Onit acquires legal startup McCarthyFinch to inject AI into legal workflows

Onit, a workflow software company based in Houston with a legal component, announced this week that it has acquired 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alum McCarthyFinch.  Onit intends to use the startup’s AI skills to beef up its legal workflow software offerings.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

After evaluating a number of companies in the space, Onit focused on McCarthyFinch, which gives it an artificial intelligence component the company’s legal workflow software had been lacking. “We evaluated about a dozen companies in the AI space and dug in deep on six of them. McCarthyFinch stood out from the pack. They had the strongest technology and the strongest team,” Eric M. Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit told TechCrunch.

The company intends to inject that AI into its existing Aptitude workflow platform.”Part of what really got me excited about McCarthyFinch was the very first conversation I had with their CEO, Nick Whitehouse. They considered themselves an AI platform, which complemented our approach and our workflow automation platform, Aptitude,” Elfman said.

McCarthyFinch CEO and co-founder Whitehouse says the startup was considering whether to raise more money or look at being acquired earlier this year when Onit made its interest known. At first, he wasn’t really interested in being acquired and was hoping to go the partner route, but over time that changed.

“I was very much on the partner track, and was probably quite dismissive to begin with because I was quite focused on that partner strategy. But as we talked, all egos aside, it just made sense [to move to acquisition talks],” Whitehouse said.

The talks heated up in May and the deal officially closed last week. With Onit, headquartered in Houston and McCarthyFinch in New Zealand, the negotiations and meetings all happened on Zoom. The two companies’ principals have never met in person. The plan is for McCarthyFinch to stay in place, even after the pandemic ends. Whitehouse expects to make a trip to Houston whenever it is safe to do so.

Whitehouse says his experience with Battlefield has had a huge influence on him. “Just the insights that we got through Battlefield, the coaching that we got, those things have stuck with me and they’ll stick with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The company had 45 customers and 17 employees at the time of the acquisition. It raised $5 million US dollars along the way. Now it becomes part of Onit as the journey continues.


By Ron Miller

IBM is acquiring APM startup Instana as it continues to expand hybrid cloud vision

As IBM transitions from software and services to a company fully focussed on hybrid cloud management, it announced  its intention to buy Instana, an applications performance management startup with a cloud native approach that fits firmly within that strategy.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

With Instana, IBM can build on its internal management tools, giving it a way to monitor containerized environments running Kubernetes. It hopes by adding the startup to the fold it can give customers a way to manage complex hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

“Our clients today are faced with managing a complex technology landscape filled with mission-critical applications and data that are running across a variety of hybrid cloud environments – from public clouds, private clouds and on-premises,” Rob Thomas, senior vice president for cloud and data platform said in a statement. He believes Instana will help ease that load, while using machine learning to provide deeper insights.

At the time of the company’s $30 million Series C in 2018, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois described the company this way. “What really makes Instana stand out is its ability to automatically discover and monitor the ever-changing infrastructure that makes up a modern application, especially when it comes to running containerized microservices.” That would seem to be precisely the type of solution that IBM would be looking for.

As for Instana, the founders see a good fit for the two companies, especially in light of the Red Hat acquisition in 2018 that is core to IBM’s hybrid approach. “The combination of Instana’s next generation APM and Observability platform with IBM’s Hybrid Cloud and AI technologies excited me from the day IBM approached us with the idea of joining forces and combining our technologies,” CEO Mirko Novakovic wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Indeed, in a recent interview IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told CNBC’s Jon Fortt, that they are betting the farm on hybrid cloud management with Red Hat at the center. When you combine that with the decision to spin out the company’s managed infrastructure services business, this purchase shows that they intend to pursue every angle

“The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open-source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence,” Krishna told CNBC.

Instana, which is based in Chicago with offices in Munich, was founded in 2015 in the early days of Kubernetes and the startup’s APM solution has evolved to focus more on the needs of monitoring in a cloud native environment. The company raised $57 million along the way with the most recent round being that Series C in 2018.

The deal per usual is subject to regulatory approvals, but the company believes it should close in the next few months.


