Digging into the Alkami Technology IPO

It appears that the slowdown in tech debuts is not a complete freeze; despite concerning news regarding the IPO pipeline, some deals are chugging ahead. This morning, we’re adding Alkami Technology to a list that includes Coinbase’s impending direct listing and Robinhood’s expected IPO.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


We are playing catch-up, so let’s learn about Alkami and its software, dig into its backers and final private valuation, and pick apart its numbers before checking out its impending IPO valuation. After all, if Kaltura and others are going to hit the brakes, we must turn our attention to companies that are still putting the hammer down.

Frankly, we should have known about Alkami’s IPO sooner. One of a rising number of large tech companies based in non-traditional areas, the bank-focused software company is based in Texas, despite having roots in Oklahoma. The company raised $385.2 million during its life, per Crunchbase data. That sum includes a September 2020 round worth $140 million that valued the company at $1.44 billion on a post-money basis, PitchBook reports.

So, into the latest SEC filing from the software unicorn we go!

Alkami Technology

Alkami Technology is a software company that delivers its product to banks via the cloud, so it’s not a legacy player scraping together an IPO during boom times. Instead, it is the sort of company that we understand; it’s built on top of AWS and charges for its services on a recurring basis.

The company’s core market is all banks smaller than the largest, it appears, or what Alkami calls “community, regional and super-regional financial institutions.” Its service is a software layer that plugs into existing financial systems while also providing a number of user interface options.

In short, it takes a bank from its internal systems all the way to the end-user experience. Here’s how Alkami explained it in its S-1/A filing:

Image Credits: Alkami S-1

Simple enough!

#alkami-technology, #ec-fintech, #ec-news-analysis, #finance, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange

0

You might have just missed the best time to sell your startup

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here

Happy Saturday, everyone. I do hope that you are in good spirits and in good health. I am learning to nap, something that has become a requirement in my life after I realized that the news cycle is never going to slow down. And because my partner and I adopted a third dog who likes to get up early, please join me in making napping cool for adults, so that we can all rest up for Vaccine Summer. It’s nearly here.

On work topics, I have a few things for you today, all concerning data points that matter: Q1 2021 M&A data, March VC results from Africa, and some surprising (to me, at least) podcast numbers.

On the first, Dan Primack shared a few early first-quarter data points via Refinitiv that I wanted to pass along. Per the financial data firm, global M&A activity hit $1.3 trillion in Q1 2021, up 93% from Q1 2020. U.S. M&A activity reached an all-time high in the first quarter, as well. Why do we care? Because the data helps underscore just how hot the last three months have been.

I’m expecting venture capital data itself for the quarter to be similarly impressive. But as everyone is noting this week, there are some cracks appearing in the IPO market, as the second quarter begins that could make Q2 2021 a very different beast. Not that the venture capital world will slow, especially given that Tiger just reloaded to the tune of $6.7 billion.

On the venture capital topic, African-focused data firm Briter Bridges reports that “March alone saw over $280 million being deployed into tech companies operating across Africa,” driven in part by “Flutterwave’s whopping $170 million round at a $1 billion valuation.”

The data point matters as it marks the most active March that the African continent has seen in venture capital terms since at least 2017 — and I would guess ever. African startups tend to raise more capital in the second half of the year, so the March result is not an all-time record for a single month. But it’s bullish all the same, and helps feed our general sentiment that the first quarter’s venture capital results could be big.

And finally, Index Ventures’ Rex Woodbury tweeted some Edison data, namely that “80 million Americans (28% of the U.S. 12+ population) are weekly podcast listeners, +17% year-over-year.” The venture capitalist went on to add that “62% of the U.S. 12+ population (around 176 million people) are weekly online audio listeners.”

As we discussed on Equity this week, the non-music, streaming audio market is being bet on by a host of players in light of Clubhouse’s success as a breakout consumer social company in recent months. Undergirding the bets by Discord and Spotify and others are those data points. People love to listen to other humans talk. Far more than I would have imagined, as a music-first person.

How nice it is to be back in a time when consumer investing is neat. B2B is great but not everything can be enterprise SaaS. (Notably, however, it does appear that Clubhouse is struggling to hold onto its own hype.)

