IEX’s Katsuyama is no flash in the pan

When you watch a commercial for one of the major stock exchanges, you are welcomed into a world of fast-moving, slick images full of glistening buildings, lush crops and happy people. They are typically interspersed with shots of intrepid executives veering out over the horizon as if to say, “I’ve got a long-term vision, and the exchange where my stock is listed is a valuable partner in achieving my goals.” It’s all very reassuring and stylish. But there’s another side to the story.

I have been educated about the realities of today’s stock exchange universe through recent visits with Brad Katsuyama, co-founder and CEO of IEX (a.k.a. The Investors Exchange). If Katsuyama’s name rings a bell, and you don’t work on Wall Street, it’s likely because you remember him as the protagonist of Michael Lewis’s 2014 best-seller, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which explored high-frequency trading (HFT) and made the case that the stock market was rigged, really badly.

Five years later, some of the worst practices Lewis highlighted are things of the past, and there are several attributes of the American equity markets that are widely admired around the world. In many ways, though, the realities of stock trading have gotten more unseemly, thanks to sophisticated trading technologies (e.g., microwave radio transmissions that can carry information at almost the speed of light), and pitched battles among the exchanges, investors and regulators over issues including the rebates stock exchanges pay to attract investors’ orders and the price of market data charged by the exchanges.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the inner workings of the stock market, but I do know this: Likening the life cycle of a trade to sausage-making is an insult to kielbasa. More than ever, trading is an arcane, highly technical and bewildering part of our broader economic infrastructure, which is just the way many industry participants like it: Nothing to see here, folks.

Meanwhile, Katsuyama, company president Ronan Ryan and the IEX team have turned IEX into the eighth largest stock exchange company, globally, by notional value traded, and have transformed the concept of a “speed bump” into a mainstream exchange feature.

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Brad Katsuyama. Image via IEX Trading

Despite these and other accomplishments, IEX finds itself in the middle of a vicious battle with powerful incumbents that seem increasingly emboldened to use their muscle in Washington, D.C. What’s more, new entrants, such as The Long-Term Stock Exchange and Members Exchange, are gearing up to enter the fray in US equities, while global exchanges such as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange seek to bulk up by making audacious moves like attempting to acquire the venerable London Stock Exchange.

But when you sell such distinct advantages to one group that really can only benefit from that, it leads to the question of why anyone would want to trade on that market. It’s like walking into a playing field where you know that the deck is stacked against you.

As my discussion with Katsuyama reveals, IEX may have taken some punches in carving out a position for itself in this high-stakes war characterized by cutting-edge technology and size. However, the IEX team remains girded for battle and confident that it can continue to make headway in offering a fair and transparent option for market participants over the long term.

Gregg Schoenberg: Given Flash Boys and the attention it generated for you on Main Street, I’d like to establish something upfront. Does IEX exist for the asset manager, the individual, or both?

Brad Katsuyama: We exist primarily for the asset manager, and helping them helps the individual. We’re one step removed from the individual, and part of that is due to regulation. Only brokers can connect to exchanges, and the asset manager connects to the broker.

Schoenberg: To put a finer point on it, you believe in fairness and being the good guy. But you are not Robinhood. You are a capitalist.

Katsuyama: Yes, but we want to make money fairly. Actually, we thought initially about starting the business as a nonprofit, But once we laid out all the people we would need to convince to work for us, we realized it would’ve been hard for us to attract the skill sets needed as a nonprofit.

Schoenberg: Do you believe that the US equity market today primarily serves investors or traders?


By Gregg Schoenberg

Boston-based DataRobot raises $206M Series E to bring AI to enterprise

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly large role in enterprise software, and Boston’s DataRobot has been helping companies build, manage and deploy machine learning models for some time now. Today, the company announced a $206 million Series E investment led by Sapphire Ventures.

Other participants in this round included new investors Tiger Global Management, World Innovation Lab, Alliance Bernstein PCI, and EDBI along with existing investors DFJ Growth, Geodesic Capital, Intel Capital, Sands Capital, NEA and Meritech.

Today’s investment brings the total raised to $431 million, according to the company. It has a pre-money valuation of $1 billion, according to PitchBook. DataRobot would not confirm this number.

The company has been catching the attention of these investors by offering a machine learning platform aimed at analysts, developers and data scientists to help build predictive models much more quickly than it typically takes using traditional methodologies. Once built, the company provides a way to deliver the model in the form of an API, simplifying deployment.

The late-stage startup plans to use the money to continue building out its product line, while looking for acquisition opportunities where it makes sense. The company also announced the availability of a new product today, DataRobot MLOps, a tool to manage, monitor and deploy machine learning models across a large organization.

The company, which was founded in 2012, claims it has had triple-digit recurring revenue growth dating back to 2015, as well as one billion models built on the platform to-date. Customers contributing to that number include a broad range of companies such as Humana, United Airlines, Harvard Business School and Deloitte.


