Punchbowl nabs $5M investment, acquires VidHug to add video to party planning platform

When the pandemic hit last year, Punchbowl, an online party planning service was left in the lurch with gatherings all but shut down, but instead of lamenting the situation, founder and CEO Matt Douglas went to work to rethink the company’s approach. He started by expanding the company’s online greeting card business, which until that point had been a small part of the revenue mix. Then he began talking to investors about a cash influx with an eye toward adding video to the platform.

That all culminated in a slew of announcements today. For starters, the company pulled in $5 million from SG Credit Partners. Douglas then turned around and bought online video production service VidHug and rebranded it for his platform as Memento. Finally, he invested in a couple of apps designed to draw new parents to the service early in their children’s lives. More on those shortly.

When the government made the no-gatherings rule official, Punchbowl needed a plan. “So we took our team and we put our energy towards a product that was less than 10% of our business prior to the pandemic and that is greeting cards,” Douglas said.

He made the greeting cards more personalized by adding a video component. His team got that going pretty fast, putting it together by Mother’s Day 2020 to include a visual message at a time when people couldn’t get together in person. But he wanted something more than that, and he dove into researching the video montage market. That ultimately led to him connecting with the founders of VidHug and making an offer to buy the Canadian startup.

Memento helps you make and collect video clips, pull them together into a video and choose music and backgrounds in a friendly interface, putting basic video production within reach of of just about any user.

Douglas sees adding video as more than a consumer play though. He believes with Memento, he can also attract business customers to use video — for example, as a way to welcome new employees, especially in distributed organizations, or to make a good-bye video for a long-time employee leaving the company, and in this way begin to expand the platform to include not only consumer customers, but businesses too.

While he was at it, he invested in some apps directed at new parents, particularly moms, including Qeepsake and pumpspotting. Qeepsake is an app that prompts parents with a text to collect different memories of their children’s lives and then print them in a keep-sake book. It’s aimed at parents who never got around to making that baby book. Pumpspotting helps support breastfeeding moms, whether they are at home or work, and it also provides resources for their employers to support nursing moms as well.

He believes that by attracting parents at the earliest time in their childrens’ lives, he can get them to use other Punchbowl services to plan birthday parties and other events, add video memories, and build long-term brand loyalty along the way.

Douglas has been at this since 2007 when he conceived and launched Punchbowl, and while he says he has had offers over the years to be acquired, he never wanted to sell. Although 2020 might have been the toughest year ever for his party planning business, he used the crisis to rethink it, and in the process may have built something that can survive and thrive longer term with a wider variety of services and revenue streams.

#funding, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #party-planning, #punchbowl, #recent-funding, #startups, #video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blackstone acquires tech publisher IDG for $1.3B, as private equity strikes again

It’s been a busy week for private equity with Cloudera, Stack Overflow and FireEye coming off the board on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today Blackstone bought media and data company IDG for $1.3 billion. The company had been owned by Oriental Rainbow, LLC, a subsidiary of China Oceanwide Holdings Group, Co. Ltd.

With IDG, Blackstone gets tech analyst firm IDC along with a collection of tech publications that includes CIO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, PCWorld, and Tech Hive. The media publishing arm was once a powerhouse in the 1990s tech publishing world, although its shine has faded in recent years as the publishing industry in general has come under intense pressure.

The company has also been making some additions to the platform more recently with a stronger focus on data and analytics. Last year it bought Triblio, a marketing data platform to help companies deliver more personalized customer experiences. Last month it acquired Metri, an IT pricing service, which can help with IT budgeting and procurement. The latter could dovetail nicely with IDC’s consulting services.

Company CEO Mohamad Ali is hoping that Blackstone can infuse more capital into the company to keep building on its software services with a data focus. “Additional capital investment from Blackstone will allow us to cultivate our rich history of innovation and accelerate our product roadmaps to bring our customers the deeper insights and data they need to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving digital economy,” said in a statement.

That sounds like he wants to increase his data bet. It seems that the data side of the business was particularly attractive to Blackstone as well. “The high-quality data, analytics and insights IDG delivers to technology leaders are only becoming more critical as the pace of growth and innovation accelerates,” Peter Wallace, Global Head of Core Private Equity at Blackstone said in a statement.

The company launched in 1964 with the consulting side of the business, but founder Pat McGovern had a broader vision and began the publishing side of the company in 1967 with the launch of Computerworld. The publishing business actually grew to become integral part of the rise of the PC and the technology shift that occurred at a personal and business level in the 80s and 90s. It’s unclear what this deal will mean for the publishing side of the house or where that would even fit in as it continues the push to focus on data and analytics.

It’s worth noting that Verizon Media, which owns this publication along Engadget, was also recently sold to private equity firm, Apollo Global, as the private equity push into all parts of the technology ecosystem continues.

#blackstone, #idc, #idg, #ma, #media, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity

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Cloudera to go private as KKR & CD&R grab it for $5.3B

Cloudera was once one of the hottest Hadoop startups, but over time the shine has come off that market, and today it went private as KKR and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a pair of private equity firms announced they intended to purchase Cloudera for $5.3 billion. The company has a market cap of around $3.7 billion.

Cloudera and Hortonworks, two key startups in the Hadoop space, merged in 2018 for $5.2 billion.Cloudera was likely under pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn, who took an 18% stake in the company in 2019 and now stands to gain from the sale, which the company stated represented a 24% premium for shareholders at $16 a share. Prior to the market opening this morning, the stock was sitting at $12.86.

Back in the day, about a decade ago, when Hadoop was the way to process big data, venture money was pouring into the space. Over time it lost some of its glow. That’s because it was highly labor intensive, and companies began moving to the cloud and looking at software services that did more of the work for them. More modern technologies like data lakes began replacing it and the company recognized that it must change its approach to survive in the modern data processing marketplace.

Cloudera CEO Rob Bearden sees the transaction as a way to do just that. “We believe that as a private company with the expertise and support of experienced investors such as CD&R and KKR, Cloudera will have the resources and flexibility to drive product-led growth and expand our addressable market opportunity,” Bearden said in a statement.

While there is a lot of executive jargon in that statement, it basically means that the company hopes that these private equity firms can give it some additional financial resources to move towards a more modern approach for processing large amounts of data.

While it was at it, Cloudera also announced a couple of acquisitions of its own to help it move towards that modernization goal. For starters it grabbed Datacoral, a startup that abstracts away the infrastructure needed to build a data pipeline without using code. It also acquired Cazena, a startup that helps customers build cloud data lakes, giving the company a more modern approach to processing big data.  Bearden sees both of these services helping Cloudera reposition itself in the big data self-service market

“Both businesses will enable our combined customers to enjoy a reduction in complexity and faster time to value for their data initiatives, leading to improved insights, faster innovation, and stronger engagements with their customers and partners,” Bearden said in a statement.

Cloudera went public in 2018, closing at $18.09 a share after raising a $1 billion. The vast majority of that was a $740 million investment from Intel Capital in 2014.

Hortonworks raised another $248 million. A third Hadoop startup, MapR raised $280 million. The company’s assets were sold rather unceremoniously to HPE in 2019 for a price pegged at under $50 million, showing just how far the market has fallen since its earlier glory days.

The Cloudera deal includes a brief “go shop” provision that allows it continue to look for a better deal. It’s doubtful it will find one, and if it doesn’t the transaction with KKR and CD&R is expected to close in the second half of this year subject to typical regulatory review. The company will announce earnings later today.

#cazena, #cdr, #cloud, #cloudera, #datacoral, #enterprise, #hadoop, #hortonworks, #kkr, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity, #tc

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Netflify snags YC alum FeaturePeek to add design review capabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unbounce snags Snazzy.ai to add automated copywriting to platform

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

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

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

She points out that the product is really aimed at the marketing generalist charged with overseeing landing pages, and who is responsible for a range of tasks including writing copy. “The average Unbounce customer isn’t a specialized copywriter, so they don’t spend [their work] day writing copy. They’re what we would consider a marketing generalist or really someone who’s responsible for a wide range of marketing responsibilities,” she said.

Snazzy co-founder Chris Frantz says the tech is really about getting people started, and then they can tweak the results as needed. “The hardest part has always been to get that first line, that first page, the first couple of words in — and we eliminate that entirely. That might not always result in amazing copy, but on the plus side you can always click the button again and give it another try,” he said.

Frantz says that with so much competition in the space, he and his co-founder felt they could build a market much faster as part of a larger and broader marketing platform solution like Unbounce.

“I love Tamara’s vision for the future of Unbounce. I think she has a very ambitious vision. She sold me on that very early on in the process. At the same time, there was a lot of competition in the space, and to have a key differentiator with a company like Unbounce, which has a decade of marketing experience and a lot of trust within this community, I think it’s a very powerful wedge that we can use to further grow our audience,” Frantz said.

