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

Glassdoor acquires Fishbowl, a semi-anonymous social network and job board, to square up to LinkedIn

While LinkedIn doubles down on creators to bring a more human, less manicured element to its networking platform for professionals, a company that has built a reputation for publishing primarily the more messy and human impressions of work life has made an acquisition that might help it compete better with LinkedIn.

Glassdoor, the platform that lets people post anonymous and candid feedback about the organizations they work for, has acquired Fishbowl — an app that gives users an anonymous option also to provide frank employee feedback, as well as join interest-based conversation groups to chat about work, and search for jobs. Glassdoor, which has 55 million users, is already integrating Fishbowl content into its main platform, although Fishbowl, with its 1 million users, will also continue for now to operate as a standalone app, too.

Christian Sutherland-Wong, the CEO of Glassdoor, said that he sees Fishbowl as the logical evolution of how Glassdoor is already being used. Similarly, since people are already seeking out feedback on prospective employers, it makes sense to bring recruitment and reviews closer together.

“We’ve always been about workplace transparency,” he said in an interview. “We expect in the future that jobseekers will use Glassdoor reviews, and also look to existing professionals in their fields to get answers from each other.” Fishbowl has seen a lot of traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, growing its user base threefold in the last year.

The acquisition is technically being made by Recruit Holdings, the Japanese employment listings and tech giant that acquired Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in 2018, and the companies are not disclosing any financial terms. San Francisco-based Fishbowl — founded in 2016 by Matt Sunbulli and Loren Appin — had raised less than $8 million, according to PitchBook data, from a pretty impressive set of investors, including Binary Capital, GGV, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Scott Belsky.

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn towers over the likes of Glassdoor in terms of size. It now has more than 774 million users, making it by far the biggest social media platform targeting professionals and their work-related content. But for many, even some of those who use it, the platform leaves something to be desired.

LinkedIn is a reliable go-to for putting out a profile of yourself, for the public, for those in your professional life, or for recruiters, to find. But what LinkedIn largely lacks are normal people talking about work in an honest way. To read about other’s often self-congratulatory professional developments, or to see motivational words on professional development from already hugely successful personalities, or to browse developments relative to your industry that probably have already seen elsewhere is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s anodyne. Sometimes people just want tea to be spilled.

That’s where something like Glassdoor comes into the picture: the format of making comments anonymous on there turns it into something of the anti-LinkedIn. It is caustic, perhaps sometimes bitter, talk about the workplace, balanced out with positive words seem to get periodically suspected of being seeded by the companies themselves. Motivational, inspirational and aspirational are generally not part of the Glassdoor lexicon; honest, illuminating, and sobering perhaps are.

Fishbowl will be used to augment this and give Glassdoor another set of tools now to see how it might build out its platform beyond workplace reviews. The idea is to target people who come to Glassdoor to read about what people think of a company, or to put in their own comments: they can now also jump into conversations with others; and if they are coming to complain about their employer, now they can also look for a new one!

In the meantime, it feels like the swing to more authenticity is also a result of the shift we’ve seen in the world of work.

Covid-19 mandated office closures and social distancing have meant that many professionals have been working at home for the majority of the last year and a half (and many continue to do so). That has changed how we “come to work”, with many of our traditional divides between work and non-work personas and time management blurring. That has had an inevitable impact on how we see ourselves at work, and what we seek to get out of that engagement. And it also has led many people to feel isolated and in need of more ways to connect with colleagues.

Glassdoor’s acquisition, it said, was in part to meet this demand. A Harris Poll commissioned by Glassdoor found that 48% of employees felt isolated from coworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic; 42% of employees felt their career stall due to the lack of in-person connection; and 45% of employees expect to work hybrid or full-time remotely going forward — all areas that Glassdoor believes can be addressed with better tools (like Fishbowl) for people to communicate.

Of course, it will remain to be seen whether Glassdoor can convert its visitors to use the new Fishbowl-powered tools, but if there really is a population of users out there looking for a new kind of LinkedIn — there certainly are enough who love to complain about it — then maybe this cold be one version of that.

#binary-capital, #ceo, #enterprise, #fishbowl, #glassdoor, #hiring, #labor, #lerer-hippeau-ventures, #linkedin, #ma, #microsoft, #recruit, #recruit-holdings, #san-francisco, #scott-belsky, #social-networks

Logistics startup Stord raises $90M in Kleiner Perkins-led round, becomes a unicorn and acquires another company

When Kleiner Perkins led Stord’s $12.4 million Series A in 2019, its founders were in their early 20s and so passionate about their startup that they each dropped out of their respective schools to focus on growing the business.

Fast-forward two years and Stord — an Atlanta-based company that has developed a cloud supply chain — is raising more capital in a round again led by Kleiner Perkins.

This time, Stord has raised $90 million in a Series D round of funding at a post-money valuation of $1.125 billion — more than double the $510 million that the company was valued at when raising $65 million in a Series C financing just six months ago.

In fact, today’s funding marks Stord’s third since early December of 2020, when it raised its Series B led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and brings the company’s total raised since its 2015 inception to $205 million.

Besides Kleiner Perkins, Lux Capital, D1 Capital, Palm Tree Crew, BOND, Dynamo Ventures, Founders Fund, Lineage Logistics and Susa Ventures also participated in the Series D financing. In addition, Michael Rubin, Fanatics founder and founder of GSI Commerce; Carlos Cashman, CEO of Thrasio; Max Mullen, co-founder of Instacart; and Will Gaybrick, CPO at Stripe, put money in the round.

Founders Sean Henry, 24, and Jacob Boudreau, 23, met while Henry was at Georgia Tech and Boudreau was in online classes at Arizona State (ASU) but running his own business, a software development firm, in Atlanta.

Over time, Stord has evolved into a cloud supply chain that can give companies a way to compete and grow with logistics, and provides an integrated platform “that’s available exactly when and where they need it,” Henry said. Stord combines physical logistics services such as freight, warehousing and fulfillment in that platform, which aims to provide “complete visibility, rapid optimization and elastic scale” for its users.

About two months ago, Stord announced the opening of its first fulfillment center, a 386,000-square-foot facility, in Atlanta, which features warehouse robotics and automation technologies. “It was the first time we were in a building ourselves running it end to end,” Henry said.

And today, the company is announcing it has acquired Connecticut-based Fulfillment Works, a 22-year-old company with direct-to-consumer (DTC) experience and warehouses in Nevada and in its home state.

With FulfillmentWorks, the company says it has increased its first-party warehouses, coupled with its network of over 400 warehouse partners and 15,000 carriers.

While Stord would not disclose the amount it paid for Fulfillment Works, Henry did share some of Stord’s impressive financial metrics. The company, he said, in 2020 delivered its third consecutive year of 300+% growth, and is on track to do so again in 2021. Stord also achieved more than $100 million in revenue in the first two quarters of 2021, according to Henry, and grew its headcount from 160 people last year to over 450 so far in 2021 (including about 150 Fulfillment Works employees). And since the fourth quarter is often when people do the most online shopping, Henry expects the three-month period to be Stord’s heaviest revenue quarter.

For some context, Stord’s new sales were up “7x” in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year. So far in the third quarter, sales are up almost 10x, according to Henry.

Put simply, Stord aims to give brands a way to compete with the likes of Amazon, which has set expectations of fast fulfillment and delivery. The company guarantees two-day shipping to anywhere in the country.

“The supply chain is the new competitive battleground,” Henry said. “Today’s buying expectations set by Amazon and the rise of the omni-channel shopper have placed immense pressure on companies to maintain more nimble and efficient supply chains… We want every company to have world-class, Prime-like supply chains.”

What makes Stord unique, according to Henry, is the fact that it has built what it believes to be the only end-to-end logistics network that combines the physical infrastructure with software.

That too is one of the reasons that Kleiner Perkins doubled down on its investment in the company.

Ilya Fushman, Stord board director and partner at Kleiner Perkins, said even at the time of his firm’s investment in 2019, that Henry displayed “amazing maturity and vision.”

At a high level, the firm was also just drawn to what he described as the “incredibly large market opportunity.”

“It’s trillions of dollars of products moving around with consumer expectation that these products will get to them the same day or next day, wherever they are,” Fushman told TechCrunch. “And while companies like Amazon have built amazing infrastructure to do that themselves, the rest of the world hasn’t really caught up… So there’s just amazing opportunity to build software and services to modernize this multitrillion-dollar market.”

In other words, Fushman explained, Stord is serving as a “plug and play” or “one stop shop” for retailers and merchants so they don’t have to spend resources on their own warehouses or building their own logistics platforms.

Stord launched the software part of its business in January 2020, and it grew 900% during the year, and is today one of the fastest-growing parts of its business.

“We built software to run our logistics and network of hundreds of warehouses,” Henry told TechCrunch. “But if companies want to use the same system for existing logistics, they can buy our software to get that kind of visibility.”

#atlanta, #cloud, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ilya-fushman, #kleiner-perkins, #logistics, #ma, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #stord, #supply-chain, #venture-capital

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

SpotOn raises $300M at a $3.15B valuation and acquires Appetize

Last year at this time, SpotOn was on the brink of announcing a $60 million Series C funding round at a $625 million valuation.

Fast forward to almost exactly one year later, and a lot has changed for the payments and software startup.

