QuestDB nabs $2.3M seed to build open source time series database

QuestDB, a member of the Y Combinator summer 2020 cohort, is building an open source time series database with speed top of mind. Today the startup announced a $2.3 million seed round.

Episode1 Ventures led the round with assistance from Seedcamp, 7percent Ventures, YCombinator, Kima Ventures and several unnamed angel investors.

The database was originally conceived in 2013 when current CTO Vlad Ilyushchenko was building trading systems for a financial services company and he was frustrated by the performance limitations of the databases available at the time, so he began building a database that could handle large amounts of data and process it extremely fast.

For a number of years, QuestDB was a side project, a labor of love for Ilyushchenko until he met his other co-founders Nicolas Hourcard, who became CEO and Tancrede Collard, who became CPO, and the three decided to build a startup on top of the open source project last year.

“We’re building an open source database for time series data, and time series databases are a multi-billion dollar market because they’re central for financial services, IoT and other enterprise applications. And we basically make it easy to handle explosive amounts of data, and to reduce infrastructure costs massively,” Hourcard told TechCrunch.

He adds that it’s also about high performance. “We recently released a demo that you can access from our website that enables you to query a super large datasets — 1.6 billion rows with sub-second queries, mostly, and that just illustrates how performant the software is,” he said.

He sees open source as a way to build adoption from the bottom up inside organizations, winning the hearts and minds of developers first, then moving deeper in the company when they eventually build a managed cloud version of the product. For now, being open source also helps them as a small team to have a community of contributors help build the database and add to its feature set.

“We’ve got this open source product that is free to use, and it’s pretty important for us to have such a distribution model because we can basically empower developers to solve their problems, and we can ask for contributions from various communities. […] And this is really a way to spur adoption,” Hourcard said.

He says that working with YC has allowed them to talk to other companies in the ecosystem who have built similar open source-based startups and that’s been helpful, but it has also helped them learn to set and meet goals and have access to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, who delivered a talk to the cohort the same day we spoke.

Today the company has 7 employees including the three founders, spread out across the US, EU and South America. He sees this geographic diversity helping when it comes to building a diverse team in the future. “We definitely want to have more diverse backgrounds to make sure that we keep having a diverse team and we’re very strongly committed to that.”

For the short term, the company wants to continue building its community, working on continuing to improve the open source product, while working on the managed cloud product.


By Ron Miller

Fauna raises an additional $27M to turn databases into a simple API call

Databases have always been a complex part of the equation for developers requiring a delicate balance to manage inside the application, but Fauna wants to make adding a database a simple API call, and today it announced $27 million in new funding.

The round, which is technically an extension of the company’s 2017 Series A, was led by Madrona Venture Group with participation from Addition, GV, CRV, Quest Ventures and a number of individual investors. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $57 million, according to the company.

While it was at it, the company also added some executive fire power, announcing that it was bringing on former Okta chief product officer Eric Berg as CEO and former Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia as Chairman.

Companies like Stripe for payments and Twilio for communications are the poster children for the move to APIs. Instead of building sophisticated functionality from scratch, a developer can use an API call to a service, and presto, has the tooling built in without any fuss. Fauna does the same thing for databases.

“Within a few lines of code with Fauna, developers can add a full featured globally distributed database to their applications. They can simplify code, reduce costs and ship faster because they never again worry about database issues such as correctness, capacity, scalability, replication, etc,” new CEO Berg told TechCrunch.

To automate the process even further, the database is serverless, meaning that it scales up or down automatically to meet the needs of the application. Company co-founder Evan Weaver, who has moved to CTO with the hiring of Berg, says that Stripe is a good example of how this works. “You don’t think about provisioning Stripe because you don’t have to. […] You sign up for an account and beyond that you don’t have to provision or operate anything,” Weaver explained.

Like most API companies, it’s working at the developer level to build community and developer consensus around it. Today, they have 25,000 developers using the tool. While they don’t have an open source version, they try to attract developer interest with a generous free tier, after which you can pay as you go or set up a fixed monthly pricing as you scale up.

The company has always been 100% remote, so when COVID hit, it didn’t really change anything about the way the company’s 40 employees work. As the company grows Berg says it has aggressive goals around diversity and inclusion.

“Our recruiting and HR team have some pretty aggressive targets in terms of thinking about diversity in our pipelines and in our recruiting efforts, and because we’re a small team today we have the ability to impact that as we grow. If we doubled the size of the company, we could shift those percentages pretty dramatically, so it’s something that is definitely top of mind for us.”

