Amagi tunes into $100M for cloud-based video content creation, monetization

Media technology company Amagi announced Friday $100 million to further develop its cloud-based SaaS technology for broadcast and connected televisions.

Accel, Avataar Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners joined existing investor Premji Invest in the funding round, which included buying out stakes held by Emerald Media and Mayfield Fund. Nadathur Holdings continues as an existing investor. The latest round gives Amagi total funding raised to date of $150 million, Baskar Subramanian, co-founder and CEO of Amagi, told TechCrunch.

New Delhi-based Amagi provides cloud broadcast and targeted advertising software so that customers can create content that can be created and monetized to be distributed via broadcast TV and streaming TV platforms like The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus and Pluto TV. The company already supports more than 2,000 channels on its platform across over 40 countries.

“Video is a complex technology to manage — there are large files and a lot of computing,” Subramanian said. “What Amagi does is enable a content owner with zero technology knowledge to simplify that complex workflow and scalable infrastructure. We want to make it easy to plug in and start targeting and monetizing advertising.”

As a result, Amagi customers see operational cost savings on average of up to 40% compared to traditional delivery models and their ad impressions grow between five and 10 times.

The new funding comes at a time when the company is experiencing rapid growth. For example, Amagi grew 30 times in the United States alone over the past few years, Subramanian said. Amagi commands an audience of over 2 billion people, and the U.S. is its largest market. The company also sees growth potential in both Latin America and Europe.

In addition, in the last year, revenue grew 136%, while new customer year over year growth was 44%, including NBCUniversal — Subramanian said the Tokyo Olympics were run on Amagi’s platform for NBC, USA Today and ABS-CBN.

As more of a shift happens with video content being developed for connected television experiences, which he said is a $50 billion market, the company plans to use the new funding for sales expansion, R&D to invest in the company’s product pipeline and potential M&A opportunities. The company has not made any acquisitions yet, Subramanian added.

In addition to the broadcast operations in New Delhi, Amagi also has an innovation center in Bangalore and offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.

“Consumer behavior and infrastructure needs have reached a critical mass and new companies are bringing in the next generation of media, and we are a large part of that growth,” Subramanian said. “Sports will come on quicker, while live news and events are going to be one of the biggest growth areas.”

Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel, said Amagi is taking a unique approach to enterprise SaaS due to that $50 billion industry shift happening in video content, where he sees half of the spend moving to connected television platforms quickly.

Some of the legacy players like Viacom and NBCUniversal created their own streaming platforms, where Netflix and Amazon have also been leading, but not many SaaS companies are enabling the transition, he said.

When Kirani met Subramanian five years ago, Amagi was already well funded, but Kirani was excited about the platform and wanted to help the company scale. He believes the company has a long tailwind because it is saving people time and enabling new content providers to move faster to get their content distributed.

“Amagi is creating a new category and will grow fast,” Kirani added. “They are already growing and doubling each year with phenomenal SaaS metrics because they are helping content providers to connect to any audience.

 

#accel, #advertising-tech, #amagi, #avataar-ventures, #baskar-subramanian, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computing, #content-creators, #developer, #enterprise, #funding, #india, #mayfield-fund, #media, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #shekhar-kirani, #startups, #streaming-video, #tc, #video-content

Bright raises $15M for its live video platform that lets you Zoom with top creators

Bright, a live video platform that lets fans Zoom with their favorite creators and celebs, has raised $15 million in new funding, the company announced today. The round was co-led by co-founder and talent manager Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, the fund he founded with Ashton Kutcher. RIT Capital and Regah Ventures also co-led.

Other investors in the new round include Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Globo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Shawn Mendes & Manager Andrew Gertler’s AG Ventures, as well as Jeff Lawson, CEO and co-founder of Twilio.

In addition, a number of artists, performers, actors and other celebrities also invested, Bright says, including Rachel Zoe, Drew and Jonathan Scott, Judd Apatow, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer, Bethenny Frankel, and Ryan Tedder. Meanwhile, Jessica Alba, Kane Brown and Maria Sharapova are joining the company as advisors.

Bright, which first debuted in May, was co-founded by Madonna and U2 talent manager Guy Oseary along with early YouTube product manager Michael Powers, who had previously launched the YouTube Channels feature while at Google. The startup’s premise is to tap into the growing creator economy in a way that allows creators to better monetize their success outside of ad-supported networks, like YouTube, so they can grow their own business.

The platform itself is built on top of Zoom — a choice that not only saves Bright from starting from scratch for its real-time video technology, but also one that leverages the broad adoption Zoom has since seen due to the pandemic.

At launch, Bright announced a lineup that included over 200 prominent creators who were set to host ticketed online events where they share their stories or expertise, engage in interviews, offer advice and more. Today, Bright says now over 300 notable names have joined the service to engage with fans and continue to build their brand. The list includes Madonna, Naomi Campbell, D-Nice, the D’Amelio Sisters, Laura Dern, Deepak Chopra, Lindsey Vonn, Diego Boneta, Jason Bolden, Yris Palmer, Cat & Nat, Ronnie2K, and Chef Ludo Lefebvre, and others. Even more are on board to host future sessions.

Unlike social media creator tools, Bright is focused on knowledge-sharing rather than just gaining likes or follows. For example, one the first sessions featured actor Laura Dern speaking about personal growth, while another featured streamer and online creator Ronnie2K hosting a series about building a career in gaming. In other words, Bright doesn’t only showcase Hollywood entertainment or top artists — it’s open to anyone whose fan base would be willing to pay to hear them talk.

Today, there are sessions across a variety of interests and topics, organized into areas like craft, home, money, culture, body and mind.

Image Credits: Bright session example

Bright itself generates revenue by taking a 20% commission on creator revenue, which is somewhat lower than the traditional marketplace split of 30/70 (platform/creator) but higher than some of the newer platforms available today, like Clubhouse and its commission-free direct payments.

The startup says the funding is being used to help roll out Creator Studio, a new suite of creator tools for managing learning sessions, audience communication, and revenue performance. These sorts of analytics and tools are aimed at serving creators who are working to build a business through live sessions, in addition to growing their fan base. The funds will also help Bright to add new interactive features, like instant polls and the ability to share learning materials with attendees, it says.

These features could potentially help Bright to stand out from a growing number of competitors looking to serve online creators, which today includes major tech companies, like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter. However, Oseary’s ability to leverage his personal network to pull in big names is, for now, the more notable differentiator.

“As a believer in lifelong learning, I’m proud to be investing in a platform like Bright, offering audiences the unique opportunity to learn directly from the artists and experts they admire the most,” said new investor, director and producer, Judd Apatow, in a statement. “Through Bright, I can directly connect and share my knowledge with fellow writers, aspiring directors and lovers of comedy,” he added.

“It’s inspiring to have the support of incredible investors as well as these notable artists and entrepreneurs. All our partners share Bright’s vision that people want to level up their lives by learning directly from those they admire,” Bright CEO Michael Powers said, in an announcement. “Through Bright, talent can better engage authentically with audiences by sharing their own knowledge and bringing their many interests and passions to the foreground. We are excited to roll out our new features to continue elevating our platform and mission” he said.

#advisors, #amy-schumer, #apps, #articles, #ashton-kutcher, #chef, #creator-studio, #creator-tools, #deepak-chopra, #google, #guy-oseary, #jeff-lawson, #jessica-alba, #marc-benioff, #media, #michael-powers, #norwest-venture-partners, #online-creators, #online-events, #product-manager, #recent-funding, #social, #social-media, #software, #startups, #time-ventures, #twilio, #twitter, #video-hosting, #youtube

ICON lands $207M Series B to construct more 3D-printed homes after seeing 400% YoY revenue growth

Creating single-family homes for the homeless using 3D printing robotics. Developing construction systems to create infrastructure and habitats on the moon, and eventually Mars, with NASA. Delivering what is believed to be the largest 3D-printed structure in North America — a barracks for Texas Military Department.

These are just some of the things that Austin, Texas-based construction tech startup ICON has been working on.

And today, the company is adding a massive $207 million Series B raise to its list of accomplishments.

I’ve been covering ICON since its $9 million seed round in October of 2018, so seeing the company reach this milestone less than three years later is kind of cool. 

Norwest Venture Partners led the startup’s Series B round, which also included participation from 8VC, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), BOND, Citi Crosstimbers, Ensemble, Fifth Wall, LENx, Moderne Ventures and Oakhouse Partners. The financing brings ICON’s total equity raised to $266 million. The company declined to reveal its valuation.

ICON was founded in late 2017 and launched during SXSW in March 2018 with the first permitted 3D-printed home in the U.S. That 350-square-foot house took about 48 hours (at 25% speed) to print. ICON purposely chose concrete as a material because, as co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard put it, “It’s one of the most resilient materials on Earth.”

Since then, the startup says it has delivered more than two dozen 3D-printed homes and structures across the U.S. and Mexico. More than half of those homes have been for the homeless or those in chronic poverty. For example, in 2020, ICON delivered 3D-printed homes in Mexico with nonprofit partner New Story. It also completed a series of homes serving the chronically homeless in Austin, Texas, with nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

The startup broke into the mainstream housing market in early 2021 with what it said were the first 3D-printed homes for sale in the U.S. for developer 3Strands in Austin, Texas. Two of the four homes are under contract. The remaining two homes will hit the market on August 31. 

And recently, ICON revealed its “next generation” Vulcan construction system and debuted its new Exploration Series of homes. The first home in the series, “House Zero,” was optimized and designed specifically for 3D printing.

For some context, ICON says its proprietary Vulcan technology produces “resilient, energy-efficient” homes faster than conventional construction methods and with less waste and more design freedom. The company’s new Vulcan construction system, according to Ballard, can 3D print homes and structures up to 3,000 square feet, is 1.5x larger and 2x faster than its previous Vulcan 3D printers.

From the company’s early days, Ballard has maintained ICON is motivated by the global housing crisis and lack of solutions to address it. Using 3D printers, robotics and advanced materials, he believes, is one way to tackle the lack of affordable housing, a problem that is only getting worse across the country and in Austin.