By Ron Miller

GitLab hauls in $268M Series E on 2.768B valuation

GitLab is a company that doesn’t pull any punches or try to be coy. It actually has had a page on its website for sometime stating it intends to go public on November 18, 2020. You don’t see that level of transparency from late-stage startups all that often. Today, the company announced a huge $268 million Series E on a tidy $2.768 billion valuation.

Investors included Adage Capital Management, L.P, Alkeon Capital, Altimeter Capital, Blackrock, Inc., Capital Group, Coatue Management, D1 Capital Partners, Franklin Templeton, Light Street Capital, Tiger Management Corp and Two Sigma Investments LP.

The company seems to be primed and ready for that eventual IPO. Last year, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij says that his CFO Paul Machle told him he wanted to begin planning to go public, and he would need two years in advance to prepare the company. As Sijbrandij tells it, he told him to pick a date.

“He said, I’ll pick the 16th of November because that’s the birthday of my twins. It’s also the last week before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, the stock market is less active, so that’s a good time to go out,” Sijbrandij told TechCrunch.

He said that he considered it a done deal and put the date on the GitLab Strategy page, a page that outlines the company’s plans for everything it intends to do. It turned out that he was a bit too quick on the draw. Machle had checked the date in the interim and realized that it was a Monday, which is not traditionally a great day to go out, so they decided to do it two days later. Now the target date is officially November 18, 2020.

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GitLab has the date it’s planning to go public listed on its Strategy page.

As for that $268 million, it gives the company considerable runway ahead of that planned event, but Sijbrandij says it also gives him flexibility in how to take the company public. “One other consideration is that there are two options to go public. You can do an IPO or direct listing. We wanted to preserve the optionality of doing a direct listing next year. So if we do a direct listing, we’re not going to raise any additional money, and we wanted to make sure that this is this is enough in that case,” he explained.

Sijbrandij says that the company made a deliberate decision to be transparent early on. Being based on an open source project, it’s sometimes tricky to make that transition to commercial company, and sometimes that has a negative impact on the community and the number of contributions. Transparency was a way to combat that, and it seems to be working.

He reports that the community contributes 200 improvements to the GitLab open source product every month, and that’s double the amount of just a year ago, so the community is still highly active in spite of the parent company’s commercial success.

It did not escape his notice that Microsoft acquired GitHub last year for $7.5 billion. It’s worth noting that GitLab is a similar kind of kind of company that helps developers manage and distribute code in a DevOps environment. He claims in spite of that eye-popping number, his goal is to remain an independent company and take this through to the next phase.

“Our ambition is to stay an independent company. And that’s why we put out the ambition early to become a listed company. That’s not totally in our control as the majority of the company is owned by investors, but as long as we’re more positive about the future than the people around us, I think we can we have a shot at not getting acquired,” he said.

The company was founded in 2014 and was a member of Y Combinator in 2015. It has been on a steady growth trajectory ever since. hauling in over $436 million. The last round before today’s announcement was a $100 million Series D last September.


By Ron Miller

Data storage company Cloudian launches a new edge analytics subsidiary called Edgematrix

Cloudian, a company that enables businesses to store and manage massive amounts of data, announced today the launch of Edgematrix, a new unit focused on edge analytics for large data sets. Edgematrix, a majority-owned subsidiary of Cloudian, will first be available in Japan, where both companies are based. It has raised a $9 million Series A from strategic investors NTT Docomo, Shimizu Corporation and Japan Post Capital, as well as Cloudian co-founder and CEO Michael Tso and board director Jonathan Epstein. The funding will be used on product development, deployment and sales and marketing.

Cloudian itself has raised a total of $174 million, including a $94 million Series E round announced last year. Its products include the Hyperstore platform, which allows businesses to store hundreds of petrabytes of data on premise, and software for data analytics and machine learning. Edgematrix uses Hyperstore for storing large-scale data sets and its own AI software and hardware for data processing at the “edge” of networks, closer to where data is collected from IoT devices like sensors.

The company’s solutions were created for situations where real-time analytics is necessary. For example, it can be used to detect the make, model and year of cars on highways so targeted billboard ads can be displayed to their drivers.

Tso told TechCrunch in an email that Edgematrix was launched after Cloudian co-founder and president Hiroshi Ohta and a team spent two years working on technology to help Cloudian customers process and analyze their data more efficiently.

“With more and more data being created at the edge, including IoT data, there’s a growing need for being able to apply real-time data analysis and decision-making at or near the edge, minimizing the transmission costs and latencies involved in moving the data elsewhere,” said Tso. “Based on the initial success of a small Cloudian team developing AI software solutions and attracting a number of top-tier customers, we decided that the best way to build on this success was establishing a subsidiary with strategic investors.”

Edgematrix is launching in Japan first because spending on AI systems there is expected to grow faster than in any other market, at a compound annual growth rate of 45.3% from 2018 to 2023, according to IDC.