Weaver says that fund raising began last year before COVID hit, but the term sheet wasn’t signed until April. He admits being nervous throughout the process, especially as the pandemic took hold. A company like Fauna is highly technical and takes time to grow, and he worried getting investors to understand that, even without a bleak economic picture, was challenging.

“It’s a deep tech business and it takes real capital to grow and scale. It’s a high risk, high reward bet, which is easier to fund in boom times, but broadly I think the best companies get built during recessions when there’s less competition for talent and there’s more focus on capital.”


By Ron Miller

Upsolver announces $13M Series A to ease management of cloud data lakes

There’s a lot of complexity around managing data lakes in the cloud that often requires expensive engineering expertise. Upsolver, an early stage startup, wants to simplify all of that, so that a database administrator could handle it. Today the startup announced a $13 million Series A.

Vertex Ventures US was lead investor with participation from Wing Venture Capital and Jerusalem Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $17 million, according to the company.

Co-founder and CEO Ori Rafael says that as companies move data to the cloud and store it in data lakes, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage. The goal of Upsolver is to abstract away a lot of those management tasks and allow users to query the data using SQL, making it a lot more accessible.

“The main criticism of data lakes over the years is they become data swamps. It’s very easy to store data there very cheaply, but making it [easy to query] and valuable is hard. For that you need a lot of engineering, which turns the lake into a swamp. So we take the data that you put into a lake and make it easier to query, and we take the biggest disadvantage of using a lake, which is the complexity of doing that process, and we make that process easy,” Rafael explained.

Investor Sik Rhee, who is general partner and co-founder at Vertex Ventures US sees a company that’s creating a cloud-native standard for data lake computing. “Upsolver succeeded in abstracting away the engineering complexity of data pipeline management so that enterprise customers can quickly solve their modern data challenges in real time and at any scale without having to build another silo of expertise within the organization,” he said in a statement.

The company currently has 22 employees spread out between San Francisco, New York and Israel. Rafael says they hope to expand to 50 employees by the end of next year including adding new engineers for their R&D center in Israel and building sales and customer success teams in the U.S.

Rafael says he and his co-founder sat down early on and wrote down the company’s core values and they see a responsibility of running a diverse company as part of that, as they search for these new hires. Certainly the pandemic has shown them that they can hire from anywhere and that can help contribute to a more diverse workforce as they grow.

He said running the company and raising money has been stressful during these times, but the company has continued to grow through all of this, adding new customers while staying relatively lean and Rafael says that the investors certainly recognized that.

“We had high revenue compared to the low number of employees with [sales] acceleration during COVID — that was our big trio,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Cape Privacy launches data science collaboration platform with $5.06M seed investment

Cape Privacy emerged from stealth today after spending two years building a platform for data scientists to privately share encrypted data. The startup also announced $2.95 million in new funding and $2.11 million in funding it got when the business launched in 2018 for a total of $5.06 million raised.

Boldstart Ventures and Version One led the round with participation from Haystack, Radical Ventures and Faktory Ventures.

Company CEO Ché Wijesinghe says that data science teams often have to deal with data sets that contain sensitive data and share data internally or externally for collaboration purposes. It creates a legal and regulatory data privacy conundrum that Cape Privacy is trying to solve.

“Cape Privacy is a collaboration platform designed to help focus on data privacy for data scientists. So the biggest challenge that people have today from a business perspective is managing privacy policies for machine learning and data science,” Wijesinghe told TechCrunch.

The product breaks down that problem into a couple of key areas. First of all it can take language from lawyers and compliance teams and convert that into code that automatically generates policies about who can see the different types of data in a given data set. What’s more, it has machine learning underpinnings so it also learns about company rules and preferences over time.

It also has a cryptographic privacy component. By wrapping the data with a cryptographic cypher, it lets teams share sensitive data in a safe way without exposing the data to people who shouldn’t be seeing it because of legal or regulatory compliance reasons.

“You can send something to a competitor as an example that’s encrypted, and they’re able  to process that encrypted data without decrypting it, so they can train their model on encrypted data,” company co-founder and CTO Gavin Uhma explained.

The company closed the new round in April, which means they were raising in the middle of a pandemic, but it didn’t hurt that they had built the product already and were ready to go to market, and that Uhma and his co-founders had already built a successful startup, GoInstant that was acquired by Salesforce in 2012. (It’s worth noting that GoInstant debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2011.)

Uhma and his team brought Wijesinghe on board to build the sales and marketing team because as a technical team, they wanted someone with go to market experience running the company, so they could concentrate on building product.

