Lacework lands $525M investment as revenue grows 300%

As the pandemic took hold in 2020, companies accelerated their move to cloud services. Lacework, the cloud security startup, was in the right place at the right time as customers looked for ways to secure their cloud native workloads. The company reported that revenue grew 300% year over year for the second straight year.

It was rewarded for that kind of performance with a $525 million Series D today. It did not share an exact valuation, only saying that it exceeded $1 billion, which you would expect on such a hefty investment. Sutter Hill and Altimeter Capital led the round with help from D1, Coatue, Dragoneer Investment Group, Liberty Global Ventures, Snowflake Ventures and Tiger Capital. The company has now raised close to $600 million.

Lacework CEO Dan Hubbard says one of the reasons for such widespread interest from investors is the breadth of the company’s security solution. “We enable companies to build securely in the cloud, and we span across multiple different categories of markets, which enable the customers to do that,” he said.

He says that encompasses a range of services including configuration and compliance, security for infrastructure as code, build time and runtime vulnerability scanning and runtime security for cloud native environments like Kubernetes and containers.

As the company has grown revenue, it has been adding employees quickly. It started the year with 92 employees and closed with over 200 with plans to double that by the end of this year. As he looks at hiring, Hubbard is aware of the need to build a diverse organization, but acknowledges that tech in general hasn’t done a great job so far.

He says they are working with the various teams inside the company to try and change that, while also working to support outside organizations that are helping educate under represented groups to get the skills they need and then building from that. “If you can help solve the problem at an earlier stage, then I think you’ve got a bigger opportunity [to have a base of people to hire] there,” he said.

The company was originally nurtured inside Sutter Hill and is built on top of the Snowflake platform. It reports that $20 million of today’s total comes from Snowflake’s new venture arm, which is putting some money into an early partner.

“We were an alpha Snowflake customer, and they were an alpha customer of ours. Our platform is built on top of the Snowflake data cloud and their new venture arm has also joined the round with an investment to further strengthen the partnership there,” Hubbard said.

As for Sutter Hill, investor Mike Speiser sees Lacework as one of his firm’s critical investments. “[Much] like Snowflake at a similar point in its evolution, Lacework is growing revenue at over 300% per year making Lacework one of Sutter Hill Ventures’ most important and promising portfolio companies,” he said in a statement.


By Ron Miller

Mozart Data lands $4M seed to provide out-of-the-box data stack

Mozart Data founders Peter Fishman and Dan Silberman have been friends for over 20 years, working at various startups, and even launching a hot sauce company together along the way. As technologists, they saw companies building a data stack over and over. They decided to provide one for them and Mozart Data was born.

The company graduated from the Y Combinator Summer 2020 cohort in August and announced a $4 million seed round today led by Craft Ventures and Array Ventures with participation from Coelius Capital, Jigsaw VC, Signia VC, Taurus VC and various angel investors.

In spite of the detour into hot sauce, the two founders were mostly involved in data over the years and they formed strong opinions about what a data stack should look like. “We wanted to bring the same stack that we’ve been building at all these different startups, and make it available more broadly,” Fishman told TechCrunch.

They see a modern data stack as one that has different databases, SaaS tools and data sources. They pull it together, process it and make it ready for whatever business intelligence tool you use. “We do all of the parts before the BI tool. So we extract and load the data. We manage a data warehouse for you under the hood in Snowflake, and we provide a layer for you to do transformations,” he said.

The service is aimed mostly at technical people who know some SQL like data analysts, data scientists and sales and marketing operations. They founded the company earlier this year with their own money, and joined Y Combinator in June. Today, they have about a dozen customers and six employees. They expect to add 10-12 more in the next year.

Fishman says they have mostly hired from their networks, but have begun looking outward as they make their next hires with a goal of building a diverse company. In fact, they have made offers to several diverse candidates, who didn’t ultimately take the job, but he believes if you start looking at the top of the funnel, you will get good results. “I think if you spend a lot of energy in terms of top of funnel recruiting, you end up getting a good, diverse set at the bottom,” he said.

