Microsoft goes all in on healthcare with $19.7B Nuance acquisition

When Microsoft announced it was acquiring Nuance Communications this morning for $19.7 billion, you could be excused for doing a Monday morning double take at the hefty price tag.

That’s surely a lot of money for a company on a $1.4 billion run rate, but Microsoft, which has already partnered with the speech-to-text market leader on several products over the last couple of years, saw a company firmly embedded in healthcare and it decided to go all in.

And $20 billion is certainly all in, even for a company the size of Microsoft. But 2020 forced us to change the way we do business from restaurants to retailers to doctors. In fact, the pandemic in particular changed the way we interact with our medical providers. We learned very quickly that you don’t have to drive to an office, wait in waiting room, then in an exam room, all to see the doctor for a few minutes.

Instead, we can get on the line, have a quick chat and be on our way. It won’t work for every condition of course — there will always be times the physician needs to see you — but for many meetings such as reviewing test results or for talk therapy, telehealth could suffice.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that Nuance is at the center of this shift, especially with its use of cloud and artificial intelligence, and that’s why the company was willing to pay the amount it did to get it.

“AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application. Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance,” Nadella said in a post announcing the deal.

Microsoft sees this deal doubling what was already a considerable total addressable market to nearly $500 billion. While TAMs always tend to run high, that is still a substantial number.

It also fits with Gartner data, which found that by 2022, 75% of healthcare organizations will have a formal cloud strategy in place. The AI component only adds to that number and Nuance brings 10,000 existing customers to Microsoft including some of the biggest healthcare organizations in the world.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says the deal could provide Microsoft with a ton of health data to help feed the underlying machine learning models and make them more accurate over time.

“There is going be a ton of health data being captured by the interactions coming through telemedicine interactions, and this could create a whole new level of health intelligence,” Leary told me.

That of course could drive a lot of privacy concerns where health data is involved, and it will be up to Microsoft, which just experienced a major breach on its Exchange email server products last month, to assure the public that their sensitive health data is being protected.

Leary says that ensuring data privacy is going to be absolutely key to the success of the deal. “The potential this move has is pretty powerful, but it will only be realized if the data and insights that could come from it are protected and secure — not only protected from hackers but also from unethical use. Either could derail what could be a game changing move,” he said.

Microsoft also seemed to recognize that when it wrote, “Nuance and Microsoft will deepen their existing commitments to the extended partner ecosystem, as well as the highest standards of data privacy, security and compliance.”

We are clearly on the edge of a sea change when it comes to how we interact with our medical providers in the future. COVID pushed medicine deeper into the digital realm in 2020 out of simple necessity. It wasn’t safe to go into the office unless absolutely necessary.

The Nuance acquisition, which is expected to close some time later this year, could help Microsoft shift deeper into the market. It could even bring Teams into it as a meeting tool, but it’s all going to depend on the trust level people have with this approach, and it will be up to the company to make sure that both healthcare providers and the people they serve have that.


By Ron Miller

Microsoft is acquiring Nuance Communications for $19.7B

Microsoft agreed today to acquire Nuance Communications, a leader in speech to text software, for $19.7 billion. Bloomberg broke the story over the weekend that the two companies were in talks.

In a post announcing the deal, the company said this was about increasing its presence in the healthcare vertical, a place where Nuance has done well in recent years. In fact, the company announced the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare last year, and this deal is about accelerating its presence there. Nuance’s products in this area include Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One and PowerScribe One for radiology reporting.

“Today’s acquisition announcement represents the latest step in Microsoft’s industry-specific cloud strategy,” the company wrote. The acquisition also builds on several integrations and partnerships the two companies have made in the last couple of years.

The company boasts 10,000 healthcare customers, according to information on the website. Those include AthenaHealth, Johns Hopkins, Mass General Brigham and Cleveland Clinic to name but a few, and it was that customer base that attracted Microsoft to pay the price it did to bring Nuance into the fold.

Nuance CEO Mark Benjamin will remain with the company and report to Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s EVP in charge of the cloud and AI group.

