Monthly Archives: August 2021

Extra Crunch roundup: Toast and Freshbook S-1s, pre-pitch tips, flexible funding lessons

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

The digital transformation currently sweeping society has likely reached your favorite local restaurant.

Since 2013, Boston-based Toast has offered bars and eateries a software platform that lets them manage orders, payments and deliveries.

Over the last year, its customers have processed more than $38 billion in gross payment volume, so Alex Wilhelm analyzed the company’s S-1 for The Exchange with great interest.

“Toast was last valued at just under $5 billion when it last raised, per Crunchbase data,” he writes. “And folks are saying that it could be worth $20 billion in its debut. Does that square with the numbers?”


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Airbnb, DoorDash and Coinbase each debuted at past Y Combinator Demo Days; as of this writing, they employ a combined 10,000 people.

Today and tomorrow, TechCrunch reporters will cover the proceedings at YC’s Summer 20201 Demo Day. In addition to writing up founder pitches, they’ll also rank their favorites.

Even remotely, I can feel a palpable sense of excitement radiating from our team — anything can happen at YC Demo Day, so sign up for Extra Crunch to follow the action.

Thanks very much for reading; I hope you have an excellent week.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

How Amazon EC2 grew from a notion into a foundational element of cloud computing

Image Credits: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

In August 2006, AWS activated its EC2 cloud-based virtual computer, a milestone in the cloud infrastructure giant’s development.

“You really can’t overstate what Amazon was able to accomplish,” writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

In the 15 years since, EC2 has enabled clients of any size to test and run their own applications on AWS’ virtual machines.

To learn more about a fundamental technological shift that “would help fuel a whole generation of startups,” Ron interviewed EC2 VP Dave Brown, who built and led the Amazon EC2 Frontend team.

3 ways to become a better manager in the work-from-home era

Image of a manager talking to his team via a video conference.

Image Credits: Jasmin Merdan (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Most managers agree that OKRs foster transparency and accountability, but running a team effectively has different challenges when workers are attending all-hands meetings from their kitchen tables.

Instead of just discussing key metrics before board meetings or performance reviews, make them part of the day-to-day culture, recommends Jeremy Epstein, Gtmhub’s CMO.

“Strengthen your team by creating authentic workplace transparency using numbers as a universal language and providing meaning behind your team’s work.”

The pre-pitch: 7 ways to build relationships with VCs

A person attracts people to his side with a magnet.

Image Credits: Getty Images under an Andrii Yalanskyi (opens in a new window) license

Many founders must overcome a few emotional hurdles before they’re comfortable pitching a potential investor face-to-face.

To alleviate that pressure, Unicorn Capital founder Evan Fisher recommends that entrepreneurs use pre-pitch meetings to build and strengthen relationships before asking for a check:

“This is the ‘we actually aren’t looking for money; we just want to be friends for now’ pitch that gets you on an investor’s radar so that when it’s time to raise your next round, they’ll be far more likely to answer the phone because they actually know who you are.”

Pre-pitches are good for more than curing the jitters: These conversations help founders get a better sense of how VCs think and sometimes lead to serendipitous outcomes.

“Investors are opportunists by necessity,” says Fisher, “so if they like the cut of your business’s jib, you never know — the FOMO might start kicking hard.”

Lessons from COVID: Flexible funding is a must for alternative lenders

Flexible Multi Colored Coil Crossing Hexagon Frame on White Background.

Image Credits: MirageC (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

FischerJordan’s Deeba Goyal and Archita Bhandari break down the pandemic’s impact on alternative lenders, specifically what they had to do to survive the crisis, taking a look at smaller lenders including Credibly, Kabbage, Kapitus and BlueVine.

“Only those who were able to find a way through the complexities of their existing capital sources were able to maintain their performance, and the rest were left to perish or find new funding avenues,” they write.

Inside Freshworks’ IPO filing

Customer engagement software company Freshworks’ S-1 filing depicts a company that’s experiencing accelerating revenue growth, “a great sign for the health of its business,” reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s The Exchange.

“Most companies see their growth rates decline as they scale, as larger denominators make growth in percentage terms more difficult.”

Studying the company’s SEC filing, he found that “Freshworks isn’t a company where we need to cut it lots of slack, as we might with an adjusted EBITDA number. It is going public ready for Big Kid metrics.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Databricks raises $1.6B at $38B valuation as it blasts past $600M ARR

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Databricks this morning confirmed earlier reports that it was raising new capital at a higher valuation. The data- and AI-focused company has secured a $1.6 billion round at a $38 billion valuation, it said. Bloomberg first reported last week that Databricks was pursuing new capital at that price.

The Series H was led by Counterpoint Global, a Morgan Stanley fund. Other new investors included Baillie Gifford, UC Investments and ClearBridge. A grip of prior investors also kicked in cash to the round.

