Developer-focused video platform Mux achieves unicorn status with $105M funding

Barely more than eight months after announcing a $37 million funding round, Mux has another $105 million.

The Series D was led by Coatue and values the company at more than $1 billion (Mux isn’t disclosing the specific valuation). Existing investors Accel, Andreessen Horowitz and Cobalt also participated, as did new investor Dragoneer.

Co-founder and CEO Jon Dahl told me that Mux didn’t need to raise more funding. But after last year’s Series C, the company’s leadership kept in touch with Coatue and other investors who’d expressed interest, and they ultimately decided that more money could help fuel faster growth during “this inflection moment in video.”

Building on the thesis popularized by A16Z co-founder Marc Andreessen, Dahl said, “I think video’s eating software, the same way software was eating the world 10 years ago.” In other words, where video was once something we watched at our desks and on our sofas, it’s now everywhere, whether we’re scrolling through our social media feeds or exercising on our Pelotons.

“We’re at the early days of a five- or 10-year major transition, where video is moving into being a first-class part of every software project,” he said.

Dahl argued that Mux is well-suited for this transition because it’s “a video platform for developers,” with an API-centric approach that results in faster publishing and reliable streaming for viewers. Its first product was a monitoring and analytics tool called Mux Data, followed by its streaming video product Mux Video.

“If you’re going to build a video platform and do it data-first, you need heavy data and monitoring and analytics,” Dahl explained. “We built the data layer [and then] we built the streaming platform.”

Customers include Robinhood, PBS, ViacomCBS, Equinox Media, and VSCO — Dahl said that while Mux works with digital media companies, “our core market is software.” He suggested that back when the company was founded in 2015, video was largely seen as a “niche,” or “something you needed if you were ESPN or Netflix.” But the last few years have illustrated that “video is a fundamental part of how we communicate” and that “every software company should have video as a core part of its products.”

Mux founders Adam Brown, Steven Heffernan, Matt McClure and Jon Dahl

Mux founders Adam Brown, Steven Heffernan, Matt McClure and Jon Dahl

Not surprisingly, demand increased dramatically during the pandemic. During the past year, on-demand streaming via the Mux platform growing by 300%, while live video streaming grew 3700% and revenue quadrupled.

“Which is a lot of work,” Dahl said with a laugh. “We definitely spent a lot of the last year ramping and scaling and investing in the platform.”

This new funding will allow Mux (which has now raised a total of $175 million) to continue that investment. Dahl said he plans to grow the team from 80 to 200 employees and to explore potential acquisitions.

“We were impressed by Mux’s laser focus on the developer community, and saw impressive customer retention and expansion indicative of the strong value their solutions provide,” said Coatue General Partner David Schneider in a statement. “This funding will enable Mux to continue to build on their customer-centric platform and we are proud to partner with Mux as it leads the way to this hybrid future.”


By Anthony Ha

Dataminr raises $475M on a $4.1B valuation for real-time insights based on 100k sources of public data

Significant funding news today for one of the startups making a business out of tapping huge, noisy troves of publicly available data across social media, news sites, undisclosed filings and more. Dataminr, which ingests information from a mix of 100,000 public data sources, and then based on that provides customers real-time insights into ongoing events and new developments, has closed on $475 million in new funding. Dataminr has confirmed that this Series F values the company at $4.1 billion as it gears up for an IPO in 2023.

This Series F is coming from a mix of investors including Eldridge (a firm that owns the LA Dodgers but also makes a bunch of other sports, media, tech and other investments), Valor Equity Partners (the firm behind Tesla and many tech startups), MSD Capital (Michael Dell’s fund), Reinvent Capital (Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman’s firm), ArrowMark Partners, IVP, Eden Global and investment funds managed by Morgan Stanley Tactical Value, among others.

To put its valuation into some context, the New York-based company last raised money in 2018 at a $1.6 billion valuation. And with this latest round, it has now raised over $1 billion in outside funding, based on PitchBook data. This latest round has been in the works for a while and was rumored last week at a lower valuation than what Dataminr ultimately got.

The funding is coming at a critical moment, both for the company and for the world at large.

In terms of the company, Dataminr has been seeing a huge surge of business.

Ted Bailey, the founder and CEO, said in an interview that it will be using the money to continue growing its business in existing areas: adding more corporate customers, expanding in international sales and expanding its AI platform as it gears up for an IPO, most likely in 2023. In addition to being used journalists and newsrooms, NGOs and other public organizations, its corporate business today, Bailey said, includes half of the Fortune 50 and a number of large public sector organizations. Over the last year that large enterprise segment of its customers doubled in revenue growth.

“Whether it’s for physical safety, reputation risk or crisis management, or business intelligence or cybersecurity, we’re providing critical insights on a daily basis,” he said. “All of the events of the recent year have created a sense of urgency, and demand has really surged.”

Activity on the many platforms that Dataminr taps to ingest information has been on the rise for years, but it has grown exponentially in the last year especially as more people spend more time at home and online and away from physically interacting with each other: that means more data for Dataminr to crawl, but also, quite possibly, more at stake for all of us as a result: there is so much more out there than before, and as a result so much more to be gleaned out of that information.

That also means that the wider context of Dataminr’s growth is not quite so clear cut.

The company’s data tools have indeed usefully helped first responders react in crisis situations, feeding them data faster than even their own channels might do; and it provides a number of useful, market-impacting insights to businesses.

But Dataminr’s role in helping its customers — which include policing forces — connect the dots on certain issues has not always been seen as a positive. One controversial accusation made last year was that Dataminr data was being used by police for racial profiling. In years past, it has been barred by specific partners like Twitter from sharing data with intelligence agencies. Twitter used to be a 5% shareholder in the company. Bailey confirmed to me that it no longer is but remains a key partner for data. I’ve contacted Twitter to see if I can get more detail on this and will update the story if and when I learn more. Twitter made $509 million in revenues from services like data licensing in 2020, up by about $45 million on the year before.