Today, SpotOn said it has closed on $300 million in Series E financing that values the company at $3.15 billion — more than 5x of its valuation at the time of its Series C round, and significantly higher than its $1.875 billion valuation in May (yes, just three and a half months ago) when it raised $125 million in a Series D funding event.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led both the Series D and E rounds for the company, which says it has seen 100% growth year over year and a tripling in revenue over the past 18 months. Existing investors DST Global, 01 Advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group, Franklin Templeton and Mubadala Investment Company too doubled down on their investments in SpotOn, joining new backers Wellington Management and Coatue Management. Advisors Douglas Merritt, CEO of Splunk, and Mike Scarpelli, CFO of Snowflake, also made individual investments as angels. With the new capital, SpotOn has raised $628 million since its inception.

The latest investment is being used to finance the acquisition of another company in the space — Appetize, a digital and mobile commerce payments platform for enterprises such as sports and entertainment venues, theme parks and zoos. SpotOn is paying $415 million in cash and stock for the Los Angeles-based company.

Since its 2017 inception, SpotOn has been focused on providing software and payments technology to SMBs with an emphasis on restaurants and retail businesses. The acquisition of Appetize extends SpotOn’s reach to the enterprise space in a major way. Appetize will go to market as SpotOn and will work to grow its client base, which already includes an impressive list of companies and organizations including Live Nation, LSU, Dodger Stadium and Urban Air. 

In fact, Appetize currently covers 65% of all major league sports stadiums, specializing in contactless payments, mobile ordering and menu management. So for example, when you’re ordering food at a game or concert, Appetize’s technology makes it easier to pay in a variety of contactless ways through point of sale (POS) devices, self-service kiosks, handheld devices, online ordering, mobile web and API integrations.

Image Credits: SpotOn

SpotOn is taking on the likes of Square in the payments space. But the company says its offering extends beyond traditional payment processing and point-of-sale software. Its platform aims to give SMBs the ability to run their businesses “from building a brand to taking payments and everything in between.” SpotOn’s goal is to be a “one-stop shop” by incorporating tools that include things such as custom website development, scheduling software, marketing, appointment scheduling, review management, analytics and digital loyalty.

The combined company will have 1,600 employees — 1,300 from SpotOn and 300 from Appetize. SpotOn will now have over 500 employees on its product and technology team, according to co-founder and co-CEO Zach Hyman. It will also have clients in the tens of thousands, a number that SpotOn says is growing by “thousands more every month.”

The acquisition is not the first for SpotOn, which also acquired SeatNinja earlier this year.

But in Appetize it saw a company that was complementary both in its go-to-market and tech stacks, and a “natural fit.”

SMEs are going to benefit from the scalable tech that can go with them, including things like kiosks and offline modes, and for the enterprise clients of Appetize, they’re going to be able to leverage products like sophisticated loyalty programs and extended marketing capabilities,” Hyman told TechCrunch. 

SpotOn was not necessarily planning to raise another round so soon, Hyman added, but the opportunity came up to acquire Appetize.

“We spent a lot of time together, and it was too compelling to pass up,” he told TechCrunch.

For its part, Appetize — which has raised over $77 million over its lifetime, according to Crunchbase — too saw the combination as a logical one.

“It was important to us to retain a stake in the business. We were not looking to cash out,” said Appetize CEO Max Roper. “We are deeply invested in growing the business together. It’s a big win for our team and our clients over the long term. This is a rocketship that we are excited to be on.” 

No doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic only emphasized the need for more digital offerings from small businesses to enterprises alike.

“There has been a high demand for our services and now as businesses are faced with a Covid resurgence, no one is closing down,” Hyman said. “So they see a responsibility to install the necessary technology to properly run their business.”

One of the moves SpotOn has made, for example, is launching a vaccination alert system in its reservation management software platform to make it easier for consumers to confirm they are vaccinated for cities and states that have those requirements.

Clearly, a16z General Partner David George too was bullish on the idea of a combined company.

He told TechCrunch that the two companies fit together “extremely nicely.”

“It felt like a no-brainer for us to want to lead the round, and continue to support them,” George said.

Since first investing in SpotOn in May, the startup’s growth has “exceeded” a16z’s expectations, he added.

“When companies are growing as fast as it is organically, they don’t need to rely on acquisitions to fuel growth,” he said. “But the strategic rationale here is so strong, that the acquisition will only turbocharge what is already high growth.”

While the Series E capital is primarily funding the acquisition, SpotOn continues to double down on its product and technology.

“This is our time to shine and invest in the future with forward thinking technology,” Hyman told TechCrunch. “We’re thinking about things like how are consumers going to be ordering their beer at a Dodgers game in three years? Are they going to be standing in line for 25 minutes or are they going to be interacting and buying merchandise in other unique ways? Those are the things we’re looking to solve for.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #appetize, #david-george, #dragoneer-investment-group, #dst-global, #finance, #fintech, #franklin-templeton, #funding, #fundings-exits, #instagram, #los-angeles, #ma, #mobile-web, #mubadala-investment-company, #online-payments, #payment-processing, #payments, #recent-funding, #saas, #san-francisco, #splunk, #spoton, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Microsoft acquires TakeLessons, an online and in-person tutoring platform, to ramp up its edtech play

Microsoft said in January this year that Teams, its online collaboration platform, was being used by over 100 million students — boosted in no small part by the Covid-19 pandemic and many schools going partly or fully remote. Now, it’s made another acquisition to continue expanding its position in the education market.

The company has acquired TakeLessons, a platform for students to connect with individual tutors in areas like music lessons, language learning, academic subjects and professional training or hobbies, and for tutors to book and organize the lessons they give, both online and in person.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but we are trying to find out. San Diego-based TakeLessons had raised at least $20 million from a range of VCs and individuals that included LightBank, Uncork Capital, Crosslink Capital and others. TakeLessons posted a short note in the form of a Q&A confirming the deal on its site. The note said that it will continue operating business as usual for the time being, with the intention of taking its platform to a wider global audience.

It’s not clear how many active students and tutors TakeLessons had on its platform at the time of acquisition, but for some context, another big player in the area of online one-to-one tutoring, GoStudent out of Europe, raised $244 million in funding earlier this year that valued it at $1.7 billion. Others in online tutoring like Brainly are also seeing valuations in the hundreds of millions.

Given the relatively modest amount raised by TakeLessons, it’s likely this was a much lower valuation. Yet the acquisition is still one that gives Microsoft the infrastructure and beginnings of setting up a much more aggressive play in mass-market online education, potentially to go head-to-head with these and other big platforms.

TakeLessons today offers instruction in a wide variety of areas, including music lessons (which was where it had gotten its start) through to languages, academic subjects and test prep, computer skills, crafts and more. It has been around since 2006 and got its start first as a platform for people to connect with tutors local to them for in-person lessons, before progressing into online lessons to complement that business.

The pandemic has precipitated a shift to a much bigger wave of the latter, with online tutoring apparently the majority of what is offered on TakeLessons platform today. These lessons continue to be offered on a one-on-one basis, but additionally students can take part in group lessons online via the startup’s Live platform.

The shift to online education that we’ve seen take hold around the world is likely why Microsoft sees a big opportunity here.

On the heels of many schools around the world scrambling for better online learning platforms to manage remote learning during lockdowns and quarantines, educators, families and students have been using (and paying for) a variety of different tools. Within that, Microsoft has been pushing hard to make Teams a leader in that area.

That was built on years of traction already in the market (and a number of other investments and acquisitions that Microsoft has made over the years).

But it also comes amid a new insurgence of competition arising from the current state of affairs. That includes adoption of Google Classroom, as well as a wide variety of more targeted point solutions for specific purposes like video lessons (Zoom figures big here); apps for lesson planning and homework planning; online on-demand tutorials in specific areas like math or languages or science to bolster in-class learning experiences; and more.

The Microsoft way is to bring as many features into a platform as possible to make it more sticky and less likely that users will turn to other apps, providing more value for money around the Microsoft offer. In other words, I’d expect to see Microsoft do more deals and launch more features to cover all of the services that it doesn’t already provide through its educational tools.

(Case in point: my children’s school uses Teams for online lessons, in part because it already uses Outlook for its email system. Now, the school has announced that it will no longer be using a different third-party app for homework planning; instead, teachers will be assigning homework and managing it via Teams. For a cash-strapped state school like ours, it makes sense that it would opt out of paying for two apps when it can get the same features in just one of them. The kids are not happy about this! This is what Microsoft leverages with its platform play.)

NextLessons is somewhat adjacent to that school-focused education strategy. Yes, there will be a big audience of students and their families who might represent a good cross-selling opportunity for tutoring, but NextLessons represents also a more mass-market offering, open to anyone who might want to learn something, not just those already using Microsoft Education products.

So the interest here is likely not just students who want to supplement their online learning — there is a big audience for online tutoring — but any lifelong learner, as well as the many consumers or professionals out there who have gotten interested in learning something new, especially in the last 1.5 years of spending more time alone and/or at home.

And with that, there are other potential opportunities for NextLessons in the Microsoft universe.

Just yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Ryan Roslansky, the CEO of Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, held an online presentation about what work will look like in the future. Education — specifically professional development — figured strongly in that discussion, with the conversation coinciding with LinkedIn launching a new Learning Hub.