The new funding brings Databricks’ total private funding raised to $3.5 billion. Notably, its latest raise comes just seven months after the late-stage startup raised $1 billion on a $28 billion valuation. Its new valuation represents paper value creation in excess of $1 billion per month.

The company, which makes open source and commercial products for processing structured and unstructured data in one location, views its market as a new technology category. Databricks calls the technology a data “lakehouse,” a mashup of data lake and data warehouse.

Databricks CEO and co-founder Ali Ghodsi believes that its new capital will help his company secure market leadership.

For context, since the 1980s, large companies have stored massive amounts of structured data in data warehouses. More recently, companies like Snowflake and Databricks have provided a similar solution for unstructured data called a data lake.

In Ghodsi’s view, combining structured and unstructured data in a single place with the ability for customers to execute data science and business-intelligence work without moving the underlying data is a critical change in the larger data market.

“[Data lakehouses are] a new category, and we think there’s going to be lots of vendors in this data category. So it’s a land grab. We want to quickly race to build it and complete the picture,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch.

Ghodsi also pointed out that he is going up against well-capitalized competitors and that he wants the funds to compete hard with them.

“And you know, it’s not like we’re up against some tiny startups that are getting seed funding to build this. It’s all kinds of [large, established] vendors,” he said. That includes Snowflake, Amazon, Google and others who want to secure a piece of the new market category that Databricks sees emerging.

The company’s performance indicates that it’s onto something.

Growth

Databricks has reached the $600 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) milestone, it disclosed as part of its funding announcement. It closed 2020 at $425 million ARR, to better illustrate how quickly it is growing at scale.

Per the company, its new ARR figure represents 75% growth, measured on a year-over-year basis.

That’s quick for a company of its size; per the Bessemer Cloud Index, top-quartile public software companies are growing at around 44% year over year. Those companies are worth around 22x their forward revenues.

At its new valuation, Databricks is worth 63x its current ARR. So Databricks isn’t cheap, but at its current pace should be able to grow to a size that makes its most recent private valuation easily tenable when it does go public, provided that it doesn’t set a new, higher bar for its future performance by raising again before going public.

Ghodsi declined to share timing around a possible IPO, and it isn’t clear whether the company will pursue a traditional IPO or if it will continue to raise private funds so that it can direct list when it chooses to float. Regardless, Databricks is now sufficiently valuable that it can only exit to one of a handful of mega-cap technology giants or go public.

Why hasn’t the company gone public? Ghodsi is enjoying a rare position in the startup market: He has access to unlimited capital. Databricks had to open another $100 million in its latest round, which was originally set to close at just $1.5 billion. It doesn’t lack for investor interest, allowing its CEO to bring aboard the sort of shareholder he wants for his company’s post-IPO life — while enjoying limited dilution.

This also enables him to hire aggressively, possibly buy some smaller companies to fill in holes in Databricks’ product roadmap, and grow outside of the glare of Wall Street expectations from a position of capital advantage. It’s the startup equivalent of having one’s cake and eating it too.

But staying private longer isn’t without risks. If the larger market for software companies was rapidly devalued, Databricks could find itself too expensive to go public at its final private valuation. However, given the long bull market that we’ve seen in recent years for software shares, and the confidence Ghodsi has in his potential market, that doesn’t seem likely.

There’s still much about Databricks’ financial position that we don’t yet know — its gross margin profile, for example. TechCrunch is also incredibly curious what all its fundraising and ensuing spending have done to near-term Databricks operating cash flow results, as well as how long its gross-margin adjusted CAC payback has evolved since the onset of COVID-19. If we ever get an S-1, we might find out.

For now, winsome private markets are giving Ghodsi and crew space to operate an effectively public company without the annoyances that come with actually being public. Want the same thing for your company? Easy: Just reach $600 million ARR while growing 75% year over year.

Posted Under: Tech News
Octane banks $2M for flexible billing software

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Software billing startup Octane announced Tuesday that it raised $2 million on a post-money valuation of $10 million to advance its pay-as-you-go billing software.

Akash Khanolkar and his co-founders met a decade ago at Carnegie Mellon University and since then went off in different directions. In Khanolkar’s case, he ran a cloud consulting business and saw how fast companies like Datadog and Snowflake were coming to market and dealing with Amazon Web Services.

He found that the commonality in all of those fast-growing companies was billing software using a pay-as-you-go business model versus the traditional flat-rate plans, Khanolkar told TechCrunch.

However, he explained that monitoring consumption means that billing becomes complicated: companies now have to track how customers are using the software per second in order to bill correctly each month.

Seeing the shift toward consumption-based billing, the co-founders came back together in June 2020 to create Octane, a metered billing system that helps vendors create a plan, monitor usage and charge in a similar way to Snowflake and AWS, Khanolkar said.

