Monthly Archives: April 2021

Atlassian’s in-house incubator lets employees put their product ideas to work

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Every company wants to maintain that initial spark it had when it was an early stage startup, but keeping that going as you scale into a public company isn’t always easy. Atlassian is taking a unique approach by opening up product ideas to an internal competition, and actually funding and building the best ones with the goal of bringing them to market.

Steve Goldsmith, who is heading up the project for Atlassian says that it’s an in-house startup incubator called Point A. The company wants to encourage employees to be constantly thinking about new ways to improve the products. And every employee is encouraged to participate, not just engineers or product managers, as my might think.

“Point A is our internal framework for turning ideas into products. It’s our way of finding the innovation that’s happening all over the company, and giving a process and framework for those ideas to reach the maturity of actually becoming products that we offer to our customers,” Goldsmith told me.

He says that like many companies they hold internal hackathons and other events where many times employees come up with creative concepts for products, but they tend to get put on a shelf after the event is over and never get looked at again. With Point A, they can actually compete to put their experiments to work and see if they are actually viable.

“So we think of Point A as a way of finding all those different ideas and prototypes and concepts that people have in their brains or on the side of their desk kind of thing, and giving a process and a structure for those ideas to get out the door, and really invest in the ones that have some traction,” Goldsmith said.

He says by providing an official internal process to vet and maybe fund some of them, people inside the organization know that their proposals are being heard and they have a mechanism for submitting them, and the company has a way of seeing them.

The company launched Point A in 2019 looking at 35 possible projects, and testing them as possible products. Last January, they chose 9 that made the final cut and 4 turned into actual products and made it out the door this week including the Jira Work Management tool, which is being released today.

The next program is ready to roll with employees ready to present their ideas in a pitch day competition to get things going. “Our first class is graduating out of this program, and […] we start the process again. We actually just went through our big list of all the ideas to do it a second time, and we are doing a pitch day. It’s going t be a fun Shark Tank, The Voice kind of inspired [competition],” he said.

Company co-founders and co-CEOs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar both participate in judging the competition, so it has executive buy-in giving more clout to the program and sending a message to employees that their ideas are being taken seriously.

The company provides funding, time away from your regular job, executive coaches and combines that with customer collaboration and early founder involvement with the goal of finding a scalable, repeatable process with defined phases that helps teams take the most innovative ideas from concept to customer.

Some make it. Some don’t as you might expect, but so far the plan seems to be working and is successfully encouraging innovation from within, something every company should be trying to do.

Posted Under: Tech News
Atlassian launches a Jira for every team

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Atlassian today announced a new edition of its Jira project management tool, Jira Work Management. The company has long been on a journey of bringing Jira to teams beyond the software development groups it started out with. With Jira Service Management, it is successfully doing that with IT teams. With Jira Core, it also moved further in this direction, but Jira Work Management takes this a step further (and will replace Jira Core). The idea here is to offer a version of Jira that enables teams across marketing, HR, finance, design and other groups to manage their work and — if needed — connect it to that of a company’s development teams.

“JIRA Software’s this de-facto standard,” Atlassian’s VP of Product Noah Wasmer told me. “We’re making just huge inroads with JIRA Service Management right now, bringing IT teams into that loop. We have over 100,000 customers now on those two products. So it’s really doing incredibly well. But one of the things that CIOs say is that it’s really tough to put JIRA Software in front of an HR team and the legal team. They often ask, what is code? What is a pull request?”

Image Credits: Atlassian

Wasmer also noted that even though Jira Software is specifically meant for developers, about half of its users are already in other teams that work with these development teams. “We think that [Jira Work Management] gives them the more contextually relevant tool — a tool that actually helps them accelerate and move faster,” Wasmer said.

With Jira Work Management, the company is looking at making it easier for any team to track and manage their work in what Wasmer described as a “universal system and family of product.” As company’s look at how to do remote and hybrid work, Atlassian believes that they’ll need this kind of core product to keep track of the work that is being done. But it’s also about the simple fact that every business is now a software business and while every team’s work touches upon this, marketing and design teams often still work in their own silos.