In defense of Dataminr, Bailey that the negative spins on what it does result from “misperceptions,” since it can’t track people or do anything proactive. “We deliver alerts on events and it’s [about] a time advantage,” he said, likening it to the Associated Press, but “just earlier.”

“The product can’t be used for surveillance,” Bailey added. “It is prohibited.”

Of course, in the ongoing debate about surveillance, it’s more about how Dataminr’s customers might ultimately use the data that they get through Dataminr’s tools, so the criticism is more about what it might enable rather than what it does directly.

Despite some of those persistent questions about the ethics of AI and other tools and how they are implemented by end users, backers are bullish on the opportunities for Dataminr to continue growing.

Eden Global Partners served as strategic partner for the Series F capital round.


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By Ingrid Lunden

Automattic acquires analytics company Parse.ly

Automattic, the for-profit company tied to open source web publishing platform WordPress, is announcing that it has acquired analytics provider Parse.ly.

Specifically, Parse.ly is now part of WPVIP, the organization within Automattic that offers enterprise hosting and support to publishers including TechCrunch. (We use Parse.ly, too.)

WPVIP CEO Nick Gernert described this as the organization’s first large enterprise software acquisition, reflecting a strategy that has expanded beyond news and media organizations — businesses like Salesforce (whose venture arm invested $300 million in Automattic back in 2019), the NBA, Condé Nast, Facebook and Microsoft now use WPVIP for their content and marketing needs.

Both companies, Gernert said, come from similar backgrounds, with “roots” in digital publishing and a “heavy focus on understanding the impact of content.”

“We’ve really to shift more towards content marketing and starting to think more deeply beyond just what traditional page analytics provide,” he continued. That means doing more than measuring pageviews and time on site and “really starting to look more deeply at things like conversation, attribution, areas … that from a marketer’s perspective are impactful.”

WordPress and Parse.ly already work well together, but the plan is to make WPVIP features available to Parse.ly customers while also making more Parse.ly data available to WPVIP publishers. And Gernert said there also opportunities to add more commerce-related data to Parse.ly, since Automattic also owns WooCommerce.

The goal, he said, is to “make Parse.ly better for WordPress and best for WPVIP.”

At the same time, he added, “There’s no plans here to make Parse.ly the only analytics solution that runs on our platform. We want to preserve the flexibility and interoperability [of WordPress], and we want to make sure from a Parse.ly perspective that it still exists as a standalone product. That’s key to its future and we will continue to invest in it.”

Parse.ly was founded in 2009 and has raised $12.9 million in funding from investors including Grotech Ventures and Blumberg Capital, according to Crunchbase. Parse.ly founders Sachin Kamdar and Andrew Montalenti are joining WPVIP, with Kamdar leading go-to-market strategy for Parse.ly and Montalenti leading product.

“We’ve always had deep admiration for WPVIP’s market position as the gold standard for enterprise content teams, and we’re thrilled to be able to join together,” Kamdar said in a statement. “From the culture and people, to the product, market and vision, we’re in lockstep to create more value for our customers. This powerful combination of content and intelligence will push the industry forward at an accelerated pace.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.


By Anthony Ha

TouchCast raises $55M to grow its mixed reality-based virtual event platform

Events — when they haven’t been cancelled altogether in the last 12 months due to the global health pandemic — have gone virtual and online, and a wave of startups that are helping people create and participate in those experiences are seeing a surge of attention, and funding.

In the latest development, New York video startup TouchCast — which has developed a platform aimed at companies to produce lifelike, virtual conferences and other events without much technical heavy-lifting — has picked up funding of $55 million, money that co-founder and CEO Edo Segal said the startup will use to build out its services and teams after being “overrun by demand” in the wake of Covid-19.

The funding is being led by a strategic investor, Accenture Ventures — the investment arm of the systems integrator and consultancy behemoth — with Alexander Capital Ventures, Saatchi Invest, Ronald Lauder and other unnamed investors also participating. The startup up to now has been largely self-funded, and while Segal isn’t disclosing the valuation he said it was definitely in the 9-figures (that is, somewhere in the large region of hundreds of millions of dollars).

Accenture has been using TouchCast’s technology for its own events, but that is likely just one part of its interest: Accenture also has a lot of corporate customers that tap it to build and implement interactive services, so potentially this could lead to more customers into TouchCast’s pipeline.

(Case in point: my interview with Segal, over Zoom, found me speaking to him in the middle of a vast aircraft hangar, with a 747 from one of the big airlines of the world — I won’t say which — parked behind him. He said he’d just come from a business pitch with the airline in question.)

A lot of what we have seen in virtual events, and in particular conferences, has to date has been, effectively, a managed version of a group call on one of the established videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, Google’s Hangout, Microsoft’s Teams, Webex, and so on.

You get a screen with participants’ individual video streams presented to you in a grid more reminiscent of the opening credits of the Brady Bunch or Hollywood Squares than an actual stage or venue.

There are some, of course, who are taking a much different route. Witness Apple’s online events in the last year, productions that have elevated what a virtual event can mean, with more detail and information, and less awkwardness, than an actual live event.

The problem is that not every company is Apple, unable to afford much less execute Hollywood-level presentations.

The essence of what TouchCast has built, as Segal describes it, is a platform that combines computer vision, video streaming technology and natural language processing to let other organizations create experiences that are closer to that of the iPhone giant’s than they are to a game show.

“We have created a platform so that all companies can create events like Apple’s,” Segal said. “We’re taking them on a journey beyond people sitting in their home offices.”

Yet “home office” remains the operative phrase. With TouchCast, people (the organizers and the on-stage participants) still use basic videoconferencing solutions like Zoom and Teams — in their homes, even — to produce the action. But behind the scenes, TouchCast is taking those videos, using computer vision to trim out the people and place them into virtual “venues” so that they appear as if they are on stage in an actual conference.

These venues come from a selection of templates, or the organiser can arrange for a specific venue to be shot and used. And in addition to the actual event, TouchCast then also provides tools for audience members to participate with questions and to chat to each other. As the event is progressing, TouchCast also produces transcriptions and summaries of the key points for those who want them.

