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Snowflake and JFrog raise IPO ranges as tech markets stay hot

2020, September 15 - 4:20am

What market selloff?

Despite last week’s market declines, two big IPOs are rolling ahead this week, with Snowflake and JFrog both boosting their IPO price ranges this morning. The jump in expected pricing means each IPO will likely raise more capital, valuing the firms more richly than their initial ranges made clear.

Snowflake’s first IPO range valued it comfortably north of $24 billion and its IPO detailed that both Berkshire Hathaway and Salesforce Ventures were going to pour capital into the big-data company. JFrog’s developer-derived profits and strong growth gave it a valuation of around $3 billion, far above its final private price.

Those figures are are now passé. This morning, let’s quickly calculate new valuations for both companies and dig into why they are managing to attract such strong investor demand.

JFrog and Snowflake’s new IPO price intervals

Starting with JFrog, the company’s preceding IPO price interval of $33 to $37 per share valued it between $2.92 billion to $3.28 billion, not counting equity reserved for its underwriting banks. The company is now targeting a $39 to $41 per-share price range, a steep gain from its preceding target.

JFrog still intends to sell eight million shares, giving the company a $312 million to $328 million gross raise, before counting other shares that are being sold by existing shareholders and reserved equity for underwriters.

Categories: Business News

How to hire your first engineer: A guide for nontechnical founders

2020, September 15 - 4:02am

For founders who have a startup idea — but few engineering skills to make it a reality — making the team’s first technical hire can be a daunting task.

Nontechnical founders will face greater challenges when it comes to sourcing and recruiting engineering talent, but another factor that raises the stakes: They must often act quickly to find someone who could very well end up with co-founder status.

We interviewed a handful of startup founders and technical leaders to get their thoughts about how nontechnical founders should approach the hiring process for engineer no. 1.

Their advice spanned how to handle technical interviews, sourcing technical talent, how to decide whether your first engineering hire should become CTO — and how to best kick the can down the road if you’re not ready to start worrying about bringing on an engineer quite yet. Everyone I spoke to was quick to caution that their tips weren’t one-size-fits-all and that overcoming limited knowledge often comes down to tapping the right people to help you out and lend a greater understanding of your options.

I’ve broken down these tips into a digestible guide that’s focused on four areas:

  • Sourcing technical candidates.
  • How to conduct interviews.
  • Making an offer.
  • Taking a nontraditional route.
Sourcing technical candidates

Knowing what you’re looking for obviously depends a good deal on what you need. Founders have more flexibility if they’re just aiming to get engineers on board so they can get an MVP out the door, but technical expertise is only part of the equation if you’re aiming to hire for someone that may end up being a co-founder or CTO.

Categories: Business News

DaVinci Kitchen is building a robotic pasta-making kiosk

2020, September 15 - 3:39am

The robotics industry is having a major moment amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s true that category has been an exciting target for investments for a number of years now, but labor issues and concerns over transmission have led many sectors to take a good, long look at automation.

Meal preparation is a prime target. It’s an essential service and one that finds human hands coming into direct content with food. Leipzig, Germany-based DaVinci Kitchen is looking to tackle issues around food preparation with the launch of a modular robotic kiosk that cooks Italian-themed pasta dishes.

In 2018, German incubator 2b AHEAD Ventures assembled the team that would become DaVinci to address concerns around labor shortages in the food preparation industry.

“The catering industry is gigantic,” CTO Ibrahim Elfaramawy told TechCrunch on a call ahead of the startup’s participation in Disrupt Battlefield. “Everyone has to eat. We see our clients struggling to find qualified personnel. The jobs are getting tougher, the pay is not increasing, unfortunately. A lot of restaurant owners are looking for solutions to increase their capabilities and quality. Robots can work 24/7. This is the opportunity that we see and many of our clients are excited about it.”

Image Credits: DaVinci Kitchen

The first batch of robots will focus on pasta — a relatively easily prepared dish with universal appeal. The machine creates the pasta, cooks and serves it all in around six minutes, according to Elfaramawy. It can prepare two dishes simultaneously and cleans the dishes in around 20-30 seconds.

The system is modular, so the machine can potentially be outfitted to prepare other foodstuff, including salads or prepare different takes on the pasta theme, swapping Italian style for an Asian dish, for example.

Thus far, the small company has raised around $780,000 in a seed round, courtesy of 2b AHEAD and Rheine-based frozen food company, Apetito, which is also one of DaVinci’s first clients. The startup is also in the process of raising a Series A with a target of $1.7 million. Its first kiosks are on track to be delivered in late-2020 or early 2021, depending on COVID-19’s impact on the company’s supply chains. The first batch will include 10 machines.

The company is targeting restaurants and food courts, which can buy or lease the robots.

Categories: Business News

Firehawk Aerospace aims to revolutionize rocketry with safe, cost-effective hybrid engines

2020, September 15 - 3:12am

While SpaceX and its ilk in the commercial rocket launch market have changed the economics of space and ushered in an era of small satellite entrepreneurship, the actual rocket engine technology they use isn’t that different from what was in use 50 years ago when NASA was making its first forays into outer space.

Firehawk Aerospace, a new startup founded by CEO Will Edwards and Chairman and Chief Scientists Ron Jones, wants to change that with a stable, cost-effective hybrid rocket fuel that employs additive manufacturing (industrial-scale 3D printing) to overcome the hurdles and limitations of previous hybrid fuel engine designs.

Hybrid rockets themselves – ones that use a combination of solid fuel and liquid oxidizer – aren’t new, but they have always faced significant limitations in terms of their performance metrics and maximum thrust power. Jones, a longtime rocket propulsion researcher and aerospace structures and advanced composite engineer, has been fascinated with engine technology and how to overcome the limits of past hybrid engine designs, while also retaining the benefits – including safety and cost.

Jones had been very interested in physics and engineering through high school and college, but ultimately joined the Navy and became an aviator before later coming back around to working in the aerospace industry. Meanwhile, he took advantage of the advent of the internet in its early days to begin diving deeper into his early love of rocketry, specifically researching hybrid engine technology and trading notes with experts all around the world.

“Ultimately, I came up with two concepts together,” Jones told me in an interview. “One is that they were using the wrong fuel – the fuel they were using was too elastic. Once you put it under pressure, it’s going to reverberate, and it’s not very strong so as it gets thinner, it will essentially break off chunks, and you lose a lot of fuel. So I switched that to a structurally very hard polymer. And second, I could see that they’re molding in casting just wasn’t a good idea. I switched that out to additive manufacturing.”