LinkedIn has not only been working for years on building out its education business, but it has also long been looking for a more sticky inroad into doing more with video on its platform.

Something like NextLessons could, interestingly, kill those two birds with one stone. While LinkedIn’s education content up to now has not been something specifically tied to “live” online lessons, you could imagine a bridge between Microsoft’s latest acquisition and what LinkedIn might consider next, too.

#articles, #ceo, #crosslink-capital, #e-learning, #education, #europe, #google, #leader, #learning, #lightbank, #linkedin, #ma, #microsoft, #online-education, #online-learning, #online-tutoring, #ryan-roslansky, #san-diego, #satya-nadella, #takelessons, #teaching, #tutoring, #uncork-capital

Quicken, one of the ‘first fintechs,’ is being sold again

Five and a half years after being acquired by a private equity firm, personal finance software company Quicken is announcing that it is being acquired by another private equity firm.

In April 2016, an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital acquired Quicken from Intuit Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Today, Menlo Park, California-based Quicken is announcing that Aquiline Capital Partners will be acquiring a majority stake in the company — also for an undisclosed amount.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Quicken CEO Eric Dunn did share some other details about Quicken’s performance since that last transaction, as well as its plans for the future. Dunn has a history with the company, so can speak pretty comfortably about where it’s been, and where it’s going.

While he took over as CEO of Quicken in 2016, he first joined previous parent company Intuit as employee No. 4 in 1986 when Quicken was its only software product. During his tenure at Intuit, he served as the CFO through the 1993 IPO and merger with ChipSoft (now known as TurboTax). While he was CFO, Dunn was also a software developer who worked on almost all of the early versions of Quicken, and was the first VP/general manager of the business.

Since the H.I.G. buy, it appears that Quicken has grown quite a lot. It currently has 2 million active users, which Dunn said is “significantly higher” than what it had at the time of its spinoff from Intuit. The executive declined to reveal hard revenue figures but he did share that the company is profitable and has seen a 50% increase in annual sales volume over the five-year period, (or double-digit growth if you annualize it).

“We’re strongly profitable and have been consistently profitable since the time of the spinoff. We’re a very successful company, revenue-wise — far above what it ever was in the Intuit years,” he told TechCrunch. “More importantly, we’re a successful business that has succeeded in modernizing and improving quality for our customers.”

For example, according to Dunn, Quicken has seen an NPS gain of 25 points over a five-year period. (NPS stands for Net Promoter Score, a customer loyalty and satisfaction measurement).

H.I.G., Dunn added, invested alongside the Quicken management team to improve product quality, bring Quicken to a cloud platform and launch a digitally native product in its personal finance app, Simplifi.

Image Credits: Quicken

“H.I.G. is not a growth-oriented expansion firm. They felt their work was done, and they did what they had set out to do,” Dunn said, “which is to carve out an asset with a lot of potential from a parent company which had neglected it.”

Justin Reyna, managing director  at H.I.G. Capital, said the results of its investment in Quicken have been “outstanding.”

In recent years, the number of financial technology companies (and potential competitors to Quicken) has exploded. But, Dunn maintains, Quicken in fact was “the first fintech.”

“It was one of the founding fintechs, the only software product at Intuit when it launched in 1983,” he told TechCrunch. “It started with the idea of automating personal finances to customers as a software tool living only on desktops.”

Moving forward, Dunn said Quicken plans to explore partnering with fintechs as it continues to evolve its model. It’s not ruling out acquisitions, but it’s also not an area of emphasis.

No layoffs are planned with the new ownership. In fact, Dunn expects the company will only continue to hire and add to its 150-person staff (not including 250 contracted “customer care agents).

He said the company will simply focus on continuing the modernization of its Quicken product and bringing more functionality to its web and mobile offerings.

“We’ll also continue to add to our Simplifi product, which is only about 18 months into its life,” he said. “It has a great feature set but there’s lots more we need to do.”

It will also focus on integrated financial services, such as allowing for money movement from account to account in the product as opposed to going to an external site.

Aquiline is a New York- and London-based private investment firm with $6.9 billion in assets under management. Its president, Vincenzo La Ruffa, says he is a Quicken user himself.

“Quicken is trusted by millions of customers, who rely on it to lead healthy financial lives,” he said in a written statement. “As a longtime Quicken user myself, I’ve seen firsthand the work Eric and the team at Quicken have put into building a compelling suite of products and services. I am confident in the growth trajectory ahead as we work with the company to expand the range of innovative solutions it offers in the personal financial management space.”

There has been a flurry of interest in fintechs focused on personal finance as of late. For example, in June, personal finance startup Truebill raised a $45 million Series D funding round led by Accel.

#apps, #aquiline-capital-partners, #finance, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #ma, #personal-finance, #quicken

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

PayPal acquires Japan’s Paidy for $2.7B to crack the buy-now, pay-later market in Asia  

PayPal Holdings, the U.S. fintech company, announced an acquisition of Paidy, a Japanese buy now, pay later (BNPL) service platform, for approximately $2.7 billion (300 billion yen), mostly in cash, to enhance its business in Japan.

The transaction completion including the regulatory approval is expected in the fourth quarter of 2021.

After the acquisition, the Japan-based company will continue to operate its existing business and maintain the brand while the leaders, Paidy’s president and CEO Riku Sugie and founder and executive chairman of Paidy Russel Cummer, keep their positions.

Japan is the third largest e-commerce market in the world, and so this is a significant move by PayPal to gain more market share both in the country and the region, specifically in the area of providing deferred payment services as an alternative to credit cards.

PayPal has long played nice with payment cards – users can upload details of their cards to PayPal and use it as a kind of digital wallet to manage how they pay for things online through it – but it got its start actually as a payment platform in itself, where people could pay into and out of PayPal accounts. Paidy is, in that sense, a strengthening of PayPal’s first-party rails, providing a way to ‘own’ that flow of money on its own infrastructure, not involving the card networks.

Paidy is basically a two-sided payments service, acting as a middleman between consumers and merchants in Japan. Using machine learning it determines the creditworthiness of a consumer related to a particular purchase, and then it underwrites those transactions in seconds, guaranteeing payments to merchants. Consumers then make deferred payment to Paidy for those goods.

Paidy’s platform, which offers a monthly payment installment service branded ‘3-Pay’, enables shoppers to make purchases online and then pay for them each month in a consolidated bill at a convenience store or via bank transfer.

“Paidy pioneered buy now, pay later solutions tailored to the Japanese market and quickly grew to become the leading service, developing a sizable two-sided platform of consumers and merchants,” said Peter Kenevan, vice president, head of Japan at Paypal.

Paidy has more than 6 million registered users, and the plan is to integrate PayPal and other digital and QR wallets with Paidy Link to connect further online and offline merchants.

In April 2021, the Japan-based company launched Paidy Link, allowing users to link digital wallets with their Payidy account. PayPal was the first digital wallet partner to integrate with Paidy Link.

“PayPal was a founding partner for Paidy Link and we look forward to looking together to create even more value,” Sugie said in a statement.

“Japan has been a vibrant environment for our growth to date and we’re honored to have our team’s hard work and potential recognized by a global leader. Together with Paypal, we will be able to further achieve our mission of taking the hassle out of shopping,” Cummer said.

#asia, #buy-now-pay-later, #fintech, #japan, #ma, #mobile, #paidy, #payments, #paypal, #startups, #tc

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

H2O Hospitality secures $30M Series C to expedite hotel digital transformation

The pandemic has triggered more demand for contactless and staff-less operations in the hospitality sector, and now H2O Hospitality, the unmanned hotel management company, has closed a $30 million round on the back of that boost. The South Korea and Japan-based startup automates front and backend processes including accommodation reservation, room management and front desk duties, and it will be using the funds to continue expanding its business.

The Series C round (equivalent to about 34 billion won) is being led by Kakao Investment and Korea Development Bank (KDB), Gorilla Private Equity, Intervest and NICE Investment also participated. With Southeast Asia’s joint fund, Kejora-Intervest Growth Fund also joined in the round, it is a sign that H2O Hospitality will be focusing specifically on the Southeast Asian Market. H2O Hospitality has raised $7 million Series B round from Samsung Ventures, Stonebridge Ventures, IMM Investment and Shinhan Capital in February 2020.

H2O Hospitality will expand its business further by adding various types of accommodations in South Korea and Japan in 2021 and 2022 and plans to enter Singapore and Indonesia in 4Q in 2022 in line with its Southeast Asia penetration strategy, according to H2O Hospitality co-founder and CEO John Lee.

“H2O Hospitality is currently speaking with several global hotel chain companies to partner with their digital transformation and operation outside of Korea and Japan,” Lee told TechCrunch.

H2O will invest in R&D to advance its customer channel solutions and contactless check-in systems depending on customer needs of each country in Asia, Lee continued.

“We need optimal system development and customization for each accommodation and situation to lead successful hotel digital transformation even after COVID-19,” Lee said in an email interview.

H2O Hospitality was founded in South Korea 2015 by CEO John Lee, and it has been on something of an acquisition-expansion spree. It entered Japan in 2017, for example, by acquiring several Japanese hospitality management companies. In 2021, H2O acquired two South Korean companies such as the contactless hotel solution company, ImGATE, and a local creator startup, Replace, in order to enhance its technology and ESG competence.

