Lawmatics raises $2.5M to help lawyers market themselves

Lawmatics, a San Diego startup that’s building marketing and CRM software for lawyers, is announcing that it has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

CEO Matt Siegel used to practice law himself, and he told me that even though tech companies have a wide range of marketing tools to choose from, “lawyers have not been able to adopt them,” because they need a product that’s tailored to their specific needs.

That’s why Siegel founded Lawmatics with CTO Roey Chasman. He said that a law firm’s relationship with its clients can be divided into three phases — intake (when a client is deciding whether to hire a firm); the active legal case; and after the case has been resolved. Apparently most legal software is designed to handle phase two, while Lawmatics focuses on phases one and three.

The platform includes a CRM system to manage the initial client intake process, as well as tools that can automate a lot of what Siegel called the “blocking and tackling” of marketing, like sending birthday messages to former clients — which might sound like a minor task, but Siegel said it’s crucial for law firms to “nurture” those relationships, because most of their business comes from referrals.

Lawmatics’ early adopters, Siegel added, have consisted of the firms in areas where “if you need a lawyer, you go to Google and start searching ‘personal injury,’ ‘bankruptcy,’ ‘estate planning,’ all these consumer-driven law firms.” And the pandemic led to accelerated the startup’s growth, because “lawyers are at home now, their business is virtual and they need more tools.”

Siegel’s had success selling technology to lawyers in the past, with his practice management software startup MyCase acquired by AppFolio in 2012 (AppFolio recently sold MyCase to a variety of funds for $193 million). He said that the strategies for growing both companies are “almost identical” — the products are different, but “it’s really the same segment, running the same playbook, only with additional go-to-market strategies.”

The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and Forefront Venture Partners, with participation from Revel Ventures and Bridge Venture Partners.

“In my 10 years investing I have witnessed few teams more passionate, determined, and capable of revolutionizing an industry,” said Eniac’s Tim Young in a statement. “They have not only created the best software product the legal market has seen, they have created a movement.”

 


By Anthony Ha

Vivun announces $18M Series A to keep growing pre-sales platform

Vivun’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Darrow used to run pre-sales at Zuora and he saw that pre-sales team members had a lot of insight into customers. He believed if he could capture that insight, it would turn into valuable data to be shared across the company. He launched Vivun to build upon that idea in 2018, and today the company announced an $18 million Series A.

Accel led the round with participation from existing investor Unusual Ventures. With today’s investment, Vivun has raised a total of $21 million, according to the company.

Darrow says that the company has caught the attention of investors because this is a unique product category and there has been a lot of demand for it. “It turns out that businesses of all sizes, startups and enterprises, are really craving a solution like Vivun, which is dedicated to pre-sales. It’s a big, expensive department, and there’s never been software for it before,” Darrow told TechCrunch.

He says that a couple of numbers stand out in the company’s first year in business. First of all, the startup grew annual recurring revenue (ARR) six fold (although he wouldn’t share specific numbers) and tripled the workforce growing from 10 to 30, all while doing business as an early stage startup in the midst of a pandemic.

Darrow said while the business has grown this year, he found smaller businesses in the pipeline were cutting back due to the impact of COVID’s, but larger businesses like Okta, Autodesk and Dell Secureworks have filled in nicely, and he says the product actually fits well in larger enterprise organizations.

“If we look at our value proposition and what we do, it increases exponentially with the size of the company. So the larger the team, the larger the silos are, the larger the organization is, the bigger the value of solving the problem for pre-sales becomes,” he said.

After going from a team of 10 to 30 employees in the last year, Darrow wants to double the head count to reach around 60 employees in the next year, fueled in part by the new investment dollars. As he builds the company, the founding team, which is made up of two men and two women, is focused on building a diverse and inclusive employee base.

“It is something that’s really important to us, and we’ve been working at it. Even as we went from 10 to 30, we’ve worked to pay close attention to [diversity and inclusion], and we continue to do so just as part of the culture of how we build the business,” he said.

He’s been having to build that workforce in the middle of COVID, but he says that even before the pandemic shut down offices, he and his founding partners were big on flexibility in terms of time spent in the office versus working from home. “We knew that for mental health strength and stability, that being in the office nine to five, five days a week wasn’t really a modern model that would cut it,” he said.

Even pre-COVID the company was offering two quiet periods a year to let people refresh their batteries. In the midst of COVID, he’s trying to give people Friday afternoons off to go out and exercise and relax their minds.

As the startup grows, those types of things may be harder to do, but it’s the kind of culture Darrow and his founding partners hope to continue to foster as they build the company.