With additive manufacturing, which builds up a structure over time by extruding material, instead of pouring a liquid into a form and allowing it to harden, you can do things that are impossible with molding, including building up intentional, very structured internals. If you’ve ever seen at-home consumer 3D printing, it’s like the criss-cross patter you see in larger solids to provide rigidity or support to the external surfaces. That turned out to unlock a lot of potential for solid rocket fuel pellets.

“With additive manufacturing, I was able to do something no one else had done before. And that is to create a highly engineered internal structure that you can’t do with molding,” he said. “With those internal structures, we’ve been able to greatly improve the performance of the rocket engine, making it very reliable and also very safe, and these were the primary attributes that I was going after.”

Firehawk now holds five patents related to its 3D printing of rocket fuel, and it has already conducted 32 engine hot fire tests at both 200 lbs and 500 lbs of thrust to verify that its design actually works. The startup is also working on an engine capable of 5,000 lbs of thrust (roughly equivalent to Rocket Lab Electron’s second stage), which it plans to begin testing later this year at a new facility it’s building for the purpose.

As mentioned, current launch companies are already operating using much older, but still effective, rocket technology. So why bother with a new type of hybrid engine design? For a number of reasons, but efficiency and safety are chief among them.

Firehawk’s fuel can be stored, transported and handled much more safely, since it’s not susceptible to accidental detonation when the fuel and oxidizer are separate. It’s also non-toxic, and only produces exhaust that Firehawk says is “environmentally benign.” Safe handling of existing rocket fuel options for large launch vehicles requires a lot of special care and safety, as well as training, all of which adds up to time and expense.

Firehawk can also provide custom engine designs in between 4 to 6 months, it says, whereas typical new rocket engine development based on existing technology usually takes between 5 to 7 years. That time savings also adds up to significant budget savings – on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars – meaning new and better rockets can be iterated more quickly, without long useful lifetimes required between generations to recoup initial R&D costs.

The fuel can also be stored and transported over long durations, and even potentially stopped and restarted mid-flight, all of which means that longer and more complex missions can be accomplished at far lower costs than ever before. Obviously, the potential has sparked a lot of interest from both potential commercial and government customers, according to CEO Edwards.

Earlier this year, Firehawk Aerospace closed a $2 million seed round, from investors including Victorum Capital, Achieve Capital, and Harlow Capital Management, and they’re currently looking to grow the team, particular with driven engineers looking to work on the future of rocket propulsion. It’s also in process with a number of potential partners and letters of intent for commercialization of its technology.

Categories: Business News

Extra Crunch Partner Perk: Discount on Dell XPS laptop and Dell for Entrepreneurs program

2020, September 15 - 2:52am

We’re excited to announce a new Partner Perk from Dell for Extra Crunch members. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members can get a discount on a Dell XPS laptop as well as a discount on membership to the Dell for Entrepreneurs program.

What is the Dell for Entrepreneurs program?

The Dell for Entrepreneurs program is committed to empowering others by being an end-to-end solution provider to help entrepreneurs grow and scale. The program includes IT consultation (from accessories, to systems, to cloud/ software solutions), access to capital for technology needs, and rewards, discounts, and more. Discounts on membership will vary.

What’s the discount on the laptop? 

The discount on the Dell XPS Laptop is 5%, but if purchased before September 23 the discount is 10%.

What is Extra Crunch?

Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch that helps you spot technology trends and opportunities, build better startups and stay connected. It features thousands of articles, including weekly investor surveys, daily market analysis and expert interviews on fundraising, growth, monetization and other work topics.

Extra Crunch also features Extra Crunch Live Q&A sessions with startup experts, a 20% discount on TechCrunch events, access to Partner Perks and better ways to use and navigate

Join our growing community of founders, investors and startup teams here.

What are Partner Perks?

The Extra Crunch Partner Perks program is a great way for our annual members to save a few bucks on software costs. Since launching the program last fall, we’ve added more than a dozen new perks, including discounts on Crunchbase, DocSend and more. To see a full list of Partner Perks, head here.

How do I claim the discount on the Dell XPS laptop?

Head here, and enter your email address. Click submit. The discount on the laptop will be emailed to you immediately after your email address has been submitted.

How do I get the discount on the Dell for Entrepreneurs program?

Head here, and then scroll down to the section “How to Apply.” Click the button “apply now,” and fill out the form. A Dell representative will follow up within a few business days. 

Categories: Business News

As low-code startups continue to attract VC interest, what’s driving customer demand?

2020, September 15 - 2:50am

Investor interest in no-code, low-code apps and services advanced another step this morning with Airtable raising an outsized round. The $185 million investment into the popular database-and-spreadsheet service comes as it adds “new low-code and automation features,” per our own reporting.

The round comes after we’ve seen several VCs describe no- and low-code startups as part of their core investing theses, and observed how the same investors appear to be accelerating their investing pace into upstart companies that follow the ethos.

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

Undergirding much of the hype around apps that allow users to connect services, mix data sources and commit visual programming is the expectation that businesses will require more customized software than today’s developers will be able to supply. Low-code solutions could limit required developer inputs, while no-code services could obviate some need for developer time altogether. Both no- and low-code solutions could help alleviate the global developer shortage.

But underneath the view that there is a market mismatch between developer supply and demand is the anticipation that businesses will need more apps today than before, and even more in the future. This rising need for more business applications is key to today’s growing divergence between the availability and demand for software engineers.

The issue is something we explored talking with Appian, a public company that provides a low-code service that helps companies build apps.

Today we’re digging a little deeper into the topic, chatting with Mendix CEO Derek Roos. Mendix has reached nine-figure revenues with its low-code platform that helps other companies build apps, meaning that it has good perspective into what the market is actually demanding of itself and its low-code competition.

We want to learn a bit more about why business need so many apps, how COVID-19 has changed the low-code market and if Mendix is accelerating in 2020. If we can get all of that in hand, we’ll be better equipped to understand the growing no- and low-code startup realm.

A growing market

Mendix, based in Boston, raised around $38 million in known venture capital across a few rounds, including a $25 million Series B back in 2014. In 2018, Mendix partnered up with IBM to bring its service to their cloud, and later sold to Siemens for around $700 million the same year.

