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SaaS Ventures takes the investment road less traveled

September 19, 2020 No Comments

Most venture capital firms are based in hubs like Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston. These firms nurture those ecosystems and they’ve done well, but SaaS Ventures decided to go a different route: it went to cities like Chicago, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Nebraska.

The firm looks for enterprise-focused entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a different set of problems than you might find in these other centers of capital, issues that require digital solutions but might fall outside a typical computer science graduate’s experience.

Saas Ventures looks at four main investment areas: trucking and logistics, manufacturing, e-commerce enablement for industries that have not typically gone online and cybersecurity, the latter being the most mainstream of the areas SaaS Ventures covers.

The company’s first fund, which launched in 2017, was worth $ 20 million, but SaaS Ventures launched a second fund of equal amount earlier this month. It tends to stick to small-dollar-amount investments, while partnering with larger firms when it contributes funds to a deal.

We talked to Collin Gutman, founder and managing partner at SaaS Ventures, to learn about his investment philosophy, and why he decided to take the road less traveled for his investment thesis.

A different investment approach

Gutman’s journey to find enterprise startups in out of the way places began in 2012 when he worked at an early enterprise startup accelerator called Acceleprise. “We were really the first ones who said enterprise tech companies are wired differently, and need a different set of early-stage resources,” Gutman told TechCrunch.

Through that experience, he decided to launch SaaS Ventures in 2017, with several key ideas underpinning the firm’s investment thesis: after his experience at Acceleprise, he decided to concentrate on the enterprise from a slightly different angle than most early-stage VC establishments.

Collin Gutman from SaaS Ventures

Collin Gutman, founder and managing partner at SaaS Ventures (Image Credits: SaaS Ventures)

The second part of his thesis was to concentrate on secondary markets, which meant looking beyond the popular startup ecosystem centers and investing in areas that didn’t typically get much attention. To date, SaaS Ventures has made investments in 23 states and Toronto, seeking startups that others might have overlooked.

“We have really phenomenal coverage in terms of not just geography, but in terms of what’s happening with the underlying businesses, as well as their customers,” Gutman said. He believes that broad second-tier market data gives his firm an upper hand when selecting startups to invest in. More on that later.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


InCountry raises $18M more to help SaaS companies store data locally

September 1, 2020 No Comments

We’re seeing a gradual expansion of national regulations that require data from SaaS applications to be stored locally, in the country where it’s sourced and used. Today a startup that’s built a service around that need — specifically, data residency-as-a-service — is announcing some funding to continue building out its company amid strong demand.

InCountry, which provides a set of solutions — comprising software as well as some consultancy — that helps companies comply with local regulations when adopting SaaS products, has raised $ 18 million in funding.

This is technically an extension to its Series A, but in keeping with the growth of its business, it comes with a big bump to its valuation: the startup is now valued at “north” of $ 150 million. Founder and CEO Peter Yared said this is more than double the valuation in its previous round a little over a year ago

The money is coming from a mix of strategic and financial investors. It’s being led by by Caffeinated Capital and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, with participation from new investor Accenture Ventures and previous investors Arbor Ventures, Felicis, Ridge Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, and Team Builder Ventures. Accenture is one of InCountry’s key channel partners, reselling the software as part of bigger data management and integration contracts, Yared tells me.

The company has seen a decent bump in its business in the last year, expanding to 90 countries from 65 where it provides guidance and services to store and use data in compliance with legal requirements. Alongside that it has an increasingly long list of software packages that it covers with its products. The list currently includes Salesforce, ServiceNow, Twilio, Mambu and Segment, with customers including a large list of enterprises including stock exchanges, banks, and pharmaceutical companies.

“This company was based off a crazy thesis,” Yared said with an almost incredulous laugh (he has a very jocular way of talking, even when he’s being serious). “Now it’s 20 months old, and our customers are banks, pharma giants, stock exchanges. We are proud that large institutions can trust us.”

