DREAMTECH NEWS

Former Facebook teammates raise $10.4M in Sequoia-led round to launch features development

Statsig is taking the A/B testing applications that drive Facebook’s growth and putting similar functionalities into the hands of any product team so that they, too, can make faster, data-informed decisions on building products customers want.

The Seattle-based company on Thursday announced $10.4 million in Series A funding, led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Madrona Venture Group and a group of individual investors, including Robinhood CPO Aparna Chennapragada, Segment co-founder Calvin French-Owen, Figma CEO Dylan Field, Instacart CEO Fidji Simo, DoorDash exec Gokul Rajaram, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi and a16z general partner Sriram Krishnan.

Co-founder and CEO Vijaye Raji started the company with seven other former Facebook colleagues in February, but the idea for the company started more than a year ago.

He told TechCrunch that while working at Facebook, A/B testing applications, like Gatekeeper, Quick Experiments and Deltoid, were successfully built internally. The Statsig team saw an opportunity to rebuild these features from scratch outside of Facebook so that other companies that have products to build — but no time to build their own quick testing capabilities — can be just as successful.

Statsig’s platform enables product developers to run quick product experiments and analyze how users respond to new features and functionalities. Tools like Pulse, Experiments+ and AutoTune allow for hundreds of experiments every week, while business metrics guide product teams to build and ship the right products to their customers.

Raji intends to use the new funding to hire folks in the area of design, product, data science, sales and marketing. The team is already up to 14 since February.

“We already have a set of customers asking for features, and that is a good problem, but now we want to scale and build them out,” he added.

Statsig has no subscription or upfront fees and is already serving millions of end-users every month for customers like Clutter, Common Room and Take App. The company will always offer a free tier so customers can try out features, but also offers a Pro tier for 5 cents per event so that when the customer grows, so does Statsig.

Raji sees adoption of Statsig coming from a few different places: developers and engineers that are downloading it and using it to serve a few million people a month, and then through referrals. In fact, the adoption the company is getting is “bottom up,” which is what Statsig wants, he said. Now the company is talking to bigger customers.

There are plenty of competitors for this product, including incumbents in the market, according to Raji, but they mostly focus on features, while Statsig provides insights and ties metrics back to features. In addition, the company has automated analysis where other products require manual set up and analysis.

Sequoia partner Mike Vernal worked at Facebook prior to joining the venture capital firm and had worked with Raji, calling him “a top 1% engineer” that he was happy to work with.

Having sat on many company boards, he has found that many companies spend a long time talking about sales and marketing, but very little on product because there is not an easy way to get precise numbers for planning purposes, just a discussion about what they did and plan to do.

What Vernal said he likes about Statsig is that the company is bringing that measurement aspect to the table so that companies don’t have to hack together a poorer version.

“What Statsig can do, uniquely, is not only set up an experiment and tell if someone likes green or blue buttons, but to answer questions like what the impact this is of the experiment on new user growth, retention and monitorization,” he added. “That they can also answer holistic questions and understand the impact on any single feature on every metric is really novel and not possible before the maturation of the data stack.”

 


By Christine Hall

Work-Bench will continue supporting early stage enterprise startups with new $100M fund

In spite of the pandemic, New York City remains the center of commerce and business, and over the last decade a robust startup community has developed there. Work-Bench, the NYC VC firm that concentrates on early stage enterprise seed investments, announced its $100 million Fund 3 this morning.

The company started back in 2013 when most investment was still concentrated in Silicon Valley, but founders Jonathan Lehr and Jessica Linn believed there was room for a new firm in NYC that concentrated on writing first checks for enterprise startups. The founding team knew IT and believed that with the concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the city, they could build something that took advantage of that proximity.

The bet has paid off in a big way with investments in successful startups like Cockroach Labs, Catalyst, Dialpad and FireHydrant (all companies TechCrunch has covered). Big exits have included UIPath, which went public last year after raising $2 billion, and today has a market cap of $34 billion and CoreOs, which Red Hat acquired for a more modest $250 million in 2018.