Nuance has a complex history. It went public in 2000 and began buying speech recognition products including Dragon Dictate from Lernout Hauspie in 2001. It merged with a company called ScanSoft in 2005. That company began life as Visioneer, a scanning company in 1992.

Today, the company has a number of products including Dragon Dictate, a consumer and business text to speech product that dates back to the early 1990s. It’s also involved in speech recognition, chat bots and natural language processing particularly in healthcare and other verticals.

The company has 6,000 employees spread across 27 countries. In its most recent earnings report from November 2020, which was for Q42020, the company reported $352.9 million in revenue compared to $387.6 million in the same period a year prior. That’s not the direction a company wants to go in, but it is still a run rate of over $1.4 billion.

At the time of that earnings call, the company also announced it was selling its medical transcription and electronic health record (EHR) Go-Live services to Assured Healthcare Partners and Aeries Technology Group. Company CEO Benjamin said this was about helping the company concentrate on its core speech services.

“With this sale, we will reach an important milestone in our journey towards a more focused strategy of advancing our Conversational AI, natural language understanding and ambient clinical intelligence solutions,” Benjamin said in a statement at the time.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft already has a number speech recognition and chat bot products of its own including desktop speech to text services in Windows and on Azure, but it took a chance to buy a market leader and go deeper into the healthcare vertical.

The transaction has already been approved by both company boards and Microsoft reports it expects the deal to close by the end of this year, subject to standard regulatory oversight and approval by Nuance shareholders.

This would mark the second largest purchase by Microsoft ever, only surpassed by the $26.2 billion the company paid for LinkedIn in 2016.


By Ron Miller

OneTrust adds ethics to its privacy platform with Convercent acquisition

OneTrust, a late stage privacy platform startup, announced it was adding ethics and compliance to the mix this morning by acquiring Convercent, a company that was built to help build more ethical organizations. The companies did not share the purchase price.

OneTrust just raised $300 million on a fat $5.1 billion valuation at the end of last year, and it’s putting that money to work with this acquisition. Alan Dabbiere, co-chairman at OneTrust sees this acquisition as a way to add a missing component to his company’s growing platform of services.

“OneTrust instantly brings a proven ethics and compliance technology, team, and customer base into the OneTrust, further aligning the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer strategy alongside privacy, data governance, third-party risk, GRC (governance, risk and compliance), and ESG (environmental, social and governance) to build trust as a competitive advantage,” he said.

Convercent brings 750 customers and 150 employees to the OneTrust team along with its ethics system, which includes a way for employees to report ethical violations to the company and a tool for managing disclosures.

Convercent can also use data to help surface bad behavior before it’s been reported. As CEO Patrick Quinlan explained in a 2018 TechCrunch article:

“Sometimes you have this interactive code of conduct, where there’s a new vice president in a region and suddenly page views on the sexual harassment section of the Code of Conduct have increased 200% in the 90 days after he started. That’s easy, right? There’s a reason that’s happening, and our system will actually tell you what’s happening.”

Quinlan wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal that joining forces with OneTrust will give it the resources to expand its vision.

“As a part of OneTrust, we’ll be combining forces with the leader across privacy, security, data governance, third-party risk, GRC, ESG—and now—ethics and compliance. Our customers will now be able to build centralized programs across these workstreams to make trust a competitive differentiator,” Quinlan wrote.

Convercent was founded in 2012 and has raised over $100 million, according to Pitchbook data. OneTrust was founded in 2016. It has over 8000 customers and 150 employees and has raised $710 million, according to the company.


By Ron Miller

ServiceNow takes RPA plunge by acquiring India-based startup Intellibot

ServiceNow became the latest company to take the robotic process automation (RPA) plunge when it announced it was acquiring Intellibot, an RPA startup based in Hyderabad, India. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

The purchase comes at a time where companies are looking to automate workflows across the organization. RPA provides a way to automate a set of legacy processes, which often involve humans dealing with mundane repetitive work.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s no-code workflow announcements earlier this month and is part of the company’s broader workflow strategy, according to Josh Kahn, SVP of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow.