ICON’s list of future plans include the delivery of social, disaster relief and more mainstream housing, Ballard said, in addition to developing construction systems to create infrastructure and habitats on the moon, and eventually Mars, with NASA.

ICON also has two ongoing projects with NASA. Recently, Mars Dune Alpha was just announced by NASA, ICON and BIG – and ICON so far has finished printing the wall system and is onto the roof now. Also, NASA is recruiting for crewed missions to begin nextfFall to live in the first simulated Martian habitat 3D printed by ICON.

Project Olympus represents ICON’s effort to develop a space-based construction system for future exploration of the Moon and “to imagine humanity’s home on another world.”
“Our goal is to have ICON tech on the Moon in the next decade,” Ballard said.

When asked, Ballard said the most significant thing that has happened since the company’s $35 million Series A last August has been the “the radical increase in demand for 3D-printed homes and structures.”

“That single metric represents a lot for us,” Ballard told TechCrunch. “People have to want these houses.”

To tackle the housing shortage, the world needs to increase supply, decrease cost, increase speed, increase resiliency, increase sustainability… all without compromising quality and beauty, he added.

“Perhaps there are a few approaches that can do some of those things, but only construction scale 3D printing holds the potential to do all of those things,” he said.

ICON has seen impressive financial growth, with 400% revenue growth nearly every year since inception, according to Ballard. It’s also tripled its team in the past, year and now has more than 100 employees. It expects to double in size within the next year.

Image Credits: Co-founders with next-gen Vulcan Construction System / ICON

The series B funds will go toward more construction of 3D-printed homes, “rapid scaling and R&D,” further space-based tech advancements and creating “a lasting societal impact on housing issues,” Ballard said.

“We have already stood up early-stage manufacturing and are in the process of upgrading and accelerating those efforts in order to meet demand for more 3D-printed houses even as we close the round,” Ballard said. “In the next five years, we believe we will be delivering thousands of homes per year and on our way to tens of thousands of homes per year.”

Norwest Venture Partners Managing Partner Jeff Crowe, who is joining ICON’s board as part of the financing, said his firm believes that ICON’s 3D printing construction technology will “massively impact the housing shortage in the U.S. and around the globe.”

It is “enormously difficult” to bring together the advanced robotics, materials science and software to develop a robust 3D printing construction technology in the first place, Crowe said.  

“It is still harder to develop the technology in a way that can produce hundreds and thousands of beautiful, affordable, comfortable, energy efficient homes in varying geographies with reliability and predictability — not just one or two demonstration units in a controlled setting,” he wrote via e-mail. “ICON has done all that, and…has all the elements to be a breakout, generational success.”

#3d-printing, #austin, #construction-tech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greentech, #icon, #jeff-crowe, #norwest-venture-partners, #oakhouse-partners, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #robotics, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Enable bags $45M for B2B rebate management platform

Enable, a startup developing a cloud-based software tool for business-to-business rebate management, announced Wednesday a $45 million Series B funding round.

The round is led by Norwest Venture Partners with participation from existing investors Menlo Ventures and Sierra Ventures, and a group of angel investors. Including the new round, the company has raised a total of $62 million, which includes a $13 million Series A raised in 2020.

The company, which started in the U.K. and moved to San Francisco in 2020, was co-founded by Andrew Butt and Denys Shortt in 2015 but launched fully in 2016. Its technology automates how distributors and manufacturers create, execute and track rebates. These types of trading programs are a common industry practice and are relied on by distributors as a way to turn a profit.

Since raising its Series A last year, Butt, chief executive officer, moved to the Bay Area, grew its North American operations to 60 people, tripled revenue and more than tripled its customer base, he told TechCrunch. The new funding will be used for product innovation and building sales and go-to-market teams.

“The Series A was proving traction in the U.S. and Canada and gave us the ability to hire a U.S. leadership team,” he added. “When we saw that momentum, the market size was large and the opportunity was now getting bigger and bigger, we started scaling up the business.”

As customer needs changed and incentives were growing in terms of revenue and profitability, Enable saw that they were more critical to manage; the incentives needed to be more dynamic and easy to make targeted and personalized. In a sense, incentives have “gone from being blunt instruments to very sharp in size and volume,” Butt said.

Reaching the year over year revenue doubling was a milestone for the company, and his immediate next steps are to get a fully ramped team so Enable can continue on that growth trajectory. The market for incentives is big, but “there is no credible competition,” so the company is also working to build that distribution and sales team now, he added.

It was also over the past year that Butt met Sean Jacobsohn, partner at Norwest Venture Partners, who, as part of the investment, joined Enable’s board of directors.

Jacobsohn had noticed Enable and asked for an introduction to the company when it hired Jerry Brooner as its president of global field operations. Jacobsohn was tracking Brooner’s next moves after leaving Scout, a Workday company, and the hire got his attention.

Enable checks all of the boxes Jacobsohn said he looks for in a company: strong CEO, a good team and good customer feedback — many of them were dissatisfied with the legacy software, he said.

“I also love companies going after a big market where there is no credible competition,” Jacobsohn added. “There is a lot of greenfield space here. What’s great about a player like that is they can come in, create a category and be the new generation cloud player. This isn’t something someone can wake up and start. You need deep domain expertise.”

 

#andrew-butt, #apps, #cloud, #denys-shortt, #enable, #enterprise, #funding, #menlo-ventures, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #sean-jacobsohn, #sierra-ventures, #startups, #tc

Third Wave Automation raises $40M to bring its autonomous forklifts to warehouses

Fresh off a strategic partnership with Toyota Industries Corporation to build an autonomous forklift, Third Wave Automation has snagged another $40 million from investors.

The California-based startup, which was founded in 2018, has raised $40 million in a Series B round led by Norwest Venture Partners, including participation from prior investors Innovation Endeavors and Eclipse, along with Toyota Ventures, according to a Form D filed with regulators. Matt Howard, general partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Third Wave’s board of directors.

The injection of capital came after Howard learned of Third Wave’s partnership with Toyota Industries Corporation, which builds a third of the world’s forklifts, Third Wave CEO Arshan Poursohi told TechCrunch. Under that deal, which was announced in May, Third Wave and Toyota Industries (TICO) will develop an autonomous forklift together. The machine will be manufactured at a TICO factory and equipped with Third Wave’s sensors and compute stack. Third Wave will support the software side.

Third Wave’s three co-founders — including Mac Mason, who is chief roboticist, and James Davidson, who is no longer with the company — have long backgrounds in robotics, oftentimes working together at places like Google’s robotics program and Google Research and Toyota Research Institute.

“We’ve covered just about every kind of robot there is,” Poursohi said. “But all of these robots that we built ended up, you know, sitting in a closet somewhere because ultimately, Google or, in my case, Sun Microsystems, would decide it’s not worth scaling it out because it’s not the core business, or some other reason.”

The co-founders struck out to form their own company to focus on robots that would be used and would meet an immediate need.

“When we looked at forklifts, it’s this beautiful manipulation problem, so it’s a robot that actually touches the world on purpose,” Poursohi said. “And it’s a thing that we can actually build and ship on a time horizon that is not measured in decades.”

The forklifts they have developed operate under what is called shared autonomy. This means the forklift, which can lift pallets and move them around, will operate on its own 90% of the time. However, every robot can also be controlled remotely if the need arises. The robots are easy to operate, meaning the customer, not Third Wave, can have on-site employees to provide assistance remotely if the robot encounters something that prevents it from operating.

“There’s a big impact we can make on logistics and supply chain, just by moving pallets around, and that’s where we’ve been concentrated. The key to our technology is that it’s very fast to set up and it works in brownfield [environments],” Poursohi said.

Third Wave is still at an early stage in its development, but it’s making progress. The momentum from the funding and the recent completion of technical trials will allow the company to speed up its hiring effort and focus on commercialization, Poursohi said. He noted that Third Wave is in active conversations with 20 third-party logistics operators and retailers in the industry.

“We’ve tackled and have solid answers on all the technical fronts,” Poursohi said. “The next year and a half to two years is about is scaling out our operations team. And the market demand for this right now is massive.”

The target is to have 100 units in the field — meaning warehouses and other indoor locations — by the end of 2022 and scaling to 350 to 400 by the end of 2023.

#forklift, #funding, #norwest-venture-partners, #robotics, #tc, #toyota, #transportation

Norwest’s Lisa Wu explains how to think like a VC when fundraising

At the TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising event last week, Norwest Venture PartnersLisa Wu took the stage to discuss how founders can think like venture capitalists in all facets of their business. The overlapping in job roles is uncanny: The best investors and founders have to find focus through the noise, understand the weight of due diligence and pitch others with conviction. Wu, who has investments in Plaid, Calm and Ritual, used anecdotes and exercises — such as the eyebrow test — in the tactical, engaging chat.

Pitch deck or pitch blurb?

Startup founders often turn to pitch decks when fundraising as a visual representation of their story — from the origins to total addressable market to those juicy metrics. While the format definitely works, the influx of pitch decks in a hot deal environment makes it harder to stand out.

Wu gave some pointers on how she reacts to cold pitch decks, and why founders may want to take some unconventional advice.

I love it because I can quickly flip through the deck and generally form an opinion on it. And I think I’ve read some stat recently, which is that investors really spend 2 minutes and 47 seconds per deck. It’s an easy way for me to, in that short amount of time, just get a calibration of the business to decide whether to move forward.

But, as the founder, I’ll probably tell you don’t do [the cold pitch deck]. Because if you’re sending me the pitch deck, I’m quickly screening and then I’m making a decision of whether it makes sense to meet, but your goal is really just to try to get the meeting with me to tell the story and let that unfold. And so, give us enough of it — like a blurb to tease us to want to continue to engage is great. But if it is possible, I would suggest a late pullback of the pitch deck, even though I love to receive it in advance. (Timestamp: 21:50)

In other words, she loves founders sliding into the DMs with pitch decks, but doesn’t think that strategy always gives the founder storytelling power.