By Ron Miller

Palo Alto Networks to acquire Expanse in deal worth $800M

Palo Alto Networks has been on buying binge for the last couple of years, and today it added to its haul, announcing a deal to acquire Expanse for $800 million in cash and equity awards. The deal breaks down to $670 million in cash and stock and another $130 million in equity awards to Expanse employees.

Expanse provides a service to help companies understand and protect their attack surface, where they could be most vulnerable to attack. It works by giving the security team a view of how the company’s security profile could look to an attacker trying to gain access.

The plan is to fold Expanse into Palo Alto’s Cortex Suite, an AI-driven set of tools designed to detect and prevent attacks in an automated way. Expanse should provide Palo Alto with a highly valuable set of data to help feed the AI models.

“By integrating Expanse’s attack surface management capabilities into Cortex after closing, we will be able to offer the first solution that combines the outside view of an organization’s attack surface with an inside view to proactively address all security threats,” Palo Alto Networks chairman and CEO Nikesh Arora said in a statement.

Expanse sees the acquisition as a way to accelerate the company road map using the resources of a larger company like Palo Alto, a typical argument from companies being acquired. “Joining forces with Palo Alto Networks will let us achieve our most important business goals years ahead of schedule. During the course of conversations with Palo Alto Networks leadership, we shared optimism that the right combination of technology and people can solve many cybersecurity challenges that to date have seemed intractable,” the startup’s founders wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

The two co-founders, Dr. Tim Junio and Dr. Matt Kraning, will be joining Palo Alto under the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in Palo Alto’s fiscal second quarter, assuming it passes regulatory muster.

Expanse was founded in 2012 and has raised $130 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent raise was a $70 million Series C last year, which was led by TPG.

Today’s acquisition is Palo Alto’s third in 2020 and the 10th since 2018. Palo Alto stock was up 2.15% in early trading.


By Ron Miller

Coupa Software snags Llamasoft for $1.5B to bring together spending and supply chain data

Coupa Software, a publicly traded company that helps large corporations manage spending, announced that it was buying Llamasoft, an 18 year old Michigan company that helps large companies manage their supply chain. The deal was pegged at $1.5 billion.

This year Llamasoft released its latest tool, an AI-driven platform for managing supply chains intelligently. This capability in particular seemed to attract Coupa’s attention, as it was looking for a supply chain application to compliment its spend management capabilities.

Coupa CEO and chairman Rob Bernshteyn says when you combine that supply chain data with Coupa’s spending data, it can produce a powerful combination.

“Lamasoft’s deep supply chain expertise and sophisticated data science and modeling capabilities, combined with the roughly $2 trillion of cumulative transactional spend data we have in Coupa, will empower businesses with the intelligence needed to pivot on a dime,” Bernshteyn said in a statement.

The purchase comes at a time when companies are focusing more and more on digitizing processes across enterprise, and when supply chains can be uncertain, depending on the location of COVID hotspots at any particular time.

“With demand uncertainty on one hand, and supply volatility on the other, companies are in need of supply chain technology that can help them assess alternatives and balance trade-offs to achieve desired business results. LLamasoft provides these capabilities with an AI-powered cloud platform that empowers companies to make smarter supply chain decisions, faster,” the company wrote in a statement.

Llamasoft was founded in 2002 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has raised over $56 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its largest raise was a $50 million Series B in 2015 led by Goldman Sachs.

The company generated more than $100 million in revenue and has 650 big customers including Boeing, DHL, Kimberly-Clark and GM, according to company data.

Coupa has been extremely acquisitive over the years, buying 17 companies, according to Crunchbase data. This deal represents the fourth acquisition this year for the company. So far the stock market is not enamored with the acquisition with the company’s stock price down 5.20% at publication.


By Ron Miller

Twilio wraps $3.2B purchase of Segment after warp speed courtship

It was barely a month ago we began hearing rumors that Twilio was interested in acquiring Segment. The $3.2 billion deal was officially announced three weeks ago, and this morning the communications API company announced that the deal had closed, astonishingly fast for an acquisition of this size.

While we can’t know for sure, the speed with which the deal closed could suggest that it was in the works longer than we had known, and when we began hearing rumors of the acquisition, it could have already been signed, sealed and delivered. In addition, the fact that Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt knew one another before coming to terms might have helped accelerate the process.

