Atera raises $77M at a $500M valuation to help SMBs manage their remote networks like enterprises do

Posted by on 28 July, 2021

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When it comes to software to help IT manage workers’ devices wherever they happen to be, enterprises have long been spoiled for choice — a situation that has come in especially handy in the last 18 months, when many offices globally have gone remote and people have logged into their systems from home. But the same can’t really be said for small and medium enterprises: as with so many other aspects of tech, they’ve long been overlooked when it comes to building modern IT management solutions tailored to their size and needs.

But there are signs of that changing. Today, a startup called Atera that has been building remote, and low-cost, predictive IT management solutions specifically for organizations with less than 1,000 employees, is announcing a funding round of $77 million — a sign of the demand in the market, and Atera’s own success in addressing it. The investment values Atera at $500 million, the company confirmed.

The Tel Aviv-based startup has amassed some 7,000 customers to date, managing millions of endpoints — computers and other devices connected to them — across some 90 countries, providing real-time diagnostics across the datapoints generated by those devices to predict problems with hardware, software and network, or with security issues.

Atera’s aim is to use the funding both to continue building out that customer footprint, and to expand its product — specifically adding more functionality to the AI that it currently uses (and for which Atera has been granted patents) to run predictive analytics, one of the technologies that today are part and parcel of solutions targeting larger enterprises but typically are absent from much of the software out there aimed at SMBs.

“We are in essence democratizing capabilities that exist for enterprises but not for the other half of the economy, SMBs,” said Gil Pekelman, Atera’s CEO, in an interview.

The funding is being led by General Atlantic, and it is notable for being only the second time that Atera has ever raised money — the first was earlier this year, a $25 million round from K1 Investment Management, which is also in this latest round. Before this year, Atera, which was founded in 2016, turned profitable in 2017 and then intentionally went out of profit in 2019 as it used cash from its balance sheet to grow. Through all of that, it was bootstrapped. (And it still has cash from that initial round earlier this year.)

As Pekelman — who co-founded the company with Oshri Moyal (CTO) — describes it, Atera’s approach to remote monitoring and management, as the space is typically called, starts first with software clients installed at the endpoints that connect into a network, which give IT managers the ability to monitor a network, regardless of the actual physical range, as if it’s located in a single office. Around that architecture, Atera essentially monitors and collects “datapoints” covering activity from those devices — currently taking in some 40,000 datapoints per second.

To be clear, these datapoints are not related to what a person is working on, or any content at all, but how the devices behave, and the diagnostics that Atera amasses and focuses on cover three main areas: hardware performance, networking and software performance and security. Through this, Atera’s system can predict when something might be about to go wrong with a machine, or why a network connection might not be working as it should, or if there is some suspicious behavior that might need a security-oriented response. It supplements its work in the third area with integrations with third-party security software — Bitdefender and Acronis among them — and by issuing updated security patches for devices on the network.

The whole system is built to be run in a self-service way. You buy Atera’s products online, and there are no salespeople involved — in fact most of its marketing today is done through Facebook and Google, Pekelman said, which is one area where it will continue to invest. This is one reason why it’s not really targeted larger enterprises (the others are the level of customization that would be needed; as well as more sophisticated service level agreements). But it is also the reason why Atera is so cheap: it costs $89 per month per IT technician, regardless of the number of endpoints that are being managed.

“Our constituencies are up to 1,000 employees, which is a world that was in essence quite neglected up to now,” Pekelman said. “The market we are targeting and that we care about are these smaller guys and they just don’t have tools like these today.” Since model is $89 dollars per month per technician using the software, it means that a company with 500 people with four technicians is paying $356 per month to manage their networks, peanuts in the greater scheme of IT services, and one reason why Atera has caught on as more and more employees have gone remote, and are looking like they will stay that way.

And the fact that this model is thriving is also one of the reason and investors are interested.

“Atera has developed a compelling all-in-one platform that provides immense value for its customer base, and we are thrilled to be supporting the company in this important moment of its growth trajectory,” said Alex Crisses, MD, Global Head of New Investment Sourcing and Co-Head of Emerging Growth at General Atlantic, in a statement. “We are excited to work with a category-defining Israeli company, extending General Atlantic’s presence in the country’s cutting-edge technology sector and marking our fifth investment in the region. We look forward to partnering with Gil, Oshri, and the Atera team to help the company realize its vision.”