This answer triggered a series of questions from attendees on whether pitch decks are even necessary in the first place. Here, Wu explains how the competitive venture market has impacted her preferences — and her interest in what I’d describe it as a private beta, except for fundraising rounds.

So, everything is shifting these days. Because there’s so much capital [and competition] out there, sometimes if I’m chasing a really hot company, I actually prefer that they don’t have a deck, or they haven’t created one yet. Because once you have a deck, that means you can go and take it out to a bunch of other investors, too. And so it’s helpful to structure the conversation and to storytell around it. I think I like a deck more so than not, unless it’s in a competitive situation. If I’m trying to close the deal, I actually prefer just an open dialogue. (Timestamp: 23:30)

We just have them come in and we just prepare our team internally to let them know that there’s no deck here. And so, it’s just up to the founders to really just tell the story to us. And, it’s worked. (Timestamp: 24:20)

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#early-stage-2021, #ec-early-stage-2021, #ec-how-to, #event-recap, #lisa-wu, #norwest-venture-partners, #nvp, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Abodu raises $20M to build prefabricated backyard homes

The need for more affordable housing has never been more urgent as a shortage in the U.S. housing market persists.

Startups attempting to help address the shortage in a variety of ways abound. One such startup, Abodu, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners. Previous backer Initialized Capital also participated in the financing, along with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, former Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, GGV investor Hans Tung and Paradox Capital’s Kyle Tibbitts.

The California legislature changed laws in 2017 to make it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Then on January 1, 2020, the state of California made it dramatically easier to add extra housing units to single-family home sites. Cities and local agencies have to quickly approve or deny ADU projects within 60 days of receiving a permit application. The state also now prevents cities from imposing minimum lot size requirements, maximum ADU dimensions or off-street parking requirements. 

Redwood City, California-based Abodu, which builds prefabricated ADUs, was founded in 2018 to serve as a “one-stop shop” for building an ADU, or as some describe it, a home in a backyard.

Image Credits: Co-founders John Geary and Eric McInerney / Abodu

What sets the company apart from others in the space, its execs claim, is that it not only builds and installs the units, it helps homeowners with the painful process of getting permits. Abodu says it pre-approves its structural engineering with California state-level agencies to ensure its units can be built statewide and works with local agencies to pre-approve its foundation systems to ensure projects can proceed on predictable timelines.

It also claims to offer a cheaper and faster process than if one were to build an ADU from start to finish. Specifically, the startup claims that one of its backyard homes can be installed in just 10% of the time it would take for a traditional ADU to be built. 

Abodu has been active in the market, selling and building its ADUs since the fall of 2019. Since then, it has put “dozens and dozens” of units in the ground, and has multiple dozen units in production on top of that, according to CEO and co-founder John Geary. So far, it’s operating in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle. The company claims it can deliver an ADU in as little as 30 days in San Jose and Los Angeles thanks to the cities’ pre-approval process. In other cities in California and Washington, turnaround is “as little as 12 weeks.” But a standard bespoke project takes 4-5 months from start to finish, according to Geary.

The startup’s three products include a 340-square foot studio; a 500-square foot one bedroom, one bath, and a 610-square foot two bedroom unit. All have kitchens and living space.

Pricing starts at $190,000, but the average project cost across all sizes is around $230,000, Geary said, inclusive of permits and site work.

There are a variety of use cases for ADUs, the most popular of which is to house family and for rental income. 

“During the pandemic, multigenerational living has been at an all-time high. There are acute family needs that people are trying to solve for,” Geary said. “In addition, folks are earning extra money by renting them out to members of the community such as teachers or fireman, a single person or younger couple.”

Next, Abodu is eyeing the San Diego market.

Earlier this week, we covered the recent raise of Mighty Buildings, another Bay Area-based startup building ADUs and other housing. The biggest difference between the two companies, according to Geary, is that Mighty Buildings is focused on innovation in construction with its 3D-printed method. 

“We decided early on that we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel from the construction standpoint,” Geary said. “Instead, we looked at ‘how can we solve for speed and ease?’ ”

Abodu operates with an asset-light model, and doesn’t own any factories. Instead, it has built a network of factory “partners” across the Western U.S. that builds its units depending on how their capacities look at any given time.

Naturally, the company’s investors are bullish on the company’s business model.

Jeff Crowe, managing partner of Norwest Venture Partners, believes that Abodu’s “beautifully crafted units” are just one of the company’s selling points.

“John, Eric, and their team manage the end-to-end process of permitting, building, and installing on behalf of their customers,” he told TechCrunch. “And with the expedited permitting that Abodu has been granted in over two dozen cities, it has faster time-to-installation than other ADU market participants.  The result has been very high levels of customer satisfaction and rapid growth.”

Former Stockton Mayor Tubbs said Abodu is tackling two of California’s most consequential issues: the statewide housing shortage and its impacts on racial and economic segregation in our neighborhoods.

“By making it fast and accessible for normal homeowners to build high-quality backyard housing units, Abodu’s success will mean integrating options for both renters and homeowners in the same neighborhoods, while supporting small landlords and property owners in building equity in their homes,” he wrote via email.

Abodu’s success would be a win-win that strengthens communities.

He went on to describe the speed that Abodu can deliver housing units to customers in certain parts of California “astounding.” 
“Abodu’s team has done some of the most difficult legwork for property owners by building local contractor relationships with reliable, vetted, high-quality partners,” he said. “As a homeowner myself, I know the challenges of permitting and finding contractors during construction. It’s this thoughtful attention to detail and customer trust that sets Abodu apart from other similar offerings.”

 

#abodu, #adu, #affordable-housing, #california, #funding, #fundings-exits, #glenn-kelman, #hans-tung, #initialized-capital, #jeff-crowe, #los-angeles, #norwest, #norwest-venture-partners, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #redwood-city, #san-jose, #seattle, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #urban-planning, #venture-capital, #washington

Forum Brands raises $27M as crowded Amazon roll-up space continues to heat up

The number of startups acquiring e-commerce businesses, especially those operating on Amazon, to grow and scale is increasing as more people than ever are shopping online.

The latest such startup to raise capital is Forum Brands, which today announced it has raised $27 million in equity funding for its technology-driven e-commerce acquisition platform. 

Norwest Venture Partners led the round, which also included participation from existing backers NFX and Concrete Rose.

Brenton Howland, Ruben Amar and Alex Kopco founded New York-based Forum Brands last summer during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its self-proclaimed goal was to use data to innovate through acquisition.

“We’re buying what we think are A+ high-growth e-commerce businesses that sell predominantly on Amazon and are looking to build a portfolio of standalone businesses that are category leaders, on and off Amazon,” Howland said. “A source of inspiration for us is that we saw how consumer goods and services changed fundamentally for what we think is going to be for decades and decades to come, accelerating the shift toward digital.”

Forum Brands founding team. Image Credits: Forum Brands

Forum’s technology employs “advanced” algorithms and over 60 million data points to populate brand information into a central platform in real time, instantly scoring brands and generating accurate financial metrics.

The M&A team also uses data to contact brand owners “in just three clicks.” But Forum says it already knows which brands meet its acquisition criteria before ever making contact with brand owners.

“The decision to acquire comes within 48 hours and once terms are agreed upon, entrepreneurs get paid in 30 days or less for their brand, with additional income benefits through post-acquisition partnerships,” according to the company.

Its apps leverage analytics to push recommendations to drive growth and financial performance for brands. Then, its multichannel approaches aimed at positioning the brands for “long-term category leadership.”

“We are using a lot of data science and machine learning techniques to build technology that allows us to eventually operate efficiently a large portfolio of digital brands at scale,” Kopco said.

The company is undeterred by the increasingly crowded space based on the belief that the market opportunity is so huge, there’s plenty of room for multiple players.

“We are very much in the day zero consolidation of the e-commerce space, and the market is very, very large,” Amar told TechCrunch. “And based on our data, 98% or 99% of all sellers are still operating independently. So, this is not a winner-takes-all market. There will be multiple winners, and we’ve built a strategy to be one of these winners.” 

Norwest Venture Partners’ Stew Campbell believes that the number of sellers who reach a point where they have trouble scaling either due to the lack of resources or time is only going to grow. And Forum Brands intends to capitalize on that.

There’s a continued need for more liquidity options for the entrepreneurs behind many Amazon-first brands. Forum helps entrepreneurs recognize value, which can be significant too many,” he said. ”After acquisition, the Forum team drives operational efficiencies and scale to create better customer experiences for shoppers on Amazon.”

Campbell emphasizes that his firm was drawn to Forum Brands’ team, which the company also touts as a differentiator.

Co-founder and COO Kopco worked in a variety of product roles for several years at Amazon and John Derkits, Forum’s VP of brand growth, is also ex-Amazon. Overall, three-fourths of its operating team are former Amazonians. Co-CEO and co-founder Howland was an investor for two years at Cove Hill Partners and is a former McKinsey consultant.

Campbell says his firm has seen many other models in this market, “but the Forum team blends long-term mindsets and focus on technology, while bringing operational and M&A expertise.”

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because TechCrunch also recently covered the raise of Acquco, which has a similar business model to that of Forum Brands and also involves former Amazon employees. In May, that startup raised $160 million in debt and equity to scale its business. Thrasio is another high-profile player in the space, and has raised $850 million in funding this year. Other startups that have recently attracted venture capital include Branded, which recently launched its own roll-up business on $150 million in funding, as well as Berlin Brands Group, SellerX, Heyday, Heroes and Perch. And, Valoreo, a Mexico City-based acquirer of e-commerce businesses, raised $50 million of equity and debt financing in a seed funding round announced in February.

Also, earlier this month, Moonshot Brands announced a $160 million debt and equity raise to “acquire high-performing Amazon third-party sellers and direct-to-consumer businesses on Shopify and WooCommerce with established brand equity.” That company says that since its founding in 2020, it has achieved a $30 million revenue run rate. Among its investors are Y Combinator, Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures and the founders of Hippo, Lambda School and Shift. 

#amazon, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #new-york, #nfx, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #roll-up, #roll-ups, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Homebuying startup Flyhomes closes $150 million Series C

Amid a recent tear in residential real estate investment, venture capitalists are looking to get a piece of homebuying startup Flyhomes.