Categories: Business News

Matidor is building an all-in-one geospatial project collaboration platform

2020, September 15 - 2:44am

It’s a big world out there, but the software that allows professionals to take a closer look at geospatial data hasn’t made the same leaps that consumer-focused platforms have.

Matidor, a Vancouver-based geospatial visualization and collaboration startup, is building a project platform for consultants and engineers in the energy sector to keep track of projects in a single, far-reaching dashboard. Co-founders Vincent Lam and Sean Huang are relaunching Matidor on our virtual stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020. Lam formerly worked on the Google Earth team, while Huang boasts a background in the AR/VR space.

Matidor’s co-founders tell me that a lot of the current customers they’re going after are stuck using hacked-together solutions that combine Slack, Microsoft Projects and tools like ArcGIS (or even Google Maps) into a messy weave of forwarded screenshots and links. Matidor takes a look at the specific collaboration needs around data visualization and offers an all-in-one product suite for customers in the energy and environmental services fields.

People who work in these industries are often working with a handful of visual data types and Matidor allows these customers to overlay layers upon layers of data which the system can analyze to track changes and identify visual points of interest.

“We’re able to take in a lot of third-party data sources,” Huang tells TechCrunch. “We want to be the go-to platform for any location-based intelligence.”

Unlike other software solutions, Lam and Huang say that Matidor can help users easily get a handle on their entire portfolio at once. In addition to chat, users can also collaborate visually by quickly annotating regions on the maps and making notes.

Matidor sells its software on a per-project basis rather than charging per user, a strategy it hope will allow various stakeholders working on a project to get the chance to dig into the platform. The team sees the energy sector as just the beginning and is working on template types to bring in new customers. Eventually, Matidor’s co-founders want to tap into areas like construction and emergency response.

Categories: Business News

Sentinel loads up with $1.35M in the deepfake detection arms race

2020, September 15 - 2:01am

Estonia-based Sentinel, which is developing a detection platform for identifying synthesized media (aka deepfakes), has closed a $1.35 million seed round from some seasoned angle investors — including Jaan Tallinn (Skype), Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise), Ragnar Sass & Martin Henk (Pipedrive) — and Baltics early-stage VC firm, United Angels VC.

The challenge of building tools to detect deepfakes has been likened to an arms race — most recently by tech giant Microsoft, which earlier this month launched a detector tool in the hopes of helping pick up disinformation aimed at November’s US election. “The fact that [deepfakes are] generated by AI that can continue to learn makes it inevitable that they will beat conventional detection technology,” it warned, before suggesting there’s still short term value in trying to debunk malicious fakes with “advanced detection technologies”.

Sentinel co-founder and CEO, Johannes Tammekänd, agrees on the arms race point — which is why its approach to this ‘goal-post-shifting’ problem entails offering multiple layers of defence, following a cyber security-style template. He says rival tools — mentioning Microsoft’s detector and another rival, Deeptrace, aka Sensity — are, by contrast, only relying on “one fancy neural network that tries to detect defects”, as he puts it.

“Our approach is we think it’s impossible to detect all deepfakes with only one detection method,” he tells TechCrunch. “We have multiple layers of defence that if one layer gets breached then there’s a high probability that the adversary will get detected in the next layer.”

Tammekänd says Sentinel’s platform offers four layers of deepfake defence at this stage: An initial layer based on hashing known examples of in-the-wild deepfakes to check against (and which he says is scalable to “social media platform” level); a second layer comprised of a machine learning model that parses metadata for manipulation; a third that checks for audio changes, looking for synthesized voices etc; and lastly a technology that analyzes faces “frame by frame” to look for signs of visual manipulation.  

“We take input from all of those detection layers and then we finalize the output together [as an overall score] to have the highest degree of certainty,” he says.

“We already reached the point where somebody can’t say with 100% certainty if a video is a deepfake or not. Unless the video is somehow ‘cryptographically’ verifiable… or unless somebody has the original video from multiple angles and so forth,” he adds.

Tammekänd also emphasizes the importance of data in the deepfake arms race — over and above any specific technique. Sentinel’s boast on this front is that it’s amassed the “largest” database of in-the-wild deepfakes to train its algorithms on.

It has an in-house verification team working on data acquisition by applying its own detection system to suspect media, with three human verification specialists who “all have to agree” in order for it to verify the most sophisticated organic deepfakes. 

“Every day we’re downloading deepfakes from all the major social platforms — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, then there’s Asian ones, Russian ones, also porn sites as well,” he says.

“If you train a deepfake model based on let’s say Facebook data-sets then it doesn’t really generalize — it can detect deepfakes like itself but it doesn’t generalize well with deepfakes in the wild. So that’s why the detection is really 80% the data engine.”

Not that Sentinel can always be sure. Tammekänd gives the example of a short video clip released by Chinese state media of a poet who it was thought has been killed by the military — in which he appeared to say he was alive and well and told people not to worry. 

“Although our algorithms show that, with a very high degree of certainty, it is not manipulated — and most likely the person was just brainwashed — we can’t say with 100% certainty that the video is not a deepfake,” he says.  

Sentinel’s founders, who are ex NATO, Monese and the UK Royal Navy, actually started working on a very different startup idea back in 2018 — called Sidekik — building a Black Mirror-esque tech which ingested comms data to create a ‘digital clone’ of a person in the form of a tonally similar chatbot (or audiobot).

The idea was that people could use this virtual double to hand off basic admin-style tasks. But Tammekänd says they became concerned about the potential for misuse — hence pivoting to deepfake detection.

They’re targeting their technology at governments, international media outlets and defence agencies — with early clients, after the launch of their subscription service in Q2 this year, including the European Union External Action Service and the Estonian Government.

Their stated aim is to help to protect democracies from disinformation campaigns and other malicious information ops. So that means they’re being very careful about who gets access to their tech. “We have a very heavy vetting process,” he notes. “For example we work only with NATO allies.”

“We have had requests from Saudi Arabia and China but obviously that is a no-go from our side,” Tammekänd adds.

A recent study the startup conducted suggests exponential growth of deepfakes in the wild (i.e. found anywhere online) — with more than 145,000 examples identified so far in 2020, indicating a ninefold year-on-year growth. 

Tools to create deepfakes are certainly getting more accessible. And while plenty are, at face value, designed to offer harmless fun/entertainment — such as the likes of selfie-shifting app Reface — it’s clear that without thoughtful controls (including deepfake detection systems) the synthesized content they enable could be misappropriated to manipulate unsuspecting viewers.

