It would be an understatement to say that enterprise-focused startups have fared well during the pandemic. As organizations look to go remote, and the way we work has been flipped on its head, quickly-growing tech companies that simplify this transition are in high demand.
One such startup has, in fact, raised $ 61.5 million in the last 12 months alone. Electric, a company looking to put IT departments in the cloud, just announced the close of a $ 40 million Series C round. This comes after an extension of its Series B in March of 2020, when it raised $ 14.5 million, and then an additional $ 7 million from 01 Advisors in May of 2020.
This Series C round was led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, GGV Capital, 01 Advisors, Primary Venture Partners as well as new investors including Atreides Management and Vintage Investment Partners.
Electric launched in 2016 with a mission to make IT much simpler for small and medium-sized businesses. Rather than bringing on a dedicated IT department, or contracting out high-priced local service providers, Electric’s software allows one admin to manage devices, software subscriptions, permissions and more.
According to founder Ryan Denehy, the vast majority of IT’s work is administration, distribution, and maintenance of the broad variety of software programs at any given company. Electric does most of that job on behalf of IT, meaning that a smaller business only needs to worry about desk-side troubleshooting when it comes up, rather than the whole kit and caboodle.
Electric charges a flat price per seat per month, and Denehy says the company more than doubled its customer base in the last year. It now supports around 25,000 users across more than 400 individual customer organizations, which puts Electric just shy of $ 20 million ARR.
This is the first time Denehy has come anywhere close to sharing revenue numbers publicly, but it’s a good time to flex. The company has recently introduced a new lighter-weight offering that includes all of the same functionality as its more expensive product, but without access to chat functionality.
“The name of the game is just simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” said Denehy. “Part of this is in response to the fact that people are realizing the permanence of hybrid work. During the pandemic, people stopped paying their landlords but they didn’t stop paying us. So in the summer, we started to focus on how we can create more offerings that we can get in the hands of more businesses and let them start their journey with us.”
Denehy says that a little less than half of Electric’s client base are tech startups, which makes sense considering the company launched in New York in a tech and media-centric ecosystem. As a way to expand into other verticals, Electric acquired Sinu, an IT service provider who happened to have an impressive roster of clients outside of Electric’s comfort zone, such as legal, accounting and non-profit.
Here’s what Denehy said at the time:
Organic market entry, even in adjacent markets can be extremely time consuming and expensive. Sinu’s team has done an excellent job winning and pleasing customers in a lot of industries where we currently don’t play but probably should. The combination of our two companies is a massive shot in the arm to our national expansion strategy.
Alongside growth, both of the Electric team and its customer base, the company is also investing in expanding its diversity programs and philanthropic efforts.
The Electric team is currently made up of just under 250 full-time employees, with 32.5 percent women and around 30 percent of employees being non-white. Specifically, nearly 12 percent of employees are Black and 10 percent are Latinx.
Denehy explained that he thinks of the company’s payroll, which is in the tens of millions of dollars, as one of the biggest ways he can make a change in the world.
“We will wait longer to fill a role to make sure that we have the most diverse pipeline of candidates possible,” said Denehy. “A lot of founders will say that nobody applied. Well, the reality is you didn’t look hard enough. We’ve just accepted that like it may take us longer to fill certain roles.”
This latest round brings Electric’s total funding to more than $ 100 million.
Twitter has a lot going on, and it’s not always easy to manage that kind of scale on your own. Today, Amazon announced that Twitter has signed a multi-year agreement with AWS to run its real-time timelines. It’s a major win for Amazon’s cloud arm.
While the companies have worked together in some capacity for over a decade, this marks the first time that Twitter is tapping AWS to help run its core timelines.
“This expansion onto AWS marks the first time that Twitter is leveraging the public cloud to scale their real-time service. Twitter will rely on the breadth and depth of AWS, including capabilities in compute, containers, storage, and security, to reliably deliver the real-time service with the lowest latency, while continuing to develop and deploy new features to improve how people use Twitter,” the company explained in the announcement.
