Adobe beefs up developer tools to make it easer to build apps on Experience Cloud

Adobe has had a developer program for years called Adobe.io, but today at the Adobe Developers Live virtual conference, the company announced some new tools with a fresh emphasis on helping developers build custom apps on the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Jason Woosley, VP of developer experience and commerce at Adobe says that the pandemic has forced companies to build enhanced digital experiences much more quickly than they might have, and the new tools being announced today are at least partly related to helping speed up the development of better online experiences.

“Our focus is very specifically on making the experience generation business something that’s very attractive to developers and very accessible to developers so we’re announcing a number of tools,” Woosley told TechCrunch.

The idea is to build a more complete framework over time to make it easier to build applications and connect to data sources that take advantage of the Experience Cloud tooling. For starters, Project Firefly is designed to help developers build applications more quickly by providing a higher level of automation than was previously available.

“Project Firefly creates an extensibility framework that reduces the boilerplate that a developer would need to get started working with the Experience Cloud, and extends that into the customizations that we know every implementation eventually needs to differentiate the storefront experience, the website experience or whatever customer touch point as these things become increasingly digital,” he said.

In order to make those new experiences open to all, the company is also announcing React Spectrum, an open source set of libraries and tools designed to help members of the Adobe developer community build more accessible applications and websites.

“It comes with all of the accessibility features that often get forgotten when you’re in a race to market, so it’s nice to make sure that you will be very inclusive with your design, making sure that you’re bringing on all aspects of your audiences,” Woosley said.

Finally, a big part of interacting with Experience Cloud is taking advantage of all of the data that’s available to help build those more customized interactions with customers that having that data enables. To that end, the company is announcing some new web and mobile software development kits (SDKs) designed to help make it simpler to link to Experience Cloud data sources as you build your applications.

Project Firefly is generally available starting today as are several React Spectrum components and some data connection SDKs. The company intends to keep adding to these various pieces in the coming months.


By Ron Miller

CIO Cynthia Stoddard explains Adobe’s journey from boxes to the cloud

Up until 2013, Adobe sold its software in cardboard boxes that were distributed mostly by third party vendors.

In time, the company realized there were a number of problems with that approach. For starters, it took months or years to update, and Adobe software was so costly, much of its user base didn’t upgrade. But perhaps even more important than the revenue/development gap was the fact that Adobe had no direct connection to the people who purchased its products.

By abdicating sales to others, Adobe’s customers were third-party resellers, but changing the distribution system also meant transforming the way the company developed and sold their most lucrative products.

The shift was a bold move that has paid off handsomely as the company surpassed an $11 billion annual run rate in December — but it still was an enormous risk at the time. We spoke to Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard to learn more about what it took to completely transform the way they did business.

Understanding the customer

Before Adobe could make the switch to selling software as a cloud service subscription, it needed a mechanism for doing that, and that involved completely repurposing their web site, Adobe.com, which at the time was a purely informational site.

“So when you think about transformation the first transformation was how do we connect and sell and how do we transition from this large network of third parties into selling direct to consumer with a commerce site that needed to be up 24×7,” Stoddard explained.

She didn’t stop there though because they weren’t just abandoning the entire distribution network that was in place. In the new cloud model, they still have a healthy network of partners and they had to set up the new system to accommodate them alongside individual and business customers.

She says one of the keys to managing a set of changes this immense was that they didn’t try to do everything at once. “One of the things we didn’t do was say, ‘We’re going to move to the cloud, let’s throw everything away.’ What we actually did is say we’re going to move to the cloud, so let’s iterate and figure out what’s working and not working. Then we could change how we interact with customers, and then we could change the reporting, back office systems and everything else in a very agile manner,” she said.


By Ron Miller

Contentful raises $80M Series E round for its headless CMS

Headless CMS company Contentful today announced that it has raised an $80 million Series E funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst, Salesforce Ventures and a number of other new and existing investors. With this, the company has now raised a total of $158.3 million and a Contentful spokesperson tells me that it is approaching a $1 billion valuation.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has hired Bridget Perry as its CMO. She previously led Adobe’s marketing efforts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Currently, 28% of the Fortune 500 use Contentful to manage their content across platforms. The company says it has a total of 2,200 paying customers right now and these include the likes of Spotify,  ITV, the British Museum, Telus and Urban Outfitters.