By Ron Miller

Armory nabs $40M Series C as commercial biz on top of open source Spinnaker project takes off

As companies continue to shift more quickly to the cloud, pushed by the pandemic, startups like Armory that work in the cloud native space are seeing an uptick in interest. Armory is a company built to be commercial layer on top of the open source continuous delivery project Spinnaker. Today, it announced a $40 million Series C.

B Capital led the round with help from new investors Lead Edge Capital and Marc Benioff along with previous investors Insight Partners, Crosslink Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Mango Capital, Y Combinator and Javelin Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to more than $82 million.

“Spinnaker is an open source project that came out of Netflix and Google, and it is a very sophisticated multi-cloud and software delivery platform,” company co-founder and CEO Daniel R. Odio told TechCrunch.

Odio points out that this project has the backing of industry leaders including the three leading public cloud infrastructure vendors Amazon, Microsoft and Google, as well as other cloud players like CloudFoundry and HashiCorp. “The fact that there is a lot of open source community support for this project means that it is becoming the new standard for cloud native software delivery,” he said.

In the days before the notion of continuous delivery, companies moved forward slowly, releasing large updates over months or years. As software moved to the cloud, this approach no longer made sense and companies began delivering updates more incrementally adding features when they were ready. Adding a continuous delivery layer helped facilitate this move.

As Odio describes it, Armory extends the Spinnaker project to help implement complex use cases at large organizations including around compliance and governance and security. It is also in the early stages of implementing a SaaS version of the solution, which should be available next year.

While he didn’t want to discuss customer numbers, he mentioned JPMorgan Chase and Autodesk as customers along with less specific allusions to a “a Fortune Five technology company, a Fortune 20 Bank, a Fortune 50 retailer and a Fortune 100 technology company.

The company currently has 75 employees, but Odio says business has been booming and he plans to double the team in the next year. As he does, he says that he is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion.

“There’s actually a really big difference between diversity and inclusion, and there’s a great Vernā Myers quote that diversity is being asked to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance, and so it’s actually important for us not only to focus on diversity, but also focus on inclusion because that’s how we win. By having a heterogeneous company, we will outperform a homogeneous company,” he said.

While the company has moved to remote work during COVID, Odio says they intend to remain that way, even after the current crisis is over. “Now obviously COVID been a real challenge for the world including us. We’ve gone to a fully remote-first model, and we are going to stay remote first even after COVID. And it’s really important for us to be taking care of our people, so there’s a lot of human empathy here,” he said.

But at the same time, he sees COVID opening up businesses to move to the cloud and that represents an opportunity for his business, one that he will focus on with new capital at his disposal. “In terms of the business opportunity, we exist to help power the transformation that these enterprises are undergoing right now, and there’s a lot of urgency for us to execute on our vision and mission because there is a lot of demand for this right now,” he said.


By Ron Miller

YC grad DigitalBrain snags $3.4M seed to streamline customer service tasks

Most startup founders have a tough road to their first round of funding, but the founders of Digital Brain had it a bit tougher than most. The two young founders survived by entering and winning hackathons to pay their rent and put on food on the table. One of the ideas they came up with at those hackathons was DigitalBrain, a layer that sits on top of customer service software like Zendesk to streamline tasks and ease the job of customer service agents.

They ended up in Y Combinator in the Summer 2020 class, and today the company announced a $3.4 million seed investment. This total includes $3 million raised this round, which closed in August, and previously unannounced investments of $250,000 in March from Unshackled Ventures and $150,000 from Y Combinator in May.

The round was led by Moxxie Ventures with help from Caffeinated Capital, Unshackled Ventures, Shrug Capital, Weekend Fund, Underscore VC and Scribble Ventures along with a slew of individual investors.

Company co-founder Kesava Kirupa Dinakaran says that after he and his partner Dmitry Dolgopolov met at hackathon in May 2019, they moved into a community house in San Francisco full of startup founders. They kept hearing from their housemates about the issues their companies faced with customer service as they began scaling. Like any good entrepreneur, they decided to build something to solve that problem.

“DigitalBrain is an external layer that sits on top of existing help desk software to actually help the support agents get through their tickets twice as fast, and we’re doing that by automating a lot of internal workflows, and giving them all the context and information they need to respond to each ticket making the experience of responding to these tickets significantly faster,” Dinakaran told TechCrunch.