Parag Agrawal, Chief Technology Officer at Twitter sees this as a way to expand and improve the company’s real-time offerings by taking advantage of AWS’s network of data centers to deliver content closer to the user. “The collaboration with AWS will improve performance for people who use Twitter by enabling us to serve Tweets from data centers closer to our customers at the same time as we leverage the Arm-based architecture of AWS Graviton2 instances. In addition to helping us scale our infrastructure, this work with AWS enables us to ship features faster as we apply AWS’s diverse and growing portfolio of services,” Agrawal said in a statement.
It’s worth noting that Twitter also has a relationship with Google Cloud. In 2018, it announced it was moving its Hadoop clusters to GCP.
This announcement could be considered a case of the rich getting richer as AWS is the leader in the cloud infrastructure market by far with around 33% market share. Microsoft is in second with around 18% and Google is in third with 9%, according to Synergy Research. In its most recent earnings report, Amazon reported that $ 11.6 billion in AWS revenue putting it on a run rate of over $ 46 billion.
The cloud infrastructure market kept growing at a brisk pace last quarter, as the pandemic continued to push more companies to the cloud with offices shut down in much of the world. This week the big three — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — all reported their numbers and, as expected, the news was good, with Synergy Research reporting revenue growth of 33% year over year, up to almost $ 33 billion for the quarter.
Still, John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy, was a bit taken aback that the market continued to grow as much as it did. “While we were fully expecting continued strong growth in the market, the scale of the growth in Q3 was a little surprising,” he said in a statement.
He added, “Total revenues were up by $ 2.5 billion from the previous quarter causing the year-on-year growth rate to nudge upwards, which is unusual for such a large market. It is quite clear that COVID-19 has provided an added boost to a market that was already developing rapidly.”
Per usual Amazon led the way with $ 11.6 billion in revenue, up from $ 10.8 billion last quarter. That’s up 29% year over year. Amazon continues to exhibit slowing growth in the cloud market, but because of its market share lead of 33%, a rate that has held fairly steady for some time, the growth is less important than the eye-popping revenue it continues to generate, almost double its closest rival Microsoft .
Speaking of Microsoft, Azure revenue was up 48% year over year, also slowing some, but good enough for a strong second place with 18% market share. Using Synergy’s total quarterly number of $ 33 billion, Microsoft came in at $ 5.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $ 5.2 billion last quarter.
Finally, Google announced cloud revenue of $ 3.4 billion, but that number includes all of its cloud revenue including G Suite and other software. Synergy reported that this was good for 9%, or $ 2.98 billion, up from $ 2.7 billion last quarter, good for third place.
Alibaba and IBM were tied for fourth with 5%, or around $ 1.65 billion each.
It’s worth noting that Canalys had similar numbers to Synergy, with growth of 33% to $ 36.5 billion. They had the same market order with slightly different numbers, with Amazon at 32%, Microsoft at 19% and Google at 7%, and Alibaba in 4th place at 6%.
Canalys sees continued growth ahead, especially as hybrid cloud begins to merge with newer technologies like 5G and edge computing. “All three [providers] are collaborating with mobile operators to deploy their cloud stacks at the edge in the operators’ data centers. These are part of holistic initiatives to profit from 5G services among business customers, as well as transform the mobile operators’ IT infrastructure,” Canalys analyst Blake Murray said in a statement.
While the pure growth continues to move steadily downward over time, this is expected in a market that’s maturing like cloud infrastructure, but as companies continue to shift workloads more rapidly to the cloud during the pandemic, and find new use cases like 5G and edge computing, the market could continue to generate substantial revenue well into the future.
While the overall cloud infrastructure market is booming having reached $ 30 billion last quarter worldwide, Oracle is struggling with market share in the low single digits. It is hoping that the Zoom and TikTok deals can jump start those numbers, but trying to catch the market leaders Amazon, Microsoft and Google, never mind several other companies ahead of it, is going to take a lot more than a couple of brand name customers.
By now, you know Oracle and TikTok were joined together in unholy acquisition matrimony last month in the acquisition equivalent of a shotgun wedding. In spite of that, Oracle founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison gushed in a September 19 press release about how TikTok had “chosen” his company’s cloud infrastructure service. The statement also indicated that this “choice” was influenced by Zoom’s decision to move some percentage of its workloads to Oracle’s infrastructure cloud earlier this year.