Steve Sloan, the company’s CEO who joined the company late last year, attributes its success to the fact that virtually every business today is in the process of figuring out how to become digital and serve its customers across platforms – and that’s a process that has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, when these content platforms or content management systems were created, they were a) really built for a web-only world and b) where the website was a complement to some other business,” he said. “Today, the mobile app, the mobile web experience is the front door to every business on the planet. And that’s never been any more clear than in this recent COVID crisis, where we’ve seen many, many businesses — even those that are very traditional businesses — realize that the dominant and, in some cases, only way their customers can interact with them is through that digital experience.”

But as they are looking at their options, many decide that they don’t just want to take an off-the-shelf product, Sloan argues, because it doesn’t allow them to build a differentiated offering.

Image Credits: Contentful /

Perry also noted that this is something she saw at Adobe, too, as it built its digital experience business. “Leading marketing at Adobe, we used it ourselves,” she said. “And so the challenge that we heard from customers in the market was how complex it was in some cases to implement, to organize around it, to build those experiences fast and see value and impact on the business. And part of that challenge, I think, stemmed from the kind of monolithic, all-in-one type of suite that Adobe offered. Even as a marketer at Adobe, we had challenges with that kind of time to market and agility. And so what’s really interesting to me — and one of the reasons why I joined Contentful — is that Contentful approaches this in a very different way.”

Sloan noted that putting the round together was a bit of an adventure. Contentful’s existing investors approached the company around the holidays because they wanted to make a bigger investment in the company to fuel its long-term growth. But at the time, the company wasn’t ready to raise new capital yet.

“And then in January and February, we had inbound interest from people who weren’t yet investors, who came to us and said, ‘hey, we really want to invest in this company, we’ve seen the trend and we really believe in it.’ So we went back to our insiders and said, ‘hey, we’re going to think about actually moving in our timeline for raising capital,” Sloan told me. “And then, right about that time is when COVID really broke out, particularly in Western Europe in North America.”

That didn’t faze Contentful’s investors, though.

“One of the things that really stood out about our investors — and particularly our lead investor for this round Sapphire — is that when everybody else was really, really frightened, they were really clear about the opportunity, about their belief in the team and about their understanding of the progress we had already made. And they were really unflinching in terms of their support,” Sloan said.

Unsurprisingly, the company plans to use the new funding to expand its go-to-market efforts (that’s why it hired Perry, after all) but Sloan also noted that Contentful plans to invest quite a bit into R&D as well as it looks to help its customers solve more adjacent problems as well.


By Frederic Lardinois

Adobe announces AI toolbox for Experience Platform

Most companies don’t have the personnel to do AI well, so they turn to platform vendors like Adobe for help. Like other platforms, it has been building AI into its product set for several years now, but wanted to give marketers a set of tools that take advantage of some advanced AI capabilities out of the box.

Today, the company announced five pre-packaged AI solutions specifically designed to give marketers more intelligent insight. Amit Ahuja, VP of ecosystem development at Adobe, says even before the pandemic, customers were struggling to deal with the onslaught of data and how they could use it to understand their customers better.

“There is so much data coming in, and customers are struggling to leverage this data — and not just for the purpose of analytics and insights, which is a huge part of it, but also to do predictive optimization,” Ahuja explained.

What’s more, we’ve known for some time that when there is so much data, it becomes impossible to make sense of it manually. Given that AI deals best with tons of data, Adobe wanted to take advantage of that, while packaging some popular data scenarios in a way that makes it easy for marketers to get insights.

That data comes from the Adobe Experience Platform, which the is designed to pull data not only from Adobe products, but from a variety of enterprise sources to help marketers build a more complete picture of their customers and get answers to key questions.

Customer Insights AI helps users understand their customers better. Image Credit: Adobe

The company is announcing a total of five AI tools today, two of which are generally available with the remainder in Beta for now. For starters, Customer AI helps marketers understand why their customers do what they do. For instance, why they keep coming back or why they stopped. Attribution AI helps marketers understand how effective their strategies are, something that’s always important, but especially in this economy where effectively deploying spend is more important than ever.

The first of the Beta tools is Journey AI, which helps marketers decide the best channel to engage customers. Content and Commerce AI looks at the most effective way to deliver content and finally Leads AI looks at the visitors most likely to convert to customers.

