Meet Harvestr, a software-as-a-service startup that wants to help product managers centralize customer feedback from various places. Product managers can then prioritize outstanding issues and feature requests. Finally, the platform helps you get back to your customers once changes have been implemented.
The company just raised a $ 650,000 funding round led by Bpifrance, with various business angels also participating, such as 360Learning co-founders Nicolas Hernandez and Guillaume Alary, as well as Station F director Roxanne Varza through the Atomico Angel Programme.
Harvestr integrates directly with Zendesk, Intercom, Salesforce, Freshdesk, Slack and Zapier. For instance, if a user opens a ticket on Zendesk and another user interacts with your support team through an Intercom chat widget, everything ends up in Harvestr.
Once you have everything in the system, Harvestr helps you prioritize tasks that seem more urgent or that are going to have a bigger impact.
When you start working on a feature or when you’re about to ship it, you can contact your users who originally reached out to talk to you about it.
Eventually, Harvestr should help you build a strong community of power users around your product. And there are many advantages in pursuing this strategy.
First, you reward your users by keeping them in the loop. It should lead to higher customer satisfaction and lower churn. Your most engaged customers could also become your best ambassadors to spread the word around.
Harvestr costs $ 49 per month for five seats and $ 99 per month for 20 seats. People working for 360Learning, HomeExchange, Dailymotion and other companies are currently using it.
Equinix has a set of data centers and co-locations facilities around the world. Companies that may want to have more control over their hardware could use their services including space, power and cooling systems, instead of running their own data centers.
Equinix is getting a unique cloud infrastructure vendor in Packet, one that can provide more customized kinds of hardware configurations than you can get from the mainstream infrastructure vendors like AWS and Azure.
Interestingly, COO George Karidis came over from Equinix when he joined the company, so there is a connection there. Karidis described his company in a September, 2018 TechCrunch article:
“We offer the most diverse hardware options,” he said. That means they could get servers equipped with Intel, ARM, AMD or with specific nVidia GPUs in whatever configurations they want. By contrast public cloud providers tend to offer a more off-the-shelf approach. It’s cheap and abundant, but you have to take what they offer, and that doesn’t always work for every customer.”
In a blog post announcing the deal, company co-founder and CEO Zachary Smith had a message for his customers, who may be worried about the change in ownership, “When the transaction closes later this quarter, Packet will continue operating as before: same team, same platform, same vision,” he wrote.
He also offered the standard value story for a deal like this, saying the company could scale much faster under Equinix than it could on its own with access to its new company’s massive resources including 200+ data centers in 55 markets and 1,800 networks.
Sara Baack, chief product officer at Equinix says bringing the two companies together will provide a diverse set of bare metal options for customers moving forward. “Our combined strengths will further empower companies to be everywhere they need to be, to interconnect everyone and integrate everything that matters to their business,” she said in a statement.
While the companies did not share the purchase price, they did hint that they would have more details on the transaction after it closes, which is expected in the first quarter this year.
AWS took a hard blow last year when it lost the $ 10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract to rival Microsoft. Yet even without that mega deal for building out the nation’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, the company remains fully in control of the cloud infrastructure market — and it intends to fight that decision.
In fact, AWS still owns almost twice as much cloud infrastructure market share as Microsoft, its closest rival. While the two will battle over the next decade for big contracts like JEDI, for now, AWS doesn’t have much to worry about.
There was a lot more to AWS’s year than simply losing JEDI. Per usual, the news came out with a flurry of announcements and enhancements to its vast product set. Among the more interesting moves was a shift to the edge, the fact the company is getting more serious about the chip business and a big dose of machine learning product announcements.
The fact is that AWS has such market momentum now, it’s a legitimate question to ask if anyone, even Microsoft, can catch up. The market is continuing to expand though, and the next battle is for that remaining market share. AWS CEO Andy Jassy spent more time than in the past trashing Microsoft at 2019’s re:Invent customer conference in December, imploring customers to move to the cloud faster and showing that his company is preparing for a battle with its rivals in the years ahead.
AWS closed 2019 on a $ 36 billion run rate, growing from $ 7.43 billion in in its first report in January to $ 9 billion in earnings for its most recent earnings report in October. Believe it or not, according to CNBC, that number failed to meet analysts expectations of $ 9.1 billion, but still accounted for 13% of Amazon’s revenue in the quarter.
