Monthly Archives: June 2020

Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra says recession is the ‘perfect time’ to be aggressive for well-capitalized startups

Posted by on 18 June, 2020

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Email is one of those things that no one likes but that we’re all forced to use. Superhuman, founded by Rahul Vohra, aims to help everyone get to inbox zero.

Launched in 2017, Superhuman charges $30 per month and is still in invite-only mode with more than 275,000 people on the waitlist. That’s by design, Vohra told us earlier this week on Extra Crunch Live.

“I think a lot of folks misunderstand the nature of our waitlist,” he said. “They assume it’s some kind of FOMO generating technique or some kind of false scarcity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real reason we have the waitlist is that I want everyone who uses Superhuman to be deliriously happy with their experience.”

Today, the app is only available for desktop and iOS. Superhuman started with iOS because many premium users have iPhones, Vohra said. Still, many users have Android, so Superhuman’s waitlist consists of many Android users.

“And we don’t think that if we onboard them they’d have the best experience with Superhuman because email really is an ecosystem product,” he said. “You do it just as much on the go as you do from your laptop. And there’s a lot of reasons like that. And so if you’re a person who identifies that as a must-have, well, we’ll take in the survey, we’ll learn about you so we know when to reach out to you. And then when we have those things built or integrated, we’ll reach out.”

We also chatted about his obsession with email, determining pricing for a premium product, the impact of COVID-19, diversity in tech in light of the police killing of George Floyd and so much more.

Throughout the conversation, Vohra also offered up some good practical advice for founders. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

On competition from Hey, the latest buzzy email app

Yeah, I’m not at all worried. I used to get worried about this. You know, 10 years ago, even as recently as five years ago, I would get worried about competitors. But I think Paul Graham has really, really great advice on this. I think he says pretty much verbatim: Startups don’t kill other startups. Competition generally doesn’t kill the startup. Other things do, like running out of money being the biggest one, or lack of momentum or lack of motivation or co-founder feuds, these are all really dangerous things.

Competition from other startups generally isn’t the thing that gets you and you know, props to the Basecamp team and everything they’ve done with Hey. It’s really impressive. I think it’s for an entirely different demographic than Superhuman is for.

Superhuman is for the person for whom essentially email as work and work as email. Our users kind of almost personally identify with their email inbox, and they’re coming from Gmail, or G Suite. And typically it’s overflowing so they often receive hundreds if not thousands of emails a day, and they send off 100 emails a day. Superhuman is for high volume email for whom email really matters. Power users, essentially, though power users isn’t quite the right articulation. What I actually say is prosumers because there’s a lot of people who come to us at Superhuman and they’re not yet power users of email, but they know they need to be.

And that’s what I would call a prosumer — someone who really wants to be brilliant at doing email. Now Hey doesn’t seem to be designed for that target market. It doesn’t seem to be designed for high volume emailers or prosumers or power users.

Posted Under: Tech News
13 Boston-focused VCs share the advice they’re giving portfolio companies

Posted by on 18 June, 2020

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TechCrunch is focusing a bit more on the Boston-area startup and venture capital ecosystem lately, which has gone pretty well so far.

In fact, we had originally intended on releasing this regional investor survey as a single piece, but since so many VCs took part, we’re breaking it into two. The first part deals with the world we live in today, and the remainder will detail what Boston-area investors think about the future.

We broke our questions into two parts to better track investor sentiment. But, we were also curious what was going to come when things got back closer to normal. So, this first entry in our Boston investor survey covers our questions concerning what’s going on now. On Thursday we’ll have the second piece, looking at what’s ahead.

Here’s who took part:

What follows is a quick digest of what stood out from the collected answers, though there’s a lot more that we didn’t get to.

Boston VC in the COVID-19 era

Parsing through thousands of words and notes from our participating VCs, a few things stood out.

Boston startups aren’t having as bad a time — yet, at least — as area investors expected

Fewer companies than they anticipated are laying off staff for example. From our perspective, the number of Boston investors who noted that their portfolio companies were executing layoffs or furloughs (we asked for each to be precise) was very low; far more Boston-area startups are hiring than even freezing headcount. Layoffs appear somewhat rare, but as we all know cost cutting can take many forms for startups. Especially startups on the seed and early-stage side, which makes up the majority of these firm’s portfolio companies.