A big bump in its business in recent times has been in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, which are two main regions when it comes to data residency regulations and therefore ripe ground for winning new customers — one reason why Mubadala is part of this round, Yared said.

“At Mubadala we are committed to backing visionary founders whose innovations fuel economies,” said Ibrahim Ajami, Head of Ventures at Mubadala Capital. “Since day one, InCountry’s cloud solution has addressed a massive challenge in this era of regulation by giving businesses the tools to grow internationally while remaining compliant with data residency regulations. We’re doubling down on our investment and are supporting InCountry’s expansion into the MENA region because we believe they are the best team to help drive global business forward.”

Partly due to the growing ubiquity, flexibility and relatively cheap cost of cloud computing, software as a service  has been on a fast growth trajectory for years now. But even within that trend, it has had a huge boost in 2020, as a result of the global health pandemic.

COVID-19 has given the need for remote computing, and being able to access data wherever you happen to be — which in many cases today is no longer in your usual office space — and on top of that we have a lot more “wiggle room” in business, with organizations quickly scaling up and down with demand.

The knock on effect has been a big boost for SaaS. But that growth has come with some caveats, and one of the biggest alongside security has been around data protection, and specifically national requirements in how data is stored and used. Arguably, SaaS companies have been more concerned with scaling their software and business funnels than they have been with how data is handled and how that has changed in keeping with local regulations, and that’s the opportunity that InCountry has stepped in to fill.

It provides not just a set of software to store and handle data in a secure way, but also an extensive list of legal advisors with expertise at the local level to help companies get their data policies in order. It’s an interesting model: while InCountry’s been an early mover in identifying this market opportunity and building technology to address it, it’s buffered its competitive position not with a sole focus on technology, but an extensive amount of human capital to get each implementation right.

That can prove to be a costly thing to get wrong. In the EU in July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) put down the EU-US Privacy Shield — a framework that let businesses transfer personal data between the European Union and the United States while ensuring compliance with data protection regulations. This has impacted some 5,000 companies, which now have to rethink how they handle their data. The fine for not complying with storing data locally means that they can be fined up to 4% of their revenues.

Yared tells me that for now, the main competitor to something like InCountry has been companies building their own policies in house. Some of those solutions would have been done completely in house and some in partnership with integrators, but all of them were hard to scale and were painful to maintain, one reason why companies and their business partners are turning to working with his startup.

“Accenture Ventures is pleased to support InCountry as it continues to expand globally,” said Tom Lounibos, Managing Director, Accenture Ventures, in a statement. “InCountry’s software solutions are helping companies address the critical issue of becoming and remaining compliant with a multitude of data residency laws. This expansion will help support enterprises as they unlock their business across borders.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


New Zendesk dashboard delivers customer service data in real time

August 25, 2020 No Comments

Zendesk has been offering customers the ability to track customer service statistics for some time, but it has always been a look back. Today, the company announced a new product called Explore Enterprise that lets customers capture that valuable info in real time, and share it with anyone in the organization, whether they have a Zendesk license or not.

While it has had Explore in place for a couple of years now, Jon Aniano, senior VP of product at Zendesk says the new enterprise product is in response to growing customer data requirements. “We now have a way to deliver what we call Live Team Dashboards, which delivers real time analytics directly to Zendesk users,” Aniano told TechCrunch.

In the days before COVID that meant displaying these on big monitors throughout the customer service center. Today, as we deal with the pandemic, and customer service reps are just as likely to be working from home, it means giving management the tools they need to understand what’s happening in real time, a growing requirement for Zendesk customers as they scale, regardless of the pandemic.

“What we’ve found over the last few years is that our customers’ appetite for operational analytics is insatiable, and as customers grow, as customer service needs get more complex, the demands on a contact center operator or customer service team are higher and higher, and teams really need new sets of tools and new types of capabilities to meet what they’re trying to do in delivering customer service at scale in the world,” Aniano told TechCrunch.