Regardless, the two companies are a nice fit. Both deal with the API economy, providing a set of tools to help developers easily add a particular set of functions to their applications. For Twilio, that’s a set of communications APIs, while Segment focuses on customer data.

When you pull the two sets of tooling together, and combine that with Twilio’s 2018 SendGrid acquisition, you can see the possibility to build more complete applications for interacting with customers at every level including basic communications like video, SMS and audio from Twilio, as well as customer data from Segment and customized emails and ads based on those interactions from SendGrid.

As companies increasingly focus on digital engagement, especially in the midst of a pandemic, Twilio’s Lawson believes the biggest roadblock to this type of engagement has been that data has been locked in silos, precisely the kind of problem that Segment has been attacking.

“With the addition of Segment, Twilio’s Customer Engagement Platform now enables companies to both understand their customer and engage with them digitally — the combination is key to building great digital experiences,” Lawson said in a statement.

In a recent post looking at the reasoning behind the deal, Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials saw it this way: “This move allows Twilio to impact the data-insight-interaction-experience transformation process by removing friction from developers using their platform,” Leary explained.

With the deal closed, Segment will become a division of Twilio. Reinhardt will continue to be CEO, and will report directly to Lawson.


By Ron Miller

Juniper Networks acquires Boston-area AI SD-WAN startup 128 Technology for $450M

Today Juniper Networks announced it was acquiring smart wide area networking startup 128 Technology for $450 million.

This marks the second AI-fueled networking company Juniper has acquired in the last year and a half after purchasing Mist Systems in March 2019 for $405 million. With 128 Technology, the company gets more AI SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN is short for software-defined wide area networks, which means networks that cover a wide geographical area such as satellite offices, rather than a network in a defined space.

Today, instead of having simply software-defined networking, the newer systems use artificial intelligence to help automate session and policy details as needed, rather than dealing with static policies, which might not fit every situation perfectly.

Writing in a company blog post announcing the deal, executive vice president and chief product officer Manoj Leelanivas sees 128 Technology adding great flexibility to the portfolio as it tries to transition from legacy networking approaches to modern ones driven by AI, especially in conjunction with the Mist purchase.

“Combining 128 Technology’s groundbreaking software with Juniper SD-WAN, WAN Assurance and Marvis Virtual Network Assistant (driven by Mist AI) gives customers the clearest and quickest path to full AI-driven WAN operations — from initial configuration to ongoing AIOps, including customizable service levels (down to the individual user), simple policy enforcement, proactive anomaly detection, fault isolation with recommended corrective actions, self-driving network operations and AI-driven support,” Leelanivas wrote in the blog post.

128 Technologies was founded in 2014 and raised over $97 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent round was a $30 million Series D investment in September 2019 led by G20 Ventures and The Perkins Fund.

In addition to the $450 million, Juniper has asked 128 Technology to issue retention stock bonuses to encourage the startup’s employees to stay on during the transition to the new owners. Juniper has promised to honor this stock under the terms of the deal. The deal is expected to close in Juniper’s fiscal fourth quarter subject to normal regulatory review.


By Ron Miller

Twilio is buying customer data startup Segment for between $3B and $4B

Sources have told TechCrunch that Twilio intends to acquire customer data startup Segment for between $3 and $4 billion. Forbes broke the story on Friday night, reporting a price tag of $3.2 billion.

We have heard from a couple of industry sources that the deal is in the works and could be announced as early as Monday.

Twilio and Segment are both API companies. That means they create an easy way for developers to tap into a specific type of functionality without writing a lot of code. As I wrote in a 2017 article on Segment, it provides a set of APIs to pull together customer data from a variety of sources:

Segment has made a name for itself by providing a set of APIs that enable it to gather data about a customer from a variety of sources like your CRM tool, customer service application and website and pull that all together into a single view of the customer, something that is the goal of every company in the customer information business.

While Twilio’s main focus since it launched in 2008 has been on making it easy to embed communications functionality into any app, it signaled a switch in direction when it released the Flex customer service API in March 2018. Later that same year, it bought SendGrid, an email marketing API company for $2 billion.