The mechanics of the TikTok deal aside, the question is how big an effect will these two customers have on the company’s overall cloud infrastructure market share. We asked a couple of firms who closely watch all things cloud.
John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research Group, wasn’t terribly optimistic that they would have much material impact on moving the market share needle for the database giant. “Oracle’s cloud infrastructure services growth has been consistently below overall IaaS and PaaS market growth rates so its market share has [actually] been nudging downward. Zoom may be a good win but it is unlikely to move the needle too much — and remember Zoom also buys cloud services from AWS,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.
As for TikTok, Dinsdale, like the rest of us, wasn’t clear how that deal would ultimately play out, but he says even with both companies in the fold, it wasn’t going to shift market share as much as Oracle might hope. “Hypothetically, even if Zoom/TikTok helped Oracle increase its cloud infrastructure service revenues 50% over 12 months, which would be a real stretch, its market share would still be nearer to 2% than 3%. This compares with Google at 9%, Microsoft 18% and AWS 33%,” Dinsdale said.
He did point out that the company’s SaaS business is much stronger. “Broadening the scope a little to other cloud services, Oracle’s SaaS growth is running roughly in line with overall market SaaS market growth so market share is steady. Oracle’s share of the total enterprise SaaS market is running at around 6%, though if you drill down to the ERP segment it is obviously doing much better than that,” he said.
Canalys, another firm that follows the cloud infrastructure market says their numbers tell a similar story for Oracle. While it’s doing well in Saas with 7.8% market share, it’s struggling in IaaS/PaaS.
“For IaaS/PaaS, Oracle Cloud is at 1.9% for Q2 2020 and that isn’t moving much. The top three providers are AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, who have 30.8%, 20.2% and 6.2% respectively,” Blake Murray from Canalys told TechCrunch.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Google hired Diane Greene five years ago with the hope of accelerating its cloud infrastructure business. Former Oracle exec Thomas Kurian replaced her two years ago and the company’s market share still hasn’t reached double digits in spite of a period of big overall market growth, showing how much of a challenge it is to move the needle in a significant way.
Another big company, IBM bought Red Hat two years ago for $ 34 billion with an eye toward improving its cloud business, and while Red Hat has continued to do well, it does not seem to have much impact on the company’s overall cloud infrastructure market share, which has been superseded by Alibaba in fourth place, according to Synergy’s numbers. Both companies are in the single digits.
All that means, even with these two clients, the company still has a long way to go to be relevant in the cloud infrastructure arena in the near term. What’s unknown is if this new business will help act as lures for other new business over time, but for now it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of good deals to be relevant — and as Google and IBM have demonstrated, it’s extremely challenging to gain chunks of market share.
When Salesforce launched Force.com in 2007, it was the culmination of years of work to bring together a way to customize Salesforce and eventually to build applications on top of the platform. By using a set of Salesforce services, companies could take advantage of work that SFDC had already done, speeding up building time and reducing time to market. Today, the successor of Force.com is called Salesforce Platform.
But going that route didn’t come without some risk, because back in 2007 building atop a Platform as a Service (PaaS) wasn’t a common way of developing software. Even by 2012 when nCino launched its banking software solutions on Force.com, it likely raised some eyebrows by using a cloud platform as the backbone of its fintech offering.
Even though it probably took resolve, the approach worked, as evidenced this week when nCino went public — a debut that was met with a strong investor response. And nCino is notably not the first time that a company built atop Salesforce’s PaaS has gone public; nCino’s own IPO follows Veeva’s 2013 debut.
But astute observers for the Salesforce ecosystem will note that other successful companies have been built on the Salesforce cloud. As you will see, many successful companies have benefited from building on top of Salesforce.
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.
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.
Google, Amazon and Microsoft are the landlords. Amidst the coronavirus economic crisis, startups need a break from paying rent. They’re in a cash crunch. Revenue has stopped flowing in, capital markets like venture debt are hesitant and startups and small-to-medium sized businesses are at risk of either having to lay off huge numbers of employees and/or shut down.
Meanwhile, the tech giants are cash rich. Their success this decade means they’re able to weather the storm for a few months. Their customers cannot.