The tool lets you write a range of copy from landing pages to Google ad copy. The company launched in alpha last October and already had 30,000 customers, which Grominsky says Unbounce hopes to convert into customers. The good news for those customers is that the company plans to leave Snazzy as a stand-alone product, while incorporating the tech into the platform in ways that make sense in the coming year.

#artificial-intelligence, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #gpt-3, #ma, #marketing-software, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc, #unbounce

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As M&A accelerates, deal-makers are leveraging AI and ML to keep pace

The global pandemic has changed the way we work, including how and where we work. For those involved in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) industry, a notoriously relationship-driven business, this has meant in-person boardroom handshakes have been replaced by video conference calls, remote collaboration and potentially less travel in the future.

Research shows that AI will transform the M&A process by decreasing the time it takes to perform due diligence to less than a month in 2025 from three to six months in 2020.

The pandemic has also accelerated digital transformation, and deal-makers have embraced digital tools, sometimes even drones, to help them execute effectively. Even legal M&A professionals, often among the major holdouts to embrace remote work and technologies, are increasingly using technology to automate common time-consuming tasks, such as redaction and contract analysis. And with a vast majority of them reporting permanent remote or hybrid work arrangements, further technology adoption is expected.

The quickening pace of digital transformation is no longer about ensuring a competitive edge. Today, it’s also about business resilience. But what’s on the horizon, and how else will technology evolve to meet the needs of companies and deal-makers?

There are still many inefficiencies in managing M&A, but technologies such as artificial intelligence, especially machine learning, are helping to make the process faster and easier.

AI helping sell-side prepare deals and conduct diligence

Typical deals require the analysis of huge amounts of data in a relatively short period of time. So, when time is money, tools that speed up the M&A process are critical. That’s why AI-powered tools that help deal-makers automate tasks, reduce human error and ensure greater regulatory compliance are gaining interest.

For example, when it comes to selling a business or asset, one of the most challenging parts of the M&A process is organizing and preparing the files needed for review by potential investors or purchasers. Investment banking analysts often spend weeks reviewing thousands of files to figure out how to organize them and prepare them for a transaction.

Using statistical methods that allow a system to learn from data, and then make decisions, AI and machine learning leverage an algorithm to sift through those large volumes of data and content. Such a tool can then enable the upload of hundreds or thousands of files and their review by an AI engine, which reads the files and suggests categories, as well as appropriate folder locations, for the files. AI and machine learning streamline the process in a matter of minutes, not weeks, freeing up deal-makers to focus on higher-value activities.

#artificial-intelligence, #column, #ec-column, #ec-enterprise-applications, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #venture-capital

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Cisco strikes again grabbing threat assessment tool Kenna Security as third acquisition this week

Cisco has been busy on the acquisition front this week, and today the company announced it was buying threat assessment platform Kenna Security, the third company it has purchased this week. The two companies did not disclose the purchase price.

With Kenna, Cisco gets a startup that uses machine learning to sort through the massive pile of threat data that comes into a security system on a daily basis and prioritizes the threats most likely to do the most damage. That could be a very useful tool these days when threats abound and it’s not always easy to know where to put your limited security resources. Cisco plans to take that technology and integrate into its SecureX platform.

Gee Rittenhouse, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group wrote in a blog post announcing the deal with Kenna, that his company is getting a product that brings together Cisco’s existing threat management capabilities with Kenna’s risk-based vulnerability management skills.

“That is why we are pleased to announce our intent to acquire Kenna Security, Inc., a recognized leader in risk-based vulnerability prioritization with over 14 million assets protected and over 12.7 billion managed vulnerabilities. Using data science and real-world threat intelligence, it has a proven ability to bring data in from a multi-vendor environment and provide a comprehensive view of IT vulnerability risk,” Rittenhouse wrote in the blog post.

The security sphere has been complex for a long time, but with employees moving to work from home because of COVID, it became even more pronounced in the last year. In a world where the threat landscape changes quickly, having a tool that prioritizes what to look at first in its arsenal could be very useful.

Kenna Security CEO Karim Toubba gave a typical executive argument for being acquired: it gives him a much bigger market under Cisco than his company could have built alone.

“Now is our opportunity to change the industry: once the acquisition is complete, we will be one step closer to delivering Kenna’s pioneering Risk-Based Vulnerability Management (RBVM) platform to the more than 7,000 customers using Cisco SecureX today. This single action exponentially increases the impact Kenna’s technology will have on the way the world secures networks, endpoints and infrastructures.,” he wrote in the company blog.

The company, which launched in 2010, claims to be the pioneer in the RBVM space. It raised over $98 million on a $320 million post-money valuation, according to Pitchbook data. Customers include HSBC, Royal Bank of Canada, Mattel and Quest Diagnostics.

For those customers, the product will cease to be stand-alone at some point as the companies work together to integrate Kenna technology into the SecureX platform. When that is complete, the stand-alone customers will have to purchase the Cisco solution to continue using the Kenna tech.

Cisco has had a busy week on the acquisition front. It announced its intent to acquire Sedona Systems on Tuesday, Socio Labs on Wednesday and this announcement today. That’s a lot of activity for any company in a single week. The deal is expected to close in Cisco Q4 FY 2021. The company’s 170 employees will be joining the Security Business Group led by Rittenhouse.

#cisco, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #security, #startups, #tc

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Cisco to acquire Indy startup Socio to bring hybrid events to Webex

Cisco announced this morning that it intends to acquire Indianapolis-based startup Socio, which helps plan hybrid in-person and virtual events. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

Socio provides a missing hybrid event management component for the company to add to its Webex platform. The goal appears to be to combine this with the recent purchase of Slido and transform Webex from an application mostly for video meetings into a more comprehensive event platform.

“As part of Cisco Webex’s vision to deliver inclusive, engaging and intelligent meeting and event experiences, the acquisition of Socio Labs complements Cisco’s recent acquisition of Slido, an industry-leading audience engagement tool, which together will create a comprehensive, cost-effective and easy-to-use event management solution […],” the company explained in a statement.

The impact of the pandemic was not lost on Cisco, and it’s clear that as we can foresee going back to go back to live events, having the ability to combine it with a virtual experience means that you can open up your event to a much wider audience beyond those who can attend in person. That’s likely not something that’s going away, even after we get past COVID.

Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM for security and collaboration at Cisco says that the future of work is going to be hybrid, whether it’s for work meetings or larger events and Cisco is making this acquisition to expand the use cases for the Webex platform.

“Whether it’s a 1:1 call, a small team huddle, a group meeting or a large external event, we want to remove friction and help people engage with each other in an inclusive manner. Slido allows for every voice to be heard — even when you’re not talking. Socio allows for getting your voice heard by a large number of people,” Patel said.

And the company believes that Webex provides the platform to make it all happen. “It’s a really potent combination of technology to make human interactions more engaging, no matter the type of conversation,” he added.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that it’s a smart move to take advantage of the changing events landscape and that this acquisition helps make Cisco a serious player in this space.

“As we get closer to a post-pandemic world, the need to create hybrid event experiences is going to quickly accelerate as people start venturing out to attend physical events. So having an event stack that combines local event support/participation with tools to integrate a broader virtual audience will be the future of event management,” Leary told me.

Socio was founded in 2016 and raised around $7 million in investment capital, according to Crunchbase data. It has a prestigious list of enterprise customers that includes Microsoft, Google, Jet Blue, Greenpeace, PepsiCo and Hyundai

The deal is expected to close in Q4 of FY2021. When it does close, Socio’s 135 employees will be joining Cisco. The plan is to incorporate Socio’s tooling into the Webex platform while allowing it to continue as a stand-alone product, according to a Cisco spokesperson.

#cisco, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #indianapolis-startups, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #saas, #socio, #startups, #tc

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Jamf snags zero trust security startup Wandera for $400M

Jamf, the enterprise Apple device management company, announced that it was acquiring Wandera, a zero trust security startup, for $400 million at the market close today. Today’s purchase is the largest in the company’s history.

Jamf provides IT at large organizations with a set of management services for Apple devices. It is the leader in the market, and snagging Wandera provides a missing modern security layer for the platform.

Jamf CEO Dean Hager says that Wandera’s zero trust approach fills in an important piece in the Jamf platform tool set. “The combination of Wandera and Jamf will provide our customers a single source platform that handles deployment, application lifecycle management, policies, filtering and security capabilities across all Apple devices while delivering zero trust network access for all mobile workers,” Hager said in a statement.

Zero trust, as the name implies, is an approach to security where you don’t trust anybody regardless of whether they are inside or outside your network. It requires that you force everyone to provide multiple forms of authentication to prove their identity before they can access company resources.

The need for a zero trust approach became even more acute during the pandemic when employees  have often been working from home and have needed access to applications and other company resources from wherever they happened to be, a trend that was happening even prior to COVID, and is likely to continue after it ends.