What this means in practice is that customer service reps work in DigitalBrain to process their tickets, and as they come upon a problem such as canceling an order or reporting a bug, instead of traversing several systems to fix it, they chose the appropriate action in DigitalBrain, enter the required information, and the problem is resolved for them automatically.  In the case of a bug, it would file a Jira ticket with engineering. In the case of canceling an order, it would take all of the actions and update all of the records required by this request.

As Dinakaran points out they aren’t typical Silicon Valley startup founders. They are 20 year old immigrants from India and Russia respectively, who came to the U.S. with coding skills and a dream of building a company. “We are both outsiders to Silicon Valley. We didn’t go to college. We don’t come from families of means. We wanted to come here and build our initial network from ground up,” he said.

Eventually they met some folks through their housemates, who suggested that they apply to Y Combinator. “As we started to meet people that we met through our community house here, some of them were YC founders and they kept saying I think you guys will love the YC community, not just in terms of your ethos, but also just purely from a perspective of meeting new people and where you are,” he said.

He said while he and his co-founder have trouble wrapping their arms around a number like the amount they have in the bank now, considering it wasn’t that long ago that they struggling to meet expenses every month, they recognize this money buys them an opportunity to help start building a more substantial company.

“What we’re trying to do is really accelerate the development and building of what we’re doing. And we think if we push the gas pedal with the resources we’ve gotten, we’ll be able to accelerate bringing on the next couple of customers, and start onboarding some of the larger companies we’re interested in,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Tone raises $4M to help e-commerce brands text with their customers

While many companies are using chatbots and other forms of automation to manage their communication with customers, Boston-based Tone is betting that humans will remain a key part of the equation.

“The traditional models of bots and humans is, ‘Hello, I’m a bot, now you get to battle with me finally get to a human,’” said Tone CEO Tivan Amour. “Our verison of that is, ‘I’m a human using AI to get you the answers you need more quickly.’”

Amour and his co-founder Vlad Pick previously created a bicycle startup called Fortified Bicycle, and he said they “figured out that the best way to close our customers on these $750 to $7,000 orders was to actually engage them in text message conversations.”

After all, when it comes to “high consideration” purchases like bicycles, people usually want discuss their questions and concerns with another human being. Over time, the Fortified team built what Amour said was a “semi-automated system” to help its sales team stay on top of these conversations.

“We started bragging about it to our friends about it, ‘You’ve gotta do this, it’s the future of mobile commerce,’” he recalled. “And they’d say, ‘Okay, that’s cool, but we don’t have any of the systems of doing that, we don’t have the salespeople.’”

Tone’s founders

So after selling Fortified Bicycle, Amour and Pick created Tone to help any e-commerce business manage similar text message conversations. Tone employs its own team of human agents to actually do the texting, assisted by software that helps them find the information they need.

It integrates with e-commerce systems like Shopify and Magento, and it’s already working with more than 1,000 brands like ThirdLove, Peak Design and Usual Wines — who are seeing as much as a 26% increase in revenue and a 15% increase in order size.

Amour also noted that specific Tone agents are assigned to specific brands, which means that customers will be talking to the same person whenever they have a question for that business. In some cases, customers have been talking to the same agent for months or years.

“Particularly in a post-COVID world, it’s pretty clear that online shopping has become the dominant form of shoping, but I think nobody has thought about how you replace that human experience that you get in traditional retail,” he said.

Tone is announcing today that it has raised $4 million in seed funding from led by Bling Capital, with participation from Day One Ventures, One Way Ventures, TIA Ventures and executives from Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Uber.

With the new funding, Amour said Tone will be able to build out the “relationship automation” aspect of the product. He also suggested that the platform could eventually expand beyond text messaging, but it sounds like that’s not a big priority.

“In theory, we’re a conversational sales platform more than we are an SMS company,” he said. “However there are a bunch of trends right now [such as the growth of mobile commerce] that make SMS be the most obvious place for this sort of innovation.”


By Anthony Ha

Scratchpad announces $3.6M seed to put work space on top of Salesforce

One thing that annoys sales people is entering data into a CRM like Salesforce because it’s time spent not selling. Part of the problem is Salesforce is a database and as such is not necessarily designed for speed. Scratchpad wants to simplify that process by creating a workspace on top of the CRM to accelerate the administrative side of the job.

Today, the company announced a $3.6 million seed round led by Accel with participation from Shrug Capital and Sound Ventures, the firm run by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary, as well as several individual investors. The round, which closed at the end of last year, hadn’t been previously announced.