One of the reasons for this is the shift from phone and email as the primary ways of accessing customer service to messaging tools like WhatsApp. “With the shift to messaging, there are new demands on contact centers to be able to handle real-time interactions at scale with their customers,” he said.

And in order to meet that kind of demand, it requires real-time analytics that Zendesk is providing with this announcement. This arms managers with the data they need to put their customer service resources where they are needed most in the moment in real time.

But Zendesk is also giving customers the ability to share these statistics with anyone in the company. “Users can share a dashboard or historical report with anybody in the company regardless of whether they have access to Zendesk. They can share it in Slack, or they can embed a dashboard anywhere where other people in the company would like to have access to those metrics,” Aniano explained.

The new service will be available starting on August 31st for $ 29 per user per month.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Box CEO Aaron Levie says thrifty founders have more control

August 22, 2020 No Comments

Once upon a time, Box’s Aaron Levie was just a guy with an idea for a company: 15 years ago as a USC student, he conceived of a way to simply store and share files online.

It may be hard to recall, but back then, the world was awash with thumb drives and moving files manually, but Levie saw an opportunity to change that.

Today, his company helps enterprise customers collaborate and manage content in the cloud, but when Levie appeared on an episode of Extra Crunch Live at the end of May, my colleague Jon Shieber and I asked him if he had any advice for startups. While he was careful to point out that there is no “one size fits all” advice, he did make one thing clear:

“I would highly recommend to any company of any size that you have as much control of your destiny as possible. So put yourself in a position where you spend as little amount of dollars as you can from a burn standpoint and get as close to revenue being equal to your expenses as you can possibly get to,” he advised.

Don’t let current conditions scare you

Levie also advised founders not to be frightened off by current conditions, whether that’s the pandemic or the recession. Instead, he said if you have an idea, seize the moment and build it, regardless of the economy or the state of the world. If, like Levie, you are in it for the long haul, this too will pass, and if your idea is good enough, it will survive and even thrive as you move through your startup growth cycle.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Melbourne-based CI/CD platform Buildkite gets $28 million AUD Series A led by OpenView

August 18, 2020 No Comments

Buildkite’s founding team–Lachlan Donald, Keith Pitt and Tim Lucas–working remotely

Buildkite, a Melbourne-based company that provides a hybrid continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) platform for software developers, announced today that it has raised AUD $ 28 million (about USD $ 20.2 million) in Series A funding, bring its valuation to more than AUD $ 200 million (about USD $ 145 million).

The funding was led by OpenView, an investment firm that focuses on growth-stage enterprise software companies, with participation from General Catalyst.

This round is the company’s first since Buildkite raised about AUD $ 200,000 in seed funding when it was founded in 2013.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Lachlan Donald told TechCrunch that Buildkite didn’t seek more funding earlier because it was growing profitably. In fact, the company turned away interested investors “because we wanted to focus on sustainable growth and maintain control of our destiny.”

But Donald said they were open to investment from OpenView and General Catalyst because they see the two investors as “true partners as we enter and define this next generation of CI/CD.”

Buildkite’s team is small, with just 26 employees. “We’re a lean, focused team, so their expert advice and guidance will help more software teams around the world discover Buildkite,” Donald said. He added that part of the funding round will be used to give 42X returns to early investors and shareholders, and the rest will be used on product development.

In a statement about the funding, OpenView partner Mackey Craven said, “The global pandemic and the resulting economic uncertainty underlines the importance for companies to maximize efficiencies and build for growth. As the world continues to build digital-first applications, we believe Buildkite’s unique approach will be the new enterprise standard of CI/CD and we’re excited to be supporting them in realizing this ambition.”

Continuous integration gives software teams an automated way to develop and test applications, making collaboration more efficient, while continuous delivery refers to the process of pushing code to environments for further testing by other teams, or deploying it to customers. CI/CD platforms make it easier for fast-growing tech companies to test and deliver software. Buildkite says it now has more than 1,000 customers, including Shopify, Pinterest and Wayfair.