“RPA enhances ServiceNow’s current automation capabilities including low code tools, workflow, playbooks, integrations with over 150 out of the box connectors, machine learning, process mining and predictive analytics,” Khan explained. He says that the company can now bring RPA natively to the platform with this acquisition, yet still use RPA bots from other vendors if that’s what the customer requires.

“ServiceNow customers can build workflows that incorporate bots from the pure play RPA vendors such as Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism, and we will continue to partner with those companies. There will be many instances where customers want to use our native RPA capabilities alongside those from our partners as they build intelligent, end-to-end automation workflows on the Now Platform,” Khan explained.

The company is making this purchase as other enterprise vendors enter the RPA market. SAP announced a new RPA tool at the end of December and acquired process automation startup Signavio in January. Meanwhile Microsoft announced a free RPA tool earlier this month, as the space is clearly getting the attention of these larger vendors.

ServiceNow has been on a buying spree over the last year or so buying five companies including Element AI, Loom Systems, Passage AI and Sweagle. Khan says the acquisitions are all in the service of helping companies create automation across the organization.

“As we bring all of these technologies into the Now Platform, we will accelerate our ability to automate more and more sophisticated use cases. Things like better handling of unstructured data from documents such as written forms, emails and PDFs, and more resilient automations such as larger data sets and non-routine tasks,” Khan said.

Intellibot was founded in 2015 and will provide the added bonus of giving ServiceNow a stronger foothold in India. The companies expect to close the deal no later than June.

 


By Ron Miller

Dropbox to acquire secure document sharing startup DocSend for $165M

Dropbox announced today that it plans to acquire DocSend for $165 million The company helps customers share and track documents by sending a secure link instead of an attachment.

“We’re announcing that we’re acquiring DocSend to help us deliver an even broader set of tools for remote work, and DocSend helps customers securely manage and share their business critical documents, backed by powerful engagement analytics,” Houston told me.

When combined with the electronic signature capability of HelloSign, which Dropbox acquired in 2019, the acquisition gives the company an end-to-end document sharing workflow it had been missing. “Dropbox, DocSend and HelloSign will be able to offer a full suite of self-serve products to help our millions of customers manage the entire critical document workflows and give more control over all aspects of that,” Houston explained.

Houston and DocSend co-founder and CEO Russ Heddleston have known each for other years, and have an established relationship. In fact, Heddleston worked for Dropbox as a summer in intern in 2010. He even ran the idea for the company by Houston prior to launching in 2013, who gave it his seal of approval, and the two companies have been partners for some time.

“We’ve just been following the thread of external sending, which has just kind of evolved and opened up into all these different workflows. And it’s just really interesting that by just being laser focused on that we’ve been able to create a really differentiated product that users love a ton,” Heddleston said.

Those workflows include creative, sales, client services or startups using DocSend to deliver proposals or pitch decks and track engagement. In fact, among the earliest use cases for the company was helping startups track engagement with their pitch decks at VC firms.

The company raised a modest amount of the money along the way, just $15.3 million, according to Crunchbase, but Heddleston says that he wanted to build a company that was self-sufficient and raising more VC dollars was never a priority or necessity. “We had [VCs] chase us to give us more money all the time, and what we would tell our employees is that we don’t keep count based on money raised or headcount. It’s just about building a great company,” he said.

That builder’s attitude was one of the things that attracted Houston to the company. “We’re big believers in the model of product growth and capital efficiency, and building really intuitive products that are viral, and that’s a lot of what what attracted us to DocSend,” Houston said. While DocSend has 17,000 customers, Houston says the acquisition gives the company the opportunity to get in front of a much larger customer base as part of Dropbox.

It’s worth noting that Box offers a similar secure document sharing capability enabling users to share a link instead of using an attachment. It recently bought e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million with an eye toward building more complex document workflows similar to what Dropbox now has with HelloSign and DocSend. PandaDoc is another competitor in this space.

Both Dropbox and SendDoc participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield with Houston debuting Dropbox in 2008 at the TechCrunch 50, the original name of the event. Meanwhile, DocSend participated in 2014 at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City.

DocSend’s approximately 50 employees will be joining Dropbox when the deal closes, which should happen soon, subject to standard regulatory oversight.