Last year, company co-founder and CEO Pouyan Salehi had just stepped down from his previous company PersistIQ, a sales enablement startup that came out of Y Combinator in 2014. He and his co-founder Cyrus Karbassiyoon began researching a new company, and the idea for Scratchpad came to them when they simply sat down and watched how salespeople were working. They noted that they were using a hodgepodge of tools like taking notes in Evernote or Google Docs, tracking their pipeline in Excel or Google Sheets and tracking tasks with paper lists or sticky notes.

They recognized that these tools were disconnected from Salesforce and required hours of manual work copying and pasting this data. That’s when they saw there was an opportunity here to build a tool to track all of this information in one place and connect it to Salesforce to automate a lot of this grunt work.

“It eventually evolved into this idea that we’re calling “The Workspace” because everyone has Salesforce, but they are working with all of these other tools that then they just have to literally spend hours — and we saw some reps block off four hour chunks on their calendar — just to copy and paste from their documents, spreadsheets or notes into Salesforce for their pipeline reviews. And that’s how the idea for Scratchpad came to be,” Salehi told TechCrunch.

Today, a salesperson can install Scratchpad as a Chrome plug-in, connect to Salesforce with their log-in credentials and create a two-way connection between the tools. Scratchpad pulls all of their pipeline data into the WorkSpace. They can cycle through the various fields to enter information quickly, enter notes and track tasks (which can be pulled from email and calendar) all in one place.

What’s more, because all of this information is linked to Salesforce, anything you enter in Scratchpad updates the corresponding fields and sections in Salesforce automatically. And any new opportunities that start in Salesforce update in Scratchpad.

The company has been operating for about a year and has 1000s of users, although many are currently using the free tier. It has 7 employees with plans to hire more over the next year. As he builds his second company, Salehi says he and his co-founder are building on a foundation of diversity and inclusion.

“By nature, we are very diverse in many different perspectives that you can look at including gender, age, location and backgrounds,” he said. He adds that building a diverse and inclusive workforce is important to the company.

“And so even in our hiring process, we incorporated certain elements just to make sure that we’re not introducing bias in any sort of way, or at least recognizing that the natural bias and thoughts we might have. We look at things like doing blind looks at resumes and it’s something that we take very, very seriously,” he said.

While the company is built on top of Salesforce today, he says it could expand to include other databases or sources of information where the product could also work. For now though, he sees an opportunity to build another company in the sales arena to help reduce the amount of work associated with updating the CRM database.


By Ron Miller

With $18M in new funding, Braintrust says it’s creating a fairer model for freelancers

Braintrust, a network for freelance technical and design talent that launched over the summer, is announcing that it has raised $18 million in new funding.

Co-founder and CEO Adam Jackson has written for TechCrunch about how tech companies need to treat independent contractors with more empathy. He told me via email that the San Francisco-based startup is making that idea a reality by offering a very different approach than existing marketplaces for freelance work.

For one thing, Braintrust only charges the companies doing the hiring — freelancers won’t have to pay to join or to bid on a project, and Braintrust won’t charge a fee on their project payments. In addition, the startup is using a cryptocurrency token that it calls Btrust to reward users who build the network, for example by inviting new customers and vetting freelance. Apparently, the token will give users a stake in how the network evolves in the future.

“Just imagine if Uber had given all of it’s drivers some ownership in the company what a different company it would be today,” Jackson said. “Braintrust will be 100% user owned. Everyone who participates on the platform has skin in the game.”

And for companies, Braintrust is supposed to allow them to tap freelancers for work that they’d normally do in-house. The startup’s clients already  include Nestle, Pacific Life, Deloitte, Porsche, Blue Cross Blue Shield and TaskRabbit.

According to Jackson, most of the talent on the platform consists of career freelancers, but with many people losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, “we’ve seen an influx of talent coming looking to join the ranks of the freelancers.”

He added that the startup already became profitable after raising its $6 million seed round, so the new funding will allow it to build the core team and also bring in more work.

“We exist to help companies accelerate their product roadmaps and innovation, and this injection of funding will help us do just that,” Jackson said.

The new funding was led by ACME and Blockchange, with participation from new investors Pantera, Multicoin and Variant.


By Anthony Ha

Altinity grabs $4M seed to build cloud version of ClickHouse open source data warehouse

Earlier this month, cloud data warehouse Snowflake turned heads when it debuted on the stock market. Today, Altinity, the commercial company behind the open source ClickHouse data warehouse announced a $4 million seed round from Accel along with a new cloud service, Altinity.Cloud.

“Fundamentally, the company started out as an open source services bureau offering support, training and [custom] engineering features into ClickHouse. And what we’re doing now with this investment from Accel is we’re extending it to offer a cloud platform in addition to the other things that we already have,” CEO Robert Hodges told TechCrunch.