Twilio’s market cap as of Friday was an impressive $45 billion. You could see how it can afford to flex its financial muscles to combine Twilio’s core API mission, especially Flex, with the ability to pull customer data with Segment and create customized email or ads with SendGrid.

This could enable Twilio to expand beyond pure core communications capabilities and it could come at the cost of around $5 billion for the two companies, a good deal for what could turn out to be a substantial business as more and more companies look for ways to understand and communicate with their customers in more relevant ways across multiple channels.

As Semil Shah from early stage VC firm Haystack wrote in the company blog yesterday, Segment saw a different way to gather customer data, and Twilio was wise to swoop in and buy it.

Segment’s belief was that a traditional CRM wasn’t robust enough for the enterprise to properly manage its pipe. Segment entered to provide customer data infrastructure to offer a more unified experience. Now under the Twilio umbrella, Segment can continue to build key integrations (like they have for Twilio data), which is being used globally inside Fortune 500 companies already.

Segment was founded in 2011 and raised over $283 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent raise was $175 million in April on a $1.5 billion valuation.

Twilio stock closed at $306.24 per share on Friday up $2.39%.

Segment declined to comment on this story. We also sent a request for comment to Twilio, but hadn’t heard back by the time we published.  If that changes, we will update the story.


By Ron Miller

SAP continues to build out customer experience business with Emarsys acquisition

SAP seemed to be all in on customer experience when it acquired Qualtrics for $8 billion in 2018. It continued on that journey today when it announced it was acquiring Austrian cloud marketing company Emarsys for an undisclosed amount of money.

Emarsys, which raised over $55 million, according to PitchBook data, gives SAP customer personalization technology. If you talk to any marketing automation vendor over the last several years, the focus has been on using a variety of data and touch points to understand the customer better, and deliver more meaningful online experiences.

With the pandemic closing or limiting access to brick and mortar stores, personalization has taken a new urgency as customers are increasingly shopping online and companies need to meet them where they are.

With Emarsys, the company is getting an omnichannel marketing solution that they say is designed to deliver messages to customers wherever they are including e-mail, mobile, social, SMS, and the web, and deliver that at scale.

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics a couple of months ago, just 20 months after buying, it left some question about whether SAP was fully committed to customer experience business.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that the acquisition shows that SAP is still very much in the game. “This illustrates that SAP is serious about CX and competing in a highly competitive space. Emarsys adds industry-specific customer engagement capabilities that should help SAP CX customers accelerate their efforts to provide their customers with the experiences they expect as their needs change over time,” Leary told TechCrunch.

As an ERP company at its core, SAP has traditionally focused on back office kind of operations, but Bob Stutz, president, SAP Customer Experience sees this acquisition as a way to continue bringing back office and front office operations together.

“With Emarsys technology, SAP Customer Experience solutions can link commerce signals with the back office and activate the preferred channel of the customer with a relevant and consistently personalized message, allowing customers the freedom to choose their own engagement,” Stutz said in a statement.

The company, which is based in Austria, was founded back in 2000 when marketing was a very different world. It has built a customer base of 1500 companies with 800 employees in 13 offices across the globe. All of this will become part of SAP, of course and come under Stutz’s purview.

As with all transactions of this type it will be subject to regulatory approval, but the deal is expected to close this quarter.


By Ron Miller

Selling a startup can come with an emotional cost

Every founder dreams of building a substantial company. For those who make it through the myriad challenges, it typically results in an exit. If it’s through an acquisition, that can mean cashing in your equity, paying back investors and rewarding long-time employees, but it also usually results in a loss of power and a substantially reduced role.

Some founders hang around for a while before leaving after an agreed-upon time period, while others depart right away because there is simply no role left for them. However it plays out, being acquired can be an emotional shock: The company you spent years building is no longer under your control,

We spoke to a couple of startup founders who went through this experience to learn what the acquisition process was like, and how it feels to give up something after pouring your heart and soul into building it.

Knowing when it’s time to sell

There has to be some impetus to think about selling: Perhaps you’ve reached a point where growth stalls, or where you need to raise a substantial amount of cash to take you to the next level.

For Tracy Young, co-founder and former CEO at PlanGrid, the forcing event was reaching a point where she needed to raise funds to continue.

