Cape Privacy announces $20M Series A to help companies securely share data

Cape Privacy, the early stage startup that wants to make it easier for companies to share sensitive data in a secure and encrypted way, announced a $20 million Series A today.

Evolution Equity Partners led the round with participation from new investors Tiger Global Management, Ridgeline Partners and Downing Lane. Existing investors Boldstart Ventures, Version One Ventures, Haystack, Radical Ventures and a slew of individual investors also participated. The company has now raised approximately $25 million including a $5 million seed investment we covered last June..

Cape Privacy CEO Ché Wijesinghe says that the product has evolved quite a bit since we last spoke. “We have really focused our efforts on encrypted learning, which is really the core technology, which was fundamental to allowing the multi-party compute capabilities between two organizations or two departments to work and build machine learning models on encrypted data,” Wijesinghe told me.

Wijesinghe says that a key business case involves a retail company owned by a private equity firm sharing data with a large financial services company, which is using the data to feed its machine learning models. In this case, sharing customer data, it’s essential to do it in a secure way and that is what Cape Privacy claims is its primary value prop.

He said that while the data sharing piece is the main focus of the company, it has data governance and compliance components to be sure that entities sharing data are doing so in a way that complies with internal and external rules and regulations related to the type of data.

While the company is concentrating on financial services for now because Wijesinghe has been working with these companies for years, he sees uses cases far beyond a single vertical including pharmaceuticals, government, healthcare telco and manufacturing.

“Every single industry needs this and so we look at the value of what Cape’s encrypted learning can provide as really being something that can be as transformative and be as impactful as what SSL was for the adoption of the web browser,” he said.

Richard Seewald, founding and managing partner at lead investor Evolution Equity Partners likes that ability to expand the product’s markets. “The application in Financial Services is only the beginning. Cape has big plans in life sciences and government where machine learning will help make incredible advances in clinical trials and counter-terrorism for example. We anticipate wide adoption of Cape’s technology across many use cases and industries,” he said.

The company has recently expanded to 20 people and Wijesinghe, who is half Asian, takes DEI seriously. “We’ve been very, very deliberate about our DEI efforts, and I think one of the things that we pride ourselves in is that we do foster a culture of acceptance, that it’s not just about diversity in terms of color, race, gender, but we just hired our first non binary employee,” he said,

Part of making people feel comfortable and included involves training so that fellow employees have a deeper understanding of the cultural differences. The company certainly has diversity across geographies with employees in 10 different time zones.

The company is obviously remote with a spread like that, but once the pandemic is over, Wijesinghe sees bringing people together on occasion with New York City as the hub for the company where people from all over the world can fly in and get together.


By Ron Miller

Kintent nabs $4M seed to automate compliance questionnaire process

Every tech vendor has to pass security muster with customers, typically a tedious activity involving answering long questionnaires. Kintent, a new startup that wants to automate this process, announced a $4 million seed today led by Tola Capital with help from a bunch of tech industry angel investors.

After company co-founder and CEO Sravish Sridhar sold his previous startup Kinvey, which provided Backend as a Service to mobile app developers, he took a couple of years off while he decided what to do next. The sale to Progress Software in 2017 gave him that luxury.

He knew first-hand from his experience at Kinvey, that companies like his had to adhere to a lot of compliance standards and the idea for the next company began to form in his head. He wanted to create a new startup that could make it easier to figure out how to become compliant with a given standard, measure the current state of compliance and get recommendations on how to improve. He created Kintent to achieve that goal.

“So the big picture idea is can we build a system of record for trust and our first use case is information security and data privacy compliance, specifically if you’re a company that is building a SaaS business and you’re storing customer data or PHI, which is health information,” Sridhar explained.

The company’s product is called Trust Cloud. He says that they begin by looking at the lay of your technology land in terms of systems and the types of information you are storing, looking at how compliant each system is with whatever standard you are trying to adhere to.

Then based on how you classify your data, the Trust Cloud generates a list of best practices to stay in compliance with your desired standard, and finally it provides the means to keep testing to validate what you’ve done and that you are remaining in compliance.

The company launched in 2019, spent the first part of 2020 developing the product, and began selling it last October. Today, it has 35 paying customers. “We’re in the high six figures in revenue. We’ve been growing at about 20-30% month-over-month consistently since we launched in October, and the customers are across 11 verticals already,” he said.

With 14 employees and some money in the bank from this funding round, he is thinking ahead to adding people. He says that diversity has to be more than something you just talk about, and he has made it one of the core founding values of the company, and one he takes very seriously.

“I’m very conscious with every hire that we make that we’re really pushing to extend ourselves to [find] people from different walks of life, different statuses and so on,” he said.

The company is also working on a DEI component for the Trust Cloud, which it will be offering for free, which enables companies to provide a set of diversity metrics to measure against and then report on how well you are doing, and how you can improve your numbers.