Image Credits: Atlassian

These different teams, though, also have quite different expectations of the user interface they need to manage their work most effectively. So while Jira Work Management features all of the automation features and privacy controls of its brethren, it is based around a slightly different and simplified user interface than Jira Software, for example.

What’s even more important, though, is that Jira Work Management offers a variety of views for teams to enter and manipulate their data. To get new users onboarded quickly, Atlassian built a set of templates for some of the most common use cases it expects, though users are obviously free to customize all these different views to their hearts’ — and business needs’ — content.

Atlassian also changed some of the language around Jira tickets. There are no ‘stories’ and ‘bugs’ in Jira Work Management (unless you add them yourself) and instead, these templates use words like ‘tasks,’ ‘assets’ (for design use cases) or ‘candidates’ (for HR).

Image Credits: Atlassian

Given the fact that spreadsheets are the universal language of business, it’s maybe no surprise that the List view is core here, with an Excel/Airtable-like experience that should immediately feel familiar to any business user. It’s in-line editable and completely abstracts away the usual Jira ticket, even though underneath, it’s the same taxonomy and infrastructure.

“We really wanted people to walk into this product and just understand that there is work that needs to be done,” Chase Wilson, the head of product marketing for Jira Work Management, said. He noted that the team worked on making the experience feel snappy.

Image Credits: Atlassian

The other view available are pretty straightforward a calendar and Gantt chart-like timeline view, as well as the traditional Kanban board that has long been at the core of Jira (and Agile in general).

Jira Work Management also lets users build forms, using a drag and drop editor that makes it easy for anybody inside an organization to build forms and collect requests that way. Only a few weeks ago, Atlassian announced the acquisition of ThinkTilt, the company behind the popular no-code from builder ProForma and it looks like it is already putting this acquisition to work here.

As Wasmer stressed, Jira Work Management is meant to help different teams get work done in a way that works best for them. But because Jira is now a family of products, it also enables a lot more cross-team collaboration. That means a development team that is working on implementing a GDPR requirement can now build a workflow that ties in with the project board for a legal team that then allows legal to hold up a software release until it approves this new feature.

“We hear about this all the time today,” he said. “They just stick the legal team into JIRA Software — and it over-inundates them with information that’s not relevant to what they’re trying to get done. Now we can expose them. And we also then get that legal team, that marketing team, exposed to different templates for different work. What they’re finding is that once they get used to it for that must-do use case, they start saying: Well, hey, why don’t I use this for contract approvals at the end of the quarter?’”

Image Credits: Atlassian

As for pricing, Atlassian follows its same standard template here, offering a free tier for teams with up to 10 users and then the paid tiers start at $5/user/month, with discounts for larger teams.

Looking ahead, Atlassian plans to add more reporting capabilities, native approvals for faster signoffs and more advanced functionality across the new work views.

It’s worth noting that Jira Work Management is the first product to come out of Point A, Atlassian’s new innovation program “dedicated to connecting early adopter customers with product teams to build the next generation of teamwork tools.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Near acquires the location data company formerly known as UberMedia

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Data intelligence company Near is announcing the acquisition of another company in the data business — UM.

In some ways, this echoes Near’s acquisition of Teemo last fall. Just as that deal helped Singapore-headquartered Near expand into Europe (with Teemo founder and CEO Benoit Grouchko becoming Near’s chief privacy officer), CEO Anil Mathews said that this new acquisition will help Near build a presence in the United States, turning the company into “a truly global organization,” while also tailoring its product to offer “local flavors” in each country.

The addition of UM’s 60-person team brings Near’s total headcount to around 200, with UM CEO Gladys Kong becoming CEO of Near North America.

At the same time, Mathews suggested that this deal isn’t simply about geography, because the data offered by Near and UM are “very complementary,” allowing both teams to upsell current customers on new offerings. He described Near’s mission as “merging two diverse worlds, the online world and the offline world,” essentially creating a unified profile of consumers for marketers and other businesses. Apparently, UM is particularly strong on the offline side, thanks to its focus on location data.