These days, the company operates approximately 7,500 accommodations including hotels, ryokans and guest houses, in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, and Bangkok.

 

H2O Hospitality’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-based hotel management system, which enables hotel management to automate and digitize, includes the Channel Management System (CMS), Property Management System (PMS), Room Management System (RMS), and Facility Management System (FMS).

Its integrated hotel management system can reduce hotel management’s fixed operating costs by 50%, while increasing revenue by as much as 20%, according to its statement.

“COVID-19 hit the hospitality industry the most and most of the hotels wanted to decrease their fixed cost level, but it was impossible with their current operational flow,” Lee continued, “They had to go through digital transformation”.

When asked how the pandemic affected H2O as COVID-19 still freezes most of the tourism industry, Lee said H2O’s revenue has been increased by as much as 30% before the pandemic, but that percentage has been dropped to 5-15% post COVID-19. Revenue drivers these days are based around tools it’s built to improve the efficiency of its customers. They include its automated dynamic pricing (ADR) tool and diverse sales channels like online and offline travel agencies in domestic and overseas, he said.

Lee also pointed out that H2O has been onboarding a lot of properties and that has also contributed to H2O’s revenue growth in the last 18 months. H2O was the only company in Asia, he claims, and many property owners have started to get onboard since August 2020, he explained.

“Every single hotel that we onboarded during the pandemic turned around their profits & losses statements and started to recover their financial loss,” Lee said.

There are currently about 16.4 million hotel rooms in the world that generate $570 billion a year, according to Lee. H2O believes that it can digitize all the lodging accommodations in the world as the company’s main goal is not building a hotel brand but allowing hotel owners to operate their properties with better operation, he said.

Lee explained that the current hotel operation process looks a lot like that of “2G phones”, that was at a stage before turning to smartphones, and H2O is turning the overall hotel operation into a “smartphone”.

“This is a very natural transition for the (hospitality) industry as it was also natural for the cellphone users to transit from 2G phone to smartphone,” Lee said.

Unfortunately, the cross-border inbound tourism market has still been stopped for both Korea and Japan even though each domestic market is still pumping demand for the market, Lee mentioned.

“We believe the inbound tourism market will recover within a year as the vaccinations grow for both countries (Korea and Japan),” Lee said.

Managing Director at Kejora-Intervest Growth Fund Jun-seok Kang told TechCrunch: “We knew this new wave for hotel digital transformation trend was coming even before the pandemic; however, COVID-19 definitely expedited the transition period, and we believe H2O will thrive in the transforming hotel market.”

#asia, #digital-transformation, #funding, #japan, #ma, #south-korea, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

Nigeria’s Autochek acquires Cheki Kenya and Uganda from ROAM Africa

Nigerian automotive tech company Autochek today is announcing the acquisition of Cheki Kenya and Uganda from Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM) for an undisclosed amount.

Per a statement, Autochek will finalize the deal in the coming weeks. With the acquisition, Autochek completes its expansion into East Africa and follows the first acquisition made almost a year ago when it acquired both Nigeria and Ghana businesses from Cheki.

In 2010, Cheki launched as an online car classified for dealers, importers, and private sellers in Nigeria. The startup, headquartered in Lagos, expanded operations to Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Cheki got acquired by ROAM in 2017 and joined a list of online marketplaces and classifieds in its network like Jobberman.

Per ROAM’s website, Cheki still has operations in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. However, these markets are quite inactive so it is safe to say Autochek has fully acquired all of Cheki’s main operations.

Cheki Kenya is an exciting market for both parties. The subsidiary has 700,000 users and lists over 12,000 vehicles monthly. It also claims to have grown 80% year-on-year in the last two years, making it a valuable asset for Autochek’s plan for regional expansion.  

“Cheki Kenya has always been sort of the crown jewel,” Autochek CEO Etop Ikpe said to TechCrunch. “At the time, when we completed the Nigeria and Ghana acquisition, it wasn’t a conscious effort to make this happen, but it’s great that it happened.”

Credit penetration in terms of vehicle financing is higher in Kenya than in Nigeria and Ghana. The East African country has a 27.5% penetration compared to the whole West African market at 5%. Therefore, it explains why Autochek is optimistic about the East African market. Before making the acquisition, the one-year-old company ran a stealthy pilot with some banks in Kenya — a similar strategy used in Ghana and Nigeria — to provide car owners with financing. So, the acquisition cements the company’s position in the market, Ikpe says. 

The sale of Cheki operations in all of its major markets, which happened within a year, might lead some to ask if the four entities did poorly and forced the classifieds giant to find a suitable buyer quickly.

But CEO Ikpe refuted any claims of a distress sale when asked. He stated that the acquisition happened in quick succession because both parties understood that the classifieds model (run by Cheki) needed to make way for the more modern transactional model (employed by Autochek and leading automotive players in Africa). Therefore, ROAM Africa saw it as a needed transition for Cheki.

Building off Ikpe’s past relationship with Ringier (one arm of ROAM before the merger), where he ran DealDey, a classifieds deal company Ringier eventually bought, it wasn’t a tough decision to sell the company to Autochek, Ikpe tells TechCrunch.

I think for them it’s really long term strategy and they believe in our business model. And there’s a lot of hope that we can do things in the future. It was also really about finding the right home for the business and their employees.”

From a statement, ROAM CEO Clemens Weitz said, “Across the world, we see a new evolution of digital automotive platforms, requiring deep specialization. Specifically in Africa, we believe that Autochek is the one player with the best team and expertise to truly create a game-changing consumer experience. For ROAM Africa, this deal is more than a very good transaction: It unleashes even more focus on our strategic playbook for our other businesses.”  

Autochek’s expansion to East Africa is coming at a time when automotive tech companies like Moove, Planet42, and FlexClub are receiving attention from investors as the need for flexible vehicle financing keeps growing across the continent.

The most important car financing market on the continent is arguably South Africa. Other automotive companies have some form of presence in the market and for Autochek, the plan is to expand there too, and understandably why.

South Africa is the crème de la crème market and has the highest car financing penetration on the continent. Yet despite the seeming competition, Ikpe believes opportunities exist for the company to provide services tailored to the market different from what other companies have.

“The beauty of our platform is that we can be diverse; for instance, we can have a retail or B2B approach. There’s a lot of dynamic ways we can work. So I think it’s natural that our goal is to typically be in every region. We’ve made our inroads into East and West, and we’ll continue to work as we want to be in North and South Africa,” he said.

Autochek says a funding round is in the works to execute on this front and might close before the end of the year.

#africa, #autochek, #automotive, #east-africa, #etop-ikpe, #kenya, #ma, #ringier, #tc, #uganda

Zip acquisition of Payflex means Africa is ripe for BNPL disruption

Australian buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Zip this week acquired South Africa-based BNPL player Payflex for an undisclosed amount.

It’s a piece of news that once again highlights the hype around BNPL services and the quest for global dominance among the leading players.

This year we have covered BNPL services from the likes of Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm. And tech and payments giants Apple, Square, PayPal and Visa have joined in the action, too, massively funneling cash to their respective BNPL initiatives (for one, Square acquired Afterpay).

Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. are key markets for BNPL services. The U.S. market is so big that the number of BNPL service users is expected to hit 45 million by year’s end, representing an 81% growth from last year. But despite its Western focus, BNPL is exploding in other markets driven by a collective effort from local and global players.

For instance, in the Middle East, companies like tabby and Tamara have raised millions in debt and equity financing to provide BNPL services. Also, Checkout is a significant shareholder in Tamara; Afterpay is one in PostPay, while Zip acquired Spotii for $26 million after initially investing in the company in December 2020.

Spotii isn’t the only acquisition Zip has made this past year. The Australian company also bought U.S.-based QuadPay and Twisto, a BNPL service in the Czech Republic, to expand footprints in both regions.

Payflex is the latest addition to that list. The company, founded in 2017, claims to be the first and largest BNPL player in South Africa with more than 1,000 merchants and 135,000 customers. Before fully acquiring Payflex, Zip had a 25% stake when it invested in the South African BNPL service six months ago.

Zip’s entry to Africa is important for several reasons. First, the continent is a largely untapped market that has enormous growth potential.

Credit appetite on the continent is very much in its infancy compared to Western markets, but it is growing rapidly. These days, people take loans to finance their needs at ridiculous interest rates while lending companies report low NPL ratios. Think of what happens when these consumers get a taste of low or no-interest alternative financing options that BNPL players like Zip provide: adoption rates will be off the charts.

Second, there’s a lack of infrastructure and BNPL innovation that only new entrants like Zip can execute because it has a large monetary chest.

And with the absence of credit cards and data on the continent, Zip can provide a competitive advantage with its technology, gather alternative data and build creditworthiness for customers in South Africa and other markets it plans to expand “with sizable underbanked, digitally savvy populations.”

Two of those markets are Egypt and Nigeria. If Zip expands to these regions, it will face competition from local players like Carbon, Shahry, M-Kopa, CredPal and CDCare, which are already pulling their weight. African e-commerce giant Jumia is also rumored to be revamping its BNPL service; it started one years ago but was discontinued after gaining little traction.

That said, Africa doesn’t have a concrete market leader yet since most of these products are yet to reach mass scale. On the other hand, Zip has been quite aggressive with its expansion into other markets — evident in some of its numbers.