By Ron Miller

Bevy raises $40M Series C with 20% coming from Black investors

You might expect that a startup that makes community building software would be thriving during a pandemic when it’s so difficult for us to be together. And Bevy, a company whose product powers community sites like Salesforce Trailblazers and Google Developers announced it has raised a $40 million Series C this morning, at least partly due to the growth related to that dynamic.

The round was led by Accel with participation from Upfront Ventures, Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith and LinkedIn, but what makes this investment remarkable is that it included 25 Black investors representing 20% of the investment.

One of those investors, James Lowery, who is a management consultant and entrepreneur, and was the first Black employee hired at McKinsey in 1968, sees the opportunity for this approach to be a model to attract investment from other under-represented groups.

“I know for a fact because of my friendship and my network that there are a lot of people, if they had the opportunity to invest in opportunities like this, they will do it, and they have the money to do it. And I think we can be the model for the nation,” Lowery said.

Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of Black VC investment in startups like Bevy. In fact, only around 3% of venture capitalists are Black and 81% of VC firms don’t have a single Black investor.

Kobie Fuller, who is general Partner at investor Upfront Ventures, a Bevy board member and runs his own community called Valence, says that Bevy says that investments like this can lead to a flywheel effect that can lead to increasing Black investment in startups.

“So for me, it’s about how do we get more Black investors on cap tables of companies early in their lifecycle before they go public, where wealth can be created. How do we get key members of executive teams being Black executives who have the ability to create wealth through options and equity. And how do we also make sure that we have proper representation on the boards of these companies, so that we can make sure that the CEOs and the C suite is held accountable towards the diversity goals,” Fuller said.

Fuller sees a software platform like Bevy that facilitates community as a logical starting point for this approach, and the company needs to look like the broader communities it serves. “Making sure that our workforce is appropriately represented from a perspective of having appropriate level of Black employees to the board to the actual investors is just good business sense,” he said.

But the diversity angle doesn’t stop with the investor group. Bevy CEO and co-founder Derek Anderson says that last May when George Floyd was killed, his firm didn’t have a single person of color among the company’s 27 employees and not a single Black investor in his cap table. He wanted to change that, and he found that in diversifying, it not only was the right thing to do from a human perspective, it was also from a business one.

“We realized that if we really started including people from the Black and Brown communities inside of Bevy that the collective bar of a talent was going to go up. We were going to look from a broader pool of candidates, and what we found as we’ve done this is that as the culture has started to change, the customer satisfaction is going up, our profits and our revenues — the trajectory is going up, and I see this thing is completely correlated,” Anderson said.

Last summer the company set a two year goal to get to 20% of employees being Black. While the number of employees is small, Bevy went from zero to 5% in June, 10% by September. Today they are just under 15% and expect to hit the 20% goal by summer, a year ahead of the goal it set last year.

 

Bevy grew out of a community called Startup Grind that Anderson started several years ago. Unable to find software to run and manage the community, he decided to build it himself. In 2017, he spun that product into a separate company that became Bevy, and he has raised $60 million, according to the company.

In addition to Salesforce and Google, other large enterprises are using Bevy to power their communities and events including Adobe, Atlassian, Twilio, Slack and Zendesk.

Today, the startup is valued at $325 million, which is 4x the amount it was valued at when it raised its $15 million Series B in May 2019. It expects to reach $30 million in ARR by the end of this year.


By Ron Miller

Camunda snares $98M Series B as process automation continues to flourish

It’s clear that automated workflow tooling has become increasingly important for companies. Perhaps that explains why Camunda, a Berlin startup that makes open source process automation software, announced an €82 million Series B today. That translates into approximately $98 million U.S.

Insight Partners led the round with help from A round investor Highland Europe. When combined with the $28 million A investment from December 2018, it brings the total raised to approximately $126 million.

What’s attracting this level of investment says Jakob Freund, co-founder and CEO at Camunda is the company is solving a problem that goes beyond pure automation. “There’s a bigger thing going on which you could call end-to-end automation or end-to-end orchestration of endpoints, which can be RPA bots, for example, but also micro services and manual work [by humans],” he said.

He added, “Camunda has become this endpoint agnostic orchestration layer that sits on top of everything else.” That means that it provides the ability to orchestrate how the automation pieces work in conjunction with one another to create this full workflow across a company.

The company has 270 employees and approximately 400 customers at this point including Goldman Sachs, Lufthansa, Universal Music Group, and Orange. Matt Gatto, managing director at Insight Partners sees a tremendous market opportunity for the company and that’s why his firm came in with such a big investment.

“Camunda’s success demonstrates how an open, standards-based, developer-friendly platform for end-to-end process automation can increase business agility and improve customer experiences, helping organizations truly transform to a digital enterprise,” Gatto said in a statement.