By Ron Miller

McAfee sells enterprise biz to Symphony Technology Group for $4B

Security firm McAfee announced this morning that will be selling its enterprise business to a consortium led by the private equity firm Symphony Technology Group for $4 billion.

It should pair well with RSA, another enterprise-focused security company the private equity firm purchased last February for $2 billion.

McAfee President and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Leav says that his company has decided to direct the firm’s resources to the consumer side of the business. “This transaction will allow McAfee to singularly focus on our consumer business and to accelerate our strategy to be a leader in personal security for consumers,” he said in a statement.

The company has been some moves in the last year, returning to the public markets after a decade as a private company. In January, the company reportedly laid off a couple of hundred employees and shut down its software development center in Tel Aviv.

Although Symphony did not point directly to the RSA acquisition, the two investments create a large combined legacy security business for the firm, both of which have strong brand recognition, but might have lost some of their edge to more modern competitors in the marketplace.

Looking at McAfee’s latest earning’s report, Q42020, which the company reported on February 24, 2021, the consumer business grew at a much brisker rate than the enterprise side of the house. The former was up 23% YoY, while the latter grew at a far slower 5% rate.

As for the entire year, the company reported $2.9 billion in total FY2020 revenue, up 10% YoY. That broke down to $1.6 billion in consumer net revenue up 20% YoY, and $1.3 billion in enterprise net revenue, an increase of just 1% for the full year.

The company has a complex history, starting life in the 1980s selling firewall software. It eventually went public before being purchased by Intel for $7.7 billion in 2010 and going private again. In 2014, the company changed names to Intel Security before Intel sold a majority stake it to TPG in 2017 for $4.2 billion and changed the name back to McAfee.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year subject to regulatory oversight.


By Ron Miller

Atlassian is acquiring Chartio to bring data visualization to the platform

The Atlassian platform is chock full of data about how a company operates and communicates. Atlassian launched a machine learning layer, which relies on data on the platform with the addition of Atlassian Smarts last fall. Today the company announced it was acquiring Chartio to add a new data analysis and visualization component to the Atlassian family of products. The companies did not share a purchase price.

The company plans to incorporate Chartio technology across the platform, starting with Jira. Before being acquired, Chartio has generated its share of data, reporting that 280,000 users have created 10.5 million charts for 540,000 dashboards pulled from over 100,000 data sources.

Atlassian sees Chartio as way to bring that data visualization component to the platform and really take advantage of the data locked inside its products. “Atlassian products are home to a treasure trove of data, and our goal is to unleash the power of this data so our customers can go beyond out-of-the-box reports and truly customize analytics to meet the needs of their organization,” Zoe Ghani, head of product experience at platform at Atlassian wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Chartio co-founder and CEO Dave Fowler wrote in a blog post on his company website that the two companies started discussing a deal late last year, which culminated in today’s announcement. As is often the case in these deals, he is arguing that his company will be better off as part of large organization like Atlassian with its vast resources than it would have been by remaining stand-alone.

“While we’ve been proudly independent for years, the opportunity to team up our technology with Atlassian’s platform and massive reach was incredibly compelling. Their product-led go to market, customer focus and educational marketing have always been aspirational for us,” Fowler wrote.

As for Chartio customers, unfortunately according to a notice on the company website, the product is going to be going away next year, but customers will have plenty of time to export the data to another tool. The notice includes a link to instructions on how to do this.

Chartio was founded in 2010, and participated in the Y Combinator Summer 2010 cohort. It raised a modest $8.03 million along the way, according to Pitchbook data.


By Ron Miller

SailPoint is buying Saas management startup Intello

SailPoint, an identity management company that went public in 2017, announced it was going to be acquiring Intello today, an early stage SaaS management startup. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

SailPoint believes that by helping its customers locate all of the SaaS tools being used inside a company, it can help IT make the company safer. Part of the problem is that it’s so easy for employees to deploy SaaS tools without IT’s knowledge, and Intello gives them more visibility and control.