The company has been able to start from scratch in the midst of a pandemic and add employees and customers because the founders had a good network to pitch the product to, but they understand that moving forward they will have to move outside of that. They plan to use their experience as users to drive their message.

“I think talking about some of the whys and the rationale is our strategy for adding value to customers […], it’s about basically how would we set up a data stack if we were at this type of startup,” he said.


By Ron Miller

The highest valued company in Bessemer’s annual cloud report has defied convention by staying private

This year’s Bessemer Venture Partners’ annual Cloud 100 Benchmark report was published recently and my colleague Alex Wilhelm looked at some broad trends in the report, but digging into the data, I decided to concentrate on the Top 10 companies by valuation. I found that the top company has defied convention for a couple of reasons.

Bessemer looks at private companies. Once they go public, they lose interest, and that’s why certain startups go in and out of this list each year. As an example, Dropbox was the most highly valued company by far with a valuation in the $10 billion range for 2016 and 2017, the earliest data in the report. It went public in 2018 and therefore disappeared.

While that $10 billion benchmark remains a fairly good measure of a solidly valued cloud company, one company in particular blew away the field in terms of valuation, an outlier so huge, its value dwarfs even the mighty Snowflake, which was valued at over $12 billion before it went public earlier this month.

That company is Stripe, which has an other worldly valuation of $36 billion. Stripe began its ascent to the top of the charts in 2016 and 2017 when it sat behind Dropbox with a $6 billion valuation in 2016 and around $8 billion in 2017. By the time Dropbox left the chart in 2018, Stripe would have likely blown past it when its valuation soared to $20 billion. It zipped up to around $23 billion last year before taking another enormous leap to $36 billion this year.

Stripe remains an outlier not only for its enormous valuation, but also the fact that it hasn’t gone public yet. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden pointed out in article earlier this year, the company has remained quiet about its intentions, although there has been some speculation lately that an IPO could be coming.

What Stripe has done to earn that crazy valuation is to be the cloud payment API of choice for some of the largest companies on the Internet. Consider that Stripe’s customers include Amazon, Salesforce, Google and Shopify and it’s not hard to see why this company is valued as highly as it is.

Stripe came up with the idea of making it simple to incorporate a payments mechanism into your app or website, something that’s extremely time-consuming to do. Instead of building their own, developers tapped into Stripe’s ready-made variety and Stripe gets a little money every time someone bangs on the payment gateway.

When you’re talking about some of the biggest companies in the world being involved, and many others large and small, all of those payments running through Stripe’s systems add up to a hefty amount of revenue, and that revenue has led to this amazing valuation.

One other company, you might want to pay attention to here, is UIPath, the robotic process automation company, which was sitting just behind Snowflake with a valuation of over $10 billion. While it’s unclear if RPA, the technology that helps automate legacy workflows, will have the lasting power of a payments API, it certainly has come on strong the last couple of years.

Most of the companies in this report appear for a couple of years as they become unicorns, watch their values soar and eventually go public. Stripe up to this point has chosen not to do that, making it a highly unusual company.


By Ron Miller

Industry experts say it’s full speed ahead as Snowflake files S-1 to go public

When Snowflake filed its S-1 to go public yesterday, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The company which raised $1.4 billion had been valued at $12.4 billion in its last private raise in February. CEO Frank Slootman, who had taken over from Bob Muglia in May last year, didn’t hide the fact that going public was the end game.

When we spoke to him in February at the time of his mega $479 million raise, he was candid about the fact he wanted to take his company to the next level, and predicted it could happen as soon as this summer. In spite of the pandemic and the economic fallout from it, the company decided now was the time to go — as did 4 other companies yesterday including J Frog, Sumo Logic, Unity and Asana.

If you haven’t been following this company as it went through its massive private fund raising process, investors see a company taking a way to store massive amounts of data and moving it to the cloud. This concept is known as a cloud data warehouse as it it stores immense amounts of data.

While the Big 3 cloud companies all offer something similar, Snowflake has the advantage of working on any cloud, and at a time where data portability is highly valued, enables customers to shift data between clouds.