The five-year-old startup announced today that they’ve closed a $150 million Series C co-led by Norwest Venture Partners and Battery Ventures. Fifth Wall, Camber Creek, Balyasny Asset Management, Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff, and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Canvas Partners also participated in the round. Norwest’s Lisa Wu and Battery’s Roger Lee are joining Flyhomes’ board as part of the deal.

The end-to-end residential real estate startup says they handle “every step of the homebuying process, from brokerage to mortgage,” building financial tools that customers need throughout the process. The company has now raised some $310 million in total.

The startup is well-positioned during a historic run-up of home prices in the US that has made deals more competitive than ever for prospective buyers. A recent report by Redfin notes that more than half of US homes are selling above their asking price right now, up from 1 in 4 a year ago. A Zillow report notes that nearly half of US homes are selling within one week of going on the market.

Flyhomes’s Cash Offer lending product allows consumers purchasing homes to make more attractive all-cash offers to sellers, with the company noting that even if a buyer ends up backing out of the deal, Flyhomes will still buy the home themselves. Central to the startup’s business is sellers being more amenable to all-cash offers, allowing consumers making them to win deals even when they aren’t the highest bidders.

The company says it has bought and sold more than $2.5 billion worth of homes since launching in 2016.

#andreessen-horowitz, #battery-ventures, #camber-creek, #companies, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #fifth-wall, #financial-tools, #norwest-venture-partners, #real-estate, #real-estate-investment, #redfin, #spencer-rascoff, #startup-company, #tc, #united-states, #zillow

Cybersecurity unicorn Exabeam raises $200M to fuel SecOps growth

Exabeam, a late-stage startup that helps organizations detect advanced cybersecurity threats, has landed a new $200 million funding round that values the company at $2.4 billion.

The Series F growth round was led by the Owl Rock division of Blue Owl Capital, with support from existing investors Acrew Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.

The announcement of Exabeam’s latest funding, which the company says will help it on its mission to become “the number one trusted cloud SeCops platform in the market”, coincides with the news that CEO Nir Polak, who co-founded the company in 2013, will be replaced by former ForeScout chief executive Michael DeCesare.

DeCesare is a big name in the cybersecurity space, with more than 25 years of experience leading high-growth security companies. He joined ForeScout as CEO and president in February 2015 after four years as president of McAfee, which at the time was owned by Intel. Under his leadership, ForeScout raised nearly $117 million in an upsized IPO that valued the IoT security vendor at $800 million.

Polak, meanwhile, will shift to a chairman role at Exabeam and “will continue on as an active member of the executive team and remain at the company,” according to the funding announcement.

“Nir has built an incredibly robust, diverse and inclusive culture at Exabeam, and I am committed to helping it flourish,” said DeCesare. “I’m thrilled to join Nir and the whole leadership team to help drive the company through its next phase of growth.”

Exabeam, which has now raised $390 million in six rounds of outside funding, says it expects to use the new money to fuel scale, innovate and extend the company’s leadership. “It gives us the opportunity to triple down on our R&D efforts and continue engineering the most advanced UEBA, XDR and SIEM cloud security products available today,” commented Polak.

The company adds that it has made significant investments in its partner program over the last 12 months, which now includes more than 400 reseller, distributor, systems integrator, MSSP, MDR and consulting partners globally. Exabeam also has more than 500 technology integrations with cloud network, data lake and endpoint vendors including CrowdStrike, Okta and Snowflake.

It’s clearly expecting these investments to pay off, describing its “outcome-based approach” to external security as perfectly suited to support organizations as they manage exponential amounts of data and return to the post-COVID workplace in a variety of hybrid scenarios. After all, hackers are already beginning to target employees who have started making a return to the office, and this threat is only likely to increase as more companies begin to dial back on remote working and start welcoming staff back into workplaces.

“Exabeam is poised to be the next-gen leader in the cloud security analytics, XDR and SIEM markets,” Pravin Vazirani, Blue Owl Capital’s managing director and co-head of tech investing, said in a statement. “We led this round of funding to provide the company with the resources necessary to support its sustainable, long-term growth and value creation.”

#acrew-capital, #ceo, #chairman, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #companies, #crowdstrike, #exabeam, #executive, #forescout, #funding, #intel, #leader, #lightspeed, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mcafee, #norwest-venture-partners, #okta, #president, #security, #software

Homeward secures $371M to help people make all-cash offers on houses

Trying to buy a house in a competitive market is perhaps one of the most stressful things an adult can go through.

Competing with a bunch of people all putting offers on a house that fly off the market in a matter of days is not fun. One startup that is trying to give home buyers a competitive edge by giving them a way to offer all cash on a home has just raised a boatload of money to help it keep growing.

Austin-based Homeward, which aims to help people buy homes faster, announced today it has raised $136 million in a Series B funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners at a valuation “just north of $800 million.” The company has also secured $235 million in debt.

Blackstone, Breyer Capital and existing backers Adams Street, Javelin and LiveOak Venture Partners also participated in the equity financing, which brings Homeward’s total equity raised since inception to $160 million. 

Homeward’s model seems to be appealing to both home buyers (including first time ones) and agents alike, with lots of growth occurring since May 2020 when it raised $105 million in debt and equity. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures but noted that its GMV (gross merchandise value) run rate is up over 600%+ year over year.

Also, as of March, Homeward says it had experienced a 5x increase in the volume of homes transacted and 9x year over growth in the number of new customers. Plus, It’s hired 161 employees since January alone, and currently has a headcount of 203, up from about 33 at this time last year. 

CEO Tim Heyl founded the real estate startup in late 2018 on the premise that in most cases, sellers prefer to receive all cash offers because they are more likely to close. Loans can fall through, but cash is cash.

Heyl started the company after having worked in the industry for the previous decade, first as a broker then as the owner of a title company. During that time, he saw firsthand many of the problems in the industry. And one conundrum he frequently ran into was people not wanting to make an offer on a home without knowing for sure their current house would sell in a certain amount of time. This is a dilemma many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand outweighs supply in many major U.S. cities.

“The pandemic has greatly increased demand for our product,” Heyl told TechCrunch. “It’s a historic seller’s market with unprecedented demand from buyers and the lowest inventory levels in decades.”

The company plans to use its new capital to “double down” on its offering, scale up to meet “outsized demand” and open additional markets. Currently, Homeward operates in Texas, Colorado and Georgia.

“Right now, we have a waiting list in every market across the country, so this growth capital will enable us to meet that demand,” Heyl said. Its ultimate goal is to open its offering to agents nationwide.

Homeward also plans to double the size of its title and mortgage teams in the latter half of the year so it can offer its clients and partner agents “a single streamlined experience.” It’s also planning to integrate its consumer and internal software systems for approvals, offers and closing “so everyone can be on a single platform and we can eliminate confusion and waste,” Heyl added.

So, how does it work exactly? Homeward will make an all-cash offer on behalf of a customer wanting to buy a house. Meanwhile, that customer can hire an agent (from brokerages such as Redfin or Keller Williams) to list their home with less pressure to sell it in a certain amount of time or at a discounted price. Once Homeward buys a home, it will lease the property back to its customer until they sell their house, get a mortgage, and can buy the property back from Homeward, plus a 2 percent to 3 percent convenience fee. During the process, Homeward offers a predetermined guaranteed price for its customer’s home with the promise that if it’s unable to sell the house for at least that amount, it’ll buy the house from them.

Heyl believes Homeward’s “alternative iBuyer” model is a better deal for customers since it doesn’t purchase a customer’s old home for below market value. The company also works with agents, and not against them, he said. For example, its offerings are available to any agent, but the company “strategically” partners with top brokerages and teams, providing them with what it describes as “dedicated support, white-label branding, and digital marketing tools to help them stand out from the crowd and attract more clients.”

“Most alternatives to traditional real estate minimize or replace the agent,” Heyl said. “But we are agents ourselves, and we’ve built this for agents.”

Homeward is profitable on a per unit basis if you count transaction revenue minus costs to acquire and complete each transaction, according to Heyl. However, it is not yet profitable on a net income basis.

Jeff Crowe, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Homeward’s board as part of the funding.

“Homeward is innovating at the intersection of real estate and fintech — that’s the next frontier,” he said. “Homeward’s cash offer addresses real problems for homebuyers in all market conditions, and the team has identified a winning strategy by partnering with agents and their clients.”

Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital describes Homeward as one of Austin’s most innovative companies.

“We are inspired by the company’s mission to build home finance solutions to overcome the limitations of the traditional mortgage and we are proud to support them as they continue to scale rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

#austin, #blackstone, #breyer-capital, #broker, #ceo, #colorado, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #georgia, #jeff-crowe, #jim-breyer, #liveoak-venture-partners, #managing-partner, #norwest-venture-partners, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #redfin, #startup, #startups, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #venture-capital

Uptycs secures $50M Series C as security platform continues to expand

Uptycs, a Boston-area startup that uses data to help understand and prevent security attacks, announced a $50 million Series C today, 11 months after announcing a $30 million Series B. Norwest Venture Partners led the round with participation from Sapphire Ventures and ServiceNow Ventures.

Company co-founder and CEO Ganesh Pai says that he was still well capitalized from last year’s investment, and wasn’t actually looking to raise funds, but the investors came looking for him and he saw a way to speed up some aspects of the company’s roadmap.

“It was one of those things where the round came in primarily as a function of execution and success to date, and we decided to capitalize on that because we know the partners and raised the capital so that we could use it meaningfully for a couple of different things, primarily sales and marketing acceleration,” Pai said.

He said that part of the reason for the company’s success over the last year was that the pandemic generated more customer interest as people moved to work from home, the SolarWinds hack happened and companies were moving to the cloud faster. “We provided a solution which was telemetric powered and very insightful when it came to solving their security problems and that’s what led to triple digit growth over the last year,” he said.

But Pai says that the company has not been sitting still in terms of the platform. While last year, he described it primarily as a forensic security data solution, helping customers figure out what happened after a security issue has happened, he says that the company has begun expanding on that vision to include all four main areas of security including being proactive, reactive, predictive and protective.