Camunda is not your typical startup. Its history actually dates back to 2008 as a business process management (BPM) consulting firm. It began the Camunda open source project in 2013, and that was the start of pivoting to become an open source software company with a commercial component built on top of that.

It took the funding at the end of 2018 because the market was beginning to catch up with the idea, and they wanted to build on that. It’s going so well that company reports it’s cash-flow positive, and will use the additional funding to continue accelerating the business.


By Ron Miller

SecurityScorecard snags $180M Series E to measure a company’s security risk

SecurityScorecard has been helping companies understand the security risk of its vendors since 2014 by providing each one with a letter grade based on a number of dimensions. Today, the company announced a $180 million Series E.

The round includes new investors Silver Lake Waterman, T. Rowe Price, Kayne Anderson Rudnick, and Fitch Venture along with existing investors Evolution Equity Partners, Accomplice, Riverwood Capital, Intel Capital, NGP Capital, AXA Venture Partners, GV (Google Ventures) and Boldstart Ventures. The company reports it has now raised $290 million.

Co-founder and CEO Aleksandr Yampolskiy says the company’s mission has not changed since it launched. “The idea that we started the company was a realization that when I was CISO and CTO I had no metrics at my disposal. I invested in all kinds of solutions where I was completely in the dark about how I’m doing compared to the industry and how my vendors and suppliers were doing compared to me,” Yampolskiy told me.

He and his co-founder COO Sam Kassoumeh likened this to a banker looking at a mortgage application and having no credit score to check. The company changed that by starting a system of scoring the security posture of different companies and giving them a letter grade of A-F just like at school.

Today, it has ratings on more than 2 million companies worldwide, giving companies a way to understand how secure their vendors are. Yampolskiy says that his company’s solution can rate a new company not in the data set in just five minutes. Every company can see its own scorecard for free along with advice on how to improve that score.

He notes that in fact, the disastrous SolarWinds hack was entirely predictable based on SecurityScorecard’s rating system. “SolarWinds’ score has been lagging below the industry average for quite a long time, so we weren’t really particularly surprised about them,” he said.

The industry average is around 85 or a solid B in the letter grade system, whereas SolarWinds was sitting at 70 or a C for quite some time, indicating its security posture was suspect, he reports.

While Yampolskiy didn’t want to discuss valuation or revenue or even growth numbers, he did say the company has 17,000 customers worldwide including 7 of the 10 top pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The company has reached a point where this could be the last private fundraise it does before going public, but Yampolskiy kept his cards close on timing, saying it could happen some time in the next couple of years.


By Ron Miller

Saleor scores $2.5M seed round for its ‘headless’ e-commerce platform

Saleor, a Poland and U.S.-based startup that offers a “headless” e-commerce platform to make it easier for developers to build better online shopping experiences, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

The round is led by Berlin’s Cherry Ventures, with participation from various angels. They include Guillermo Rauch (Vercel CEO and inventor of Next.js), Chris Schagen (former CMO of Contentful) and Kevin Mahaffey (co-founder of Lookout).

Saleor says the injection of capital will be invested in further developing Saleor‘s headless e-commerce platform, including a soon-to-launch cloud product and GraphQL API for front-end engineers.

Founded in 2020 but with a history going back to 2013, years before founders Mirek Mencel and Patryk Zawadzki spun out the product separate from their agency, Saleor is described as an “API-first” e-commerce platform that takes a “headless” approach. The idea is that the platform does the back-end heavy lifting so that developers can focus on the front end where most of the value is created for users.

“Saleor was born of necessity when our agency work at Mirumee Software required more modular, flexible and scalable e-commerce software,” Saleor co-founder Mirek Mencel recalls. “Most solutions for bigger brands came with proprietary baggage like vendor lock-in, slow adoption of new technologies and commercial certification programs. On the open-source side, we didn’t enjoy Magento’s developer experience and felt alternatives weren’t viable at scale”.

And so Saleor was conceived as an open-source platform focused on “technical excellence and quality” that could deliver greater scalability and extensibility than existing proprietary software. By 2016, the product had grown from something Mencel and Zawadzki’s agency used internally into a platform used by developers around the world.

“We could have stopped there, but saw brands pressing for more revolutionary front-end experiences,” Mencel says. “Decoupling Saleor’s core from its presentation layer was the obvious path to revolutionary front-ends. As difficult as it was, we tore down what was a rather good open-source e-commerce platform and rebuilt it API-first”.

Beyond their early headless conviction, the pair also came to the realisation that GraphQL delivered “more power, precision and developer happiness” than REST. Reasoning that most developers prefer “a few things done superbly to many things done well,” they committed exclusively to Saleor’s GraphQL API. “We have never looked back,” says Mencel.

In 2018, the original six-person team shipped Saleor 2.0. Now with a headcount of 20, Mencel says Saleor has a simple vision of developer-first commerce: open-source, GraphQL and “fair-priced” cloud — a vision that Cherry Ventures has clearly bought into.