The company has 14 employees and are already an all remote team, so that the team didn’t have to adjust at all when the pandemic hit. While it plans to keep hiring fairly limited for the foreseeable future, the company has had a diversity and inclusion plan from the start.

“You have to be intentional about about seeking diversity, so it’s something that when we sit down and map out our hiring and work with recruiters in terms of our pipeline, we really make sure that that diversity is one of our objectives. You just have you have it as a goal, as part of your culture, and it’s something that when we see the picture of the team, we want to see diversity,” he said.

Wijesinghe adds, “As a person of color myself, I’m very sensitive to making sure that we have a very diverse team, not just from a color perspective, but a gender perspective as well,” he said.

The company is gearing up to sell the product  and has paid pilots starting in the coming weeks.


By Ron Miller

Lightrun raises $4M for its continuous debugging and observability platform

Lightrun, a Tel Aviv-based startup that makes it easier for developers to debug their production code, today announced that it has raised a $4 million seed round led by Glilot Capital Partners, with participation from a number fo engineering executives from several Fortune 500 firms.

The company, which was co-founded by Ilan Peleg (who, in a previous life, was a competitive 800m runner) and Leonid Blouvshtein, with Peleg taking the CEO role and Blouvshtein the CTO position.

The overall idea behind Lightrun is that it’s too hard for developers to debug their production code. “In today’s world, whenever a developer issues a new software version and deploys it into production, the only way to understand the application’s behavior is based on log lines or metrics which were defined during the development stage,” Peleg explained. “The thing is, that is simply not enough. We’ve all encountered cases of missing a very specific log line when trying to troubleshoot production issues, then having to release a new hotfix version in order to add this specific logline, or –alternatively — reproduce the bug locally to better understand the application’s behavior.”

With Lightrun, as the co-founders showed me in a demo, developers can easily add new logs and metrics to their code from their IDE and then receive real-time data from their real production or development environments. For that to work, they need to have the Lightrun agent installed, but the overhead here is generally low because the agent sits idle until it is needed. In the IDE, the experience isn’t all that different from setting a traditional breakpoint in a debugger — only that there is no break. Lightrun can also use existing logging tools like Datadog to pipe its logging data to them.

While the service’s agent is agnostic about the environment it runs in, the company currently only supports JVM languages. Blouvshtein noted that building JVM language support was likely harder than building support for other languages and the company plans to launch support for more languages in the future.

“We make a point of investing in technologies that transform big industries,” said Kobi Samboursky, founder and managing partner at Glilot Capital Partners . “Lightrun is spearheading Continuous Debugging and Continuous Observability, picking up where CI/CD ends, turning observability into a real-time process instead of the iterative process it is today. We’re confident that this will become DevOps and development best practices, enabling I&O leaders to react faster to production issues.”

For now, there is still a bit of an onboarding process to get started with Lightrun, though that’s generally a very short process, the team tells me. Over time, the company plans to make this a self-service process. At that point, Lightrun will likely also become more interesting to smaller teams and individual developers, though the company is mostly focused on enterprise users and despite only really launching out of stealth today and offering limited language support, the company already has a number of paying customers, including major enterprises.

“Our strategy is based on two approaches: bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up, we’re targeting developers, they are the end-users and we want to ensure they get a quality product they can trust to help them. We put a lot of effort into reaching out through the developer channels and communities, as well as enabling usage and getting feedback. […] Top-down approach, we are approaching R&D management like VP of R&D, R&D directors in bigger companies and then we show them how Lightrun saves company development resources and improves customer satisfaction.”

Unsurprisingly, the company, which currently has about a dozen employees, plans to use the new funding to add support for more languages and to improve its service with new features, including support for tracing.


By Frederic Lardinois

Payfone raises $100M for its mobile phone-based digital verification and ID platform

As an increasing number of daily and essential services move to digital platforms — a trend that’s had a massive fillip in the last few months — having efficient but effective ways to verify that people are who they say they are online is becoming ever more important. Now, a startup called Payfone, which has built a B2B2C platform to identify and verify people using data (but no personal data) gleaned from your mobile phone, has raised $100 million to expand its business. Specifically, Rodger Desai, the co-founder and CEO, said in an interview that plan will be to build in more machine learning into its algorithms, expand to 35 more geographies, and to make strategic acquisitions to expand its technology stack.

The funding is being led by Apax Digital, with participation from an interesting list of new and existing backers. They include Sandbox Insurtech Ventures, a division of Sandbox Industries, which connects corporate investment funds with strategic startups in their space); Ralph de la Vega, the former Vice Chairman of AT&T; MassMutual Ventures; Synchrony; Blue Venture Fund (another Sandbox outfit); Wellington Management LLP; and the former CEO of LexisNexis, Andrew Prozes.