Look I can’t keep up with all the damn venture capital rounds

TechCrunch Early Stage was this week, which went rather well. But having an event to help put on did mean that I covered fewer rounds this week than I would have liked. So, here are two that I would have typed up if I had had the spare hours:

  • Striim’s $50 million Series C. Goldman led the transaction. Striim, pronounced stream I believe, is a software startup that helps other companies move data around their cloud and on-prem setups in real time. Given how active the data market is today, I presume that the TAM for Striim is deep? Quickly flowing? You can supply a better stream-centered word at your leisure.
  • Kudo’s $21 million Series A. I covered Kudo last July when it raised $6 million. The company provides video-chat and conferencing services with support for  real-time translation. It had a good COVID-era, as you can imagine. Felicis led the A after taking part in the seed round. I’ll see if I can extract some fresh growth metrics from the company next week. One to watch.

And two more rounds that you also might have missed that you should not. Holler raised $36 million in a Series B. Per our own Anthony Ha, “[y]ou may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology. For example, if you’ve added a sticker or a GIF to your Venmo payments, Holler actually manages the app’s search and suggestion experience around that media.”

I feel old.

And in case you are not paying enough attention to Latin American tech, this $150 million Uruguayan round should help set you straight.

Various and sundry

Finally this week, some good news. If you’ve read The Exchange for any length of time, you’ve been forced to read me prattling on about the Bessemer cloud index, a basket of public software companies that I treat with oracular respect. Now there’s a new index on the market.

Meet the Lux Health + Tech Index. Per Lux Capital, it’s an “index of 57 publicly traded companies that together best represent the rapidly emerging Health + Tech investment theme.” Sure, this is branded to the extent that, akin to the Bessemer collection, it is tied to a particular focus of the backing venture capital firm. But what the new Lux index will do, as with the Bessemer collection, is track how a particular venture firm is itself tracking the public comps for their portfolio.

That’s a useful thing to have. More of this, please.

Alex

#bessemer, #discord, #equity, #fundings-exits, #lux, #startups, #the-exchange, #the-techcrunch-exchange

0

Kaltura puts debut on hold. Is the tech IPO window closing?

The Exchange just yesterday discussed a downward revision in the impending Compass IPO and the disappointing Deliveroo flotation as signals that market demand for high-growth, unprofitable tech shares could be slipping. Recent news underscores the possibly chilling conditions. This morning, Kaltura, a technology company that provides video streaming software and services, delayed its IPO. JioForMe reports that the postponement comes after Kaltura’s “valuation demand was lower than expected.”


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


TechCrunch noted yesterday that Kaltura had not released a second, higher IPO price range. The fact stood out given how hot the public markets had proven in recent months for new tech offerings. Kaltura’s S-1 filing detailed accelerating revenue growth, which at the time we thought would be more than enough to fetch the company an attractive initial public valuation.

It appears that Kaltura was also surprised that it was not trending toward a higher IPO price.

In another sign of how quickly the temperature for new tech flotations may have chilled, digital comms firm Intermedia Cloud Communications also delayed its IPO today. In a release, CEO Michael Gold said the decision is due “to challenging current conditions in the market for initial public offerings, especially for technology companies.”

Challenging current conditions? For IPOs? For tech IPOs? That’s new.

Uh-oh

Axios reporter Dan Primack noted this morning that SPAC formation appears to be slowing. Mix that into the delays and yesterday’s anemic-to-awful IPO news, and the market could be seeing a somewhat rapid retrenchment toward more historical valuations and demand levels for unprofitable equities.

Thinking out loud: We should expect SPAC formation and deal volume to fall the fastest of all the signals we’re tracking, including IPO pricing, the pace of S-1 filings and first-day trading performance. Why? Because it’s the most exotic of the various data points we’ve observed on the way up during the tech boom. Therefore, it should also be the thing most vulnerable to rising financial gravity.

#compass, #fundings-exits, #kaltura, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange

0

Well that was a crazy week

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading.

Well that was a crazy week

I may be getting older, but it does seem that the pace of tech news has gotten stuck in top-gear. It’s bonkers. Think about how small a splash the news that WeWork is going public via a SPAC made. It was small potatoes in the broader rush of happenings that blasted past us over the last seven days.

Y Comabinator’s Demo Day was this week, somehow, even if it feels like a few weeks have gone by since. Still, it’s what I want to riff on with you today. A nice early-stage break, we could say.

