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

Harness makes first acquisition, snagging open source CI company Drone.io

Harness has made a name for itself creating tools like continuous delivery (CD) for software engineers to give them the kind of power that has been traditionally reserved for companies with large engineering teams like Google, Facebook and Netflix. Today, the company announced it has acquired Drone.io, an open source continuous integration (CI) company, marking the company’s first steps into open source, as well as its first acquisition.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

“Drone is a continuous integration software. It helps developers to continuously build, test and deploy their code. The project was started in 2012, and it was the first cloud native, container native continuous integration solution on the market, and we open sourced it,” company co- founder Brad Rydzewski told TechCrunch.

Drone delivers pipeline configuration information as code in a Docker container. Image: Drone.io

While Harness had previously lacked a CI tool to go with its continuous delivery tooling, founder and CEO Jyoti Bansal said this was less about filling in a hole than expanding the current platform.

“I would call it an expansion of our vision and where we were going. As you and I have talked in the past, the mission of Harness is to be a next generation software delivery platform for everyone,” he said. He added that buying Drone had a lot of upside.”It’s all of those things — the size of the open source community, the simplicity of the product — and it [made sense], for Harness and Drone to come together and bring this integrated CI/CD to the market.”

While this is Harness’ first foray into open source, Bansal says it’s just the starting point and they want to embrace open source as a company moving forward. “We are committed togetting more and more involved in open source and actually making even more parts of Harness, our original products, open source over time as well,” he said.

For Drone community members who might be concerned about the acquisition, Bansal said he was “100% committed” to continuing to support the open source Drone product. In fact, Rydzewski said he wanted to team with Harness because he felt he could do so much more with them than he could have done continuing as a stand-alone company.

“Drone was a growing community, a growing project and a growing business. It really came down to I think the timing being right and wanting to partner with a company like Harness to build the future. Drone laid a lot of the groundwork, but it’s a matter of taking it to the next level,” he said.

Bansal says that Harness intends to also offer a commercial version of Drone with some enterprise features on the Harness platform, even while continuing to support the open source side of it.

Drone was founded in 2012. The only money it raised was $28,000 when it participated in the Alchemist Accelerator in 2013, according to Crunchbase data. The deal has closed and Rydzewski has joined the Harness team,


By Ron Miller

Cisco acquires Modcam to make Meraki smart camera portfolio even smarter

As the Internet of Things proliferates, security cameras are getting smarter. Today, these devices have machine learning capability that helps the camera automatically identify what it’s looking at — for instance, an animal or a human intruder? Today, Cisco announced that it has acquired Swedish startup Modcam and is making it part of its Meraki smart camera portfolio with the goal of incorporating Modcam computer vision technology into its portfolio.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Cisco tells us that the acquisition has closed.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Cisco Meraki’s Chris Stori says Modcam is going to up Meraki’s machine learning game, while giving it some key engineering talent, as well.

“In acquiring Modcam, Cisco is investing in a team of highly talented engineers who bring a wealth of expertise in machine learning, computer vision and cloud-managed cameras. Modcam has developed a solution that enables cameras to become even smarter,” he wrote.

What he means is that today, while Meraki has smart cameras that include motion detection and machine learning capabilities, this is limited to single camera operation. What Modcam brings is the added ability to gather information and apply machine learning across multiple cameras, greatly enhancing the camera’s capabilities.

“With Modcam’s technology, this micro-level information can be stitched together, enabling multiple cameras to provide a macro-level view of the real world,” Stori wrote. In practice, as an example, that could provide a more complete view of space availability for facilities management teams, an especially important scenario as businesses try to find safer ways to open during the pandemic. The other scenario Modcam was selling was giving a more complete picture of what was happening on the factory floor.

All of Modcams employees, which Cisco described only as “a small team,” have joined Cisco, and the Modcam technology will be folded into the Meraki product line, and will no longer be offered as a standalone product, a Cisco spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Modcam was founded in 2013 and has raised $7.6 million, according to Crunchbase data. Cisco acquired Meraki back in 2012 for $1.2 billion.