The company currently serves 51,000 merchants and 7.3 million customers across 12 markets. This fiscal year, June 2021, a period when most of its acquisitions have occurred, Zip hit $5.8 billion in total transaction volume, up 176% year-over-year (YoY).

Zip numbers are impressive, but if there’s anything we’ve learnt from the BNPL business it’s that it isn’t a winner-takes-all market. If Zip makes significant headway and cracks the market, expect more global BNPL players to bring the heat. Also, local players will be encouraged to step up their game because global players have surplus cash to burn if they move into Africa, which is a win-win for the market.

#africa, #bnpl, #carbon-zero, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #klarna, #ma, #payments, #tc, #zip

Apollo completes its $5B acquisition of Verizon Media, now known as Yahoo

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management this morning announced that it has completed its acquisition of Yahoo (formerly known as Verizon Media Group, itself formerly known as Oath) from Verizon. The deal is worth $5 billion, with $4.25 billion in cash, plus preferred interests of $750 million. Verizon will be retaining 10% of the newly rebranded company.

“This is a new era for Yahoo,” Yahoo CEO (and former VZM head) Guru Gowrappan said in a release tied to the news. “The close of the deal heralds an exciting time of renewed opportunity for us as a standalone entity. We anticipate that the coming months and years will bring fresh growth and innovation for Yahoo as a business and a brand, and we look forward to creating that future with our new partners.”

There have been reports that Gowrappan might not stay on as CEO of Yahoo for the long term now that the deal has closed; for now he’s still at the helm.

In addition to its titular Yahoo properties (Mail, Sports, Finance, et al.), the group includes us, TechCrunch; AOL; Engadget and interactive media brand, RYOT. All told, the umbrella brand encompasses around 900 million monthly active users globally and is currently the third-largest internet property, per Apollo’s figures.

 

The deal puts to a close a years-long effort by Verizon to make a comprehensive move into online media, specifically around adtech, which ultimately proved to be too costly, mostly unprofitable, and finally not core enough to the telco’s bigger growth strategy.

The news comes during a tumultuous time for online media, amid increasing industry-wide consolidation, many felt within Verizon Media. Verizon acquired AOL in 2015 for $4.4 billion, followed by buying Yahoo for $4.5 billion two years later, combining the two legacy media properties into a combined group named Oath. At the end of 2018, Oath wrote down $4.6 billion, following the merger.

It’s not clear how a new owner will steer that large ship differently, but one strategy — standard practice for PE firms — could involve Apollo selling off parts of the business or rationalizing it in other ways.

However, for its part, Apollo has promised to continue investing in the newly acquired proprieties, and it has secured all jobs at the time of handover for at least an initial period. The bigger firm of Apollo has a massive set of TMT holdings so it will be interesting to see how and if it leverages that, too.

“We look forward to partnering with Yahoo’s talented employee base to build on the company’s strong momentum and position the new Yahoo for long-term success as a standalone consumer internet and digital media leader,” Apollo Partner Reed Rayman said in the release. “We couldn’t be more excited about this next chapter for Yahoo as we look to invest in growth across the business, including accelerating its customer-first offerings and commerce capabilities, expanding its reach and enhancing the daily user experience.”

#aol, #apollo, #entertainment, #ma, #media, #tc, #verizon, #yahoo

Web building platform Duda snaps up e-commerce cart tool Snipcart

Duda announced Wednesday that it acquired Canada-based Snipcart, a startup that enables businesses to add a shopping cart to their websites.

The acquisition is Palo Alto-based Duda’s first deal, and follows the website development platform’s $50 million Series D round in June that brings its total funding to $100 million to date. Duda co-founder and CEO Itai Sadan declined to comment on the acquisition amount.

Duda, which works with digital agencies and SaaS companies, has approximately 1 million published paying sites, and the acquisition was driven by the company seeing a boost in e-commerce websites as a result of the global pandemic, he told TechCrunch.

This was not just about a technology acquisition for Duda, but also a talented team, Sadan said. The entire Snipcart team of 12 is staying on, including CEO Francois Lanthier Nadeau; the companies will be fully integrated by 2022 and the first collaborative versions will come out.

When he met the Snipcart team, Sadan thought they were “super experienced and held the same values.”

“We share many of the same types of customers, many of which are API-first,” he added. “If our customers need more headless commerce, they can build their own front end using Snipcart. Their customers will benefit from us growing the team — we plan to double it in the next year and roll out more features at a faster pace.”

The global retail e-commerce market is estimated to grow by 50% to $6.3 trillion by 2024, according to Statista. Duda itself has experienced a year over year increase of 265% in e-commerce sites being built on its platform, which Sadan said was what made Snipcart an attractive acquisition to further accelerate and manage its growth that includes over 17,000 customers.

Together, the companies will offer new capabilities, like payment and membership tools inside of the Duda platform. Many of Duda’s customers come with inventory and don’t want to manage it on another e-commerce platform, so Snipcart will be that component for taking their inventory and making it shoppable on the web.

“Everyone is thinking about how to introduce transactions into their websites and web experiences, and that is what we were looking for in an e-commerce platform,” Sadan said.

 

#api, #apps, #duda, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #francois-lanthier-nadeau, #funding, #itai-sadan, #ma, #recent-funding, #saas, #snipcart, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #tc

Apple buys classical music service, Primephonic

In a bid to expand its classical music offering, Apple today announced that it has Primephonic. The Amsterdam-based service, which launched in 2014, will bring a laser focus on a music genre that’s been sorely lacking in Apple Music’s generalized approach to streaming.

The service will effectively be discontinued as a standalone offering, as it’s absorbed into the broader Apple Music platform. On September 7, Primephonic will shut down for good, while Apple readies the 2022 launch of a classical music app based on its own streaming service.

“Artists love the Primephonic service and what we’ve done in classical, and now we have the ability to join with Apple to deliver the absolute best experience to millions of listeners,” Primephonic co-founder and CEO Thomas Steffans said in a release issued by Apple. “We get to bring classical music to the mainstream and connect a new generation of musicians with the next generation of audience.”

According to an interview with Primephonic’s CTO published last year, the service has launched in 150 countries. It also appears to have an older demographic than more generalized streaming services.

“Most of our users are age 55 plus and are highly educated and relatively well off,” Henrique Boregio told Mixpanel in 2020. “We joke in the office that we don’t know whether you start liking classical music and then you become wealthy, or if it’s the other way around.”

Apple notes of the upcoming offering, “Apple Music Classical fans will get a dedicated experience with the best features of Primephonic, including better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire, detailed displays of classical music metadata, plus new features and benefits.”

While the new classical service is being built out, the company is offering an olive branch to existing Primephonic users in the form of six free months of Apple Music.

#apple, #apple-music, #apps, #entertainment, #ma

Zendesk acquires AI automation startup Cleverly to advance customer service

Zendesk is looking to grow its customer service capabilities, and today it announced the acquisition of early-stage artificial intelligence startup Cleverly.

Financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed at this time and Cleverly has not been entirely public about the size of its funding. Founded in 2019, Cleverly is based in Lisbon, Portugal and, according to its site, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. 

The startup was also listed by TechCrunch in an article earlier this year looking at the startup scene in Lisbon as being one of the most exciting deep tech companies in the region, according to Stephan Morais, partner at Indico Capital Partners.

Cleverly’s product platform provides a series of artificial intelligence-powered capabilities, including a triage function to automatically tag incoming service requests to help categorize workflow. The startup also has what it refers to as AI-powered human augmentation with its agent assist capability that aims to help customer service agents provide the right answers to inquiries. The company’s technology already integrates with Zendesk, as well as with Salesforce.

As to why Zendesk is acquiring Cleverly, Shawna Wolverton, EVP of product at Zendesk, noted in an email to TechCrunch that the two companies have a similar vision for the future of customer service. 

“Cleverly and Zendesk want to democratize AI, so companies can create practical applications that make it possible for businesses to get started with AI right out of the box — without a team of data scientists required,” she said. 

Wolverton added that AI has the ability to help customer experience teams deliver great customer service. She expects that the next generation of great customer experiences will be created by intelligent software, enabling humans and AI working closely together to deliver this at scale.

Wolverton noted that her company will be welcoming all of Cleverly’s team to Zendesk beginning August 30, including founders Christina Fonseca as VP of Product and Pedro Coelho as principal engineering lead, Machine Learning.

Zendesk already has a series of AI-enabled capabilities that can help organizations automate customer conversations, boost agent productivity and increase operational efficiency, including the Answer Bot, which is a chatbot for customer interactions providing answers pulled from Zendesk’s knowledge base. Zendesk’s Content Cues AI-powered feature in turn helps to automatically review support tickets and also can identify areas where content in a company’s help center can be updated to be more useful to users.

“With Cleverly, we will deliver a range of capabilities that automate key insights, further reduce manual tasks and improve workflows, and overall lead to happier, more productive support teams,” Wolverton said. “We will have more news to share on that front once the team is up and running.

Zendesk’s business has been growing in 2021 overall, reporting second-quarter fiscal 2021 revenue of $318.2 million for a 29% year-over-year gain.

 

#artificial-intelligence, #chatbot, #cleverly, #lisbon, #ma, #machine-learning, #zendesk

Salad chain Sweetgreen buys kitchen robotics startup Spyce

Like so many other aspects of the robotics world, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated interest in the automated kitchen. After all, the food and restaurant industry was deemed essential amid global shutdowns, but finding kitchen staff proved a problem for many, especially early on when questions remained around COVID’s transmission.