“Japan has been ahead of the curve as an early adopter of AI technology, with both the governmetn and private sector viewing it as essential to boosting productivity,” said Tso. “Edgematrix will focus on the Japanese market for at least the next year, and assuming that all goes well, it would then expand to North America and Europe.”


By Catherine Shu

FOSSA scores $8.5 million Series A to help enterprise manage open source licenses

As more enterprise developers make use of open source, it becomes increasingly important for companies to make sure that they are complying with licensing requirements. They also need to ensure the open sources bits are being updated over time for security purposes. That’s where FOSSA comes in, and today the company announced an $8.5 million Series A.

The round was led by Bain Capital Ventures with help from Costanoa Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners. Today’s round brings the total raised to $11 million, according to the company.

Company founder and CEO Kevin Wang says that over the last 18 months, the startup has concentrated on building tools to help enterprises comply with their growing use of open source in a safe and legal way. He says that overall this increasing use of open source great news for developers, and for these bigger companies in general. While it enables them to take advantage of all the innovation going on in the open source community, they need to make sure they are in compliance.

“The enterprise is really early on this journey, and that’s where we come in. We provide a platform to help the enterprise manage open source usage at scale,” Wang explained. That involves three main pieces. First it tracks all of the open source and third-party code being used inside a company. Next, it enforces licensing and security policy, and finally, it has a reporting component. “We automate the mass reporting and compliance for all of the housekeeping that comes from using open source at scale,” he said.

The enterprise focus is relatively new for the company. It originally launched in 2017 as a tool for developers to track individual use of open source inside their programs. Wang saw a huge opportunity inside the enterprise to apply this same kind of capability inside larger organizations, who were hungry for tools to help them comply with the myriad open source licenses out there.

“We found that there was no tooling out there that can manage the scale and breadth across all the different enterprise use cases and all the really complex mission-critical code bases,” he said. What’s more, he found that where there were existing tools, they were vastly underutilized or didn’t provide broad enough coverage.

The company announced a $2.2 million seed round in 2017, and since then has grown from 10 to 40 employees. With today’s funding, that should increase as the company is expanding quickly. Wang reports that the startup has been tripling its revenue numbers and customer accounts year over year. The new money should help accelerate that growth and expand the product and markets it can sell into.


By Ron Miller

SmartDrive snaps up $90M for in-truck video telematics solutions for safety and fuel efficiency

Trucks and other large commercial vehicles and the biggest whales on the road today — are they also, by virtue of that size, some of the most dangerous and inefficient if they are driven badly. Today, a startup that has built a platform aimed at improving both of those areas has raised a large round of funding to continue fuelling (so to speak) its own growth: SmartDrive, a San Diego-based provider of video-based telematics and transportation insights, has snapped up a round of $90 million.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but according to PitchBook, it was last valued (in 2017) at $290 million, which would put the valuation now around $380 million. But given that the company has been growing well — it says that in the first half of this year, its contracted units were up 48%, while sales were up by 44% — that figure may well be higher. (We are asking.)

The funding comes at an interesting time for fleet management and the trucking industry. A lot of the big stories about automotive technology at the moment seem to be focused on autonomous vehicles for private usage, but that leaves a large — and largely legacy — market in the form of fleet management and commercial vehicles. That’s not to say it’s been completely ignored, however. Bigger companies like Uber, Telsa and Volvo, and startups like Nikola and more are all building smarter vehicles, and just yesterday Samsara, which makes an industrial IoT platform that works, in part, to provide fleet management to the trucking industry, raised $300 million on a $6.3 billion valuation.

The telematics market was estimated to be worth $25.5 billion in 2018 and is forecast to grow to some $98 billion by 2026.

The round was led by TPG Sixth Street Partners, a division of investment giant TPG (which backs the likes of Spotify and many others), which earlier this year was raising a $2 billion fund for growth-stage investments. Unnamed existing investors also participated. The company prior to this had raised $230 million, with other backers including Founders Fund, NewView Capital, Oak Investment Partners, Michelin and more. (NEA had also been an investor but has more recently sold its stake.)

SmartDrive has been around since 2005 and focuses on a couple of key areas. Tapping data from the many sensors that you have today in commercial vehicles, it builds up a picture of how specific truckers are handling their vehicles, from their control on tricky roads to what gears and speed they are using as they go up inclines, and how long they idle their engines. The resulting data is used both to provide a better picture to fleet managers of that performance, and to highlight specific areas where the trucker can improve his performance, and how.

Analytics and data provided to customers include multi-camera 360-degree views, extended recording and U-turn triggering, along with diagnostics on specific driver performance. The company claims that the information has led to more satisfaction among drivers and customers, with driver retention rates of 70% or higher and improvements to 9 miles per gallon (mpg) on trips, versus industry averages of 20% driver retention and 6 mpg.

