We look at Rackspace’s finances, a Facebook code change causes numerous app issues and electric vehicle company Rivian raises $ 2.5 billion. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 10, 2020.
The big story: Rackspace is going public again
The cloud computing company first went public in 2008, before accepting a $ 4.3 billion offer to go private from Apollo Global Management. Rackspace says it will use the proceeds from the IPO to lower its debt load.
Alex Wilhelm took a deep dive into Rackspace’s finances, concluding that the proper valuation is a “puzzle”:
The company is tech-ish, which means it will find some interest. But its slow growth rate, heavy debts and lackluster margins make it hard to pin a fair multiple onto.
The tech giants
New report outlines potential roadmap for Apple’s ARM-based MacBooks — Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that a 13.3-inch MacBook powered by Apple’s new processors will arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.
Facebook code change caused outage for Spotify, Pinterest and Waze apps — Looks like Facebook was responsible for some crashing apps this morning.
California reportedly launches antitrust investigation into Google — This makes California the 49th state to launch an antitrust investigation into the search giant, according to Politico.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Rivian raises $ 2.5 billion as it pushes to bring its electric RT1 pickup, R1S SUV to market — The company plans to bring its electric pickup truck and SUV, as well as delivery vans for Amazon, to market in 2021.
A glint of hope for India’s food delivery market as Zomato projects monthly cash burn of less than $ 1 million — “We’ll only lose $ 1 million this month” doesn’t feel like a huge accomplishment, but at least things seem to be headed in the right direction.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
How Thor Fridriksson’s ‘Trivia Royale’ earned 2.5 million downloads in 3 weeks — The latest game from the QuizUp founder was (briefly) the top app in the App Store. We talk to Fridriksson about how he did it.
COVID-19 pivot: Travel unicorn Klook sees jump in staycations — With bookings for overseas experiences plummeting, Klook began offering do-it-yourself kits for stay-at-home projects and partnered with landmark sites to offer virtual tours.
Operator Collective brings diversity and inclusion to enterprise investing — The firm, founded last year, said it currently has 130 operator LPs, 90% of them women and 40% of them people of color.
(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
NASA signs agreement with Japan to cooperate across Space Station, Artemis and Lunar Gateway projects — Japan first expressed its intent to participate in the Lunar Gateway program in October 2019, making it one of the first countries to do so.
Equity: Silicon Valley is built on immigrant innovation — The latest episode of Equity discusses how recent visa changes will affect Silicon Valley.
Five reasons to attend TC Early Stage online — July 21 and 22! I will be there!
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
Nvidia today announced that its new Ampere-based data center GPUs, the A100 Tensor Core GPUs, are now available in alpha on Google Cloud. As the name implies, these GPUs were designed for AI workloads, as well as data analytics and high-performance computing solutions.
The A100 promises a significant performance improvement over previous generations. Nvidia says the A100 can boost training and inference performance by over 20x compared to its predecessors (though you’ll mostly see 6x or 7x improvements in most benchmarks) and tops out at about 19.5 TFLOPs in single-precision performance and 156 TFLOPs for Tensor Float 32 workloads.
“Google Cloud customers often look to us to provide the latest hardware and software services to help them drive innovation on AI and scientific computing workloads,” said Manish Sainani, Director of Product Management at Google Cloud, in today’s announcement. “With our new A2 VM family, we are proud to be the first major cloud provider to market Nvidia A100 GPUs, just as we were with Nvidia’s T4 GPUs. We are excited to see what our customers will do with these new capabilities.”
Google Cloud users can get access to instances with up to 16 of these A100 GPUs, for a total of 640GB of GPU memory and 1.3TB of system memory.
A big problem for companies these days is finding ways to connect to various data sources to their data repositories, and Fivetran is a startup with a solution to solve that very problem. No surprise then that even during a pandemic, the company announced today that it has raised $ 100 million Series C on a $ 1.2 billion valuation.
The company didn’t mess around with top flight firms Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst leading the investment with participation from existing investors CEAS Investments and Matrix Partners. Today’s money brings the total raised so far to $ 163 million, according to the company.