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Business messaging platform Gupshup raises $240 million from Tiger Global, Fidelity and others

Posted by on 28 July, 2021

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Gupshup, a business messaging platform that began its journey in India 15 years ago, surprised many when it raised $100 million in April this year, roughly 10 years after its last financing round, and attained the coveted unicorn status. Now just three months later, the San Francisco-headquartered startup has secured even more capital from high-profile investors.

On Wednesday, Gupshup said it had raised an additional $240 million as part of the same Series F financing round. The new investment was led by Fidelity Management, Tiger Global, Think Investments, Malabar Investments, Harbor Spring Capital, certain accounts managed by Neuberger Berman Investment Advisers, and White Oak.

Neeraj Arora, formerly a high-profile executive at WhatsApp who played an instrumental role in helping the messaging platform sell to Facebook, also wrote a significant check to Gupshup in the new tranche of investment, which continues to value the startup at $1.4 billion as in April.

In an interview with TechCrunch earlier this week, Beerud Sheth, co-founder and chief executive of Gupshup, said he extended the financing round after receiving too many inbound requests from investors. The new investors will provide the startup with crucial insight and expertise, he said. The round is now closed, he said.

The startup, which operates a conversational messaging platform that is used by over 100,000 businesses and developers today to build their own messaging and conversational experiences to serve their users and customers, is beginning to consider exploring the public markets by next year, said Sheth, though he cautioned a final decision is yet to be made.

“Conversation is becoming a bigger part of doing business and it has partly been driven by the pandemic,” he said over a phone call. “Second, we have always been the leader in this space, but the product innovation we have focused on in the last two to three years has worked in our favor.”

The new investment, which includes some secondary buyback (some early investors and employees are selling their stakes), will be deployed into broadening the product offerings of Gupshup, he said. The startup is also eyeing some M&A opportunities and may close some deals this year, he added.

Some of the notable customers of Gupshup, which leads the business messaging market

Before Gupshup became so popular with businesses, it existed in a different avatar. For the first six years of its existence, Gupshup was best known for enabling users in India to send group messages to friends. (These cheap texts and other clever techniques enabled tens of millions of Indians to stay in touch with one another on phones a decade ago.)

That model eventually became unfeasible to continue, Sheth told TechCrunch in an earlier interview.

“For that service to work, Gupshup was subsidizing the messages. We were paying the cost to the mobile operators. The idea was that once we scale up, we will put advertisements in those messages. Long story short, we thought as the volume of messages increases, operators will lower their prices, but they didn’t. And also the regulator said we can’t put ads in the messages,” he said earlier this year.

That’s when Gupshup decided to pivot. “We were neither able to subsidize the messages, nor monetize our user base. But we had all of this advanced technology for high-performance messaging. So we switched from consumer model to enterprise model. So we started to serve banks, e-commerce firms, and airlines that need to send high-level messages and can afford to pay for it,” said Sheth, who also co-founder freelance workplace Elance in 1998.

Over the years, Gupshup has expanded to newer messaging channels, including conversational bots and it also helps businesses set up and run their WhatsApp channels to engage with customers.

Sheth said scores of major firms worldwide in banking, e-commerce, travel and hospitality and other sectors are among the clients of Gupshup. These firms are using Gupshup to send their customers transaction information and authentication codes, among other use cases. “These are not advertising or promotional messages. These are core service information,” he said.

“We have followed Gupshup’s progress for a long while and believe that they are the most evolved customer communications platform In India and increasingly in other emerging markets, with a leadership position in the most attractive and fastest growing sub-segments of the market,” said Sumeet Nagar, Managing Director of Malabar Investments, in a statement.

“We believe that Beerud and team have the unique opportunity to expand the addressable market on the back of new offerings and scale the business up significantly, which is a perfect recipe for massive value creation. I have known Beerud for over three decades, and all of us at Malabar are delighted to partner with Gupshup in the next stage of their journey.”

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RapidSOS learned that the best product design is sometimes no product design

Posted by on 27 July, 2021

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Sometimes, the best missions are the hardest to fund.

For the founders of RapidSOS, improving the quality of emergency response by adding useful data, like location, to 911 calls was an inspiring objective, and one that garnered widespread support. There was just one problem: How would they create a viable business?