“We are currently witnessing a paradigm shift with developers switching to headless commerce solutions, allowing more flexible, differentiated shopping experiences,” says Filip Dames, founding partner of Cherry. “Mirek, Patryk, and their team are at the forefront of this development and will enable innovative merchants to build state-of-the-art shopping experiences that scale across all consumer touch points and devices”.

“We decided to pursue venture backing as a way to increase the Saleor core team size and accelerate buildout of Saleor Cloud, which we’ll launch this year,” adds Mencel.


By Steve O’Hear

Docker nabs $23M Series B as as new developer focus takes shape

It was easy to wonder what would become of Docker after it sold its enterprise business in 2019, but it regrouped last year as a cloud native container company focused on developers, and the new approach appears to be bearing fruit. Today, the company announced a $23 million Series B investment.

Tribe Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Benchmark and Insight Partners. Docker has now raised a total of $58 million including the $35 million investment it landed the same day it announced the deal with Mirantis .

To be sure, the company had a tempestuous 2019 when they changed CEOs twice, sold the enterprise division and looked to reestablish itself with a new strategy. While the pandemic made 2020 a trying time for everyone, Docker CEO Scott Johnston says that in spite of that, the strategy has begun to take shape.

“The results we think speak volumes. Not only was the strategy strong, but the execution of that strategy was strong as well,” Johnston told me. He indicated that the company added 1.7 million new developer registrations for the free version of the product for a total of more 7.3 million registered users on the community edition.

As with any open source project, the goal is to popularize the community project and turn a small percentage of those users into paying customers, but Docker’s problem prior to 2019 had been finding ways to do that. While he didn’t share specific numbers, Johnston indicated that annual recurring revenue (ARR) grew 170% last year, suggesting that they are beginning to convert more successfully.

Johnston says that’s because they have found a way to turn a certain class of developer in spite of a free version being available. “Yes, there’s a lot of upstream open source technologies, and there are users that want to hammer together their own solutions. But we are also seeing these eight-to-ten person ‘two pizza teams’ who want to focus on building applications, and so they’re willing to pay for a service,” he said.

That open source model tends to get the attention of investors because it comes with that built-in action at the top of the sales funnel. Tribe’s Arjun Sethi, whose firm led the investment, says his company actually was a Docker customer before investing in the company and sees a lot more growth potential.

“Tribe focuses on identifying N-of-1 companies — top-decile private tech firms that are exhibiting inflection points in their growth, with the potential to scale towards outsized outcomes with long-term venture capital. Docker fits squarely into this investment thesis[…],” Sethi said in a statement.

Johnston says as they look ahead to post-pandemic, he’s learned a lot since his team move out of the office last year. After surveying employees, they were surprised to learn that most have been happier working at home, having more time to spend with family, while taking away a grueling commute. As a result, he sees going virtual first, even after it’s safe to reopen offices.

That said, he is planning to offer a way to get teams together for in-person gatherings and a full company get-together once a year.

“We’ll be virtual first, but then with the savings of the real estate that we’re no longer paying for, we’re going to bring people together and make sure we have that social glue,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Clari revenue forecasting platform snags $150M investment and triples valuation to $1.6B

Clari, the revenue operations platform that helps companies predict revenue outcomes, announced $150 million Series E today on a $1.6 billion valuation, a number that more than triples its 2019 Series D valuation of $500 million.

Silver Lake led the latest investment with participation from B Capital Group and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Madrona Ventures, Thomvest and Tenaya Capital. The company reports it has now raised a total of $285 million.

While COVID made 2020 trying for everyone, a company with a product that allows executive teams to understand and predict revenue at a granular level was obviously going to be in demand, and Clari saw a lot of interest over the last year.

“It was a surreal year for us, given the momentum we had and all of the tough news we saw going on around us. For us, the usage metrics were just off the charts, as people need visibility and predictability and control over their revenue forecasts,” company co-founder and CEO Andy Byrne told me.

While Byrne didn’t want to discuss revenue specifics, he did point out that he beat the revenue plan he submitted to his board by 110%. He said the performance has led to a lot of inbound investor interest in the company.

“That’s why we’ve had such great investor interest is that [VCs] were hearing in the investment community about how transformative Clarity has been […] just giving companies what we call revenue confidence, being able to go and understand where you’re going to be and to accurately predict the impact the pandemic is going to have on your trajectory, good or bad,” Byrne explained.

To this point, the company has been working with sales and marketing teams, but Byrne says that the company is expanding the scope of the product to bring that same predictability to other parts of an organization.

Clari has mostly focused on technology companies with customers like HPE, Workday and Adobe, but it has plans to expand beyond that vertical. In fact, one of the ways Byrne plans to put today’s investment to work is to push into other verticals, which could also benefit from this kind of revenue visibility.