During the one-day demo day rush, a few hundred startups showed off what they are doing in single-slide format. TechCrunch covered some favorites, but we had to leave far more startups on the shelf than we got to write about. Let’s add some names to the mix, shall we?

On the fintech front, a few names stood out to me during the hours I was able to tune in. Alinea wants to build a trading app for Gen Z. I dig the idea as Zoomers seem far cooler than any other generation. Why shouldn’t they get a native investing experience aimed at their demographic?

Hapi is a similar idea, but aimed at Latin America. Again, I like it. One trend I’ve enjoyed seeing in recent quarters has been the application of startup models that have worked in the United States taken to new markets, replicated with local tweaks, and offered up to way more people. Investing has long been artificially expensive. Here’s to making it cheaper.

Atrato checks similar boxes, taking the Affirm-style buy now, pay later (BNPL) model to Latin America. I am generally less stoked about consumer credit apps than I am about consumer savings apps, but given the growth that Affirm, Klarna and others have managed, there’s real demand for their products. Let’s see what Atrato can get done.

Turning from Latin America to Southeast Asia, OctiFi is building BNPL products for that market. It’s not the only startup that we saw at demo day taking on that geographic slice — BrioHR is working there as well.

Bueno Finance fits the theme of fintech for markets other than the United States and Europe, building what it calls “Chime for India.” If you think, as I do, that Chime and other neobanks are generally doing an alright job providing lower-cost, higher-quality banking experiences to less-wealthy consumers, this is an obvious winner. Of course most startups fail, but I like where their thinking is focused. (NextPay is working on SMB digital banking for the Philippines; the list goes on.)

Another theme I had my eyes on were startups delivering their software via an API instead of as a managed service. It’s something that we’ve covered on The Exchange for ages. Some demo day names included Dyte (“Stripe for live video”), Pibit.ai (an API to help structure data), Dayra (finservices for Egyptians via an API), enode (energy provider-EV API), and so on.

Finally, there were a few startups working on services for IRL SMBs. The Third Place is building subscription services for small businesses, while Per Diem wants to bring quick shipping to companies other than Amazon.

There were a bunch of other neat companies (GimBooks! Recover! Wasp! Axiom.ai!), more than I could ever write down for you. Now it’s time to sit back and see which grow the most in the next half year. But I left this particular demo day pretty excited about global startup activity. That’s not a bad way to close a Tuesday.

Late-stage everything

Amidst all the IPO and SPAC news (here and here in case you need to catch up), there were a host of big rounds worth our time. Two came from the insurtech space, with Pie (workers’ comp insurance) and Snapsheet (claims management) raising $118 million and $30 million apiece.

ServiceTitan raised $500 million at a quadrupled valuation of $8.3 billion, Forbes reported. In about two years. That’s a chonky boi valuation differential. I suppose we’ll be covering their IPO next year. And accounting-focused Pilot raised $100 million at a $1.2 billion valuation. The pace of 2021 unicorn creation feels anything but slow.

And I can’t help but note that the UiPath IPO filing is pretty bonkers in terms of illustrating how the company turned terrifying losses into some pretty reasonable economics. It’s looking like it’s working to pull a Snowflake, at least in GAAP terms.

I could add another 17 paragraphs with news just from this month and not even get close to all the eight and nine-figure rounds. It’s bonkers! Surely the Q1 2021 venture capital numbers feel like they should be both hot and spicy. More on that as soon as we get the data.

Various and sundry

I am not here to merely feed you vegetables, however. There’s a budding story that I need to get to in the near future that involves my favorite sport, and my job. More precisely it’s about F1 (the car racing thing) and tech.

Recently Cognizant sponsored the Aston Martin F1 team. Splunk works with McLaren. Microsoft has a deal with Renault’s team, now named after the car company’s Alpine brand. Epson, Bose and Hewlett Packard Enterprise sponsor the Mercedes racing team. Oracle sponsors Red Bull racing. The list goes on!

And this week Zoom announced that it was getting into the F1 game as well. This is all very good fun for myself, and leads me to a hope. Namely that we see some tech companies begin to use F1 teams as a method of intra-industry competition. That would, one, allow me to write about F1 at work — like I am doing right now — and annoy more tech CEOs on earnings calls about why their team isn’t faster. I am sure that by now Splunk CEO Douglas Merritt is tired of my questions about his orange team. But I don’t want to stop.