The roughly 5,700 public safety answering points (PSAPs) in America weren’t great contenders. Cash-strapped and highly decentralized, 911 centers already spent their meager budgets on staffing and maintaining decades-old equipment, and they had few resources to improve their systems. Plus, appropriations bills in Congress to modernize centers have languished for more than a decade, a topic we’ll explore more in part four of this EC-1.

Who would pay? Who was annoyed enough with America’s antiquated 911 system to be willing to shell out dollars to fix it?

People obviously desire better emergency services — after all, they are the ones who will dial 911 and demand help someday. Yet, they never think about emergencies until they actually happen, as RapidSOS learned from the poor adoption of its Haven app we discussed in part one. People weren’t ready to pay a monthly subscription for these services in advance.

So, who would pay? Who was annoyed enough with America’s antiquated 911 system to be willing to shell out dollars to fix it?

Ultimately, the company iterated itself into essentially an API layer between the thousands of PSAPs on one side and developers of apps and consumer devices on the other. These developers wanted to include safety features in their products, but didn’t want to engineer hundreds of software integrations across thousands of disparate agencies. RapidSOS’ business model thus became offering free software to 911 call centers while charging tech companies to connect through its platform.

It was a tough road and a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Without call center integrations, tech companies wouldn’t use the API — it was essentially useless in that case. Call centers, for their part, didn’t want to use software that didn’t offer any immediate value, even if it was being given away for free.

This is the story of how RapidSOS just plowed ahead against those headwinds from 2017 onward, ultimately netting itself hundreds of millions in venture funding, thousands of call agency clients, dozens of revenue deals with the likes of Apple, Google and Uber, and partnerships with more software integrators than any startup has any right to secure. Smart product decisions, a carefully calibrated business model and tenacity would eventually lend the company the escape velocity to not just expand across America, but increasingly across the world as well.

In this second part of the EC-1, I’ll analyze RapidSOS’ current product offerings and business strategy, explore the company’s pivot from consumer app to embedded technology and take a look at its nascent but growing international expansion efforts. It offers key lessons on the importance of iterating, how to secure the right customer feedback and determining the best product strategy.

The 411 on a 911 API

It became clear from the earliest stages of RapidSOS’ journey that getting data into the 911 center would be its first key challenge. The entire 911 system — even today in most states — is built for voice and not data.

Karin Marquez, senior director of public safety at RapidSOS, who we met in the introduction, worked for decades at a PSAP near Denver, working her way up from call taker to a senior supervisor. “When I started, it was a one-man dispatch center. So, I was working alone, I was answering 911 calls, non-emergency calls, dispatching police, fire and EMS,” she said.

RapidSOS senior director of public safety Karin Marquez. Image Credits: RapidSOS

As a 911 call taker, her very first requirement for every call was figuring out where an emergency is taking place — even before characterizing what is happening. “Everything starts with location,” she said. “If I don’t know where you are, I can’t send you help. Everything else we can kind of start to build our house on. Every additional data [point] will help to give us a better understanding of what that emergency is, who may be involved, what kind of vehicle they’re involved in — but if I don’t have an address, I can’t send you help.”

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No-code Bubble raises $100M to make technical co-founders obsolete

Posted by on 27 July, 2021

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Among Silicon Valley circles, a fun parlor game is to ask to what extent world GDP levels are held back by a lack of computer science and technical training. How many startups could be built if hundreds of thousands or even millions more people could code and bring their entrepreneurial ideas to fruition? How many bureaucratic processes could be eliminated if developers were more latent in every business?

The answer, of course, is on the order of “a lot,” but the barriers to reaching this world remain formidable. Computer science is a challenging field, and despite proactive attempts by legislatures to add more coding skills into school curriculums, the reality is that the demand for software engineering vastly outstrips the supply available in the market.

Coding is not a bubble, and Bubble wants to empower the democratization of software development and the creation of new startups. Through its platform, Bubble enables anyone — coder or not — to begin building modern web applications using a click-and-drag interface that can connect data sources and other software together in one fluid interface.

It’s a bold bet — and it’s just received a bold bet as well. Bubble announced today that Ryan Hinkle of Insight Partners has led a $100 million Series A round into the company. Hinkle, a longtime managing director at the firm, specializes in growth buyout deals as well as growth SaaS companies.