By Ron Miller

Atlassian acquires asset management company Mindville

Atlassian today announced that it has acquired Mindville, Jira-centric enterprise asset management firm based in Sweden. Mindville’s over 1,7000 customers include the likes of NASA, Spotify and Samsung.

Image Credits: Atlassian

With this acquisition, Atlassian is getting into a new market, too, by adding asset management tools to its lineup of services. The company’s flagship product is Mindville Insights, which helps IT, HR, sales, legal and facilities to track assets across a company. It’s completely agnostic as to which assets you are tracking, though, given Atlassian’s user base, most companies will likely use it to track IT assets like servers and laptops. But in addition to physical assets, you can also use the service to automatically import cloud-based servers from AWS, Azure and GCP, for example, and the team has built connectors to services like Service Now and Snow Software, too.

Image Credits: Mindville

“Mindville Insight provides enterprises with full visibility into their assets and services, critical to delivering great customer and employee service experiences. These capabilities are a cornerstone of IT Service Management (ITSM), a market where Atlassian continues to see strong momentum and growth,” Atlassian’s head of tech teams Noah Wasmer writes in today’s announcement today.

Co-founded by Tommy Nordahl & Mathias Edblom, Mindville never raised any institutional funding, according to Crunchbase. The two companies also didn’t disclose the acquisition price.

Like some of Atlassian’s other recent acquisitions, including Code Barrel, the company was already an Atlassian partner and successfully selling its service in the Atlassian Marketplace.

“This acquisition builds on Atlassian’s investment in [IT Service Management], including recent acquisitions like Opsgenie for incident management, Automation for Jira for code-free automation, and Halp for conversational ticketing,” Atlassian’s Wasmer writes.

The Mindville team says it will continue to support existing customers and that Atlassian will continue to build on Insight’s tools while it works to integrate them with Jira Service Desk. That integration, Atlassian argues, will give its users more visibility into their assets and allow them to deliver better customer and employee service experiences.

Image Credits: Mindville

“We’ve watched the Insight product line be used heavily in many industries and for various disciplines, including some we never expected! One of the most popular areas is IT Service Management where Insight plays an important role connecting all relevant asset data to incidents, changes, problems, and requests,” write Mindville’s founders in today’s announcement. “Combining our solutions with the products from Atlassian enables tighter integration for more sophisticated service management, empowered by the underlying asset data.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Slack snags corporate directory startup Rimeto to up its people search game

For the second time in less than 24 hours, an enterprise company bought an early stage startup. Yesterday afternoon DocuSign acquired Liveoak, and this morning Slack announced it was buying corporate directory startup Rimeto, which should help employees find people inside the organization who match a specific set of criteria from inside Slack.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

Rimeto helps companies build directories to find employees beyond using tools like Microsoft Active Directory, homegrown tools or your corporate email program. When we covered the company’s $10 million Series A last year, we described what it brings to directories this way:

Rimeto has developed a richer directory by sitting between various corporate systems like HR, CRM and other tools that contain additional details about the employee. It of course includes a name, title, email and phone like the basic corporate system, but it goes beyond that to find areas of expertise, projects the person is working on and other details that can help you find the right person when you’re searching the directory.

In the build versus buy equation that companies balance all the time, it looks like Slack weighed the pros and cons and decided to buy instead. You could see how a tool like this would be useful to Slack as people try to build teams of employees, especially in a world where so many are working from home.

While the current Slack people search tool lets you search by name, role or team, Rimeto should give users a much more robust way of searching for employees across the company. You can search for the right person to help you with a particular problem and get much more granular with your search requirements than the current tool allows.

Image Credit: Rimeto

At the time of its funding announcement, the company, which was founded in 2016 by three former Facebook employees, told TechCrunch it had bootstrapped for the first three years before taking the $10 million investment last year. It also reported it was cash-flow positive at the time, which is pretty unusual for an early stage enterprise SaaS company.

In a company blog post announcing the deal, as is typical in these deals, the founders saw being part of a larger organization as a way to grow more quickly than they could have alone. “Joining Slack is a special opportunity to accelerate Rimeto’s mission and impact with greater reach, expanded resources, and the support of Slack’s impressive global team,” the founders wrote in the post.

The acquisition is part of a continuing trend around enterprise companies buying early stage startups to fill in holes in their product roadmaps.