So if you are a tech CEO, and you do not sponsor an F1 team, I shall from here on presume that your company is too small to matter, or too boring to be fun. And I am only mostly kidding.

Alex

#cognizant, #f1, #pie, #tc, #the-exchange, #y-combinator

0

Should there be some law against raising three times in one year?

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Every quarter we dig into the venture capital market’s global, national, and sector-based results to get a feel for what the temperature of the private market is at that point in time. These imperfect snapshots are useful. But sometimes, it’s better to focus on a single story to show what’s really going on.

Enter AgentSync. I covered AgentSync for the first time last August, when the API-focused insurtech player raised a $4.4 million seed round. It’s a neat company, helping others track the eligibility of individual brokers in the market. It’s a big space, and the startup was showing rapid initial traction in the form of $1.9 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

But then AgentSync raised again in December, sharing at the time of its $6.4 million round that the valuation cap had grown by 4x since its last round. And that it had seen 4x revenue growth since the start of the pandemic.

All that must sound pretty pedestrian; a quickly-growing software company raising two rounds? Quelle surprise.

But then AgentSync raised again this week, with another grip of datapoints. Becca Szkutak and Alex Konrad’s Midas Touch newsletter reported the sheaf of data, and The Exchange confirmed the numbers with AgentSync CEO Niji Sabharwal. They are as follows:

  • Present-day revenues of less than $10 million, but with ARR growing by 6x in 2020 after 10x expansion in 2019.
  • No customer churn to date.
  • Its $25 million Series A valued the company at $220 million, which Konrad and Szkutak describe as “exactly 10x AgentSync’s valuation from eight months ago.”

That means AgentSync was worth $22 million when it raised $4.4 million, and the December round was raised at a cap of around $80 million. Fun.

Back to our original point, the big datasets can provide useful you-are-here guidance for the sector, but it’s stories like AgentSync that I think better show what the market is really like today for hot startups. It’s bonkers fast and, even more, often backed up by material growth.

Sabharwal also told The Exchange that his company has closed another $1 million in ARR since the term sheet. So its multiples are contracting even before it shared its news. 

2021, there you have it.

Meet Conscience.vc

Also this week I got to meet Ariana Thacker, who is building a venture capital fund. Her route to her own venture shop included stops at Rhapsody Venture Partners, and some time at Predictive VC. Now she’s working on Conscience.vc, or perhaps just Conscience.

Her new fund will invest in companies worth less than $15 million, have some form of consumer-facing business model (B2B and B2B2C are both fine, she said), and something to do with science, be it a patentable technology or other sort of IP. Why the science focus? It’s Thacker’s background, thanks to her background in chemical engineering and time as a facilities engineer for a joint Exxon-Shell project. 

All that’s neat and interesting, but as we cover zero new-fund announcements on The Exchange and almost never mini-profile VCs, why break out of the pattern? Because unlike nearly everyone in her profession, Thacker was super upfront with data and metrics.

Heck, in her first email she included a list of her investments across different capital vehicles with actual information about the deals. And then she shared more material on different investments and the like. Imagine if more VCs shared more of their stuff? That would rock.

Conscience had its first close in mid-January, though more capital might land before she wraps up the fundraising process. She’s reached $4 million to $5 million in commits, with a cap of $10 million on the fund. And, she told The Exchange, she didn’t know a single LP before last summer and only secured an anchor investor last October.

Let’s see what Thacker gets done. But at a minimum I think she’ll be willing to be somewhat transparent as she invests from her first fund. That alone will command more attention from these pages than most micro-funds could ever manage.

A whole bunch of other important shit

The week was super busy, so I missed a host of things that I would have otherwise liked to have written about. Here they are in no particular order:

  • FalconX, a startup that powers crypto-trading on other platforms, raised $50 million this week. The round comes after the company raised $17 million last May. I wrote about that here. Tiger Global led the round, natch, as it has led nearly every round in the last month. 
  • The FalconX round matters as the company grew from what we presume was a modest trading and revenue base into something much larger. Per the company, in “less than a year” the company’s “trading volume” grew by 12x and its “net revenue” grew 46x. That’s a lot. 
  • Privacera also raised $50 million this week. Insight Partners led the round. The deal caught my eye as it promised a “cloud-based data governance and security solution.” That reminded me of Skyflow, a quickly-growing startup that I thought might have a similar product. Privacera CEO Balaji Ganesan politely corrected my confusion in an email saying that “Skyflow is like a vault for customer data. They replace customer data with tokens. Our focus is on data governance, so it is broader. We don’t store customer data within our solution.” Fair enough. It’s still an interesting space.
  • And then there’s Woflow, which VentureBeat actually got to before I could. I chatted with the company this week, but sadly have more notes than open word count today. So let it suffice to say that the company’s model of selling structured merchant data is super cool. And the fact that it has linked up with customers in its first vertical (restaurants) like DoorDash is impressive.
  • Its round was led by Craft Ventures, a firm that has been pretty damn active in the API-powered startup landscape in recent months. More to come on Woflow.