Segal said that TouchCast is not planning to make this a consumer-focused product, not even on the B2B2C side, but it’s preparing a feature so that when business conference organisers do want to hold a music segment with a special guest, those can be incorporated, too. (In all honesty, it seems like a small leap to use this for more consumer-focused events, too.)

TouchCast’s growth into a startup serving an audience of hungry and anxious event planners has been an interesting pivot that is a reminder to founders (and investors) that the right opportunities might not be the ones you think they are.

You might recall that the company first came out of stealth back in 2013, with former TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld one of the co-founders.

Back then, the company’s concept was to supercharge online video, by making it easier for creators to bring in interactive elements and media widgets into their work, to essentially make videos closer to the kind of interactivity and busy media mix that we find on webpages themselves.

All that might have been too clever by half. Or, it was simply not the right time for that technology. The service never made many waves, and one of my colleagues even assumed it had deadpooled at some point.

Not at all, it turns out. Segal (a serial entrepreneur who also used to work at AOL as VP of emerging platforms — AOL being the company that acquired TechCrunch and eventually became a part of Verizon) notes that the technology that TouchCast is using for its conferencing solution is essentially the same as what it built for its original video product.

After launching an earlier, less feature-rich version of what it has on the market today, it took the company about six months to retool it, adding in more mixed reality customization via the use of Unreal Engine, to make it what it is now, and to meet the demand it started to see from customers, who approached the startup for their own events after attending conferences held by others using TouchCast.

“It took us eight years to get to our overnight success story,” Segal joked.

Figures from Grand View Research cited by TouchCast estimate that virtual events will be a $400 billion business by 2027, and that has made for a pretty large array of companies building out experiences that will make those events worth attending, and putting on.

They include the likes of Hopin and Bizzabo — both of which have recently also raised big rounds — but also more enhanced services from the big, established players in videoconferencing like Zoom, Google, Microsoft, Cisco and more.

It’s no surprise to see Accenture throwing its hat into that ring as a backer of what it has decided is one of the more interesting technology players in that mix.

The reason is because many understand and now accept that — similar to working life in general — it’s very likely that even when we do return to “live” events, the virtual component, and the expectation that it will work well and be compelling enough to watch, is here to stay.

“Digital disruption, distributed workforces, and customer experience are the driving forces behind the need for companies to transform how they do business and move toward the future of work,” said Tom Lounibos, managing director, Accenture Ventures, in a statement. “For organizations to harness the power of virtual experiences to deliver business impact, the pandemic has shown that quality interactions and insights are needed. Our investment in Touchcast demonstrates our commitment to identifying the latest technologies that help address our clients’ critical business needs.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Extra Crunch roundup: Edtech VC survey, 5 founder mistakes, fintech liquidity, more

Edtech is so widespread, we already need more consumer-friendly nomenclature to describe the products, services and tools it encompasses.

I know someone who reads stories to their grandchildren on two continents via Zoom each weekend. Is that “edtech?”

Similarly, many Netflix subscribers sought out online chess instructors after watching “The Queen’s Gambit,” but I doubt if they all ran searches for “remote learning” first.

Edtech needs to reach beyond underfunded public school systems to become more sustainable, which is why more investors and founders are focusing on lifelong learning.

Besides serving traditional students with field trips and art classes, a maturing sector is now branching out to offer software tutors, cooking classes and singing lessons.

For our latest investor survey, Natasha Mascarenhas polled 13 edtech VCs to learn more about how “employer-led up-skilling and a renewed interest in self-improvement” is expanding the sector’s TAM.

Here’s who she spoke to:

  • Deborah Quazzo, managing partner, GSV Ventures
  • Ashley Bittner, founding partner, Firework Ventures (a future of work fund with portfolio companies LearnIn and TransfrVR)
  • Jomayra Herrera, principal, Cowboy Ventures (a generalist fund with portfolio companies Hone and Guild Education)
  • John Danner, managing partner, Dunce Capital (an edtech and future of work fund with portfolio companies Lambda School and Outschool)
  • Mercedes Bent and Bradley Twohig, partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners (a multistage generalist fund with investments including Forage, Clever and Outschool)
  • Ian Chiu, managing director, Owl Ventures (a large edtech-focused fund backing highly valued companies including Byju’s, Newsela and Masterclass)
  • Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education (a leading edtech seed fund in Europe with portfolio companies like Aula, Unibuddy and BibliU)
  • Benoit Wirz, partner, Brighteye Ventures (an active edtech-focused venture capital fund in Europe that backs YouSchool, Lightneer and Aula)
  • Charles Birnbaum, partner, Bessemer Venture Partners (a generalist fund with portfolio companies including Guild Education and Brightwheel)
  • Daniel Pianko, co-founder and managing director, University Ventures (a higher ed and future of work fund that is backing Imbellus and Admithub)
  • Rebecca Kaden, managing partner, Union Square Ventures (a generalist fund with portfolio companies including TopHat, Quizlet, Duolingo)
  • Andreata Muforo, partner, TLCom Capital (a generalist fund backing uLesson)

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In other news: Extra Crunch Live, a series of interviews with leading investors and entrepreneurs, returns next month with a full slate of guests. This year, we’re adding a new feature: Our guests will analyze pitch decks submitted by members of the audience to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

If you’d like an expert eye on your deck, please sign up for Extra Crunch and join the conversation.

Thanks very much for reading! I hope you have a fantastic weekend — we’ve all earned it.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

13 investors say lifelong learning is taking edtech mainstream

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Rising African venture investment powers fintech, clean tech bets in 2020

After falling into yesterday’s wild news cycle, Alex Wilhelm returned to The Exchange this morning with a close look at venture capital activity across Africa in 2020.

“Comparing aggregate 2020 figures to 2019 results, it appears that last year was a somewhat robust year for African startups, albeit one with fewer large rounds,” he found.