As the company describes it, “Altinity.Cloud offers immediate access to production-ready ClickHouse clusters with expert enterprise support during every aspect of the application lifecycle.” It also helps with application design and implementation and production assistance in essence combining the consulting side of the house with the cloud service.

The company was launched in 2017 by CTO Alexander Zaitsev, who had created and open sourced ClickHouse. Up until now the startup has been bootstrapped with revenue from the services business.

Hodges came on board last year after a stint at VMware because he saw a company with tremendous potential, and his background in cloud services made him a good person to lead the company as it built the cloud product and moved into its next phase.

ClickHouse at its core is a relational database that can run in the cloud or on-prem with big improvements in performance, Hodges says. And he says that developers are enamored with it because you can start a project on a laptop and scale it up from there.

“We’re very simple to operate, just a single binary. You can start from a Docker image. You can run it anywhere, literally anywhere that Linux runs from an Intel Nuc all the way up to clusters with hundreds of nodes,” Hodges explained.

The investment from Accel should help them finish building the cloud product, which has been in private beta since July, while helping them build a sales and marketing operation to help sell it to the target enterprise market. The startup currently has 27 people with plans to hire 15 more.

Hodges says that he wants to build a diverse and inclusive company, something he says the tech industry in general has failed at achieving. He believes that one of the reasons for that is the requirement of a computer science degree, which he says has created “a gate for women and people of color,” and he thinks by hiring people with more diverse backgrounds, you can build a more diverse company.

“So one of the things that’s high up on my list is to get back to a more equitable and diverse population of people working on this thing,” he said.

Over time, the company sees the cloud business overtaking the consulting arm in terms of revenue, but that aspect of the business will always have a role in the revenue mix because this is complex by its nature even with a cloud service.

“Customers can’t just do it entirely by having a push button interface. They will actually need humans that work with them, and help them understand how to frame problems, help them understand how to build applications that take care of that […] And then finally, help them deal with problems that naturally arise when you’re when you’re in production,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Coralogix lands $25M Series B to rethink log analysis and monitoring

Logging and monitoring tends to be an expensive endeavor because of the sheer amount of data involved. Companies are therefore forced to pick and choose what they monitor, limiting what they can see. Coralogix wants to change that by offering a more flexible pricing model, and today the company announced a $25 million Series B and a new real time analytics solution called Streama.

First the funding. The round was led by Red Dot Capital Partners and O.G. Tech Ventures with help from existing investors Aleph VC, StageOne Ventures, Janvest Capital Partners and 2B Angels. Today’s round, which comes after the startup’s $10 million Series A last November, brings the total to $41.2 million raised, according to the company.

When we spoke to Coralogix CEO and co-founder Ariel Assaraf last year regarding the A round, he described his company as more of an intelligent applications performance monitoring with some security logging analytics.

Today, the company announced Streama, which has been in Alpha since July. Assaraf says companies can pick and choose how they monitor and pay only for the features they use. That means if a particular log is only tangentially important, a customer can set it to low priority and save money, and direct the budget toward more important targets.

As the pandemic has taken hold, he says that companies are appreciating the ability to save money on their monitoring costs, and directing those resources elsewhere in the company. “We’re basically building out this full platform that is going to be inside centric and value centric instead of volume or machine count centric in its pricing model,” Assaraf said.

Assaraf differentiates his company from others out there like Splunk, Datadog and Sumo Logic saying his is a more modern approach to the problem that simplifies the operations. “All these complicated engineering things are being abstracted away in a simple way, so that any user can very quickly create savings and demonstrate that it’s [no longer] an engineering problem, it’s more of a business value question,” he explained.

Since the A round, the company has grown from 25 to 60 people spread out between Israel and the U.S. It plans to grow to 120 people in the next year with the new funding. When it comes to diversity in hiring, he says Israel is fairly homogeneous, so it involves gender parity there, something that he says he is working to achieve. The U.S. is still relatively small with just 12 employees now, but it will be expanding in the next year and it’s something he says that he will need to be thinking about that as he hires.

As part of that hiring spree, he wants to kick his sales and marketing operations into higher gear and start spending more on those areas as the company grows.


By Ron Miller

Datasaur snags $3.9M investment to build intelligent machine learning labeling platform

As machine learning has grown, one of the major bottlenecks remains labeling things so the machine learning application understands the data it’s working with. Datasaur, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch, announced a $3.9 million investment today to help solve that problem with a platform designed for machine learning labeling teams.