Various and Sundry

Closing, I learned a lot about software valuations here, got to noodle on the epic Roblox direct listing here, dug into fintech’s venture successes and weaknesses, and checked out the Global-e IPO filing. Oh, and M1 Finance raised again, while Clara and Arist raised small, but fun rounds.

Alex

#agentsync, #clara, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #global-e, #m1-finance, #roblox, #saas, #startups, #the-exchange, #woflow

0

Investors still love software more than life

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Despite some recent market volatility, the valuations that software companies have generally been able to command in recent quarters have been impressive. On Friday, we took a look into why that was the case, and where the valuations could be a bit more bubbly than others. Per a report written by few Battery Ventures investors, it stands to reason that the middle of the SaaS market could be where valuation inflation is at its peak.

Something to keep in mind if your startup’s growth rate is ticking lower. But today, instead of being an enormous bummer and making you worry, I have come with some historically notable data to show you how good modern software startups and their larger brethren have it today.

In case you are not 100% infatuated with tables, let me save you some time. In the upper right we can see that SaaS companies today that are growing at less than 10% yearly are trading for an average of 6.9x their next 12 months’ revenue.

Back in 2011, SaaS companies that were growing at 40% or more were trading at 6.0x their next 12 month’s revenue. Climate change, but for software valuations.

One more note from my chat with Battery. Its investor Brandon Gleklen riffed with The Exchange on the definition of ARR and its nuances in the modern market. As more SaaS companies swap traditional software-as-a-service pricing for its consumption-based equivalent, he declined to quibble on definitions of ARR, instead arguing that all that matters in software revenues is whether they are being retained and growing over the long term. This brings us to our next topic.

Consumption v. SaaS pricing

I’ve taken a number of earnings calls in the last few weeks with public software companies. One theme that’s come up time and again has been consumption pricing versus more traditional SaaS pricing. There is some data showing that consumption-priced software companies are trading at higher multiples than traditionally priced software companies, thanks to better-than-average retention numbers.

But there is more to the story than just that. Chatting with Fastly CEO Joshua Bixby after his company’s earnings report, we picked up an interesting and important market distinction between where consumption may be more attractive and where it may not be. Per Bixby, Fastly is seeing larger customers prefer consumption-based pricing because they can afford variability and prefer to have their bills tied more closely to revenue. Smaller customers, however, Bixby said, prefer SaaS billing because it has rock-solid predictability.

I brought the argument to Open View Partners Kyle Poyar, a venture denizen who has been writing on this topic for TechCrunch in recent weeks. He noted that in some cases the opposite can be true, that variably priced offerings can appeal to smaller companies because their developers can often test the product without making a large commitment.

So, perhaps we’re seeing the software market favoring SaaS pricing among smaller customers when they are certain of their need, and choosing consumption pricing when they want to experiment first. And larger companies, when their spend is tied to equivalent revenue changes, bias toward consumption pricing as well.

Evolution in SaaS pricing will be slow, and never complete. But folks really are thinking about it. Appian CEO Matt Calkins has a general pricing thesis that price should “hover” under value delivered. Asked about the consumption-versus-SaaS topic, he was a bit coy, but did note that he was not “entirely happy” with how pricing is executed today. He wants pricing that is a “better proxy for customer value,” though he declined to share much more.

If you aren’t thinking about this conversation and you run a startup, what’s up with that? More to come on this topic, including notes from an interview with the CEO of BigCommerce, who is betting on SaaS over the more consumption-driven Shopify.

Next Insurance, and its changing market

Next Insurance bought another company this week. This time it was AP Intego, which will bring integration into various payroll providers for the digital-first SMB insurance provider. Next Insurance should be familiar because TechCrunch has written about its growth a few times. The company doubled its premium run rate to $200 million in 2020, for example.