If that round size seems huge, it’s because Bubble has had a long history as a bootstrapped company before reaching its current scale. Co-founders Emmanuel Straschnov and Josh Haas spent seven years bootstrapping and tinkering with the product before securing a $6.5 million seed round in June 2019 led by SignalFire. Interestingly, according to Straschnov, Insight was the first venture firm to reach out to Bubble all the way back in 2014. Seven years on, the two have now signed and closed a deal.

Since the seed round, Bubble has been expanding its functionality. As a no-code tool, any missing feature could potentially block an application from being built. “In our business, it’s a features game,” Straschnov said. “[Our users] are not technical, but they have high standards.” He noted that the company introduced a plugins system that allows the Bubble community to build their own additions to the platform.

Image Credits: Bubble. Its editor offers a clickable interface for designing dynamic web applications. 

As the platform matured, it happened to nail the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which saw people scrambling for new skills and improving their prospects amid a gloomy job market. Straschnov says that Bubble saw an immediate bump in usage in March and April 2020, and the company has tripled revenue over the past 12 months.

Bubble’s focus for the past eight years has been on helping people turn their ideas into startups. The company’s proposition is that a large number of even venture-backed companies could be built using Bubble without the expense of a large engineering team writing code from scratch.

Unlike other no-code tools, which focus on building internal corporate apps, Straschnov says that the company remains as focused today on these new companies as it has always been. “[We’re] not trying to move upmarket just yet — we are trying to do the same thing that AWS and Stripe did five years ago,” he said. Instead of trying to dominate the enterprise, Bubble wants to grow with its nascent customers as they expand in scale.

The company today charges a range of prices depending on the performance and scale requirements of an application. There’s a free tier, and then professional pricing starts at $25/month all the way to $475/month for its top-listed offering. Enterprise pricing is also available, as is special pricing for students.

On the latter point, Bubble is looking to invest heavily in education using its newly raised capital. While the platform is easy to use, the reality is that any design of a web application can be intimidating for a new user, particularly one who isn’t technical. So the company wants to create more videos and documentation while also heavily investing in partnerships with universities to get more students using the platform.

While the no-code space has seen prodigious investment, Straschnov said that “I don’t look at all the no-code players as competition … the true competition we have is code.” He noted that while the no-code label has been assumed by more and more startups, very few companies are focused on his company’s specific niche, and he believes he offers a compelling value proposition in that category.

The company has doubled headcount since the beginning of the pandemic, growing from around 21 employees to about 45 today. They are lightly concentrated in New York City, but the company operates remotely and has folks in 15 states as well as in France. Straschnov says that the company is looking to aggressively hire technical talent to build out the product using its new funds.

Posted Under: Tech News
Blameless raises $30M to guide companies through their software lifecycle

Posted by on 27 July, 2021

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Site reliability engineering platform Blameless announced Tuesday it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, led by Third Point Ventures with participation from Accel, Decibel and Lightspeed Venture Partners, to bring total funding to over $50 million.

Site reliability engineering (SRE) is an extension of DevOps designed for more complex environments.

Blameless, based in San Mateo, California, emerged from stealth in 2019 after raising both a seed and Series A round, totaling $20 million. Since then, it has turned its business into a blossoming software platform.

Blameless’ platform provides the context, guardrails and automated workflows so engineering teams are unified in the way they communicate and interact, especially to resolve issues quicker as they build their software systems.

It originally worked with tech-forward teams at large companies, like Home Depot, that were “dipping [their toes] into the space and now [want] to double down,” co-founder and CEO Lyon Wong told TechCrunch.

The company still works with those tech-forward teams, but in the past two years, more companies sought out resident SRE architect Kurt Anderson to advise them, causing Blameless to change up its business approach, Wong said.

Other companies are also seeing a trend of customers asking for support — for example, in March, Google Cloud unveiled its Mission Critical Services support option for SRE to serve in a similar role as a consultant as companies move toward readiness with their systems. And in February, Nobl9 raised a $21 million Series B to provide enterprises with the tools they need to build service-level-objective-centric operations, which is part of a company’s SRE efforts.

Blameless now has interest from more mainstream companies in the areas of enterprise, logistics and healthcare. These companies aren’t necessarily focused on technology, but see a need for SRE.

“Companies recognize the shortfall in reliability, and then the question they come to us with is how do they get from where they are to where they want to be,” Anderson said. “Often companies that don’t have a process respond with ‘all hands on deck’ all the time, but instead need to shift to the right people responding.”