We spoke to several industry experts to get their thoughts on what this filing means for Snowflake, which after taking a blizzard of cash, has to now take a great idea and shift it into the public markets.

Pandemic? What pandemic?

Big market opportunities usually require big investments to build companies that last, that typically go public, and that’s why investors were willing to pile up the dollars to help Snowflake grow. Blake Murray, a research analyst at Canalys says the pandemic is actually working in the startup’s favor as more companies are shifting workloads to the cloud.

“We know that demand for cloud services is higher than ever during this pandemic, which is an obvious positive for Snowflake. Snowflake also services multi-cloud environments, which we see in increasing adoption. Considering the speed it is growing at and the demand for its services, an IPO should help Snowflake continue its momentum,” Murray told TechCrunch.

Leyla Seka, a partner at Operator Collective, who spent many years at Salesforce agrees that the pandemic is forcing many companies to move to the cloud faster than they might have previously. “COVID is a strange motivator for enterprise SaaS. It is speeding up adoption in a way I have never seen before,” she said.

It’s clear to Seka that we’ve moved quickly past the early cloud adopters, and it’s in the mainstream now where a company like Snowflake is primed to take advantage. “Keep in mind, I was at Salesforce for years telling businesses their data was safe in the cloud. So we certainly have crossed the chasm, so to speak and are now in a rapid adoption phase,” she said.

So much coopetition

The fact is Snowflake is in an odd position when it comes to the big cloud infrastructure vendors. It both competes with them on a product level, and as a company that stores massive amounts of data, it is also an excellent customer for all of them. It’s kind of a strange position to be in says Canalys’ Murray.

“Snowflake both relies on the infrastructure of cloud giants — AWS, Microsoft and Google — and competes with them. It will be important to keep an eye on the competitive dynamic even although Snowflake is a large customer for the giants,” he explained.

Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna agrees, but says the IPO should help Snowflake take on these companies as they expand their own cloud data warehouse offerings. He added that in spite of that competition, Snowflake is holding its own against the big companies. In fact, he says that it’s the number one cloud data warehouse clients inquire about, other than Amazon RedShift. As he points out, Snowflake has some key advantages over the cloud vendors’ solutions.

“Based on Forrester Wave research that compared over a dozen vendors, Snowflake has been positioned as a Leader. Enterprises like Snowflake’s ease of use, low cost, scalability and performance capabilities. Unlike many cloud data warehouses, Snowflake can run on multiple clouds such as Amazon, Google or Azure, giving enterprises choices to choose their preferred provider.”

Show them more money

In spite of the vast sums of money the company has raised in the private market, it had decided to go public to get one final chunk of capital. Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy says that if the company is going to succeed in the broader market, it needs to expand beyond pure cloud data warehousing, in spite of the huge opportunity there.

“Snowflake needs the funding as it needs to expand its product footprint to encompass more than just data warehousing. It should be focused less on niches and more on the entire data lifecycle including data ingest, engineering, database and AI,” Moorhead said.

Forrester’s Yuhanna agrees that Snowflake needs to look at new markets and the IPO will give it the the money to do that. “The IPO will help Snowflake expand it’s innovation path, especially to support new and emerging business use cases, and possibly look at new market opportunities such as expanding to on-premises to deliver hybrid-cloud capabilities,” he said.

It would make sense for the company to expand beyond its core offerings as it heads into the public markets, but the cloud data warehouse market is quite lucrative on its own. It’s a space that has required a considerable amount of investment to build a company, but as it heads towards its IPO, Snowflake is should be well positioned to be a successful company for years to come.


By Ron Miller

Sutter Hill strikes ice-cold, $2.5B pre-market return with Snowflake’s IPO filing

Today is the day for huge VC returns.

We talked a bit about Sequoia’s coming huge win with the IPO of game engine Unity this morning. Now, Sequoia might actually have the second largest return among companies filing to go public with the SEC today.

Snowflake filed its S-1 this afternoon, and it looks like Sutter Hill is going to make bank. The long-time VC firm, which invests heavily in the enterprise space and generally keeps a lower media profile, is the big winner across the board here, coming out with an aggregate 20.3% stake in the data management platform, which was last privately valued at $12.4 billion earlier this year. At its last valuation, Sutter Hill’s full stake is worth $2.5 billion. My colleagues Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm looked a bit of the financials of the IPO filing.