These five are just a start, and the company plans to add new tools to the toolbox as customers look for additional insights from the data to help them improve their marketing outcomes.


By Ron Miller

How Adobe shifted a Las Vegas conference to executives’ living rooms in less than 30 days

Adobe was scheduled to hold its annual conference in Las Vegas two weeks ago, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to make alternate plans. In less than a month, its events team shifted venues for the massive conference, not once, but twice as the severity of the situation became clear.

This year didn’t just involve Adobe Summit itself. To make things more interesting, it was also hosting Magento Imagine as a separate conference within a conference at the same time. (Adobe bought Magento in 2018 for $1.6 billion.)

Originally, Adobe had more than 500 sessions planned across four venues on the Las Vegas Strip, with more than 23,000 attendees expected. Combining all of the sponsors, partners and Adobe personnel, it involved more than 40,000 hotel rooms.

Once it became clear that such a large event couldn’t happen, the company reimagined the conference as a fully digital experience.

Plan A

VP of Experience Marketing Alex Amado is in charge of planning Adobe Summit, a tall task under normal circumstances.

“Planning Summit is a year-round endeavor,” he said. “Literally within weeks of finishing one of those Las Vegas events we are starting on the next one, and some of the work actually is on an 18 or 24-month cycle because we have those long-term hotel contracts and all of that stuff.

“For the last 12 months, basically, we had people who were working on what we now call Plan A — and we didn’t know that we needed a Plan B and Plan C — and the original event was going to be our biggest yet.”

2019 Adobe Summit stage in Las Vegas. Photo: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

After the team began to wonder in January if the virus would force them to change how they deliver the conference, they started building contingency plans in earnest, Amado said. “As we got into February, things started looking a little scarier, and it very quickly escalated to the point where we were talking really seriously about Plan B.”


By Ron Miller

Adobe turns it up to 11, surpassing $11B in revenue

Yesterday, Adobe submitted its quarterly earnings report and the results were quite good. The company generated a tad under $3 billion for the quarter at $2.99 billion, and reported that revenue exceeded $11 billion for FY 2019, its highest ever mark.

“Fiscal 2019 was a phenomenal year for Adobe as we exceeded $11 billion in revenue, a significant milestone for the company. Our record revenue and EPS performance in 2019 makes us one of the largest, most diversified, and profitable software companies in the world. Total Adobe revenue was $11.17 billion in FY 2019, which represents 24% annual growth,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told analysts and reporters in his company’s post-earnings call.

Adobe made a couple of key M&A moves this year that appear to be paying off, including nabbing Magento in May for $1.7 billion and Marketo in September for $4.75 billion. Both companies fit inside its “Digital Experience” revenue bucket. In its most recent quarter, Adobe’s Digital Experience segment generated $859 million in revenue, compared with $821 million in the sequentially previous quarter.

Obviously buying two significant companies this year helped push those numbers, something CFO John Murphy acknowledged in the call:

“Key Q4 highlights include strong year-over-year growth in our Content and Commerce solutions led by Adobe Experience Manager and success with cross-selling and up-selling Magento; Adoption of Adobe Experience Platform, Audience Manager and Real-Time CDP in our Data & Insights solutions; and momentum in our Marketo business, including in the mid-market segment, which helped fuel growth in our Customer Journey Management solutions.”

All of that added up to growth across the Digital Experience category.

But Adobe didn’t simply buy its way to new market share. The company also continued to build a suite of products in-house to help grow new revenue from the enterprise side of its business.

“We’re rapidly evolving our CXM product strategy to deliver generational technology platforms, launch innovative new services and introduce enhancements to our market-leading applications. Adobe Experience Platform is the industry’s first purpose-built CXM platform. With real-time customer profiles, continuous intelligence, and an open and extensible architecture, Adobe Experience Platform makes delivering personalized customer experiences at scale a reality,” Narayan said.

Of course, the enterprise is just part of it. Adobe’s creative tools remain its bread and butter with the Creative tools accounting for $1.74 billion in revenue and Document Cloud adding another $339 million this quarter.