By Ron Miller

DocuSign acquires Liveoak Technologies for $38M for online notarization

Even in the best of times, finding a notary can be a challenge. In the middle of a pandemic, it’s even more difficult. DocuSign announced it has acquired Liveoak Technologies today for approximately $38 million, giving the company an online notarization option.

At the same time, DocuSign announced a new product called DocuSign Notary, which should ease the notary requirement by allowing it to happen online along with the eSignature. As we get deeper into the pandemic, companies like DocuSign that allow workflows to happen completely digitally are in more demand than ever. This new product will be available for early access later in the summer.

The deal made sense given that the two companies had a partnership already. Liveoak brings together live video, collaboration tooling and identity verification that enables parties to get notarized approval as though you were sitting at the desk in front of the notary.

Typically, you might get a document that requires your signature. Without electronic signature, you would need to print it, sign the document, scan it and return it. If it requires a notary, you would need to sign it in the notary’s presence, which requires an in-person visit. All of this can be streamlined with an online workflow, which DocuSign is providing with this acquisition.

It’s like the perfect pandemic acquisition, making a manual process digital and saving people from having to make face-to-face transactions at a time when it can be dangerous.

Liveoak Technologies was founded in 2014 and is part of the Austin, Texas startup scene. The company raised just under $28 million during its life as a private company. The firm most recently raised $8 million at a post-money valuation of $30.4 million, according to Pitchbook data. Given the amount that DocuSign paid for the startup, it appears to have gotten a bargain.

This acquisition is part of a growing pandemic acquisition trend of sorts where larger public enterprise companies are plucking early stage startups, in some cases for relatively bargain prices. Among the recent acquisitions are Apple buying Fleetsmith and ServiceNow acquiring Sweagle last month.


By Ron Miller

Apple has acquired Fleetsmith, a startup that helps IT manage Apple devices remotely

At a time where IT has to help employees set up and manage devices remotely, a service that simplifies those processes could certainly come in handy. Apple recognized that, and acquired Fleetsmith today, a startup that helps companies do precisely that with Apple devices.

While Apple didn’t publicize the acquisition, it has confirmed the deal with TechCrunch, while Fleetsmith announced the deal in a company blog post. Neither company was sharing the purchase price.

The startup has built technology that takes advantage of the Apple’s Device Enrollment Program allowing IT departments to bring devices online as soon as the employee takes it out of the box and powers it up.

At the time of its $30 million Series B funding last year, CEO Zack Blum explained the company’s core value proposition: “From a customer perspective, they can ship devices directly to their employees. The employee unwraps it, connects to Wi-Fi and the device is enrolled automatically in Fleetsmith,” Blum explained at that time.

Over time, the company has layered on other useful pieces beyond automating device registration like updating devices automatically with OS and security updates, while letting IT see a dashboard of the status of all devices under management, all in a pretty slick interface.

While Apple will in all likelihood continue to work with Jamf, the leader in the Apple device management space, this acquisition gives the company a remote management option at a time where it’s essential with so many employees working from home.

Fleetsmith, which has raised over $40 million from investors like Menlo Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Upfront Ventures and Harrison Metal will continue to sell the product through the company website, according to the blog post.

The founders put a happy on the face on the deal, as founders tend to do. “We’re thrilled to join Apple. Our shared values of putting the customer at the center of everything we do without sacrificing privacy and security, means we can truly meet our mission, delivering Fleetsmith to businesses and institutions of all sizes, around the world,” they wrote.


By Ron Miller

NetApp to acquire Spot (formerly Spotinst) to gain cloud infrastructure management tools

When Spotinst rebranded to Spot in March, it seemed big changes were afoot for the startup, which originally helped companies find and manage cheap infrastructure known as spot instances (hence its original name). We had no idea how big at the time. Today, NetApp announced plans to acquire the startup.

The companies did not share the price, but Israeli publication, CTECH, pegged the deal at $450 million. NetApp would not confirm that price.

It may seem like a strange pairing, a storage company and a startup that helps companies find bargain infrastructure and monitor cloud costs, but NetApp sees the acquisition as a way for its customers to bridge storage and infrastructure requirements.