Martin Cassado from a16z described the company succinctly in a blog post he wrote after its $ 44 million Series B in September 2019, which his firm also participated in. “Fivetran is a SaaS service that connects to the critical data sources in an organization, pulls and processes all the data, and then dumps it into a warehouse (e.g., Snowflake, BigQuery or RedShift) for SQL access and further transformations, if needed. If data is the new oil, then Fivetran is the pipes that get it from the source to the refinery,” he wrote.
Writing in a blog post today announcing the new funding, CEO George Fraser added that in spite of current conditions, the company has continued to add customers. “Despite recent economic uncertainty, Fivetran has continued to grow rapidly as customers see the opportunity to reduce their total cost of ownership by adopting our product in place of highly customized, in-house ETL pipelines that require constant maintenance,” he wrote.
In fact, the company reports 75% customer growth over the prior 12 months. It now has over 1100 customers, which is a pretty good benchmark for a Series C company. Customers include Databricks, DocuSign, Forever 21, Square, Udacity and Urban Outfitters, crossing a variety of verticals.
Fivetran hopes to continue to build new data connectors as it expands the reach of its product and to push into new markets, even in the midst of today’s economic climate. With $ 100 million in the bank, it should have enough runway to ride this out, while expanding where it makes sense.
When Apple confirmed it had acquired Fleetsmith, a mobile device management vendor, on Wednesday, it seemed like a straightforward purchase, but Fleetsmith customers quickly learned a key piece of functionality had stopped working — and many weren’t happy about it.
Apple systems administrators began complaining on social media on the morning of the acquisition announcement that the company was no longer allowing them to connect to third-party applications.
“Primarily Fleetsmith maintained a third-party app catalog, so you could deploy things like Chrome or Zoom to your Macs, and Fleetsmith would maintain security updates for those apps. This was the main reason we purchased Fleetsmith,” a Fleetsmith customer told TechCrunch.
The customer added that the company described this functionality as a major feature in a company blog post:
For apps like Chrome, which are managed through the Fleetsmith Catalog, we handle all aspects of testing, packaging, triage, and deployment automatically. Whenever there’s an update (including security patches), we quickly add them to the Catalog so that our customers can enforce the latest version. In this case, we had the Chrome 78.0.3904.87 patch up within a couple hours of the update dropping.
As one system administrator pointed out, being able to manage Chrome browser security in an automated way was a huge part of this, and that was also removed along with third party app support.
As it turned out, Apple had made it clear that it was discontinuing this feature in an email to Fleetsmith customers on the day of the transition. The email included links to several help articles that were supposed to assist admins with the transition. (The email is included in full at the end of this article.)
The general consensus among admins that I spoke to was that these articles were not terribly helpful. While they described a way to fix the issues, they said that Apple has turned what was a highly automated experience into a highly manual one, effectively eliminating the speed and ease of use advantage of having the update feature in the first place.
Apple did confirm that it had responded to some help ticket requests after the changes this week, saying that it would soon restore some configurations for Catalog apps, and was working with impacted customers as needed. The company did not make clear, however, why they removed this functionality in the first place.
Fleetsmith offered a couple of key features that appealed to Mac system administrators. For starters, it let them set up new Macs automatically out of the box. This allows them to ship a new Mac or other Apple device, and as soon as the employee powers it up and connects to Wi-Fi, it connects to Fleetsmith, where systems administrators can track usage and updates. In addition, it allowed System Administrators to enforce Apple security and OS updates on company devices.
What’s more, it could also do the same thing with third-party applications like Google Chrome, Zoom or many others. When these companies pushed a new update, system administrators could make sure all users had the most recent version running on their machines. This is the key functionality that was removed this week.
It’s not clear why Apple chose to strip out these features outlined in the email to customers, but it seems likely that most of this functionality isn’t coming back, other than restoring some configurations for Catalog apps.
Email that went out to Fleetsmith customers the day of the acquisition outlining the changes:
Attempts to reach Fleetsmith founders for comment were unsuccessful. Should that change we will update the article.
Three years ago almost to the day, Intercom announced that it was bringing former Intuit exec Karen Peacock on board as COO. Today, she got promoted to CEO, effective July 1. Current CEO and company co-founder Eoghan McCabe will become Chairman.