Near CEO Anil Mathews and UM CEO Gladys Kong

“UM has a very strong understanding of places, they’ve mastered their understanding of footfalls and dwell times,” Mathews added. “As a result, most of the use cases where UM is seeing growth — in tourism, retail, real estate — are in industries struggling due to the pandemic, where they’re using data to figure out, ‘How do we come out of the pandemic?’”

TechCrunch readers may be more familiar with UM under its old name UberMedia, which created social apps like Echofon and UberSocial before pivoting its business to ad attribution and location data. Kong said that contrary to her fears, the company had “an amazing 2020” as businesses realized they needed UM’s data (its customers include RAND Corporation, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Columbia University and Yale University).

And the year was capped by connecting with Near and realizing that the two companies have “a lot of synergies.” In fact, Kong recalled that UM’s rebranding last month was partly at Mathews’ suggestion: “He said, ‘Why do you have media in your name when you don’t do media?’ And we realized that’s probably how the world saw us, so we decided to change [our name] to make it clear what we do.”

Founded in 2010, UM raised a total of $34.6 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Opsera raises $15M for its continuous DevOps orchestration platform

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Opsera, a startup that’s building an orchestration platform for DevOps teams, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Felicis Ventures. New investor HMG Ventures, as well as existing investors Clear Ventures, Trinity Partners and Firebolt Ventures also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $19.3 million.

Founded in January 2020, Opsera lets developers provision their CI/CD tools through a single framework. Using this framework, they can then build and manage their pipelines for a variety of use cases, including their software delivery lifecycle, infrastructure as code and their SaaS application releases. With this, Opsera essentially aims to help teams set up and operate their various DevOps tools.

The company’s two co-founders, Chandra Ranganathan and Kumar Chivukula, originally met while working at Symantec a few years ago. Ranganathan then spent the last three years at Uber, where he ran that company’s global infrastructure. Meanwhile, Chivukula ran Symantec’s hybrid cloud services.

Image Credits: Opsera

“As part of the transformation [at Symantec], we delivered over 50+ acquisitions over time. That had led to the use of many cloud platforms, many data centers,” Ranganathan explained. “Ultimately we had to consolidate them into a single enterprise cloud. That journey is what led us to the pain points of what led to Opsera. There were many engineering teams. They all had diverse tools and stacks that were all needed for their own use cases.”

The challenge then was to still give developers the flexibility to choose the right tools for their use cases, while also providing a mechanism for automation, visibility and governance — and that’s ultimately the problem Opsera now aims to solve.

Image Credits: Opsera

“In the DevOps landscape, […] there is a plethora of tools, and a lot of people are writing the glue code,” Opsera co-founder Chivukula noted. “But then they’re not they don’t have visibility. At Opsera, our mission and goal is to bring order to the chaos. And the way we want to do this is by giving choice and flexibility to the users and provide no-code automation using a unified framework.”

Wesley Chan, a managing director for Felicis Ventures who will join the Opsera board, also noted that he believes that one of the next big areas for growth in DevOps is how orchestration and release management is handled.

“We spoke to a lot of startups who are all using black-box tools because they’ve built their engineering organization and their DevOps from scratch,” Chan said. “That’s fine, if you’re starting from scratch and you just hired a bunch of people outside of Google and they’re all very sophisticated. But then when you talk to some of the larger companies. […] You just have all these different teams and tools — and it gets unwieldy and complex.”

Unlike some other tools, Chan argues, Opsera allows its users the flexibility to interface with this wide variety of existing internal systems and tools for managing the software lifecycle and releases.

“This is why we got so interested in investing, because we just heard from all the folks that this is the right tool. There’s no way we’re throwing out a bunch of our internal stuff. This would just wreak havoc on our engineering team,” Chan explained. He believes that building with this wide existing ecosystem in mind — and integrating with it without forcing users onto a completely new platform — and its ability to reduce friction for these teams, is what will ultimately make Opsera successful.

Opsera plans to use the new funding to grow its engineering team and accelerate its go-to-market efforts.