Several of these investors have a close link to the startup’s business: Payfone counts carriers, healthcare and insurance companies, and banks among its customers, who use Payfone technology in their backends to help verify users making transactions and logging in to their systems.

Payfone tells me it has now raised $175 million to date, and while it’s not disclosing its valuation with this round, according to PitchBook, in April 2019 when it raised previously it was valued at $270 million. Desai added that Payfone is already profitable and business has been strong lately.

“In 2019 we processed 20 billion authentications, mostly for banks but also healthcare companies and others, and more generally, we’ve been growing 70% year-over-year,” he said. The aim is to boost that up to 100 billion authentications in the coming years, he said.

Payfone was founded in 2008 amongst a throng of mobile payment startups (hence its name) that emerged to help connect consumers, mobile content businesses and mobile carriers with simpler ways to pay using a phone, with a particular emphasis on using carrier billing infrastructure as a way of letting users pay without inputting or using cards (especially interesting in regions where credit and debit card penetration and usage are lower).

That has been an interesting if slowly growing business so around 2015 Payfone starting to move towards using its tech and infrastructure to delve into the adjacent and related space of applying its algorithms, which use authentication data from mobile phones and networks, to help carriers, banks, and many other kinds of businesses verify users on their networks.

(Indeed, the connection between the technology used for mobile payments that bypasses credit/debit cards and the technology that might be used for ID verification is one that others are pursuing, too: Carrier billing startup Boku — which yesterday acquired one of its competitors, Fortumo, in a $41 million deal as part of a wider consolidation play — also acquired one of Payfone’s competitors, Danal, 18 months ago to add user authentication into its own range of services.)

The market for authentication and verification services was estimated to be worth some $6 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow to $12.8 billion by 2024, according to research published by MarketsandMarkets. But within that there seems to be an almost infinite amount of variations, approaches, and companies offering services to carry out the work. That includes authentication apps, password managers, special hardware that generates codes, new innovations in biometrics using fingerprints and eye scans, and more.

While some of these require active participation from consumers (say by punching in passwords or authentication codes or using fingerprints), there’s also a push to develop more seamless and user-friendly, and essentially invisible, approaches, and that’s where Payfone sits.

As Desai describes it, Payfone’s behind-the-scenes solution is used either as a complement to other authentication techniques and on its own, depending on the implementation. In short, it’s based around creating “signal scores” and tokens, and is built on the concept of “data privacy and zero data knowledge architecture.” That is to say, the company’s techniques do not store any personal data and do not need personal data to provide verification information.

As he describes it, while many people might only be in their 20s when getting their first bank account (one of the common use cases for Payfone is in helping authenticate users who are signing up for accounts via mobile), they will have likely already owned a phone, likely with the same phone number, for a decade before that.

“A phone is with you and in your use for daily activities, so from that we can opine information,” he said, which the company in turn uses to create a “trust score” to identify that you are who you say you are. This involves using, for example, a bank’s data and what Desai calls “telecoms signals” against that to create anonymous tokens to determine that the person who is trying to access, say, a bank account is the same person identified with the phone being used. This, he said, has been built to be “spoof proof” so that even if someone hijacks a SIM it can’t be used to work around the technology.

While this is all proprietary to Payfone today, Desai said the company has been in conversation with other companies in the ecosystem with the aim of establishing a consortium that could compete with the likes of credit bureaus in providing data on users in a secure way.

“The trust score is based on our own proprietary signals but we envision making it more like a clearing house,” he said.

The fact that Payfone essentially works in the background has been just as much of a help as a hindrance for some observers. For example, there have been questions raised previously about how data is sourced and used by Payfone and others like it for identification purposes. Specifically, it seems that those looking closer at the data that these companies amass have taken issue not necessarily with Payfone and others like it, but with the businesses using the verification platforms, and whether they have been transparent enough about what is going on.

Payfone does provide an explanation of how it works with secure APIs to carry out its services (and that its customers are not consumers but the companies engaging Payfone’s services to work with consumer customers), and offers a route to opt out of of its services for those that seek to go that extra mile to do so, but my guess that this might not be the end of that story if people continue to learn more about personal data, and how and where it gets used online.

In the meantime, or perhaps alongside however that plays out, there will continue to be interesting opportunities for approaches to verify users on digital platforms that respect their personal data and general right to control how any identifying detail — personal or not — gets used. Payfone’s traction so far in that area has helped it stand out to investors.