According to Glasswing’s Rudina Seseri, startup duress has come in “significantly under what [her firm was] expecting at the beginning of COVID-19.”

This may be due to a strong first quarter helping companies in the city and its surrounding area make it another few quarters. We might not know the full bill of COVID-19 and its related disruptions until next year.

More investors than we expected noted that their Boston portfolio companies aren’t raising this year

So what we’re gleaning from that fact is that any decline in Q2 and Q3 VC data is not because companies can’t raise, but because they don’t need to. Comments echoed a theme we wrote about in April: Boston broke records in Q1 in terms of dollars raised, but saw a dip in the number of checks cut.

Pillar VC’s Jamie Goldstein said that “about 15% of our companies are planning to raise capital this year,” which felt about average. Underscore VC’s Lily Lyman simply noted that, “Yes,” her Boston-area portfolio companies would hunt for new capital this year. Bill Geary of Flare Capital is on the other side of that coin, saying that “each of [his firm’s] Boston-based investments has successfully recently raised capital and will not be raising additional funds until 2021.”

It’s hard not to wonder if what happened to Boston unicorns Toast and EzCater was the exception and not the rule

 You see, Boston’s startup scene skews relatively early stage, so smaller companies don’t have high-profile cuts because, to be frank, there isn’t much staff to cut in the first place. It puts Boston in a unique setting to focus in on its early stage market, and investors all agreed that this is an important moment for the ecosystem.

The March-era stress tests are now months in the rearview mirror, and every startup has shaken up their spend and growth plans. Perhaps we have met the new normal, and it’s time to let the runway do the talking.

With that, let’s get into full questions and answers.

Rudina Seseri, Glasswing Ventures

What is the top-line advice you’re giving your portfolio companies right now?

This is a pivotal time, be efficient and drive execution. Cut costs where possible but at the same time don’t be afraid to spend for growth acceleration.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies are still hiring, not including those merely backfilling?

About 60%.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have frozen new hires?

About 20%.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have furloughed staff?

None.

What percentage of your Boston-based portfolio companies have cut staff?

One company that represents about 4% of the portfolio.

Are your Boston-based portfolio companies looking to raise new capital this year?

Most have raised recently, and consequently are not looking to raise at this time.

If not, are they often delaying due to COVID-19?

No, because of their recent raises, their fundraising considerations will take place in 2021.

Has duress amidst your Boston-based portfolio companies undershot, matched or overshot your expectations from March?

It has been significantly under what we were expecting at the beginning of COVID-19.

How has your investment appetite changed in terms of pace and location, if at all?

We have been very active and closed deals in this environment. Our expectation is that our investment appetite will remain the same going forward.

Are you making investments in Q2 into net-new founders and companies?

Yes, as a matter-of-fact we just closed a yet-to-be announced investment this month.

Are there particular sectors of startups in Boston that you expect to do well, aside from SaaS businesses that are benefiting from secular trends? Are there any sectors you have become newly bearish on?

Yes, those that are in our core focus areas — solutions that bring down the cost of cloud and data, platforms and tools leveraging AI, those that facilitate cost reduction, and intelligent solutions in cybersecurity that protect the enterprise.

How does the uncertainty of schools reopening impact the startup ecosystem?

This will further drive and institutionalize distributed teams and remote working as a go-forward mode of operating.

Posted Under: Tech News
Cloudtenna raises $2.5M, launches mobile search app to find content across cloud services

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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As we find ourselves spreading our content across a variety of cloud services, finding that one document you want that could be attached to an email, somewhere in a Slack conversation, or stored in Box, Dropbox, Google Docs or Office 365, makes that a huge challenge. It’s one that Cloudtenna has been trying to solve, and today the company announced a $2.5 million funding round along with the release of a new mobile search tool.

The funding comes from a variety of unnamed investors along with Blazar Ventures, and brings the total raised to $6.5 million, according to the company.

Cloudtenna co-founder Aaron Ganek says that by using AI and document metadata, his company can find content wherever it lives. “What we’re really focused on is helping companies bring order to file chaos. Files are scattered everywhere across the cloud, and we have developed AI-powered applications that help users find files, no matter where they’re stored,” he said.