Posted Under: Tech News
MessageBird acquires SparkPost for $600M using $800M Series C extension

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

MessageBird, a communications platform out of the Netherlands, had a busy day today with two huge announcements. For starters, the company got an $800 million extension on its $200 million Series C round announced last October. It then applied $600 million of the extension to buy email marketing platform SparkPost. The company’s C round now totals at least $1 billion.

Let’s start with the acquisition. MessageBird CEO Robert Vis says his company had an email component prior to the acquisition, but the chance to pick up the largest email provider in the world was too good to pass up.

“If you talk about infrastructure, we’re defining largest […] as a matter of interactions, so basically the amount of emails sent. SparkPost sends about 5 trillion emails a year. And the second thing that’s very important to us is to be able to send high scale emails when it’s really critical,” Vis told me.

With the company in the fold, it enables MessageBird, which has mostly been in Europe and Asia, to get a stronger foothold in the U.S. market. “So this is as much for us about the technology around SparkPost as it actually is for us to have market entry into the United States with a significant workforce instead of having to build that from scratch,” Vis said.

Rich Harris, CEO of SparkPost sees the deal as a way to expand SparkPost to multiple channels already available on the MessageBird platform and be a much more powerful combination together than it could have been alone.

“By joining forces with MessageBird, we will be able to bring broader, deeper value to all of our customers through any digital communications,” Harris said in a statement.

Vis agrees saying it gives his company the opportunity to upsell other MessageBird services to SparkPost customers. “SparkPost obviously only offers email. We can offer SmartPost customers way more channels. We can offer them texting, Instagram, WhatsApp or Apple Business Chat. So we feel very excited about leveraging them to go sell much more broad messenger products to their customers,” Vis said.

MessageBird announced its $240 million Series C on a $3 billion valuation last October. The company’s whopping $800 million extension brings the round to around $1 billion. It’s worth noting that the round isn’t completely closed yet, so that’s not an official figure.

“The round isn’t completely closed yet as we are still waiting on some of the funds to come in, so we cannot give you 100% final figures on the round, but we can say with confidence that the round will close at $1B or slightly higher,” a company spokesperson explained. It is announcing the funding before everything is 100% done due to regulatory requirements around the acquisition.

Eurazeo, Tiger Global, BlackRock and Owl Rock participated in the extension along with Bonnier, Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone, Longbow, Mousse Partners and NewView Capital, as well as existing investors such as Accel, Atomico (they led the Series A and B rounds) and Y Combinator. The mix is 70% equity and 30% debt, according to the company.

Today’s acquisition comes on the heels of two others just last month when the company announced it was acquiring video meeting startup 24Sessions and Hull, a synchronization technology startup. The company also acquired Pusher, a push notification company in January, as MessageBird is using its Series C cash to quickly expand the platform.

Posted Under: Tech News
Kenya’s Ajua acquires WayaWaya to consolidate consumer experience play in African SMEs

Posted by on 28 April, 2021

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Kenyan consumer experience platform for businesses in Africa, Ajua today announced that it has acquired WayaWaya, a Kenya-based AI and ML messaging and payments company.

WayaWaya’s customers and partners include the likes of I&M Bank, Interswitch and MTN. The company offers a range of services, from digital banking and payment services to financial services APIs and payment bots.

According to Ajua, the acquisition is primarily focused on WayaWaya’s payments bots system known as Janja. The platform, which has customers like Airtel, Ezee Money, Housing Finance Company of Kenya (HF Group), enables borderless banking and payments across apps and social media platforms. Teddy Ogallo, the entrepreneur who founded WayaWaya, joins Ajua as VP of Product APIs and Integrations.

Per Crunchbase, WayaWaya has just raised $75,000. Although the two companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition, Ajua is expected to have paid 10 times more than WayaWaya’s total raise.

Ajua, formerly mSurvey, was founded in 2012 by Kenfield Griffith. The company is solving a consumer data problem for African businesses to understand their business better and drive growth.