The company is talking confidently about 2020, as its recent acquisitions mature and become a bigger part of the company’s digital experience offerings. But Narayan feels good about the performance this year in digital experience: “When I take a step back and look at what’s happened during the year, I feel really good about the amount of innovation that’s happening. And the second thing I feel really good about is the alignment across Magento, Marketo and just call it, the core DX business in terms of having a more unified and aligned go-to-market, which has not only helped our results, but it’s also helped the operating expense associated with that business,” he said.

It is no small feat for any software company to surpass $11 billion in trailing revenue. Consider that Adobe, which was founded in 1982, goes back to the earliest days of desktop PC software in the 1980s. Yet it has managed to transform into a massive cloud services company over the last five years under Narayan’s leadership and flourish there.


By Ron Miller

Meme editor Kapwing grows 10X, raises $11M

Kapwing is a laymen’s Adobe Creative Suite built for what people actually do on the internet: make memes and remix media. Need to resize a video? Add text or subtitles to a video? Trim or crop or loop or frame or rotate or soundtrack or… Then you need Kapwing. The free web and mobile tool is built for everyone, not just designers. No software download or tutorials to slog through. Just efficient creativity.

Kapwing Video Editor

In a year since coming out of stealth with 100,000 users, Kapwing has grown 10X to over 1 million. Now it going pro, building out its $20/month collaboration tools for social media managers and scrappy teams. But it won’t forget its roots with teens, so it’s dropped its pay-$6-to-remove-watermarks tier while keeping its core features free.

Eager to capitalize on the meme and mobile content business, CRV has just led an $11 million Series A round for Kapwing. It’s joined by follow-on cash from Village Global, Sinai, and Shasta Ventures plus new investors Jane VC, Harry Stebbings, Vector, and the Xoogler Syndicate. CRV partners ‘the venture twins’ Justine and Olivia Moore actually met Kapwing co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven while they all worked at The Stanford Daily newspaper together in 2012.

“As a team, we love memes. We talk about internet fads almost every day at lunch and pay close attention to digital media trends” says Enthoven, who started the company with fellow Googler Eric Lu. “One of our cultural tenets is to respect the importance of design, art, and culture in the world, and another one is to not take ourselves too seriously.” But it is taking on serious clients.

Kapwing Tools

 

As Kapwing’s toolset has grown, it’s seen paying customers coming from Amazon, Sony, Netflix, and Spotify. Now only 13% of what’s made with it are traditional text-plus-media memes. “Kapwing will always be designed for creators first: the students, artists, influencers, entrepreneurs, etc who define and spread culture” says Enthoven. “But we make money from the creative professionals, marketers, media teams, and office workers who need to create content for work.”

That’s why in addition to plenty of templates for employing the latest trending memes, Kapwing now helps Pro subscribers with permanent hosting, saving throughout the creation process, and re-editing after export. Eventually it plans to sell enterprise licenses to let whole companies use Kapwing.

Kapwing Tools 1

Copycats are trying to chip away at its business, but Kapwing will use its new funding to keep up a breakneck pace of development. Pronounced “Ka-Pwing” like a bullet riccochet, it’s trying to stay ahead of Imgflip, ILoveIMG, Imgur’s on-site tool, and more robust apps like Canva.

If you’ve ever been stuck with a landscape video that won’t fit in an Instagram Story, a bunch of clips you want to stitch together, or the need to subtitle something for accessibility, you’ll know the frustration of lacking a purpose-built tool. And if you’re on mobile, there are even few options. Unlike some software suite you have to install on a desktop, Kapwing works right from a browser.

Trending Memes Kapwing

“‘Memes’ is such a broad category of media nowadays. It could refer to a compilation like the political singalong videos, animations like Shooting Star memes, or a change in music like the AOC Dancing memes” Enthoven explains. “Although they used to be edgy, memes have become more mainstream . . . Memes popularized new types of multimedia formats and made raw, authentic footage more acceptable on social media.”

As communication continues to shift from text to visual media, design can’t only be the domain of designers. Kapwing empowers anyone to storytell and entertain, whether out of whimsy or professional necessity. If big-name creative software from Adobe or Apple don’t simplify and offer easy paths through common use cases, they’ll see themselves usurped by the tools of the people.