Sutter Hill has been intimately connected to Snowflake’s early buildout and success, providing a $5 million Series A funding back in 2012, the year of the company’s founding according to Crunchbase.

Now, there are some caveats on that number. Sutter Hill Ventures (aka “the fund”) owns roughly 55% of the firm’s total stake, with the balance owned by other entities owned by the firm’s management committee members. Michael Speiser, the firm’s partner who sits on Snowflake’s board, owns slightly more than 10% of Sutter Hill’s stake directly himself according to the SEC filing.

In addition to Sutter Hill, Sequoia also got a large slice of the data computing company: its growth fund is listed as having an 8.4% stake in the coming IPO. That makes for two Sequoia Growth IPOs today — a nice way to start the week this Monday afternoon.

Finally, Altimeter Capital, who did the Series C owns 14.8%, ICONIQ owns 13.8%, and Redpoint, who did the Series B, owns 9.0%.

To see the breakdown in returns, let’s start by taking a look at the company’s share price and carrying values for each of its rounds of capital:

On top of that, what’s interesting is that Snowflake broke down the share purchases by firm for the last four rounds (D through G-1) the company fundraised:

That level of detail actually allows us to grossly compare the multiples on invested capital for these firms.

Sutter Hill, despite owning large sections of the company early on, continued to buy up shares all the way through the Series G, investing an additional $140 million in the later-stage rounds of the company. Adding in the entirety of its $5 million Series A round and a bit from the Series B assuming pro rata, the firm is looking on the order of a 16x return (assuming the IPO price is at least as good as the last round price).

Outside Sutter Hill, Redpoint has the best multiple return profile, given that it only invested $60 million in these later-stage rounds while still maintaining a 9.0% ownership stake. Both Sutter Hill and Redpoint purchased roughly 20% of their overall stakes in these later-stage rounds. Doing some roughly calculating, Redpoint is looking at a return of about 12-13x.

Sequoia’s multiple on investment is capped a bit given that it only invested in the most recent funding rounds. Its 8.4% stake was purchased for nearly $272 million, all of which came in these late-stage rounds. At Snowflake’s last round valuation of $12.4 billion, Sequoia’s stake is valued at $1.04 billion — a return of slightly less than 4x. That’s very good for mezzanine capital, but nothing like the multiple that Sutter Hill or Redpoint got for investing early.

Doing the same back-of-the-envelope math and Altimeter is looking at a better than 6x return, and ICONIQ got 7x. As before, if the stock zooms up, those returns will look all the better (and of course, if the stock crashes, well…)

One final note: The pattern for these last four funding rounds is unusual for venture capital: Snowflake appears to have “spread the love around,” having multiple firms build up stakes in the startup over several rounds rather than having one definitive lead.


By Danny Crichton

Startups are helping cloud infrastructure customers avoid vendor lock-in

For much of the history of enterprise technology, companies tended to buy from a single vendor because it made managing the entire affair much easier while giving them a “single throat to choke” when something went wrong. On the flip side, it also put customers at the mercy of said vendor — and it wasn’t always pretty.

As we move deeper into the cloud model, many IT pros are looking for more flexibility than they had in the past, avoiding the vendor lock-in from the previous generation of enterprise tech, and what being beholden to a single vendor could mean for the bottom line and their own flexibility.

This is something that comes up frequently in discussions about moving workloads from one cloud to another, and is sometimes referred to as a multi-cloud approach. Customers are loath to leave their workloads in the hands of one vendor again and repeat the mistakes of the past. They are looking to have the same flexibility on the infrastructure side that they are getting in the SaaS world, where companies tend to purchase best-of-breed from multiple vendors.

That means, they want the freedom to move workloads between clouds, but that’s not always as easy a prospect as it might seem, and it’s an area where startups could help lead the way.

What’s the problem?