“There’s a lot of commerce happening on the continent and Ajua wants companies to move from transaction numbers to the customers behind such transaction,” Griffith told TechCrunch. “Imagine if we knew what drove consumer habits for businesses. I mean, that’s a huge exponential curve for African businesses.”

Teddy Ogallo (Founder, WayaWaya) & Kenfield Griffith (CEO, Ajua)

Nigeria’s SME market alone is valued at $220 billion annually. And while businesses, mostly big enterprises, can afford customer communication tools, a large segment of small businesses are being left out. Ajua’s play is to use data and analytics to connect companies with their customers in real time. “We’ve taken what makes enterprise customers successful, and we’re capturing it in a simple format so SMEs can have the same tools,” Griffith added

Since most consumer behavior for these SMEs happens offline, Ajua gives businesses unique USSD codes to receive payments, get feedback and offer discounts to their customers. It is one of the products Ajua has launched over the years for customer feedback at the point of service to businesses that cumulatively have over 45 million customers.

The company’s partners and clients also include Coca-Cola, FBNQuest, GoodLife Pharmacy, Java House, Safaricom, Standard Chartered and Total.

As an intelligent messaging bot, Janja is used by individuals and businesses across WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram to automate customer support and make cross-border payments. So, Janja’s integration into Ajua’s product stack will close much of the acquirer’s customer experience loop by automating responses and giving customers what they want, when they want it.

This acquisition comes a month after Ajua announced that it partnered with telecom operator MTN Nigeria to launch a customer management product for Nigerian businesses. The product called MTN EnGauge carries the same features present in Ajua but, in this case, is tailored solely for businesses using the MTN network. The roll-out is expected to generate more data for Ajua’s thousands of users. It will also be upgraded to incorporate Janja and other services.

In hindsight, it appears Ajua could have created a product like Janja in-house due to its vast experience in the consumer experience space. However, the company chose an acquisition and Griffith gave two reasons why — building a similar product would have taken a long time and Ogallo seemed to know Janja’s business and operations so well, it just made sense to get him on board. 

“Teddy was going the same direction we’re going. We just thought to acquire WayaWaya instead and make a really good company out of both products attempting to solve the same problem. To me, it’s all about solving the problem together rather than going alone,” said the CEO. 

On why he accepted the acquisition, Ogallo, who now has a new role, noted that Ajua’s ability to scale customer service and experience and also help businesses was one reason and earned admiration from him. “Seeing how WayaWaya’s technology can complement Ajua’s innovative products and services, and help scale and monetize businesses, is an exciting opportunity for us, and we are happy that our teams will be collaborating to build something unique for the continent,” he added

This is a solid infrastructure play from Ajua coming from a founder who is a massive advocate of acquisition and consolidation. Griffith believes that the two are strategies for a speedier route to new markets and channels in Africa

I think there are lots of ways we can build the ecosystem. There are lots of young talent building stuff, and they don’t have access to capital to get to the next stage. The question is if they want to race to the finish line or take off time and get acquired. I think there’s a huge opportunity in Africa if you want to solve complex problems by acquisition.”

There has been an uptick in local acquisitions in Africa from startups within a single country and between two countries in the past three years. For the former, Nigerian recruitment platform Jobberman’s acquisition of NGCareers last year comes to mind. And there are pan-African instances like Lagos-based hub CcHub’s acquisition of iHub, its Nairobi counterpart; Ethiopian software provider Apposit sell-off to Nigerian fintech Paga; and Johannesburg-based fintech MFS Africa acquiring Uganda’s Beyonic.

The common theme among the acquisitions (and most African acquisitions) is their undisclosed sums. For Ajua, Griffith cited regulatory issues as one reason why the company is keeping the figure under wraps.

Since launching nine years ago, Ajua has raised a total of $3.5 million, according to Crunchbase. Given the nature of this acquisition and partnership with MTN, the company might set sights on another fundraise to scale aggressively into Nigeria (a market it entered in 2019) and other African countries.

Posted Under: Tech News
Red Hat CEO looks to maintain double-digit growth in second year at helm

Posted by on 27 April, 2021

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Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier runs the centerpiece of IBM’s transformation hopes. When Big Blue paid $34 billion for his company in 2018, it was because it believed it could be the linchpin of the organization’s shift to a focus on hybrid computing.