Writing in a blog post announcing the new fund, Lehr and Linn said their initial idea has grown far beyond anything they could have hoped for in those early days. “By utilizing our deep corporate network of Fortune 500 customers here in NYC, we can get conviction in companies early on, and before they have the metrics other VC firms require. It’s also through this network of customers that we can land critical early customer logos and through our extensive community events and playbooks that we can enable pivotal knowledge sharing,” the two founders wrote.

Lehr says, even with the pandemic, which could allowed to expand its reach, the company is mostly sticking to its NYC focus with the majority of investments based there. “This may sound ironic, but while businesses went virtual, the pandemic reinforced our focus on New York City. Our city was hit first and hardest by COVID, but despite it all, VC funding activity for local enterprise startups actually increased substantially during the pandemic. Along with that, with so many Fortune 500s in NYC all going through accelerated digital transformation during the pandemic, there was a ton of work to be done and numerous customer opportunities right here in our own backyard,” Lehr said.

He says that the $47 million Fund 2 portfolio was deployed to 70% NYC-based startups, and he predicts that Fund 3 will have a similar composition, if not slightly more concentrated in New York.

The company didn’t just decide to write first checks though, it tried to build the community by offering workspace in their offices where early stage companies could feed off one another (at least until the pandemic came along). The founders have also offered events where various speakers came to their offices, hosting hundreds of events since inception, while going virtual when the pandemic closed down in-person gatherings.

Lehr says as the company deploys Fund 3 money, it is looking for ways to invest in a more diverse group of founders. “Right now, 20% of our portfolio is made up of women founders. While we are proud of that number within an enterprise context, we believe there is so much room for improvement. As we’ve learned, deal flow doesn’t become diverse on its own – you need to make it diverse, which is why we place a huge emphasis on identifying and amplifying the voices of women and diverse founders within our own Investment Committee meetings and across the rest of the VC and enterprise tech community.”

The company will continue to look at enterprise startups, particularly in New York City, as it looks distribute these new funds.


By Ron Miller

Buildots raises $30M to put eyes on construction sites

One year after raising $16 million, construction technology company Buildots is back to claim another $30 million, this time in Series B funding.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, with participation from previous investors TLV Partners, Future Energy Ventures and Tidhar Construction Group. This gives the company $46 million in total funding, Roy Danon, co-founder and CEO of Buildots, told TechCrunch.

The three-year-old company, with headquarters in Tel Aviv and London, is leveraging artificial intelligence computer vision technology to address construction inefficiencies. Danon said though construction accounts for 13% of the world’s GDP and employs hundreds of millions of people, construction productivity continues to lag, only growing 1% in the past two decades.

Danon spent six months on construction sites talking to workers to understand what was happening and learned that control was one of the areas where efficiency was breaking down. While construction processes would seem similar to manufacturing processes, building to the design or specs didn’t happen often due to different rules and reliance on numerous entities to get their jobs done first, he said.

Buildots’ technology is addressing this gap using AI algorithms to automatically validate images captured by hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras, detecting immediately any gaps between the original design, scheduling and what is actually happening on the construction site. Project managers can then make better decisions to speed up construction.

“It even finds events where contractors are installing out of place and streamline payments so that information is transparent and clear,” Danon said. “Buildots also creates a collaborative environment and trust by having a single source telling everyone what is going on. There is no more blaming or cutting corners because the system validates that and also makes construction a healthier industry to work in.”

Buildots went after new funding once it was able to show product market fit and was expanding into other countries. The platform is being utilized on major building projects in countries like the U.S., U.K., Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and China. To meet demand, Buildots will use the new funding to continue that expansion; double the size of its global team with a focus on sales, marketing and R&D; and grow on the business side. Danon’s aim is “to get to the point where we are the standard for every construction site.” The company is also looking at areas outside construction where its technology would be applicable.