Wandera, which is based in London, was founded in 2012 by brothers Roy and Eldar Tuvey, who had previously co-founded another security startup called ScanSafe. Cisco acquired that company, which helped protect web gateways as a service for $183 million back in 2009. The brothers raised over $53 million along the way for Wandera. Investors included Bessemer Venture Partners, 83North and Sapphire Ventures.

Sapphire co-founder and managing director Andreas Weiskam had this to say about the company: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with co-founders (and brothers) Eldar Tuvey and Roy Tuvey for the last several years now and I can honestly say they’re great entrepreneurs and leaders, having built a real company of consequence.”

He added, “They’ve created a unique security product which addresses mobile threats by leveraging the increasingly important zero trust network. By joining the Jamf family, the two will help shape the future of the zero trust cloud. And it goes without saying that this is a big win for the customers, especially for those in the Apple ecosystem.”

Under the terms of the deal, Jamf is paying Wandera $350 million in cash, then paying them two $25 million payments on October 1, 2021 and December 15, 2021. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter assuming it passes regulatory scrutiny.

 

#apple-device-management, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #jamf, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #security, #startups, #tc, #wandera, #zero-trust

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CircleCI announces $100M Series F on $1.7B valuation along with Vamp acquisition

CircleCI, the continuous delivery pioneer, announced a $100 million Series F today on a $1.7 billion valuation. At the same time, the company announced it has acquired Vamp, a release orchestration startup that should fit nicely in the CircleCI platform. The companies did not share the purchase price.

The funding was led by Greenspring Associates with participation from Eleven Prime, IVP, Sapphire Ventures, Top Tier Capital Partners, Baseline Ventures, Threshold, Scale, Owl Rock and Next Equity Partners. Today’s round comes a little over a year since the late stage startup announced a $100 million Series E, and brings the total raised to over $315 million, according to the company.

CircleCI CEO Jim Rose says part of the reason for taking on $200 million in two years is because even though the company was founded in 2011, the continuous delivery approach is still really just getting started.

“We believe in the development space that it’s really early days […] and there’s so much potential growth in front of us, and so many opportunities to create centers of gravity in the development space […] and we expect to to be one of those [key companies], and we are doing everything we can from an investment perspective and from an operations perspective to make sure that we fulfill that vision,” Rose told me.

Like so many kinds of automation, Rose says that he has seen things accelerate during the pandemic as software development teams look for ways to eliminate manual processes as they moved to work from home.

“Once everyone got pushed remotely they realized, holy moly, we need to automate more and more of this process because that’s the only way that we can actually deliver things, but it’s also the way that we can build a system that’s resilient to these kinds of shocks,” he said.

As for the acquisition, acquiring Vamp takes care of what happens after the application gets deployed, and that fills in a big missing piece in the product map.

“It was just great opportunity to not just for us to accelerate roadmap, and just sort of accelerate the addition of this kind of solidification from a first class perspective on our platform, but it was also a great way for the Vamp team to continue to realize their vision, to continue to invest in this problem that they’ve been focused on for awhile, and we can learn from it,” Rose said.

Vamp launched in 2013 in Amsterdam and raised around €3 million, according to Crunchbase data. Vamp CEO Nico Vierhout sees a natural fit between the two companies.

“We have worked hard over the last eight years to build a platform that makes software releases self-driving and self-healing for users. Joining CircleCI was an organic fit that will provide enhanced visibility and control for developers to build software in a more streamlined way,” he said in a statement.

The 15 member Vamp team will be joining CircleCI and continuing to support the product, even as the functionality gets folded into the broader platform. CircleCI now has over 550 employees, a number that has doubled since last year.

While a Series F with a fat valuation sometimes signals the end of the private fundraising cycle, Rose wasn’t quite ready to talk IPO just yet, even while acknowledging his investors would want to cash out at some point.

“Obviously investors are going to expect liquidity at some point, but we are less focused on what the next kind of funding event, or what the next kind of company event in that transition will be and more focused on figuring out how to stay close to the customer and what’s necessary to build this out. The rest of it kind of takes care of itself,” he said.

#circleci, #cloud, #continuous-delivery, #developer, #developer-tools, #funding, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #vamp

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DataRobot expands platform and announces Zepl acquisition

DataRobot, the Boston-based automated machine learning startup, had a bushel of announcements this morning as it expanded its platform to give technical and non-technical users alike something new. It also announced it has acquired Zepl, giving it an advanced development environment where data scientists can bring their own code to DataRobot. The two companies did not share the acquisition price.

Nenshad Bardoliwalla, SVP of Product at DataRobot says that his company aspires to be the leader in this market and it believes the path to doing that is appealing to a broad spectrum of user requirements from those who have little data science understanding to those who can do their own machine learning coding in Python and R.

“While people love automation, they also want it to be [flexible]. They don’t want just automation, but then you can’t do anything with it. They also want the ability to turn the knobs and pull the levers,” Bardoliwalla explained.

To resolve that problem, rather than building a coding environment from scratch, it chose to buy Zepl and incorporate its coding notebook into the platform in a new tool called Composable ML. “With Composable ML and with the Zepl acquisition, we are now providing a really first class environment for people who want to code,” he said.

Zepl was founded in 2016 and raised $13 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data. The company didn’t want to reveal the number of employees or the purchase price, but the acquisition gives it advanced capabilities, especially a notebook environment to call its own to attract those more advanced users to the platform.The company plans to incorporate the Zepl functionality into the platform, while also leaving the stand-alone product in place.

Bardoliwalla said that they see the Zepl acquisition as an extension of the automated side of the house, where these tools can work in conjunction with one another with machines and humans working together to generate the best models. “This [generates an] organic mixture of the best of what a system can generate using DataRobot AutoML and the best of what human beings can do and kind of trying to compose those together into something really interesting […],” Bardoliwalla said.

The company is also introducing a no-code AI app builder that enables non-technical users to create apps from the data set with drag and drop components. In addition, it’s adding a tool to monitor the accuracy of the model over time. Sometimes, after a model is in production for a time, the accuracy can begin to break down as the data the model is based is no longer valid. This tool monitors the model data for accuracy and warns the team when it’s starting to fall out of compliance.

Finally the company is announcing a model bias monitoring tool to help root out model bias that could introduce racist, sexist or other assumptions into the model. To avoid this, the company has built a tool to identify when it sees this happening both in the model building phase and in production. It warns the team of potential bias, while providing them with suggestions to tweak the model to remove it.

DataRobot is based in Boston and was founded in 2012. It has raised over $750 million and has a valuation of over $2.8 billion, according to Pitchbook.

#artificial-intelligence, #boston-startups, #datarobot, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #machine-learning, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc, #zepl

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ServiceNow leaps into applications performance monitoring with Lightstep acquisition

This morning ServiceNow announced that it was acquiring Lightstep, an applications performance monitoring startup that has raised over $70 million, according to Crunchbase data. The companies did not share the acquisition price.

ServiceNow wants to take advantage of Lightstep’s capabilities to enhance its IT operations offerings. With Lightstep, the company should be able to provide customers with a way to monitor the performance of applications with the goal of detecting problems before the grow into major issues that take down a website or application.

“With Lightstep, ServiceNow will transform how software solutions are delivered to customers. This will ultimately make it easier for customers to innovate quickly. Now they’ll be able to build and operate their software faster than ever before and take the new era of work head on with confidence,” Pablo Stern, SVP & GM for IT Workflow Products at ServiceNow said in a statement.

Ben Sigelman, founder and CEO at Lightstep sees the larger organization being a good landing spot for his company. “We’ve always believed that the value of observability should extend across the entire enterprise, providing greater clarity and confidence to every team involved in these modern, digital businesses. By joining ServiceNow, together we will realize that vision for our customers and help transform the world of work in the process […], Sigelman said in a statement.

Lightstep is part of the application performance monitoring market with companies like DataDog, New Relic and AppDynamics, which Cisco acquired in 2017 the week before it was scheduled to IPO for $3.7 billion. It seems to be an area that is catching the interest of larger enterprise vendors, who are picking off smaller startups in the space.

Last November, IBM bought Instana, an APM startup and then bought Turbonomic for $2 billion at the end of last month as a complementary technology. Being able to monitor apps and keep them up and running is crucial, not only from a business continuity perspective, but also from a brand loyalty one. Even if the app isn’t completely down, but is running slowly or generally malfunctioning in some way, it’s likely to annoy users and could ultimately cause users to jump to a competitor. This type of software gives customers the ability to observe and detect problems before they have an impact on large numbers of users.

Lightstep, which is based in San Jose California, was founded in 2015. It raised $70 million from investors like Altimeter Capital, Sequoia, Redpoint and Harrison Metal. Customers include GitHub, Spotify and Twilio. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

#application-performance-monitoring, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #lightstep, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #observability, #servicenow, #startups, #tc

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For M&A success, tap legal early and often

While mergers and acquisitions may be the right strategic path for many businesses, organizations tend to underestimate the role in-house legal teams play in a large-scale strategic transaction until the company is firmly entrenched in a deal.