In its most recent earnings report, IBM posted positive revenue growth for only the second time in 8 quarters, and it was Red Hat’s 15% growth that led the way. Cormier recognizes the role his company plays for IBM, and he doesn’t shy away from it.

As he told me in an interview this week ahead of the company’s Red Hat Summit, a lot, a lot of cloud technology is based on Linux, and as the company that originally made its name selling Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), he says that is a technology his organization is very comfortable working with. He sees the two companies working well together with Red Hat benefitting from having IBM sell his company’s software, while remaining neutral technologically, something that benefits customers and pushes the overall IBM vision.

Quite a first year

Even though Cormier has been with Red Hat for 20 years, he took over as its CEO after Arvind Krishna replaced Ginni Rometty as IBM’s chief executive, and long-time Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst moved over to a role at IBM last April. Cormier stepped in as leader just as the pandemic hit the U.S. with its full force.

“Going into my first year of a pandemic, no one knew what the business was going to look like, and not that we’re completely out of the woods yet, but we have weathered that pretty well,” he said.

Part of the reason for that is because like many software companies, he has seen his customers shifting to the cloud much faster than anyone thought previously. While the pandemic acted as a forcing event for digital transformation, it has left many companies to manage a hybrid on-prem and cloud environment, a place where Red Hat can help.

“Having a hybrid architecture brings a lot of value […], but it’s complex. It just doesn’t happen by magic, and I think we helped a lot of customers, and it accelerated a lot of things by years of what was going to happen anyways,” Cormier told me.

In terms of the workforce moving to work from home, Red Hat had 25% of its workforce doing that even before the pandemic, so the transition wasn’t as hard as you might think for a company of its size. “Most every meeting at Red Hat had someone on remotely [before the pandemic]. And so we just sort of flipped into that mode overnight. I think we had an easier time than others for that reason,” he said.

Acting as IBM’s growth engine

Red Hat’s 15% growth was a big reason for IBM showing modest revenue growth last quarter, something that has been hard to come by for the last seven years. At IBM’s earnings call with analysts, CEO Krishna and CFO Jim Kavanaugh both saw Red Hat maintaining that double digit growth as key to driving the company towards more stable positive revenue in the coming years.

Cormier says that he anticipates the same things that IBM expects — and that Red Hat is up to the task ahead of it. “We see that growth continuing to happen as it’s a huge market, and this is the way it’s really playing out. We share the optimism,” he explained.

While he understands that Red Hat must remain neutral and work with multiple cloud partners, IBM is free to push Red Hat, and having that kind of sales clout behind it is also helping drive Red Hat revenue. “What IBM does for us is they open the door for us in many more places. They are in many more countries than we were [prior to the acquisition], and they have a lot of high level relationships where they can open the door for us,” he said.

In fact, Cormier points out that IBM salespeople have quotas to push Red Hat in their biggest accounts. “IBM sales is very incentivized to bring Red Hat in to help solve customer problems with Red Hat products,” he said.

No pressure or anything

When you’re being billed as a savior of sorts for a company as storied as IBM, it wouldn’t be surprising for Cormier to feel the weight of those expectations. But if he is he doesn’t seem to show it. While he acknowledges that there is pressure, he argues that it’s no different from being a public company, only the stakeholders have changed.

“Sure it’s pressure, but prior to [being acquired] we were a public company. I look at Arvind as the chairman of the board and IBM as our shareholders. Our shareholders put a lot of pressure on us too [when we were public]. So I don’t feel any more pressure with IBM and with Arvind than we had with our shareholders,” he said.

Although they represent only 5% of IBM’s revenue at present, Cormier knows it isn’t really about that number, per se. It’s about what his team does and how that fits in with IBM’s transformation strategy overall.

Being under pressure to deliver quarter after quarter is the job of any CEO, especially one that’s in the position of running a company like Red Hat under a corporation like IBM, but Cormier as always appears to be comfortable in his own skin and confident in his company’s ability to continue chugging along as it has been with that double-digit growth. The market potential is definitely there. It’s up to Red and Hat and IBM to take advantage.