Lyon plans to use the new funding to fill key leadership roles, the company’s go-to-market strategy and product development to enable the company to go after larger enterprises.

Blameless doubled its revenue in the last year and will expand to service all customer segments, adding small and emerging businesses to its roster of midmarket and large companies. The company also expects to double headcount in the next three quarters.

As part of the funding announcement, Third Point Ventures partner Dan Moskowitz will join Blameless’ board of directors with Wong, Accel partner Vas Natarajan and Lightspeed partner Ravi Mhatre.

“Freeing up engineering to focus on shipping code is exactly what Blameless achieves,” said Moskowitz in a written statement. “The Blameless market opportunity is big as we see teams struggle and resort to creating homegrown playbooks and point solutions that are incomplete and costly.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Sedna banks $34M for a platform that parses large volumes of email and chat to automatically action items within them

Posted by on 27 July, 2021

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Many have tried, but email refuses to die… although in the process it might be (figuratively speaking) killing some of us with the workload it brings on to triage and use it. A startup called Sedna has built a system to help with that — specifically for enterprise and other business customers — by “reading” the text of emails, and chats, and automatically actioning items within them so that you don’t have to. And today, it’s announcing funding of $34 million to expand its work.

The funding, a Series B, is being led by Insight Partners, with Stride.VC, Chalfen Ventures and the SAP.iO fund (part of SAP) also participating. The funding will be used to continue building out more data science around Sedna’s core functionality, with the aim of moving into a wider set of verticals over time. Currently its main business is in the area of supply chain players, with Glencore, Norden, and Bunge among its customers. Other customers in areas like finance include the neobank Starling. London-based Sedna is not disclosing valuation.

Bill Dobie, Sedna’s CEO and founder, said the idea for the company was hatched out of his own experience. “I spent years building software to help users be more productive, but no matter what we built we never really reduced people’s workload.” The reason: the millstone that is called email, with its endless, unsolicited, inbound messages, some of which (just enough not to ignore) might be important. “What really struck me was how long it spent to move items out of and into email,” he said of the “to-do’s” that arose out of there.

Out of that, Sedna was built to “read” emails and give them more context and direction. Its system removes duplicates of action items and essentially increases the strike rate when it comes people’s inboxes: what’s in there is more likely to be what you really need to see. And it does so at a very quick speed.

“Our main value is the sheer scale at which we operate,” Dobie said. “We read millions or even billions of messages in sub second response times.” Indeed, while many of us are not getting “millions” of emails, there is a world of messaging out there that needs reading beyond that. Think, for example, of the volume of data that will be coming down the pike from IoT-based diagnostics.

“Smart” inboxes have definitely become a thing for consumers — although arguably none work as well as you wish they did. What’s notable about Sedna has been how it’s tuned its particular algorithms to specific verticals, letting them get smarter around the kind of content and work practices in particular organizations.

Right now the work is driven by an API framework, with elements of “low code” formatting to let people shape their own Sedna experiences. The aim will be to make that even easier over time. AN API driven frame work right now, some low code we’re heading into, but mostly its SAP or shipping or trading system that understands the transaction under way, then Sedna uses a decision tree to categories. 

Another area where Sedna might grow is in how it handles the information that it ingests. Currently, the company’s tech can be interconnected by a customer to then hand off certain work to RPA systems, as well as to specific humans. There is an obvious route to developing some of the second stage of software there — or alternatively, it’s a sign of how something like Sedna might get snapped up, or copied by one of the big RPA players.

“Bill started reimagining email where it was most broken and therefore hardest to fix—large teams managing huge volumes and complicated processes,” said Rebecca Liu-Doyle, principal at Insight Partners, in a statement. “Today, Sedna’s power is in its ability to introduce immense speed, simplicity, and delight to any inbox experience, regardless of scale or complexity. We are excited to partner with the Sedna team as they continue to make digital communication more intelligent for teams in global supply chain and beyond.” Liu-Doyle is joining the board with this round.

SAP is a strategic investor in this round, as Sedna potentially helps its customers be more productive while using SAP systems. “SAP continues to partner with SEDNA to deliver value to SAP customers. The ability to turn complex information into simpler intelligent collaboration has been a growing priority for many SAP customers,” said Stefan Sauer, global transport solutions Lead at SAP, in a statement.