“This is an exciting time at SmartDrive and in the transportation sector overall as adoption of video-based telematics continues to accelerate,” stated Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive CEO, in a statement. “Building on our pioneering video-based safety program, our vision of an open platform powering best-of-breed video, compliance and telematics applications is garnering significant traction across a diverse range of fleets given the benefits of choice, flexibility and a lower total cost of ownership. The investment from TPG Sixth Street Partners and our existing investors will fuel continued innovation in areas such as computer vision and AI, while also enhancing sales and marketing initiatives and further international expansion.”

The focus for SmartDrive seems to be on how drivers are doing in specific circumstances: it doesn’t seem to focus on whether there could have been better routes, or if better fleet management could have resulted in improved performance.

“SmartDrive is a market leader in the large and expanding transportation safety and intelligence sector and we are pleased to be investing in a growing company led by such a talented team,” noted Bo Stanley, partner and co-head of the Capital Solutions business at TPG Sixth Street Partners, in a statement. “SmartDrive’s proprietary data analytics platform and strong subscriber base put it in a great position to continue to capitalize on its track record of innovation and the broader secular trend of higher demand for safer and smarter transportation.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Explorium reveals $19.1M in total funding for machine learning data discovery platform

Explorium, a data discovery platform for machine learning models, received a couple of unannounced funding rounds over the last year — a $3.6 million seed round last September and a $15.5 million Series A round in March. Today, it made both of these rounds public.

The seed round was led by Emerge with participation of F2 Capital. The Series A was led by Zeev Ventures with participation from the seed investors. The total raised is $19.1 million.

The company founders, who have a data science background, found that it was problematic to find the right data to build a machine learning model. Like most good startup founders confronted with a problem, they decided to solve it themselves by building a data discovery platform for data scientists.

CEO and co-founder, Maor Shlomo says that the company wanted to focus on the quality of the data because not much work has been done there. “A lot of work has been invested on the algorithmic part of machine learning, but the algorithms themselves have very much become commodities. The challenge now is really finding the right data to feed into those algorithms,” Sholmo told TechCrunch.

It’s a hard problem to solve, so they built a kind of search engine that can go out and find the best data wherever it happens to live, whether it’s internally or in an open data set, public data or premium databases. The company has partnered with thousands of data sources, according to Schlomo, to help data scientist customers find the best data for their particular model.

“We developed a new type of search engine that’s capable of looking at the customers data, connecting and enriching it with literally thousands of data sources, while automatically selecting what are the best pieces of data, and what are the best variables or features, which could actually generate the best performing machine learning model,” he explained.

Shlomo sees a big role for partnerships, whether that involves data sources or consulting firms, who can help push Explorium into more companies.

Explorium has 63 employees spread across offices in Tel Aviv, Kiev and San Francisco. It’s still early days, but Sholmo reports “tens of customers.” As more customers try to bring data science to their companies, especially with a shortage of data scientists, having a tool like Explorium could help fill that gap.


By Ron Miller

ScyllaDB takes on Amazon with new DynamoDB migration tool

There are a lot of open source databases out there, and ScyllaDB, a NoSQL variety, is looking to differentiate itself by attracting none other than Amazon users. Today, it announced a DynamoDB migration tool to help Amazon customers move to its product.

It’s a bold move, but Scylla, which has a free open source product along with paid versions, has always had a penchant for going after bigger players. It has had a tool to help move Cassandra users to ScyllaDB for some time.

CEO Dor Laor says DynamoDB customers can now also migrate existing code with little modification. “If you’re using DynamoDB today, you will still be using the same drivers and the same client code. In fact, you don’t need to modify your client code one bit. You just need to redirect access to a different IP address running Scylla,” Laor told TechCrunch.

He says that the reason customers would want to switch to Scylla is because it offers a faster and cheaper experience by utilizing the hardware more efficiently. That means companies can run the same workloads on fewer machines, and do it faster, which ultimately should translate to lower costs.

The company also announced a $25 million Series C extension led by Eight Roads Ventures. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Magma Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures and TLV Partners also participated. Scylla has raised a total of $60 million, according to the company.

The startup has been around for 6 years and customers include Comcast, GE, IBM and Samsung. Laor says that Comcast went from running Cassandra on 400 machines to running the same workloads with Scylla on just 60.

Laor is playing the long game in the database market, and it’s not about taking on Cassandra, DynamoDB or any other individual product. “Our main goal is to be the default NoSQL database where if someone has big data, real-time workloads, they’ll think about us first, and we will become the default.”


By Ron Miller

Work Life Ventures raises $5M for debut enterprise SaaS seed fund

Brianne Kimmel had no trouble transitioning from angel investor to general partner.