For more context, he interviewed Dario Giuliani, the director of research firm Briter Bridges, which focuses on emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Talent and capital are shifting cybersecurity investors’ focus away from Silicon Valley

A road sign that says "Leaving California."

Image Credits: MCCAIG (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

New cybersecurity ecosystems are popping up in different parts of the world.

Some of of that growth has been fueled by an exodus from the Bay Area, but many early-stage security startups already have deep roots in East Coast cities like Boston and New York.

In the United Kingdom and Europe, government innovation programs have helped entrepreneurs close higher numbers of Series A and B rounds.

Investor interest and expertise is migrating out of Silicon Valley: This post will help you understand where it’s going.

Will Apple’s spectacular iPhone 12 sales figures boost the smartphone industry in 2021?

On Wednesday, 20 January, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Image Credits: NurPhoto (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Today’s smartphones are unfathomably feature-rich and durable, so it’s logical that sales have slowed.

A phone purchased 18 months ago is probably “good enough” for many consumers, especially in times of economic uncertainty.

Then again, of the record $111.4 billion in revenue Apple earned last quarter, $65.68 billion came from phone sales, largely driven by the release of the iPhone 12.

Even though “Apple’s success this quarter was kind of a perfect storm,” writes Hardware Editor Brian Heater, “it’s safe to project a rebound for the industry at large in 2021.”

The 5 biggest mistakes I made as a first-time startup founder

Boy Standing with Dropped Ice Cream Cone

Image Credits: Randy Faris (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Finmark co-founder and CEO Rami Essaid wrote a post for Extra Crunch that candidly describes the traps he laid for himself that made him a less-effective entrepreneur.

As someone who’s worked closely with founders at several startups, each of the points he raised resonated deeply with me.

In my experience, many founders have a hard time delegating, which can quickly create cultural and operational problems. Rami’s experience bears this out:

“I became a human GPS: People could follow my directions, but they struggled to find the way themselves. Independent thinking suffered.”

Dear Sophie: How can I sponsor my mom and stepdad for green cards?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I just got my U.S. citizenship! My husband and I want to bring my mom and her husband to the U.S. to help us take care of our preschooler and toddler.

My biological dad passed away several years ago when I was an adult and my mom has since remarried.

Can they get green cards?

— Appreciative in Aptos

Check out the amazing speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in February

Extra Crunch Live February Schedule: February 3 Gaurav Gupta Lightspeed Venture Partners Raj Dutt Grafana Labs February 10 Aydin Senkut Felicis Kevin Busque Guideline February 17 Steve Loughlin Accel Jason Boehmig Ironclad February 24 Matt Harris Bain Capital Isaac Oates Justworks

Next month, Extra Crunch Live returns with a lineup of guests who are extremely well-qualified to discuss early-stage startups.

Each Wednesday at noon PPST/3 p.m. EST, join a conversation with founders and the investors who backed their companies:

February 3:

Gaurav Gupta (Lightspeed Venture Partners) + Raj Dutt (Grafana Labs)

February 10:

Aydin Senkut (Felicis Ventures) + Kevin Busque (Guideline)

February 17:

Steve Loughlin (Accel) + Jason Boehmig (Ironclad)

February 24:

Matt Harris (Bain Capital) + Isaac Oates (Justworks)

Also, we’re adding a new feature to Extra Crunch Live — our guests will offer advice and feedback on pitch decks submitted by Extra Crunch members in the audience!

10 VCs say interactivity, regulation and independent creators will reshape digital media in 2021

Photo of a young woman watching TV in the bedroom of her apartment; eating sushi and enjoying her night at home alone.

Image Credits: Aleksandar Nakic (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Since the pandemic disrupted the social rhythms of work and school, many of us have compensated by changing our relationship to digital media.

For instance, I purchased a new sofa and thicker living room curtains several months ago when I realized we have no idea when movie theaters will reopen.

Last year, podcast sponsors spent almost $800 million to reach listeners, but ad revenue is estimated to surpass $1 billion this year. Clearly, I’m not the only person who used a discount code to buy a new product in 2020.

At this point, I can scarcely keep track of the multiple streaming platforms I’m subscribed to, but a new voice-activated remote control that comes with my basic cable plan makes it easier to browse my options.

Media reporter Anthony Ha spoke to10 VCs who invest in media startups to learn more about where they see digital media heading in the months ahead. For starters, how much longer can we expect traditional advertising models to persist?

And in a world with hundreds of channels, how are creators supposed to compete for our attention? What sort of discovery tools can we expect to help us navigate between a police procedural set in a Scandinavian village and a 90s sitcom reboot?

Here’s who Anthony interviewed:

  • Daniel Gulati, founding partner, Forecast Fund
  • Alex Gurevich, managing director, Javelin Venture Partners
  • Matthew Hartman, partner, Betaworks Ventures
  • Jerry Lu, senior associate, Maveron
  • Jana Messerschmidt, partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners
  • Michael Palank, general partner, MaC Venture Capital (with additional commentary from MaC’s Marlon Nichols)
  • Pär-Jörgen Pärson, general partner, Northzone
  • M.G. Siegler, general partner, GV
  • Laurel Touby, managing director, Supernode Ventures
  • Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital

Normally, we list each investor’s responses separately, but for this survey, we grouped their responses by question. Some readers say they use our surveys to study up on an individual VC before pitching them, so let us know which format you prefer.

Does a $27 billion or $29 billion valuation make sense for Databricks?

Data analytics platform Databricks is reportedly raising new capital that could value the company between $27 billion and $29 billion.

By the end of Q3 2020, Databricks had surpassed a $350 million run rate — a $150 million YoY increase, reports Alex Wilhelm.

At the time, he described the company as “an obvious IPO candidate” with “broad private-market options.”

Which begs the question: “Can we come up with a set of numbers that help make sense of Databricks at $27 billion?”