After growing a company that helped digitize building plans into a $100 million business, Young ended up selling it to Autodesk for $875 million in 2018. It was a substantial exit, but Young said it was more of a practical matter because the path to further growth was going to be an arduous one.

“When we got the offer from Autodesk, literally we would have had to execute flawlessly and the world had to stay good for the next three years for us to have the same outcome,” she said at a panel on exiting at TechCrunch Disrupt last week.

“As CEO, [my] job is to choose the best path forward for all stakeholders of the company — for our investors, for our team members, for our customers — and that was the path we chose.”

For Rami Essaid, who founded bot mitigation platform Distil Networks in 2011, slowing growth encouraged him to consider an exit. The company had reached around $25 million run rate, but a lack of momentum meant that shifting to a broader product portfolio would have been too heavy a lift.


By Ron Miller

Pure Storage acquires data service platform Portworx for $370M

Pure Storage, the public enterprise data storage company, today announced that it has acquired Portworx, a well-funded startup that provides a cloud-native storage and data-management platform based on Kubernetes, for $370 million in cash. This marks Pure Storage’s largest acquisition to date and shows how important this market for multi-cloud data services has become.

Current Portworx enterprise customers include the likes of Carrefour, Comcast, GE Digital, Kroger, Lufthansa, and T-Mobile. At the core of the service is its ability to help users migrate their data and create backups. It creates a storage layer that allows developers to then access that data, no matter where it resides.

Pure Storage will use Portworx’s technology to expand its hybrid and multi-cloud services and provide Kubernetes -based data services across clouds.

Image Credits: Portworx

“I’m tremendously proud of what we’ve built at Portworx: an unparalleled data services platform for customers running mission-critical applications in hybrid and multi-cloud environments,” said Portworx CEO Murli Thirumale. “The traction and growth we see in our business daily shows that containers and Kubernetes are fundamental to the next-generation application architecture and thus competitiveness. We are excited for the accelerated growth and customer impact we will be able to achieve as a part of Pure.”

When the company raised its Series C round last year, Thirumale told me that Portworx had expanded its customer base by over 100 percent and its bookings increased by 376 from 2018 to 2019.

“As forward-thinking enterprises adopt cloud native strategies to advance their business, we are thrilled to have the Portworx team and their groundbreaking technology joining us at Pure to expand our success in delivering multi-cloud data services for Kubernetes,” said Charles Giancarlo, Chairman and CEO of Pure Storage. “This acquisition marks a significant milestone in expanding our Modern Data Experience to cover traditional and cloud native applications alike.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Progress snags software automation platform Chef for $220M

Progress, a Boston area developer tool company, boosted its offerings in a big way today when it announced it was acquiring software automation platform Chef for $220 million.

Chef, which went 100% open source last year, had annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $70 million from the commercial side of the house. Needless to say, Progress CEO Yogesh Gupta was happy to bring the company into the fold and gain not only that revenue, but a set of highly skilled employees, a strong developer community and an impressive customer list.

Gupta said that Chef fits with his company’s acquisition philosophy. “This acquisition perfectly aligns with our growth strategy and meets the requirements that we’ve previously laid out: a strong recurring revenue model, technology that complements our business, a loyal customer base and the ability to leverage our operating model and infrastructure to run the business more efficiently,” he said in a statement.

Chef CEO Barry Crist offered a typical argument for an acquired company, that Progress offered  a better path to future growth, while sending a message to the open source community and customers that Progress would be a good steward of the startup’s vision.

“For Chef, this acquisition is our next chapter, and Progress will help enhance our growth potential, support our Open Source vision, and provide broader opportunities for our customers, partners, employees and community,” Crist said in a statement.

Chef’s customer list is certainly impressive including tech industry stalwarts like Facebook, IBM and SAP, as well as non-tech companies like Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines and Capital One.

The company was founded in 2008 and had raised $105 million. according to Crunchbase data. It hadn’t raised any funds since 2015 when it raised a $40 million Series E led by DFJ Growth. Other investors along the way included Battery Ventures, Ignition Partners and Scale Venture Partners.

The transaction is expected to close next month pending normal regulatory approvals.