“The combination of NetApp’s leading shared storage platform for block, file and object and Spot’s compute platform will deliver a leading solution for the continuous optimization of cost for all workloads, both cloud native and legacy,” Anthony Lye, senior vice president and general manager for public cloud services at NetApp said in a statement.

Spot helps companies do a couple of things. First of all it manages spot and reserved instances for customers in the cloud. Spot instances in particular, are extremely cheap because they represent unused capacity at the cloud provider. The catch is that the vendor can take the resources back when they need them, and Spot helps safely move workloads around these requirements.

Reserved instances are cloud infrastructure you buy in advance for a discounted price. The cloud vendor gives a break on pricing, knowing that it can count on the customer to use a certain amount of infrastructure resources.

At the time it rebranded, the company also had gotten into monitoring cloud spending and usage across clouds. Amiram Shachar, co-founder and CEO at Spot told TechCrunch in March, “With this new product we’re providing a more holistic platform that lets customers see all of their cloud spending in one place — all of their usage, all of their costs, what they are spending and doing across multiple clouds — and then what they can actually do [to deploy resources more efficiently],” he said at the time.

Shachar writing in a blog post today announcing the deal indicated the company will continue to support its products as part of the NetApp family, and as startup CEOs typically say at a time like this, move much faster as part of a large organization.

“Spot will continue to offer and fully support our products, both now and as part of NetApp when the transaction closes. In fact, joining forces with NetApp will bring additional resources to Spot that you’ll see in our ability to deliver our roadmap and new innovation even faster and more broadly,” he wrote in the post.

NetApp has been quite acquisitive this year. It acquired Talon Storage in early March and CloudJumper at the end of April. This represents the 20th acquisition overall for the company, according to Crunchbase data.

Spot was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv. It raised over $52 million, according to Crunchbase data. The deal is expected to close later this year, assuming it passes typical regulatory hurdles.


By Ron Miller

Cisco to acquire internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes

When Cisco bought AppDynamics in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before the IPO, the company sent a clear signal it wanted to move beyond its pure network hardware roots into the software monitoring side of the equation. Yesterday afternoon the company announced it intends to buy another monitoring company, this time snagging internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes.

Cisco would not comment on the price when asked by TechCrunch, but published reports from CNBC and others pegged the deal at around $1 billion. If that’s accurate, it means the company has paid around $4.7 billion for a pair of monitoring solutions companies.

Cisco’s Todd Nightingale, writing in a blog post announcing the deal said that the kind of data that ThousandEyes provides around internet user experience is more important than ever as internet connections have come under tremendous pressure with huge numbers of employees working from home.

ThousandEyes keeps watch on those connections and should fit in well with other Cisco monitoring technologies. “With thousands of agents deployed throughout the internet, ThousandEyes’ platform has an unprecedented understanding of the internet and grows more intelligent with every deployment, Nightingale wrote.

He added, “Cisco will incorporate ThousandEyes’ capabilities in our AppDynamics application intelligence portfolio to enhance visibility across the enterprise, internet and the cloud.”

As for ThousandEyes, co-founder and CEO Mohit Lad told a typical acquisition story. It was about growing faster inside the big corporation than it could on its own. “We decided to become part of Cisco because we saw the potential to do much more, much faster, and truly create a legacy for ThousandEyes,” Lad wrote.

It’s interesting to note that yesterday’s move, and the company’s larger acquisition strategy over the last decade is part of a broader move to software and services as a complement to its core networking hardware business.

Just yesterday, Synergy Research released its network switch and router revenue report and it wasn’t great. As companies have hunkered down during the pandemic, they have been buying much less network hardware, dropping the Q1 numbers to seven year low. That translated into a $1 billion less in overall revenue in this category, according to Synergy.

While Cisco owns the vast majority of the market, it obviously wants to keep moving into software services as a hedge against this shifting market. This deal simply builds on that approach.

ThousandEyes was founded in 2010 and raised over $110 million on a post valuation of $670 million as of February 2019, according to Pitchbook Data.