End-to-end operators are the next generation of consumer business

Tourist route to the top of the mountain. Rope bridge in the clouds. Crimea. Ai-Petri

Image Credits: Natalia Timchenko (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Rapid shifts in the way we buy goods and services disrupted old-school marketplaces like local newspapers and the Yellow Pages.

Today, I can use my phone to summon a plumber, a week’s worth of groceries or a ride to a doctor’s office.

End-to-end operators like Netflix, Peloton and Lemonade take a lot of time and energy to reach scale, but “the additional capital required is often outweighed by the value captured from owning the entire experience.”

Unpacking Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC deals for Latch and Sunlight Financial

On January 25, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya tweeted that he was making two blank-check deals.

Enterprise SaaS company Latch makes keyless entry systems; Sunlight Financial helps consumers finance residential solar power installations.

“There are nearly 300 SPACs in the market today looking for deals,” noted Alex Wilhelm, who unpacked both transactions.

“There’s no escaping SPACs for a bit, so if you are tired of watching blind pools rip private companies into the public markets, you are not going to have a very good next few months.”

Fintechs could see $100 billion of liquidity in 2021

Long exposure spillway shines water and light. Copy space.

Image Credits: dan tarradellas (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

On Monday, we published the Matrix Fintech Index, a three-part study that weighs liquidity, public markets and e-commerce trends to create a snapshot of an industry in perpetual flux.

For four years running, the S&P 500 and incumbent financial services companies have been outperformed by companies like Afterpay, Square and Bill.com.

In light of steady VC investment, increasing consumer adoption and a crowded IPO pipeline, “fintech represents one of the most exciting major innovation cycles of this decade.”

Drupal’s journey from dorm-room project to billion-dollar exit

Dries Buytaert, co-founder and CTO at Acquia

Image Credits: Acquia

On January 15, 2001, then-college student Dries Buytaert released Drupal 1.0.0, an open-source content-management platform. At the time, about 7% of the world’s population was online.

After raising more than $180 million, Buytaert exited to Vista Equity Partners for $1 billion in 2019.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller interviewed Buytaert to learn more about his 18-year journey.

“His story is compelling, but it also offers lessons for startup founders who also want to build something big,” says Ron.


By Walter Thompson

Vimeo raises $150M, while IAC is ‘contemplating’ a spin-off

Vimeo has raised $150 million in new equity funding, announced in conjunction with the third quarter earnings of its parent company IAC.

In a letter to shareholders, IAC CEO Joey Levin said the company has “begun contemplating spinning Vimeo off to our shareholders.”

“Given Vimeo’s success, and investor adulation for the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) category generally, we expect Vimeo’s access to capital inside of IAC will be much more expensive than access to capital outside of IAC, and that capital will be helpful to enable Vimeo to achieve its highest ambitions,” Levin continued, adding, “We just tested Vimeo’s ability to access capital with a small private fundraise to bolster Vimeo’s balance sheet and to repay capital to IAC.”

Over the summer, Match Group (which owns a variety of dating services, including Tinder) completed its separation from IAC, with IAC’s ownership distributed to IAC shareholders.

Vimeo, meanwhile, has shifted its focus over the past couple years — instead of trying to compete with YouTube as a consumer video destination, it sells video tools to enterprises and other businesses. For example, it recently launched a free video messaging product called Vimeo Record.

The company says it has 1.5 million paying subscribers and more than 3,500 enterprise clients, including Amazon, Starbucks, Deloitte, Zendesk, Rite Aid and Siemens.

The new funding comes from Thrive Capital and GIC. According to the earnings report, in Q3, Vimeo grew revenue by 44% year-over-year, to $75.1 million. And it had its first quarter of positive EBITDA — $3.4 million.

“Our goal is to radically simplify how businesses create and share video, with tools that are far more intuitive and cost effective than they’ve been historically,” said Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud in a statement. “We’re energized to access additional capital to pursue this enormous opportunity with the full focus and scale of the Vimeo platform.”


By Anthony Ha

India’s richest man built a telecom operator everyone wants a piece of

As investors’ appetites sour in the midst of a pandemic, a three-and-a-half-year-old Indian firm has secured $10.3 billion in a month from Facebook and four U.S.-headquartered private equity firms.

The major deals for Reliance Jo Platforms have sparked a sudden interest among analysts, executives and readers at a time when many are skeptical of similar big check sizes that some investors wrote to several young startups, many of which are today struggling to make sense of their finances.

Prominent investors across the globe, including in India, have in recent weeks cautioned startups that they should be prepared for the “worst time” as new checks become elusive.

Elsewhere in India, the world’s second-largest internet market and where all startups together raised a record $14.5 billion last year, firms are witnessing down rounds (where their valuations are slashed). Miten Sampat, an angel investor, said this week that startups should expect a 40%-50% haircut in their valuations if they do get an investment offer.

Facebook’s $5.7 billion investment valued the company at $57 billion. But U.S. private equity firms Silver Lake, Vista, General Atlantic, and KKR — all the other deals announced in the past five weeks — are paying a 12.5% premium for their stake in Jio Platforms, valuing it at $65 billion.

How did an Indian firm become so valuable? What exactly does it do? Is it just as unprofitable as Uber? What does its future look like? Why is it raising so much money? And why is it making so many announcements instead of one.

It’s a long story.

Run up to the launch of Jio

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani gave a rundown of his gigantic Indian empire at a gathering in December 2015 packed with 35,000 people including hundreds of Bollywood celebrities and industry titans.

“Reliance Industries has the second-largest polyester business in the world. We produce one and a half million tons of polyester for fabrics a year, which is enough to give every Indian 5 meters of fabric every year, year-on-year,” said Ambani, who is Asia’s richest man.


By Manish Singh

Extra Crunch Live: Join Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a live Q&A today at 2pm EDT/11am PDT

As the leader of a publicly traded corporation with 135,000 employees, Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg has a unique perspective on the state of the world.

When he appears today on Extra Crunch Live, our virtual speaker series for Extra Crunch members, we’ll ask him about this extraordinary moment in history and his plans for seeing the company through a black swan event that’s reshaping the global economy.