The company started primarily in being reactive by figuring what happened in the past, but has begun to expand into these other areas over the last year, and the plan is to continue to build out that functionality.

“In the context of SolarWinds, what everyone is trying to figure out is how soon into the supply chain can you figure out what could be potentially wrong by looking at indications of behavior or indications of compromise, and our ability to ingest telemetry from a diverse set of sources, not as a bolt on solution, but something which is built from the ground up, resonated really well,” Pai explained.

The company had 65 employees when we spoke last year for the Series B. Today, Pai says that number is approaching 140 and he is adding new people every week with a goal to get to around 200 people by the end of the year. He says as the company grows, he keeps diversity top of mind.

“As we grow and as we raise capital diversity has been something which has been a high priority and very critical for us,” he said. In fact, he reports that more than 50% of his employees come from under-represented groups whether it’s Latinx, Black or Asian heritage.

Pai says that one of the reasons he has been able to build a diverse workforce is his commitment to a remote workplace, which means he can hire from anywhere, something he will continue to do even after the pandemic ends.

 

#boston-startups, #cloud, #enterprise, #funding, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #security, #startups, #tc, #uptycs

How 4 New Jersey pools turned into a startup that just raised $10M

As the oldest of 12 children, Bunim Laskin spent much of his teen years looking for ways to help keep his siblings entertained. Noticing that a neighbor’s pool was often empty, Laskin reached out to ask if his family could use her pool. To make it worth her while, he suggested that they could help cover her expenses for maintaining the pool.

Soon after, five other families had made the same arrangement with her and the pool owner had six families covering 25% of her expenses. This meant that the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. The arrangement sparked a business idea in Laskin’s mind. At the age of 20, he founded Swimply, a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers, with Asher Weinberger.

The Cedarhurst, New York-based company launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the New Jersey area. 

“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.

That year, Swimply did around 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family.

In 2019, Swimply launched what he describes as a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “4 to 5 times” that year, again mostly organically. In an episode that aired in March 2020, the company appeared on Shark Tank but went home without a deal.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Swimply, Laskin said, pivoted right into the pandemic.

“We were the perfect solution for people when the world was falling on its head,” he said. The company restructured its offering to ensure that pool owners did not have to interact with guests. “It was the perfect, contact-free, self-serve experience to hang out and be with people you quarantined with.”

The CDC then came out to say that it was safe to swim because chlorine could help kill the virus, and that proved to be a big boon to its business.

“On one end, it was a way for people to have a normal day and on the other, it helped give owners a way to earn an income, at a time when many people were being affected financially,” Laskin told TechCrunch.

Business took off in 2020 with revenue growing 4,000% and now Swimply is announcing a $10 million Series A round. Norwest Venture Partners led the financing, which also included participation from Trust Ventures and a number of angel investors such as Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra; Rob Chesnut, former general counsel and chief ethics officer at Airbnb; Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu and Michael Curtis. 

Swimply is now operating in a total of 125 U.S. markets, two markets in Canada and five markets in Australia. It plans to use its new capital in part to expand into new markets and toward product development.

Image Credits: Swimply

The way it works is pretty straightforward. Swimply simply connects homeowners that have underutilized backyard spaces and pools with those seeking a way to gather, cool off or exercise, for example. People or families can rent pools by the hour, ranging in price from $15 to $60 per hour (at an average of $45/hour) depending on the amenities. New markets that Swimply has recently expanded to include Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, NC and the California cities of Oakland, San Luis Obispo and Los Gatos. 

“The shifting mindset from younger generations about ownership is a huge contributor to increased growth of the Swimply marketplace,” said co-founder Weinberger, who serves as Swimply’s COO. “Swimming is the third most popular activity for adults and number one for children, and yet no other company has tackled the aquatic space to make swimming more affordable and accessible…until now.”

While the company declined to provide hard revenue figures, Laskin said Swimply was seeing “7 digits a month in revenue” and 15,000 to 20,000 reservations a month. Families represent the most popular reservation.

“People can book and pay through our platform, and only 20% of hosts ever meet their guests,” Laskin said. “We’re enabling a new kind of consumer behavior with what we’re doing.”

The company is planning to use its new capital to also rebuild much of its tech infrastructure and boost its customer support team to be more “readily available.”

It is also now offering a complimentary up to $1 million worth of insurance per booking for liability as well as $10,000.

Swimply has a little over 20 employees, up 10 times from 2 people in December of 2020. It plans to double that number over the next few months.

The company’s model has proven quite lucrative for some owners, according to Laskin.

“Last year, there were some owners who earned $10,000 a month. One owner in Denver earned $50,000 last year and he had signed up toward the end of the summer. He should make over $100,000 this year,” Lasken projects.

Its only criteria is that owners offer a clean pool. Eighty five percent of hosts offer restrooms as well. If they don’t, they are limited to one-hour reservations with a max of five guests. Swimply has also partnered with local pool companies, and if they pay one of its owners a visit and certify that pool, that owner gets a badge on the site “so guests get an additional level of security,” Laskin said.

Ed Yip of Norwest Venture Partners admits that when he first heard of the concept of Swimply, he “didn’t know what to make of it.”

But the more he heard about it, the more excited he got.

“This is the holy grail for a consumer investor. We’re not changing consumer behavior, but rather productize the experience and make it safer and easier on both sides,” Yip told TechCrunch.

What also gets the investor excited is the potential for Swimply beyond just swimming pools in the future.

“We’re seeing a ton of demand from hosts wanting to list hot tubs and tennis courts, for example,” Yip said. “So this can turn into a marketplace for shared outdoor resources and that’s a huge market opportunity that adds value on both sides.”

Indeed, the concept of monetizing underutilized space is a growing concept. Earlier this year, we reported on Neighbor, which operates a self-storage marketplace, raising $53 million in a Series B round of funding. Neighbor’s unique model aims to repurpose under-utilized or vacant space — whether it be a person’s basement or the empty floor of an office building — and turn it into storage.

 

 

#airbnb, #ancestry-com, #australia, #california, #canada, #ceo, #co-founder, #coo, #denver, #entertainment, #funding, #fundings-exits, #manish-chandra, #new-jersey, #north-carolina, #norwest-venture-partners, #oakland, #oregon, #pool, #portland, #poshmark, #raleigh, #recent-funding, #renting, #sports, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

HoneyBook raises $155M at $1B+ valuation to help SMBs, freelancers manage their businesses

HoneyBook, which has built out a client experience and financial management platform for service-based small businesses and freelancers, announced today that it has raised $155 million in a Series D round led by Durable Capital Partners LP.

Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Zeev Ventures, 01 Advisors as well as existing backers Norwest Venture Partners and Citi Ventures also participated in the financing, which brings the New York-based company’s valuation to over $1 billion. With the latest round, HoneyBook has now raised $215 million since its 2013 inception. The Series D is a big jump from the $28 million that HoneyBook raised in March 2019. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, HoneyBook’s leadership team was concerned about the potential impact on their business and braced themselves for a drop in revenue.

Rather than lay off people, they instead asked everyone to take a pay cut, and that included the executive team, who cut theirs “by double” the rest of the staff.

“I remember it was terrifying. We knew that our customers’ businesses were going to be impacted dramatically, and would impact ours at the same time dramatically,” recalls CEO Oz Alon. “We had to make some hard decisions.”

But the resilience of HoneyBook’s customer base surprised even the company, who ended up reinstating those salaries just a few months later. And, as corporate layoffs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic led to more people deciding to start their own businesses, HoneyBook saw a big surge in demand.

“Our members who saw a hit in demand went out and found demand in another thing,” Oz said. As a result, HoneyBook ended up doubling its number of members on its SaaS platform and tripling its annual recurring revenue (ARR) over the past 12 months. Members booked more than $1 billion in business on the platform in the past nine months alone. 

HoneyBook combines tools like billing, contracts, and client communication on its platform with the goal of helping business owners stay organized. Since its inception, service providers across the U.S. and Canada such as graphic designers, event planners, digital marketers and photographers have booked more than $3 billion in business on its platform. And as the pandemic had more people shift to doing more things online, HoneyBook prepared to help its members adapt by being armed with digital tools.

Image Credits: HoneyBook

“Clients now expect streamlined communication, seamless payments, and the same level of exceptional service online, that they were used to receiving from business owners in person,” Alon said.

Oz and co-founder/wife, Naama, were both small business owners themselves at one time, so they had firsthand insight on the pain points of running a service-based business. 

HoneyBook’s software not only helps SMBs do more business, but helps them “convert potentials to actual clients,” Oz said.

“We help them communicate with potential clients so they can win their business, and then help them manage the relationship so they can keep them,” Naama said.

The company plans to use its new capital toward continued product development and to “dramatically” boost its 103-person headcount across its New York and Tel Aviv offices.

“We’re seeing so much demand for additional services and products, so we definitely want to invest and create better ways for our members to present themselves online,” Alon told TechCrunch. “We’re also seeing demand for financial products and the ability to access capital faster. So that’s just a few of the things we plan to invest in.”

The company also wants to make its platform “more customizable” for different categories and verticals.

Chelsea Stoner, general partner at Battery Ventures, said her firm recognized that the expansive market of productivity tools to serve small businesses and entrepreneurs was “a market of discrete and separate productivity tools.”

HoneyBook, she said, is a true platform for SMBs, “providing a huge array of functionality in one cohesive UX.”

“It unites and connects every task for the solopreneurs, from creating and distributing marketing collateral, to organizing and executing proposals, to sending invoices and collecting payments,” Stoner said. “The company is constantly innovating and iterating in response to its members; we also see a lot of opportunity with payments going forward…And, due to Covid-19 and other factors, the company is sitting on pent-up demand that will accelerate growth even more.”