The funding announcement, which includes a pre-seed amount of $1.1 million from last year and $2.8 million seed right after it graduated from Y Combinator in March, included investments from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman.

Company founder Ivan Lee says that he has been working in various capacities involving AI for seven years. First when his mobile gaming startup, Loki Studios was acquired by Yahoo! in 2013, and Lee was eventually moved to the AI team, and most recently at Apple. Regardless of the company, he consistently saw a problem around organizing machine learning labeling teams, one that he felt he was uniquely situated to solve because of his experience.

“I have spent millions of dollars [in budget over the years] and spent countless hours gathering labeled data for my engineers. I came to recognize that this was something that was a problem across all the companies that I’ve been at. And they were just consistently reinventing the wheel and the process. So instead of reinventing that for the third time at Apple, my most recent company, I decided to solve it once and for all for the industry. And that’s why we started Datasaur last year,” Lee told TechCrunch.

He built a platform to speed up human data labeling with a dose of AI, while keeping humans involved. The platform consists of three parts: a labeling interface, the intelligence component, which can recognize basic things, so the labeler isn’t identifying the same thing over and over, and finally a team organizing component.

He says the area is hot, but to this point has mostly involved labeling consulting solutions, which farm out labeling to contractors. He points to the sale of Figure Eight in March 2019 and to Scale, which snagged $100 million last year as examples of other startups trying to solve this problem in this way, but he believes his company is doing something different by building a fully software-based solution

The company currently offers a cloud and on-prem solution, depending on the customer’s requirements. It has 10 employees with plans to hire in the next year, although he didn’t share an exact number. As he does that, he says he has been working with a partner at investor Initialized on creating a positive and inclusive culture inside the organization, and that includes conversations about hiring a diverse workforce as he builds the company.

“I feel like this is just standard CEO speak but that is something that we absolutely value in our top of funnel for the hiring process,” he said.

As Lee builds out his platform, he has also worried about built-in bias in AI systems and the detrimental impact that could have on society. He says that he has spoken to clients about the role of labeling in bias and ways of combatting that.

“When I speak with our clients, I talk to them about the potential for bias from their labelers and built into our product itself is the ability to assign multiple people to the same project. And I explain to my clients that this can be more costly, but from personal experience I know that it can improve results dramatically to get multiple perspectives on the exact same data,” he said.

Lee believes humans will continue to be involved in the labeling process in some way, even as parts of the process become more automated. “The very nature of our existence [as a company] will always require humans in the loop, […] and moving forward I do think it’s really important that as we get into more and more of the long tail use cases of AI, we will need humans to continue to educate and inform AI, and that’s going to be a critical part of how this technology develops.”


By Ron Miller

Axis Security raises $32M to help companies stay secure while working from home

Axis Security launched last year with the idea of helping customers to enable contractors and third parties to remotely access a company’s systems in a safe way, but when the pandemic hit, they saw another use case, one which had been on their road map: helping keep systems secure when employees were working from home.

Today, the company announced a $32 million Series B investment led by Canaan Partners with participation from existing investors Ten Eleven Ventures and Cyberstarts. Today’s round brings the total raised to $49 million, according to Axis.

Gil Azrielant, co-founder and CTO says that the company was able to make the shift to a work from home security scenario so quickly because it had built the product from the ground up to support this vision eventually. The pandemic just accelerated that approach.

“We decided to focus on third parties and contractors at first, but we saw where the puck was going and definitely [designed] the infrastructure to become a full-blown, secure access product. So the infrastructure was there, and we just had to add a few things that were planned for later,” Azrielant told TechCrunch.

He says that the company’s product uses the notion of Zero Trust, which as the name suggests assumes you can’t trust anyone on your system, and work from there. Using a rules-based engine, customers can create a secure environment based on your role.

“What you can see, or what you can do, or what you can download or get to is fully controlled by our Application Access Cloud. This is based on what device you’re using, where you are, who you are, what role you’re in, and what you usually do and don’t do to determine the level of access you are going to get,” he said.

As the startup emerged from stealth last March just three days after the pandemic shut down began in California, it had two main customers — a hotel chain and a pharmaceutical company — and CEO Dor Knafo says that as COVID took hold, “necessity became the mother of adoption.”

He added, “Both accounts came to us and asked us to start pursuing all these employee access use cases, and to us that was incredible because that gave them the push they needed to see the [remote access] vision just as vividly as we do,” he said. Today it has added to that initial pair and while it wouldn’t share it an exact number, it reports it has tens of customers.