The discussion starts at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT/9 p.m. GMT. You can find the full details below.

Vestberg served as president and CEO at Ericsson for six years and joined Verizon as its CTO and president of Global Networks in 2017 before stepping into the CEO role a little more than a year later. (Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon).

We’ll talk to Vestberg about his tactics for managing a company at scale through a crisis and will check in on the company’s 5G rollout, a platform inflection point that should change the landscape for founders and entrepreneurs. Verizon recently acquired BlueJeans, which competes directly with Zoom and WebEx, so we’ll also ask Vestberg about the company’s forward-looking investment strategy.

Extra Crunch members are encouraged to ask their own questions during the Zoom call, so please come prepared. If you’re not already a member, sign up on the cheap right here.

You can also check out the full Extra Crunch Live schedule here.

See you soon!


By Jordan Crook

KKR has acquired Corel (including its recent acquisition Parallels), reportedly for $1B+

Only six months after snapping up virtualization specialist Parallels, Canadian software company Corel is itself getting acquired. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with multiple sources that private equity giant KKR has closed a deal to buy the company from Vector Capital, which has owned some or all of Corel since 2003.

KKR’s interest in Corel was first rumored in May, when PE Hub reported the two were in talks for a sale valued at over $1 billion. At the time, representatives of Corel declined to comment, although our sources inside the company indicated that the reports were not inaccurate.

Fast forward to today, and both KKR and and a spokesperson for Parallels/Corel declined to comment. But, we now have a copy of the memo provided by an internal source that has been sent out to staff announcing that the deal has indeed closed, and that Corel is now officially part of the KKR family of companies.

According to the memo, KKR is very optimistic about Corel’s prospects. It plans to give Corel an “infusion of capital” to accelerate its growth, which will go into two areas. First will be expanding operations for the existing business: Corel is the company behind a number of longstanding software brands including WordPerfect, Corel Draw, WinZip, PaintShop Pro. Second will be making acquisitions (and the sheer proliferation of promising startups in the last decade dedicated to all variety of apps and other software that may have found it a challenge to scale means Corel could have rich pickings).

There are no layoffs planned as part of the deal, and the official announcement had been planned to go out next week, but now looks like it may be moved up to tomorrow (Wednesday).

Vector and Corel itself have never publicly disclosed much on user numbers or financials, but Vector has described the company as “highly profitable”, with dividends of over $300 million to date. The memo we’ve seen notes that Corel (including Parallels) has millions of customers across its various software platforms and apps.

The acquisition of Corel by KKR marks another chapter in the company’s long corporate history.

Founded in the 1980s — when personal computers were just starting to enter the mainstream but well before we had anything like the internet (not to mention the world of cloud-based apps) that we know today — Corel once positioned itself as a potential competitor to Microsoft in the software wars.

When Corel purchased WordPerfect from Novel in 1996, Corel founder Michael Cowpland viewed the software package as an integral part of that rivalry, describing it as the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke — that is, Word.

Microsoft proved the mightier of the two, and it even eventually signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time. The two have also sparred over patents.

Corel, which went public early in its life, got battered in the first dot-com bust (which was not helped by an insider trading scandal that led to Cowpland’s departure). Vector stepped in and took it private in 2003.

After restructuring the company, Vector listed Corel again in 2006. But, amid another recession that again hit Corel hard, it once more took it private in 2010. In the intervening years, Corel has been focused on modernising its offerings, bringing in e-commerce, direct downloads, subscriptions, and acquisitions to bring the company’s products and wider business closer to how consumers and workers use computers today.

Parallels was a part of that strategy: its products help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, letting employees (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, with Parallels providing support for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a timely offering in the current, fragmented IT market.

If the $1 billion+ figure is accurate, that strategy seems to have worked: across the two times that Vector took Corel private, it never paid more than $124 million for the company (the second time, as its stock was tanking, it paid just $30 million).


By Ingrid Lunden

GirlGaze Network looks to connect brands with female creatives

It started with a hashtag. Amande de Cadenet, photographer, author, and TV host, was spending time with her sister, a director and photographer in her own right, when an ACLU study on the lack of diversity among directors was published in the NYT Magazine, with de Cadenet’s sister an interviewee in the cover story.

“It’s about damn time,” she said to her sister, launching a conversation that would re-route de Cadenet’s path forward. Her experience as a photographer herself, able to book editorial jobs but rarely getting paid gigs, cemented what she had just read in the magazine article.

“The glass ceiling was so low that I couldn’t get off my knees,” she explained of that time.

Over the next 48 hours she would design a logo and a font and contact everyone in her creative network, brands and artists alike, to answer the call when she tweeted a call to action. She simply asked for female photographers and videographers to share their photos alongside the hashtag #girlgaze.

“The majority of pictures taken of females are taken by men,” said De Cadenet. “If the goal is for us to be accepted and embrace who we are, our flaws and all, we’re never going to see those pieces of ourselves depicted in media when taken from the perspective that doesn’t have an experience of those things.”

Thousands of photos flooded in in the fist 72 hours and were re-shared on the GirlGaze Instagram. It was de Cadenet’s way of highlighting the amazing work being done by creative women, and showing the different story that is told in content created from the perspective of a female. But more importantly, it’s how she built an army of 200,000+ female-identifying photographers and directors to eventually launch the GirlGaze Network.

Today, at Cannes Lion festival, nearly three years later, de Cadenet did just that.

The GirlGaze Network allows brands to sign up and find diverse, female-identifying and non-binary creatives to generate amazing content. The network has been in beta for the past few months, and was integral in a global campaign from Dove, which employed 400 photographers and directors across 62 countries.

In essence, the GirlGaze Network acts as representation for a group of people who have not gotten equal pay or equal respect within their field. It also gives brands the opportunity to right the ship and hire diverse creative talent to generate their troves of content, whether it’s for social media, a campaign, or otherwise.

Here’s how it works:

Creatives pay nothing to be on the platform and share their portfolio.