“Identity is the key enabling technology for the next generation of digital businesses,” said Daniel O’Keefe, managing partner of Apax Digital, in a statement. “Payfone’s Trust Score is core to the real-time decisioning that enterprises need in order to drive revenue while thwarting fraud and protecting privacy.” O’Keefe and his colleague, Zach Fuchs, a principal at Apax Digital, are both joining the board.

“Payfone’s technology enables frictionless customer experience, while curbing the mounting operating expense caused by manual review,” said Fuchs. 


By Ingrid Lunden

Uptycs lands $30M Series B to keep building security analytics platform

Every company today is struggling to deal with security and understanding what is happening on their systems. This is even more pronounced as companies have had to move their employees to work from home. Uptycs, a Boston-area security analytics startup, announced a $30 million Series B today to help companies to detect and understand breaches when they happen.

Sapphire Ventures led the round with help from Comcast Ventures and ForgePoint Capital. The startup has now raised a total of $43 million, according to the company. Under the terms of today’s deal Sapphire Ventures’ president and managing director Jai Das will be joining the company’s board.

Company co-founder and CEO Ganesh Pai says he and his co-founders previously worked at Akamai, where they observed Akamai’s debugging and diagnostic tools, which were designed to work at massive scale. The founders believed they could use a similar approach to building a security analytics platform, and in 2016 the group launched Uptycs.

“We help people to solve intrusion detection, compliance and audit and incident investigation. These are table stakes requirements [for security solutions] that most large scale organizations have, and of course with their scale the challenges vary. What we at Uptycs do is provide a solution for that,” Pai told TechCrunch.

The company uses a flight recorder approach to security, giving security operations teams the ability to sift through the data and review exactly how a detection happened and how the intruder got through the company’s defenses.

He recognizes his company is fortunate to get a round this large right now, but he says the solution has attracted a number of customers signing seven-digit contracts and this in turn got the attention of investors. “That customer engagement, their experience and this commitment from our customers led to this substantial round of funding,” he said.

The company currently has 65 employees spread across offices in Waltham, a Boston suburb, as well as two offices in India. Pai says the plan is to double that number in the next 12 months. “Between the cash flow from our existing customers and the pipeline for us and the funding, we are planning to grow in a meaningful way. If everything aligns with our expectation we will double our team size in the next 12 months,” he said.

As he grows his company in this way, Pai says they are talking to their investors about how to build a diverse workforce. “We’ve thought long and hard about it, both in terms of diversity and inclusion. It is a lot harder to execute because at the end of the day, there is a finite talent pool, but we are having conversations with our investors, who have seen patterns of success in terms of implementing such plans from growth stage ventures,” he said.

He added, “And of course we are a very early stage company, but we are extremely cognizant, and given the current circumstances are acutely aware that we need to do our very best and make a difference.”

As the company has moved to work from home across its operations, he says it has benefited from working in the cloud from the start. “As an organization we are very fortunate that we built our organization so that everything runs in the cloud and everyone has been able to remain very productive,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Quolum announces $2.75M seed investment to track SaaS spending

As companies struggle to find ways to control costs in today’s economy, understanding what you are spending on SaaS tools is paramount. That’s precisely what early stage startup Quolum is attempting to do, and today it announced a $2.75 million seed round.

Surge Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners led the round with help from a dozen unnamed angel investors.

Company founder Indus Khatian says that he launched the company last summer pre-COVID, when he recognized that companies were spending tons of money on SaaS subscriptions and he wanted to build a product to give greater visibility into that spending.

This tool is aimed at finance, who might not know about the utility of a specific SaaS tool like PagerDuty, but who looks at the bills every month. The idea is to give them data about usage as well as cost to make sure they aren’t paying for something they aren’t using.

“Our goal is to give finance a better set of tools, not just to put a dollar amount on [the subscription costs], but also the utilization, as in who’s using it, how much are they using it and is it effective? Do I need to know more about it? Those are the questions that we are helping finance answer,” Khatian explained.

Eventually, he says he also wants to give that data directly to lines of business, but for starters he is focusing on finance. The product works by connecting to the billing or expense software to give insight into the costs of the services. It takes that data and combines it with usage data in a dashboard to give a single view of the SaaS spending in one place.

While Khatian acknowledges there are other similar tools in the marketplace such as Blissfully, Intello and others, he believes the problem is big enough for multiple vendors to do well. “Our differentiator is being end-to-end. We are not just looking at the dollars, or stopping at how many times you’ve logged in, but we’re going deep into consumption. So for every dollar that you’ve spent, how many units of that software you have consumed,” he said.