While the CEO and board might fully appreciate the counsel of the legal team, the ability of the legal team to earn the support of the business — from product and development to marketing and HR — is critical to a smooth, efficient closing and post-close integration process.

Your in-house legal team should be held accountable for catching things specific to your business that outside attorneys will miss.

Having been on the inside of M&A transactions, here are a few insights that I recommend any executive team considering a major strategic transaction keep in mind when working with, and setting expectations for, the in-house legal function as the deal moves from business agreement to closing and through integration.

Is this the right transaction to move the business forward?

When you’re thinking of M&A (or any other type of strategic transaction, for that matter), it is critical to understand why you’re pursuing a deal and what the potential implications (both good and bad) may be for the business at large.

As the executive or founding team, have you agreed that doing the deal is the best way to further the overall strategic business objectives? Is the proposed deal allowing the company to scale more rapidly or efficiently? Does the transaction provide for a more diversified, complementary product offering?

After settling that the deal is the best way to achieve the overall business objective, the next focus is on execution. How will the resulting leadership bring together the two organizations? Do you have a plan on how to go from closing the transaction to successfully moving forward with the strategic purposes for doing the transaction in the first place? Is there agreement on product direction, go-to-market strategies, staffing, company culture, etc.?

These high-level discussions are important to have while evaluating a potential deal, and bringing in your internal legal leadership is critical in these early phases. You may identify during these early discussions aspects that are critical for the deal to be a success, and being sure your legal team is aware of these aspects allows the team to anticipate post-closing issues and resolve them proactively with the structure of the deal or by explicitly calling out critical obligations of each party.

Your in-house legal team should be held accountable for catching things specific to your business that outside attorneys will miss. Outside attorneys are experts in M&A or IPOs or venture financings or whatever else, but your in-house lawyers are experts in your company — that’s the true value of having an in-house team.

#advisors, #business-process-management, #column, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #human-resource-management, #lawyer, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #tc

0

Dell dumps another big asset moving Boomi to Francisco Partners and TPG for $4B

It’s widely known that Dell has a debt problem left over from its massive acquisition of EMC in 2016, and it seems to be moving this year to eliminate part of it in multi-billion chunks. The first step was spinning out VMware as a separate company last month, a move expected to net close to $10 billion.

The second, long expected, finally dropped last night when the company announced it was selling Boomi to a couple of private equity firms for $4 billion. Francisco Partners is joining forces with TPG to make the deal to buy the integration platform.

Boomi is not unlike Mulesoft, a company that Salesforce purchased in 2018 for $6.5 billion, although a bit longer in tooth. They both help companies with integration problems by creating connections between disparate systems. With so many pieces in place from various acquisitions over the years, it seems like a highly useful asset for Dell to help pull these pieces together and make them work, but the cash is trumping that need.

Providing integration services is a growing requirement as companies look for ways to make better use of data locked in siloed systems. Boomi could help and that’s one of the primary reasons for the acquisition, according to Francisco executives.

“The ability to integrate and connect data and workflows across any combination of applications or domains is a critical business capability, and we strongly believe that Boomi is well positioned to help companies of all sizes turn data into their most valuable asset,” Francisco CEO Dipanjan Deb and partner Brian Decker said in a statement.

As you would expect, Boomi’s CEO Chris McNabb put a positive spin on the deal about how his new bosses were going to fuel growth for his company. “By partnering with two tier-one investment firms like Francisco Partners and TPG, we can accelerate our ability for our customers to use data to drive competitive advantage. In this next phase of growth, Boomi will be in a position of strength to further advance our innovation and market trajectory while delivering even more value to our customers,” McNabb said in a statement.

All of this may have some truth to it, but the company goes from being part of a large amorphous corporation to getting absorbed in the machinery of two private equity firms. What happens next is hard to say.

The company was founded in 2000, and sold to Dell in 2010. Today, it has 15,000 customer, but Dell’s debt has been well documented, and when you string together a couple of multi-billion deals as Dell has recently, pretty soon you’re talking real money. While the company has not stated it will explicitly use the proceeds of this deal to pay off debt as it did with the VMware announcement, it stands to reason that this will be the case.

The deal is expected to close later this year, although it will have to pass the typical regulatory scrutiny prior to that.

#boomi, #cloud, #dell, #enterprise, #francisco-partners, #integration, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity, #tc, #tpg

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MessageBird acquires SparkPost for $600M using $800M Series C extension

MessageBird, a communications platform out of the Netherlands, had a busy day today with two huge announcements. For starters, the company got an $800 million extension on its $200 million Series C round announced last October. It then applied $600 million of the extension to buy email marketing platform SparkPost. The company’s C round now totals at least $1 billion.

Let’s start with the acquisition. MessageBird CEO Robert Vis says his company had an email component prior to the acquisition, but the chance to pick up the largest email provider in the world was too good to pass up.

“If you talk about infrastructure, we’re defining largest […] as a matter of interactions, so basically the amount of emails sent. SparkPost sends about 5 trillion emails a year. And the second thing that’s very important to us is to be able to send high scale emails when it’s really critical,” Vis told me.

With the company in the fold, it enables MessageBird, which has mostly been in Europe and Asia, to get a stronger foothold in the U.S. market. “So this is as much for us about the technology around SparkPost as it actually is for us to have market entry into the United States with a significant workforce instead of having to build that from scratch,” Vis said.

Rich Harris, CEO of SparkPost sees the deal as a way to expand SparkPost to multiple channels already available on the MessageBird platform and be a much more powerful combination together than it could have been alone.

“By joining forces with MessageBird, we will be able to bring broader, deeper value to all of our customers through any digital communications,” Harris said in a statement.

Vis agrees saying it gives his company the opportunity to upsell other MessageBird services to SparkPost customers. “SparkPost obviously only offers email. We can offer SmartPost customers way more channels. We can offer them texting, Instagram, WhatsApp or Apple Business Chat. So we feel very excited about leveraging them to go sell much more broad messenger products to their customers,” Vis said.

MessageBird announced its $240 million Series C on a $3 billion valuation last October. The company’s whopping $800 million extension brings the round to around $1 billion. It’s worth noting that the round isn’t completely closed yet, so that’s not an official figure.

“The round isn’t completely closed yet as we are still waiting on some of the funds to come in, so we cannot give you 100% final figures on the round, but we can say with confidence that the round will close at $1B or slightly higher,” a company spokesperson explained. It is announcing the funding before everything is 100% done due to regulatory requirements around the acquisition.

Eurazeo, Tiger Global, BlackRock and Owl Rock participated in the extension along with Bonnier, Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone, Longbow, Mousse Partners and NewView Capital, as well as existing investors such as Accel, Atomico (they led the Series A and B rounds) and Y Combinator. The mix is 70% equity and 30% debt, according to the company.

Today’s acquisition comes on the heels of two others just last month when the company announced it was acquiring video meeting startup 24Sessions and Hull, a synchronization technology startup. The company also acquired Pusher, a push notification company in January, as MessageBird is using its Series C cash to quickly expand the platform.

#cloud, #communications, #email, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #messagebird, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

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Filing: Snap paid $124M for Fit Analytics as it gears up for a bigger e-commerce push

Earlier this year we reported on how Snap had acquired Berlin-based Fit Analytics, an AI-based fitting technology startup, as part of a wider push into e-commerce services, specifically to gain technology that can help prospective online shoppers get a better sense of how a particular item or size would fit them. A 10-Q filing from Snap today has now put a price tag on that deal.

Snap paid a total of $124.4 million, covering technology, IP, customer relationships and payouts to the team. The filing also noted that Snap spent a total of $204.5 million on acquisitions in 2020, but did not break them out.

The news comes ahead of Snap — whose flagship app Snapchat now has 280 million daily active users — preparing for its Snap Partner Conference in May. Sources say the company plans to announce, among other news, deeper commerce features for Snapchat — specifically tools to make it easier for Snapchat users to interact with and buy items that appear in the app, either in ads or more organically in content shared by other users.

While the exact details of those commerce tools, and the timing of when they might come online, are not yet known, Snap has hardly kept its interest in commerce a secret.

Snap has been hiring for roles to support its commerce efforts. Currently it’s advertising for a variety of engineering, marketing and product roles in commerce, to, in the words of one of the listings, for a Product Manager, “develop and launch shopping experiences and services that make shopping fun for Snapchatters and drive results for brands.” The listings also include a role specifically to work on Snapchat-based e-commerce efforts for direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses.

And it has been making other recent acquisitions in addition to Fit Analytics that also line up with that.

They have included Screenshop, an app that describes itself as “the first AI-back style lens,” which can identify shoppable items in photos and then build a custom catalog of similar products that you can buy (akin to “shop the look” features that you will have come across in fashion media). And it’s also acquired Ariel AI, which has built technology to quickly render people in 3D, technology that can be used in a diverse set of applications, from games to virtual try-ons of clothing, makeup or accessories.