Brands join the platform through a paid subscription, where they can see the portfolios of thousands of photographers, directors and creatives. These brands have access to an à la carte menu to establish what kind of jobs they’d like to post, putting the compensation quote up at the very beginning so that whomever receives the job is paid a fair amount for the gig.

Big brands looking to hire a large amount of people, as Dove did with the #showus campaign, join the Enterprise tier to customize their exact offer, including per-project talent as well as full-time positions.

Brands can search for talent by title, skills, location, and availability. But perhaps even more interesting, the GirlGaze Network has an ‘Unbiased Browsing’ feature, allowing brands who genuinely want to rid themselves of unconscious bias to browse portfolios only, without access to any details about the creative herself.

GirlGaze also handles all of the back-end nitty gritty, including casting and NDAs and all the other paperwork involved.

“The biggest challenge for GirlGaze is to let brands and companies know that they’re not doing this underserved community a favor by hiring them,” said De Cadenet. “This community creates work that is incredibly impactful, really powerful, smart, beautiful. Ultimately, it’s going to add to the bottom line of their business because we’re in a time where the world is very attuned to what is BS and what isn’t. This community tells stories. They have a perspective.”

Thus far, GirlGaze has worked with brands such as Levi’s, Nike, Google, and Warby Parker, and has brought in more than $1 million in pay to their network of female-identifying and non-binary creatives.

One such creative is photographer Nolwen Cifuentes, who has been following GirlGaze from the start and also worked on the Dove campaign.

“This is for really cool brands that want female photographers so they can focus on a story they didn’t have before,” said Cifuentes. “I’ve heard criticism against brands from people who believe they might be queer baiting or using inclusion as a trend. But the thing about GirlGaze is that they are genuinely passionate about female photographers and the stories being told by female photographers, so the brands that come to them are going to be genuine, as well.”


By Jordan Crook

WhatsApp is finally going after outside firms that are abusing its platform

WhatsApp has so far relied on past dealings with bad players within its platform to ramp up its efforts to curtail spam and other automated behavior. The Facebook -owned giant has now announced an additional step it plans to take beginning later this year to improve the health of its messaging service: going after those whose mischievous activities can’t be traced within its platform.

The messaging platform, used by more than 1.5 billion users, confirmed on Tuesday that starting December 7 it will start considering signals off its platform to pursue legal actions against those who are abusing its system. The company will also go after individuals who — or firms that — falsely claim to have found ways to cause havoc on the service.

The move comes as WhatsApp grapples with challenges such as spam behavior to push agendas or spread of false information on its messaging service in some markets. “This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date,” it said in an FAQ post on its site.

A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed the change to TechCrunch, adding, “WhatsApp was designed for private messaging, so we’ve taken action globally to prevent bulk messaging and enforce limits on how WhatsApp accounts that misuse WhatsApp can be used. We’ve also stepped up our ability to identify abuse, which helps us ban 2 million accounts globally per month.”

Earlier this year, WhatsApp said (PDF) it had built a machine learning system to detect and weed out users who engage in inappropriate behavior such as sending bulk messages or creating multiple accounts with intention to harm the service. The platform said it was able to assess the past dealings with problematics behaviors to ban 20% of bad accounts at the time of registration itself.

But the platform is still grappling to contain abusive behavior, a Reuters report claimed last month. The news agency reported about tools that were readily being sold in India for under $15 that claimed to bypass some of the restrictions that WhatsApp introduced in recent months.

TechCrunch understands that with today’s changes, WhatsApp is going after those same set of bad players. It has already started to send cease and desist letters to marketing companies that claim to abuse WhatsApp in recent months, a person familiar with the matter said.


By Manish Singh

CEO Howard Lerman on building a public company and the future of Yext

It’s just over two years since Yext debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, and to mark the occasion, I sat down with co-founder and CEO Howard Lerman for an interview.

As Lerman noted, Yext — which allows businesses to manage their profiles and information across a wide variety of online services — actually presented onstage at the TechCrunch 50 conference back in 2009. Now, it boasts a market capitalization of nearly $2.3 billion, and it just revealed plans to take over a nine-floor building in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, turning it into Yext’s global headquarters.

My interview with Lerman actually came before the announcement, though he managed to drop in a few veiled hints about the company making a big move in real estate.

More concretely, we talked about how Lerman’s management style has evolved from scrappy startup founder to a public company CEO — he described holding five-minute meetings with every Yext employee as “one of the best management techniques” he’s ever adopted.

Lerman also argued that as online misinformation has become a big issue, Yext has only become more important: “Our founding principle is that the ultimate authority on how many calories are in a Big Mac is McDonald’s. The ultimate authority on where Burger King is open is Burger King.”

Vowing that he will remain CEO of Yext for “as long as this board will have me,” Lerman ended our conversation with a passionate defense of the idea that “a company is the ultimate vehicle in America to effect good in the world.”

You can read a transcript of our conversation below, edited and condensed for clarity.

TechCrunch: To start with a really broad question, how do you think Yext is different now than it was two years ago?

Howard Lerman: One of the things that’s defined Yext over the years is our continuous willingness to reinvent ourselves. You started covering us in 2009 [at] TechCrunch 50, we were a launch company there.

And here we are now. One of the cool things about being public is: It’s a total gamechanger. It’s a gamechanger not just for access to capital, but it’s particularly important in global markets. And I’m not talking about capital markets, I’m talking about the markets in which we sell software. We have offices now from Berlin to Shanghai.


By Anthony Ha

Takeaways from F8 and Facebook’s next phase

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and Frederic Lardinois discuss major announcements that came out of Facebook’s F8 conference and dig into how Facebook is trying to redefine itself for the future.

Though touted as a developer-focused conference, Facebook spent much of F8 discussing privacy upgrades, how the company is improving its social impact, and a series of new initiatives on the consumer and enterprise side. Josh and Frederic discuss which announcements seem to make the most strategic sense, and which may create attractive (or unattractive) opportunities for new startups and investment.