Tal Morgenstern, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, said he keeps an eye on graduates of the Israel Defense Forces, where the three Buildots founders came from. However, in the case of this company, Lightspeed actually passed on both the seed and Series A.

Morgenstern admits the decision was a mistake, but at the time, he thought the technology Buildots was trying to build “first, impossible and second, I knew construction was difficult to sell into.” He felt that Buildots, with such a premium product, would have a challenge selling to a low-margin industry that was late to adopt technology in general.

By the time the Series B came round, he said Buildots had solved both of those issues, proving that it works, but also that customers were adopting the technology without much sales and marketing. In addition, other solutions in construction tech were still relying on lasers or people to manually input or tap photos.

“Buildots is seamlessly capturing images and providing a level of insights that is so high, and that is why the company is able to command the price structure they have and are receiving interesting commercial results,” Morgenstern said.

Walking around today’s construction site, Danon said the adoption of technology is enabling Buildots to move quickly to build processes for the industry.

As such, the company saw more than 50% growth quarter over quarter over the past year in three of the countries in which it operates. It is now working with four of the top 10 construction companies in Europe and around the world.

“We did a good job selling remotely, but now we need local offices,” Danon added. “We are also sitting on piles of data from construction sites. We learn from one project to another and want to look for the challenges where data will help make a financial impact. It’s a natural next step for the company.”

 


By Christine Hall

Product-led revenue startup Correlated launches with $8.3M seed

Correlated on Wednesday announced it raised $8.3 million in seed funding to launch its product-led growth platform for sales teams.

NextView Ventures led the round and was joined by Harrison Metal, Apollo Projects, Attentive co-founders Brian Long and Andrew Jones, Cockroach Labs co-founder Ben Darnell and Atrium’s Pete Kazanjy. The round includes funding raised last year and more recent follow-on funding from both NextView and Harrison, co-founder and CEO Tim Geisenheimer told TechCrunch.

The New York-based company was founded in 2020 by Geisenheimer and Diana Hsieh, who overlapped at TimescaleDB, and John Pena, who Geisenheimer met at Facet. In their previous roles, they saw a need to connect product data to sales tools.

While at Timescale, Geisenheimer said there were thousands of free users to talk to, and he and Hsieh built a similar version of a product-led growth platform there, but secretly wished there was something more like Correlated available.

What they saw was data across multiple tools being stored manually on spreadsheets so that actionable insights could be generated. The data would quickly become outdated. Add in that the way customers use products now is different. Traditionally, customers would not be able to use a product until they talked to the sales team. Today, customers start using products for free and either get value from it or not, but sales teams don’t have real-time data on their experience.

“Sales needs to know how customers are using the product and the right time for sales to engage based on maturity of the experience,” Geisenheimer said. “That was the missing piece of it and sales teams ended up talking to the wrong people. With Correlated, they can close more deals efficiently.”

Correlated’s technology pulls in product usage data from tools and data warehouses and connects to a management platform like Salesforce or HubSpot, stitching it together into a data graph to show how customers are using a product. For example, within a company of 200 to 500 employees, a salesperson can see the frequency employees logged in and be alerted of when the best opportunity is to make the sale.

The company has a SaaS pricing model and is already working with mid-market companies like Ally, Pulumi, ReadMe and LaunchNotes. To support its launch out of beta, Geisenheimer intends to use the new funding for hiring across functions like engineering and go-to-market. The company has 11 employees currently.

There are other product-led growth platforms out there that raised venture capital funding recently, for example, Endgame, and similarly Geisenheimer said the competition is often in-house product teams building their own systems. Correlated’s differentiator is that it has taken on that task itself and enables customers to quickly see value once they are up-and-running, he added.

David Beisel, co-founder and partner at NextView Ventures, said his firm invests in category stage companies and is currently operating out of its fourth fund, infusing business-to-business SaaS and e-commerce companies. Beisel has known Geisenheimer for nearly a decade now, having met him when NextView invested in one of Geisenheimer’s previous companies, TapCommerce.