Cloud infrastructure costs area amongst many startups’ top expense besides payroll. The option to pay these cloud bills later could save some from going out of business or axing huge parts of their staff. Both would hurt the tech industry, the economy and the individuals laid off. But most worryingly for the giants, it could destroy their customer base.
The mass layoffs have already begun. Soon we’re sure to start hearing about sizable companies shutting down, upended by COVID-19. But there’s still an opportunity to stop a larger bloodbath from ensuing.
That’s why I have a proposal: cloud relief.
The platform giants should let startups and small businesses defer their cloud infrastructure payments for three to six months until they can pay them back in installments. Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, these companies’ additional infrastructure products, and other platform providers should let customers pause payment until the worst of the first wave of the COVID-19 economic disruption passes. Profitable SaaS providers like Salesforce could give customers an extension too.
There are plenty of altruistic reasons to do this. They have the resources to help businesses in need. We all need to support each other in these tough times. This could protect tons of families. Some of these startups are providing important services to the public and even discounting them, thereby ramping up their bills while decreasing revenue.
Then there are the PR reasons. After years of techlash and anti-trust scrutiny, here’s the chance for the giants to prove their size can be beneficial to the world. Recruiters could use it as a talking point. “We’re the company that helped save Silicon Valley.” There’s an explanation for them squirreling away so much cash: the rainy day has finally arrived.
But the capitalistic truth and the story they could sell to Wall Street is that it’s not good for our business if our customers go out of business. Look at what happened to infrastructure providers in the dot-com crash. When tons of startups vaporized, so did the profits for those selling them hosting and tools. Any government stimulus for businesses would be better spent by them paying employees than paying the cloud companies that aren’t in danger. Saving one future Netflix from shutting down could cover any short-term loss from helping 100 other businesses.
This isn’t a handout. These startups will still owe the money. They’d just be able to pay it a little later, spread out over their monthly bills for a year or so. Once mass shelter-in-place orders subside, businesses can operate at least a little closer to normal, investors can get less cautious and customers will have the cash they need to pay their dues. Plus interest, if necessary.
Meanwhile, they’ll be locked in and loyal customers for the foreseeable future. Cloud vendors could gate the deferment to only customers that have been with them for X amount of months or that have already spent Y amount on the platform. The vendors also could offer the deferment on the condition that customers add a year or more to their existing contracts. Founders will remember who gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Consider it a marketing expense. Platforms often offer discounts or free trials to new customers. Now it’s existing customers that need a reprieve. Instead of airport ads, the giants could spend the money ensuring they’ll still have plenty of developers building atop them by the end of 2020.
Beyond deferred payment, platforms could just push the due date on all outstanding bills to three or six months from now. Alternatively, they could offer a deep discount such as 50% off for three months if they didn’t want to deal with accruing debt and then servicing it. Customers with multi-year contracts could offered the opportunity to downgrade or renegotiate their contracts without penalties. Any of these might require giving sales quota forgiveness to their account executives.
It would likely be far too complicated and risky to accept equity in lieu of cash, a cut of revenue going forward or to provide loans or credit lines to customers. The clearest and simplest solution is to let startups skip a few payments, then pay more every month later until they clear their debt. When asked for comment or about whether they’re considering payment deferment options, Microsoft declined, and Amazon and Google did not respond.
To be clear, administering payment deferment won’t be simple or free. There are sure to be holes that cloud economists can poke in this proposal, but my goal is to get the conversation started. It could require the giants to change their earnings guidance. Rewriting deals with significantly sized customers will take work on both ends, and there’s a chance of breach of contract disputes. Giants would face the threat of customers recklessly using cloud resources before shutting down or skipping town.
Most taxing would be determining and enforcing the criteria of who’s eligible. The vendors would need to lay out which customers are too big so they don’t accidentally give a cloud-intensive but healthy media company a deferment they don’t need. Businesses that get questionably excluded could make a stink in public. Executing on the plan will require staff when giants are stretched thin trying to handle logistics disruptions, misinformation and accelerating work-from-home usage.
Still, this is the moment when the fortunate need to lend a hand to the vulnerable. Not a hand out, but a hand up. Companies with billions in cash in their coffers could save those struggling to pay salaries. All the fundraisers and info centers and hackathons are great, but this is how the tech giants can live up to their lofty mission statements.