Initially setting out to garner $3 million in capital commitments, Kimmel, in just two weeks’ time, closed on $5 million for her debut venture capital fund Work Life Ventures. The enterprise SaaS-focused vehicle boasts an impressive roster of limited partners, too, including the likes of Zoom chief executive officer Eric Yuan, InVision CEO Clark Valberg, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Cameo CEO Steven Galanis, Andreessen Horowitz general partners’ Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, Initialized Capital GP Garry Tan and fund-of-funds Slow Ventures, Felicis Ventures and NFX.

At the helm of the new fund, Kimmel joins a small group of solo female general partners. Dream Machine’s Alexia Bonatsos is targeting $25 million for her first fund. Day One Ventures’ Masha Drokova raised an undisclosed amount for her debut effort last year. Sarah Cone launched Social Impact Capital, a fund specializing in impact investing, in 2016, among others.

Meanwhile, venture capital fundraising is poised to reach all-time highs in 2019. In the first half of the year, a total of $20.6 billion in new capital was introduced to the startup market across more than 100 funds.

For most, the process of raising a successful venture fund can be daunting and difficult. For well-connected and established investors in the Bay Area, like Kimmel, raising a fund can be relatively seamless. Given the speed and ease of fund one in Kimmel’s case, she plans to raise her second fund with a $25 million target in as little as 12 months.

“The desire for the fund is to take a step back and imagine how do we build great consumer experiences in the workplace,” Kimmel tells TechCrunch.

Kimmel has been an active angel investor for years, sourcing top enterprise deals via SaaS School, an invite-only workshop she created to educate early-stage SaaS founders on SaaS growth, monetization, sales and customer success. Prior to launching SaaS School, which will continue to run twice a year, Kimmel led go-to-market strategy at Zendesk, where she built the Zendesk for Startups program.

 

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“You start by advising, then you start with very small angel checks,” Kimmel explains. “I reached this inflection point and it felt like a great moment to raise my own fund. I had friends like Ryan Hoover, who started Weekend Fund focused on consumer, and Alexia is one of my friends as well and I saw what she was doing with Dream Machine, which is also consumer. It felt like it was the right time to come out with a SaaS-focused fund.”

Emerging from stealth today, Work Life Ventures will invest up to $150,000 per company. To date, Kimmel has backed three companies with capital from the fund: Tandem, Dover and Command E. The first, Tandem, was amongst the most coveted deals in Y Combinator’s latest batch of companies. The startup graduated from the accelerator with millions from Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation north of $30 million.

Dover, another recent YC alum, provides recruitment software and is said to be backed by Founders Fund in addition to Work Life. Command E, currently in beta, is a tool that facilities search across multiple desktop applications. Kimmel is also an angel investor in Webflow, Girlboss, TechCrunch Disrupt 2018 Startup Battlefield winner Forethought, Voyage and others.

Work Life is betting on the consumerization of the enterprise, or the idea that the next best companies for modern workers will be consumer-friendly tools. In her pitch deck to LPs, she cites the success of Superhuman and Notion, a well-designed email tool and a note-taking app, respectively, as examples of the heightened demand for digestible, easy-to-use B2B products.

“The next generation of applications for the workplace sees people spinning out of Uber, Coinbase and Airbnb,” Kimmel said. “They’ve faced these challenges inside their highly efficient tech company so we are seeing more consumer product builders deeply passionate about the enterprise space.”

But Kimmel doesn’t want to bury her thesis in jargon, she says, so you won’t find any B2B lingo on Work Life’s website or Instagram.

She’s focusing her efforts on a more important issue often vacant from conversations surrounding investment in the future of work: diversity & inclusion.

Kimmel meets with every new female hire of her portfolio companies. Though it’s “increasingly non-scalable,” she admits, it’s part of a greater effort to ensure her companies are thoughtful about D&I from the beginning: “Because I have a very focused fund, it’s about maintaining this community and ensuring that people feel like their voices are heard,” she said.

“I want to be mindful that I am a female GP and I feel honored to have that title.”


By Kate Clark

Snyk grabs $70M more to detect security vulnerabilities in open source code and containers

A growing number of IT breaches has led to security becoming a critical and central aspect of how computing systems are run and maintained. Today, a startup that focuses on one specific area — developing security tools aimed at developers and the work they do — has closed a major funding round that underscores the growth of that area.

Snyk — a London and Boston-based company that got its start identifying and developing security solutions for developers working on open source code — is today announcing that it has raised $70 million, funding that it will be using to continue expanding its capabilities and overall business. For example, the company has more recently expanded to building security solutions to help developers identify and fix vulnerabilities around containers, an increasingly standard unit of software used to package up and run code across different computing environments.

Open source — Snyk works as an integration into existing developer workflows, compatible with the likes of GitHub, Bitbucket and GitLab, as well as CI/CD pipelines — was an easy target to hit. It’s used in 95% of all enterprises, with up to 77% of open source components liable to have vulnerabilities, by Snyk’s estimates. Containers are a different issue.