“At the end of the day with Tim, he knows sales and the company is selling a product that has a strong founder market fit,” Beisel said. “We are moving toward a world where end-user adoption of software — not the initial engagement — is growing over time. Instead, Correlated empowers that initial sale and account expansion and that will align with where the industry is going.”

 


By Christine Hall

Marvell nabs Innovium for $1.1B as it delves deeper into cloud ethernet switches

Marvell announced this morning it intends to acquire Innovium for $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. The startup, which raised over $400 million according to Crunchbase data, makes networking ethernet switches optimized for the cloud.

Marvell president and CEO Matt Murphy sees Innovium as a complementary piece to the $10 billion Inphi acquisition last year, giving the company, which makes copper-based chips, more ways to work across modern cloud data centers.

“Innovium has established itself as a strong cloud data center merchant switch silicon provider with a proven platform, and we look forward to working with their talented team who have a strong track record in the industry for delivering multiple generations of highly successful products,” Marvell CEO Matt Murphy said in a statement.

Innovium founder and CEO Rajiv Khemani, who will remain on as an advisor post-close, told a familiar tale from a startup CEO being acquired, seeing the sale as a way to accelerate more quickly as part of a larger organization than it could on its own. “As we engaged with Marvell, it became clear that our data center optimized portfolio combined with Marvell’s scale, leading technology platform and complementary portfolio, can accelerate our growth and vision of delivering breakthrough switch silicon for the cloud and edge,” he wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal.

The company, which was founded in 2014, raised over $143 million last year on a post money valuation of $1.3 billion, according to Pitchbook data. The question is was this a reasonable deal for the company given that valuation?

No company wants to sell for less than it was last valued by its investors. In some cases, such deals can still be accretive for early backers of the selling concern, but not always. In this case TechCrunch is not privy to all the details of the Innovium cap table and what its later investors may have built into their deals with the company in the form of downside protection; such measures can tilt the value of the sale of company more towards its later and final investors. This is usually managed at the expense of its earlier backers and employees.

Still, the Innovium deal should not be seen as a failure. Building a company that sells for north of $1 billion in equity value is impressive. The deal appears to be slightly smaller in enterprise value terms. In the business world, enterprise value is a useful method of valuing the true cost of an acquisition. In the case of Innovium, a large cash position, what was described as “Innovium cash and exercise proceeds expected at closing of approximately $145 million,” lowered the cost of the transaction to a more modest $955 million in net outlays.

Our general perspective is that the sale is probably not the outcome that Innovium’s backers had hoped for, but that it may still prove lucrative to early workers and early investors, and still works at that lower figure. It’s also notable how in today’s market of mega-rounds and surfeit unicorns, an exit north of the $1 billion mark in equity terms can be viewed as a disappointment in any terms. Innovium is selling for around the price that Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012, a deal that at the time was so large that it dominated technology headlines around the world.

But with so much capital available today, private valuations are soaring and mega deals abound. And recent rounds north of $100 million, much like Innovium’s 2020-era, $143 million round, can set companies up with rich valuations and a narrow path in front of them to beat those heightened expectations.

What likely happened? Perhaps Innovium found itself with more cash than opportunities to spend it; perhaps it simply needed a large partner to help it better sell into its market. With expected revenues of $150 million in Marvell’s fiscal 2023, its next fiscal period, Innovium did not fail to reach scale. It may have simply grown well as a private, independent company, and stalled out after its last round.

Regardless, a billion dollar exit is a billion dollar exit. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year. While both company boards have approved the deal, it still must clear regular closing hurdles including approval by Innovium’s private stock holders.


By Ron Miller

Salesforce steps into RPA buying Servicetrace and teaming it with Mulesoft

Over the last couple of years, Robotic Process Automation or RPA has been red hot with tons of investor activity and M&A from companies like SAP, IBM and ServiceNow. UIPath had a major IPO in April and has a market cap over $30 billion. I wondered when Salesforce would get involved and today the company dipped its toe into the RPA pool, announcing its intent to buy German RPA company Servicetrace.