Regardless, AWS is a juggernaut, which is fairly amazing when you consider that it started as a side project for Amazon .com in 2006. In fact, if AWS were a stand-alone company, it would be a substantial business. While growth slowed a bit last year, that’s inevitable when you get as large as AWS, says John Dinsdale, VP, chief analyst and general manager at Synergy Research, a firm that follows all aspects of the cloud market.
“This is just math and the law of large numbers. On average over the last four quarters, it has incremented its revenues by well over $ 500 million per quarter. So it has grown its quarterly revenues by well over $ 2 billion in a twelve-month period,” he said.
Dinsdale added, “To put that into context, this growth in quarterly revenue is bigger than Google’s total revenues in cloud infrastructure services. In a very large market that is growing at over 35% per year, AWS market share is holding steady.”
Dinsdale says the cloud infrastructure market didn’t quite break $ 100 billion last year, but even without full Q4 results, his firm’s models project a total of around $ 95 billion, up 37% over 2018. AWS has more than a third of that. Microsoft is way back at around 17% with Google in third with around 8 or 9%.
It would be hard to do any year-end review of AWS without discussing JEDI. From the moment the Department of Defense announced its decade-long, $ 10 billion cloud RFP, it has been one big controversy after another.
Back in 2013, Dropbox was scaling fast.
The company had grown quickly by taking advantage of cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS), but when you grow rapidly, infrastructure costs can skyrocket, especially when approaching the scale Dropbox was at the time. The company decided to build its own storage system and network — a move that turned out to be a wise decision.
In a time when going from on-prem to cloud and closing private data centers was typical, Dropbox took a big chance by going the other way. The company still uses AWS for certain services, regional requirements and bursting workloads, but ultimately when it came to the company’s core storage business, it wanted to control its own destiny.
Storage is at the heart of Dropbox’s service, leaving it with scale issues like few other companies, even in an age of massive data storage. With 600 million users and 400,000 teams currently storing more than 3 exabytes of data (and growing) if it hadn’t taken this step, the company might have been squeezed by its growing cloud bills.
Controlling infrastructure helped control costs, which improved the company’s key business metrics. A look at historical performance data tells a story about the impact that taking control of storage costs had on Dropbox.
In March of 2016, Dropbox announced that it was “storing and serving” more than 90% of user data on its own infrastructure for the first time, completing a 3-year journey to get to this point. To understand what impact the decision had on the company’s financial performance, you have to examine the numbers from 2016 forward.
There is good financial data from Dropbox going back to the first quarter of 2016 thanks to its IPO filing, but not before. So, the view into the impact of bringing storage in-house begins after the project was initially mostly completed. By examining the company’s 2016 and 2017 financial results, it’s clear that Dropbox’s revenue quality increased dramatically. Even better for the company, its revenue quality improved as its aggregate revenue grew.
Salesforce turned 20 this year, and the most successful pure enterprise SaaS company ever showed no signs of slowing down. Consider that the company finished the year on an $ 18 billion run rate, rushing toward its 2022 revenue goal of $ 20 billion. Oh, and it also spent a tidy $ 15.7 billion to buy Tableau this year in the most high-profile and expensive acquisition it’s ever made.
Co-founder, chairman and CEO Marc Benioff published a book called Trailblazer about running a socially responsible company, and made the rounds promoting it. In fact, he even stopped by TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in September, telling the audience that capitalism as we know it is dead. Still, the company announced it was building two more towers in Sydney and Dublin.
It also promoted Bret Taylor just last week, who could be in line as heir apparent to Benioff and co-CEO Keith Block whenever they decide to retire. The company closed the year with a bang with a $ 4.5 billion quarter. Salesforce, for the most part, has somehow been able to balance Benioff’s vision of responsible capitalism while building a company makes money in bunches, one that continues to grow and flourish, and that’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
All aboard the gravy train
The company just keeps churning out good quarters. Here’s what this year looked like:
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
Today, something short. Continuing our loose collection of looks back of the past year, it’s worth remembering two related facts. First, that this time last year SaaS stocks were getting beat up. And, second, that in the ensuing year they’ve risen mightily.
If you are in a hurry, the gist of our point is that the recovery in value of SaaS stocks probably made a number of 2019 IPOs possible. And, given that SaaS shares have recovered well as a group, that the 2020 IPO season should be active as all heck, provided that things don’t change.
Let’s not forget how slack the public markets were a year ago for a startup category vital to venture capital returns.