#advisors, #articles, #battery-ventures, #business, #business-models, #canada, #ceo, #chelsea-stoner, #citi-ventures, #co-founder, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #executive, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-partner, #honeybook, #new-york, #norwest-venture-partners, #payments, #productivity-tools, #recent-funding, #saas, #small-business, #startups, #tel-aviv, #tiger-global-management, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zeev-ventures

Norwest Venture Partners’ Lisa Wu to teach founders how to think like a VC at TC Early Stage

The best venture capitalists take moonshot risks based on due diligence, support portfolio companies through ups and downs and find focus through noise.

When you look at the job description of the best founder, you’ll find nearly the exact same list of characteristics (except, of course, instead of a portfolio, the founder is supporting a team of employees). The shared ethos is almost uncanny — and includes a slew of strategic synergies both sides of the table can exploit.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Lisa Wu, a partner at Norwest, is joining us at TechCrunch Early Stage in July to talk tactics, and how founders can think like a VC in all facets of their business.

Wu focuses on seed to late-stage companies with a specific interest in consumer internet, digital commerce and next-generation marketplaces. Her portfolio includes Calm, Ritual, Plaid and the recently public Opendoor.

With the inside scoop on these iconic companies, Wu will use her experience to illustrate how the best founders can leverage the language of venture capital in the pitch and beyond. The goal is to give the audience a list of actionable insights to implement immediately — and lean heavily on anecdotes found in Wu’s impressive work in the industry.

Tickets for TC Early Stage: Marketing & Fundraising are available at the early-bird rate, which gives you an instant $100 savings if you book before next week!

 

#early-stage, #lisa-wu, #norwest-venture-partners, #plaid, #seed, #tc, #tc-early-stage

Sarah Kunst will outline how to get ready to fundraise at Early Stage

Sarah Kunst, founding partner at Cleo Capital, has worn many hats. She’s been an entrepreneur, served on plenty of boards, is a contributing author at Marie Clare, has been a senior advisor to Bumble and worked as a consultant in marketing, business development and more.

And with all that experience, she knows all too well that the process of fundraising starts well before your first pitch meeting. That’s why we’re so excited to have Kunst join us at Early Stage in July to discuss how to get ready to fundraise.

This isn’t the first time Kunst has discussed the topic with us. On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, Kunst and one of her portfolio company founders Julia Collins described how to conduct the process of fundraising.

For example, there is a story to tell, metrics to share and an art to building momentum before you ever start filling your calendar. That all requires preparation, and Kunst will outline how to go about that at our event in July.

Early Stage is going down twice this year, with our first event taking place tomorrow! Here’s a look at some of the topics we’ll be covering:

Fundraising

  • Bootstrapping Best Practices (Tope Awotona and Blake Bartlett, Calendly)
  • Four Things to Think About Before Raising a Series A (Bucky Moore, Kleiner Perkins)
  • How to Get An Investor’s Attention (Marlon Nichols, MaC Venture Capital)
  • How to Nail Your Virtual Pitch Meeting (Melissa Bradley, Ureeka)
  • How Founders Can Think Like a VC (Lisa Wu, Norwest Venture Partners)
  • The All-22 View, or Never Losing Perspective (Eghosa Omoigui, EchoVC Partners)

Operations:

  • Finance for Founders (Alexa von Tobel, Inspired Capital)
  • Building and Leading a Sales Team (Ryan Azus, Zoom CRO)
  • 10 Things NOT to Do When Starting a Company (Leah Solivan, Fuel Capital)
  • Leadership Culture and Good Governance (David Easton, Generation Investment Management)

The cool thing about Early Stage is that it’s heavy on audience Q&A, ensuring that everyone gets the chance to ask their own specific questions. Oh, and ticket holders get free access to Extra Crunch.

Interested? You can buy a ticket here.

#alexa-von-tobel, #blake-bartlett, #bucky-moore, #cleo-capital, #entrepreneur, #events, #finance, #fuel-capital, #generation-investment-management, #investment, #julia-collins, #kleiner-perkins, #leah-solivan, #lisa-wu, #mac-venture-capital, #marlon-nichols, #melissa-bradley, #money, #norwest, #norwest-venture-partners, #ryan-azus, #sarah-kunst, #startups, #tc, #tc-early-stage-2021, #tope-awotona, #venture-capital

‘Headless’ e-commerce platform Fabric raises $43M

Fabric, a startup powering e-commerce for companies like GNC and ABC Carpet and Home, has raised $43 million in Series A funding.

The announcement comes less than four months after Fabric announced its $9.5 million seed round. CEO Faisal Masud said Fabric hadn’t intended to raise more funding so quickly, but given its growth and investor interest, he  the startup’s leadership team had to ask, “Do we delay the growth or do we just go now?”

The answer is probably self-evident, since you’re reading this funding story. The round was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with Norwest’s Scott Beechuk joining Fabric’s board of directors. Redpoint Ventures and Sierra Ventures also participated.

“Fabric is the only headless commerce platform that combines the simplicity of drag-and-drop configuration with the power to create rich modern customer experiences, without the need for a large dev team,” Beechuk told me via email. “Most importantly, however, is the fact that Faisal (CEO) and [co-founder Ryan Bartley] are rockstar veterans of the e-commerce world from Amazon, eBay, Staples and Groupon. They empathize with their customers’ challenges and have the expertise to disrupt the mature e-commerce market with a significantly better product.”

E-commerce has grown rapidly during the pandemic, and there are a number of platforms offering a “headless” approach, which (as Masud explained in a blog post) separates the frontend and the backend of the shopping experience.

But Masud said there’s still “a large gap in the market today” when it comes to supporting large, growing brands, whether they’re direct-to-consumer or business-to-business.

Fabric screenshot

Image Credits: Fabric

“We like to say that Shopify Plus is our on-ramp and Salesforce Commerce Cloud is our off-ramp,” he said. In other words, Fabric serves businesses that have “outgrown Shopify Plus but don’t want to spend a fortune on Salesforce Commerce Cloud.”

To serve those customers, Fabric has built 32 separate applications which can be integrated with existing commerce tools, and which collectively cover everything from customer experience to product information and order management.

Masud argued that most other products billing themselves as headless e-commerce platforms are “jerry rigging themselves to become headless”.

“They were built in 2007, they’re not flexible or modular,” he said, adding that while older platforms might require 18 months to on-board a large customer, Fabric only requires weeks.

The startup isn’t discouraging its customers from having a presence on Amazon and other marketplaces, either. But Masud (who was previously director of AmazonBasics and AmazonWarehouse) said they need to build their own differentiated shopping experiences and their own direct relationship with consumers at the same time.

“I built AmazonBasics and AmazonBasics is coming for you,” he said. “We encourage them to differentiate and continue their journey as a marketplace, building a direct business with their customer.”

With the new funding, Fabric will be able to expand its sales and marketing team while also continuing to improve the product. Masud said he’s less interested in reaching larger or smaller customers, and more interested in expansion by “building out a bigger suite co-pilot apps,” for example by doing more to support order logistics and fulfillment.

#ecommerce, #fabric, #funding, #fundings-exits, #norwest-venture-partners, #startups, #tc

Sales readiness platform MindTickle raises $100 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

MindTickle, a startup that is helping hundreds of small and large firms improve their sales through its eponymous sales readiness platform, said on Monday it has raised $100 million in a new financing round.

The Pune and San Francisco-headquartered startup’s new financing round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The round is a combination of debt and equity, the startup said. Existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Accel Partners, Canaan, NEA, NewView Capital, and Qualcomm Ventures also participated in the round, which according to a person familiar with the matter, valued the eight-year-old startup at roughly $500 million, up from about $250 million last year.

The vast majority of this $100 million fund is equity investment, said Krishna Depura, co-founder and chief executive of MindTickle, in an interview with TechCrunch. He declined to disclose the specific amount, however, or comment on the valuation.

We used to live in a seller’s world, where buyers had a small selection of choices from which they could pick their products. “You wanted to buy a car, there would be only one new car model every four years. Things have changed,” said Depura, noting that customers today have no shortage of companies trying to sell them similar lines of products.

While that’s great for customers, it means that companies have to put more effort to make a sale. A decade ago, as Depura watched Facebook and gaming firms like Zynga develop addictive products and services, he wondered if some of these learnings could be baked directly into modern age sales efforts.

That was the inception of MindTickle, which now helps companies guide their customer-facing teams. Regardless of what these firms are attempting to sell, they are competing with dozens of firms, if not more, and customers have ever-so-declining patience to hear them.

MindTickle, whose name is inspired from the idea of gamifying mindsets, allows companies to train and upskill their salespeople at scale, and uses role playing methods to help them practice their pitch, and how to handle a customer’s queries.

Depura said the platform helps salespeople measure their improvement in revenue metrics and offers feedback on the calls they made. The platform utilizes machine learning engines to serve personalized remediations and reinforcements to salespeople, he said.

More than 200 enterprises, including more than 40 of the Fortune 500 and Forbes Global 2000 firms, are among MindTickle’s clients today — though, citing confidential agreements, the firm said it can’t disclose several names. Some of the names it did share include MongoDB, Nutanix, Qualtrics, Procore, Square, Janssen, Cloudera, Dexcom, Merck & Co., and Benetton Group.

As of this writing, MindTickle was ranked the fifth best product for sales on G2, a popular marketplace for software and services.

“MindTickle’s track record of growth, quality of product and marquee customer base highlights their strengths,” said Sumer Juneja, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “By delivering engaging and personalized training to users, MindTickle is uniquely placed to support businesses to increase revenue generation and extend critical capabilities within their existing workforce.” The Japanese investment group, which began conversations with MindTickle about three months ago, is exploring more investments in SaaS categories.

The new funding capital will allow MindTickle, which employs about 400 people in the U.S., Europe, and India, to further establish this new category, said Depura. The startup is developing new product features and will deploy the new funds to further grow in Europe, and the U.S., which is already one of its key markets.

More to follow…

#accel-partners, #asia, #canaan, #funding, #nea, #newview-capital, #norwest-venture-partners, #qualcomm-ventures, #saas, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

Indian logistics startup Xpressbees raises $110 million

Xpressbees, an Indian logistics firm that works with several e-commerce firms in the country, said on Monday it has raised $110 million in a new financing round as online shopping booms in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Pune-headquartered startup’s Series E financing round was led by private equity firms Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital, the five-year-old startup said. Xpressbees, which concluded its Series D round three years ago, has raised $175.8 million to date, according to research firm Tracxn. The new round valued the startup at more than $350 million.