The company is up 300 employees with plans to double that number by the end of 2020. Byrne says he is building a positive work culture and points to recently being recognized as one of the best places to work by Inc., Bay Area News Group, #GirlsClub and Built In. He says they have made progress when it comes to diversity hirings across a number dimensions, but admits there is still work to be done.

“We actually specifically [established] a commission around diversity and inclusion that has board level [backing] that we’re running to continue to do better work there. Having said that, we still recognize that we’re not too dissimilar to a lot of companies where we feel like there’s so much more that we need to do,” he said.

At this point in the company’s evolution with plenty of money in the bank and a healthy valuation, Byrne did not shy away from the IPO question, although as you would imagine, he wasn’t ready to discuss specifics.

“I would say the answer is unequivocally yes, and we’re building toward this. […] We don’t have a timeframe upon which we know where we’re going to go public, but the next goal is to get to the IPO starting line,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Yugabyte announces $48M Series C as cloud native database makes enterprise push

As demand for cloud native applications is growing, Yugabyte, makers of the cloud native, open source YugabyteDB database are seeing a corresponding rise in demand for their products, especially with large enterprise customers. Today, the company announced a $48 million Series C financing round to help build on that momentum.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from Greenspring Associates, Dell Technologies Capital, Wipro Ventures and 8VC. Today’s round comes on the heels of the startup’s $30 million Series B last June, and brings the total raised to $103 million, according to the company.

Kannan Muthukkaruppan, Yugabyte co-founder and president, says the startup saw a marked increase in interest in both the open source and commercial offerings in 2020 as the pandemic pushed many companies to the cloud faster than they might have gone otherwise, something many startup founders have pointed out to me.

“The distributed SQL space is definitely heating up, and if anything over the last six months almost in every vector in terms of enterprise customers — from Fortune 500 companies across financial, retail, ISP or telcos — are putting Yugabyte in production to be the system of record database to meet some of their business critical services needs,” Muthukkaruppan told me.

In addition, he’s seeing a similar rise in the level of interest from the open source version of the product.”Similarly, the groundswell on the community and the open source adoption has been phenomenal. Our Slack [open source] user community quadrupled in 2020,” he said.

That kind of momentum led to the increased investor interest, says co-founder and CTO Karthik Ranganathan. “Some of the primary reasons to go and even ask for funding was that we realized we could accelerate some of this stuff, and we couldn’t do that with the original $30 million we had raised,” he said. The original thinking was to do a secondary raise in the $15-20 million, but multiple investors expressed interest in participating, and it ended up being a $48 million round when all was said and done.

Former Pivotal president Bill Cook came on board as CEO at the same time they were announcing their last funding round in June and brought some enterprise chops to the table. It was his job to figure out how to expand the market opportunity with larger high-value enterprise clients. “And so the last six or seven months has been about that, dealing with enterprise clients on one hand and then this emerging developer led cloud offering as well,” Cook said.

The company has a three tier offering that includes the open source YugabyteDB. Then there is a fully managed cloud version called Yugabyte Cloud, and finally there is a self-managed cloud version of the database called Yugabyte Platform. The latter is especially attractive to large enterprise customers, who want to be in the cloud, but still want to maintain control of their data and infrastructure, and so choose to manage the cloud installation themselves.

The company started last year with 50 employees, doubled that to this point, and now expects to reach 200 by the end of this year. As they add employees, the leadership team is cognizant of the importance of building a diverse and inclusive workforce, while recognizing the challenges in doing so.

“It’s work in progress as always. We’ve added diversity candidates right along the whole spectrum as we’ve grown but from my perspective it’s never sufficient, and we just need to keep pushing on it hard, and I think as a leadership team we recognize that,” Cook said.

The three leaders of the company have been working together remotely now since the announcement in June, and had only met briefly in person prior to the pandemic shutting down offices, but they say that it has gone smoothly. And while they would obviously like to meet in person again when the time is right, the momentum the company is experiencing shows that things are moving in the right direction, regardless of where they are getting their work done.


By Ron Miller

DataJoy raises $6M seed to help SaaS companies track key business metrics

Every business needs to track fundamental financial information, but the data typically lives in a variety of silos making it a constant challenge to understand a company’s overall financial health. DataJoy, an early stage startup, wants to solve that issue. The company announced a $6 million seed round today led by Foundation Capital with help from Quarry VC, Partech Partners, IGSB, Bow Capital and SVB.

Like many startup founders, CEO Jon Lee has experienced the frustration first hand of trying to gather this financial data, and he decided to start a company to deal with it once and for all. “The reason why I started this company was that I was really frustrated at Copper, my last company because it was really hard just to find the answers to simple business questions in my data,” he told me.

These include basic questions like how the business is doing this quarter, if there are any surprises that could throw the company off track and where are the best places to invest in the business to accelerate more quickly.