“The security concerns around containers are almost more about ownership than technology,” Guy Podjarny, the president who co-founded the company with Assaf Hefetz and Danny Grander, explained in an interview. “They are in a twilight zone between infrastructure and code. They look like virtual machines and suffer many of same concerns such as being unpatched or having permissions that are too permissive.”

While containers are present in fewer than 30% of computing environments today, their growth is on the rise, according to Gartner, which forecasts that by 2022, over 75% of global organizations will run containerized applications. Snyk estimates that a full 44% of Docker image scans (Docker being one of the major container vendors) have known vulnerabilities.

This latest round is being led by Accel with participation from existing investors GV and Boldstart Ventures. These three, along with a fourth investor (Heavybit) also put $22 million into the company as recently as September 2018. That round was made at a valuation of $100 million, and from what we understand from a source close to the startup, it’s now in the “range” of $500 million.

“Accel has a long history in the security market and we believe Snyk is bringing a truly unique, developer-first approach to security in the enterprise,” said Matt Weigand of Accel said in a statement. “The strength of Snyk’s customer base, rapidly growing free user community, leadership team and innovative product development prove the company is ready for this next exciting phase of growth and execution.”

Indeed, the company has hit some big milestones in the last year that could explain that hike. It now has some 300,000 developers using it around the globe, with its customer base growing some 200 percent this year and including the likes of Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and ASOS (sidenote: you know that if developers at developer-centric places themselves working at the vanguard of computing, like Google and Microsoft, are using your product, that is a good sign). Notably, that has largely come by word of mouth — inbound interest.

The company in July of this year took on a new CEO, Peter McKay, who replaced Podjarny. McKay was the company’s first investor and has a track record in helping to grow large enterprise security businesses, a sign of the trajectory that Snyk is hoping to follow.

“Today, every business, from manufacturing to retail and finance, is becoming a software business,” said McKay. “There is an immediate and fast growing need for software security solutions that scale at the same pace as software development. This investment helps us continue to bring Snyk’s product-led and developer-focused solutions to more companies across the globe, helping them stay secure as they embrace digital innovation – without slowing down.”

 


By Ingrid Lunden

Q-CTRL raises $15M for software that reduces error and noise in quantum computing hardware

As hardware makers continue to work on ways of making wide-scale quantum computing a reality, a startup out of Australia that is building software to help reduce noise and errors on quantum computing machines has raised a round of funding to fuel its U.S. expansion.

Q-CTRL is designing firmware for computers and other machines (such as quantum sensors) that perform quantum calculations to identify the potential for errors, making them more resistant and able to stay working for longer (the Q in its name is a reference to qubits, the basic building block of quantum computing). The startup is today announcing that it has raised $15 million, money that it plans to use to double its team (currently numbering 25) and set up shop on the West Coast, specifically Los Angeles.

This Series A is coming from a list of backers that speaks to the startup’s success to date in courting quantum hardware companies as customers. Led by Square Peg Capital — a prolific Australian VC that has backed homegrown startups like Bugcrowd and Canva, but also those further afield such as Stripe — it also includes new investor Sierra Ventures as well as Sequoia Capital, Main Sequence Ventures, and Horizons Ventures.

Q-CTRL’s customers are some of the bigger names in quantum computing and IT such as Rigetti, Bleximo and Accenture, among others. IBM — which earlier this year unveiled its first commercial quantum computer — singled it out last year for its work in advancing quantum technology.

The problem that Q-CTRL is aiming to address is basic but arguably critical to solving if quantum computing ever hopes to make the leap out of the lab and into wider use in the real world.

Quantum computers and other machines like quantum sensors, which are built on quantum physics architecture, are able to perform computations that go well beyond what can be done by normal computers today, with the applications for such technology including cryptography, biosciences, advanced geological exploration and much more. But quantum computing machines are known to be unstable, in part because of the fragility of the quantum state, which introduces a lot of noise and subsequent errors.

As Frederic pointed out recently, scientists are confident that this is ultimately a solvable issue. Q-CTRL is one of the hopefuls working on that, by providing a set of tools that runs on quantum machines, visualises noise and decoherence, and then deploys controls to “defeat” those errors.

Q-CTRL currently has four products it offers to the market, Black Opal, Boulder Opal, Open Controls and Devkit — aimed respectively at students/those exploring quantum computing, hardware makers, the research community, and end users/algorithm developers.

Q-CTRL was founded in 2017 by Michael Biercuk, a Professor of Quantum Physics & Quantum Technology at the University of Sydney and a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, who studied in the U.S., with a PhD in physics from Harvard.

“Being at the vanguard of the birth of a new industry is extraordinary,” he said in a statement. “We’re also thrilled to be assembling one of the most impressive investor syndicates in quantum technology. Finding investors who understand and embrace both the promise and the challenge of building quantum computers is almost magical.”

Why choose Los Angeles for building out a U.S. presence, you might ask? Southern California, it turns out, has shaped up to be a key area for quantum research and development, with several of the universities in the region building out labs dedicated to the area, and companies like Lockheed Martin and Google also contributing to the ecosystem. This means a strong pipeline of talent and conversation in what is still a nascent area.