He says that he raised the money last fall and admits that it probably would have been tougher today, and he would have likely raised on a lower valuation.

Today the company consists of a 6 person development team in Bangalore in India and Khatian in the U.S. After the company generates some revenue he will be hiring a few people to help with marketing, sales and engineering.

When it comes to building a diverse company, he points out that he himself is an immigrant founder, and he sees the ability to work from anywhere, an idea amplified by COVID-19, helping result in a more diverse workforce. As he builds his company, and adds employees,  he can hire people across the world, regardless of location.


By Ron Miller

API platform Postman delivers $150M Series C on $2B valuation

APIs provide a way to build connections to a set of disparate applications and data sources, and can help simplify a lot of the complex integration issues companies face. Postman has built an enterprise API platform and today it got rewarded with a $150 million Series C investment on a whopping $2 billion valuation — all during a pandemic.

Insight Partners led the round with help from existing investors CRV and Nexus Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $207 million, according to the company. That includes a $50 million Series B from a year ago, making it $200 million raised in just a year. That’s a lot of cash.

Abhinav Asthana, CEO and co-founder at Postman, says that what’s attracting all that dough is an end-to-end platform for building APIs. “We help developers, QA, DevOps — anybody who is in the business of building APIs — work on the same platform. They can use our tools for designing, documentation, testing and monitoring to build high quality APIs, and they do that faster.” Asthana told TechCrunch.

He says that he was not actively looking for funding before this round came together. In fact, he says that investors approached him after the pandemic shut everything down in California in March, and he sees it as a form of validation for the startup.

“We think it shows the strength of the company. We have phenomenal adoption across developers and enterprises and the pandemic has [not had much of an impact on us]. The company has been receiving crazy inbound interest [from investors],” he said.

He didn’t want to touch the question of going public just yet, but he feels the hefty valuation sends a message to the market that this is a solid company that is going to be around for the long term.

Jeff Horing, co-founder and managing director at lead investor Insight Partners certainly sees it that way. “The combination of the market opportunity, the management team and Postman’s proven track record of success shows that they are ready to become the software industry’s next great success,” he said in a statement.

Today the company has around 250 employees divided between the US and Bangalore in India, and he sees doubling that number in the next year. One thing the pandemic has shown him is that his employees can work from anywhere and he intends to hire people across the world to take advantage of the most diverse talent pool possible.

“Looking for diverse talent as part of our large community as we build this workforce up is going to be a key way in which we want to solve this. Along with that, we are bringing people from diverse communities into our events and making sure that we are constantly in touch with those communities, which should help us build up a very strong diverse kind of hiring function,” he said.

He added, “We want to be deliberate about that, and over the coming months we will also shed more light on what specifically we are doing.”


By Ron Miller

Tulsa is trying to build a startup ecosystem from scratch

When you think about startup hubs, Tulsa, Oklahoma is probably not the first city that comes to mind.

A coalition of business, education, government and philanthropists are working to foster a startup ecosystem in a city that’s better known for its aerospace and energy companies. These community leaders recognized that raising the standard of living for a wide cross-section of citizens required a new generation of companies and jobs — which takes commitment from a broad set of interested parties.

In Tulsa, that effort began with George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), a philanthropic organization, and ended with the creation of Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL), a partnership between GKFF, Israeli cybersecurity venture capitalists Team8 and several area colleges and local government.

Why Tulsa?

Tulsa is a city of more than 650,000 people, with a median household income of $53,902 and a median house price of $150,500. Glassdoor reports that the average salary for a software engineer in Tulsa is $66,629; in San Francisco, the median home price is over $1.1 million, household income comes in at $112,376 and Glassdoor’s average software engineer salary is $115,822.

Home to several universities and a slew of cultural attractions, the city has a lot to offer. To sweeten the deal, GKFF spun up “Tulsa Remote,” an initiative that offers $10,000 to remote workers who will relocate and make the city their home base. The goal: draw in new, high-tech workers who will help build a more vibrant economy.

Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma and 47th-most populous city in the United States. Photo Credit: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Local colleges are educating the next generation of workers; Tulsa Innovation Labs is working with the University of Tulsa in partnership with Team8 through the university’s Cyber Fellows program. There are also ongoing discussions with Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa about building a similar relationship.

These constituencies are trying to grow a startup ecosystem from the ground up. It takes a sense of cooperation and hard work and it will probably take some luck, but they are starting with $50 million, announced just this week from GKFF, for startup investments through TIL.