As part of the round, Jean-Michel Lemieux, Shopify’s chief technology officer, and Ashley Smith, chief revenue officer at Gatsby and OpenView venture partner, will join Buildkite’s board.

The increased use of online applications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means there is more demand for CI/CD platform, since engineering teams need to work more quickly.

“A good example is Shopify, one of our longstanding partners. They came to us after they outgrew their previous hosted CI provider,” Donald said. “Their challenge is one we see across all of customers—they needed to reduce build time and scale their team across multiple time zones. Once they wrapped Buildkite into their development flow, they saw a 75% reduction in build wait times. They grew their team by 300% and have still been able to keep build time under 10 minutes.”

Other CI platforms available include Jenkins, CircleCI, Travis, Codeship and GitLab. Co-founder and chief technology officer Keith Pitt said one of the ways that BuildKite differentiates from its rivals is its focus on security, which prompted his interest in building the platform in the first place.

“Back in 2013, my then-employer asked that I stop using a cloud-based CI/CD platform due to security concerns, but I found the self-hosted alternatives to be incredibly outdated,” Pitt said. “I realized a hybrid approach was the solution for testing and deploying software at scale without compromising security or performance, but was surprised to find a hybrid CI/CD tool didn’t exist yet. I decided to create it myself, and Buildkite was born.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Mirantis acquires Lens, an IDE for Kubernetes

August 15, 2020 No Comments

Mirantis, the company that recently bought Docker’s enterprise business, today announced that it has acquired Lens, a desktop application that the team describes as a Kubernetes-integrated development environment. Mirantis previously acquired the team behind the Finnish startup Kontena, the company that originally developed Lens.

Lens itself was most recently owned by Lakend Labs, though, which describes itself as “a collective of cloud native compute geeks and technologists” that is “committed to preserving and making available the open-source software and products of Kontena.” Lakend open-sourced Lens a few months ago.

Image Credits: Mirantis

“The mission of Mirantis is very simple: We want to be — for the enterprise — the fastest way to [build] modern apps at scale,” Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel told me. “We believe that enterprises are constantly undergoing this cycle of modernizing the way they build applications from one wave to the next — and we want to provide products to the enterprise that help them make that happen.”

Right now, that means a focus on helping enterprises build cloud-native applications at scale and, almost by default, that means providing these companies with all kinds of container infrastructure services.

“But there is another piece of the story that’s always been going through our minds, which is, how do we become more developer-centric and developer-focused, because, as we’ve all seen in the past 10 years, developers have become more and more in charge off what services and infrastructure they’re actually using,” Ionel explained. And that’s where the Kontena and Lens acquisitions fit in. Managing Kubernetes clusters, after all, isn’t trivial — yet now developers are often tasked with managing and monitoring how their applications interact with their company’s infrastructure.

“Lens makes it dramatically easier for developers to work with Kubernetes, to build and deploy their applications on Kubernetes, and it’s just a huge obstacle-remover for people who are turned off by the complexity of Kubernetes to get more value,” he added.

“I’m very excited to see that we found a common vision with Adrian for how to incorporate Lens and how to make life for developers more enjoyable in this cloud-native technology landscape,” Miska Kaipiainen, the former CEO of Kontena and now Mirantis’ director of Engineering, told me.

He describes Lens as an IDE for Kubernetes. While you could obviously replicate Lens’ functionality with existing tools, Kaipiainen argues that it would take 20 different tools to do this. “One of them could be for monitoring, another could be for logs. A third one is for command-line configuration, and so forth and so forth,” he said. “What we have been trying to do with Lens is that we are bringing all these technologies [together] and provide one single, unified, easy to use interface for developers, so they can keep working on their workloads and on their clusters, without ever losing focus and the context of what they are working on.”