Given that it is still early days for quantum computing technology, that gives a lot of potential options to a company  like Q-CTRL longer-term: the company might continue to build a business as it does today, selling its technology to a plethora of hardware makers and researchers in the field; or it might get snapped up by a specific hardware company to integrate Q-CTRL’s solutions more closely onto its machines (and keep them away from competitors). Or, it could make like a quantum particle and follow both of those paths at the same time.

“Q-CTRL impressed us with their strategy; by providing infrastructure software to improve quantum computers for R&D teams and end-users, they’re able to be a central player in bringing this technology to reality,” said Tushar Roy, a partner at Square Peg. “Their technology also has applications beyond quantum computing, including in quantum-based sensing, which is a rapidly-growing market. In Q-CTRL we found a rare combination of world-leading technical expertise with an understanding of customers, products and what it takes to build an impactful business.”


By Ingrid Lunden

With its Kubernetes bet paying off, Cloud Foundry double down on developer experience

More than fifty percent of the Fortune 500 companies are now using the open-source Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service project — either directly or through vendors like Pivotal — to build, test and deploy their applications. Like so many other projects, including the likes of OpenStack, Cloud Foundry went through a bit of a transition in recent years as more and more developers started looking to containers — and especially the Kubernetes project — as a platform to develop on. Now, however, the project is ready to focus on what always differentiated it from its closed- and open-source competitors: the developer experience.

Long before Docker popularized containers for application deployment, though, Cloud Foundry had already bet on containers and written its own orchestration service, for example. With all of the momentum behind Kubernetes, though, it’s no surprise that many in the Cloud Foundry started to look at this new project to replace the existing container technology.


By Frederic Lardinois

Spendesk raises $38.4 million for its corporate card and expense service

French startup Spendesk has raised another $38.4 million Series B round with existing investor Index Ventures leading the round. The company has raised $49.4 million (€45 million) over the years.

Spendesk is an all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service. It lets you track expenses across your company, empower your employees with a clear approval process and simplify your bookkeeping.

The service essentially works like Revolut or N26, but for corporate needs. After you sign up, you get your own Spendesk account with an IBAN. You can top up that account and define different sets of policies.

For instance, you can set payment limits depending on everyone’s job and define who’s in charge of approving expensive payments. After that, everyone can generate virtual cards for online payments and get a physical card for business travel.

When you’re on the road, you can pay directly using Spendesk just like any corporate card. If you have to pay in cash or with another card, you can take a photo of the receipt from the Spendesk mobile app and get your money back.

Many Spendesk users also leverage the service for other use cases. For instance, you can define a marketing budget and let the marketing team spend it on Facebook or Google ads using a virtual card.

You can also track all your online subscriptions from the Spendesk interface to make sure that you don’t pay for similar tools. If you hire freelancers, you can also upload all your invoices to the platform, export an XML with your outstanding invoices and import it to your banking portal.

Spendesk tries to be smarter than legacy expense solutions. For instance, the company tries to leverage optical character recognition (OCR) to match receipts with payments, autofill the VAT rate, etc.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to open offices in Berlin and London, add more currencies and develop new features. Over the past year, the company went from 20 employees to 120 employees. There are now 1,500 companies using Spendesk in Europe.


By Romain Dillet

APIs are the next big SaaS wave

While the software revolution started out slowly, over the past few years it’s exploded and the fastest-growing segment to-date has been the shift towards software as a service or SaaS.

SaaS has dramatically lowered the intrinsic total cost of ownership for adopting software, solved scaling challenges and taken away the burden of issues with local hardware. In short, it has allowed a business to focus primarily on just that — its business — while simultaneously reducing the burden of IT operations.

Today, SaaS adoption is increasingly ubiquitous. According to IDG’s 2018 Cloud Computing Survey, 73% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure already in the cloud. While this software explosion has created a whole range of downstream impacts, it has also caused software developers to become more and more valuable.

The increasing value of developers has meant that, like traditional SaaS buyers before them, they also better intuit the value of their time and increasingly prefer businesses that can help alleviate the hassles of procurement, integration, management, and operations. Developer needs to address those hassles are specialized.

They are looking to deeply integrate products into their own applications and to do so, they need access to an Application Programming Interface, or API. Best practices for API onboarding include technical documentation, examples, and sandbox environments to test.

APIs tend to also offer metered billing upfront. For these and other reasons, APIs are a distinct subset of SaaS.

For fast-moving developers building on a global-scale, APIs are no longer a stop-gap to the future—they’re a critical part of their strategy. Why would you dedicate precious resources to recreating something in-house that’s done better elsewhere when you can instead focus your efforts on creating a differentiated product?