Salesforce intends to make Servicetrace part of Mulesoft, the company it bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion. The companies aren’t divulging the purchase price, suggesting it’s a much smaller deal. When Servicetrace is in the fold, it should fit in well with Mulesoft’s API integration, helping to add an automation layer to Mulesoft’s tool kit.

“With the addition of Servicetrace, MuleSoft will be able to deliver a leading unified integration, API management, and RPA platform, which will further enrich the Salesforce Customer 360 — empowering organizations to deliver connected experiences from anywhere. The new RPA capabilities will enhance Salesforce’s Einstein Automate solution, enabling end-to-end workflow automation across any system for Service, Sales, Industries, and more,” Mulesoft CEO Brent Hayward wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

While Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence layer, gives companies with more modern tooling the ability to automate certain tasks, RPA is suited to more legacy operations, and this acquisition could be another step in helping Salesforce bridge the gap between older on-prem tools and more modern cloud software.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that it brings another dimension to Salesforce’s digital transformation tools. “It didn’t take Salesforce long to move to the next acquisition after closing their biggest purchase with Slack. But automation of processes and workflows fueled by realtime data coming from a growing variety sources is becoming a key to finding success with digital transformation. And this adds a critical piece to that puzzle for Salesforce/MulseSoft,” he said.

While it feels like Salesforce is joining the market late, in an investor survey we published in May Laela Sturdy, general partner at CapitalG told us that we are just skimming the surface so far when it comes to RPA’s potential.

“We’re a long way from needing to think about the space maturing. In fact, RPA adoption is still in its early infancy when you consider its immense potential. Most companies are only now just beginning to explore the numerous use cases that exist across industries. The more enterprises dip their toes into RPA, the more use cases they envision,” Sturdy responded in the survey.

Servicetrace was founded in 2004, long before the notion of RPA even existed. Neither Crunchbase nor Pitchbook shows any money raised, but the website suggests a mature company with a rich product set. Customers include Fujitsu, Siemens, Merck and Deutsche Telekom.


By Ron Miller

Mixlab raises $20M to provide purrfect pharmacy experience for pet parents

Pet pharmacy Mixlab has developed a digital platform enabling veterinarians to prescribe medications and have them delivered — sometimes on the same day — to pet parents.

The New York-based company raised a $20 million Series A in a round of funding led by Sonoma Brands and including Global Founders Capital, Monogram Capital, Lakehouse Ventures and Brand Foundry. The new investment gives Mixlab total funding of $30 million, said Fred Dijols, co-founder and CEO of Mixlab.

Dijols and Stella Kim, chief experience officer, co-founded Mixlab in 2017 to provide a better pharmacy experience, with the veterinarian at the center.

Dijols’ background is in medical devices as well as healthcare investment banking, where he became interested in the pharmacy industry, following TruePill and PillPack, which he told TechCrunch were “creating a modern pharmacy model.”

As more pharmacy experiences revolved around at-home delivery, he found the veterinary side of pharmacy was not keeping up. He met Kim, a user experience expert, whose family owns a pharmacy, and wanted to bring technology into the industry.

“The pharmacy industry is changing a lot, and technology allows us to personalize the care and experience for the veterinarian, pet parent and the pet,” Kim said. “Customer service is important in healthcare as is dignity and empathy. We kept that in mind when starting Mixlab. Many companies use technology to remove the human element, but we use it to elevate it.”

Mixlab’s technology includes a digital service for veterinarians to streamline their daily medication workflow and gives them back time to spend with patient care. The platform manages the home delivery of medications across branded, generic and over-the-counter medications, as well as reduces a clinic’s on-site pharmacy inventories. Veterinarians can write prescriptions in seconds and track medication progress and therapy compliance.

The company also operates its own compound pharmacy where it specializes in making medications on-demand that are flavored and dosed.

On the pet parent side, they no longer have to wait up to a week for medications nor have to drive over to the clinic to pick them up. Medications come in a personalized care package that includes a note from the pharmacist, clear and easy-to-read instructions and a new toy.