Today, the startup has 38 employees almost evenly split between San Mateo, California and Tel Aviv in Israel with plans to accelerate hiring to reach 100 people next year. As the company scales, Knafo says that he is trying to build a more diverse group as it moves to hire more people in the coming year.

“Today, we have incentive internally to help us hire in a more diverse way. We invest heavily in that, and we continue to [keep that at top of mind] for everyone in the company,” Knafo said.

Azrielant added that the pandemic has shown employees don’t have to be located near the offices, which have been closed for much of this year, and that opens up more possibilities to build a more diverse workforce because they can hire from anywhere.

With a product that has much utility right now, the company will be using the new influx of cash to help build out its sales and marketing operations and expand sales outside of North America.

“With COVID accelerating and with a shift to work from anywhere, we’ll definitely focus on bringing our products to more enterprises, which are facing this urgent challenge of working from home,” Knafo said.


By Ron Miller

NUVIA raises $240M from Mithril to make climate-ready enterprise chips

Climate change is on everyone’s minds these days, what with the outer Bay Area on fire, orange skies above San Francisco, and a hurricane season that is bearing down on the East Coast with alacrity (and that’s just the United States in the past two weeks).

A major — and growing — source of those emissions is data centers, the cloud infrastructure that powers most of our devices and experiences. That’s led to some novel ideas, such as Microsoft’s underwater data center Project Natick, which just came back to the surface for testing a bit more than a week ago.

Yet, for all the fun experiments, there is a bit more of an obvious solution: just make the chips more energy efficient.

That’s the thesis of NUVIA, which was founded by three ex-Apple chip designers who led the design of the “A” series chip line for the company’s iPhones and iPads for years. Those chips are wicked fast within a very tight energy envelope, and NUVIA’s premise is essentially what happens when you take those sorts of energy constraints (and the experience of its chip design team) and apply them to the data center.

We did a deep profile of the company last year when it announced its $53 million Series A, so definitely read that to understand the founding story and the company’s mission. Now about one year later, it’s coming back to us with news of a whole bunch of more funding.

NUVIA announced today that it has closed on a $240 million Series B round led by Mithril Capital, with a bunch of others involved listed below.

Since we last chatted with the company, we now have a bit more detail of what it’s working on. It has two products under development, a system-on-chip (SoC) unit dubbed “Orion” and a CPU core dubbed “Phoenix.” The company previewed a bit of Phoenix’s performance last month, although as with most chip companies, it is almost certainly too early to make any long-term predictions about how the technology will settle in with existing and future chips coming to the market.

NUVIA’s view is that chips are limited to about 250-300 watts of power given the cooling and power constraints of most data centers. As more cores become common pre chip, each core is going to have to make do with less power availability while maintaining performance. NUVIA’s tech is trying to solve that problem, lowering total cost of ownership for data center operators while also improving overall energy efficiency.

There’s a lot more work to be done of course, so expect to see more product announcements and previews from the company as it gets its technology further finalized. With $240 million more dollars in the bank though, it certainly has the resources to make some progress.

Shortly after we chatted with the company last year, Apple sued company founder and CEO Gerald Williams III for breach of contract, with the company arguing that its former chip designer was trying to poach employees for his nascent startup. Williams counter-sued earlier this year, and the two parties are now in the discovery phase of their lawsuit, which remains ongoing.

In addition to lead Mithril, the round was done “in partnership with” the founders of semiconductor giant Marvell (Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai), funds managed by BlackRock, Fidelity, and Temasek, plus Atlantic Bridge and Redline Capital along with Series A investors Capricorn Investment Group, Dell Technologies Capital, Mayfield, Nepenthe LLC, and WRVI Capital.


By Danny Crichton

Xometry raises $75M Series E to expand custom manufacturing marketplace

When companies need to find manufacturers to build custom parts, it’s not always an easy process, especially during a pandemic. Xometry, a 7-year old startup based in Maryland has built an online marketplace where companies can find manufacturers across the world with excess capacity to build whatever they need. Today, the company announced a $75 million Series E investment to keep expanding the platform.

T. Rowe Price Associates led the investment with participation from new firms Durable Capital Partners LP and ArrowMark Partners. Previous investors also joined the round including BMW i Ventures, Greenspring Associates, Dell Technologies Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Foundry Group, Highland Capital Partners and Almaz Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $193 million, according to the company.

Company CEO and co-founder Randy Altschuler says Xometry fills a need by providing a digital way of putting buyers and manufacturers together with a dash of artificial intelligence to put the right combination together. “We’ve created a marketplace using artificial intelligence to power it, and provide an e-commerce experience for buyers of custom manufacturing and for suppliers to deliver that manufacturing,” Altschuler told TechCrunch.