By Josh Constine

Ten years after Adobe bought Omniture, the deal comes into clearer focus

Ten years ago this week, Adobe acquired Omniture for $1.8 billion. At the time, Adobe was a software company selling boxed software like Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop to creatives. Many people were baffled by the move, not realizing that purchasing a web analytics company was really the first volley in a full company transformation to the cloud and a shift in focus from consumer to enterprise.

It would take many years for the full vision to unfold, so you can forgive people for not recognizing the implications of the acquisition at the time, but CEO Shantanu Narayen seemed to give an inkling of what he had in mind. “This is a game-changer for both Adobe and our customers. We will enable advertisers, media companies and e-tailers to realize the full value of their digital assets,” he said in a statement after the acquisition became public.

While most people thought that perhaps this move involved some sort of link between design and data, it would turn out to be more complex than that. Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, tried to figure out the thinking behind the deal in an EContent column published a couple of months after it was announced.

“Going forward, I think the real action will continue to revolve around integrating management and metrics, less so than integrating design and metrics. And that’s why I also think that Adobe isn’t done acquiring yet,” It was pure speculation on Byrne’s part, but it proved prescient.

There’s something happening here


By Ron Miller

Latest Adobe tool helps marketers work directly with customer journey data

Adobe has a lot going on with Analytics and the Customer Experience Platform, a place to gather data to understand customers better. Today, it announced a new analytics tool that enables employees to work directly with customer journey data to help deliver a better customer experience.

The customer journey involves a lot of different systems from a company data lake to CRM to point of sale. This tool pulls all of that data together from across multiple systems and various channels and brings it into the data analysis workspace, announced in July.

Nate Smith, group manager for product marketing for Adobe Analytics, says the idea is to give access to this data in a standard way across the organization, whether it’s a data scientist, an analyst with SQL skills or a marketing pro simply looking for insight.

“When you think about organizations that are trying to do omni-channel analysis or trying to get that next channel of data in, they now have the platform to do that, where the data can come in and we standardize it on an academic model,” he said. They then layer this ability to continuously query the data in a visual way to get additional insight they might not have seen.

Adobe screenshot 1

Screenshot: Adobe

Adobe is trying to be as flexible as possible in every step of the process, and openness was a guiding principle here, Smith said. That means that data can come from any source, and users can visualize it using Adobe tools or an external tool like Tableau or Looker. What’s more, they can get data in or out as needed, or even use your their own models, Smith said.

“We recognize that as much as we’d love to have everyone go all in on the Adobe stack, we understand that there is existing significant investment in other tech and that integration and interoperability really needs to happen, as well,” he said.

Ultimately this is about giving marketers access to a full picture of the customer data to deliver the best experience possible based on what you know about them. “Being able to have insight and engagement points to help with the moments that matter and provide great experience is really what we’re aiming to do with this,” he said.

This product will be generally available next month.


By Ron Miller

Adobe’s Amit Ahuja will be talking customer experience at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise

As companies collect increasingly large amounts of data about customers, the end game is about improving the customer experience. It’s a term we’re hearing a lot of these days, and we are going to be discussing that very topic with Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s vice president of ecosystem development, next month at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco. Grab your early-bird tickets right now — $100 savings ends today!

Customer experience covers a broad array of enterprise software and includes data collection, analytics and software. Adobe deals with all of this, including the Adobe Experience Platform for data collection, Adobe Analytics for visualization and understanding and Adobe Experience Cloud for building applications.

The idea is to begin to build an understanding of your customers through the various interactions you have with them, and then build applications to give them a positive experience. There is a lot of talk about “delighting” customers, but it’s really about using the digital realm to help them achieve what they want as efficiently as possible, whatever that means to your business.

Ahuja will be joining TechCrunch’s editors, along with Qualtrics chief experience officer Julie Larson-Green and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to discuss the finer points of what it means to build a customer experience, and how software can help drive that.

Ahuja has been with Adobe since 2005 when he joined as part of the $3.4 billion Macromedia acquisition. His primary role today involves building and managing strategic partnerships and initiatives. Prior to this, he was the head of Emerging Businesses and the GM of Adobe’s Data Management Platform business, which focuses on advertisers. He also spent seven years in Adobe’s Corporate Development Group, where he helped complete the acquisitions of Omniture, Scene7, Efficient Frontier, Demdex and Auditude.