This week, California-based fast casual salad chain Sweetgreen announced plans to go all in on automation with the acquisition of Spyce. Founded in 2015, the Boston-based startup started making waves a few years back as a spinout of MIT mechanical engineering students. First serving up food at the school’s dining hall, the team ultimately opened a pair of automated restaurants in the Boston area. The startup notes, “our Spyce restaurants will stay open at this time.”

Sweetgreen plans to eventually incorporate Spyce’s technology into its restaurants. It will likely take some time to scale up to the needs of the chain, which currently operates more than 120 locations across the U.S.

Image Credits: Spyce

“We built Sweetgreen to connect more people to real food and create healthy fast food at scale for the next generation, and Spyce has built state-of-the-art technology that perfectly aligns with that vision,” Sweetgreen CEO and co-founder Jonathan Neman said in a statement. “By joining forces with their best-in-class team, we will be able to elevate our team member experience, provide a more consistent customer experience and bring real food to more communities.”

Like pizza, salads are a clear target for early food automation. They’re both popular and relatively straightforward to automate — essentially mixing a bunch of ingredients from different chutes into a bowl.

Sweetgreen is quick to note that the plan isn’t to replace employees outright, however.

“[T]eam members will be able to focus more on preparation and hospitality moments, while having the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology,” the company writes. “Invest more in training and development to support team members to become Head Coaches. Interested team members will be able to develop technology-facing skills to operate and maintain Spyce technology.”

The deal is expected to close in Q3. Terms were not disclosed.

#ma, #robotics, #salad, #spyce, #startups, #sweetgreen

MaxAB gets an extra $15M, acquires YC-backed Moroccan startup WaystoCap

Last month, MaxAB, the Egyptian B2B e-commerce platform that serves food and grocery retailers, raised one of the largest Series A on the continent, to the tune of $40 million. Today, it has raised a $15 million extension from existing investors — RMBV, IFC, Flourish Ventures, Crystal Stream Capital, Rise Capital, Endeavour Catalyst, Beco Capital and 4DX Ventures —  bringing its total Series A fundraise to $55 million.

The company, founded by Belal El-Megharbel and Mohamed Ben Halim in 2018, manages procurement and grocery delivery to shops in Egypt. Store owners can use the platform to purchase goods, request delivery or logistics to move the goods, and access a customer support team.

When CEO El-Megharbel spoke to TechCrunch during its first Series A tranche, he said MaxAB, which operates in Egypt alone, was looking to expand across the Middle East and North Africa besides launching new product offerings and growing its team.

Today’s announcement marks MaxAB’s first step toward regional scale. The startup is announcing the acquisition of Morocco-based B2B e-commerce and distribution platform WaystoCap for an undisclosed amount.

Niama El Bassunie co-founded WaystoCap with Mehdi Daoui, Anis Abdeddine and Aziz Jaouhari Tissafi in 2015. The company was originally a cross-border trade platform for transacting business goods in Africa. That business model got WaystoCap into Y Combinator’s Winter batch in 2017, making it the first company accepted from Morocco. The company subsequently raised a $3 million seed round.

WaystoCap took its cross-border services to Ivory Coast and Togo, and at some point, was processing over $3 million worth of transactions per quarter. However, since its pivot to a similar model to MaxAB, in that it connects retailers with suppliers across Morocco, WaystoCap has pulled out from both countries while growing to a network of over 8,000 retailers in Morocco.

El-Megharbel mentioned to TechCrunch that MaxAB’s plan to move into Morocco coincided with WaystoCap’s bid to raise new funding (the last time the company took venture capital was in 2017) and push further into the Moroccan market. But both companies agreed to work together rather than compete with each other.

“I love the team. They share the same values and they’re on a mission that is using a tech-enabled supply chain to optimize food distribution across the continent,” he said in an interview. “For us, our strategy is to build a global team that can think local and execute properly. And we figured out that they’re already a perfect fit for that.”

While the acquisition signals MaxAB’s move into Morocco, it also shows the company’s entry into the Maghreb markets — Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, where there’s little or no contest.

MaxAB says more than 70,000 retailers across both platforms will “benefit from its technology, expanded end-to-end supply chain solutions and business intelligence tools as well as WaystoCap’s knowledge and expertise.”

El Bassunie will take over the position as the managing director at MaxAB Morocco. Commenting on the acquisition of her startup, she said, “… We are thrilled to play a pivotal role in the new all-star team being created and led by experienced, innovative entrepreneurs to establish a regional market leader in food and grocery supply. We are looking forward to continuing our close working relationship with our new team and taking the business to its next phase.”

The Maghreb market is new territory for MaxAB and the acquisition positions it as the most funded and largest B2B e-commerce platform for retailers and suppliers. Morocco’s growing tech hub offers huge potential and the acquisition of WaystoCap empowers MaxAB to become a truly global team with a targeted local approach, setting the company on track to be the leading B2B retail and grocery platform in the Middle East and Africa.

“At the end of the day, what we want to do is build a tech-enabled supply chain, in all the African countries, in the Middle Eastern countries, and then connect them together. That’s where the magic happens. This is where we can actually have a real impact by putting the right amount of food at the right place at the right time, and minimizing the waste which MENA cannot afford,” said MaxAB CEO El-Meghabel.

MaxAB’s acquisition of WaystoCap is the second local cross-border acquisition that has played out in Africa this week. On Monday, Nigeria and Canada-based mobility startup Plentywaka announced the acquisition of Stabus, its counterpart in Ghana, for an undisclosed amount. From a narrower consolidation perspective, Kenyan consumer experience platform Ajua acquired Kenyan AI and ML messaging and payments company WayaWaya, early in April.

WaystoCap is also the second YC-backed company in Africa to exit, after Paystack got bought by Stripe for more than $200 million last October.

#africa, #ecommerce, #egypt, #ma, #maxab, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #waystocap

Extra Crunch roundup: Zūm CEO interview, Cisco’s M&A ethos, neoinsurance bad romance

It was once common practice for doctors to visit sick patients in their homes: In 1930, 40% of all consultations were house calls. By 1980, that figure was less than 1%.

Today, urgent care centers occupy Main Street storefronts and 33% of all medical expenditures occur in hospitals. It’s clear that the additional overhead is generating higher prices, but not necessarily better results, according to Sumi Das and Nina Gerson, who lead healthcare investments at Capital G.

“We can improve both outcomes and costs by moving care from the hospital back to the place it started — at home,” they write in a post that explores five innovations enabling at-home care and identifies investment opportunities like acute care and infrastructure development.

Today, in-home care comprises just 3% of overall healthcare spending, but Gerson and Das estimate that will expand to 10% in the next 10 years.

“To make these improvements, in-home healthcare strategies will need to leverage next-generation technology and value-based care strategies. Fortunately, the window of opportunity for change is open right now.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


Image Credits: Cowboy Ventures / Guild Education

Tomorrow’s episode of Extra Crunch Live will feature guests VC Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures and Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education.

Among other topics, Lee will talk about how Guild Education met her criteria for investment before the duo offer feedback on startup pitches submitted by audience members.

Register now to join the free chat on Hopin on Wednesday, August 25, at 11:30 a.m. PDT/2:30 p.m. EDT.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; have a great week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Zūm CEO Ritu Narayan explains why equity and accessibility works for mobility services

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Ritu Narayan founded Zūm with her two brothers in 2016 to disrupt student transportation, a space that hasn’t seen much innovation since pupils began finding their way to and from little red schoolhouses.

Since then, Zūm has inked partnerships with school districts around the country to create more efficient routes and reduce vehicle emissions.

By 2025, Narayan says her company will have 10,000 electric school buses and plans to put the fleet into service to generate power and feed it back to the grid.

To learn more about the company’s development, its immediate plans for the future and how the pandemic impacted operations, read on.

Bird shows improving scooter economics, long march to profitability

For The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm looked at recent financial data from scooter sharing service Bird, which — like Lyft, Uber, Airbnb and others — took a beating during the pandemic as potential riders stayed home.

Bird flipped its business model and its results improved, but it still has a ways to go. “In the bull case, Bird can get rid of its adjusted losses in a few years,” Alex writes.

“If any issues arise at the top of the company’s table — say, for example, that rides per scooter do not scale as the company rolls out more hardware, or merely slower than expected — the anticipated profitability results could evaporate or be pushed into the future.”

India’s path to SaaS leadership is clear, but challenges remain

Image Credits: Thitima Thongkham / Getty Images

By 2030, India’s SaaS industry is estimated to comprise 4%-6% of the global market and generate between $50 billion and $70 billion in yearly revenue, according to a SaaSBOOMi/McKinsey report.

“With the right approach, it won’t be long before the Indian SaaS community becomes a large-scale employer of talent, a significant contributor to India’s GDP and a creator of unmatched products,” says Manav Garg, CEO and founder of Eka Software Solutions.

In a guest post, he lays out several key growth drivers, which include “the largest concentration of developers in the world” and the fact that “SaaS is not a winner-take-all market.”

Even so, the region still faces challenges, since “growth requires a growth mindset.”

Why have the markets spurned public neoinsurance startups?