Scaling up deepfake detection technology to the level of media swapping going on on social media platforms today is one major challenge Tammekänd mentions. 

“Facebook or Google could scale up [their own deepfake detection] but it would cost so much today that they would have to put in a lot of resources and their revenue would obviously fall drastically — so it’s fundamentally a triple standard; what are the business incentives?” he suggests.

There is also the risk posed by very sophisticated, very well funded adversaries — creating what he describes as “deepfake zero day” targeted attacks (perhaps state actors, presumably pursuing a very high value target).

“Fundamentally it is the same thing in cyber security,” he says. “Basically you can mitigate [the vast majority] of the deepfakes if the business incentives are right. You can do that. But there will always be those deepfakes which can be developed as zero days by sophisticated adversaries. And nobody today has a very good method or let’s say approach of how to detect those.

“The only known method is the layered defence — and hope that one of those defence layers will pick it up.”

Sentinel co-founders, Kaspar Peterson (left) & Johannes Tammekänd (right). Photo Credit: Sentinel

It’s certainly getting cheaper and easier for any Internet user to make and distribute plausible fakes. And as the risks posed by deepfakes rise up political and corporate agendas — the European Union is readying a Democracy Action Plan to respond to disinformation threats, for example — Sentinel is positioning itself to sell not only deekfake detection but bespoke consultancy services, powered by learnings extracted from its deepfake data-set. 

“We have a whole product — meaning we just don’t offer a ‘black box’ but also provide prediction explainability, training data statistics in order to mitigate bias, matching against already known deepfakes and threat modelling for our clients through consulting,” the startup tells us. “Those key factors have made us the choice of clients so far.”

Asked what he sees as the biggest risks that deepfakes pose to Western society, Tammekänd says, in the short term, the major worry is election interference. 

“One probability is that during the election — or a day or two days before — imagine Joe Biden saying ‘I have a cancer, don’t vote for me’. That video goes viral,” he suggests, sketching one near term risk. 

“The technology’s already there,” he adds noting that he had a recent call with a data scientist from one of the consumer deepfake apps who told him they’d been contacted by different security organizations concerned about just such a risk.

“From a technical perspective it could definitely be pulled off… and once it goes viral for people seeing is believing,” he adds. “If you look at the ‘cheap fakes’ that have already had a massive impact, a deepfake doesn’t have to be perfect, actually, it just has to be believable in a good context — so there’s a large number of voters who can fall for that.”

Longer term, he argues the risk is really massive: People could lose trust in digital media, period. 

“It’s not only about videos, it can be images, it can be voice. And actually we’re already seeing the convergence of them,” he says. “So what you can actually simulate are full events… that I could watch on social media and all the different channels.

“So we will only trust digital media that is verified, basically — that has some method of verification behind that.”

Another even more dystopian AI-warped future is that people will no longer care what’s real or not online — they’ll just believe whatever manipulated media panders to their existing prejudices. (And given how many people have fallen down bizarre conspiracy rabbit holes seeded by a few textual suggestions posted online, that seems all too possible.)

“Eventually people don’t care. Which is a very risky premise,” he suggests. “There’s a lot of talk about where are the ‘nuclear bombs’ of deepfakes? Let’s say it’s just a matter of time when a deepfake of a politician comes out that will do massive damage but… I don’t think that’s the biggest systematic risk here.

“The biggest systematic risk is, if you look from the perspective of history, what has happened is information production has become cheaper and easier and sharing has become quicker. So everything from Gutenberg’s printing press, TV, radio, social media, Internet. What’s happening now is the information that we consume on the Internet doesn’t have to be produced by another human — and thanks to algorithms you can on a binary time-scale do it on a mass scale and in a hyper-personalized way. So that’s the biggest systematic risk. We will not fundamentally understand what is reality anymore online. What is human and what is not human.”

The potential consequences of such a scenario are myriad — from social division on steroids; so even more confusion and chaos engendering rising anarchy and violent individualism to, perhaps, a mass switching off, if large swathes of the mainstream simply decide to stop listening to the Internet because so much online contents is nonsense.

From there things could even go full circle — back to people “reading more trusted sources again”, as Tammekänd suggests. But with so much at shapeshifting stake, one thing looks like a safe bet: Smart, data-driven tools that help people navigate an ever more chameleonic and questionable media landscape will be in demand. 

TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear contributed to this report 

Categories: Business News

Facebook investor Jim Breyer picks Austin as Breyer Capital’s second home

2020, September 15 - 1:27am

For Jim Breyer, the mantra, “Silicon Valley is a state of mind” has always been behind Breyer Capital, his personal investment fund.

While many of his investments and board seats (which have included Facebook, Blackstone, 21st Century Fox, Dell, Etsy, Marvel Entertainment and Walmart) backed that thesis, Breyer had never established an office for his personal fund outside of the Valley. Until now. 

Earlier this year, in the middle of a pandemic, he set up a second home for his personal fund in Austin, Texas. The move is a sign of Austin’s growing clout as a technology hub and another indication that Silicon Valley, New York and Boston may have more competition from a growing collection of cities for tech talent and national attention.

Breyer has always had an eye on markets outside the Valley, but typically those endeavors meant international expansion through IDG Breyer (a vehicle for investment into China) or planned forays to deploy capital in the Middle East or other international tech hotspots.  

“The new Austin effort comes after several years of thinking through where would be the most interesting place to expand Breyer Capital outside of Silicon Valley,” he said in an interview.

Breyer has several investments in Los Angeles, New York and other cities beyond the Bay Area, but a close relationship with Michael Dell and a seat on the Dell board left him with a hankering for more than just barbecue and personal computers.

Categories: Business News

Courier raises $10.1M Series A to help developers integrate multichannel notifications

2020, September 15 - 1:00am

Courier is an API platform with a no-code twist that helps developers add multichannel user notifications to their applications. The company today announced that it has raised a $10.1 million Series A funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Matrix Partners, Twilio and Slack Fund also participated in this round.

Previously, the company raised a $2.3 million seed round led by Matrix Partners, with participation from Y Combinator. That round, which closed in April 2019, was previously unreported. Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter and Matrix Partners’ Patrick Malatack, the previous VP of Product at Twilio, will join Courier’s board of directors.