In fact, the term ‘shadow IT’ developed over the last decade to describe this ability to deploy software outside of the purview of IT pros. With a tool like Intello, they can now find all of the SaaS tools and point the employees to sanctioned ones, while shutting down services the security pros might not want folks using.

Grady Summers, EVP of product at SailPoint says that this problem has become even more pronounced during the pandemic as many companies have gone remote, making it even more challenging for IT to understand what SaaS tools employees might be using.

“This has led to a sharp rise in ungoverned SaaS sprawl and unprotected data that is being stored and shared within these apps. With little to no visibility into what shadow access exists within their organization, IT teams are further challenged to protect from the cyber risks that have increased over the past year,” Summers explained in a statement. He believes that with Intello in the fold, it will help root out that unsanctioned usage and make companies safer, while also helping them understand their SaaS spend better.

Intello has always seen itself as a way to increase security and compliance and has partnered in the past with other identity management tools like Okta and Onelogin. The company was founded in 2017 and raised $5.8 million according to Crunchbase data. That included a $2.5 million extended seed in May 2019.

Yesterday, another SaaS management tool, Torii, announced a $10 million Series A. Other players in the SaaS management space include BetterCloud and Blissfully, among others.


By Ron Miller

Logging startups are suddenly hot as CrowdStrike nabs Humio for $400M

A couple of weeks ago SentinelOne announced it was acquiring high-speed logging platform Scalyr for $155 million. Just this morning CrowdStrike struck next, announcing it was buying unlimited logging tool Humio for $400 million.

In Humio, CrowdStrike gets a company that will provide it with the ability to collect unlimited logging information. Most companies have to pick and choose what to log and how long to keep it, but with Humio, they don’t have to make these choices with customers processing multiple terabytes of data every single day.

Humio CEO Geeta Schmidt writing in a company blog post announcing the deal described her company in similar terms to Scalyr, a data lake for log information:

“Humio had become the data lake for these enterprises enabling searches for longer periods of time and from more data sources allowing them to understand their entire environment, prepare for the unknown, proactively prevent issues, recover quickly from incidents, and get to the root cause,” she wrote.

That means with Humio in the fold, CrowdStrike can use this massive amount of data to help deal with threats and attacks in real time as they are happening, rather than reacting to them and trying to figure out what happened later, a point by the way that SentinelOne also made when it purchased Scalyr.

“The combination of real-time analytics and smart filtering built into CrowdStrike’s proprietary Threat Graph and Humio’s blazing-fast log management and index-free data ingestion dramatically accelerates our [eXtended Detection and Response (XDR)] capabilities beyond anything the market has seen to date,” CrowdStrike CEO and co-founder George Kurtz said in a statement.

While two acquisitions don’t necessarily make a trend, it’s clear that security platform players are suddenly seeing the value of being able to process the large amounts of information found in logs, and they are willing to put up some cash to get that capability. It will be interesting to see if any other security companies react with a similar move in the coming months.

Humio was founded in 2016 and raised just over $31 million, according to Pitchbook Data. Its most recent funding round came in March 2020, a $20 million Series B led by Dell Technologies Capital. It would appear to be a decent exit for the startup.

CrowdStrike was founded in 2011 and raised over $480 million along the way before going public in 2019. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, and is subject to typical regulatory oversight.


By Ron Miller

These 3 enterprise deals show there’s plenty of action in smaller acquisitions

Since the start of the year, I’ve covered nine M&A deals already, the largest being Citrix buying Wrike for $2.25 billion. But not every deal involves a huge price tag. Today we are going to look at three smaller deals that show there is plenty of activity at the lower-end of the acquisition spectrum.

As companies look for ways to enhance their offerings, and bring in some talent at the same time, smaller acquisitions can provide a way to fill in the product road map without having to build everything in-house.

This gives acquiring companies additional functionality for a modest amount of cash. In smaller deals, we often don’t even get the dollar amount, although in one case today we did. If the deal isn’t large enough to have a material financial impact on a publicly traded company, they don’t have to share the price.

Let’s have a look at three such deals that came through in recent days.