Posted Under: Tech News
What can the OKR software sector tell us about startup growth more generally?

Posted by on 27 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

In the never-ending stream of venture capital funding rounds, from time to time, a group of startups working on the same problem will raise money nearly in unison. So it was with OKR-focused startups toward the start of 2020.

How were so many OKR-focused tech upstarts able to raise capital at the same time? And was there really space in the market for so many different startups building software to help other companies manage their goal-setting? OKRs, or “objectives and key results,” a corporate planning method, are no longer a niche concept. But surely, over time, there would be M&A in the group, right?

During our first look into the cohort, we concluded that it felt likely that there was “some consolidation” ahead for the group “when growth becomes more difficult.” At the time, however, it was clear that many founders and investors expected the OKR software market to have material depth.

They were right, and we were wrong. A year later, in early 2021, we asked the same group how their previous year had gone. Nearly every single company had a killer year, with many players growing by well over 100%.


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OKR company Ally.io grew 3.3x in 2020, for example, while its competitor Gtmhub grew by 3x over the same time period. More capital followed. Ally.io raised $50 million in a Series C in the first quarter, while Gtmhub put together a $30 million Series B during the same period.

They won’t be the final startups in the OKR cohort to raise this year. We know this because we reached out to the group again this week, this time probing their Q1 performance, and, critically, asking the startups to discuss their level of optimism regarding the rest of 2021.

As before, the group’s recent results are strong, at least when compared to their own planning. But notably, the collection of competing companies is more optimistic than before about the rest of the year than they were before Q1 2021. Things are heating up for the OKR startup world.

A takeaway from our work today is that our prior notes about how impressively deep the software market is proving to be may have been too modest. And frankly, that’s super-good news for startups and investors alike. So much for SaaS-fatigue.

In a sense, we should not be surprised that OKR startups are doing well or that the startup software market is so large. You’d imagine that the historic pace of venture capital investment that we’ve seen so far in 2021 in Europe and the United States was based on results, or evidence that there was lots more room for software-focused startups to grow.

Interestingly, while these companies look similar to outsiders, they are each betting on strategies and differentiators that could help them win in their selected portion of the OKR space. Which also means that the sector may not be as crowded as it seems.

Don’t take our word for it. Let’s hear from Gtmhub COO Seth Elliott, Workboard CEO and co-founder Deidre Paknad, Koan CEO and co-founder Matt Tucker, Ally.io CEO and co-founder Vetri Vellore, and Perdoo CEO and founder Henrik-Jan van der Pol about just what the software market looks like to them.

We’ll start with how the startups performed in Q1 2021, dig into how they feel about the rest of the year, and then talk about how differentiation among the cohort could be helping them not step on each other’s toes.

Rapid growth

WorkBoard is having a strong start to 2021. Paknad’s company, which raised in both March of 2019 and January of 2020, told The Exchange that it hired 82 people in the first three months of 2021, and that it plans on doing it again in the current quarter. WorkBoard is “investing heavily,” Paknad said via DM, and “made [its] Q1 targets.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Vista Equity takes minority stake in Canada’s Vena with $242M investment

Posted by on 27 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Vena, a Canadian company focused on the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software space, has raised $242 million in Series C funding from Vista Equity Partners.

As part of the financing, Vista Equity is taking a minority stake in the company. The round follows $25 million in financing from CIBC Innovation Banking last September, and brings Vena’s total raised since its 2011 inception to over $363 million.

Vena declined to provide any financial metrics or the valuation at which the new capital was raised, saying only that its “consistent growth and…strong customer retention and satisfaction metrics created real demand” as it considered raising its C round.

The company was originally founded as a B2B provider of planning, budgeting and forecasting software. Over time, it’s evolved into what it describes as a “fully cloud-native, corporate performance management platform” that aims to empower finance, operations and business leaders to “Plan to Growtheir businesses. Its customers hail from a variety of industries, including banking, SaaS, manufacturing, healthcare, insurance and higher education. Among its over 900 customers are the Kansas City Chiefs, Coca-Cola Consolidated, World Vision International and ELF Cosmetics.