Snap confirmed the Ariel acquisition to CNBC in January. And while Screenshop deal was first reported earlier this month by The Information, Snap has declined to comment on it, although we have found people who worked at the startup now working at Snap.

Both acquisitions closed in 2020, according to reports, meaning that they came out of that year’s $204.5 million acquisition run. (Snap also noted a smaller acquisition, for $7.6 million, in the most recent quarter, but it did not disclose any further details.)

Even before all this, Snap had been making smaller efforts and tests in commerce going back years, although none of them have tipped into mainstream efforts.

Among them, in 2018 it launched a Snap Store — but that so far has not progressed beyond selling merchandise based on Bitmoji characters. And work on a Gucci shoe campaign last year, where Snapchat users could try shoes on in AR and then buy them, was seen by some as its big step into commerce — “we’ve moved from pure entertainment and expanded the use-case. And so with brands, it’s a really exciting time, especially in fashion and beauty. The Snapchat camera is connecting brands to their audiences in new ways,” a Snapchat AR executive said at the time — but that also didn’t develop into much beyond a one-off effort.

But with the pandemic leading to a surge of shopping online, and technology continuing to improve, the iron may finally be hot here.

As we said around the Fit Analytics acquisition, the idea of diversifying Snapchat’s revenue streams by building in more commerce experiences makes a lot of sense.

It gives the company another revenue stream at a time when Apple is introducing changes that might well affect how advertising can run and be monetized in the future. (The company most recently posted average revenues per user of $2.74, a figure Wall Street will be hoping will grow, not shrink.) It also plays into the demographics that Snapchat targets, where younger consumers are using social media apps to discover, share and shop for goods.

And specifically in the case of fashion, building experiences to shop for items on Snapchat leans into the augmented reality, image-altering, hyper-visual technology that has become a well-known and much-used hallmark of Snapchat and its owner, self-titled “camera company” Snap.

#artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #fit-analytics, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #snap, #social, #tc

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Report: Discord walked away from Microsoft talks, may pursue an IPO

A month after reports that Microsoft sought to buy the hot voice chat app Discord, those talks appear to be off. The Wall Street Journal and Reuters both report that Discord now plans to stay independent, possibly charting a path to its own IPO in the not-too-distant future.

Microsoft was reportedly in “advanced” talks to purchase the company for around $10 billion before Discord walked away. According to the WSJ, Microsoft was just one of three companies in acquisition talks. Neither publication cited named sources in their reports that any deal was off.

Discord’s valuation doubled in less than six months last year and its stock is only looking hotter in 2021. A well-loved voice chat app originally built for gamers, Discord was in the right place well ahead of the current voice chat trend that Clubhouse ignited. As companies from Facebook to Twitter scramble to build their own voice-based community tools, Discord rolled out its own support for curated audio events last month.

Discord’s decision to veer away from a sale makes sense for a company keen to keep its unique DNA rather than being rolled into an existing product at a bigger company. The choice could also keep the company distant from a protracted antitrust headache, as lawmakers mull legislation that could block big tech deals to prevent further consolidation in the industry.

#clubhouse, #discord, #facebook, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #microsoft, #social-media, #software, #tc, #voice-chat

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Mastercard is acquiring identity verification company Ekata for $850M

As online identity management grows in importance, Mastercard swooped in this morning and bought identity verification company Ekata for $850 million.

Mastercard certainly sees the rapid digital transformation that is happening in online commerce, a move that was accelerated by COVID. It’s a transformation that once started isn’t likely to change back to the old ways of doing business, even when we get past the pandemic.

With Ekata, the company gets a solution that can verify the online identity of a person making the transaction in real time using various signals that can indicate if this is fraudulent or true as they open an account or transact business. The company provides a score and other data that predicts the likelihood this person is who they say they are. It’s not unlike a credit risk score, except for identity.

That was one of the primary reasons Mastercard decided to acquire Ekata, according to Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence solutions at the company. “With the addition of Ekata, we will advance our identity capabilities and create a safer, seamless way for consumers to prove who they say they are in the new digital economy,” Bhalla said in a statement.

The two companies believe that by combining Mastercard’s fraud detection solutions with Ekata’s scoring approach, they will help prevent bad actors from using online platforms to conduct business. “The acceleration of online transactions has thrust global digital identity verification to the forefront as one of the biggest opportunities to build digital trust and combat global fraud,” Rob Eleveld, CEO at Ekata said in a statement.

The company, which was previously known as White Page Pro, was spun out as Ekata in June 2019. It has not raised any additional money, according to both Pitchbook and Crunchbase data. It would seem that $850 million represents a nice exit for a company that hasn’t raised a dollar, but it’s clearly more mature than your average startup with 2000 customers including Lyft, Stripe, Equifax, Checkout.com and Intuit.

It appears that Mastercard was willing to pay to get the company it wanted at a time when a solution like this is becoming more essential than ever. The acquisition is subject to standard regulatory approval, but remember regulators quashed the Visa-Plaid deal last year. If it passes muster, it should close some time in the next six months, according to the company.

#ekata, #finance, #fundings-exits, #identity, #ma, #mastercard, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #tc

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Microsoft goes all in on healthcare with $19.7B Nuance acquisition

When Microsoft announced it was acquiring Nuance Communications this morning for $19.7 billion, you could be excused for doing a Monday morning double take at the hefty price tag.

That’s surely a lot of money for a company on a $1.4 billion run rate, but Microsoft, which has already partnered with the speech-to-text market leader on several products over the last couple of years, saw a company firmly embedded in healthcare and it decided to go all in.

And $20 billion is certainly all in, even for a company the size of Microsoft. But 2020 forced us to change the way we do business from restaurants to retailers to doctors. In fact, the pandemic in particular changed the way we interact with our medical providers. We learned very quickly that you don’t have to drive to an office, wait in waiting room, then in an exam room, all to see the doctor for a few minutes.

Instead, we can get on the line, have a quick chat and be on our way. It won’t work for every condition of course — there will always be times the physician needs to see you — but for many meetings such as reviewing test results or for talk therapy, telehealth could suffice.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that Nuance is at the center of this shift, especially with its use of cloud and artificial intelligence, and that’s why the company was willing to pay the amount it did to get it.

“AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application. Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance,” Nadella said in a post announcing the deal.

Microsoft sees this deal doubling what was already a considerable total addressable market to nearly $500 billion. While TAMs always tend to run high, that is still a substantial number.

It also fits with Gartner data, which found that by 2022, 75% of healthcare organizations will have a formal cloud strategy in place. The AI component only adds to that number and Nuance brings 10,000 existing customers to Microsoft including some of the biggest healthcare organizations in the world.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says the deal could provide Microsoft with a ton of health data to help feed the underlying machine learning models and make them more accurate over time.

“There is going be a ton of health data being captured by the interactions coming through telemedicine interactions, and this could create a whole new level of health intelligence,” Leary told me.

That of course could drive a lot of privacy concerns where health data is involved, and it will be up to Microsoft, which just experienced a major breach on its Exchange email server products last month, to assure the public that their sensitive health data is being protected.

Leary says that ensuring data privacy is going to be absolutely key to the success of the deal. “The potential this move has is pretty powerful, but it will only be realized if the data and insights that could come from it are protected and secure — not only protected from hackers but also from unethical use. Either could derail what could be a game changing move,” he said.

Microsoft also seemed to recognize that when it wrote, “Nuance and Microsoft will deepen their existing commitments to the extended partner ecosystem, as well as the highest standards of data privacy, security and compliance.”

We are clearly on the edge of a sea change when it comes to how we interact with our medical providers in the future. COVID pushed medicine deeper into the digital realm in 2020 out of simple necessity. It wasn’t safe to go into the office unless absolutely necessary.

The Nuance acquisition, which is expected to close some time later this year, could help Microsoft shift deeper into the market. It could even bring Teams into it as a meeting tool, but it’s all going to depend on the trust level people have with this approach, and it will be up to the company to make sure that both healthcare providers and the people they serve have that.

#artificial-intelligence, #cloud, #enterprise, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #microsoft, #nuance-communications, #privacy, #tc, #telemedicine

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Microsoft is acquiring Nuance Communications for $19.7B

Microsoft agreed today to acquire Nuance Communications, a leader in speech to text software, for $19.7 billion. Bloomberg broke the story over the weekend that the two companies were in talks.

In a post announcing the deal, the company said this was about increasing its presence in the healthcare vertical, a place where Nuance has done well in recent years. In fact, the company announced the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare last year, and this deal is about accelerating its presence there. Nuance’s products in this area include Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One and PowerScribe One for radiology reporting.

“Today’s acquisition announcement represents the latest step in Microsoft’s industry-specific cloud strategy,” the company wrote. The acquisition also builds on several integrations and partnerships the two companies have made in the last couple of years.