The company has decided to concentrate its efforts for starters on SaaS companies and their requirements. “We basically focus on taking the work out of revenue intelligence, and just give you the insights that successful companies in the SaaS vertical depend on to be the largest and fastest growing in the market,” Lee explained.

The idea is to build a product with a way to connect to key business systems, pull the data and answer a very specific set of business questions, while using machine learning to provide more proactive advice.

While the company is still in the process of building the product and is pre-revenue, it has begun developing the pieces to ultimately help companies answer these questions. Eventually it will have a set of connectors to various key systems like Salesforce for CRM, HubSpot and Marketo for marketing, Netsuite for ERP, Gainsight for customer experience and Amplitude for product intelligence.

Lee says the set of connectors will be as specific as the questions themselves and based on their research with potential customers and what they are using to track this information. Ashu Garg, general partner at lead investor Foundation Capital says that he was attracted to the founding team’s experience, but also to the fact they were solving a problem he sees all the time sitting on the boards of various SaaS startups.

“I spend my life in the board meetings. It’s what I do, and every CEO, every board is looking for straight answers for what should be obvious questions, but they require this intersection of data,” Garg said. He says to an extent, it’s only possible now due to the evolution of technology to pull this all together in a way that simplifies this process.

The company currently has 11 employees with plans to double that by the middle of this year. As a long-time entrepreneur, Lee says that he has found that building a diverse workforce is essential to building a successful company. “People have found diversity usually [results in a company that is] more productive, more creative and works faster,” Lee said. He said that that’s why it’s important to focus on diversity from the earliest days of the company, while being proactive to make that happen. For example, ensuring you have a diverse set of candidates to choose from when you are reviewing resumes.

For now, the company is 100% remote. In fact, Lee and his co-founder Chief Product Officer Ken Lee, who was previously at Tableau, have yet to meet in person, but they are hoping that changes soon. The company will eventually have a presence in Vancouver and San Mateo whenever offices start to open.


By Ron Miller

Hydrolix snares $10M seed to lower the cost of processing log data at scale

Many companies spend a significant amount of money and resources processing data from logs, traces and metrics, forcing them to make trade-offs about how much to collect and store. Hydrolix, an early stage startup, announced a $10 million seed round today to help tackle logging at scale, while using unique technology to lower the cost of storing and querying this data.

Wing Venture Capital led the round with help from AV8 Ventures, Oregon Venture Fund and Silicon Valley Data Capital.

Company CEO and co-founder Marty Kagan noted that in his previous roles, he saw organizations with tons of data in logs, metrics and traces that could be valuable to various parts of the company, but most organizations couldn’t afford the high cost to maintain these records for very long due to the incredible volume of data involved. He started Hydrolix because he wanted to change the economics to make it easier to store and query this valuable data.

“The classic problem with these cluster-based databases is that they’ve got locally attached storage. So as the data set gets larger, you have no choice but to either spend a ton of money to grow your cluster or separate your hot and cold data to keep your costs under control,” Kagan told me.

What’s more, he says that when it comes to querying, the solutions out there like BigQuery and Snowflake are not well suited for this kind of data. “They rely really heavily on caching and bulk column scans, so they’re not really useful for […] these infrastructure plays where you want to do live stream ingest, and you want to be able to do ad hoc data exploration,” he said.

Hydrolix wanted to create a more cost-effective way of storing and querying log data, while solving these issues with other tooling. “So we built a new storage layer which delivers […] SSD-like performance using nothing but cloud storage and diskless spot instances,” Kagan explained. He says that this means that there is no caching or column scales, enabling them to do index searches. “You’re getting the low cost, unlimited retention benefits of cloud storage, but with the interactive performance of fully indexed search,” he added.

Peter Wagner, founding partner at investor Wing Venture Capital, says that the beauty of this tool is that it eliminates tradeoffs, while lowering customers overall data processing costs. “The Hydrolix team has built a real-time data platform optimized not only to deliver superior performance at a fraction of the cost of current analytics solutions, but one architected to offer those same advantages as data volumes grow by orders of magnitude,” Wagner said in a statement.

It’s worth pointing out that in the past couple of weeks SentinelOne bought high speed logging platform Scalyr for $155 million, then CrowdStrike grabbed Humio, another high speed logging tool for $400 million, so this category is getting attention.

The product is currently compatible with AWS and offered through the Amazon Marketplace, but Kagan says they are working on versions for Azure and Google Cloud and expect to have those available later this year. The company was founded at the end of 2018 and currently has 20 employees spread out over six countries with headquarters in Portland, Oregon.


By Ron Miller

Acumen nabs $7M seed to keep engineering teams on track

Engineering teams face steep challenges when it comes to staying on schedule, and keeping to those schedules can have an impact on the entire organization. Acumen, an Israeli engineering operations startup announced a $7 million seed investment today to help tackle this problem.