Over the past year, adoptions of pets spiked as more people were at home, also leading to an increase in vet visits. This also caused the global pet care industry to boom, and it is now projected to reach $343 billion by 2030, when it had been valued at $208 billion in 2020.

Pet parents are also spending more on their pets, and a Morgan Stanley report showed that they see pets as part of their family, and as a result, 37% of people said they would take on debt to pay for a pet’s medical expenses, while 29% would put a pet’s needs before their own.

To meet the increased demand in veterinary care, the company will use the new funding to improve its technology and expand into more locations where it can provide same-day delivery. Currently it is shipping to 47 states and Dijols expects to be completely national by the end of the year. He also expects to hire more people on both the sales team and in executive leadership positions.

The company is already operating in New York and Los Angeles and growing 3x year over year, though Dijols admits operating during the pandemic was a bit challenging due to “a massive surge of orders” that came in as veterinarians had to shut down their offices.

As part of the investment, Keith Levy, operating partner at Sonoma Brands and former president of pet food manufacturer Royal Canin USA, will join Mixlab’s board of directors. Sonoma Brands is focused on growth sectors of the consumer economy, and pets was one of the areas that investors were interested in.

Over time, Sonoma found that within the veterinary community, there was space for a lot of players. However, veterinarians want to home in on one company they trust, and Mixlab fit that description for many because they were getting medication out faster, Levy said.

“What Mixlab is doing isn’t completely unique, but they are doing it better,” he added. “When we looked at their customer service metrics, we saw they had a good reputation and were relentlessly focused on providing a better experience.”


By Christine Hall

ConverseNow is targeting restaurant drive-thrus with new $15M round

One year after voice-based AI technology company ConverseNow raised a $3.3 million seed round, the company is back with a cash infusion of $15 million in Series A funding in a round led by Craft Ventures.

The Austin-based company’s AI voice ordering assistants George and Becky work inside quick-serve restaurants to take orders via phone, chat, drive-thru and self-service kiosks, freeing up staff to concentrate on food preparation and customer service.

Joining Craft in the Series A round were LiveOak Venture Partners, Tensility Venture Partners, Knoll Ventures, Bala Investments, 2048 Ventures, Bridge Investments, Moneta Ventures and angel investors Federico Castellucci and Ashish Gupta. This new investment brings ConverseNow’s total funding to $18.3 million, Vinay Shukla, co-founder and CEO of ConverseNow, told TechCrunch.

As part of the investment, Bryan Rosenblatt, partner at Craft Ventures, is joining the company’s board of directors, and said in a written statement that “post-pandemic, quick-service restaurants are primed for digital transformation, and we see a unique opportunity for ConverseNow to become a driving force in the space.”

At the time when ConverseNow raised its seed funding in 2020, it was piloting its technology in just a handful of stores. Today, it is live in over 750 stores and grew seven times in revenue and five times in headcount.

Restaurants were some of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, and as they reopen, Shukla said their two main problems will be labor and supply chain, and “that is where our technology intersects.”

The AI assistants are able to step in during peak times when workers are busy to help take orders so that customers are not waiting to place their orders, or calls get dropped or abandoned, something Shukla said happens often.

It can also drive more business. ConverseNow said it is shown to increase average orders by 23% and revenue by 20%, while adding up to 12 hours of extra deployable labor time per store per week.

Company co-founder Rahul Aggarwal said more people prefer to order remotely, which has led to an increase in volume. However, the more workers have to multitask, the less focus they have on any one job.

“If you step into restaurants with ConverseNow, you see them reimagined,” Aggarwal said. “You find workers focusing on the job they like to do, which is preparing food. It is also driving better work balance, while on the customer side, you don’t have to wait in the queue. Operators have more time to churn orders, and service time comes down.”