Amit will be joining us on September 5 in San Francisco, along with some of the biggest influencers in enterprise, including Bill McDermott from SAP, Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Aparna Sinha from Google, Wendy Nather from Duo Security, Aaron Levie from Box and Andrew Ng from Landing AI.

Early-bird savings end today, August 9. Book your tickets today and you’ll save $100 before prices go up.

Bringing a group? Book our 4+ group tickets and you’ll save 20% on the early-bird rate. Bring the whole squad here.


By Ron Miller

Adobe’s latest Customer Experience Platform updates take aim at data scientists

Adobe’s Customer Experience Platform provides a place to process all of the data that will eventually drive customer experience applications in the Adobe Experience Cloud. This involves bringing in vast amounts of transactional and interactional data being created across commerce platforms. This process is complex and involves IT, applications developers and data scientists.

Last Fall, the company introduced a couple of tools in Beta for the last group. Data scientists need familiar kinds of tools to work with the data as it streams into the platform in order to create meaningful models for the application developers to build upon. Today, it made two of those tools generally available — Query Service and Data Science Workspaces — which should go a long way towards helping data scientists feel comfortable working with data on this platform.

Ronell Hugh, group manager at Adobe Experience Platform, says these tools are about helping data scientists move beyond pure data management and getting into deriving more meaningful insights from it. “Data scientists were just bringing data in and trying to manage and organize it, and now we see that with Experience Platform, they are able to do that in a more seamless way, and can spend more time doing what they really want to do, which is deriving insights from the data to be actionable in the organization,” Hugh told TechCrunch.

Part of that is being able to do queries across the data sets they have brought into the platform. The newly released Query Service will enable data scientists and analysts to write queries to understand the data better and get specific answers based on the data faster.

“With Query Service in Adobe Experience Platform, analysts and data scientists can now poll all of their datasets stored in Experience Platform to answer specific cross-channel and cross-platform questions, faster than ever before. This includes behavioral data, as well as point-of-sale (POS), customer relationship management (CRM) and more,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool.

In addition, the company made the Data Science Workspace generally available. As the name implies, it provides a place for data scientists to work with the data and build models derived from it. The idea behind this tool is to use artificial intelligence to help automate some of the more mundane aspects of the data science job.

“Data scientists can take advantage of this new AI that fuels deeper data discovery by using Adobe Sensei pre-built models, bringing their existing models or creating custom models from scratch in Experience Platform,” the company wrote in the announcement blog post.

Today, it was the data scientists’ turn, but the platform is designed to help IT manage underlying infrastructure, whether in the cloud or on premises, and for application developers to take advantage of the data models and build customer experience applications on top of that. It’s a complex, yet symbiotic relationship, and Adobe is attempting to pull all of it together in a single platform.


By Ron Miller

Synergy Research finds enterprise SaaS revenue hits $100B run rate, led by Microsoft, Salesforce

In its most recent report, Synergy Research, a company that monitors cloud marketshare, found that enterprise SaaS revenue passed the $100 billion run rate this quarter. The market was led by Microsoft and Salesforce.

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that these two enterprise powerhouses come in at the top. Microsoft reported $10.1 billion in Productivity and Business Processes revenue, which includes Office 365, the Dynamics line and LinkedIn, the company it bought in 2016 for $26.2 billion. That $10.1 billion accounted for top spot with 17 percent

Salesforce was next with around 12 percent. It announced $3.74 billion in revenue in its most recent earnings statement with Service Cloud alone accounting for $1.02 billion in revenue, crossing that billion dollar mark for the first time.

Adobe came in third, good for around 10 percent market share, with $2.74 billion in revenue for its most recent report. Digital Media, which includes Creative Cloud and Document Cloud, accounted for the vast majority of the revenue with $1.8 billion. SAP and Oracle complete the top companies

SaaS Q119

A growing market

While that number may seem low, given we are 20 years into the development of the SaaS market, it is still a significant milestone, not to be dismissed lightly. As Synergy pointed out, while the market feels mature, if finds that SaaS revenue still accounts for just 20 percent of the overall enterprise software market. There’s still a long way to go, showing as with the infrastructure side of the market, things change much more slowly than we imagine, and the market is growing rapidly, as the impressive growth rates show.

“While SaaS growth rate isn’t as high as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service), the SaaS market is substantially bigger and it will remain so until 2023. Synergy forecasts strong growth across all SaaS segments and all geographic regions,” the company wrote in its report.