The company introduced a desktop search application in 2018 and today it’s announcing a mobile search tool called Workspace to go with it. Ganek says they built this app from the ground up to take advantage of the mobile context.

“Today, we’re bringing the search technology to smartphones and tablets. And just to be clear, this is not just a mobile version of our desktop product, but a complete case study in how people collaborate on the go,” he said.

Image Credit: Cloudtenna

The AI component helps find files wherever they are based on your user history, who you tend to collaborate with and so forth. That helps the tool find the files that are most relevant to you, regardless of where they happen to be stored.

He says that raising money during a pandemic was certainly interesting, but the company has seen an uptick in usage due to the general increase in SaaS usage during this time, and investors saw that too, he said.

The company launched in 2016 and currently has 9 employees, but Ganek said there aren’t any plans to expand on that number at this time, or at least any number he was ready to discuss.

Posted Under: Tech News
Onna, the ‘knowledge integration platform’ for workplace apps, raises $27M Series B

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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Onna, the “knowledge integration platform” (KIP) that counts Dropbox and Slack as backers, has raised $27 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Atomico, with participation from Glynn Capital. Previous investors Dawn Capital, Nauta Capital and Slack Fund also followed on.

Founded in 2015, Barcelona and New York-based Onna integrates with a plethora of workplace apps, including Slack, Dropbox, Gsuite, Microsoft 365 and Salesforce, to help unlock the proprietary knowledge stored in a company’s various cloud and on-premise software. Typical applications for a KIP include compliance, governance, archiving and “eDiscovery”.

From communication apps to cloud storage to HR platforms, the idea is to unify all of this data and make it searchable but in a way that is secure and protects existing permissions and privacy. In fact, another way to think of Onna is like Apple’s Spotlight functionality but for the enterprise. However, pitched as a platform not just a feature, Onna also offers an API of its own so that various use-cases can be built on top of this “single source of truth”.

“Onna’s knowledge integration platform is a centralised, searchable and secure hub that connects company data wherever it resides and makes it easier and faster to make informed decisions,” Onna founder and CEO Salim Elkhou tells TechCrunch. “It is a productivity tool built for the way businesses work today… something that didn’t exist before, creating a new industry standard which benefits all companies within the ecosystem”.

Citing a report by single sign-in provider Okta, Elkhou notes that companies today use an average of 88 different apps across their workforce, a 21% increase from three years ago.

“The reason apps have become so popular is that they’re very effective for tackling specific challenges, or even a broad range of tasks. But the problem large organisations were coming up against is that their knowledge was spread across a wide range of apps that weren’t necessarily designed to work together”.

For example, a legal counsel could be looking to find contracts company-wide to assess a company’s exposure. The problem is that contracts may be saved in Salesforce, sent by email, shared over Slack, or even saved on desktops. “Your company may have acquired another company, which has its own ways of saving information, so now the simple task of finding contracts can be a heavy lifting exercise, involving everyone’s time. With Onna, being the connective tissue across these applications, this search would take a split second,” claims Elkhou.

But the potential power of a KIP goes well beyond search alone. Elkhou says a more ambitious use-case is unifying knowledge across apps and using Onna as infrastructure. “We believe that the next generation of workplace apps will be built on top of a knowledge integration platform like Onna,” he explains. “Due to our plug and play integrations with most enterprise apps and our open API, you can now build your own bespoke workflows on top of your company’s knowledge. More importantly, we handle all the heavy lifting on the back end when it comes to processing the right contextual information across multiple systems securely, which means you can get on with creatively building a more efficient workplace”.

“In Onna, we saw a product in a new and complementary category, providing a solution not at the data level but at the ‘knowledge level’,” adds Atomico’s Ben Blume, who has also joined the Onna board. “Onna’s core solution integrates with any tools in an organisation where knowledge resides, [and] ingests, indexes and classifies the knowledge inside, enabling it to power applications in many areas”.

Blume also points to the belief that some of the cloud tools vendors themselves have in Onna, with both Slack and Dropbox “investing, using and promoting” Onna’s solution. “As they look to grow their own penetration in organisations with a wider range of needs and demands, we saw partnering with Onna as a recognition of its best in class nature to their customers,” he says.