ConverseNow is one of the startups within the global restaurant management software market that is forecasted to reach $6.94 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. Over the past year, startups in the space attracted both investors and acquirers. For example, point-of-sale software company Lightspeed acquired Upserve in December for $430 million. Earlier this year, Sunday raised $24 million for its checkout technology.

The new funding will enable ConverseNow to continue developing its line-busting technology and invest in marketing, sales and product innovation. It will also be working on building a database from every conversation and onboarding new customers quicker, which involves inputting the initial menu.

By leveraging artificial intelligence, the company will be able to course-correct any inconsistencies, like background noise on a call, and better predict what a customer might be saying. It will also correct missing words and translate the order better. In the future, Shukla and Aggarwal also want the platform to be able to tell what is going on around the restaurant — what traffic is like, the weather and any menu promotions to drive upsell.

 


By Christine Hall

Homebase raises $70M for a team management platform aimed at SMBs and their hourly workers

Small and medium enterprises have become a big opportunity in the world of B2B technology in the last several years, and today a startup that’s building tools aimed at helping them manage their teams of workers is announcing some funding that underscores the state of that market. Homebase, which provides a platform that helps SMBs manage various services related to their hourly workforces, has closed $70 million in funding, a Series C that values the company at between $500 million and $600 million, according to sources close to the startup.

The round has a number of big names in it that are as much a sign of how large VCs are valuing the SMB market right now, as it is of the strategic interest of the individuals who are also participating. GGV Capital is leading the round, with past backers Bain Capital Ventures, Baseline Ventures, Bedrock, Cowboy Ventures, and Khosla Ventures also participating. Individuals meanwhile include president of Focus Brands Kat Cole, Jocelyn Mangan (a board member at PapaJohns and Chownow and former COO of Snag), former CFO of payroll and benefits company Gusto Mike Dinsdale, Guild Education founder Rachel Carlson, star athletes Jrue and Lauren Holiday and alright alright alright actor and famous everyman and future political candidate Matthew McConaughey.

Homebase has raised $108 million to date.

The funding is coming on the heels of strong growth for Homebase (which is not to be confused with the UK/Irish home improvement chain of the same name, nor the YC-backed Vietnamese proptech startup).

The company now has some 100,000 small businesses, with 1 million employees in total, on its platform, which use Homebase to manage all manner of activities related to workers that are paid hourly, including (most recently) payroll, as well as shift scheduling, timeclocks and timesheets, hiring and onboarding, communication, and HR compliance.

John Waldmann, Homebase’s founder and CEO, said the funding will go towards both continuing to bring on more customers, as well as expand the list of services offered to them, which could include more features geared to front-line and service workers, as well as features for small businesses who might also have some “desk” workers who might still work hourly.

The common thread, Waldmann said, is not the exact nature of those jobs, but the fact that all of them, partly because of that hourly aspect, have been largely underserved by tech up to now.

“From the beginning, our mission was to help local businesses and their teams,” he said. Part of his inspiration he said came from people he knew: a childhood friend who owned an independent, expanding restaurant chain, and was going through the challenges of managing his teams there, carrying out most of his work on paper; and his sister who worked in hospitality, which didn’t look all that different from his restaurant friend’s challenges. She had to call in to see when she was working, writing her hours in a notebook to make sure she got paid accurately. 

“There are a lot of tech companies focused on making work easier for folks that sit at computers or desks, but are building tools for these others,” Waldmann said. “In the world of work, the experience just looks different with technology.”

Homebase currently is focused on the North American market — there are some 5 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, and so there is a lot of opportunity there. The huge pressure that many them have experienced in the last 18 months of Covid-19 living, leading some to shut down altogether, has also focused the mind on how to manage and carry out work much more efficiently and in a more organized way to ensure you know where your staff is, and that your staff knows what it should be doing at all times.