As it turns out, these moves aren’t a coincidence. McCabe had been actively thinking about a succession plan when he hired Peacock. “When I first started talking to Eoghan three years ago, he shared with me that his vision was to hire someone as COO, who could then become the CEO at the right time and he could transition into the chairman role,” Peacock told TechCrunch .
She said while the idea was always there, they didn’t feel the need to rush the process. “We were just looking for whatever the right time was, and it wasn’t something we were expected to do in the first year or two. And now is really the right time to transition with all of the momentum that we’re seeing in the market,” she said.
She said as McCabe makes the transition away from running the company he helped found, he will still be around, and they will continue working together on things like product and marketing strategy, but Peacock brings a pedigree of her own to the new role.
Not only has she been in charge of commercial aspects of the Intercom business for the past three years, prior to that she was SVP at Intuit where she ran small business products that included QuickBooks, and grew it from a $ 500 million business to a hefty $ 2.5 billion during her tenure.
McCabe says that experience was one of the reasons he spent six months trying to convince Peacock to become COO at Intercom in 2017. “It’s really hard to find a leader that’s as well rounded, and as unique as Karen is. You know she doesn’t actually fit your typical very experienced operator,” he said. He points to her deep product background, calling her a “product nerd,” and her undergraduate degree in applied mathematics from Harvard as examples.
In spite of the pandemic, she’s taking over a company that’s still managing to grow. The company’s business messenger products, which enable companies to chat with customers online, have become increasingly important during the pandemic with many brick-and-mortar businesses shut down and the majority of business is being conducted digitally.
“Our overall revenue is $ 150 million in annual recurring revenue, and a supporting data point to what we were just talking about is that our new business to up market customers through our sales teams has doubled year over year. So we’re really seeing some quite nice acceleration there,” she said.
Peacock says she wants to continue building the company and using her role to build a diverse and inclusive culture. “I believe that [diversity and inclusion] is not one person’s job, it’s all of our jobs, but we have one person who’s the center post of that (a head of D&I). And then we work with outside consulting firms as well to just try and stay in a place where we understand all of what’s possible and what we can do in the world.”
She adds, “I will say that we need to make more progress on diversity and inclusion. I wouldn’t step back and pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve done this perfectly. There’s a lot more that we need to do, and it’s one of the things that I’m very excited to tackle as CEO.”
According to a February Wall Street Journal article, less than 6% of women hold CEO jobs in the U.S. Peacock certainly sees this and wants to continue to mentor women as she takes over at Intercom. “It is something that I’m very passionate about. I do speak to various different groups of up and coming women leaders, and I mentor a group of women outside of Intercom,” she said. She also sits on the board at Dropbox with other women leaders like Condoleezza Rice and Meg Whitman.
Peacock says that taking over during a pandemic makes it interesting, and instead of visiting the company’s offices, she’ll be doing a lot of video conferences. But neither is she coming in cold to the company having to ramp up on the business side of things, while getting to know everyone.
“I feel very fortunate to have been with Intercom for three years, and so I know all the people and they all know me. And so I think it’s a lot easier to do that virtually than if you’re meeting people for the very first time. Similarly, I also know the business very well, and so it’s not like I’m trying to both ramp up on the business and deal with a pandemic,” she said.
Google Cloud launches Filestore High Scale, a new storage tier for high-performance computing workloads
Google Cloud today announced the launch of Filestore High Scale, a new storage option — and tier of Google’s existing Filestore service — for workloads that can benefit from access to a distributed high-performance storage option.
With Filestore High Scale, which is based on technology Google acquired when it bought Elastifile in 2019, users can deploy shared file systems with hundreds of thousands of IOPS, 10s of GB/s of throughput and at a scale of 100s of TBs.
“Virtual screening allows us to computationally screen billions of small molecules against a target protein in order to discover potential treatments and therapies much faster than traditional experimental testing methods,” says Christoph Gorgulla, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Wagner Lab., which already put the new service through its paces. “As researchers, we hardly have the time to invest in learning how to set up and manage a needlessly complicated file system cluster, or to constantly monitor the health of our storage system. We needed a file system that could handle the load generated concurrently by thousands of clients, which have hundreds of thousands of vCPUs.”