Meanwhile, I understand the new round of funding was done remotely due to lockdown, even though Atomico and Onna had already met and stayed in touch after the VC firm ended up not participating in the startup’s Series A.

Recalls Elkhou: “We had met with our investors in person over a year ago, and have had many video calls since and prior to the pandemic. However, soon after the lockdowns took effect, the need for remote collaboration tools skyrocketed which only accelerated the critical role Onna has in helping people within organisations access and share knowledge that was spread across an ever growing number of apps. If anything, it brought new urgency to the problem we were solving, because workplace serendipity no longer existed. You couldn’t answer questions over a coffee or by the water cooler, but these new remote workers still needed to access knowledge and share it securely”.

Posted Under: Tech News
Uptycs lands $30M Series B to keep building security analytics platform

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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Every company today is struggling to deal with security and understanding what is happening on their systems. This is even more pronounced as companies have had to move their employees to work from home. Uptycs, a Boston-area security analytics startup, announced a $30 million Series B today to help companies to detect and understand breaches when they happen.

Sapphire Ventures led the round with help from Comcast Ventures and ForgePoint Capital. The startup has now raised a total of $43 million, according to the company. Under the terms of today’s deal Sapphire Ventures’ president and managing director Jai Das will be joining the company’s board.

Company co-founder and CEO Ganesh Pai says he and his co-founders previously worked at Akamai, where they observed Akamai’s debugging and diagnostic tools, which were designed to work at massive scale. The founders believed they could use a similar approach to building a security analytics platform, and in 2016 the group launched Uptycs.

“We help people to solve intrusion detection, compliance and audit and incident investigation. These are table stakes requirements [for security solutions] that most large scale organizations have, and of course with their scale the challenges vary. What we at Uptycs do is provide a solution for that,” Pai told TechCrunch.

The company uses a flight recorder approach to security, giving security operations teams the ability to sift through the data and review exactly how a detection happened and how the intruder got through the company’s defenses.

He recognizes his company is fortunate to get a round this large right now, but he says the solution has attracted a number of customers signing seven-digit contracts and this in turn got the attention of investors. “That customer engagement, their experience and this commitment from our customers led to this substantial round of funding,” he said.

The company currently has 65 employees spread across offices in Waltham, a Boston suburb, as well as two offices in India. Pai says the plan is to double that number in the next 12 months. “Between the cash flow from our existing customers and the pipeline for us and the funding, we are planning to grow in a meaningful way. If everything aligns with our expectation we will double our team size in the next 12 months,” he said.

As he grows his company in this way, Pai says they are talking to their investors about how to build a diverse workforce. “We’ve thought long and hard about it, both in terms of diversity and inclusion. It is a lot harder to execute because at the end of the day, there is a finite talent pool, but we are having conversations with our investors, who have seen patterns of success in terms of implementing such plans from growth stage ventures,” he said.

He added, “And of course we are a very early stage company, but we are extremely cognizant, and given the current circumstances are acutely aware that we need to do our very best and make a difference.”

As the company has moved to work from home across its operations, he says it has benefited from working in the cloud from the start. “As an organization we are very fortunate that we built our organization so that everything runs in the cloud and everyone has been able to remain very productive,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
‘One day we were in the office and the next we were working from home’

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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Ryan Easter couldn’t believe he was being asked to run a pandemic business continuity test.

It was late October, 2019 and Easter, IT Director and a principal at Johnson Investment Counsel, was being asked by regulators to ensure that their employees could work from home with the same capabilities they had in the office. In addition, the company needed to evaluate situations where up to 50% of personnel were impacted by a virus and unable to work, forcing others to pick up their internal functions and workload.

“I honestly thought that it was going to be a waste of time,” said Easter. “I never imagined that we would have had to put our pandemic plan into action. But because we had a tested strategy already in place, we didn’t miss a beat when COVID-19 struck.”

In the months leading up to the initial test, Johnson Investment Counsel developed a work anywhere blueprint with their technology partner Evolve IP. The plan covered a wide variety of integrated technologies including voice services, collaboration, virtual desktops, disaster recovery and remote office connectivity.

“Having a strategy where our work anywhere services were integrated together was one of the keys to our success,” said Easter. “We manage about $13 billion in assets for clients across the United States and provide comprehensive wealth and investment management to individual and institutional investors. We have our own line of mutual funds, a state-chartered trust company, a proprietary charitable gift fund, with research analysts and traders covering both equity and fixed income markets. Duct taping one-off solutions wasn’t going to cut it.”