We’re depending on Bessemer’s cloud index today, renamed the “BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index” when it was rebuilt in October. The Cloud Index is a collection of SaaS and cloud companies that are trackable as a unit, helping provide good data on the value of modern software and tooling concerns.
If the index rises, it’s generally good news for startups as it implies that investors are bidding up the value of SaaS companies as they grow; if the index falls, it implies that revenue multiples are contracting amongst the public comps of SaaS startups.*
Ultimately, startups want public companies that look like them (comps) to have sky-high revenue multiples (price/sales multiples, basically). That helps startups argue for a better valuation during their next round; or it helps them defend their current valuation as they grow.
Given that it’s Christmas Eve, I’m going to present you with a somewhat ugly chart. Today I can do no better. Please excuse the annotation fidelity as well:
What the networking company gets with a shiny red ribbon is a security product that helps stop automated attacks like credential stuffing. In an article earlier this year, Shape CTO Shuman Ghosemajumder explained what the company does:
We’re an enterprise-focused company that protects the majority of large U.S. banks, the majority of the largest airlines, similar kinds of profiles with major retailers, hotel chains, government agencies and so on. We specifically protect them against automated fraud and abuse on their consumer-facing applications — their websites and their mobile apps.
F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou sees a way to protect his customers in a comprehensive way. “With Shape, we will deliver end-to-end application protection, which means revenue generating, brand-anchoring applications are protected from the point at which they are created through to the point where consumers interact with them—from code to customer,” Locoh-Donou said in a statement.
As for Shape, CEO Derek Smith said that it wasn’t a huge coincidence that F5 was the buyer, given his company was seeing F5 consistently in its customers. Now they can work together as a single platform.
Shape launched in 2011 and raised $ 183 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors included Kleiner Perkins, Tomorrow Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Baseline Ventures and C5 Capital. In its most recent round in September, the company raised $ 51 million on a valuation of $ 1 billion.
F5 has been in a spending mood this year. It also acquired NGINX in March for $ 670 million. NGINX is the commercial company behind the open-source web server of the same name. It’s worth noting that prior to that, F5 had not made an acquisition since 2014.
It was a big year in security M&A. Consider that in June, four security companies sold in one three-day period. That included Insight Partners buying Recorded Future for $ 780 million and FireEye buying Verodin for $ 250 million. Palo Alto Networks bought two companies in the period: Twistlock for $ 400 million and PureSec for between $ 60 and $ 70 million.
This deal is expected to close in mid-2020, and is of course, subject to standard regulatory approval. Upon closing Shape’s Smith will join the F5 management team and Shape employees will be folded into F5. The company will remain in its Santa Clara headquarters.
Belgium-based all-in-one business software maker Odoo, which offers an open source version as well as subscription-based enterprise software and SaaS, has taken in $ 90 million led by a new investor: Global growth equity investor Summit Partners.
The funds have been raised via a secondary share sale. Odoo’s executive management team and existing investor SRIW and its affiliate Noshaq also participated in the share sale by buying stock — with VC firms Sofinnova and XAnge selling part of their shares to Summit Partners and others.
“Odoo is largely profitable and grows at 60% per year with an 83% gross margin product; so, we don’t need to raise money,” a spokeswoman told us. “Our bottleneck is not the cash but the recruitment of new developers, and the development of the partner network.
“What’s unusual in the deal is that existing managers, instead of cashing out, purchased part of the shares using a loan with banks.”
The 2005-founded company — which used to go by the name of OpenERP before transitioning to its current open core model in 2015 — last took in a $ 10M Series B back in 2014, per Crunchbase.
Odoo offers some 30 applications via its Enterprise platform — including ERP, accounting, stock, manufacturing, CRM, project management, marketing, human resources, website, eCommerce and point-of-sale apps — while a community of ~20,000 active members has contributed 16,000+ apps to the open source version of its software, addressing a broader swathe of business needs.
It focuses on the SME business apps segment, competing with the likes of Oracle, SAP and Zoho, to name a few. Odoo says it has in excess of 4.5 million users worldwide at this point, and touts revenue growth “consistently above 50% over the last ten years”.
Summit Partners told us funds from the secondary sale will be used to accelerate product development — and for continued global expansion.
“In our experience, traditional ERP is expensive and frequently fails to adapt to the unique needs of dynamic businesses. With its flexible suite of applications and a relentless focus on product, we believe Odoo is ideally positioned to capture this large and compelling market opportunity,” said Antony Clavel, a Summit Partners principal who has joined the Odoo board, in a supporting statement.