What’s stopping customers from just moving data and applications between clouds? It turns out that there is a complex interlinking of public cloud APIs that help the applications and data work in tandem. If you want to pull out of one public cloud, it’s not a simple matter of just migrating to the next one.


By Ron Miller

Snowflake co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville is coming to TC Sessions: Enterprise

When it comes to a cloud success story, Snowflake checks all the boxes. It’s a SaaS product going after industry giants. It has raised bushels of cash and grown extremely rapidly — and the story is continuing to develop for the cloud data lake company.

In September, Snowflake’s co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville will join us at our inaugural TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise event on September 5 in San Francisco.

Dageville founded the company in 2012 with Marcin Zukowski and Thierry Cruanes with a mission to bring the database, a market that had been dominated for decades by Oracle, to the cloud. Later, the company began focusing on data lakes or data warehouses, massive collections of data, which had been previously stored on premises. The idea of moving these elements to the cloud was a pretty radical notion in 2012.

It began by supporting its products on AWS, and more recently expanded to include support for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

The company started raising money shortly after its founding, modestly at first, then much, much faster in huge chunks. Investors included a Silicon Valley who’s who such as Sutter Hill, Redpoint, Altimeter, Iconiq Capital and Sequoia Capital .

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

The most recent rounds came last year, starting with a massive $263 million investment in January. The company went back for more in October with an even larger $450 million round.

It brought on industry veteran Bob Muglia in 2014 to lead it through its initial growth spurt. Muglia left the company earlier this year and was replaced by former ServiceNow chairman and CEO Frank Slootman.

TC Sessions: Enterprise (September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center) will take on the big challenges and promise facing enterprise companies today. TechCrunch’s editors will bring to the stage founders and leaders from established and emerging companies to address rising questions, like the promised revolution from machine learning and AI, intelligent marketing automation and the inevitability of the cloud, as well as the outer reaches of technology, like quantum computing and blockchain.

Tickets are now available for purchase on our website at the early-bird rate of $395.

Student tickets are just $245 – grab them here.

We have a limited number of Startup Demo Packages available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to attend the event.

For each ticket purchased for TC Sessions: Enterprise, you will also be registered for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.


By Ron Miller

Snowflake expands beyond Amazon to Azure cloud

Snowflake, the cloud data warehouse, announced a partnership with Microsoft today to expand their offering to the Azure cloud. The new product is still in Preview for now.

Given that Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia worked at Microsoft for more than 20 years, it’s certainly not surprising that Microsoft is the company’s second partner after working with only Amazon since its inception. But Muglia says it was really about seeing customer demand in the marketplace more than any nostalgia or connections at Microsoft. In fact, he says the company is on boarding one to two new Azure customers a day right now.

The plan is to open up a private preview today, then become generally available some time in the fall when they work out all of the kinks involved with porting their service to another provider.

The partnership didn’t happen overnight. It’s been developing for over a year and that’s because Muglia says Azure isn’t quite as mature as Amazon in some ways and it required some engineering cooperation to make it all work.

“We had to work with Microsoft on some of the things that we needed to make [our product] work [on their platform], particularly around the way we work with with Azure Blob Storage that we really had to do a little differently on Azure. So there are changes we needed to make internally in our product to make it work,” he explained.

Overall though the two company’s engineers have worked together to solve those issues and Muglia says that when the Azure version becomes generally available in the Fall, it should basically be the same product they offer on Amazon, although there are still some features they are trying to make work on in the Preview. “Our goal is to have literally the same product on Azure as on Amazon, and we are very confident we’ll get there with Microsoft,” he said.

For Snowflake of course, it represents a substantial market expansion because now they can sell to companies working on Azure and Amazon and that has opened up a whole new pipeline of customers. Azure is the number two cloud provider behind Amazon.

The interesting aspect of all this is that Amazon and Microsoft compete in the cloud of course, but Snowflake is also competing with each cloud provider too with their own product. Yet this kind of partnership has become standard in the cloud. You have to work across platforms, then compete where it makes sense.

“Almost all of the relationships that we have in the industry, we have some element of competition with them, and so this is a normal mode of operation,” he said.


By Ron Miller