Easter continued, “It was imperative that our advisors could communicate with clients, collaborate with each other and operate the business seamlessly. That included ensuring we could make real-time trades and provide all of our other client services.”

Five months later, the novel coronavirus hit the United States and Johnson Investment Counsel’s blueprint test got real.

Posted Under: Tech News
Loodse becomes Kubermatic and open sources Kubernetes automation platform

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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Loodse, a German Kubernetes automation platform, announced today that it was rebranding as Kubermatic. While it was at it, the company also announced that it was open sourcing its Kubermatic Kubernetes Platform as open source under the Apache 2.0 License.

Co-founder Sebastian Scheele says that his company’s Kubernetes solution can provision clusters and applications on any cloud, as well in a datacenter running, for example OpenStack or VMware. What’s more, it can do it much faster by automating much of the operations side of running Kubernetes clusters.

“We wanted to really have a cloud native way to run and manage Kubernetes. And so it’s running the Kubernetes master itself, which is completely containerized on top of Kubernetes, rather than being run on VMs. This helps provide you with better scalability, but also because it’s running on Kubernetes, we get all of the resilience and auto scaling out of Kubernetes itself,” Scheele told TechCrunch.

He says that he and his co-founder Julian Hansert have always had a strong commitment to open source, and offering Kubermatic platform under the Apache 2.0 license is a way to show that to the community. “One of the big [things] we can bring to the table is making Kubermatic completely open source, while following the Open-core model, and having a strong commitment to open source to the world and also to the community,” he said.

Image Credit: Kubermatic

As for why it’s rebranding, he says that the original company name is a German word that means navigation pilot for a ship. The name is a nod to its Hamburg base, which is a hub for container ships. It makes sense to Germans, but not others, so they wanted a name that more broadly reflected what the company does.

“Now that we are open sourcing Kubermatic, we also thought that people should understand our vision and what’s our DNA. It’s Kubernetes automation, helping our customers to really save money on Kubernetes operations by automating as much as possible on the operation level, so our users can really focus on building new applications,” he explained.

The company launched 4 years ago and has taken no funding, completely bootstrapping along the way. It’s worth noting it was of the top 5 committers to the open source Kubernetes project in 2019 along with much bigger names including Google, VMware, Red Hat and Microsoft.

Today the company has 50 employees most of whom are working remotely by choice, rather than due to the pandemic. In fact the company has employees working in 10 different countries. He says that has allowed him to work with people with a broad set of skills, who don’t necessarily live in Hamburg where he and Hansert are based.

Posted Under: Tech News
Contentful raises $80M Series E round for its headless CMS

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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Headless CMS company Contentful today announced that it has raised an $80 million Series E funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst, Salesforce Ventures and a number of other new and existing investors. With this, the company has now raised a total of $158.3 million and a Contentful spokesperson tells me that it is approaching a $1 billion valuation.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has hired Bridget Perry as its CMO. She previously led Adobe’s marketing efforts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Currently, 28% of the Fortune 500 use Contentful to manage their content across platforms. The company says it has a total of 2,200 paying customers right now and these include the likes of Spotify,  ITV, the British Museum, Telus and Urban Outfitters.

Steve Sloan, the company’s CEO who joined the company late last year, attributes its success to the fact that virtually every business today is in the process of figuring out how to become digital and serve its customers across platforms – and that’s a process that has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, when these content platforms or content management systems were created, they were a) really built for a web-only world and b) where the website was a complement to some other business,” he said. “Today, the mobile app, the mobile web experience is the front door to every business on the planet. And that’s never been any more clear than in this recent COVID crisis, where we’ve seen many, many businesses — even those that are very traditional businesses — realize that the dominant and, in some cases, only way their customers can interact with them is through that digital experience.”

But as they are looking at their options, many decide that they don’t just want to take an off-the-shelf product, Sloan argues, because it doesn’t allow them to build a differentiated offering.

