when his company created Deploy Previews, it was in reaction to customers who were kloodging together their own solutions to the issue. They learned that even with their own preview feature, customers craved a communications capability.

In the classic build versus buy debate, the company began building its own, then it met the FeaturePeek team and decided to switch course. “We had a team working on a prototype when the founders of FeaturePeek, Eric and Jason, gave us a demo of their product. As the demo progressed, our jaws got increasingly closer to hitting the floor and we knew straight away that what we had just seen was miles away from both our internal prototypes and any of the other tools we had seen in the space,” Billman told TechCrunch.

He added, “It also quickly became apparent that fully building towards this vision as two different companies, without a deep end-to-end experience from initial Pull Request to a new feature release, would never really allow us to build what we were dreaming of, so we decided to join forces.”

The companies’ combined effort actually comes together today in a new release of Deploy Previews that includes the new FeaturePeek collaboration/commenting capabilities.

FeaturePeek was founded in 2019, went through Y Combinator Summer 2019 batch, and raised around $2 million. Netlify was founded in 2014 and has raised over $97 million, according to Crunchbase. Its last raise was a $53 million Series C in March 2020.

#enterprise, #exit, #featurepeek, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #netlify, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Unbounce snags Snazzy.ai to add automated copywriting to platform

Unbounce, a Vancouver startup best known for helping marketers create automated landing pages, added a new wrinkle this morning when it announced it has acquired Snazzy.ai, an early stage automated copywriting startup. The two companies did not share the terms.

Unbounce Chief Strategy Officer Tamara Grominsky says that her company focuses on helping customers convert their customers into sales, and with Snazzy, it gets some pretty nifty technology based on GPT-3 artificial intelligence technology.

“We’re focused right now on building conversion intelligence software that will allow marketers to work with machines to really unlock their true conversion potential, […] and we saw a huge opportunity with Snazzy to focus particularly on the content creation and copy creation space to hel