The company boasts 10,000 healthcare customers, according to information on the website. Those include AthenaHealth, Johns Hopkins, Mass General Brigham and Cleveland Clinic to name but a few, and it was that customer base that attracted Microsoft to pay the price it did to bring Nuance into the fold.

Nuance CEO Mark Benjamin will remain with the company and report to Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s EVP in charge of the cloud and AI group.

Nuance has a complex history. It went public in 2000 and began buying speech recognition products including Dragon Dictate from Lernout Hauspie in 2001. It merged with a company called ScanSoft in 2005. That company began life as Visioneer, a scanning company in 1992.

Today, the company has a number of products including Dragon Dictate, a consumer and business text to speech product that dates back to the early 1990s. It’s also involved in speech recognition, chat bots and natural language processing particularly in healthcare and other verticals.

The company has 6,000 employees spread across 27 countries. In its most recent earnings report from November 2020, which was for Q42020, the company reported $352.9 million in revenue compared to $387.6 million in the same period a year prior. That’s not the direction a company wants to go in, but it is still a run rate of over $1.4 billion.

At the time of that earnings call, the company also announced it was selling its medical transcription and electronic health record (EHR) Go-Live services to Assured Healthcare Partners and Aeries Technology Group. Company CEO Benjamin said this was about helping the company concentrate on its core speech services.

“With this sale, we will reach an important milestone in our journey towards a more focused strategy of advancing our Conversational AI, natural language understanding and ambient clinical intelligence solutions,” Benjamin said in a statement at the time.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft already has a number speech recognition and chat bot products of its own including desktop speech to text services in Windows and on Azure, but it took a chance to buy a market leader and go deeper into the healthcare vertical.

The transaction has already been approved by both company boards and Microsoft reports it expects the deal to close by the end of this year, subject to standard regulatory oversight and approval by Nuance shareholders.

This would mark the second largest purchase by Microsoft ever, only surpassed by the $26.2 billion the company paid for LinkedIn in 2016.

#artificial-intelligence, #enterprise, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #microsoft, #nuance-communications, #tc

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Acorns’ new fintech target is debt management with acquisition of Pillar

Popular saving and investing app Acorns has acquired Pillar, an AI-powered startup built to help manage student loan debt, in its second acquisition of 2021.

New York-based Pillar helps consumers optimize their debt payments by focusing first on student loans. It launched in May 2019 with $5.5 million in seed funding led by Kleiner Perkins. The companies declined to reveal the financial terms of the deal, only noting that within six months of launching, Pillar managed over $500 million worth of student loan debt of more than 15,000 borrowers. 

Michael Bloch dropped out of Stanford Business School and co-founded Pillar after he and his wife had amassed more than $500,000 of student loan debt after she graduated from law school. Prior to that, he had led the Strategy & Operations division for DoorDash, growing it to $100 million in revenue. The problem Pillar has aimed to tackle is massive. Student loan debt is the second-largest type of consumer debt in the U.S., with 45 million borrowers collectively owing nearly $1.7 trillion in student loans.

Notably, Acorns was apparently one of several companies that had courted Pillar.

“We were in a pretty lucky position to have a lot of interest from many of the top fintech companies that are out there,” Bloch told TechCrunch. “We had multiple offers on the table and Acorns was really our top choice just given how the business has been doing and the team, the culture and the mission.”

The deal marks the second acquisition this year and third overall for Acorns, which says it notched its strongest quarter in its history the first three months of this year. In March, Acorns also acquired Harvest, a fintech that helped customers reduce more than $4 million in debt in 2020.

The Pillar and Harvest teams will help Acorns accelerate its product roadmap of helping customers pay down debt, “an essential part of the financial wellness system,” said CEO and founder Noah Kerner.

Over time, Pillar will become part of one of Acorns’ monthly subscription tiers. 

“The IP and technology that the Pillar team created in debt management is really interesting to us when we think about how we scale our Smart Deposit feature,” Kerner said.

With Smart Deposit, when a customer’s paycheck hits the Acorns bank account, the app automatically allocates a percentage of that paycheck into an individual’s different investment accounts. 

“From a behavioral perspective, the best way to get somebody to save and invest is to enable them to set aside a piece of their paycheck as soon as it hits the account so that they don’t spend it. That feature has been really well adopted by our direct deposit customers,” Kerner said. “And so Michael and his team are coming in to manage that feature, and also our bank accounts product. I think their past experience is going to be really useful for us to take what we have and help the team catalyze it further.”

With its latest acquisition, Irvine, California-based Acorns now has more than 350 employees. In 2017, the company acquired Vault, now called “Acorns Later.” As a result of that acquisition, the company has seen its number of retirement accounts grow to 1.2 million from 500.

As mentioned above, Acorns has had a good year so far. In the first six weeks of 2021, the company added nearly 600,000 new accounts, reaching a total of more than 9 million users having saved and invested a total of $7.5 billion.

“The first quarter was our biggest growth quarter on record,” Kerner told TechCrunch. “In particular we crossed the $4.3 billion in dollars in assets under management, which is a really exciting milestone when you think about the fact that these are customers that are saving small amounts of money in the relative scheme of money invested typically.”

#acorns, #artificial-intelligence, #bank, #debt, #exit, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fundings-exits, #kleiner-perkins, #loans, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #new-york, #pillar, #startups, #student-debt, #student-loan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll-ups are another flavor of investing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OneTrust adds ethics to its privacy platform with Convercent acquisition

OneTrust, a late stage privacy platform startup, announced it was adding ethics and compliance to the mix this morning by acquiring Convercent, a company that was built to help build more ethical organizations. The companies did not share the purchase price.

OneTrust just raised $300 million on a fat $5.1 billion valuation at the end of last year, and it’s putting that money to work with this acquisition. Alan Dabbiere, co-chairman at OneTrust sees this acquisition as a way to add a missing component to his company’s growing platform of services.

“OneTrust instantly brings a proven ethics and compliance technology, team, and customer base into the OneTrust, further aligning the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer strategy alongside privacy, data governance, third-party risk, GRC (governance, risk and compliance), and ESG (environmental, social and governance) to build trust as a competitive advantage,” he said.

Convercent brings 750 customers and 150 employees to the OneTrust team along with its ethics system, which includes a way for employees to report ethical violations to the company and a tool for managing disclosures.

Convercent can also use data to help surface bad behavior before it’s been reported. As CEO Patrick Quinlan explained in a 2018 TechCrunch article:

“Sometimes you have this interactive code of conduct, where there’s a new vice president in a region and suddenly page views on the sexual harassment section of the Code of Conduct have increased 200% in the 90 days after he started. That’s easy, right? There’s a reason that’s happening, and our system will actually tell you what’s happening.”

Quinlan wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal that joining forces with OneTrust will give it the resources to expand its vision.

“As a part of OneTrust, we’ll be combining forces with the leader across privacy, security, data governance, third-party risk, GRC, ESG—and now—ethics and compliance. Our customers will now be able to build centralized programs across these workstreams to make trust a competitive differentiator,” Quinlan wrote.

Convercent was founded in 2012 and has raised over $100 million, according to Pitchbook data. OneTrust was founded in 2016. It has over 8000 customers and 150 employees and has raised $710 million, according to the company.

#convercent, #enterprise, #ethics, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #onetrust, #privacy, #security, #startups, #tc

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ServiceNow takes RPA plunge by acquiring India-based startup Intellibot

ServiceNow became the latest company to take the robotic process automation (RPA) plunge when it announced it was acquiring Intellibot, an RPA startup based in Hyderabad, India. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

The purchase comes at a time where companies are looking to automate workflows across the organization. RPA provides a way to automate a set of legacy processes, which often involve humans dealing with mundane repetitive work.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s no-code workflow announcements earlier this month and is part of the company’s broader workflow strategy, according to Josh Kahn, SVP of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow.

“RPA enhances ServiceNow’s current automation capabilities including low code tools, workflow, playbooks, integrations with over 150 out of the box connectors, machine learning, process mining and predictive analytics,” Khan explained. He says that the company can now bring RPA natively to the platform with this acquisition, yet still use RPA bots from other vendors if that’s what the customer requires.

“ServiceNow customers can build workflows that incorporate bots from the pure play RPA vendors such as Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism, and we will continue to partner with those companies. There will be many instances where customers want to use our native RPA capabilities alongside those from our partners as they build intelligent, end-to-end automation workflows on the Now Platform,” Khan explained.

The company is making this purchase as other enterprise vendors enter the RPA market. SAP announced a new RPA tool at the end of December and acquired process automation startup Signavio in January. Meanwhile Microsoft announced a free RPA tool earlier this month, as the space is clearly getting the attention of these larger vendors.

ServiceNow has been on a buying spree over the last year or so buying five companies including Element AI, Loom Systems, Passage AI and Sweagle. Khan says the acquisitions are all in the service of helping companies create automation across the organization.