Posted Under: Tech News
ActiveFence comes out of the shadows with $100M in funding and tech that detects online harm

Posted by on 27 July, 2021

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Online abuse, disinformation, fraud and other malicious content is growing and getting more complex to track. Today, a startup called ActiveFence, which has quietly built a tech platform to suss out threats as they are being formed and planned, to make it easier for trust and safety teams to combat them on platforms, is coming out of the shadows to announce significant funding on the back of a surge of large organizations using its services.

The startup, co-headquartered in New York and Tel Aviv, has raised $100 million, funding that it will use to continue developing its tools and to continue expanding its customer base. To date, ActiveFence says that its customers include companies in social media, audio and video streaming, file sharing, gaming, marketplaces and other technologies — it has yet to disclose any specific names but says that its tools collectively cover “billions” of users. Governments and brands are two other categories that it is targeting as it continues to expand. It has been around since 2018 and is growing at around 100% annually.

The $100 million being announced today actually covers two rounds: its most recent Series B led by CRV and Highland Europe, as well as a Series A it never announced led by Grove Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners. Vintage Investment Partners, Resolute Ventures and other unnamed backers also participated. It’s not disclosing valuation but I understand it’s between $300 million and $400 million. (I’ll update this if we learn more.)

The increase presence of social media and online chatter on other platforms has put a strong spotlight on how those forums are used by bad actors to spread malicious content. ActiveFence’s particular approach is a set of algorithms that tap into innovations in AI (natural language processing) and to map relationships between conversations. It crawls all of the obvious, and less obvious and harder-to-reach parts of the internet to pick up on chatter that is typically where a lot of the malicious content and campaigns are born — some 3 million sources in all — before they become higher-profile issues.  It’s built both on the concept of big data analytics as well as understanding that the long tail of content online has a value if it can be tapped effectively.

“We take a fundamentally different approach to trust, safety and content moderation,” Noam Schwartz, the co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. “We are proactively searching the darkest corners of the web and looking for bad actors in order to understand the sources of malicious content. Our customers then know what’s coming. They don’t need to wait for the damage, or for internal research teams to identify the next scam or disinformation campaign. We work with some of the most important companies in the world, but even tiny, super niche platforms have risks.”

The insights that ActiveFence gathers are then packaged up in an API that its customers can then feed into whatever other systems they use to track or mitigate traffic on their own platforms.

ActiveFence is not the only company building technology to help platform operators, governments and brands to have a better picture of what is going on in the wider online world. Factmata has built algorithms to better understand and track sentiments online; Primer (which also recently raised a big round) also uses NLP to help its customers track online information, with its customers including government organizations that used its technology to track misinformation during election campaigns; Bolster (formerly called RedMarlin) is another. Some of the bigger platforms have also gotten more proactive in bringing tracking technology and talent in-house: Facebook acquired Bloomsbury AI several years ago for this purpose; Twitter has acquired Fabula (and is working on a bigger efforts like Birdwatch to build better tools), and earlier this year Discord picked up Sentropy, another online abuse tracker.

It may well be that ultimately there will exist multiple companies doing good work in this area, not unlike other corners of the world of security, which ideally need multiple efforts thrown at problems to crack them. In this particular case, the growth of the startup to date, and its effectiveness in identifying early warning signs, is one reason why investors have been interested in ActiveFence.

“We are pleased to support ActiveFence in this important mission” commented Izhar Armony, the lead investor from CRV, in a statement. “We believe they are ready for the next phase of growth and that they can maintain leadership in the dynamic and fast growing trust and safety market.”

“ActiveFence has emerged as a clear leader in the developing online trust and safety category. This round will help the company to accelerate the growth momentum we witnessed in the past few years,” said Dror Nahumi, general partner at Norwest Venture Partners, in a statement.

Posted Under: Tech News
Nium crosses $1B valuation with $200M Riverwood Capital-led round

Posted by on 26 July, 2021

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Business-to-business payments platform Nium announced Monday that it raised more than $200 million in Series D funding and saw its valuation rise above $1 billion.

The company, now Singapore-based but shifting to the Bay Area, touted the investment as making it “the first B2B payments unicorn from Southeast Asia.”