Tenable buys Alsid

For starters, Tenable, a network security company that went public in 2018, bought French Active Directory security startup Alsid for $98 million. Active Directory, Microsoft’s popular user management tool, is also a target of hackers. If they can get a user’s credentials, it’s an easy way to get on the network and Alsid is designed to prevent that.

Security companies tend to enhance the breadth of their offerings over time and Alsid gives Tenable another tool and broader coverage across their security platform. “We view the acquisition of Alsid as a natural extension into user access and permissioning. Once completed, this acquisition will be a strategic complement to our Cyber Exposure vision to help organizations understand and reduce cyber risk across the entire attack surface,” according to the investor FAQ on this acquisition.

Emmanuel Gras, CEO and co-founder, Alsid says he started the company to prevent this kind of attack. “We started Alsid to help organizations solve one of the biggest security challenges, an unprotected Active Directory, which is one of the most common ways for threat actors to move laterally across enterprise systems,” Gras said in a statement.

Alsid is based in Paris and was founded in 2014. It raised a modest amount, approximately $15,000, according to Crunchbase data.

Copper acquires Sherlock

Copper, a CRM tool built on top of the Google Workspace, announced it has purchased Sherlock, a customer experience platform. They did not share the purchase price.

The pandemic pushed many shoppers online and providing a more customized experience by understanding more about your customer can contribute to and drive more engagement and sales. With Sherlock, the company is getting a tool that can help Copper users understand their customers better.

“Sherlock is an innovative engagement analytics and scoring platform, and surfaces your prospects’ and customers’ intentions in a way that drives action for sales, account management and customer success professionals,” Copper CEO Dennis Fois wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

He added, “Relationships are based on engagement, and with Sherlock we are going to create CRM that is focused on action and momentum.”

RapidAPI snags Paw

It’s clear that APIs have changed the way we think about software development, but they have also created a management problem of their own as they proliferate across large organizations. RapidAPI, an API management platform, announced today that it has acquired Paw.

With Paw, RapidAPI adds the ability to design your own APIs, essentially giving customers a one-stop shop for everything related to creating and managing the API environment inside a company. “The acquisition enables RapidAPI to extend its open API platform across the entire API development lifecycle, creating a connected experience for developers from API development to consumption, across multiple clouds and gateways,” the company explained in a statement.

RapidAPI was founded in 2015 and has raised over $67 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent funding came last May, a $25 million round from Andreessen Horowitz, DNS Capital, Green Bay Ventures, M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Fund) and Grove.

Each of these purchases fills an important need for the acquiring company and expands the abilities of the existing platform to offer more functionality to customers without putting out a ton of cash to do it.


By Ron Miller

SentinelOne to acquire high-speed logging startup Scalyr for $155M

SentinelOne, a late-stage security startup that helps customers make sense of security data using AI and machine learning, announced today that it is acquiring Scalyr, the high-speed logging startup for $155 million in stock and cash.

SentinelOne sorts through oodles of data to help customers understand their security posture, and having a tool that enables engineers to iterate rapidly in the data, and get to the root of the problem is going to be extremely valuable for them, CEO and co-founder Tomer Weingarten explained. “We thought Scalyr would be just an amazing fit to our continued vision in how we secure data at scale for every enterprise [customer] out there,” he told me.

He said they spent a lot of time shopping for a company that could meet their unique scaling needs and when they came across Scalyr, they saw the potential pretty quickly with a company that has built a real-time data lake. “When we look at the scale of our technology, we obviously scoured the world to find the best data analytics technology out there. We [believe] we found something incredibly special when we found a platform that can ingest data, and make it accessible in real time,” Weingarten explained.

He believes the real time element is a game changer because it enables customers to prevent breaches, rather than just reacting to them. “If you’re thinking about mitigating attacks or reacting to attacks, if you can do that in real time and you can process data in real time, and find the anomalies in real time and then meet them, you’re turning into a system that can actually deflect the attacks and not just see them and react to them,” he explained.

The company sees Scalyr as a product they can integrate into the platform, but also one which will remain a stand-alone. That means existing customers should be able to continue using Scalyr as before, while benefiting from having a larger company contributing to its R&D.