Hetz, 10D, Crescendo and Jibe participated in the round, designed to give the startup the funding to continue building out the product and bring it to market. The company, which has been working with beta customers for almost a year, also announced it was emerging from stealth today.

As an experienced startup founder, Acumen CEO and co-founder Nevo Alva has seen engineering teams struggle as they grow due to a lack of data and insight into how the teams are performing. He and his co-founders launched Acumen to give companies that missing visibility.

“As engineering teams scale, they face challenges due to a lack of visibility into what’s going on in the team. Suddenly prioritizing our tasks becomes much harder. We experience interdependencies [that have an impact on the schedule] every day,” Alva explained.

He says this manifests itself in a decrease in productivity and velocity and ultimately missed deadlines that have an impact across the whole company. What Acumen does is collect data from a variety of planning and communications tools that the engineering teams are using to organize their various projects. It then uses machine learning to identify potential problems that could have an impact on the schedule and presents this information in a customizable dashboard.

The tool is aimed at engineering team leaders, who are charged with getting their various projects completed on time with the goal of helping them understand possible bottlenecks. The software’s machine learning algorithms will learn over time what situations cause problems, and offer suggestions on how to prevent them from becoming major issues.

The company was founded in July 2019 and the founders spent the first 10 months working with a dozen design partners building out the first version of the product, making sure it could pass muster with various standards bodies like SOC-2. It has been in closed private beta since last year and is launching publicly this week.

Acumen currently has 20 employees with plans to add 10 more by the end of this year. After working remotely for most of 2020, Alva says that location is no longer really important when it comes to hiring. “It definitely becomes less and less important where they are. I think time zones still are still a consideration when speaking of remote,” he said. In fact, they have people in Israel, the US and eastern Europe at the moment among their 20 employees.

He recognizes that employees can feel isolated working alone, so the company has video meetings every day and spend the first part just chatting about non-work stuff as a way to stay connected. Starting today, Acumen will begin its go to market effort in earnest. While Alva recognizes there are competing products out there like Harness and Pinpoint, he thinks his company’s use of data and machine learning really helps differentiate it.


By Ron Miller

Nobl9 raises $21M Series B for its SLO management platform

SLAs, SLOs, SLIs. If there’s one thing everybody in the business of managing software development loves, it’s acronyms. And while everyone probably knows what a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is, Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and Service Level Indicators (SLIs) may not be quite as well known. The idea, though, is straightforward, with SLOs being the overall goals a team must hit to meet the promises of its SLA agreements, and SLIs being the actual measurements that back up those other two numbers. With the advent of DevOps, these ideas, which are typically part of a company’s overall Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) efforts, are becoming more mainstream, but putting them into practice isn’t always straightforward.

Noble9 aims to provide enterprises with the tools they need to build SLO-centric operations and the right feedback loops inside an organization to help it hit its SLOs without making too many trade-offs between the cost of engineering, feature development and reliability.

The company today announced that it has raised a $21 million Series B round led by its Series A investors Battery Ventures and CRV. In addition, Series A investors Bonfire Ventures and Resolute Ventures also participated, together with new investors Harmony Partners and Sorenson Ventures.

Before starting Nobl9, co-founders Marcin Kurc (CEO) and Brian Singer (CPO) spent time together at Orbitera, where Singer was the co-founder and COO and Kurc the CEO, and then at Google Cloud, after it acquired Orbitera in 2016. In the process, the team got to work with and appreciate Google’s site reliability engineering frameworks.

As they started looking into what to do next, that experience led them to look into productizing these ideas. “We came to this conclusion that if you’re going into Kubernetes, into service-based applications and modern architectures, there’s really no better way to run that than SRE,” Kurc told me. “And when we started looking at this, naturally SRE is a complete framework, there are processes. We started looking at elements of SRE and we agreed that SLO — service level objectives — is really the foundational part. You can’t do SRE without SLOs.”

As Singer noted, in order to adopt SLOs, businesses have to know how to turn the data they have about the reliability of their services, which could be measured in uptime or latency, for example, into the right objectives. That’s complicated by the fact that this data could live in a variety of databases and logs, but the real question is how to define the right SLOs for any given organization based on this data.

“When you go into the conversation with an organization about what their goals are with respect to reliability and how they start to think about understanding if there’s risks to that, they very quickly get bogged down in how are we going to get this data or that data and instrument this or instrument that,” Singer said. “What we’ve done is we’ve built a platform that essentially takes that as the problem that we’re solving. So no matter where the data lives and in what format it lives, we want to be able to reduce it to very simply an error budget and an objective that can be tracked and measured and reported on.”

The company’s platform launched into general availability last week, after a beta that started last year. Early customers include Brex and Adobe.

As Kurc told me, the team actually thinks of this new funding round as a Series A round, but because its $7.5 million Series A was pretty sizable, they decided to call it a Series A instead of a seed round. “It’s hard to define it. If you define it based on a revenue milestone, we’re pre-revenue, we just launched the GA product,” Singer told me. “But I think just in terms of the maturity of the product and the company, I would put us at the [Series] B.”