The standard Google Cloud Filestore service already supports some of these use cases, but the company notes that it specifically built Filestore High Scale for high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. In today’s announcement, the company specifically focuses on biotech use cases around COVID-19. Filestore High Scale is meant to support tens of thousands of concurrent clients, which isn’t necessarily a standard use case, but developers who need this kind of power can now get it in Google Cloud.
In addition to High Scale, Google also today announced that all Filestore tiers now offer beta support for NFS IP-based access controls, an important new feature for those companies that have advanced security requirements on top of their need for a high-performance, fully managed file storage service.
Traditionally, measuring business success requires a greater understanding of your company’s go-to-market lifecycle, how customers engage with your product and the macro-dynamics of your market. But in the most challenging environment in decades, those metrics are out the window.
Enterprise application and SaaS companies are changing their approach to measuring performance and preparing to grow when the economy begins to recover. While there are no blanket rules or guidance that applies to every business, company leaders need to focus on a few critical metrics to understand their performance and maximize their opportunities. This includes understanding their burn rate, the overall real market opportunity, how much cash they have on hand and their access to capital. Analyzing the health of the company through these lenses will help leaders make the right decisions on how to move forward.
Play the game with the hand you were dealt. Earlier this year, our company closed a $ 40 million Series C round of funding, which left us in a strong cash position as we entered the market slowdown in March. Nonetheless, as the impact of COVID-19 became apparent, one of our board members suggested that we quickly develop a business plan that assumed we were running out of money. This would enable us to get on top of the tough decisions we might need to make on our resource allocation and the size of our staff.
While I understood the logic of his exercise, it is important that companies develop and execute against plans that reflect their actual situation. The reality is, we did raise the money, so we revised our plan to balance ultra-conservative forecasting (and as a trained accountant, this is no stretch for me!) with new ideas for how to best utilize our resources based on the market situation.
Burn rate matters, but not at the expense of your culture and your talent. For most companies, talent is both their most important resource and their largest expense. Therefore, it’s usually the first area that goes under the knife in order to reduce the monthly spend and optimize efficiency. Fortunately, heading into the pandemic, we had not yet ramped up hiring to support our rapid growth, so were spared from having to make enormously difficult decisions. We knew, however, that we would not hit our 2020 forecast, which required us to make new projections and reevaluate how we were deploying our talent.
Last year, Google launched the beta of Currents, which was essentially a rebrand of Google+ for G Suite users, since Google+ for consumers went to meet its maker in April 2019. While Google+ was meant to be an all-purpose social network, the idea behind Currents is more akin to what Microsoft is doing with Yammer or Facebook with Workplace. It’s meant to give employees a forum for internal discussions and announcements.
To complicate matters, Google kept Google+ around, even after the launch of Currents, but in an email to G Suite admins, it has now announced that Google+ for G Suite will close its doors on July 6, after which there will be no way to opt out of Currents or revert back to Google+.
And with that, Google has driven the final nail into Google+’s coffin. The Google+ mobile apps will be automatically updated to Currents. All existing links to Google+ will redirect to Currents.
Going forward, Google+ will only live on as a hazy memory, filled with circles of friends, all of which were forced to use their real name (at least at the beginning), +1 buttons everywhere, sparks and the promise of fun games, ripples and more.
Currents is all business — and while I’m not aware of a lot of companies that use it, it looks to be a solid option for companies that would otherwise use the Yammer/Teams combination in the Microsoft ecosystem. Now, I guess, we can start the countdown before Google launches another social network.
If you want to take a stroll down memory lane, check out our history of Google+ below:
Atlassian today launched a slew of DevOps-centric updates to a variety of its services, ranging from Bitbucket Cloud and Pipelines to Jira and others. While it’s quite a grabbag of announcements, the overall idea behind them is to make it easier for teams to collaborate across functions as companies adopt DevOps as their development practice of choice.