Xpressbees helps more than 1,000 customers — including financial and e-commerce services giant Paytm, social commerce startup Meesho, eyewear seller Lenskart, phone maker Xiaomi, online pharmacy NetMeds and online marketplace Snapdeal — deliver their products across the country. It has presence in over 2,000 cities and towns, and it processes more than 2.5 million orders a day — up from about 600,000 daily orders last year.

“We have been truly impressed by their strong customer centricity and capital efficiency which has resulted in exceptional feedback from top players in the e-commerce sector!” said Niren Shah, managing director and head of Norwest Venture Partners in India, in a statement.

Xpressbees started its journey within FirstCry, an e-commerce for baby products, in 2012. But in 2015, it became an independent company with Amitava Saha, co-founder and chief operating officer of FirstCry, moving out of FirstCry to become chief executive of Xpressbees. Supam Maheshwari, who co-founded FirstCry and serves as its chief executive, is the other co-founder of Xpressbees.

The startup said it plans to deploy the fresh capital to further automate its hubs and sorting centres, and expand its delivery footprint to cover the entire country. “I am delighted to see the impact we are making in the logistics ecosystem in the country,” said Saha in a statement.

At stake is India’s growing logistics industry, which NVP’s Shah estimated to be worth $200 billion. “We continue to believe that new age technology led logistics players such as Xpressbees will continue to play a pivotal role both in the growth of the e-commerce sector in India,” he added.

E-commerce sales, which account for less than 5% of all retail sales in India, skyrocketed during the pandemic after New Delhi enforced a two-month nationwide lockdown. During their festival sales last month, Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart reported a record surge in their sales. The firms have created more than 150,000 seasonal jobs to accommodate the growing demand of orders. Xpressbees works with over 30,000 delivery staff.

Xpressbees competes with a handful of established firms and startups, including SoftBank-backed Delhivery, which became a unicorn last year, and Ecom Express, which has presence in about 2,400 Indian cities and towns. 

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #delhivery, #flipkart, #funding, #gaja-capital, #india, #investcorp, #logistics, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #startups, #walmart, #xpressbees

After lockdowns lead to an e-bike boom, VanMoof raises $40M Series B to expand globally

E-bike startup VanMoof, has raised a $40 million investment from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital and Balderton Capital. The Series B financing comes after a $13.5 million investment in May. The funding brings VanMoof’s total raised to $73 million and furthers the e-bike brand’s ultimate mission of getting the next billion on bikes.

The Series B funding will be used to meet the increased demand, shorten delivery times and build a suite of rider service solutions. It also aims to boost its share of the e-bike market in North America, Europe and Japan.

Partly driven by the switch of commuters away from public transport because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the e-bike craze is taking off.

Governments are now investing in cycling infrastructure and the e-bike market is set to surpass $46 billion in the next six years, according to reports.

Ties Carlier, co-founder VanMoof commented: “E-bike adoption was an inevitable global shift that was already taking place for many years now but COVID-19 put an absolute turbo on it to the point that we’re approaching a critical mass to transform cities for the better.”

VanMoof says it realized a 220% global revenue growth during the worldwide lockdown and sold more bikes in the first four months of 2020 than the previous two years combined.

Stew Campbell, Principal at Norwest said: “Taco, Ties and the VanMoof team have not only built an unparalleled brand and best-selling product, but they’re reshaping city mobility all over the world.”

Colin Hanna, Principal at Balderton: “As the COVID-19 crisis hit supply chains worldwide, VanMoof’s unique control over design and production was a key advantage that allowed the company to react nimbly and effectively. Moreover, VanMoof’s direct to consumer approach allows the company to build a close relationship to their riders, one that will be strengthened by new products and services in the years to come.”

VanMoof launched the new VanMoof S3 and X3 in April of this year. I reviewed the S3 here and checked out the earlier X2 version here.

#balderton-capital, #bicycles, #co-founder, #colin-hanna, #cycling, #e-bike, #e-bikes, #electric-bicycle, #europe, #felix-capital, #japan, #micromobility, #north-america, #norwest-venture-partners, #supply-chains, #tc, #transport, #vanmoof, #vanmoof-s3

Launched with $17 million by two former Norwest investors, Tau Ventures is ready for its closeup

Amit Garg and Sanjay Rao have spent the bulk of their professional lives developing technology, founding startups and investing in startups at places like Google and Microsoft, HealthIQ, and Norwest Venture Partners.

Over their decade-long friendship the two men discussed working together on a venture fund, but the time was never right — until now. Since last August, the two men have been raising capital for their inaugural fund, Tau Ventures.

The name, like the two partners, is a bit wonky. Tau is two times pi and Garg and Rao chose it as the name for the partnership because it symbolizes their analytical approach to very early stage investing.

It’s a strange thing to launch a venture fund in a pandemic, but for Garg and Rao, the opportunity to provide very early stage investment capital into startups working on machine learning applications in healthcare, automation and business was too good to pass up.

Garg had spent twenty years in Silicon Valley working at Google and launching companies including HealthIQ. Over the years he’d amassed an investment portfolio that included the autonomous vehicle company, Nutonomy, BioBeatsGlookoCohero HealthTerapedeFigure1HealthifyMe,  Healthy.io and RapidDeploy.

Meanwhile, Rao, a Palo Alto, Calif. native, MIT alum, Microsoft product manager and founder of the Accelerate Labs accelerator in Palo Alto, Calif., said that it was important to give back to entrepreneurs after decades in the Valley honing skills as an operator.

Image credit: Tau Ventures

Both Rao and Garg acknowledge that there are a number of funds that have emerged focused on machine learning including Basis Set Ventures, SignalFire, Two Sigma Ventures, but these investors lack the direct company building experience that the two new investors have.

Garg, for instance, has actually built a hospital in India and has a deep background in healthcare. As an investor, he’s already seen an exit through his investment in Nutonomy, and both men have a deep understanding of the enterprise market — especially around security.

So far, the company has made three investments automation, another three in enterprise software, and five in healthcare.

The firm currently has $17 million in capital under management raised from institutional investors like the law firm Wilson Sonsini and a number of undisclosed family offices and individuals, according to Garg.

Much of that capital was committed after the pandemic hit, Garg said. “We started August 29th… and did the final close May 29th.”

The idea was to close the fund and start putting capital to work — especially in an environment where other investors were burdened with sorting out their existing portfolios, and not able to put capital to work as quickly.

“Our last investment was done entirely over Zoom and Google Meet,” said Rao.

That virtual environment extends to the firm’s shareholder meetings and conferences, some of which have attracted over 1,000 attendees, according to the partners.

#basis-set-ventures, #biobeats, #california, #enterprise-software, #glooko, #google, #healthcare, #india, #law, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #mit, #norwest, #norwest-venture-partners, #nutonomy, #palo-alto, #product-manager, #signalfire, #tc, #technology, #two-sigma-ventures, #wilson-sonsini

Qualified raises $12M make websites smarter about sales and marketing

Qualified, a startup co-founded by former Salesforce executives Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley, has raised $12 million in Series A funding.

Swensrud (Qualified’s CEO) said the startup is meant to solve a problem that he faced back when he was CMO at Salesforce. Apparently he’d complaining about being “blind,” because he knew so little about who was visiting the Salesforce website.

“There could be 10 or 100 or 100,000 people on my website right now, and I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what they’re interested in, my sales team has no idea that they’re even there,” he said.

Apparently, this is a big problem in business-to-business sales, where waiting five minutes after a lead leaves your website can result in a 10x decrease in the odds of making contact. But the solution currently adopted by many websites is just a chatbot that treats every visitor similarly.

Qualified, meanwhile, connects real-time website visitor information with a company’s Salesforce customer database. That means it can identify visitors from high-value accounts and route them to the correct salesperson while they’re still on the website, turning into a full-on sales meeting that can also include a phone call and screensharing.

Qualified screenshot

Image Credits: Qualified

Of course, the amount of data Qualified has access to will differ from visitor to visitor. Some visitors may be purely incognito, while in other cases, the platform might simply know your city or what company you work for. In still others (say if you click on a link from marketing email), it can identify you individually.

That’s something I experienced myself, when I decided to take a look at the Qualified website this morning and was quickly greeted with a message that read, “👋 Welcome TechCrunch! We’re excited about our funding announcement…” It was a little creepy, but also much more effective than my visits to other marketing technology websites, where someone usually sends me a generic sales message.

Swensrud acknowledged that using Qualified represents “a change to people’s selling processes,” since it requires sales to respond in real-time to website visitors (as a last resort, Qualified can also use chatbots and schedule future calls), but he argued that it’s a necessary change.

“If you email them later, some percentage of those people, they ghost you, they get bored, they moved on to the competition,” he said. “This real-time approach, it forces organizations to think differently in terms of their process.”

And it’s an approach that seems to be working. Among Qualified’s customers, the company says ThoughtSpot increased conversations with its target accounts by 10x, Bitly grew its enterprise sales pipeline by 6x and Gamma drove over $2.5 million in new business pipeline.

The Series A brings Qualified’s total funding to $17 million. It was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors including Redpoint Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Norwest’s Scott Beechuk is joining Qualified’s board of directors.

“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers,” Beechuk said in a statement. “Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized. The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand.”

#enterprise, #funding, #fundings-exits, #norwest-venture-partners, #startups

Mirror competitor Tempo raises a $60M Series B

No doubt about it, home fitness is hot. The category had already been gaining considerable traction in recent years and months, but the ongoing pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated interest by orders of magnitude. And understandably so. After all, while some businesses have begun reopening in some locations, gyms are still a big red flag, with one of the highest potential transmission risks of any communal space.

This morning Tempo announced a healthy $60 million Series B, led by Norwest Venture Partners and General Catalyst, along with a repeat investors Founders Fund, Signal Fire, DCM, Y Combinator and Bling Capital.