Vena CEO Hunter Madeley told TechCrunch the latest raise is “mostly an acceleration story for Vena, rather than charting new paths.”

The company plans to use its new funds to build out and enable its go-to-market efforts as well as invest in its product development roadmap. It’s not really looking to enter new markets, considering it’s seeing what it describes as “tremendous demand” in the markets it currently serves directly and through its partner network.

“While we support customers across the globe, we’ll stay focused on growing our North American, U.K. and European business in the near term,” Madeley said.

Vena says it leverages the “flexibility and familiarity” of an Excel interface within its “secure” Complete Planning platform. That platform, it adds, brings people, processes and systems into a single source solution to help organizations automate and streamline finance-led processes, accelerate complex business processes and “connect the dots between departments and plan with the power of unified data.”            

Early backers JMI Equity and Centana Growth Partners will remain active, partnering with Vista “to help support Vena’s continued momentum,” the company said. As part of the raise, Vista Equity Managing Director Kim Eaton and Marc Teillon, senior managing director and co-head of Vista’s Foundation Fund, will join the company’s board.

“The pandemic has emphasized the need for agile financial planning processes as companies respond to quickly-changing market conditions, and Vena is uniquely positioned to help businesses address the challenges required to scale their processes through this pandemic and beyond,” said Eaton in a written statement. 

Vena currently has more than 450 employees across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., up from 393 last year at this time.

Posted Under: Tech News
With Workfront, Adobe combines automated workflow with customer experience

Posted by on 27 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Five months ago, Adobe purchased Workfront for $1.5 billion, a company that helps build marketing department workflows. Today the company is officially announcing how it intends to use it. As marketing executives try to balance mapping strategy to the creative process while building customized experiences, a marketing workflow tool would fit neatly into Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), and that’s where it has landed.

Alex Shootman, who was CEO at Workfront and is now VP and GM of Adobe Workfront, told me they see the tool as the system of record for the marketing department inside of AEM. While there is more than a hint of marketing in that explanation, the data from Workfront’s workflows acts as a record of the creative process.

As part of Adobe, the company has built hooks into Experience Manager and Creative Cloud to enable marketing’s creative work to move through an organized and auditable process, leaving a data trail that lets management know exactly what happened, a marketing system of record.

Shootman says having this system of record in place allows marketing teams to do several things. For starters, it lets them connect strategy to execution. “If you think about a CMO, he or she and their team is developing the key priorities for decisions for the year or for the quarter [and this helps them] take those key priorities and make sure that they are driving the activities within the marketing organization,” he said.

He says that involves connecting the people, processes and data within marketing into a single system where teams can iteratively plan on the work as changes arise. That’s where Workfront comes into play.

Brent Leary, lead analyst at CRM Essentials, says the approach makes a great deal of sense. “Creating enough personalized content at scale to stay connected with customers as their needs evolve over time is a team sport. That calls for tighter collaboration throughout the creation process, and Workfront within the AEM brings a sophisticated project management capability to the creative process,” Leary said.

During the pandemic, that became imperative as the majority of sales moved on online. That increased the need for speed and agility. Having this workflow tool in place inside the Adobe Experience Manager means it’s not only allowing marketing to build customized experiences for its customers, it also enables them to automate the workflows behind those customizations.

The way this could work in practice is a marketing team creates a campaign and maps it out in Workfront. From there, creatives get assigned tasks and these tasks show up in Creative Cloud. When they complete the assignment, it automatically goes back into Workfront where it will be reviewed, eventually get approved and get published to the Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool where it will be available for use by the entire marketing team.

When it comes to acquisitions, it’s hard to know how well they’ll turn out, but Workfront seems particularly well suited to the Adobe ecosystem, a tool that can help bring a missing workflow automation component to the entire creative process, while allowing marketing execs to see exactly how their strategy played out.

Posted Under: Tech News
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