“I’ve seen a lot of these tech companies go through their agile and DevOps transformations over the years,” Tiffany To, the head of agile and DevOps solutions at Atlassian told me. “Everyone wants the benefits of DevOps, but — we know it — it gets complicated when we mix these teams together, we add all these tools. As we’ve talked with a lot of our users, for them to succeed in DevOps, they actually need a lot more than just the toolset. They have to enable the teams. And so that’s what a lot of these features are focused on.”
As To stressed, the company also worked with several ecosystem partners, for example, to extend the automation features in Jira Software Cloud, which can now also be triggered by commits and pull requests in GitHub, Gitlab and other code repositories that are integrated into Jira Software Cloud. “Now you get these really nice integrations for DevOps where we are enabling these developers to not spend time updating the issues,” To noted.
Indeed, a lot of the announcements focus on integrations with third-party tools. This, To said, is meant to allow Atlassian to meet developers where they are. If your code editor of choice is VS Code, for example, you can now try Atlassian’s now VS Code extension, which brings your task like from Jira Software Cloud to the editor, as well as a code review experience and CI/CD tracking from Bitbucket Pipelines.
Also new is the ‘Your Work’ dashboard in Bitbucket Cloud, which can now show you all of your assigned Jira issues. as well as Code Insights in Bitbucket Cloud. Code Insights features integrations with Mabl for test automation, Sentry for monitoring and Snyk for finding security vulnerabilities. These integrations were built on top of an open API, so teams can build their own integrations, too.
“There’s a really important trend to shift left. How do we remove the bugs and the security issues earlier in that dev cycle, because it costs more to fix it later,” said To. “You need to move that whole detection process much earlier in the software lifecycle.”
Jira Service Desk Cloud is getting a new Risk Management Engine that can score the risk of changes and auto-approve low-risk ones, as well as a new change management view to streamline the approval process.
Finally, there is a new Opsgenie and Bitbucket Cloud integration that centralizes alerts and promises to filter out the noise, as well as a nice incident investigation dashboard to help teams take a look at the last deployment that happened before the incident occurred.
“The reason why you need all these little features is that as you stitch together a very large number of tools […], there is just lots of these friction points,” said To. “And so there is this balance of, if you bought a single toolchain, all from one vendor, you would have fewer of these friction points, but then you don’t get to choose best of breed. Our mission is to enable you to pick the best tools because it’s not one-size-fits-all.”
Box CEO Aaron Levie has been working to change the software world for 15 years, but the pandemic has accelerated the move to cloud services much faster than anyone imagined. As he pointed out yesterday in an Extra Crunch Live interview, who would have thought three months ago that businesses like yoga and cooking classes would have moved online — but here we are.
Levie says we are just beginning to see the range of what’s possible because circumstances are forcing us to move to the cloud much faster than most businesses probably would have without the pandemic acting as a change agent.
“Overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before,” Levie said.
Fellow TechCrunch reporter Jon Shieber and I spent an hour chatting with Levie about how digital transformation is accelerating in general, how Box is coping with that internally and externally, his advice for founders in an economic crisis and what life might be like when we return to our offices.
Our interview was broadcast on YouTube and we have included the embed below.
Just a note that Extra Crunch Live is our new virtual speaker series for Extra Crunch members. Folks can ask their own questions live during the chat, with past and future guests like Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, GGV’s Hans Tung and Jeff Richards, Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz and many, many more. You can check out the schedule here. If you’d like to submit a question during a live chat, please join Extra Crunch.
On digital transformation
The way that we think about digital transformation is that much of the world has a whole bunch of processes and ways of working — ways of communicating and ways of collaborating where if those business processes or that way we worked were able to be done in digital forms or in the cloud, you’d actually be more productive, more secure and you’d be able to serve your customers better. You’d be able to automate more business processes.
We think we’re [in] an environment that anything that can be digitized probably will be. Certainly as this pandemic has reinforced, we have way too many manual processes in businesses. We have way too slow ways of working together and collaborating. And we know that we’re going to move more and more of that to digital platforms.
In some cases, it’s simple, like moving to being able to do video conferences and being able to collaborate virtually. Some of it will become more advanced. How do I begin to automate things like client onboarding processes or doing research in a life sciences organization or delivering telemedicine digitally, but overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before.