“This F8 was aspirational for Facebook. Instead of being about what Facebook is, and accelerating the growth of it, this F8 was about Facebook, and what Facebook wants to be in the future.

That’s not the newsfeed, that’s not pages, that’s not profiles. That’s marketplace, that’s Watch, that’s Groups. With that change, Facebook is finally going to start to decouple itself from the products that have dragged down its brand over the last few years through a series of nonstop scandals.”

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Josh and Frederic dive deeper into Facebook’s plans around its redesign, Messenger, Dating, Marketplace, WhatsApp, VR, smart home hardware and more. The two also dig into the biggest news, or lack thereof, on the developer side, including Facebook’s Ax and BoTorch initiatives.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 


By Arman Tabatabai

TradingView acquires TradeIt to add instant trading APIs to its investor toolkit

After raising $37 million to bring its on-the-spot stock market analytics tools to a wider range of publishers and other internet partners, TradingView today has announced its first acquisition to supercharge the services that it offers to investors, wherever they happen to be online. The startup has acquired TradeIt, which has built an API for on-the-spot trading on any site that uses it.

The terms of deal were not disclosed, but we understand from sources close to the deal that it was under $20 million, more specifically in the “high teens.” TradeIt, which used to be called Trading Ticket, had raised about $12 million from investors that included Peter Thiel’s mostly-fintech fund Valar Ventures, Citi Ventures and others. TradingView had raised just over $40 million with investors including Insight Partners, TechStars and others.

The deal is a big move for consolidation: together the two say they will serve more than 10 million monthly active users in 150 countries, covering some $70 billion in linked assets. But also, better economies of scale, and better margins for companies that provide services that touch consumers not necessarily from a “home” of their own.

The latter is a growing trend that has mirrored the rise of social media and other services that aggregate content from multiple sources; and also the bigger trend of instant, on-demand everything, where consumers are happier with the convenience of buying or engaging with something right when they want to, rather than shopping around, delaying or navigating to another place to do it.

That has also seen the rise of commerce APIs to buy things instantly, not to mention the emergence of a wide range of commerce applications that let people easily buy goods and services on the spot. (And in line with that, TradingView says that nearly half of its user base today is millennials, with an additional 13 percent even younger, Gen Z. “The groups are particularly drawn to [our] extensive charting expertise,” the company says.)

In fintech, and in the world of investing specifically, that’s a trend that has also helped the growth of cryptocurrency, which has opened up the world of investing and thinking about investing to a whole new class of consumers who — for better or worse — are hearing about investing opportunities via viral social media campaigns and other new kinds of channels. Whether cryptocurrency speculation bears out longer term, it is depositing a new class of people into the world of thinking about companies and investing in them.

That taps into the sweet spot where TradeIt and TradingView are building their business.

“TradeIt’s secure and compliant relationships with established U.S. retail brokerages, coupled with their robust integrations with top investing apps, allows TradingView to be part of the backbone of the investing ecosystem,” said Denis Globa, TradingView founder and CEO, in a statement.

TradingView’s partners today include Crunchbase, Investopedia, SeekingAlpha, Zacks, Binance, CME Group and Entrepreneur, where users are able to access a premium tier of TradingView tools by way of a subscription in order to do some instant data and price modelling of a company that they might be reading about. The thinking is that now they will also be able to go one step further by trading stocks related to that information. TradingView, meanwhile, can use that extra feature to make a little more money and sell its service to partners as more sticky, to the tune of 80 percent more time spent with publishers as a result of integrating TradingView’s tools.

That’s something that the two companies can already attest to doing well in partnership.

“TradingView’s vision aligns strongly with our view of the distributed financial networks of the future,” said Nathan Richardson, TradeIt CEO, in a statement. “We’ve worked with TradingView for several years now, and always felt our complementary products and shared retail investing users makes us stronger together.”

Richardson and his cofounder Betsy Eisenberg — who are both joining TradingView — had together built Yahoo Finance — so they are already well experienced in how to leverage the potential of bringing together content with utility.

“Nathan Richardson and Betsy Eisenberg are fintech pioneers who led the development of Yahoo! Finance from scratch. With them on board, we’re extremely excited about the growth potential,” Globa said.


By Ingrid Lunden

Dropbox snares HelloSign for $230M, gets workflow and eSignature

Dropbox announced today that it has purchased HelloSign, a company that provides lightweight document workflow and eSignature services. The company paid a hefty $230 million for the privilege.

Dropbox’s SVP of engineering, Quentin Clark, sees this as more than simply bolting on electronic signature functionality to the Dropbox solution. For him, the workflow capabilities that HelloSign added in 2017 were really key to the purchase.

“What is unique about HelloSign is that the investment they’ve made in APIs and the workflow products is really so aligned with our long term direction,” Clark told TechCrunch. “It’s not just a thing to do one more activity with Dropbox, it’s really going to help us pursue that broader vision,” he added. That vision involves extending the storage capabilities that is as the core of the Dropbox solution

This can also been seen in the context of the Extension capability that Dropbox added last year. HelloSign was actually one of the companies involved at launch. While Clark say the company will continue to encourage companies to extend the Dropbox solution, today’s acquisition gives it a capability of its own that doesn’t require a partnership.

HelloSign CEO Joseph Walla says being part of Dropbox gives HelloSign access to resources of a much larger public company, which should allow it to reach a broader market than it could on its own. “We share a design philosophy based on building the best experience for end-users, fueling our efficient business models and sales strategies. Together with Dropbox, we can bring more seamless document workflows to even more customers and dramatically accelerate our impact,”  Walla said in a blog post announcing the deal.

Whitney Bouck, COO at HelloSign, who previous held stints at Box and EMC Documentum, said the company will remain an independent entity. That means it will continue to operate with its current management structure and Clark indicated that all of the employees will be offered employment at Dropbox as part of the deal.

When you consider that HelloSign, a Bay area startup that launched in 2011, raised just $16 million, it appears to be a impressive return for investors.

This is a developing story. More to come.


By Ron Miller