Thanks to this mindset shift, APIs are on track to create another SaaS-sized impact across all industries and at a much faster pace. By exposing often complex services as simplified code, API-first products are far more extensible, easier for customers to integrate into, and have the ability to foster a greater community around potential use cases.

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Graphics courtesy of Accel

Billion-dollar businesses building APIs

Whether you realize it or not, chances are that your favorite consumer and enterprise apps—Uber, Airbnb, PayPal, and countless more—have a number of third-party APIs and developer services running in the background. Just like most modern enterprises have invested in SaaS technologies for all the above reasons, many of today’s multi-billion dollar companies have built their businesses on the backs of these scalable developer services that let them abstract everything from SMS and email to payments, location-based data, search and more.

Simultaneously, the entrepreneurs behind these API-first companies like Twilio, Segment, Scale and many others are building sustainable, independent—and big—businesses.

Valued today at over $22 billion, Stripe is the biggest independent API-first company. Stripe took off because of its initial laser-focus on the developer experience setting up and taking payments. It was even initially known as /dev/payments!

Stripe spent extra time building the right, idiomatic SDKs for each language platform and beautiful documentation. But it wasn’t just those things, they rebuilt an entire business process around being API-first.

Companies using Stripe didn’t need to fill out a PDF and set up a separate merchant account before getting started. Once sign-up was complete, users could immediately test the API with a sandbox and integrate it directly into their application. Even pricing was different.

Stripe chose to simplify pricing dramatically by starting with a single, simple price for all cards and not breaking out cards by type even though the costs for AmEx cards versus Visa can differ. Stripe also did away with a monthly minimum fee that competitors had.

Many competitors used the monthly minimum to offset the high cost of support for new customers who weren’t necessarily processing payments yet. Stripe flipped that on its head. Developers integrate Stripe earlier than they integrated payments before, and while it costs Stripe a lot in setup and support costs, it pays off in brand and loyalty.

Checkr is another excellent example of an API-first company vastly simplifying a massive yet slow-moving industry. Very little had changed over the last few decades in how businesses ran background checks on their employees and contractors, involving manual paperwork and the help of 3rd party services that spent days verifying an individual.

Checkr’s API gives companies immediate access to a variety of disparate verification sources and allows these companies to plug Checkr into their existing on-boarding and HR workflows. It’s used today by more than 10,000 businesses including Uber, Instacart, Zenefits and more.

Like Checkr and Stripe, Plaid provides a similar value prop to applications in need of banking data and connections, abstracting away banking relationships and complexities brought upon by a lack of tech in a category dominated by hundred-year-old banks. Plaid has shown an incredible ramp these past three years, from closing a $12 million Series A in 2015 to reaching a valuation over $2.5 billion this year.

Today the company is fueling an entire generation of financial applications, all on the back of their well-built API.

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Graphics courtesy of Accel

Then and now

Accel’s first API investment was in Braintree, a mobile and web payment systems for e-commerce companies, in 2011. Braintree eventually sold to, and became an integral part of, PayPal as it spun out from eBay and grew to be worth more than $100 billion. Unsurprisingly, it was shortly thereafter that our team decided to it was time to go big on the category. By the end of 2014 we had led the Series As in Segment and Checkr and followed those investments with our first APX conference in 2015.

Plaid, Segment, Auth0, and Checkr had only raised Seed or Series A financings! And we are even more excited and bullish on the space. To convey just how much API-first businesses have grown in such a short period of time, we thought it would be useful perspective to share some metrics over the past five years, which we’ve broken out in the two visuals included above in this article.

While SaaS may have pioneered the idea that the best way to do business isn’t to actually build everything in-house, today we’re seeing APIs amplify this theme. At Accel, we firmly believe that APIs are the next big SaaS wave — having as much if not more impact as its predecessor thanks to developers at today’s fastest-growing startups and their preference for API-first products. We’ve actively continued to invest in the space (in companies like, Scale, mentioned above).

And much like how a robust ecosystem developed around SaaS, we believe that one will continue to develop around APIs. Given the amount of progress that has happened in just a few short years, Accel is hosting our second APX conference to once again bring together this remarkable community and continue to facilitate discussion and innovation.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 10.41.10 AM

Graphics courtesy of Accel


By Arman Tabatabai

Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups

Yesterday at TechCrunch’s Enterprise event in San Francisco, we sat down with three venture capitalists who spend a lot of their time thinking about enterprise startups. We wanted to ask what trends they are seeing, what concerns they might have about the state of the market, and of course, how startups might persuade them to write out a check.

We covered a lot of ground with the investors — Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures, and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners — who told us, among other things, that startups shouldn’t expect a big M&A event right now, that there’s no first-mover advantage in the enterprise realm, and why grit may be the quality that ends up keeping a startup afloat.

On the growth of enterprise startups:

Jason Green: When we started Emergence 15 years ago, we saw maybe a few hundred startups a year, and we funded about five or six. Today, we see over 1,000 a year; we probably do deep diligence on 25.


By Connie Loizos