The team told me that it closed the round at the end of last November, and while it considered pitching new VCs, its existing investors were already interested in putting more money into the company and since its previous round had been oversubscribed, they decided to add to this new round some of the investors that didn’t make the cut for the Series A.

The company plans to use the new funding to advance its roadmap and expand its team, especially across sales, marketing and customer success.


By Frederic Lardinois

BeyondID grabs $9M Series A to help clients implement cloud identity

BeyondID, a cloud identity consulting firm, announced a $9 million Series A today led by Tercera. It marked the first investment from Tercera, a firm that launched earlier this month with the goal of investing in service startups like Beyond.

The company focuses on helping clients manage security and identity in the cloud, taking aim specifically at Okta customers. In fact, the firm is a platinum partner for Okta. As they describe their goals, they help clients in a variety of areas including identity and access management, secure app modernization, Zero Trust security, cloud migration and integration services.

CEO and co-founder Arun Shrestha has a deep background in technology including working with Okta from its early days. Shrestha came on board in 2012 as the head of customer success. When he began, the startup was in early days with just 50 customers. When he left five years later just before the IPO, it had over 3500.

Along the way, he gained a unique level of expertise in the Okta tool set, and he decided to put that to work to help Okta customers implement and maximize Okta usage, especially in companies with complex implementations. He launched BeyondID in 2018 with the intention of focusing on systems integrations and managing a company’s identity in the cloud.

“We believe we are becoming a managed identity service provider, so managing anything identity, anything related to cybersecurity. We’re helping these companies by being a one-stop shop for companies acquiring, deploying and managing identity services,” Shrestha explained.

It seems to be working. The last couple of years the company revenues grew at 300% and as it matures, and the growth rates settle a bit, it’s still expected to grow between 70 and 100% this year. The firm has 250 customers including FedEx, Major League Baseball, Bain Capital and Biogen.

It currently has 75 employees serving those customers with plans to grow that number in the next year with the help from today’s investment. As Shrestha adds new employees, he sees building a diverse workforce as a crucial goal for his company.

“Diversity is absolutely critical to our long term sustainable success, and it’s also the right thing to do,” he said. He says that building an organization that promotes women and people of color is a key goal of his as the leader of the company and something he is committed to.

Chris Barbin, who is managing partner and founder at lead investor Tercera, says that he chose BeyondID as the firm’s first investment because he believes identity is central to the notion of digital transformation. As more companies move to the cloud, they need help understanding how security and identity work differently in a cloud context, and he sees BeyondID playing a critical role in helping clients get there.

“BeyondID is in a rapidly growing space and has an impressive customer list that represents nearly every industry. Arun and the leadership team have a strong vision for the firm, deep ties into Okta, and they’re incredibly passionate about what they do,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Polytomic announces $2.4M seed to move business data where it’s needed

There is so much data sitting inside companies these days, but getting data to the people who need it most remains a daunting challenge. Polytomic, a graduate of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort set out to solve that problem, and today the startup announced a $2.4 million seed.

Caffeinated Capital led the round with help from Bow Capital and a number of individual investors including the founders of PlanGrid, Tracy Young and Ralph Gootee, the company where Polytomic founders CEO Ghalib Suleiman and CTO Nathan Yergler both previously worked.

“We synch internal data to business systems. You can imagine your sales team living in Salesforce and would like to see who’s using your product from your customer data that lives in other internal databases. We have a no-code web app that moves internal data to the business systems of the office,” Suleiman told me.

Data lives in silos across every company, and Polytomic lets you build the connectors by dragging and dropping components in the Polytomic interface. This new data then shows up as additional fields in the target application. So you might have a usage percentage field added to Salesforce automatically if you were connecting to customer usage data.

The company actually sells the product to business operations teams, who would be charged with setting up a catalogue or menu of data sources that live in Polytomic. This is usually handled by someone like a business analyst who can configure the different sources. Once that’s done, anyone can build connectors to these data sources by selecting them from the menu and then choosing where to deliver the data.

The founders came up with the idea for the company because when they were at PlanGrid, they faced a problem getting data to the people who needed it in the company. The problem became more pronounced as the company grew and they had ever more data and more employees who needed access to it.

They left PlanGrid in 2018 and launched Polytomic a year later to begin attacking the problem. The two founders joined YC as a way to learn to refine the product, and were still working on it on Demo Day, delivering their presentation off the record because they weren’t quite done with it yet.

They released the first iteration of the product last September and report some progress getting customers and gaining revenue. Early customers include Brex, ShipBob, Sourcegraph and Vanta.

The company has no additional employees beyond the two founders as of yet, but with the seed funding in the bank, they plan to begin hiring a few people this year.


By Ron Miller