Salesforce is the only one of the top five that was actually born in the cloud. Adobe, an early desktop software company, switched to cloud in 2013. Microsoft, of course, has been a desktop stalwart for many years before embracing the cloud over the last decade. SAP and Oracle are traditional enterprise software companies, born long before the cloud was even a concept, that began transitioning when the market began shifting.

Getting to a billion

Yet in spite of being late to the game, these numbers show that the market is still dominated by the old guard enterprise software companies and how difficult it is to achieve market dominance for companies born in the cloud. Salesforce emerged 20 years ago as an early cloud adherent, but of all of the enterprise SaaS companies that were started this century only ServiceNow and WorkDay show up in the Synergy list lumped in “the next 10.”

That’s not to say there aren’t SaaS companies making some serious money, just not quite as much as the top players to this point. Jason Lemkin, CEO and founder at SaaStr, a company that invests in and supports enterprise SaaS companies, says a lot of companies are close to that $1 billion goal than you might think, and he’s optimistic that we are going to see more.

“We will have at least 100 companies top $1 billion in ARR, probably many more. It is just math. Almost everyone IPO’ing [SaaS company] has 120-140% revenue retention. That will compound $100 million or $200 million to $1 billion. The only question is when,” he told TechCrunch.

SaaS revenue numbers by company

Chart courtesy of SaasStr

He adds, that annualized numbers are very close behind ARR numbers and it won’t take long to catch up. Yet as we have seen with some of the companies on this list, it’s still not easy to get there.

It’s hard to develop a billion dollar SaaS company, and it takes time and patience, and perhaps some strategic acquisitions to get there, but the market trajectory continues to move upward. It will likely only grow stronger as more companies move to software in the cloud, and that bodes well for many of the players in this market, even those that didn’t show up on Synergy’s chart.


By Ron Miller

Transitioning from engineering to product with Adobe’s Anjul Bhambhri

Many roles inside of startups and tech companies are clear: marketers market, salespeople sell, engineers engineer. Then there are the roles like “product manager” that seem obvious on the surface (product managers “product,” right?) but in reality are very fuzzy roles that can be highly variable across different companies.

A few weeks ago, TechCrunch editor Jordan Crook interviewed J Crowley, who is head of product for Airbnb Lux and was formerly at Foursquare. Crowley came up in the consumer product world without a technical background, and he spoke to overcoming some of his own insecurities to become a leading product thinker in the Valley.

This week, I wanted to offer another perspective on product from Anjul Bhambhri, who is Vice President, Platform Engineering at Adobe, where she and her team conceived Adobe’s new Experience Platform for real-time customer experience management.

Across Bhambhri’s more than two decade career straddling the line between software engineering and product, she has worked on deeply technical, enterprise projects at Sybase and Informix as startups, big data infrastructure at IBM, and now at Adobe.

We discuss the challenges and opportunities of moving from an engineering career into product (and management more generally) as well as the ways she thinks about building compelling products that are sold B2B.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity

Scaling out product after product

Danny Crichton: Anjul, thanks for joining us. One of the major initiatives that we’ve been doing as part of Extra Crunch is to interview experts in their fields, talking about how they go about doing their job, and how you think about the decisions that come up on a day-to-day basis in the work that you do. So to start, I would love to talk a little about your background.

Anjul Bhambhri: Very nice to meet you, and happy to share my journey, Danny. I have been in the software industry now for really almost 30 years. I’m an electrical engineer, and basically, my entire career has been in data, databases, and big data analytics.


By Danny Crichton

Salesforce Customer Data Platform begins to take shape

Salesforce announced it is making progress toward releasing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) this week at Salesforce Connections in Chicago. While the company is talking in greater detail about the platform, they are calling Customer 360, it won’t be available for pilot customers until this Fall.

The idea behind the CDP isn’t all that different from good old-fashioned CRM, but instead of using a single source of data in a single database, Salesforce’s bread-and-butter product, it draws upon a variety of sources. Martin Khin, SVP for product strategy at Salesforce Marketing Cloud says that the company found that the average customer uses 15 significant sources of data to build a much more comprehensive picture of the customer.