What will be interesting is to see what kinds of services Homebase adds to its platform over time: in a way it’s a sign of how the hourly wage workers are becoming a more sophisticated and salient aspect of the workforce, with their own unique demands. Payroll, which is now live in 27 states, also comes with pay advances, opening the door to other kinds of financial services for Homebase, for example.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy, with more than 60% of Americans employed by one of our 30 million small businesses. In a post-pandemic world, technology has never been more important to businesses of all sizes, including SMBs,” said Jeff Richards, managing aartner at GGV Capital and new Homebase board member. “The team at Homebase has worked tirelessly for years to bring technology to SMBs in a way that helps drive increased profitability, better hiring and growth. We’re thrilled to see Homebase playing such an important role in America’s small business recovery and thrilled to be part of the mission going forward.”

It’s interesting to see McConaughey involved in this round, given that he’s most recently made a turn towards politics, with plans to run for governor of Texas in 2022. “Hard working people who work in and run restaurants and local businesses are important to all of us,” he said. “They play an important role in giving our cities a sense of livelihood, identity, and community. This is why I’ve invested in Homebase. Homebase brings small business operations into the modern age and helps folks across the country not only continue to work harder, but work smarter.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Business messaging platform Gupshup raises $240 million from Tiger Global, Fidelity and others

Gupshup, a business messaging platform that began its journey in India 15 years ago, surprised many when it raised $100 million in April this year, roughly 10 years after its last financing round, and attained the coveted unicorn status. Now just three months later, the San Francisco-headquartered startup has secured even more capital from high-profile investors.

On Wednesday, Gupshup said it had raised an additional $240 million as part of the same Series F financing round. The new investment was led by Fidelity Management, Tiger Global, Think Investments, Malabar Investments, Harbor Spring Capital, certain accounts managed by Neuberger Berman Investment Advisers, and White Oak.

Neeraj Arora, formerly a high-profile executive at WhatsApp who played an instrumental role in helping the messaging platform sell to Facebook, also wrote a significant check to Gupshup in the new tranche of investment, which continues to value the startup at $1.4 billion as in April.

In an interview with TechCrunch earlier this week, Beerud Sheth, co-founder and chief executive of Gupshup, said he extended the financing round after receiving too many inbound requests from investors. The round is now closed, he said.

The startup, which operates a conversational messaging platform that is used by over 100,000 businesses and developers today to build their own messaging and conversational experiences to serve their users and customers, is beginning to consider exploring the public markets by next year, said Sheth, though he cautioned a final decision is yet to be made.

The new investment, which includes some secondary transactions (some early investors and employees are selling their stakes), will be deployed into broadening the product offerings of Gupshup, he said. The startup is also eyeing some M&A opportunities and may close some deals this year, he added.

Before Gupshup became so popular with businesses, it existed in a different avatar. For the first six years of its existence, Gupshup was best known for enabling users in India to send group messages to friends. (These cheap texts and other clever techniques enabled tens of millions of Indians to stay in touch with one another on phones a decade ago.)

That model eventually became unfeasible to continue, Sheth told TechCrunch in an earlier interview.

“For that service to work, Gupshup was subsidizing the messages. We were paying the cost to the mobile operators. The idea was that once we scale up, we will put advertisements in those messages. Long story short, we thought as the volume of messages increases, operators will lower their prices, but they didn’t. And also the regulator said we can’t put ads in the messages,” he said earlier this year.

That’s when Gupshup decided to pivot. “We were neither able to subsidize the messages, nor monetize our user base. But we had all of this advanced technology for high-performance messaging. So we switched from consumer model to enterprise model. So we started to serve banks, e-commerce firms, and airlines that need to send high-level messages and can afford to pay for it,” said Sheth, who also co-founder freelance workplace Elance in 1998.

Over the years, Gupshup has expanded to newer messaging channels, including conversational bots and it also helps businesses set up and run their WhatsApp channels to engage with customers.

Sheth said scores of major firms worldwide in banking, e-commerce, travel and hospitality and other sectors are among the clients of Gupshup. These firms are using Gupshup to send their customers transaction information and authentication codes, among other use cases. “These are not advertising or promotional messages. These are core service information,” he said.

This is a developing story. More to follow…


By Manish Singh