Odoo’s spokeswoman added that part of the expansion plan includes opening an office in Mexico in January, and another in Antwerpen, Belgium, in Q3.
This report was updated with additional comment
As the holiday slowdown looms, the final U.S.-listed technology IPOs have come in and begun to trade.
Three tech, tech-ish or venture-backed companies went public this week: Bill.com, Sprout Social and EHang. Let’s quickly review how each has performed thus far. These are, bear in mind, the last IPOs of the year that we care about, pending something incredible happening. 2020 will bring all sorts of fun, but, for this time ’round the sun, we’re done.
Our three companies managed to each price differently. So, we have some variety to discuss. Here’s how each managed during their IPO run:
- EHang priced at the bottom of its range, selling shares for $ 12.50 apiece
- Sprout Social priced mid-range at $ 17 per share after targeting a $ 16 to $ 18 per-share price interval
- Bill.com priced above its raised range, selling shares at $ 22 apiece after raising its interval from $ 16 to $ 18 to $ 19 to $ 21
How do those results stack up against their final private valuations? Doing the best we can, here’s how they compare:
- EHang was worth around $ 680 million at its IPO price. The company’s final private valuation (likely set during its $ 42 million Series B) is unknown. However, we’d guess that the IPO was at a higher price, given the time between the private round and the IPO.
- Sprout Social managed to slightly raise its valuation in its IPO. Worth around $ 814 million in the liquidity event, Sprout had been worth just over $ 800 million when private.
- Bill.com was valued at around $ 1.6 billion in its IPO, comfortably above its final private valuation of $ 1.0 billion.
So EHang priced low and its IPO is hard to vet, as we’re guessing at its final private worth. We’ll give it a passing grade. Sprout Social priced mid-range, and managed a slight valuation bump. We can give that a B, or B+. Bill.com managed to price above its raised range, boosting its valuation sharply in the process. That’s worth an A.
Trading just wrapped, so how have our companies performed thus far in their nascent lives as public companies? Here’s the scorecard:
- EHang’s Friday closing price: $ 12.90 (+3.2%)
- Sprout Social’s Friday closing price: $ 16.60 (-2.35%)
- Bill.com’s Friday closing price: $ 38.83 (+76.5%)
You can gist out the grades somewhat easily here, with one caveat. The Bill.com IPO’s massive early success has caused the usual complaints that the firm was underpriced by its bankers, and was thus robbed to some degree. This argument makes the assumption that the public market’s initial pricing of the company once it began trading is reasonable (maybe!) and that the company in question could have captured most or all of that value (maybe!).
Bill.com’s CEO’s reaction to the matter puts a new spin on it, but you should at least know that the week’s most successful IPO has attracted criticism for being too successful. So forget any chance of an A+.
Image via Getty Images / Somyot Techapuwapat / EyeEm
According to CEO Afif Khoury, we’re in the middle of “the third wave of social” — a shift back to local interactions. And Khoury’s startup Soci (pronounced soh-shee) has raised $ 12 million in Series C funding to help companies navigate that shift.
Soci works with customers like Ace Hardware and Sport Clips to help them manage the online presence of hundreds or thousands of stores. It allows marketers to post content and share assets across all those pages, respond to reviews and comments, manage ad campaigns, and provide guidance around how to stay on-brand.
It sounds like most of these interactions are happening on Facebook. Khoury told me that Soci integrates with “40 different APIs where businesses are having conversations with their customers,” but he added, “Facebook was and continues to be the most prominent conversation center.”
Khoury and CTO Alo Sarv founded Soci back in 2012. Khoury said they spent the first two years building the product, and have subsequently raised around $ 30 million in total funding.
“What we weren’t building was a point solution,” he said. “What we were building was a massive platform … It took us 18 months to two years to really build it in the way we thought was going to be meaningful for the marketplace.”
Soci has also incorporated artificial intelligence to power chatbots that Khoury said “take that engagement happening on social and move it downstream to a call or a sale or something relevant to the local business.”
The new round was led by Vertical Venture Partners, with participation from Grayhawk Capital and Ankona Capital. Khoury said the money will allow Soci to continue developing its AI technology and to build out its sales and marketing team.
“Ours is a very consultative sale,” he said. “It’s a complicated world that you’re living in, and we really want to partner and have a local presence with our customers.”