“As we bring all of these technologies into the Now Platform, we will accelerate our ability to automate more and more sophisticated use cases. Things like better handling of unstructured data from documents such as written forms, emails and PDFs, and more resilient automations such as larger data sets and non-routine tasks,” Khan said.

Intellibot was founded in 2015 and will provide the added bonus of giving ServiceNow a stronger foothold in India. The companies expect to close the deal no later than June.

 

#automation, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #rpa, #servicenow, #startups, #tc

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Dropbox to acquire secure document sharing startup DocSend for $165M

Dropbox announced today that it plans to acquire DocSend for $165 million The company helps customers share and track documents by sending a secure link instead of an attachment.

“We’re announcing that we’re acquiring DocSend to help us deliver an even broader set of tools for remote work, and DocSend helps customers securely manage and share their business critical documents, backed by powerful engagement analytics,” Houston told me.

When combined with the electronic signature capability of HelloSign, which Dropbox acquired in 2019, the acquisition gives the company an end-to-end document sharing workflow it had been missing. “Dropbox, DocSend and HelloSign will be able to offer a full suite of self-serve products to help our millions of customers manage the entire critical document workflows and give more control over all aspects of that,” Houston explained.

Houston and DocSend co-founder and CEO Russ Heddleston have known each for other years, and have an established relationship. In fact, Heddleston worked for Dropbox as a summer in intern in 2010. He even ran the idea for the company by Houston prior to launching in 2013, who gave it his seal of approval, and the two companies have been partners for some time.

“We’ve just been following the thread of external sending, which has just kind of evolved and opened up into all these different workflows. And it’s just really interesting that by just being laser focused on that we’ve been able to create a really differentiated product that users love a ton,” Heddleston said.

Those workflows include creative, sales, client services or startups using DocSend to deliver proposals or pitch decks and track engagement. In fact, among the earliest use cases for the company was helping startups track engagement with their pitch decks at VC firms.

The company raised a modest amount of the money along the way, just $15.3 million, according to Crunchbase, but Heddleston says that he wanted to build a company that was self-sufficient and raising more VC dollars was never a priority or necessity. “We had [VCs] chase us to give us more money all the time, and what we would tell our employees is that we don’t keep count based on money raised or headcount. It’s just about building a great company,” he said.

That builder’s attitude was one of the things that attracted Houston to the company. “We’re big believers in the model of product growth and capital efficiency, and building really intuitive products that are viral, and that’s a lot of what what attracted us to DocSend,” Houston said. While DocSend has 17,000 customers, Houston says the acquisition gives the company the opportunity to get in front of a much larger customer base as part of Dropbox.

It’s worth noting that Box offers a similar secure document sharing capability enabling users to share a link instead of using an attachment. It recently bought e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million with an eye toward building more complex document workflows similar to what Dropbox now has with HelloSign and DocSend. PandaDoc is another competitor in this space.

Both Dropbox and SendDoc participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield with Houston debuting Dropbox in 2008 at the TechCrunch 50, the original name of the event. Meanwhile, DocSend participated in 2014 at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City.

DocSend’s approximately 50 employees will be joining Dropbox when the deal closes, which should happen soon, subject to standard regulatory oversight.

#cloud, #docsend, #drew-houston, #dropbox, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #saas, #secure-file-sharing, #startups, #tc

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McAfee sells enterprise biz to Symphony Technology Group for $4B

Security firm McAfee announced this morning that will be selling its enterprise business to a consortium led by the private equity firm Symphony Technology Group for $4 billion.

It should pair well with RSA, another enterprise-focused security company the private equity firm purchased last February for $2 billion.

McAfee President and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Leav says that his company has decided to direct the firm’s resources to the consumer side of the business. “This transaction will allow McAfee to singularly focus on our consumer business and to accelerate our strategy to be a leader in personal security for consumers,” he said in a statement.

The company has been some moves in the last year, returning to the public markets after a decade as a private company. In January, the company reportedly laid off a couple of hundred employees and shut down its software development center in Tel Aviv.

Although Symphony did not point directly to the RSA acquisition, the two investments create a large combined legacy security business for the firm, both of which have strong brand recognition, but might have lost some of their edge to more modern competitors in the marketplace.

Looking at McAfee’s latest earning’s report, Q42020, which the company reported on February 24, 2021, the consumer business grew at a much brisker rate than the enterprise side of the house. The former was up 23% YoY, while the latter grew at a far slower 5% rate.

As for the entire year, the company reported $2.9 billion in total FY2020 revenue, up 10% YoY. That broke down to $1.6 billion in consumer net revenue up 20% YoY, and $1.3 billion in enterprise net revenue, an increase of just 1% for the full year.

The company has a complex history, starting life in the 1980s selling firewall software. It eventually went public before being purchased by Intel for $7.7 billion in 2010 and going private again. In 2014, the company changed names to Intel Security before Intel sold a majority stake it to TPG in 2017 for $4.2 billion and changed the name back to McAfee.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year subject to regulatory oversight.

#enterprise, #ma, #mcafee, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity, #security, #symphony-technology-group, #tc

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Making sense of the $6.5B Okta-Auth0 deal

When Okta announced that it was acquiring Auth0 yesterday for $6.5 billion, the deal raised eyebrows. After all, it’s a substantial amount of money for one identity and access management (IAM) company to pay to buy another, similar entity. But the deal ultimately brings together two companies that come at identity from different sides of the market — and as such could be the beginning of a beautiful identity friendship.

The deal ultimately brings together two companies that come at identity from different sides of the market — and as such could be the beginning of a beautiful identity friendship.

On a simple level, Okta delivers identity and access management (IAM) to companies who use the service to provide single-sign-on access for employees to a variety of cloud services — think Gmail, Salesforce, Slack and Workday.

Meanwhile, Auth0 is a developer tool providing coders with easy API access to single-sign-on functionality. With just a couple of lines of code, the developer can deliver IAM tooling without having to build it themselves. It’s a similar value proposition to what Twilio offers for communications or Stripe for payments.

The thing about IAM is that it’s not exciting, but it is essential. That could explain why such a large number of dollars are exchanging hands. As Auth0 co-founder and CEO Eugenio Pace told TechCrunch’s Zack Whittacker in 2019, “Nobody cares about authentication, but everybody needs it.”

Putting the two companies together generates a fairly comprehensive approach to IAM covering back end to front end. We’re going to look at why this deal matters from an identity market perspective, and if it was worth the substantial price Okta paid to get Auth0.

Halt! Who goes there?

When you think about identity and access management, it’s about making sure you are who you say you are, and that you have the right to enter and access a set of applications. That’s why it’s a key part of any company’s security strategy.

Gartner found that IAM was a $12 billion business last year with projected growth to over $13.5 billion in 2021. To give you a sense of where Okta and Auth0 fit, Okta just closed FY2021 with over $800 million in revenue. Meanwhile Auth0 is projected to close this year with $200 million in annual recurring revenue.

Identity and access management market numbers from Gartner.

Image Credits: Gartner

Among the top players in this market according to Gartner’s November 2020 Magic Quadrant market analysis are Ping Identity, Microsoft and Okta in that order. Meanwhile Gartner listed Auth0 as a key challenger in their market grid.

Michael Kelly, a Gartner analyst, told TechCrunch that Okta and Auth0 are both gaining something from the deal.

“For Okta, while they have a very good product, they have marketing muscle and adoption rates that are not available to smaller vendors like Auth0. When having [IAM] conversations with clients, Okta is almost always on the short list. Auth0 will immediately benefit from being associated with the larger Okta brand, and Okta will likewise now have credibility in the deals that involve a heavy developer focused buyer,” Kelly told me.

Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon said he was enthusiastic about the deal precisely because of the complementary nature of the two companies’ approaches to identity. “How a developer interacts with the service, and the flexibility they need is different from how the CIO wants to work with [identity]. So by giving customers this choice and support, it’s really compelling,” McKinnon explained.

#auth0, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #enterprise, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #okta, #saas, #security, #tc, #todd-mckinnon

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Okta acquires cloud identity startup Auth0 for $6.5B

As Okta announced earnings today after the bell, it revealed that it’s buying cloud identity startup Auth0 for a hefty $6.5 billion. The company had a valuation of $1.92 billion when it raised $120 million led by Salesforce Ventures last July.

With Auth0, Okta gets a cloud identity company that helps developers embed identity management into applications, adding an entirely new dimension to its identity platform. “Today, we’re taking a significant step forward — I’d go so far to call it a “leap” — to enhance the Okta Identity Cloud. We announced our agreement to join forces with Auth0, a leading identity platform for developers,” Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Auth0 users can breathe a sigh of relief in that McKinnon writes that the company will operate as an independent unit inside of Okta as they look for paths to integration in the coming months.

Eugenio Pace, co-founder and CEO Auth0 sees his company together with Okta as powerful combination in the identity management space, and he’s not just hyping the deal when he says that. “Together, we can offer our customers workforce and customer identity solutions with exceptional speed, simplicity, security, reliability and scalability. By joining forces, we will accelerate our customers’ innovation and ability to meet the needs and demands of consumers, businesses and employees everywhere,” Pace said in a statement.