The AP Intego deal brings $185.1 million of active premium to Next Insurance, which means that the neo-insurance provider has grown sharply thus far in 2021, even without counting its organic expansion. But while the Next Insurance deal and the impending Hippo SPAC are neat notes from a hot private sector, insurtech has shed some of its public-market heat.

Stocks of public neo-insurance companies like Root, Lemonade and MetroMile have lost quite a lot of value in recent weeks. So, the exit landscape for companies like Next and Hippo — yet-private insurtech startups with lots of capital backing their rapid premium growth — is changing for the worse.

Hippo decided it will debut via a SPAC. But I doubt that Next Insurance will pursue a rapid ramp to the public markets until things smooth out. Not that it needs to go public quickly; it raised a quarter billion back in September of last year.

Various and Sundry

What else? Sisense, a $100 million ARR club member, hired a new CFO. So we expect them to go public inside the next four or five quarters.

And the following chart, which is via Deena Shakir of Lux Capital, via Nasdaq, via SPAC Alpha:

Alex

 

#bigcommerce, #fundings-exits, #next-insurance, #saas, #shopify, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange

0

Understanding how investors value growth in 2021

We’re not digging into another IPO filing today. You can read all about AppLovin’s filing here, or ThredUp’s document here.

This morning, instead, we’re talking about an old favorite: software valuations. The folks over at Battery Ventures have compiled a lengthy dive into the 2020 software market that’s worth our time — you can read along here; I’ll provide page numbers as we go — because it helps explain some software valuations.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


There’s little doubt that there is some froth in the software market, but it may not be where you think it is.

The Battery report has a lot of data points that we’ll also work through in this week’s newsletter, but this morning, let’s narrow ourselves to thinking about rising aggregate software multiples, the breakdown of multiples expansion through the lens of relative growth rates, and cap it off with a nibble on the importance, or lack thereof, of cash flow margins for the valuation of high-growth software companies.

We’ll look at the changing public market perspective, and then ask ourselves if the aggregate image that appears is good or not good for software startups.

I chatted through pieces of the report with its authors, Battery’s Brandon Gleklen and Neeraj Agrawal. So, we’ll lean on their perspective a little as we go to help us move quickly. This is our Friday treat. Or at least mine. Let’s get into it.

Rising multiples

Let’s start with an affirmation. Yes, software valuations have risen to record-high multiples in recent years. Here’s the Battery chart that makes the change clear:

Page 31, Battery report

#battery-ventures, #cloud, #fundings-exits, #saas, #software, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #valuations

0

How investors are valuing the pandemic

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Kicking off with a tiny bit of housekeeping: Equity is now doing more stuff. And TechCrunch has its Justice and Early-Stage events coming up. I am interviewing the CRO of Zoom for the latter. And The Exchange itself has some long-overdue stuff coming next week, including $50M and $100M ARR updates (Druva, etc.), a peek at consumption based pricing vs. traditional SaaS models (featuring Fastly, Appian, BigCommerce CEOs, etc.), and more. Woo! 

This week both DoorDash and Airbnb reported earnings for the first time as public companies, marking their real graduation into the ranks of the exited unicorns. We’re keeping our usual eye on the earnings cycle, quietly, but today we have some learnings for the startup world.

Some basics will help us get started. DoorDash beat growth expectations in Q4, reporting revenue of $970 million versus an expected $938 million. The gap between the two likely comes partially from how new the DoorDash stock is, and the pandemic making it difficult to forecast. Despite the outsized growth, DoorDash shares initially fell sharply after the report, though they largely recovered on Friday.

Why the initial dip? I reckon the company’s net loss was larger than investors hoped — though a large GAAP deficit is standard for first quarters post-debut. That concern might have been tempered by the company’s earnings call, which included a note from the company’s CFO that it is “seeing acceleration in January relative to our order growth in December as well as in Q4.” That’s encouraging. On the flip side, the company’s CFO did say “starting from Q2 onwards, we’re going to see a reversion toward pre-COVID behavior within the customer base.”

Takeaway: Big companies are anticipating a return to pre-COVID behavior, just not quite yet. Firms that benefited from COVID-19 are being heavily scrutinized. And they expect tailwinds to fade as the year progresses.