We all live in the cloud now. Don’t evict us. #CloudRelief
By now we know that Kubernetes is a wildly popular container management platform, but if you want to use it, you pretty much have to choose between having someone manage it for you or building it yourself. Spectro Cloud emerged from stealth today with a $ 7.5 million investment to give you a third choice that falls somewhere in the middle.
The funding was led by Sierra Ventures with participation from Boldstart Ventures.
Ed Sim, founder at Boldstart, says he liked the team and the tech. “Spectro Cloud is solving a massive pain that every large enterprise is struggling with: how to roll your own Kubernetes service on a managed platform without being beholden to any large vendor,” Sim told TechCrunch.
Spectro co-founder and CEO Tenry Fu says an enterprise should not have to compromise between control and ease of use. “We want to be the first company that brings an easy-to-use managed Kubernetes experience to the enterprise, but also gives them the flexibility to define their own Kubernetes infrastructure stacks at scale,” Fu explained.
Fu says that the stack, in this instance, consists of the base operating system to the Kubernetes version to the storage, networking and other layers like security, logging, monitoring, load balancing or anything that’s infrastructure related around Kubernetes.
“Within an organization in the enterprise you can serve the needs of your various groups, down to pretty granular level with respect to what’s in your infrastructure stack, and then you don’t have to worry about lifecycle management,” he explained. That’s because Spectro Cloud handles that for you, while still giving you that control.
That gives enterprise developers greater deployment flexibility and the ability to move between cloud infrastructure providers more easily, something that is top of mind today as companies don’t want to be locked into a single vendor.
“There’s an infrastructure control continuum that forces enterprises into trade-offs against these needs. At one extreme, the managed offerings offer a kind of nirvana around ease of use, but it’s at the expense of control over things like the cloud that you’re on or when you adopt new ecosystem options like updated versions of Kubernetes.”
Fu and his co-founders have a deep background in this, having previously been part of CliQr, a company that helped customers manage applications across hybrid cloud environments. They sold that company to Cisco in 2016 and began developing Spectro Cloud last spring.
It’s early days, but the company has been working with 16 beta customers.
Alibaba issued its latest earnings report yesterday, and the Chinese eCommerce giant reported that cloud revenue grew 62 percent to $ 1.5 billion U.S., crossing the RMB10 billion revenue threshold for the first time.
Alibaba also announced that it had completed its migration to its own public cloud in the most recent quarter, a significant milestone because the company can point to its own operations as a reference to potential customers, a point that Daniel Zhang, Alibaba executive chairman and CEO, made in the company’s post-earnings call with analysts.
“We believe the migration of Alibaba’s core e-commerce system to the public cloud is a watershed event. Not only will we ourselves enjoy greater operating efficiency, but we believe, it will also encourage others to adopt our public cloud infrastructure,” Zhang said in the call.
It’s worth noting that the company also warned that the Coronavirus gripping China could have impact on the company’s retail business this year, but it didn’t mention the cloud portion specifically.
Yesterday’s revenue report puts Alibaba on a $ 6 billion U.S. run rate, good for fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market share race, but well behind the market leaders. In the most recent earnings reports, Google reported $ 2.5 billion in revenue, Microsoft reported $ 12.5 billion in combined software and infrastructure revenue and market leader AWS reported a tad under $ 10 billion for the quarter.
As with Google, Alibaba sits well in the back of the pack, as Synergy Research’s latest market share data shows. The chart was generated before yesterday’s report, but it remains an accurate illustration of the relative positions of the various companies.
Alibaba has a lot in common with Amazon. Both are eCommerce giants. Both have cloud computing arms. Alibaba, however, came much later to the cloud computing side of the house, launching in 2009, but really only beginning to take it seriously in 2015.
At the time, cloud division president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in the cloud market within 4 years. “Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” he said at the time.
They aren’t close to achieving that goal, of course, but they are growing steadily in a hot cloud infrastructure market. Alibaba is the leading cloud vendor in China, although AWS leads in Asia overall, according to the most recent Synergy Research data on the region.
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