“While at Twilio, I saw developers wrestling with integrating multiple channels together into a single experience,” says Malatack in today’s announcement. “Courier’s vision of a single platform for connecting and managing multiple channels really complements the channel explosion I was seeing customers struggle with.”

Image Credits: Courier

Courier founder and CEO Troy Goode previously led an engineering group at marketing automation firm Eloqua, which was acquired by Oracle in 2012, and as the CTO and head of Product at logistics software provider Winmore. Eloqua is clearly where he drew his inspiration for Courier from, though, which he built out during his time at Y Combinator.

“And one of the things that I noticed and became very frustrated by was that with Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot, there were a ton of different tools for marketing teams to use to communicate with prospects and our leads,” Goode told me. “But as soon as somebody became a customer, as soon as somebody became a user, we weren’t using those platforms. All of a sudden, we were manually plugging in infrastructure level systems like SendGrid and Twilio.”

Twilio launches SendGrid Ads and new cross-channel messaging API

The idea behind Courier is to provide development teams with a one-stop service for all their notification and communication infrastructure needs without having to build it from scratch. As Goode noted, large companies like Airbnb and LinkedIn can afford to build and maintain these systems to send out transactional emails to their users, often with teams that have dozens of engineers on them. Small teams can build less sophisticated solutions, but there’s really no need for every company to reinvent the wheel.

Today, Courier integrates with the likes of Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SendGrid, Postmark, Mailgun, MessageBird, Twilio and Nexmo, among others.

One thing that makes the service stand out is that it offers both a no-code system for users to build their massaging flows and templates, as well as the APIs for developers to integrate these into their applications. That means anybody within a company can, for example, build rules to route messages through specific channels and providers based on their needs, on top of managing the content and the branding of the messages that are being sent.

Image Credits: Courier

“You’ve got this broad array of potential providers,” Good said. “And what you need to do is figure out, okay, which provider am I going to use? And sometimes, especially at large organizations, the answer is multiple providers. And or email, you might need a backup email service in case your primary goes down, or you need to warm up an IP pool for SMS . You might have different providers per geography for both deliverability and price reasons. That’s really hard stuff to build yourself.”

But in addition, different recipients also have different preferences, too, and while users can build rules around that today, the company is looking at how to automate this process over time so that it can, for example, automatically ping users on the channel where they are most likely to respond (or purchase something) at a given time of the day.

Goode noted that it may be hard to convert big businesses to move to its platform given that they have already invested a lot into their own systems. But like Stripe, which faced a similar problem given that most potential users weren’t waiting to rip out their existing payment infrastructure, he believes that partnering with companies early and having patience will pay off in the long run.

Twilio closes acquisition of email specialist SendGrid in all-stock deal now worth $3B

Categories: Business News

Here’s what’s happening today on Day 1 of Disrupt 2020

2020, September 15 - 12:44am

Welcome to Day One of Disrupt 2020, our biggest Disrupt ever! Over the next five days (cue Star Trek theme), you’ll explore strange new technology, seek out new opportunities and new collaborations. You’ll boldly immerse yourself with the global startup community. There’s still time to register if you haven’t picked up your pass to attend. Just head to our ticket page and sign up!

Day One, right. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect today at Disrupt — speakers, breakout sessions, events and interesting people. It’s by no means a comprehensive list. For that, refer to our action-packed agenda. Note: Unless otherwise stated, all times are PDT.

Are you ready to Disrupt?

Don’t forget to have fun over the next five days. Download the Trivia Royale app (Google Play) (App Store) and start playing TechCrunch Trivia. Whoever ranks number one on the leaderboard at 1 p.m. (PDT) on September 18 receives a TC Swag Bag mailed to their location.

Funding — it’s top-of-mind for everyone, especially in a tough economy. Head to the Extra Crunch Stage for How to Raise Money in a Dumpster Fire with Initialized Capital’s Garry Tan; YC’s Anu Hariharan; and GGV’s Hans Tung (9:05 a.m.-9:45 a.m.).

Let the Startup Battlefield pitch competition begin! Don’t miss the first of four cohorts as they step onto the Disrupt Stage to compete for $100,000 (10:30 a.m.-11:35 a.m.). Check the agenda and tune in to subsequent Startup Battlefield sessions — one scheduled on each day of the show.

Learn how to build a better pitch deck during the Pitch Deck Teardown. Top investors critique submitted pitches live on the Extra Crunch Stage (10:50 a.m.-11:30 a.m.).

All startup experiences are not created equal. Join AptDeco’s Reham Fagiri; Squire’s Songe LaRon; and Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel on the Extra Crunch Stage for The Black Founder Experience: Tactical Advice for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs (11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.).

Learn more about low code/no code and what it takes to turn it into a user-friendly service. Join Airtable’s Howie Liu on the Disrupt Stage for Building a Low-Code Unicorn (12:25 p.m.-12:45 p.m.).

FOMO can strike hard with so much great stuff going down. Don’t worry, though, we’ve got you covered over at the Disrupt Desk. The TC crew will be at the Disrupt Stage — for 25 minutes several times each day throughout the conference. Catch up on what you’ve missed from across the show and get a sneak peek at new technology, demos, news and more. Check the agenda for exact times and stop on by whenever you feel like hanging out with us.

That’s your Day One teaser, folks. Didn’t register for Disrupt? No need for regret — you can still buy a pass. Now, get out there and boldly go.

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Categories: Business News

Airtable raises $185M and launches new low-code and automation features

2020, September 14 - 10:00pm

The spreadsheet-centric database and no-code platform Airtable today announced that it has raised a $185 million Series D funding round, putting the company at a $2.585 billion post-money valuation.

Thrive Capital led the round, with additional funding by existing investors Benchmark, Coatue, Caffeinated Capital and CRV, as well as new investor D1 Capital. With this, Airtable, which says it now has 200,000 companies using its service, has raised a total of about $350 million. Current customers include Netflix, HBO, Condé Nast Entertainment, TIME, City of Los Angeles, MIT Media Lab and IBM.

In addition, the company is also launching one of its largest feature updates today, which start to execute on the company’s overall platform vision that goes beyond its current no-code capabilities and bring more low-code features, as well new automation (think IFTTT for Airtable) and data management tools to the service.

As Airtable founder and CEO Howie Liu told me, a number of investors approached the company since it raised its Series C round in 2018, in part because the market clearly realized the potential size of the low-code/no-code market.