And then there’s Airbnb, which is up around 16% today. Why? It beat revenue expectations, while also losing lots of money. Airbnb’s net loss in Q4 2020 was more than 10x DoorDash’s own. So why did Airbnb get a bump while DoorDash got dinged? Its large revenue beat ($859 million, instead of an expected $748 million), and potential for future growth; investors are expecting that Airbnb’s current besting of expectations will lead to even more growth down the road.

Takeaway: Provided that you have a good story to tell regarding future growth, investors are still willing to accept sharp losses; the growth trade is alive, then, even as companies that may have already received a boost endure increased scrutiny.

For startups, valuation pressure or lift could come down to which side of the pandemic they are on; are they on the tail end of their tailwind (remote-work focused SaaS, perhaps?), or on the ascent (restaurant tech, maybe?). Something to chew on before you raise.

Market Notes

It was one blistering week for funding rounds. Crunchbase News, my former journalistic home, has a great piece out on just how many massive rounds we’re seeing so far this year. But even one or two steps down in scale, funding activity was super busy.

A few rounds that I could not get to this week that caught my eye included a $90 million round for Terminus (ABM-focused GTM juicer, I suppose), Anchorage’s $80 million Series C (cryptostorage for big money), and Foxtrot Market’s $42 million Series B (rapid delivery of yuppie and zoomer essentials).

Sitting here now, finally writing a tidbit about each, I am reminded at the sheer breadth of the tech market. Termius helps other companies sell, Anchorage wants to keep your ETH safe, while Foxtrot wants to help you replenish your breakfast rosé stock before you have to endure a dry morning. What a mix. And each must be generating venture-acceptable growth, as they have not merely raised more capital but raised rather large rounds for their purported maturity (measured by their listed Series stage, though the moniker can be more canard than guide.)

I jokingly call this little section of the newsletter Market Notes, a jest as how can you possibly note the whole market that we care about? These companies and their recent capital infusions underscore the point.

Various and Sundry

Finally, two notes from earnings calls. The first from Root, which is a head scratcher, and the second from Booking Holdings’ results.

I chatted with Alex Timm, Root Insurance’s CEO this week moments after it dropped numbers. As such I didn’t have much context in the way of investor response to its results. My read was that Root was super capitalized, and has pretty big expansion plans. Timm was upbeat about his company’s improving economics (on a loss ratio and loss-adjusted expenses basis, for the insurtech fans out there), and growth during the pandemic.

But then today its shares are off 16%. Parsing the analyst call, there’s movement in Root’s economic profile (regarding premium-ceding variance over the coming quarters) that make it hard to fully grok its full-year growth from where I sit. But it appears that Root’s business is still molting to a degree that is almost refreshing; the company could have gone public in 2022 with some of its current evolution behind it, but instead it raised a zillion dollars last year and is public now.

Sticking our neck out a bit, despite fellow neo-insurnace player Lemonade’s continued, and impressive valuation run, MetroMile’s stock is also softening, while Root’s has lost more than half its value from its IPO date. If the current repricing of some neo-insurance players continues, we could see some private investment into the space slow. (Fewer things like this?) It’s a possible trend we’ll have eyes on this year.

Next, Booking Holdings, the company that owns Priceline and other travel properties. Given that Booking might have notes regarding the future of business travel — which we care about for clues regarding what could come for remote work and office culture, things that impact everything from startup hub locations to software sales — The Exchange snagged a call slot and dialed the company up.

Booking Holdings’ CEO Glenn Fogel didn’t have a comment as to how his company is trading at all-time highs despite suffering from sharp year-over-year revenue declines. He did note that the pandemic has shaken up expectations for conversations, which could limit short-term business travel in the future for meetings that may now be conducted on video calls. He was bullish on future conference travel (good news for TechCrunch, I suppose), and future travel more generally.

So concerning the jetting perspective, we don’t know anything yet. Booking Holdings is not saying much, perhaps because it just doesn’t know when things will turn around. Fair enough. Perhaps after another three months of vaccine rollout will give us a better window into what a partial return to an old normal could look like.

And to cap off, you can read Apex Holdings’ SPAC presentation here, and Markforged’s here. Also I wrote about the buy-now-pay-later space here, riffed on the Digital Ocean IPO with Ron Miller here, and doodled on Toast’s valuation and the Olo debut here.

Hugs, and have a lovely weekend!

Alex

 

#fundings-exits, #startups, #the-exchange, #the-techcrunch-exchange

0