By Ron Miller

Fresh off $200M Series D, Gong acquires early stage startup Vayo

Gong announced a $200 million Series D investment just last month, and loaded with fresh cash, the company wasted no time taking advantage. Today, it announced it was buying early stage Isreali sales technology startup Vayo. The companies did not share terms of the deal, but Gong CEO Amit Bendov said the deal closed a couple of weeks ago.

The two companies match up quite well from a tech standpoint. While Gong searches unstructured data like emails and phone call transcripts and finds nuggets of data, Vaya looks at structured data, which is essentially the output of the Gong search process. What’s more, it handles large amounts of data at scale.

“Vayo helps find customer interactions at a large scale to identify trends like customers likely to churn or usage is going up, or your deals are starting to slow down — and they do this for structured data at scale,” Bendov told TechCrunch.

He said this ability to identify trends was really what attracted him to the company, even though it was still at an early stage of development. “It’s a perfect fit for Gong. We take unstructured data —  emails, audio calls video calls — and extract insights. Customers, especially with a large organization, don’t want to see individual interactions but high order insights […] and they’ve developed [a solution] to identify trends on large data volumes for customer interactions,” he said.

Vayo was founded in 2018 and raised $1.7 million in seed capital, according to Crunchbase. Joining forces with Gong gives them an opportunity to develop the technology inside a company that’s growing quickly and is extremely well capitalized having raised over $300 million in the last 18 months.

Avshi Vital, CEO at Vayo, who has joined Gong with his 4-fellow employees, gave a familiar argument for selling the company. “With Gong we found the perfect partner to realize this mission faster and maximize the impact of the technology we built given the scale of their customer base and growth potential,” he said.

The plan is to fold the Vayo tech into the Gong platform, a process that will take 3-6 months, according to Bendov.


By Ron Miller

Cisco acquiring BabbleLabs to filter out the lawn mower screeching during your video conference

We’ve all been in a video conference, especially this year, when the neighbor started mowing the lawn or kids were playing outside your window — and it can get pretty loud. Cisco, which owns the WebEx video conferencing service wants to do something about that, and late yesterday it announced it was going to acquire BabbleLabs, a startup that can help filter out background noise.

BabbleLabs has a very particular set of skills. It uses artificial intelligence to enhance the speaking voice, while filtering out those unwanted background noises that seem to occur whenever you happen to be in a meeting.

Interestingly enough, Cisco also sees this as a kind of privacy play by removing background conversation. Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager in the Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, says that this should go a long way toward improving the meeting experience for Cisco users.

“Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation — automatically removing unwanted noise — to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences,” Patel, who was at Box for many years before joining Cisco recently, said in a statement.

In a blog post, BabbleLabs CEO and co-founder Chris Rowen wrote that conversations about being acquired by Cisco began just recently, and the deal came together pretty quickly. “We quickly reached a common view that merging BabbleLabs into the Cisco Collaboration team could accelerate our common vision dramatically,” he wrote.

BabbleLabs, which launched three years ago and raised $18 million, according to Crunchbase, had an interesting, but highly technical idea. That can sometimes be difficult to translate into a viable commercial product, but makes a highly attractive acquisition target for a company like Cisco.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says this acquisition could be seen as part of a broader industry consolidation. “We’re seeing consolidation taking place as the big web conferencing players are snapping up smaller players to round out their platforms,” he said.

He added, “WebEx may not be getting the attention that Zoom is, but it still has a significant presence in the enterprise, and this acquisition will allow them to keep improving their offering,”

The deal is expected to close in the current quarter after regulatory approval. Upon closing, BabbleLabs employees will become part of Cisco’s Collaboration Group.


By Ron Miller

Industry experts say it’s full speed ahead as Snowflake files S-1 to go public

When Snowflake filed its S-1 to go public yesterday, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The company which raised $1.4 billion had been valued at $12.4 billion in its last private raise in February. CEO Frank Slootman, who had taken over from Bob Muglia in May last year, didn’t hide the fact that going public was the end game.

When we spoke to him in February at the time of his mega $479 million raise, he was candid about the fact he wanted to take his company to the next level, and predicted it could happen as soon as this summer. In spite of the pandemic and the economic fallout from it, the company decided now was the time to go — as did 4 other companies yesterday including J Frog, Sumo Logic, Unity and Asana.