As Alex Wilhelm has repeatedly noted in The Exchange, neoinsurance companies, from healthcare to auto to home and rental, have taken a whacking by the market.

But he hadn’t quite figured out why until he chatted with Pie Insurance co-founder and CEO John Swigart, who had an interesting hypothesis.

Summing up their conversation in a single sentence: “From the public markets’ perspective, it’s the results, stupid.”

How Cisco keeps its startup acquisition engine humming

The Cisco Systems logo is displayed at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 25, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair starting February 25 in Spain as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Image Credits: Josep LAGO /AFP/ Getty Images

Ron Miller interviewed three Cisco executives to learn more about the company’s “rich history of buying its way to global success”:

  • CFO Scott Herren
  • Derek Idemoto, SVP for corporate development and Cisco investments
  • Jeetu Patel, EVP and GM, Security and Collaboration

Since its founding, Cisco has acquired 229 companies, buying more than 30 startups in the last four years that focus on everything from edtech to event management.

“Indeed, one of the big reasons for all these acquisitions could be about maintaining growth,” writes Ron.

Future tech exits have a lot to live up to

Image Credits: Sam Salek/EyeEm (opens in a new window) / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

“Inflation may or may not prove transitory when it comes to consumer prices, but startup valuations are definitely rising — and noticeably so — in recent quarters.”

That’s Alex Wilhelm’s summation of a recent PitchBook report rounding up valuation data from U.S. startup funding events.

He dug into the report and analyzed what the numbers mean for startup valuations and potential exits.

#cisco, #ec-roundup, #extra-crunch-roundup, #health, #healthtech, #india, #john-swigart, #ma, #pitchbook-data, #ritu-narayan, #saas, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital

Ramp and Brex draw diverging market plans with M&A strategies

Earlier today, spend management startup Ramp said it has raised a $300 million Series C that valued it $3.9 billion. It also said it was acquiring Buyer, a “negotiation-as-a-service” platform that it believes will help customers save money on purchases and SaaS products.

The round and deal were announced just a week after competitor Brex shared news of its own acquisition — the $50 million purchase of Israeli fintech startup Weav. That deal was made after Brex’s founders invested in Weav, which offers a “universal API for commerce platforms”.

From a high level, all of the recent deal-making in corporate cards and spend management shows that it’s not enough to just help companies track what employees are expensing these days. As the market matures and feature sets begin to converge, the players are seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition.

But the point of interest here is these deals can tell us where both companies think they can provide and extract the most value from the market.

These differences come atop another layer of divergence between the two companies: While Brex has instituted a paid software tier of its service, Ramp has not.

Earning more by spending less

Let’s start with Ramp. Launched in 2019, the company is a relative newcomer in the spend management category. But by all accounts, it’s producing some impressive growth numbers. As our colleague Mary Ann Azevedo wrote this morning:

Since the beginning of 2021, the company says it has seen its number of cardholders on its platform increase by 5x, with more than 2,000 businesses currently using Ramp as their “primary spend management solution.” The transaction volume on its corporate cards has tripled since April, when its last raise was announced. And, impressively, Ramp has seen its transaction volume increase year over year by 1,000%, according to CEO and co-founder Eric Glyman.

Ramp’s focus has always been on helping its customers save money: It touts a 1.5% cashback reward for all purchases made through its cards, and says its dashboard helps businesses identify duplicitous subscriptions and license redundancies. Ramp also alerts customers when they can save money on annual vs. monthly subscriptions, which it says has led many customers to do away with established T&E platforms like Concur or Expensify.

All told, the company claims that the average customer saves 3.3% per year on expenses after switching to its platform — and all that is before it brings Buyer into the fold.

#airbase, #api, #brex, #concur, #corporate-spend, #e-commerce, #ec-fintech, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech-startup, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #paypal, #ramp, #startups, #stripe, #weav

Ramp raises $300M at a $3.9B valuation, makes its first acquisition

Less than five months after raising $115 million, spend management startup Ramp announced today it has raised $300 million in a Series C round of funding that values the company at $3.9 billion.

That’s more than double the $1.6 billion that New York-based Ramp was valued at in April at the time of its Series B.

Founders Fund led the latest round, which brings the fintech’s total equity and debt raised to date to over $625 million since its March 2019 inception. Redpoint Ventures, Thrive Capital, D1 Capital Partners, Spark Capital, Coatue Management, Iconiq, Altimeter, Stripe, Lux Capital, A* Partners, Definition Capital and other existing backers participated in the financing. Founders Fund also led Ramp’s $15 million Series A in February 2020.

It’s been a good year for Ramp, which first launched its corporate card in August of 2019. Since the beginning of 2021, the company says it has seen its number of cardholders on its platform increase by 5x, with more than 2,000 businesses currently using Ramp as their “primary spend management solution.” The transaction volume on its corporate cards has tripled since April, when its last raise was announced. And, impressively, Ramp has seen its transaction volume increase year over year by 1,000%, according to CEO and co-founder Eric Glyman. Given the company’s business model (it makes money mostly off interchange fees), Ramp also saw its revenue increase by the same amount during that time frame.

A wide range of customers use Ramp from startups/unicorns such as Ro, DoNotPay, Better, ClickUp and Applied Intuition to established businesses like Bristol Hospice, Walther Farms, Douglas Elliman and Planned Parenthood. 

“The pace of growth in the business has been a lot faster than people expected and so that’s a big part of what’s underpinning this new investment and valuation,” Glyman told TechCrunch. “Even in August, we’re experiencing what is shaping up to be the fastest percentage growth all year, if not ever.”  

Indeed, such big growth numbers are more commonly seen in the very early stages of a company, and tend to lessen over time as a company matures. 

Says Founders Fund’s Keith Rabois: “As the company has grown, I’ve continued to invest heavily because it’s rare to find a business with a growth rate that is actually increasing as it gets larger. Typically growth slows as a company scales, but demand for Ramp’s product is only accelerating as the team builds awareness and strengthens their product offering.”

Ramp also today announced its acquisition of Buyer, a “negotiation-as-a-service” platform that claims to save its clients an average of 27.3% on big-ticket purchases, such as annual software contracts. 

With the addition of the 10-person Buyer team, Glyman said Ramp will be able to offer its customers a “customized and proactive approach” to savings on large purchases.

“There are more B2B growth SaaS companies than ever before, and they’re better at charging than they’ve ever been,” he noted. “Buyer is viewed as the leader of a generation of startups that are trying to flip the tables and actually help customers negotiate rates down. Very large companies might have procurement departments to negotiate rates, but for those who don’t, Buyer is very skilled at identifying what new contracts are coming up and negotiating them down.”

It has saved its customers about 27% on SaaS contracts. 

“We’re looking forward to adding those figures to the savings we’ve helped businesses incorporate,” Glyman said.

The buy follows a partnership that was forged earlier this year before Ramp realized that it could “be even stronger by having them fully as a part of the Ramp team, and and really build out even further.”

Over time, Ramp  intends to expand its product offering as a result of the acquisition. By combining Buyer’s team with benchmarking spend data from millions of transactions on its platform, Ramp says it wants to help its customers negotiate the best rate on “anything that can be purchased with a card, from travel to software — with the goal of shifting purchasing power back into the hands of buyers.”

Image Credits: Ramp

Other ways Ramp helps its customers save include offering 1.5% cash back “on everything,” helping them identify ways to spend less, such as identifying and canceling duplicitous subscriptions and identifying redundancies in licenses. It also shows companies when better pricing is available. One example of this is letting them know they can save 20% by switching to an annual rate, as opposed to monthly. It also has helped customers save by getting rid of software like Concur, Expensify or Bill.com by helping them manage their expenses. Ramp claims that its customers on average save 3.3% annually by switching their corporate card spending to Ramp.

Earlier this year, the company added merchant blocking to its corporate credit card, which Glyman says has probably become one of the company’s most used features since adoption.

Looking ahead, the company plans to use its new capital to speed up the development of its finance automation platform. It’s also going to naturally continue to hire, adding to its nearly 150-person team. For context, Ramp started the year with 65, people and employed about 100 at the time of its April raise.

“Hiring is going to be the biggest use of our capital,” Glyman told TechCrunch. 

The startup is also going to invest heavily in product development, including expansion into broader B2B payments, and marketing and awareness. It’s also going to look for more acquisition targets.

While Ramp currently makes money mostly by interchange fees, Glyman told me previously that the two-year-old startup thinks of itself as a SaaS operator.

“Our long-term strategy is to develop great software,” he said.

No doubt the spend management space is heating up. Last week, Brex announced it was acquiring one-year-old Weav for $50 million in its first significant acquisition. 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. It is more focused on earlier-stage startups, whereas Ramp tends to serve larger, more established companies.

#eric-glyman, #expense-management, #finance, #fintech, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #keith-rabois, #ma, #ramp, #recent-funding, #spend-management, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

How Cisco keeps its startup acquisition engine humming

Enterprise startups have several viable exit strategies: Some will go public, but most successful outcomes will be via acquisition, often by one of the highly acquisitive large competitors like Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, SAP, Adobe or Cisco.

From rivals to “spin-ins,” Cisco has a particularly rich history of buying its way to global success. It has remained quite active, acquiring more than 30 startups over the last four years for a total of 229 over the life of the company. The most recent was Epsagon earlier this month, with five more in its most recent quarter (Q4 FY2021): Slido, Sedona Systems, Kenna Security, Involvio and Socio. It even announced three of them in the same week.