While SentinelOne is not a public company, it is a pretty substantial private one, having raised over $695 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company’s most recent funding round came in February last year, a $200 million investment with a $1.1 billion valuation.

As for Scalyr it was launched in 2011 by Steve Newman, who first built a word processor called Writely and sold it to Google in 2006. It was actually the basis for what became Google Docs. Newman stuck around and started building the infrastructure to scale Google Docs, and he used that experience and knowledge to build Scalyr. The startup raised $27 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data including a $20 million Series A investment in 2017.

The deal will close this quarter, and when it does Scalyr’s 45 employees will be joining SentinalOne.


By Ron Miller

Container security acquisitions increase as companies accelerate shift to cloud

Last week, another container security startup came off the board when Rapid7 bought Alcide for $50 million. The purchase is part of a broader trend in which larger companies are buying up cloud-native security startups at a rapid clip. But why is there so much M&A action in this space now?

Palo Alto Networks was first to the punch, grabbing Twistlock for $410 million in May 2019. VMware struck a year later, snaring Octarine. Cisco followed with PortShift in October and Red Hat snagged StackRox last month before the Rapid7 response last week.

This is partly because many companies chose to become cloud-native more quickly during the pandemic. This has created a sharper focus on security, but it would be a mistake to attribute the acquisition wave strictly to COVID-19, as companies were shifting in this direction pre-pandemic.

It’s also important to note that security startups that cover a niche like container security often reach market saturation faster than companies with broader coverage because customers often want to consolidate on a single platform, rather than dealing with a fragmented set of vendors and figuring out how to make them all work together.

Containers provide a way to deliver software by breaking down a large application into discrete pieces known as microservices. These are packaged and delivered in containers. Kubernetes provides the orchestration layer, determining when to deliver the container and when to shut it down.

This level of automation presents a security challenge, making sure the containers are configured correctly and not vulnerable to hackers. With myriad switches this isn’t easy, and it’s made even more challenging by the ephemeral nature of the containers themselves.

Yoav Leitersdorf, managing partner at YL Ventures, an Israeli investment firm specializing in security startups, says these challenges are driving interest in container startups from large companies. “The acquisitions we are seeing now are filling gaps in the portfolio of security capabilities offered by the larger companies,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Workday nabs employee feedback platform Peakon for $700M

Workday started the work day with some big news today. It’s acquiring employee feedback platform Peakon for $700 million in cash.

One thing we have learned during the pandemic is that organizations need to find new ways to build stronger connections with their employees, and that’s precisely what Peakon provides. “Bringing Peakon into the Workday family will be very compelling to our customers — especially following an extraordinary past year that has magnified the importance of having a constant pulse on employee sentiment in order to keep people engaged and productive,” Workday co-founder and co-CEO Aneel Bhusri, said in a statement.

Without the ability to have face-to-face meetings with employees, managers have struggled throughout 2020 to understand how COVID, working from home and all the trials and tribulations of the last year have affected the workforce.

But this ability to check the pulse of employees goes beyond this crisis period. Managers of large organizations know that the bigger and more spread out your firm becomes, the more challenging it is to understand what’s happening across the company. The company uses weekly surveys to ask specific questions about the organization. For them it’s all about getting good data, and so far customers have used the platform to ask over 153 million questions since inception six years ago.

Peakon CEO and co-founder Phil Chambers sees Workday as a logical partner. “Workday excels at helping enable customers to leverage their data. Together, we’ll be able to help drive greater productivity, talent development and employee retention for our customers — and unify how employees interact with their organizations,” he said in a Workday blog post announcing the deal.

Peakon was founded in Copenhagen in 2014 and has raised $68 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent round was a $35 million Series B in March 2019. The deal is expected to close by the end of this quarter subject to typical regulatory review.


By Ron Miller

SAP is buying Berlin business process automation startup Signavio

Rumors have been flying this week that SAP was going to buy Berlin business process automation startup Signavio, and sure enough the company made it official today. The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the deal could be worth $1.2 billion.

With Signavio SAP gets a cloud native business process management tool. SAP CFO Luka Mucic sees a world where understanding and automating businesses processes has become a key part of a company’s digital transformation efforts.