By Ron Miller

Flatfile scores $7.6M seed investment to simplify data onboarding

One of the huge challenges companies like enterprise SaaS vendors face with new customers is getting customer data into their service. It’s a problem that Flatfile founders faced first hand in their jobs, and they decided to solve it. Today, the company announced a healthy $7.6 million seed investment to expand on that vision.

The company also announced the release of its latest product called Concierge.

Two Sigma Ventures led the investment with participation from previous investors Afore Capital, Designer Fund and Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI- focused venture fund).

Company CEO David Boskovic says he and co-founder Eric Crane recognized that this is a problem just about every company faces. Let’s say you sign up for a CRM tool like Hubspot (which is a Flatfile customer). Your first step is to get your customer data into the new service.

As Boskovic points out, if you have thousands of existing customers that can be a real problem, often involving days or even weeks to prepare the data, depending on the size of your customer base. It typically includes importing your data from an existing source, then manually moving it to an Excel spreadsheet.

“What we’re trying to solve for at Flatfile is automating that entire process. You can drop in any data that you have and get it into a new product, and what that solves from a market perspective is the speed of adopting new software,” Boskovic told TechCrunch.

Image Credit: Flatfile

He says they have automated the process to the point it usually takes just a few minutes to process the data, If there are problems that Flatfile can’t solve, it presents the issue to the user who can fix it and move on.

The founders realized that not every use case is going to involve a simple one-to-one data transfer, so they created their new product called Concierge to help companies manage more complex data integration scenarios for their customers

“What we do is we provide a bridge between disparate data formats that are a little bit more complex and let our customers collaborate with their new customers that they are onboarding to bring the data to the right state to use it in the new system,” Boscovic explained.

Whatever they are doing it seems to be working. The company launched in 2016 and today it has 160 customers with 300 sitting on a waiting list. It has increased that customer count by 5x since the beginning of the year in the middle of a pandemic.

Any product that reduces labor and increases efficiency and collaboration in a digital context is going to get the attention of customers right now, and Flatfile is seeing huge spike in interest in spite of the current economy. “We’re helping onboard customers quickly and more efficiently. And our Concierge service can also help reduce in-person touch points by reducing this long, typical data onboarding process,” Boscovic said.

The company has not had to change the way it’s worked because of the pandemic as it has been a distributed workforce from day one. In fact, Boscovic is in Denver and co-founder Eric Crane is based in Atlanta. The startup currently has 14 employees, but plans to fill at least 10 roles this year.

“We’ve got a pretty aggressive hiring map. Our pipeline is bigger than we can handle from a sales perspective,” he said. That means they will be looking to fill sales, marketing and product jobs.


By Ron Miller

Hear from Figma founder and CEO Dylan Field at TC Early Stage in July

Figma is one of the fastest-growing companies in the world of design and in the broader SaaS category. So it goes without saying that we’re absolutely thrilled to have Figma CEO Dylan Field join us at Early Stage, our virtual two-day conference on July 21 and 22, as a speaker. You can pick up a ticket to the event here!

Early Stage is all about giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to be successful. Experts across a wide variety of core competencies, including fundraising, growth marketing, media management, recruiting, legal and tech development will offer their insights and answer questions from the audience.

Field joins an outstanding speaker list that includes Lo Toney, Ann Muira Ko, Dalton Caldwell, Charles Hudson, Cyan Banister and more.

Field founded Figma in 2012 after becoming a Theil fellow. The company spent six years in development before launching, working tediously on the technology and design of a product that aimed to be the Google Docs of design.

Figma is a web-based design product that allows people to design collaboratively on the same project in real time.

The design space is, in many respects, up for grabs as it goes through a transformation, with designers receiving more influence within organizations and other departments growing more closely involved with the design process overall.

This also means that there is fierce competition in this industry, with behemoths like Adobe iterating their products and growing startups like InVision and Canva sprinting hard to capture as much market as possible.

Figma, with $130 million+ in total funding, has lured investors like Index, A16Z, Sequoia, Greylock, and KPCB.

At Early Stage, we’ll talk to Field about staying patient during the product development process and then transitioning into an insane growth sprint. We’ll also chat about the fundraising process, how he built a team from scratch, and how he took the team remote in the midst of a pandemic, as well as chatting about the product development strategy behind Figma.

How to take your time as fast as you can

Figma spent six years in stealth before ever launching a product. But when it finally did come to market, its industry was in the midst of a paradigm shift. Entire organizations started participating in the design process, and conversely, designers became empowered, asserting more influence over the direction of the company and the products they built. We’ll hear from Figma founder and CEO Dylan Field on how he stayed patient with product development and sprinted towards growth.