By Ron Miller

Kustomer acquires Reply.ai to enhance chatbots on its CRM platform

Last December, when CRM startup Kustomer was announcing its latest round of funding — a $60 million round led by Coatue — its co-founder and CEO Brad Birnbaum said it would use some of the money to build more RPA-style automations into its platform to expand KustomerIQ, its AI-based product that helps understand and respond to customer enquiries to take some of the more repetitive load off of agents. Today, Kustomer is announcing some M&A that will help in that strategy: it is acquiring Reply.ai, a startup originally founded in Madrid that has built a code-free platform for companies to create customised chatbots to handle customer service enquires that use machine learning to, over time, become better at responding to those inbound contacts.

Kustomer, which has raised more than $170 million and is now valued at $710 million (per PitchBook), said it is not disclosing the financial terms of the deal.

Reply.ai — whose customers include Coca Cola, Starbucks, Samsung, and a number of retailers and major ad and marketing agencies working on behalf of clients — had by comparison raised a modest $4 million in funding (with the last round back in 2018). Its list of investors included strategic backers like Aflac and Westfield (the shopping mall giant), as well as Seedcamp, Madrid’s JME Ventures, and Y Combinator, where Reply.ai was a part of its Startup School cohort in 2017.

Birnbaum said that the conversation for acquiring Reply.ai started before the global health pandemic — the two already worked together, as part of Reply.ai’s integrations with a number of CRM platforms. But active discussions, due diligence, and the closing of the deal were all done over Zoom. “We were fortunate that we got to meet before Corona, but for the most part we did this remotely,” he said.

Reply.ai was founded back in 2016 — the year when chatbots suddenly became all the rage — and it managed to make it through that and then the subsequent the trough of disillusionment, when a lot of the early novelty wore off after they were discovered to be not quite as effective as many had hoped or assumed they would be. One of the reasons for Reply.ai’s survival was that it had proven to be a builder of effective applications in one of the only segments of the market became a willing customer and user of chatbots: customer service.

While a large part of the CRM industry — estimated to be worth some $40 billion in 2019 —  is still based around human interactions, there has been a growing push to leverage advances in AI, cloud services, and use of the Internet as a point of interaction to bring more automation into the process, both to help those who are agents deal with more tricky issues, and to help bring overall costs down for those who rely on customer support as part of their service proposition.

That trend, if anything, is only getting a boost right now. In some cases, agents are unable to work because of social distancing rules in cases where customer queries cannot be handled by remote workers. In others, companies are seeing a lot of financial pressure and are looking to reduce expenses. But at the same time, with more people at home and unable to my physical queries to stores and more, the whole medium of customer support is seeing new levels of usage.

Kustomer has been taking on the bigger names in CRM, including Salesforce (where Birnbaum and his cofounder Jeremy Suriel previously worked), Zendesk and Oracle, by providing a platform that makes it easier for human agents to handle inbound “omni-channel” customer requests — another big trend, leveraging the rise of multiple messaging and communications platforms as potential routes to both speaking to customers and seeing them complain for all the world to see. So moving deeper into chatbots and other AI-powered tools is a natural progression.

Birnbaum said that one of its key interests with Reply.ai was its focus on “deflection” — the term for using non-human tools and services to help resolve inbound requests before needing to call in a human agent. Reply.ai’s tools have been shown to help deflect 40% of initial inbound queries, he noted.

“Some companies have been dealing with a significant increase in inbound volume, and it’s been hard to scale their teams of agents, especially when they are remote,” he said. “So those companies are looking for ways to respond more rapidly. So anything they can do to help with that deflection and let their agents be more productive to drive higher levels of satisfaction, anything that can enable self service, is what this is about.”

Other tools in the Reply toolkit, in addition to its chatbot-building platform and deflection capabilities, include agent assistant tools for suggesting relevant answers, as well as suggestions for tagging (for analytics) and re-routing.

“We are excited for Reply to join Kustomer and share its mission to make customer service more efficient, effective and personalized,” said said Omar Pera, one of Reply.ai’s founders, in a statement. “As a long-time partner of Kustomer, we are able to seamlessly integrate our deflection and chatbots technologies into Kustomer’s platform and help brands more cost-effectively increase efficiency. We look forward to working with Brad and the entire team.”


By Ingrid Lunden