Okta had a pretty good quarter too while it was at it, announcing $234.7 million in revenue up 40% year over year, but Wall Street appears to be unhappy with the deal with the stock price down 6.9% in after hours trading.

Auth0 was founded in 2013 and raised over $300 million along the way. In addition to Salesforce Ventures, other investors included Sapphire Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and Meritech Capital Partners.

This is a breaking story. More to come.

#auth0, #cloud, #enterprise, #identity-management, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #okta, #saas, #security, #tc, #todd-mckinnon

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Toro acquires robotic tractor/snow blower maker, Left Hand Robotics

Toro this week announced its intentions to acquire Left Hand Robotics. The Colorado-based startup (not to be confused with Righthand Robotics) is a natural fit for the lawn mowing giant, as the producer of the RT-1000, an autonomous system capable of mowing large lawns and clearing snow from sidewalks.

Toro is best known for its personal and professional mowers and various other landscaping machines. The company also has some experience in the robotic category, beating various competitors to the punch by a decade or two with its iMow, but those efforts don’t appear to have made a major dent in its overall offerings.

Left Hand’s primary offering targets professionals. It’s already a category for its new parent company, though it’s easy to see how it might scale down as personal mowers gain in popularity. The RT-1000 is a fully autonomous system designed for a variety of weather conditions that could make a more compact version an appealing option for users — assuming the companies are able to shrink the cost accordingly.

The acquisition comes as companies like John Deere are strategizing their own approach toward robotics, while devoted companies like iRobot have begun to explore the space. Although iRobot’s own mower was delayed due to COVID-19, the Roomba maker believes it has cracked what’s proven to be a difficult market for many.

Left Hand has raised $8.9 million to date. Details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

#lawn, #left-hand-robotics, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #robotics, #toro

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Atlassian is acquiring Chartio to bring data visualization to the platform

The Atlassian platform is chock full of data about how a company operates and communicates. Atlassian launched a machine learning layer, which relies on data on the platform with the addition of Atlassian Smarts last fall. Today the company announced it was acquiring Chartio to add a new data analysis and visualization component to the Atlassian family of products. The companies did not share a purchase price.

The company plans to incorporate Chartio technology across the platform, starting with Jira. Before being acquired, Chartio has generated its share of data, reporting that 280,000 users have created 10.5 million charts for 540,000 dashboards pulled from over 100,000 data sources.

Atlassian sees Chartio as way to bring that data visualization component to the platform and really take advantage of the data locked inside its products. “Atlassian products are home to a treasure trove of data, and our goal is to unleash the power of this data so our customers can go beyond out-of-the-box reports and truly customize analytics to meet the needs of their organization,” Zoe Ghani, head of product experience at platform at Atlassian wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Chartio co-founder and CEO Dave Fowler wrote in a blog post on his company website that the two companies started discussing a deal late last year, which culminated in today’s announcement. As is often the case in these deals, he is arguing that his company will be better off as part of large organization like Atlassian with its vast resources than it would have been by remaining stand-alone.

“While we’ve been proudly independent for years, the opportunity to team up our technology with Atlassian’s platform and massive reach was incredibly compelling. Their product-led go to market, customer focus and educational marketing have always been aspirational for us,” Fowler wrote.

As for Chartio customers, unfortunately according to a notice on the company website, the product is going to be going away next year, but customers will have plenty of time to export the data to another tool. The notice includes a link to instructions on how to do this.

Chartio was founded in 2010, and participated in the Y Combinator Summer 2010 cohort. It raised a modest $8.03 million along the way, according to Pitchbook data.

#atlassian, #chartio, #data-visualization, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc

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Rokk3r acquires AdMobilize and Matrix Labs for $19.5M

Miami-based AdMobilize and its spin-off, Matrix Labs, announced this morning that they are being acquired for $19.5 million. The buyer is Rokk3r, a Miami-based holding company that invests in creating, acquiring and integrating companies.

AdMobilize quantifies digital advertising in the physical world, so marketers can better reach their target audiences.

“If you’re walking on 5th Avenue and you pass by a bus shelter that has a digital screen, AdMobilize analyzes [peoples’] age, gender, emotion and even how long the person was looking at the ad. We created a platform that mimics the click-through rate. So we kind of created Google Analytics for the outside world,” said Rodolfo Saccoman, CEO and founder of AdMobilize.

The company, which has raised $13 million since its launch in 2012, also has offices in Saccoman’s native Brazil, as well as Colombia and London. 

AdMobilize operates as a SaaS with an average monthly subscription fee of $50 per screen or billboard. 

“Our tech is 95% accurate, and it’s based on undeniable computer vision data,” Saccoman said. If a digital ad screen doesn’t have a camera built-in, AdMobilize can provide one. But Saccoman made it very clear that the company doesn’t do any facial recognition and really is only interested in the data in a broader sense.

Matrix Labs, on the other hand, is a hardware company with products that look similar to Raspberry Pi, but with a lot more oomph.

“Our Matrix Labs development boards give the Raspberry Pi superpowers. It transforms the Pi to be AI-ready for computer vision, sensor fusion, voice recognition and more. It democratizes AI at the edge by removing barriers to entry, shortening the learning curve, and increases adaptability,” Saccoman said.

Rodolfo Saccoman Image Credits: Saccoman

The company offers two boards. One is called the Matrix Creator and sells for $99, while the other is the Matrix Voice which goes for $75.

“It [Matrix boards] enables people to not spend millions of dollars making a piece of hardware,” Saccoman said. In fact, it levels the playing field for developers, he added. “It allows them to create solutions in the physical world with inexpensive edge AI hardware.”

Rokk3r was an early investor in AdMobilize, along with Azoic Ventures, Fuel Venture Capital, VAS Ventures and Axel Springer.

“Rokk3r has always believed in the potential of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and computer vision, hence it seeded and helped build AdMobilize. Where we stand today with what AdMobilize/Matrix Labs has achieved, it is clear that the technology created is critical to the future of AI/IOT/CV, and with Rokk3r’s focus on AI/IOT and IP creation, the fit was clear,” said Nabyl Charania, chairman and CEO of Rokk3r.

Saccoman is a Brazilian-born serial entrepreneur who moved to the U.S. to attend college at Cornell in 1995 and never left. He made his way down to South Florida with his first job out of college, where he was head of Digital Innovation at the ultra-lux Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. While the AdMobilize/Matrix Labs deal is his first exit, his first “venture” was when he was just 13 years old. It was called the PiPi bag. São Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil, is notorious for awful traffic. It can often take people three hours to get to the airport, and when you’re trying to catch a flight, stopping to use the restroom isn’t usually an option. As the name suggests, the Pipi bag was a handheld portable toilet of sorts for those moments when nature calls.

Years later, in 2007, Saccoman also founded a company with his brother who has a PhD in psychology. It was called MyTherapyJournal.com and was the first online journaling platform with cognitive behavior therapy. 

“It would measure your varying emotions when you answered key questions. For example, people could start to understand what would trigger their anxiety. It had early traces of AI,” Saccoman said. MyTherapyJournal closed in 2012.

Of his various ventures, he said, “My mind was always running to find problems.”

Saccoman will stay on board and lead Rokk3r’s AI and IoT division.

#admobilize, #adtech, #advertising-tech, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #rokk3r

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SailPoint is buying Saas management startup Intello

SailPoint, an identity management company that went public in 2017, announced it was going to be acquiring Intello today, an early stage SaaS management startup. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

SailPoint believes that by helping its customers locate all of the SaaS tools being used inside a company, it can help IT make the company safer. Part of the problem is that it’s so easy for employees to deploy SaaS tools without IT’s knowledge, and Intello gives them more visibility and control.

In fact, the term ‘shadow IT’ developed over the last decade to describe this ability to deploy software outside of the purview of IT pros. With a tool like Intello, they can now find all of the SaaS tools and point the employees to sanctioned ones, while shutting down services the security pros might not want folks using.

Grady Summers, EVP of product at SailPoint says that this problem has become even more pronounced during the pandemic as many companies have gone remote, making it even more challenging for IT to understand what SaaS tools employees might be using.

“This has led to a sharp rise in ungoverned SaaS sprawl and unprotected data that is being stored and shared within these apps. With little to no visibility into what shadow access exists within their organization, IT teams are further challenged to protect from the cyber risks that have increased over the past year,” Summers explained in a statement. He believes that with Intello in the fold, it will help root out that unsanctioned usage and make companies safer, while also helping them understand their SaaS spend better.

Intello has always seen itself as a way to increase security and compliance and has partnered in the past with other identity management tools like Okta and Onelogin. The company was founded in 2017 and raised $5.8 million according to Crunchbase data. That included a $2.5 million extended seed in May 2019.

Yesterday, another SaaS management tool,