If you haven’t been following this company as it went through its massive private fund raising process, investors see a company taking a way to store massive amounts of data and moving it to the cloud. This concept is known as a cloud data warehouse as it it stores immense amounts of data.

While the Big 3 cloud companies all offer something similar, Snowflake has the advantage of working on any cloud, and at a time where data portability is highly valued, enables customers to shift data between clouds.

We spoke to several industry experts to get their thoughts on what this filing means for Snowflake, which after taking a blizzard of cash, has to now take a great idea and shift it into the public markets.

Pandemic? What pandemic?

Big market opportunities usually require big investments to build companies that last, that typically go public, and that’s why investors were willing to pile up the dollars to help Snowflake grow. Blake Murray, a research analyst at Canalys says the pandemic is actually working in the startup’s favor as more companies are shifting workloads to the cloud.

“We know that demand for cloud services is higher than ever during this pandemic, which is an obvious positive for Snowflake. Snowflake also services multi-cloud environments, which we see in increasing adoption. Considering the speed it is growing at and the demand for its services, an IPO should help Snowflake continue its momentum,” Murray told TechCrunch.

Leyla Seka, a partner at Operator Collective, who spent many years at Salesforce agrees that the pandemic is forcing many companies to move to the cloud faster than they might have previously. “COVID is a strange motivator for enterprise SaaS. It is speeding up adoption in a way I have never seen before,” she said.

It’s clear to Seka that we’ve moved quickly past the early cloud adopters, and it’s in the mainstream now where a company like Snowflake is primed to take advantage. “Keep in mind, I was at Salesforce for years telling businesses their data was safe in the cloud. So we certainly have crossed the chasm, so to speak and are now in a rapid adoption phase,” she said.

So much coopetition

The fact is Snowflake is in an odd position when it comes to the big cloud infrastructure vendors. It both competes with them on a product level, and as a company that stores massive amounts of data, it is also an excellent customer for all of them. It’s kind of a strange position to be in says Canalys’ Murray.

“Snowflake both relies on the infrastructure of cloud giants — AWS, Microsoft and Google — and competes with them. It will be important to keep an eye on the competitive dynamic even although Snowflake is a large customer for the giants,” he explained.

Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna agrees, but says the IPO should help Snowflake take on these companies as they expand their own cloud data warehouse offerings. He added that in spite of that competition, Snowflake is holding its own against the big companies. In fact, he says that it’s the number one cloud data warehouse clients inquire about, other than Amazon RedShift. As he points out, Snowflake has some key advantages over the cloud vendors’ solutions.

“Based on Forrester Wave research that compared over a dozen vendors, Snowflake has been positioned as a Leader. Enterprises like Snowflake’s ease of use, low cost, scalability and performance capabilities. Unlike many cloud data warehouses, Snowflake can run on multiple clouds such as Amazon, Google or Azure, giving enterprises choices to choose their preferred provider.”

Show them more money

In spite of the vast sums of money the company has raised in the private market, it had decided to go public to get one final chunk of capital. Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy says that if the company is going to succeed in the broader market, it needs to expand beyond pure cloud data warehousing, in spite of the huge opportunity there.

“Snowflake needs the funding as it needs to expand its product footprint to encompass more than just data warehousing. It should be focused less on niches and more on the entire data lifecycle including data ingest, engineering, database and AI,” Moorhead said.

Forrester’s Yuhanna agrees that Snowflake needs to look at new markets and the IPO will give it the the money to do that. “The IPO will help Snowflake expand it’s innovation path, especially to support new and emerging business use cases, and possibly look at new market opportunities such as expanding to on-premises to deliver hybrid-cloud capabilities,” he said.

It would make sense for the company to expand beyond its core offerings as it heads into the public markets, but the cloud data warehouse market is quite lucrative on its own. It’s a space that has required a considerable amount of investment to build a company, but as it heads towards its IPO, Snowflake is should be well positioned to be a successful company for years to come.


By Ron Miller

Mirantis acquires Lens, an IDE for Kubernetes

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

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

Image Credits: Mirantis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Frederic Lardinois