“I think there’s this increasing market recognition that the space is real, and the spaces is very large […],” he told me. “While we didn’t strictly need the funding, it allowed us to continue to invest aggressively into furthering our platform, vision and really executing aggressively, […] without having to worry about, ‘well, what happens with COVID?’ There’s a lot of uncertainty, right? And I think even today there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the next year will bear.”

Airtable’s Howie Liu to join us at Disrupt 2020

The company started opening the round a couple of months after the first shelter in place orders in California and for most investors, this was a purely digital process.

Liu has always been open about the fact that he wants to build this company for the long haul — especially after he sold his last company to Salesforce at an early stage. As a founder, that likely means he is trying to keep his stake in the company high, even as Airtable continues to raise more money. He argues, though, that more so than the legal and structural controls, being aligned with his investors is what matters most.

“I think actually, what’s more important in my view, is having philosophical alignment and expectations alignment with the investors,” he said. “Because I don’t want to be in a position where it comes down to a legal right or structural debate over the future of the company. That almost feels to me like the last resort where it’s already gotten to a place where things are ugly. I’d much rather be in a position where all the investors around the table, whether they have legal say or not, are fully aligned with what we’re trying to do with this business.”

Just as important as the new funding though, are the various new features the company is launching today. Maybe the most important of these is Airtable Apps. Previously, Airtable users could use pre-built blocks to add maps, Gantt charts and other features to their tables. But while being a no-code service surely helped Airtable’s users get started, there’s always an inevitable point where the pre-built functionality just isn’t enough and users need more custom tools (Liu calls this an escape valve). So with Airtable Apps, more sophisticated users can now build additional functionality in JavaScript — and if they choose to do so, they can then share those new capabilities with other users in the new Airtable Marketplace.

Image Credits: Airtable

“You may or may not need an escape valve and obviously, we’ve gotten this far with 200,000 organizations using Airtable without that kind of escape valve,” he noted. “But I think that we open up a lot more use cases when you can say, well, Airtable by itself is 99% there, but that last 1% is make or break. You need it. And then, just having that outlet and making it much more leveraged to build that use case on Airtable with 1% effort, rather than building the full-stack application as a custom built application is all the difference.”

Image Credits: Airtable

The other major new feature is Airtable Automations. With this, you can build custom, automated workflows to generate reports or perform other repetitive steps. You can do a lot of that through the service’s graphical interface or use JavaScript to build you own custom flows and integrations, too. For now, this feature is available for free, but the team is looking into how to charge for it over time, given that these automated flows may become costly if you run them often.

The last new feature is Airtable Sync. With this, teams can more easily share data across an organization, while also providing controls for who can see what. “The goal is to enable people who built software with Airtable to make that software interconnected and to be able to share a source of truth table between different instances of our tables,” Liu explained.

Image Credits: Airtable

Airtable, maker of a coding platform for non-techies, raises $100M at a $1.1B valuation

Airtable CEO Howie Liu on the continued importance of getting a ‘unicorn’ valuation

Categories: Business News

Indian fantasy sports app Dream11’s parent firm raises $225M at over $2.5B valuation

2020, September 14 - 4:45pm

Dream Sports, the parent firm of fantasy sports app Dream11, has secured $225 million in a new financing round as the Mumbai-headquartered firm builds what it calls an “end-to-end sports tech company” in the cricket-loving nation, which is also the world’s second largest internet market.

Tiger Global Management, TPG Tech Adjacencies (TTAD), ChrysCapital and Footpath Ventures financed $225 million in Dream Sports through primary and secondary investments, the 12-year-old Indian firm said.

The new round values Dream Sports at over $2.5 billion, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Dream11 has raised about $325 million to date.

Dream11 has cashed in on the popularity of cricket — a game that has attracted serious attention from several major firms, including Disney and Facebook. Dream11 explores the fantasy part of it, allowing gamers to pick their choice of best players for an upcoming match. They can win cash prizes depending on how their selected team performs.

This year, Dream11 is also the title sponsor for the 2020 season of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, one of the most popular sporting events in the world. The startup won the rights, previously held by Chinese smartphone vendor Vivo, by bidding $30 million. Vivo had to abruptly back out of the sponsorship amid geo-political tension between the two nuclear-armed nations.

The new season of IPL kickstarts later this week after months of delay due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The sports sector has high growth potential in India. There is a significant opportunity to enhance the fan experience and we are excited to partner with Dream Sports to leverage technology in ways that will deepen the connection between Indian fans and the sports they love,” said Akshay Tanna, managing director at TPG, in a statement.

In recent years, Dream Sports has expanded into additional categories such as merchandize. Harsh Jain, chief executive and co-founder of Dream Sports, claimed in a statement today that the startup had amassed more than 100 million users. (Dream11 app is not on the Google Play Store and the startup relies on people either using its mobile web or sideloading its Android app on to their phones.)

“As a homegrown Indian company, we are proud to continue adding value to our 10 crore Indian sports fans, investors, employees and the overall sports ecosystem in India. In the last two years, we have grown beyond fantasy sports to sports content, merchandise, streaming, experiences, and there is much more to come. Our vision is to ‘Make Sports Better’ for India and Indian fans through sports technology and innovation,” he added.

Avendus Capital was the financial advisor to Dream Sports on the transaction.

Dream11 isn’t the only firm building a niche in the fantasy sports space in India. Sequoia Capital India and Times Internet-backed Mobile Premier League is also a major player, which has expanded to traditional mobile games in recent months. Twitter-backed ShareChat also quietly began experimenting with fantasy sports earlier this year.

But fantasy sports is still facing some regulatory hurdles in parts of India. Several Indian states, including Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Telangana, have banned fantasy sports betting.

“It doesn’t help matters either that the fantasy sports business’ attempts at legitimacy involve trying to be seen as video games — a cursory glance at a speakers’ panel for any Indian video game developer event is evidence of this — rather than riding on its own merits,” said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet the Mako Reactor, in an earlier interview with TechCrunch.

Categories: Business News

Tune in today at 12pm PDT for an essential Disrupt 2020 Sneak Peek

2020, September 14 - 12:51am

Are you ready to experience a Disrupt event like no other? Thousands of attendees from around the world, an all-star lineup of tech icons, movers, shakers and unicorn makers. Opportunities around every corner just waiting to be discovered. Are we amped up at the thought of what will transpire over the next five days? Heck yeah!