In the 1990s, tracking customer data in a CRM was a fairly straightforward process. You had basic information like company name, address, phone number, main contacts and perhaps a listing of what each customer purchased, but as it has become increasingly crucial to gather enough data to fully understand the customer, it takes a richer set of data.

This whole area of creating a central database like a CDP is something that Salesforce, Adobe and others have begun to discuss in the last year. When you’re dealing with multiple sources of data, it becomes much more than a customer tracking problem. It becomes a serious data integration issue as the data is coming from a variety of disparate sources.

Khin says it comes down to pulling three main areas together. The first is identity management, in the sense that you have to be able to stitch together who this person is as he or she moves across the different data sources. It’s crucial to understand that this is the same individual in each channel and interaction, regardless of the system where the interaction occurs, and even if the customer started out without identifying themselves.

Once you have that identity foundation, which is the key to all of this, you can begin to build that 360 degree picture in the CDP, and with that, you can engage with the customer across multiple channels in a more intelligent way, based on actual detailed data about the person.

If the idea is to provide increasingly customized interactions, it requires as much data as you can gather to offer customized messages across each medium. The danger here is that you’re building a complete picture of each consumer in a central database, which in itself becomes a central point of failure. If a hacker were to breach that database, the prize would be a huge treasure trove of personal customer information.

Khin says Salesforce recognizes this of course, and cites Chairman Marc Benioff’s trust mantra. If that happened, it would be a huge breach of customer trust (and of their customers) and while it’s impossible to full protect any database, Salesforce considers security a huge priority.

The other issue is privacy around this information, especially in light of GDPR customer privacy rules in Europe, and other privacy initiatives coming down the pike in other countries. Khin says Salesforce customers have permission toggles they can turn on or off, depending on the region they are in.

For now, the Salesforce CDP is taking another step towards becoming an actual product. On the plus side, it could mean more meaningful, highly targeted marketing, but on the negative side, it’s a lot of personal information sitting in one place, and that’s something that every vendor building a CDP needs to take into consideration.


By Ron Miller

Adobe launches an Adobe XD accelerator to woo developers

The design world is in a state of full-fledged competition. Never in history have designers and their respective teams had so many options to choose from. As both demand and supply grow, design players are working to build out the most comprehensive experience possible for their users.

Adobe, the incumbent in the space, is today launching the Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator. Essentially, individuals and teams interested in taking some time to build out plugins for Adobe XD can get themselves three months at Adobe’s HQ, access to Adobe’s product, design and engineering team, as well as a $20K per person stipend to offset expenses.

To be clear, Adobe is not taking equity in these projects and participants will leave Adobe HQ with 100 precent ownership over their built IP.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Plug-in Accelerator is supported by Adobe’s Fund for Design, a $10 million venture fund launched in May 2018. Both the fund and the accelerator are meant to open up Adobe, which has historically been a more closed ecosystem.

“For a company like Adobe, we’re flexing a new muscle by working with outside parties, in house, at Adobe Headquarters,” said Design Principal at Adobe Khoi Vinh. “It’s a real change of thinking from the Adobe of five or ten years ago, but we’re embracing the community’s energy here.”

It was less than a year ago that Adobe opened up Adobe XD to integrate with other tools, such as UserTesting and Airtable, among others.

Vinh says that, for now, Adobe isn’t sure exactly how many teams or individuals it will accept into the accelerator. As it’s the first time the company has done something like this, it’s not adhering to a specific number of participants or a rigid curriculum. Vinh says that some teams might have a clear vision of what they’re building and simply seek one-to-one advice from the engineering or product teams, whereas others might want a more collaborative environment to brainstorm and build out the idea itself.

One thing that is clear, however, is that Adobe is looking for hyper early-stage projects.

“What ended up happening with the Fund for Design is that the grants and investments made a lot of sense for people who were founders and already had companies,” said Vinh. “The Plug-In Accelerator is meant to target people who are even earlier stage than a founder and maybe not ready to start their own company.”

The hope is that teams of one to three will have the chance to build great plug-ins for Adobe XD, making the platform more attractive to clients as Figma and InVision make a run for those same users.

Adobe isn’t the first design tool firm to launch a venture fund. InVision launched the $5 million Design Forward Fund in late 2017.

Folks interested in the Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator can apply here.


By Jordan Crook