Image Credits: Contentful /

Perry also noted that this is something she saw at Adobe, too, as it built its digital experience business. “Leading marketing at Adobe, we used it ourselves,” she said. “And so the challenge that we heard from customers in the market was how complex it was in some cases to implement, to organize around it, to build those experiences fast and see value and impact on the business. And part of that challenge, I think, stemmed from the kind of monolithic, all-in-one type of suite that Adobe offered. Even as a marketer at Adobe, we had challenges with that kind of time to market and agility. And so what’s really interesting to me — and one of the reasons why I joined Contentful — is that Contentful approaches this in a very different way.”

Sloan noted that putting the round together was a bit of an adventure. Contentful’s existing investors approached the company around the holidays because they wanted to make a bigger investment in the company to fuel its long-term growth. But at the time, the company wasn’t ready to raise new capital yet.

“And then in January and February, we had inbound interest from people who weren’t yet investors, who came to us and said, ‘hey, we really want to invest in this company, we’ve seen the trend and we really believe in it.’ So we went back to our insiders and said, ‘hey, we’re going to think about actually moving in our timeline for raising capital,” Sloan told me. “And then, right about that time is when COVID really broke out, particularly in Western Europe in North America.”

That didn’t faze Contentful’s investors, though.

“One of the things that really stood out about our investors — and particularly our lead investor for this round Sapphire — is that when everybody else was really, really frightened, they were really clear about the opportunity, about their belief in the team and about their understanding of the progress we had already made. And they were really unflinching in terms of their support,” Sloan said.

Unsurprisingly, the company plans to use the new funding to expand its go-to-market efforts (that’s why it hired Perry, after all) but Sloan also noted that Contentful plans to invest quite a bit into R&D as well as it looks to help its customers solve more adjacent problems as well.

Posted Under: Tech News
Outreach nabs $50M at a $1.33B valuation for software that helps with sales engagement

Posted by on 17 June, 2020

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CRM software has become a critical piece of IT when it comes to getting business done, and today a startup focusing on one specific aspect of that stack — sales automation — is announcing a growth round of funding underscoring its own momentum. Outreach, which has built a popular suite of tools used by salespeople to help identify and reach out to prospects and improve their relationships en route to closing deals, has raised $50 million in a Series F round of funding that values the company at $1.33 billion. 

The funding will be used to continue expanding geographically — headquartered in Seattle, Outreach also has an office in London and wants to do more in Europe and eventually Asia — as well as to invest in product development.

The platform today essentially integrates with a company’s existing CRM, be it Salesforce, or Microsoft’s, or Kustomer, or something else — and provides an SaaS-based set of tools for helping to source and track meetings, have to-hand information on sales targets, and a communications manager that helps with outreach calls and other communication in real-time. It will be investing in more AI around the product, such as its newest product Kaia (an acronym for “knowledge AI assistant”), and it has also hired a new CFO, Melissa Fisher, from Qualys, possibly a sign of where it hopes to go next as a business.

Sands Capital — an investor out of Virginia that also backs the likes of UiPath and DoorDash — is leading the round, Outreach noted, with “strong participation” also from strategic backer Salesforce Ventures. Other investors include Operator Collective (a new backer that launched last year and focuses on B2B) and previous backers Lone Pine Capital, Spark Capital, Meritech Capital Partners, Trinity Ventures, Mayfield, and Sapphire Ventures.

Outreach has raised $289 million to date, and for some more context, this is definitely an upround: the startup was last valued at $1.1 billion when it raised a Series E in April 2019.

The funding comes on the heels of strong growth for the company: more than 4,000 businesses now use its tools, including Adobe, Tableau, DoorDash, Splunk, DocuSign, and SAP, making Outreach the biggest player in a field that also includes Salesloft (which also raised a significant round last year on the heels of Outreach’s), ClariChorus.aiGongConversica, and Afiniti. Its sweet spot has been working with technology-led businesses and that sector continues to expand its sales operations, even as much of the economy has contracted in recent months. 

“You are seeing a cambric explosion of B2B startups happening everywhere,” Manny Medina, CEO and co-founder of Outreach, said in a phone interview this week. “It means that sales roles are being created as we speak.” And that translates to a growing pool of potential customers for Outreach.

It wasn’t always this way.