Okay, we’re switching to decaf. Our point (and we do have one) is that before our very own Matthew Panzarino officially welcomes you to Disrupt 2020 tomorrow morning, we’re inviting you to a pre-show today — the Disrupt Sneak Peek — with Disrupt host and Managing Editor, Jordan Crook.

Today, Sunday September 13, from 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m. (PT), Jordan will show you how to access the different virtual platforms we’ll use throughout the show. Plus, you’ll get a look at the companies competing in the Startup Battlefield, learn more about the TC10 and hear about some of the incredible speakers we have on tap.

It’s a quick but essential overview of what to expect over the course of Disrupt. And who knows? We might even trot out a few surprise guests (spoiler alert: we will).

Come to the Disrupt Sneak Peek today from 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m. (PT), get a handle on the virtual platforms and get pumped up about five days of sharing connection, collaboration and education with the global early-stage startup community.

Any last-minute decision makers out there? You can still buy a Disrupt pass right here but be quick because prices increase tonight!

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Categories: Business News

Check out these Breakout Sessions at Disrupt 2020

2020, September 13 - 8:30am

We’re on the brink of the biggest Disrupt in TechCrunch history. It’s five days of education, exhibition, competition and connection that spans the globe. As you plan your schedule, keep this in mind: You’ll find some of the most insightful and downright interesting programming at Disrupt 2020 in our Breakout Sessions. And that, given our powerhouse agenda, is saying something.

Every Disrupt attendee can take part in the breakout sessions — they’re open to every pass level. Breakouts cover a range of topics and formats. You might watch startups pitch, attend a workshop or take in a panel discussion. No matter what, you’re bound to receive valuable insight that can inspire you and help your business.

Take advantage of our partners’ expertise and check out any (or all) of these breakout sessions. You’ll be glad you did.


Monday, September 14

11:00 am – 11:50 am

Sponsored by Adobe

How to Invest in Infrastructure to Deliver Experience 

Gabie Boko, Global VP Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & Adobe VP of Platform Engineering, Anjul Bhambhri discuss digital transformation and experience delivery. 


12:00 pm – 12:30 pm

Sponsored by Taiwan Tech Arena

Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-off session 1

Featuring twenty startups in healthcare, IoT, blockchain, AR-VR, cyber security, E-learning, and green technology


Tuesday, September 15

9:00 am – 9:50 am

Sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank

Diversity as Disruption: Take action now to create a more diverse ecosystem

Recent events continue to demonstrate that change is not happening fast enough. How can we ensure the current social justice momentum is more than just talk? Guided by SVB’s recent research into the “4th wave of venture capital,” learn how three industry leaders are tackling the problem with real actions. By the close of the session, leave with tangible steps you can take today – whether as an individual or as a firm — to make a meaningful, move-the-needle impact in your organization.


9:00 am – 10:30 am

Sponsored by Taiwan Tech Arena

Taiwan Reception: Innovations and investment opportunities amid COVID19 Pandemics with Christine Tsai (500 Startups), Allan May (Life Science Angels)

Join Christine, Allan, Tico Blumenthal (Life Sciences Angels), and Laura Dietch (BioTrace Medical) to explore the investment and innovation framework in post-COVID19, and to discuss the driver of innovation healthcare amid the pandemic and economic collapse. TTA will also present the key anti-COVID19 innovative measurements in Taiwan to achieve the lowest infection rate around the world.


10:00 am – 10:30am

Sponsored by

Belgian Startup Pitch Competition invites you to join us for the 6th edition of our Belgian startup pitch competition.


12:00 pm – 12:30 pm

Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-off Session 2

Sponsored by Taiwan Tech Arena

Featuring twenty startups in AI solutions, softwares, big data, edge computing, and space technology


2:30 pm – 4:00 pm 

TC Include Reception sponsored by Sootchy

Sponsored by Sootchy

INVITE ONLY – TC Include kicks off this year’s founder cohort with organizational partners Black Female Founders, Female Founders Alliance, Latinx Startup Alliance and StartOut with remarks by Sootchy.


Wednesday, September 16

9:00 am – 9:50 am

Sponsored by Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco

“Grow North”: How Canada Empowers Investors and Founders

Come listen to a group of Canadian founders who will talk about their start-ups and how Canada has helped them grow and succeed globally.


10:00 am – 11:00 am

Sponsored by StartUp Bahrain

Bahrain: Your gateway to the Middle East and beyond

INVITE ONLY – With its supportive ecosystem, advanced digital infrastructure, flexible and pioneering regulations; rapid growth in funding opportunities and a liberal market, Bahrain is the ideal testbed for startups and scaleups to test their products and solutions before growing and expanding across the Middle East


10:00 am – 10:30 am 

Sponsored by JETRO

Japanese Startup Pitches

Come see the latest exciting technology and services coming from Japan.


11:00 am – 11:30 am 

Sponsored by KOCCA

Join Us to Watch Seven Amazing Startups from Korea

K-pop? K-Drama? K-Games? K-Entertainment? All startups with K-contents will show off during this Pitch Off


12:00 pm – 12:50 pm 

Sponsored by Envestnet | Yodlee

Making Data Meaningful for the FinTech Ecosystem

Open finance/banking represents a new era of financial data transparency. It brings an unprecedented opportunity for FinTechs to provide personalized guidance consumers need to improve financial wellness. Envestnet | Yodlee experts will discuss empowering the entire FinTech ecosystem with enriched financial data and insights, plus the future of open banking in the U.S.


Thursday, September 17

10:00 am – 11:30 am

Sponsored by Dassault Systèmes

Dassault Systemes’s 3DEXPERIENCE Lab Global Accelerator Program

INVITE ONLY – 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is Dassault Systèmes’s global innovation program that offers innovative startups free access to Dassault Systèmes collaborative Design, Engineering, Simulation & Data Intelligence solutions, along with mentoring, and marketing support for two years. Come; learn how the Lab selects, mentors and supports its startups!


10:00 am – 10:50 am

Sponsored by AppsFlyer

Advertising Disrupted: What User Privacy Means For Marketers

This session offers the unique opportunity to join a live recording of AppsFlyer’s industry podcast, Next in Marketing. Mike Shields, podcast host and former Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, AdWeek and Digiday editor along with guests (Brian Quinn, US President & GM, AppsFlyer and Ana Milicevic, Co-founder and Principal, Sparrow Advisers) will delve into the ecosystem’s pivotal privacy updates, including Apple’s IDFA opt-out and the impact of iOS 14 to measurement and attribution, as well as targeting in a cookieless world. You’ll also hear about the future of personalization post-regulations in this session that is sure to address the most pressing issues and headlines on the mind of marketers globally.