The news comes almost exactly a month after Mirror, one of the San Francisco-based company’s chief competitors, was acquired by fitness brand Lululemon for $500 million. Also worth noting here is the continued success of Peloton, whose streaming fitness classes have continued to catapult the home fitness equipment maker. A number of other startups have announced raises in recent weeks, while stalwarts like Technogym have introduced their own home streaming services.

Image Credits: Tempo

The Tempo device runs ~$2,000, plus a $39 monthly membership to its content, which includes strength, cardio and various other exercises as either live streams or on-demand content. Notably, the company says it’s on track to hit a $100 million run rate by year’s end, owing in part to sales that have jumped 500% since the company opened up pre-orders this February (without disclosing actual unit sales).

That’s due, no doubt, to word of mouth, but the company certainly isn’t discounting the role of COVID-19 in its fast success. “With tens of millions unable to go to the gym or attend classes in person, consumers’ fitness needs have evolved,” the company notes in a press release. “App-based services lack the necessary equipment to be effective for most people, while previous smart devices often do little more than stream videos without two-way guidance.”

#fitness, #general-catalyst, #hardware, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #series-b, #startups

Priti Youssef Choksi explains how to get your startup acquired — not sold

Today, Priti Youssef Choksi is a partner with venture firm Norwest Venture Partners . But she previously spent five-and-a-half years at Google, where she worked on strategic partnerships, and nearly nine years at Facebook, where she began in corporate development and later focused on M&A.

Because Choksi knows firsthand how some of the biggest companies on the planet think about potential acquisition targets and how deals ultimately come together, we asked if she would share some of those insights with us during our recent founder-centric Early Stage event. The idea was to help attendees better how understand how — and why — certain acquisitions come together; her advice was so helpful that we wanted to share it more widely here.

So where to start? Choksi suggested people first understand the “build, partner, or buy” mentality of big acquirers. Indeed, while deals can look very much alike to outsiders (a deal is a deal is a deal), they are not. First, big companies will build internally if they are bolstering a strategic asset or what they need involves sensitive information or technology. A good example of something that Google would never buy, for example, is search tech, because search is the company’s crown jewel, she noted. Companies will meanwhile partner in order to fill a product or service gap or when they’re looking to stand up a new platform, she said, pointing to the early days of Google’s Android ecosystem.

As for when they finally go shopping, companies are driven by three things, said Choksi: talent, technology and traction. With talent, as you might imagine, companies may conduct an acqui-hire with the goal of filling a talent or leadership gap internally or to acquire niche skills that their current employees don’t already have, she said.

Companies meanwhile shop for technology when they need outside tech to boost their organic efforts. Choksi pointed to Luma.io by way of example. Back in 2013, the young company, which created a video-capture, stabilization and sharing app, was acquired by Instagram (which was itself already owned by Facebook); a week after it closed the Luma deal, Facebook launched video on Instagram largely based on Luma’s platform.

#acquihire, #acquisitions, #entrepreneurship, #events, #exit, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #fundings-exits, #google, #growth-and-monetization, #ma, #norwest-venture-partners, #priti-youssef-choksi, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage

What recruiters are saying about the tech job market right now

Given the endless drumbeat of layoff announcements — with deep cuts by Airbnb and Uber garnering much of the industry’s attention this week — it’s reasonable to wonder: what happens to all of the talent that’s being laid off? How does the changing supply and demand balance impact pay? Is anyone safe in this market?

Because the questions are top of mind for practically everyone everywhere right now, we reached out to recruiters in the one industry that we know — tech — to ask what they are seeing and what they predict will happen over the next three to six months. Unsurprisingly, they told us they’ve seen a steep drop-off in job searches and loads of salary cuts, but they also say there are silver linings in these turbulent times.

First the bad news, and for the moment, it’s mostly bad news.

Sales and marketing positions — particularly at consumer-facing startups — have been hard hit, and they aren’t coming back any time soon, possibly not even in 2020. Carolyn Betts, the founder of the national recruiting firm Betts Recruiting, says when the “coronavirus hit and shelter-in-place notices came out, we saw 80% of our business freeze. And then it went down from there.”

Betts’s bootstrapped recruiting company — which fills sales, marketing and people operations roles — was forced to conduct its own layoffs because of the lost business, shedding 30 percent of its staff and cutting remaining employees’ pay by 20%, although though Betts says a PPP loan has allowed the company to adjust pay upward again by 10%.

In the meantime, she has had a front row to the nearly overnight switch from an employee market where rising salaries and signing bonuses had become routine, to an employer-driven market where candidates get what they get. “There’s so much talent in the market that there are backup candidates for backup candidates.” Indeed, her advice to job candidates right now is to recognize the game has changed and that if pushed, the hiring company might “just move on to the next candidate. Everyone is going to hire within their budgets right now, and they aren’t going to make exceptions for the most part.”

Top tier

Executive searches are also, predictably, largely frozen right now. So suggests Teri McFadden, a VP of recruiting at the venture firm Norwest Venture Partners, where for nearly 12 years she has helped the firm’s portfolio companies fill key positions.

Before COVID-19 struck the U.S., the firm was staring at roughly “160 open active executive level searches in our portfolio — clearly more than my team at Norwest could handle,” says McFadden. (Like most venture firms, Norwest sometimes retains outside search firms.) Now, that number has fallen by more than half. Some, she says, are “full cancellations,” while “other people are just putting searches on pause to see what happens in the next couple of quarters.”

In the meantime, certain roles have been harder hit than others, says McFadden, who specifically cites marketing groups. She also notes that executive pay at companies that have been impacted most negatively by the coronavirus are coming down, an observation the public has seen play out in company announcement after company announcement in recent weeks. Generally speaking, she suggests, C-suite executives take a 20% reduction in salary while the next level of management takes a 10% pay cut and “anyone below a certain salary level” sees no pay cut. But it varies from company to company.

Even engineers in today’s climate aren’t being spared, suggests Sam Wholley, a longtime partner with the Silicon Valley recruitment firm Riviera Partners, which specializes in engineering, product and design leadership. While new jobs are paying roughly what they did two months ago, both Wholley and McFadden expect the market to soften in the coming months, with pay dropping 10 to 20 percent. (Wholley says pay for engineers was trending this way even before the virus sent everyone running for cover.)

Push-pull

A bigger problem is simple demand and supply. For the first time in more than a decade, the supply of engineering talent may exceed the need for it — or, at least, the ability to pay for it. Asked, for example, whether the younger companies continuing to receive funded might be able to absorb the engineers who’ve been let go by bigger companies, Wholley says that, “unfortunately, I don’t think so, and I don’t think it will be that for a while.” While new companies are always being created, he continues, “It could be up to a year to find that right match.” It might also mean “looking in a different industry or possibly a different geography than they have” looked in the past.

But wait! As promised, the news is not all terrible.

Because much of the tech sector is holding up better than elsewhere, there is still some movement on the hiring front. For her part, Betts says she’s beginning to see companies “up level” their teams, meaning parting ways with “bottom performers and replacing them with talent that has entered the market.” This is particularly the case with industries that “sell into the government, in security, that sell collaboration software, and in healthcare,” she observes.

Betts also notes that some customers in places like Texas where people are re-entering public spaces are “opening up” and starting to strategize about who they want to hire or re-hire.

“A lot of people have received some relief regarding their growth plans,” says Betts, “but it’s May. When things get back [to a more normal state of affairs], [management teams] will be expected to put their foot on the gas to make up for lost time, and no one wants to be caught flat-footed. If you start hiring when everyone says ‘go,’ you missed your head start.”

McFadden and Wholly echoes the point, with Wholley saying that “strong hands are continuing to hire” and McFadden offering separately that Norwest is seeing two categories of companies that are “poised to do well long term,” including younger startups focused on product development (with fewer mouths to feed), and those finding even more demand for their products right now, like software tools made expressly for remote teams and even direct-to-consumer hair colorant companies.

While that’s still a comparatively small pool of potential employers, “I think in general,” says McFadden, “companies are beginning to think about what does life look like after COVID-19, and it’s not all doom and gloom.”

#engineering, #hiring, #hr, #jobs, #norwest-venture-partners, #recruiting, #tc

A full-time VC & part-time ER doctor shares his thoughts on COVID-19

An emergency room physician for the past 12 years, Dr. Robert Mittendorff joined Norwest Venture Partners eight years ago as a healthcare investor; the firm invests in a number of healthcare startups, including Talkspace, which raised a $50 million Series D last year, and TigerConnect.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, Mittendorff is spending his weekdays with portfolio companies and weekends working with Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. While he notes that his medical colleagues are “bearing the brunt” of the pandemic by working full time, we wanted to hear from someone who has a foot in both the investing and the healthcare world right now.

In this interview, he discusses what he’s learned from both roles, how it has influenced his healthcare investments, and offers his predictions regarding which companies will fare the best in the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: How did you get to where you are today?

Dr. Robert Mittendorff: So, my journey to being a venture capitalist at Norwest and investing in healthcare companies as well as an emergency physician was really a parallel set of paths that overlapped and that cross every once in a while and now usually on a daily basis.

I started off life as a biomedical engineer really focused on wanting to be on the side of innovation and on the development of technologies to help human health. I knew early on that I wanted to be on the business side [of that], but it was important for me to understand and really be deeply in touch with what it was like to be a provider.

The journey started out going to engineering school, medical school, and then business school in the middle of medical school. I trained at Stanford, which really exposed me to county hospitals, which are probably going to be the more challenging situations as the weeks go on here, and then to Kaiser Permanente. And then, of course, Stanford, I was exposed to San Francisco General and then the Santa Clara Valley Hospital. I always practice part-time following up so it’s been 12 years as an attending, practicing part-time as an emergency physician.

In the venture space I saw an opportunity to really help select entrepreneurs and markets to grow them to a higher impact state.

#biotech, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #dr-robert-mittendorff, #extra-crunch, #health, #healthcare, #market-analysis, #norwest-venture-partners, #startups, #talkspace, #tc, #telemedicine, #venture-capital