The kind of custom pieces that are facilitated by this platform include mechanical parts for aerospace, defense, automotive, robotics and medical devices — what Altschuler calls mission critical parts. Being able to put companies together in this fashion is particularly useful during COVID when certain regions might have been shut down.

“COVID has reinforced the need for distributed manufacturing and our platform enables that by empowering these local manufacturers, and because we’re using technology to do it, as COVID has unfolded […] and as continents have shut down, and even specific states in the United States have shut down, our platform has allowed customers to autocorrect and shift work to other locations,” he explained

What’s more, companies could take advantage of the platform to manufacture critical personal protective equipment. “One of the beauties of our platform was when COVID hit customers could come to our platform and suddenly access this tremendous amount of manufacturing capacity to produce this much-needed PPP,” he said.

Xometry makes money by facilitating the sale between the buyer and producer. They help set the price and then make money on the difference between the cost to produce and how much the buyer was willing to pay to have it done.

They have relationships with 5000 manufacturers located throughout the world and 30,000 customers using the platform to build the parts they need. The company currently has around 350 employees with plans to use the money to add more to keep enhancing the platform.

Altschuler says from a human perspective, he wants his company to have a diverse workforce because he never wants to see people being discriminated against for whatever reason, but he also says as a company with an international market having a diverse workforce is also critical to his business. “The more diversity that we have within Xometry, the more we’re able to effectively market to those folks, sell to those folks and understand how they utilize technology. We’re just going to better understand our customer set as we [build a more diverse workforce],” he said.

As a Series E-stage company, Altschuler does not shy away from the IPO question. In fact, he recently brought in new CFO Jim Rallo, who has experience taking a company public. “The market that we operate in is so large, and there’s so many opportunities for us to serve both our customers and our suppliers, and we have to be great for both of them. We need capital to do that, and the public markets can be an efficient way to access that capital and to grow our business, and in the end that’s what we want to do,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Snyk bags another $200M at $2.6B valuation 9 months after last raise

When we last reported on Snyk in January, eons ago in COVID time, the company announced $150 million investment on a valuation of over $1 billion. Today, barely nine months later, it announced another $200 million and its valuation has expanded to $2.6 billion.

The company is obviously drawing some serious investor attention and even a pandemic is not diminishing that interest. Addition led today’s round, bringing the total raised to $450 million with $350 million coming this year alone.

Snyk has a unique approach to security, building it into the development process instead of offloading it to a separate security team. If you want to build a secure product, you need to think about it as you’re developing the product and that’s what Snyk’s product set is designed to do — check for security as you’re committing your build to your git repository.

With an open source product at the top of funnel to drive interest in the platform, CEO Peter McKay says the pandemic has only accelerated the appeal of the company. In fact, the startup’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is growing at a remarkable 275% year over year.

McKay says, even with the pandemic, his company has been accelerating adding 100 employees in the last 12 months to take advantage of the increasing revenue. “When others were kind of scaling back we invested and it worked out well because our business never slowed down. In fact, in a lot of the industries it really picked up,” he said.

That’s because as many other founders have pointed out, COVID is speeding up the rate at which many companies are moving to the cloud, and that’s working Snyk’s favor. “We’ve just capitalized on this accelerated shift to the cloud and modern cloud native applications,” he said.

The company currently has 375 employees with plans to add 100 more in the next year. As it grows, McKay says that he is looking to build a diverse and inclusive culture, something he learned about as he moved through his career at VMware and Veeam.

He says one of the keys at Snyk is putting every employee through unconscious bias training to help limit bias in the hiring process, and the executive team has taken a pledge to make the company’s hiring practices more diverse. Still, he recognizes it takes work to achieve these goals, and it’s always easy for an experienced team to go back to the network instead of digging deeper for a more diverse candidate pool.

“I think we’ve put all the pieces in place to get there, but I think like a lot of companies, there’s still a long way to go,” he said. But he recognizes the sooner you embed diversity into the company culture, the better because it’s hard to go back after the fact and do it.

Addition founder Lee Fixel says he sees a company that’s accelerating rapidly and that’s why he was willing to pour in so big an investment. “Snyk’s impressive growth is a signal that the market is ready to embrace a change from traditional security and empower developers to tackle the new security risk that comes with a software-driven digital world,” he said in a statement.

Snyk was founded in 2015. The founders brought McKay on board for some experienced leadership in 2018 to help lead the company through its rapid growth. Prior to the $350 million in new money this year, the company raised $70 million in 2019.


By Ron Miller