12:00 pm – 12:50 pm

Sponsored by KITE

It Takes An Ecosystem To Innovate: Startups, Corporations and the Connectors that Bring Them Together

Startups plus large enterprises can fuel each other’s growth and bottom line, whether it’s a partnership, investment or acquisition. But bringing the right ones together needs more than serendipity: it requires a dynamic ecosystem that includes consultants, accelerators and VCs (aka the connectors). We sit down with top leaders from around the ecosystem to learn how they discover innovative solutions — and get to outcomes — faster.


And for those who want to upgrade to a Disrupt Digital PRO Pass you can get access to these sessions:

Tuesday, September 15

10:30 am – 10:50 am

Sponsored by All Raise

Showing Your Work: VCs Investing in Diversity Share Their Secrets

More than 80% of venture capital firms don’t have a single Black investor and 68% of firms don’t have any female partners. As VCs across the country urgently seek to diversify both their investing teams and their portfolios, they could learn a lot from these amazing investors, who have made diversity a central part of their investing thesis from the start. Join us for a candid conversation about the power of investing in underrepresented founders and tapping into over $4.4 trillion in value. This panel will be moderated by Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise featuring Sarah Kunst, Founder & Managing Director at Cleo Capital and Christie Pitts, General Partner at Backstage Capital who are both leading VCs who focus their investments on founders from underrepresented backgrounds.


11:30 am – 11:50 am

Sponsored by Toyota

Innovating with Fuel Cells

James Kast demonstrates how Toyota continues to navigate the innovation of fuel cells and the implementation across numerous industries.


That’s a mighty fine breakout lineup if we do say so ourselves. Yep, we’re tooting our own horn. Don’t let all that valuable expertise go to waste. Make sure you carve out time in your Disrupt schedule for insight and inspiration!

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Categories: Business News

Is the vaunted cloud acceleration falling flat?

2020, September 13 - 5:00am

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. 

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

Is the vaunted cloud acceleration falling flat?

This week we’re taking a look at the bad side of the cloud software market. In case you were avoiding the news over the last week, tech and software stocks are struggling. Not much compared to their 2020 gains, mind, but after months of only going up their recent declines have been notable. (As I write to you, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is headed for its worst week since March.)

The pullback makes some sense. Having watched SaaS and cloud valuations get stretched to historical highs, Slack’s earnings were an endcap on a good, but not-quite-as-good-as-expected set of results from public cloud and SaaS companies. 

As we’ve noted, most public software companies are not seeing their revenue growth accelerate. Some public software companies may be seeing their growth deceleration slow, but the number of public software companies actually accelerating in 2020 is tiny. The actually-accelerating group is Zoom, and maybe one or two other companies. 

Why is that, given all that we’ve heard about the presumably accelerating digital transformation? Slack earnings are a good explainer. The enterprise communications company’s recent filings explain that its COVID-bump has somewhat dissipated, while a number of COVID-related problems are persisting. 

Seeing recently risen valuations slip in the face of a lack of materially accelerated growth and some churn issues is reasonable. 

Does this matter for startups? Some. Public software valuations are still elevated compared to historical norms, which helps software startups defend their valuations and raise well. And there are plenty of startup hotspots as we’ve noted, including API-delivered startups enjoying time in the sun, as well as edtech startups that caught a COVID-related tailwind.

I am chatting with investors from a16z, Bessemer, and Canaan next week at Disrupt about the future of SaaS, collecting notes on the private-market side of this particular issue. So, more to come. But for now, I think we’ve seen the top of the peak and are now dealing more with reality than hype. Or, as public investors might say, the COVID trade has run its course and earnings will set the tone moving forward.

Market Notes

Moving on to market notes, a fintech stat, and some other bits of data for your consumption and edification:

A brief interlude: Disrupt is next week, you should come. You can enjoy it from the comfort of your couch. 

Various and Sundry

SaaS and cloud earnings continue to trickle in, which means I spent a good portion of my week talking to more execs at public companies. Short notes from Smartsheet, nCino and BigCommerce to follow, along with some final thoughts for your weekend.

  • On the valuations front, Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader told TechCrunch that “investors are thinking about how to balance historically high multiples with historically high potential returns in the space that’s still very young.” 
  • He added that no one doubts that cloud “is going to be the answer” to a lot of stuff, or that “people are [going to] change how they work,” but did note that cloud companies are not impervious to macro headwinds, because “cloud companies serve non-cloud companies,” and not merely companies in sectors that are excelling.
  • This fits neatly into our notes on Slack above. More on Smartsheet’s earnings here.
  • nCino had a good quarter, beating expectations and guiding well during its first public earnings report. However, like many other SaaS and cloud companies, it has lost some valuation altitude in recent weeks. It’s still miles above its IPO price, however.
  • I was curious about how the post-IPO period has been for the company’s CEO, Pierre Naudé, and his response was fun. Like all new public company CEOs, he made sure to note how quickly his team got back to work after the debut, but he also told The Exchange that he does now spend time that he used to invest in customers and “innovation” talking to analysts and investors. 
  • Being a public company, therefore, has time and focus costs that are worth considering, as we see so many tech shops approach the public markets.
  • And then there was BigCommerce, which went public quite recently. I got back on the horn with CEO Brent Bellm, wanting to learn a bit more about the current state of the e-commerce market. 
  • Here’s what the CEO had to say, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

“I think it’s staying pretty hot. The surprising thing in the post-pandemic weeks was just how rapidly growth accelerated, and consumer and business adoption grew. We all kept saying ‘well at some point stores will reopen, and the growth rates will come back down.’ But the growth rates for actual sales running through stores continued to be very strong. You know, whether you look at our customer set, or [at] credit card data from Bank of America or others […] you can see quite clearly that e-commerce remains very, very hot. It’s a permanent change in behavior. Consumers have found a lot more places where they now like to buy online and reasons to like to buy online, and companies have found new and more effective ways to sell.”

  • This is probably a good reminder to turn our attention back to e-commerce when we get a chance post-Disrupt. 
  • And, finally, read Natasha on why rolling funds are blowing up, something that we talked about on the podcast this week.

That’s all the room we have. Hugs, fist bumps, and good luck.


Categories: Business News