“I cannot overstress the importance for companies to be able to design, benchmark, improve and transform business processes across the enterprise to support new capabilities and business models,” he said in a statement.

While traditional enterprise BPA tools have existed for years, having a cloud native tool gives SAP a much more modern approach to attacking this problem, and being able to automate business processes via the cloud has become more important during the pandemic when many many employees are working entirely from home.

SAP also sees Signavio as a key missing piece in the company’s Business Process Intelligence unit. “The combination of business process intelligence from SAP and Signavio creates a leading end-to-end business process transformation suite to help our customers achieve the requirements needed to gain a competitive edge,” he said.

SAP has been making moves into process automation of late. In fact at SAP TechEd in December, the company announced SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, its foray into the RPA space. This should fit in nicely alongside it.

Dr. Gero Decker, Savigno co-founder and CEO, sees SAP resources helping push the company beyond what it could have done on its own. “Considering the positioning of SAP, its geographical coverage and financial muscle, SAP is the biggest and best platform to bring process intelligence to every organization,” he said in a statement.

The increased resources and reach argument is one that just about every acquired company CEO makes, but being pulled into a company the size of SAP can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has vast resources, but it also can be hard for an acquired company to find its place in such a large pond. How well they fit in and make that transition from startup to big company cog, will go a long way in determining the success of this transaction in the long run.

Signavio launched in 2009 in Berlin and has raised almost $230 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors include Apax Digital and Summit Partners. The most recent investment was July 2019 Series C for $177 million, which came in at a $400 million valuation.

Customers include Comcast, Bosch, Liberty Mutual, and yes SAP. Perhaps it will be getting a discount now.


By Ron Miller

Bloomreach raises $150M on $900M valuation and acquires Exponea

Bloomreach, an API company that helps eCommerce customers with search and web site creation, announced a $150 million investment today from Sixth Street Growth. Today’s funding values the company at $900 million.

At the same time, the company announced it has acquired Exponea, a startup that gives Bloomreach a marketing automation component it had been missing. The two companies did not reveal the acquisition price, but along with the pure functionality, the company gains 200 additional employees, which is significant, considering Bloomreach had 300 prior to the acquisition. It also gains 250 net new customers, giving it a total of 750.

“Historically, we have had two major pillars of the business — the search part of it and the content part,” Bloomreach CEO and co-Founder Raj De Datta told TechCrunch. The content management component lets customers build websites, while the search powers the search box, navigation and merchandising. He points out that all of it is powered by an underlying data analysis engine that matches data to people and people to products.

Exponea will give the company more of a complete platform of services, allowing marketers to target and personalize their marketing messages across multiple channels. De Datta says the two companies had similar missions and made a good fit. “We have a common vision and common sort of product direction. […] Both companies are data-driven optimization technologies[…] and both are entrepreneurial product-driven companies,” he said.

It also helped that they had been partnering together for six months prior to the sale, which has now closed. Exponea was founded in 2016 in Slovakia and has raised over $57 million, according to Pitchbook data. The plan is to leave Exponea as a stand-alone product, while finding ways to integrate it more smoothly with the other components in the Bloomreach platform. They expect the integration parts to happen over the next year.

While De Datta did not want to share specific revenue figures, he did say that the company had a record second half as business was pushed online due to the pandemic. Michael McGinn, partner at Sixth Street and co-head at investor Sixth Street Growth doesn’t see the demand for eCommerce abating, even post-COVID, and that will drive a need for more customized online shopping experiences.

“Technology serving more bespoke customer experiences is a rapidly expanding market and we are pleased to join Bloomreach in its leadership of the digital commerce experience and marketing sector,” McGinn said in a statement.

De Datta says the money was used in part to buy Exponea, but he also plans to invest more in engineering to continue building the product line. The ultimate goal is an IPO, but as you would expect, he wasn’t ready to commit to any timeline just yet.

“I wouldn’t say we have a timeline, but our goal is that the company over the course of 2021 should make investments towards that, so that it’s an option for us.”


By Ron Miller