Riverwood Capital led the round, in which Temasek, Visa, Vertex Ventures, Atinum Capital, Beacon Venture Capital and Rocket Capital Investment participated, along with a group of angel investors like DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram, FIS’ Vicky Bindra and Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi. Including the new funding, Nium has raised $300 million to date, Prajit Nanu, co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

The B2B payments sector is already hot, yet underpenetrated, according to some experts. To give an idea just how hot, Nium was seeking $150 million for its Series D round, received commitments of $300 million from eager investors and settled on $200 million, Nanu said.

“This is our fourth or fifth fundraise, but we have never had this kind of interest before — we even had our term sheets in five days,” he added. “I believe this interest is because we’ve successfully managed to create a global platform that is heavily regulated, which gives us access to a lot of networks. This is an environment where payment is visible, and our core is powering frictionless commerce and enabling anyone to use our platform.”

Nium’s new round adds fuel to a fire shared by a number of companies all going after a global B2B payments market valued at $120 trillion annually: last week, Paystand raised $50 million in Series C funding to make B2B payments cashless, while Dwolla raised $21 million for its API that allows companies to build and facilitate fast payments. In March, Higo brought in $3.3 million to do the same in Latin America, while Balance, developing a B2B payments platform that allows merchants to offer a variety of payment methods. raised $5.5 million in February.

Nium’s approach is to provide access to a global payment infrastructure, including card issuance, accounts receivable and payable, and banking-as-a-service through a single API. The company’s network enables customers to then send funds to more than 100 countries, pay out in more than 60 currencies, accept funds in seven currencies and issue cards in more than 40 countries, Nanu said. The company also boasts money transfer, card issuances and banking licenses in 11 jurisdictions.

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founding partner and managing partner at Riverwood, said in an email that the combination of software — plus regulatory licenses — and operating a fintech infrastructure platform on behalf of neobanks and corporates is a global trend experiencing hyper-growth.

Riverwood followed Nium for many years, and its future vision was what got the firm interested in being a part of this round. Alvarez-Demalde said that “Nium has the incredible combination of a great market opportunity, a talented founder and team, and we believe the company is poised for global growth based on underlying secular technology trends like increasing real-time payment capabilities and the proliferation of cross border commerce.

“As a central payment infrastructure in one API, Nium is a catalyst that unlocks cross-border payments, local accounts and card issuance with a network of local market licenses, partners and banking relationships to facilitate moving money across the world,” he added. “Enterprises of all types are embedding financial services as part of their consumer experience, and Nium is a key global enabler of this trend.”

Nanu said the new funding enables the company to move to the United States, which represents 3% of Nium’s revenue. He wants to increase that to 20% over the next 18 months, as well as expand in Latin America. The investment also gives the company a 12- to 18-month runway for further M&A activity.  In June, Nium acquired virtual card issuance company Ixaris, and in July acquired Wirecard Forex India to expose it to India’s market. He also plans to expand the company’s payments network infrastructure, invest in product development and add to Nium’s 700-person headcount.

Nium already counts hundreds of enterprise companies as clients and plans to onboard thousands more in the next year. The company processes $8 billion in payments annually and has issued more than 30 million virtual cards since 2015. Meanwhile, revenue grew by over 280% year over year.

All of this growth puts the company on a trajectory for an initial public offering, Nanu said. He has already spoken to people who will help the company formally kick off that journey in the first quarter of 2022.

“Unlike other companies that raise money for new products, we aim to expand in the existing sets of what we do,” Nanu said. “The U.S. is a new market, but we have a good brand and will use the new round to provide a better experience to the customer.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Box unwraps its answer to the $3.8B e-signature market: Box Sign

Posted by on 26 July, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Box released its new native e-signature product Box Sign on Monday, providing e-signature capability and unlimited signatures as part of Box’s business and enterprise plans at no additional cost.

The launch comes five months after the Redwood City, California-based company agreed to acquire e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million.

Box CEO Aaron Levie told TechCrunch the company is already securing content management for 100,000 businesses, and Box Sign represents “a breakthrough product for the company” — a new category in which Box can help customers with business processes.

“We are building out a content cloud that powers the lifecycle of content so customers can retain and manage it,” Levie said. “Everyday, there are more transactions around onboarding a customer, closing a deal or an audit, but these are still done manually. We are moving that to digital and enabling the request of signatures around the content.”