Get your pass to Early Stage for access to over to 50 small-group workshops along with world-class networking with CrunchMatch. They start at just $199 but prices increase in a few days so grab yours today.



By Jordan Crook

Yugabyte lands $30M Series B as open source database continues to flourish

It’s been a big period of positive change for Yugabyte, makers of the open source, cloud native YugabyteDB database. Just last month they brought on former Pivotal CEO Bill Cook as CEO, and today the company announced it has closed a $30 million Series B.

8VC and strategic investor WiPro led the round with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $55 million, according to the company.

The startup also announced that former Pivotal co-founder Scott Yara would be joining the company’s board. Along with Cook, that brings a distinct Pivotal influence to the company.

Kannan Muthukkaruppan, who was CEO, now holds the title of president. He says that the company has built “a fully open source, high performance distributed SQL database meant for transactional workloads in the cloud.”

Today, in addition to the open source product, it offers a private Database as a Service platform to enterprise customers. This can run on a variety of platforms including public, private, or hybrid cloud or Kubernetes infrastructure. The company also offers a fully managed cloud service, which is currently available on AWS and Google Cloud Platform with Azure support coming in the future.

The founders have quite a pedigree. Muthukkaruppan spent 13 years at Oracle helping build Oracle’s relational engine. Then he moved onto Facebook in the early days where he met co-founders Karthik Ranganathan and Mikhail Bautin. The founding team worked on database technology that helped scale Facebook from 40 million users to over a billion.

It was that background that really caught the attention of Cook. “First of all, there’s a huge market opportunity here that we think we fit into, and it is unique in the sense of the pedigree that this team has, and what they built and the expertise they have across that whole spectrum of being able to scale and have [a database that is] performant across [geographic] zones,” he said.

As the company gets this investment, it’s not only a period of change inside the organization, it is against the backdrop of the worldwide pandemic and economic fallout from that event, but Muthukkaruppan sees momentum here in spite of the macro conditions.

“With COVID-19, we actually saw an increased sense of urgency across many enterprises, wanting to move businesses to the cloud and improve their operational and go-to-market efficiency around the product that they were bringing to market,” he said. He believes that the company’s database can be a key part of that.

The company currently has 50 employees, but sees doubling that number in the next 12-18 months as interest in the products continues to grow. Cook says the company has a diverse workforce today, and he will continue to build on that in his hiring practices.

“The more inclusive you can be ties to all our principles and values [as a company] already so we’re not changing how we operate,” he says. He says diversity is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, it also makes good business sense to have a diverse workforce.


By Ron Miller

Searchable.ai nabs additional $4M seed to continue building AI-driven search

Searchable.ai is an early-stage startup in the alpha phase of testing its initial product, but it has an idea compelling enough to attract investment, even during a pandemic. Today the company announced an additional $4 million in seed capital to continue building its AI-driven search solution.

Susquehanna International Group and Omicron Media co-led the round with participation by Defy Partners, NextView Ventures and a group of unnamed angel investors. Today’s investment comes on top of the $2 million in seed money the startup announced in October.

Company co-founder and CEO Brian Shin said that when he presented to his investors in early March at the last event he attended before everything shut down, they approached him about additional money, and given the economic uncertainty he decided to take it.

“Honestly we probably would not have taken additional money if it was not for the uncertainty around the macro environment right now,” he told TechCrunch.

The company is trying to solve enterprise search and being pre-revenue, Shin recognized that having additional capital would give them more room to build the product and get it to market.

“We are trying to solve this problem where people just can’t find information that they need in order to do their jobs. When you look within the workplace, this problem is just getting worse and worse with the proliferation of different formats and people storing their information in many different places, local networks, cloud repositories, email and Slack,” he explained.

They have a few thousand people in the alpha program right now testing a personal desktop version of the application that helps individual users find their content wherever it happens to be. The plan is to open that up to a wider group soon.

The road map calls for a teams version where groups of employees can search among their different individual repositories, a developer version to build the search technology into other operations and eventually an enterprise tool. They also want to add voice search starting with an Alexa skill with the general belief that we need to move beyond keyword searches to more natural language approaches.

“We believe that there’ll be a whole new category of search, search companies and search products that are more conversational. […] Being able to interact with your information more naturally, more and more conversationally, that’s where we think the markets is going,” he said.

The company now has more money in the bank to help achieve that vision.


By Ron Miller