Among other things, Lens includes a context-aware terminal, multi-cluster management capabilities that work across clouds and support for the open-source Prometheus monitoring service.

For Mirantis, Lens is a very strategic investment and the company will continue to develop the service. Indeed, Ionel said the Lens team now basically has unlimited resources.

Looking ahead, Kaipiainen said the team is looking at adding extensions to Lens through an API within the next couple of months. “Through this extension API, we are actually able to collaborate and work more closely with other technology vendors within the cloud technology landscape so they can start plugging directly into the Lens UI and visualize the data coming from their components, so that will make it very powerful.”

Ionel also added that the company is working on adding more features for larger software teams to Lens, which is currently a single-user product. A lot of users are already using Lens in the context of very large development teams, after all.

While the core Lens tools will remain free and open source, Mirantis will likely charge for some new features that require a centralized service for managing them. What exactly that will look like remains to be seen, though.

If you want to give Lens a try, you can download the Windows, macOS and Linux binaries here.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Parsable scores $60M Series D as pandemic forces faster digitization of industrial sector

August 11, 2020 No Comments

It seems the pandemic has forced the business world to digitize faster, and the industrial sector is no different. Parsable, a San Francisco startup that is helping digitize industrial front-line workers, announced a $ 60 million Series D today.

Activate Capital and Glade Brook Capital Partners co-led the round. They got help from new investors Alumni Ventures Group, Cisco Investments, Downing Ventures, Evolv Ventures and Princeville Capital, along with existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Future Fund, B37 Ventures, Honeywell and Saudi Aramco. Today’s money brings the total raised to more than $ 133 million, according to the company.

As I wrote at the time of the company’s $ 40 million Series C in 2018, “Parsable has developed a Connected Worker platform to help bring high tech solutions to deskless industrial workers who have been working mostly with paper-based processes.”

CEO Lawrence Whittle says that while the pandemic has shut some factories, and reduced overall worker headcount, it has still led to increased usage on the platform of companies whose products are considered essential services. What’s more, Parsable’s ability to deal with information on an individual mobile device or laptop means that in many cases, workers can stay separated and not share computers on the factory floor, making the process safer.

“Fortunately, the majority of our focus is in what’s often deemed as essential industries — so consumer packaged goods (CPG), food, beverage, agriculture and related industries such as paper and packaging. Those markets, interestingly enough, predominantly because of consumer demand continue to operate pretty successfully from a demand perspective during this COVID period,” Whittle told TechCrunch.

While the company would not give specific growth numbers, they shared that registered users grew 11x and the number of deployed sites tripled year over year. What’s more, they have users in more than 100 countries encompassing 14 languages.

With the money, the company wants to expand internationally into Asia, EMEA and Latin America. The startup has 120 employees, but plans to hire for essential needs over the next several months, preferring to be conservative and seeing where the pandemic takes the economy in the coming months.

Whittle points out that the diversity of its user base, and the desire to expand into other regions demands that they have a more diverse employee base, even while it’s a clear ethical consideration, as well.

“When you’re serving customers in over 100 countries, and you provide a product in in 14 languages, [having] diversity and inclusion is to some extent a given. What we’re doing as a company […] is taking every opportunity to further lean into that and that’s one of the leading lights of our of our business,” Whittle said.

Parsable launched in 2013. It took a few years to build the product. Today, customers include Georgia-Pacific, Henkel and Shell.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Wendell Brooks has resigned as president of Intel Capital

August 8, 2020 No Comments

When Wendell Brooks was promoted to president of Intel Capital, the investment arm of the chip giant, in 2015, he knew he had big shoes to fill. He was taking over from Arvind Sodhani, who had run the investment component for 28 years since its inception. Today, the company confirmed reports that Brooks has resigned that role.

Wendell Brooks has resigned from Intel to pursue other opportunities. We thank Wendell for all his contributions and wish him the best for the future,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch in a rather bland send off.