Here’s how it works: Users can send documents for e-signature directly from Box to anyone, even those without a Box account. Places for signature requests and approvals can be created anywhere on the document. All of this integrates across popular apps like Salesforce and includes email reminders and deadline notifications. As with Box’s offerings, the signatures are also secure and compliant.

The global e-signature software market was estimated to be around $1.8 billion in 2020, according to Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, while IDC expects it to grow to $3.8 billion by 2023.

Levie considers the market still early as less than one-third of organizations use e-signature due to legacy tool limitations and cost barriers, revealing massive future opportunities. However, that may be changing: Box worked with banks during the pandemic that were still relying on mailing, scanning and faxing documents to help them adapt to digital processes. It also surveyed its customers last year around product capabilities, and the No. 1 “ask” was e-signature, he said.

He mentioned major players DocuSign and Adobe Sign — two products it will continue to integrate with — among the array of technology within the space. He said that Box is not trying to compete with any player, but saw a need from customers and wanted to proceed with an option for them.

The e-signature offering also follows the hiring of Diego Dugatkin in June as Box’s new chief product officer. Prior to joining, Dugatkin was vice president of product management for Adobe Document Cloud and led strategy and execution for Adobe’s suite of products, including Adobe Sign.

“Our strategy has been for many years to expand our portfolio and power more advanced use cases, as well as a vision to have one platform to manage everything,” Levie said. “Diego has two decades of tremendous domain experience, and he will make a massive dent in powering this for us.”

In addition to the e-signature product, Box also introduced its Enterprise Plus plan that includes all of the company’s major add-ons, as well as advanced e-signature capabilities that will be available later this summer, the company said.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Payments company Paystone raises $23.8M to help service-based businesses engage with customers

Posted by on 23 July, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Paystone, a payments and integrated software company, secured another strategic investment this year, this time $23.8 million ($30 million CAD) from Crédit Mutuel Equity, the private equity arm of Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale.

The Canada-based company got its start in 2008 as the payment processing company Zomaron, and rebranded itself as Paystone in 2019. Today it provides electronic payments and customer engagement technology to businesses, particularly those that provide services, CEO Tarique Al-Ansari told TechCrunch.

“Paystone is on a mission to help businesses grow, and we were enthralled by their commitment to that mission and their focus on service-oriented verticals,” said Léa Perge, investor at Crédit Mutuel Equity in Canada, via email.

While most of the company’s peers focus on product companies, Al-Ansari saw how underserved the service side was: their needs are different, and unlike retail, aren’t looking to sell online. Rather, they need an online presence and digital marketing to engage with customers, but their focus is being findable and having content that tells people why they should do business with them.

Paystone provides the marketing through content, help with reviews and with loyalty and rewards programs. However, rather than reward for spending, Paystone rewards for behavior. Refer a friend, get a reward. Write a review, get a reward. Al-Ansari calls it “payments as a benefit.” Referrals and reviews are how businesses become more findable, and the more content that’s out there, the more it helps people consider the business trustworthy, he added.

The new funding gives Canada-based Paystone total funds raised in 2021 of $78.8 million in a mix of debt and equity. It raised $54.9 million in January, funds that were barely touched as of yet, Al-Ansari said.

Though he wasn’t actively seeking new funds, Al-Ansari had been speaking with Crédit Mutuel Equity, which used to be CIC Capital Canada, prior to the pandemic, and their deal was put on hold.

Crédit Mutuel Equity came back with similar interest, and taking into account the kind of talent Paystone wanted to go after and its acquisition strategy — the company has already acquired five companies — Al-Ansari decided to take the additional funds. He said it gives the company options to hire more and double down on building the company, as well as enough capital to look for more acquisitions.

This year, Paystone entered the U.S. market for the first time and will do a proper launch later this year. The company has over 30,000 merchant locations on its platform throughout North America, and Al-Ansari expects that to grow by 5,000 this year. The company has 150 employees currently, and another 50 are expected to come on board by the end of the year.

In addition, Al-Ansari expects growth to accelerate for the rest of the year. The company processes around $6 billion in credit card payments and is on track to bring in $55.7 million in revenue this year. It is cash flow positive, residuals from the company’s origins of being bootstrapped, he said.

“We want to become the go-to destination for service businesses to set up a digital presence to accept payments and provide loyalty and rewards,” Al-Ansari said. “We will do this by solidifying our market position and growing our platform with the tools that customers want.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
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