When Outreach was first founded in 2011 in Seattle, it wasn’t a sales automation company. It was a recruitment startup called GroupTalent working on software to help source and hire talent, aimed at tech companies. That business was rolling along, until it wasn’t: in 2015, the startup found itself with only two months of runway left, with little hope of raising more. 

“We were not hitting our stride, and growth was hard. We didn’t make the numbers in 2014 and then had two months of cash left and no prospects of raising more,” Medina recalled. “So I sat down with my co-founders,” — Gordon Hempton, Andrew Kinzer and Wes Hather, none of whom are at the company anymore — “and we decided to sell our way out of it. We thought that if we generated more meetings we could gain more opportunities to try to sell our recruitment software.

“So we built the engine to do that, and we saw that we were getting 40% reply rates to our own outreaching emails. It was so successful we had a 10x increase in productivity. But we ran out of sales capacity, so we started selling the meetings we had managed to secure with potential talent directly to the tech companies themselves, who would have become their employers.”

That quickly tipped over into a business opportunity of its own. “Companies were saying to us, ‘I don’t want to buy the recruitment software. I need that sales engine!” The company never looked back, and changed its name to work for the pivot.

Fast forward to 2020, and times are challenging in a completely different way, defined as we are by a global health pandemic that affects what we do every day, where we go, how we work, how we interact with people, and much more. 

Medina says that impact of the novel coronavirus has been a significant one for the company and its customers, in part because it fits well with two main types of usage cases that have emerged in the world of sales in the time of COVID-19.

“Older sellers now working from home are accomplished and don’t need to be babysat,” he said, but added but they can’t rely on their traditional touchpoints “like meetings, dinners, and bar mitzvahs” anymore to seal deals. “They don’t have the tools to get over the line. So our product is being called in to help them.”

Another group at the other end of the spectrum, he said, are “younger and less experienced salespeople who don’t have the physical environment [many live in smaller places with roommates] nor experience to sell well alone. For them it’s been challenging not to come into an office because especially in smaller companies, they rely on each other to train, to listen to others on calls to learn how to sell.”

That’s the other scenario where Outreach is finding some traction: they’re using Outreach’s tools as a proxy for physically sitting alongside and learning from more experienced colleagues, and using it as a supplement to learning the ropes in the old way .

Like a lot of sales tools that are powered by AI, Outbrain in part is taking on some of the more mundane jobs of salespeople. But Medina doesn’t believe that this will play out in the “man versus machine” scenario we often ponder when we think about human obsolescence in the face of technological efficiency. In other words, he doesn’t think we’re close to replacing the humans in the mix, even at a time when we’re seeing so many layoffs.

“We are at the early innings,” he said. “There are 6.8 million sales people and we only have north of 100,000 users, not even 2% of the market. There may be a redefinition of the role, but not a reduction.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Google Cloud launches Filestore High Scale, a new storage tier for high-performance computing workloads

Posted by on 16 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Google Cloud today announced the launch of Filestore High Scale, a new storage option — and tier of Google’s existing Filestore service — for workloads that can benefit from access to a distributed high-performance storage option.

With Filestore High Scale, which is based on technology Google acquired when it bought Elastifile in 2019, users can deploy shared file systems with hundreds of thousands of IOPS, 10s of GB/s of throughput and at a scale of 100s of TBs.

“Virtual screening allows us to computationally screen billions of small molecules against a target protein in order to discover potential treatments and therapies much faster than traditional experimental testing methods,” says Christoph Gorgulla, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Wagner Lab., which already put the new service through its paces. “As researchers, we hardly have the time to invest in learning how to set up and manage a needlessly complicated file system cluster, or to constantly monitor the health of our storage system. We needed a file system that could handle the load generated concurrently by thousands of clients, which have hundreds of thousands of vCPUs.”

The standard Google Cloud Filestore service already supports some of these use cases, but the company notes that it specifically built Filestore High Scale for high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. In today’s announcement, the company specifically focuses on biotech use cases around COVID-19. Filestore High Scale is meant to support tens of thousands of concurrent clients, which isn’t necessarily a standard use case, but developers who need this kind of power can now get it in Google Cloud.

In addition to High Scale, Google also today announced that all Filestore tiers now offer beta support for NFS IP-based access controls, an important new feature for those companies that have advanced security requirements on top of their need for a high-performance, fully managed file storage service.

Posted Under: Tech News
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