Anthony Lin, who has been leading mergers and acquisitions and international investing, will take over on an interim basis. Interestingly, when Brooks was promoted, he too was in charge of mergers and acquisitions. Whether Lin keeps that role remains to be seen.

When I spoke to Brooks in 2015 as he was about to take over from Sodhani, he certainly sounded ready for the task at hand. “I have huge shoes to fill in maintaining that track record,” he said at the time. “I view it as a huge opportunity to grow the focus of organization where we can provide strategic value to portfolio companies.”

In that same interview, Brooks described his investment philosophy, saying he preferred to lead, rather than come on as a secondary investor. “I tend to think the lead investor is able to influence the business thesis, the route to market, the direction, the technology of a startup more than a passive investor,” he said. He added that it also tends to get board seats that can provide additional influence.

Comparing his firm to traditional VC firms, he said they were as good or better in terms of the investing record, and as a strategic investor brought some other advantages as well. “Some of the traditional VCs are focused on a company-building value. We can provide strategic guidance and complement some of the company building over other VCs,” he said.

Over the life of the firm, it has invested $ 12.9 billion in more than 1,500 companies, with 692 of those exiting via IPO or acquisition. Just this year, under Brooks’ leadership, the company has invested $ 225 million so far, including 11 new investments and 26 investments in companies already in the portfolio.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Rippling nabs $145M at a $1.35B valuation to build out its all-in-one platform for employee data

August 4, 2020 No Comments

Big news today in the world of enterprise IT startups. Rippling, the startup founded by Parker Conrad to take on the ambitious challenge of building a platform to manage all aspects of employee data, from payroll and benefits through to device management, has closed $ 145 million in funding — a monster Series B that catapults the company to a valuation of $ 1.35 billion.

Parker Conrad, the CEO who co-founded the company with Prasanna Sankar (the CTO), said in an interview that the plan will be to use the money to continue its own in-house product development (that is, bringing more tools into the Rippling mix organically, not by way of acquisition) but also to have it just in case, given everything else going on at the moment.

“We will double down on R&D but to be honest we’re trying not to change the formula too much,” Conrad said. “We want to have that discipline. This fundraising was opportunistic amid the larger macroeconomic risk at the moment. I was working at startups in 2008-2009 and the funding markets are strong right now, all things considered, and so we wanted to make sure we had the stockpile we needed in case things went bad.”

This latest round included Greenoaks Capital, Coatue Management, and Bedrock Capital, as well as existing investors including Kleiner Perkins, Initialized Capital, and Y Combinator. Founders Fund partner Napoleon Ta will join Rippling’s board of directors. Founders Fund had also backed Zenefits when Parker was at the helm, and from what we understand this round was oversubscribed — also a big feat in the current market, working against a lot of factors including a wobbling economy.

It is a big leap for the company: it was just a little over a year ago that it raised a Series A of $ 45 million at a valuation of $ 270 million.

This latest round is notable for a few reasons.

First is the business itself. HR and employee management software are two major areas of IT that have faced a lot of fragmentation over the years, with many businesses opting for a cocktail of services covering disparate areas like employee onboarding, payroll, benefits, device management, app provisioning and permissions and more. That’s been even more the case among smaller organizations in the 2-1,000 employee range that Rippling targets.

Rippling is approaching that bigger challenge as one that can be tackled by a single platform — the theory being that managing HR employee data is essentially part and parcel of good management of IT data permissions and device provision. This funding is a signal of how both investors and customers are buying into Rippling and its approach, even if right now the majority of customers don’t onboard with the full suite of services. (Some 75% are usually signing up with HR products, Conrad noted.)

“We like to think of ourselves as a Salesforce for employee data,” Conrad said, “and by that, we think that employee data is more than just HR. We want to manage access to all of your third party business apps, your computer and other devices. It’s when you combine all that that you can manage employees well.”

The company is gradually adding in more tools. Most recently, it’s been launching new tools to help with job costing, helping companies track where employees are spending time when working on different projects, a tool critical for IT, accounting and other companies where employees work across a number of clients.