It begins by identifying targets; Cisco does that by being intimately involved with a list of up to 1,000 startups that could be a fit for acquisition.

What’s the secret sauce? How it is going faster than ever? For startups that encounter a company like Cisco, what do you need to know if you have talks that go places with it? We spoke to the company CFO, senior vice president of corporate development, and the general manager and executive vice president of security and collaboration to help us understand how all of the pieces fit together, why they acquire so many companies and what startups can learn from their process.

Cisco, as you would expect, has developed a rigorous methodology over the years to identify startups that could fit its vision. That involves product, of course, but also team and price, all coming together to make a successful deal. From targeting to negotiating to closing to incorporating the company into the corporate fold, a startup can expect a well-tested process.

Even with all this experience, chances are it won’t work perfectly every time. But since Cisco started doing M&A nine years into its history with the purchase of LAN switcher Crescendo Communications in 1993 — leading to its massive switching business today — the approach clearly works well enough that they keep doing it.

It starts with cash

If you want to be an acquisitive company, chances are you have a fair amount of cash on hand. That is certainly the case with Cisco, which currently has more than $24.5 billion in cash and equivalents, albeit down from $46 billion in 2017.

CFO Scott Herren says that the company’s cash position gives it the flexibility to make strategic acquisitions when it sees opportunities.

“We generate free cash flow net of our capex in round numbers in the $14 billion a year range, so it’s a fair amount of free cash flow. The dividend consumes about $6 billion a year,” Herren said. “We do share buybacks to offset our equity grant programs, but that still leaves us with a fair amount of cash that we generate year on year.”

He sees acquisitions as a way to drive top-line company growth while helping to push the company’s overall strategic goals. “As I think about where our acquisition strategy fits into the overall company strategy, it’s really finding the innovation we need and finding the companies that fit nicely and that marry to our strategy,” he said.

“And then let’s talk about the deal … and does it make sense or is there a … seller price point that we can meet and is it clearly something that I think will continue to be a core part of our strategy as a company in terms of finding innovation and driving top-line growth there,” he said.

The company says examples of acquisitions that both drove innovation and top-line growth include Duo Security in 2018, ThousandEyes in 2020 and Acacia Communications this year. Each offers some component that helps drive Cisco’s strategy — security, observability and next-generation internet infrastructure — while contributing to growth. Indeed, one of the big reasons for all these acquisitions could be about maintaining growth.

Playing the match game

Cisco is at its core still a networking equipment company, but it has been looking to expand its markets and diversify outside its core networking roots for years by moving into areas like communications and security. Consider that along the way it has spent billions on companies like WebEx, which it bought in 2007 for $3.2 billion, or AppDynamics, which it bought in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before it was going to IPO. It has also made more modest purchases (by comparison at least), such as MindMeld for $125 million and countless deals that were too small to require them to report the purchase price.

Derek Idemoto, SVP for corporate development and Cisco investments, has been with the company for 100 of those acquisitions and has been involved in helping scout companies of interest. His team begins the process of identifying possible targets and where they fall within a number of categories, such as whether it allows them to enter new markets (as WebEx did), extend their markets (as with Duo Security), or acqui-hire top technical talent and get some cool tech, as they did when they purchased BabbleLabs last year.

#appdynamics, #babblelabs, #cisco, #ec-enterprise-applications, #enterprise, #jeetu-patel, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #mindmeld, #tc, #webex

Mobility startup Plentywaka picks up $1.2M seed, acquires Ghana’s Stabus

Lagos and Toronto-based mobility startup Plentywaka has raised a $1.2 million seed round to scale its operations on the back of leaving the Techstars Toronto accelerator program last month. 

Canadian-based VC firm The Xchange led the round, SOSV and Shock Ventures participated, while Techstars Toronto made a follow-on investment. Nigerian firms Argentil Capital Partners and ODBA & Co Ventures took part in the seed round, alongside some angel investors from Canada, other parts of Africa, and the U.S.

In March, when TechCrunch covered Plentywaka, CEO Onyeka Akumah said the two-year-old company eyed both regional and global expansion. There hasn’t been much development on the latter except that the company set up its headquarters in Canada. However, for the former, it’s in the form of an acquisition. The company says it has fully acquired Ghanaian mobility startup Stabus but declined to comment on the acquisition price.

Plentywaka is primarily a bus-booking platform but, per its website, has over 900 vehicles ranging from cars to vans to buses. The company provides intrastate travel (via its Dailywaka offering) and interstate travel (via its Travelwaka offering) for its users via a mobile application. Since going live in September 2019,  Plentywaka says it has acquired over 80,000 users while completing up to half a million rides.

Stabus, on the other hand, commenced operations in Ghana a month after Plentywaka’s launch. Its co-founder and CEO, Isidore Kpotufe, shared that the startup has since moved over 100,000 people within the country’s capital city Accra using different vehicles.

Plentywaka

The Plentywaka and Stabus executives

Akumah tells TechCrunch that before talks on an acquisition started, he and Kpotufe kept in touch frequently on a personal and business level since they launched their respective companies two years ago.

Then in April this year, Isidore, intrigued by the pace at which Plentywaka was scaling, asked Akumah if his company had plans to scale to Ghana. The Plentywaka CEO answered in the affirmative, revealing a timeline edging towards the end of the year. That meant competition, but the duo thought the better outcome for both companies was to merge.

“Isidore is someone I’ve known for going to two years now. And I’ve seen what he has done with Stabus and I understand exactly how they operate. So it was an easy yes for us to do this,” Akumah said to TechCrunch.

The complexities of what structure to use came up; run with the Stabus brand or change it. Eventually, they settled for the latter, renaming the acquired 12,000-user strong business to Plentywaka Ghana. Some of Stabus’ (now Plentywaka Ghana) customers include multinationals like MTN and GB Foods. Meanwhile, Kpotufe becomes Country Manager of the new business.

“Plentywaka’s acquisition of Stabus is a firm statement about our commitment to grow and build the largest shared mobility startup in Africa, one country at a time. Isidore is a brilliant entrepreneur and we are excited about having him and his team execute our plans for the Ghanaian market,” Akumah said in a statement.

In Nigeria, the company caters to travelers across 21 cities. Travelers in Accra will begin to use the service when Plentywaka Ghana goes live on September 16. And the next plan after Accra is to replicate the expansion in six other African countries within 24 months. Akumah also mentioned that Plentywaka is raising its Series A to ramp up these expansion efforts.

“We are incredibly excited by our investment in Plentywaka. Techstars is a huge believer in the future of Africa and a proud supporter of African entrepreneurs. Onyeka is a two-time Techstars founder which deepens this relationship further,” managing director of Techstars Sunil Sharma said in a statement.

Speaking on the seed round, managing partner at lead investor The Xchange, Todd Finch said, “The Xchange is on a mission to fuel purpose-driven founders with the capital and resources they need to realize the world-changing potential of their ideas. Given Onyeka’s proven track record, his team’s undeniable thirst for making an impact, and Plentywaka’s impressive growth, we knew this was an opportunity we wanted to invest in.” 

#africa, #automotive, #fundings-exits, #ghana, #ma, #nigeria, #plentywaka, #sosv, #techstars, #transportation

Adobe buying Frame.io in $1.28B deal

Adobe announced today it is acquiring Frame.io, a video review and collaboration platform used by over a million customers, for $1.275 billion.

Founded in 2014 by the owner of a post-production company Emery Wells and technologist John Traver, New York-based Frame.io was created to solve the workflows challenges filmmakers faced in their daily lives. 

Today, the Frame.io platform helps creative professionals streamline the video creation process by centralizing media assets, including dailies, scripts, storyboards, work-in-progress, and more, while also allowing for frame-accurate feedback and comments, annotations, and real-time approvals. The company additionally touts faster upload speeds than other cloud hosting services, like Vimeo, Box, Dropbox, and others.

Frame.io has raised $90 million in venture funding over its lifetime, and in November 2019, announced a $50 million Series C led by Insight Partners that included participation from Accel, FirstMark, SignalFire, and Shasta Ventures. Accel led the company’s seed and Series A rounds in 2015.

Adobe said the combination of its creative software, including Premiere Pro and After Effects video editing products, and Frame.io’s review and approval functionality would “deliver a collaboration platform that powers the video editing process.” The Frame.io web platform was designed to be a part of its customer’s existing processes, by integrating with non-linear editing systems (NLEs) such as like Adobe Premiere Pro. Such integrations allow editors to upload directly to Frame.io, then organize and share their products both internally and with external clients.

“Whether it’s the latest binge-worthy streaming series, a social media video that sparks a movement, or a corporate video that connects thousands of remote workers, video creation and consumption is experiencing tremendous growth,” Adobe said in a statement. “…Today’s video workflows are disjointed with multiple tools and communication channels being used to solicit stakeholder feedback. Frame.io eliminates the inefficiencies of video workflows by enabling real-time footage upload, access, and in-line stakeholder collaboration in a secure and elegant experience across surfaces.”

The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter of Adobe’s 2021 fiscal year, and is subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. Once the deal closes, Well and Traver will join Adobe. Wells will continue to lead the Frame.io team, reporting to Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer and EVP of Creative Cloud.

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