Second is the founder. You might recall that Conrad was ousted from his previous company, Zenefits (taking on a related, but smaller, challenge in payroll and benefits), over a controversy linked to compliance issues and also misleading investors. But if Zenefits was finished with Conrad, Conrad was not finished with Zenefits — or at least the problem it was tackling. This funding is a testament to how investors are putting a big bet on Conrad himself, who says that a lot of what he has been building at Rippling was what he would have done at Zenefits if he’d stayed there.

“Once you’re lucky, twice you’re good,” said Mamoon Hamid, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, in a separate statement. “Parker is a true product visionary, and he and his team are solving an enormous pain point for businesses everywhere. We’re thrilled to continue partnering with Rippling as demand for their platform dramatically increases in this era of remote work.”

“Rippling is not just a superior payroll company, but something much broader: they’ve built the system of record for all employee data, creating an entirely new software category. Rippling’s massive market opportunity is to streamline the employee lifecycle, from software to payroll to benefits, and fundamentally improve the way businesses hire and manage their employees,” said Ta in a statement.

Third is the context in which this round is coming. We’re in the midst of an economic downturn caused in part by a global health pandemic, and that’s leading to a lot of companies curtailing budgets, reducing headcount, and potentially shutting down altogether. Ironically, that force is also propelling companies like Rippling full steam ahead.

Its SaaS model — priced at a flat $ 8 per person per month — not only fits with how many businesses are being run at the moment (primarily remotely), but Rippling’s purpose is specifically geared to helping businesses both onboard and offboard customers more efficiently, the kind of software that companies need to have in place to fit how they are working right now.

Updated with commentary from an interview with Conrad.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


YC alum Paragon snags $2.5M seed for low-code app integration platform

July 28, 2020 No Comments

Low-code is a hot category these days. It helps companies build workflows or simple applications without coding skills, freeing up valuable engineering resources for more important projects. Paragon, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort, announced a $ 2.5 million seed round today for its low-code application integration platform.

Investors include Y Combinator, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital and FundersClub.

“Paragon makes it easier for non-technical people to be able to build out integrations using our visual workflow editor. We essentially provide building blocks for things like API requests, interactions with third party APIs and conditional logic. And so users can drag and drop these building blocks to create workflows that describe business logic in their application,” says company co-founder Brandon Foo.

Foo acknowledges there are a lot of low-code workflow tools out there, but many like UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere concentrate on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate certain tasks. He says he and co-founder Ishmael Samuel wanted to focus on developers.

“We’re really focused on how can we improve developer efficiency, and how can we bring the benefits of low code to product and engineering teams and make it easier to build products without writing manual code for every single integration, and really be able to streamline the product development process,” Foo told TechCrunch.

The way it works is you can drag and drop one of 1200 predefined connectors for tools like Stripe, Slack and Google Drive into a workflow template, and build connectors very quickly to trigger some sort of action. The company is built on AWS serverless architecture, so you define the trigger action and subsequent actions, and Paragon handles all of the back-end infrastructure requirements for you.

It’s early days for the company. After launching in private beta in January, the company has 80 customers. It currently has 6 employees including Foo, who previously co-founded Polymail and Samuel, who was previously lead engineer at Uber. They plan to hire 4 more employees this year.

With both founders people of color, they definitely are looking to build a diverse team around them. “I think it’s already sort of built into our DNA. As a diverse founding team we have perhaps a broader viewpoint and perspective in terms of hiring the kind of people that we seek to work with. Of course, I think there’s always room for improvements, and so we’re always looking for new ways that we can be more inclusive in our hiring recruiting process [as we grow],” he said.

As far as raising during a pandemic, he says it’s been a crazy time, but he believes they are solving a real problem and that they can succeed in spite of the macro economic conditions of the moment.


Enterprise – TechCrunch