“We are API-driven, and you as a vendor will send us usage data, and on our end, we store it and then do real-time aggregations so at the end of the month, you can accordingly bill customers,” Khanolkar said. “We have seen contention between engineering and product. Engineers are there to create core plans, so we built a no-code experience for product teams to be able to create new price plans and then perform changes, like adding coupons.”

Within the global cloud billing market, which is expected to reach $6.5 billion by 2025, there are a set of Octane competitors, like Chargebee and Zuora, that Khanolkar said are tackling the subscription management side and succeeding in the past several years. Now there is a usage and consumption-based world coming and a whole new set of software businesses, like Octane, coming in to succeed there.

The new round of funding was led by Basis Set Ventures and included Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi, Github CTO Jason Warner, Fortress CTO Assunta Gaglione, Scale AI CRO Chetan Chaudhary, former Twilio executive Evan Cummack, Esteban Reyes, Abstraction Capital and Script Capital.

“With the rise of product-led growth and usage-based pricing models, usage-based billing is a critical and foundational piece of infrastructure that has been simply missing,” said Chang Xu, partner at Basis Set Ventures, via email. “At the same time, it’s something that every department cares about as it’s your revenue. Many later-stage companies we talk to that have built this in-house talk about the ongoing maintenance costs and wishes that there is a vendor they can outsource it to.”

We are super impressed with the Octane team with their dedication to building a best-in-class and robust usage-based billing solution. They’ve validated this opportunity by talking to lots of engineering teams so they can solve for all the edge cases, which is important in something as mission critical as billing. We are convinced that Octane will become an inevitable part of the tech infrastructure.”

The new funding will go primarily toward hiring engineers, as well as product, marketing and sales staff. Octane currently has seven employees, and Khanolkar expects to be around 10 by the end of the year.

The company is working with a large range of companies, primarily focused on infrastructure and the depth gauge industries. Octane is also seeing some unique use cases emerge, like a construction company using the usage meter to track the hours an employee works and companies in electric charging using the meter for those purposes.

“We didn’t envision construction guys using it, but in theory, it could be used by any company that tracks time — even legal,” Khanolkar added.

He declined to speak about the company’s revenue, but did say it now had two to three years of runway.

Up next, the company plans to roll out new features like price experimentation based on usage to help customers better make decisions on how to price their software, another problem Khanolkar sees happening. It will build ways that customers can try different plans against usage data to validate which one works the best.

“We are still in the early innings of consumption-based models, but we see more end users opting to go with an enterprise that wants to let them try out the software and then pay as they go,” he added.

Posted Under: Tech News
Sales experience platform Walnut raises $15M to improve product demonstrations

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Walnut raised $15 million in Series A funding, led by Eight Roads Ventures, to continue developing its sales experience platform.

Founders Yoav Vilner and Danni Friedland started the company in July 2020. Vilner told TechCrunch that while at a previous company, he was building a category called technology marketing in Israel. He realized that company sales people often ran into problems when it was time to demonstrate their product — the product would break, or they would have to ask another department to open something or add a feature, none of which happened instantaneously, Vilner added.

He and Friedland’s answer to that problem is a no-code platform for teams to create customized product demonstrations quickly, be able to integrate them into their sales and marketing processes and then generate insights from the demos.

Walnut engagement example. Image Credits: Walnut

“We let the sales and marketing teams replicate the SaaS product in our cloud environment, which is disconnected from the back end,” Vilner explained. “They can create a storyline to fit their customer and the demonstration, and then following the demo, sales leaders can get insight on what was good or bad. It encourages the sharing of knowledge and what story worked best for which kind of company.”

The company’s latest round gives it $21 million raised to date, and follows a $6 million seed round that included NFX, A Capital, Liquid2 Ventures and Graph Ventures, Vilner said.

Walnut serves over 60 business-to-business clients, including Adobe, NetApp, Varonis and People AI. In addition to Tel Aviv, the company has offices in New York and London.

Vilner intends to use the new funding to grow the team across the U.S, Europe and Israel and continue developing its technology and platform, including tools to embed demos into a website for product-led growth. He also expects to double the team of 25 over the next year.

Eyal Rabinovich, an investor at Eight Roads Ventures, said his brother is a Walnut customer, and the company fits with one of the firm’s theses around broad vertically integrated brands in SaaS and deep technology.

Rabinovich was tracking the sales enablement space for a while and said many companies claim to provide something unique, but it is usually workflow and processes. In Walnut’s case, it is solving something at the core of sales.

“They make everything measurable, and the ‘holy grail’ is conversion, and even just 1% conversion could mean millions of dollars,” he added. “Every company we spoke to wanted to use this product. Customers were telling us they closed the sales cycle within two weeks.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Peak raises $75M for a platform that helps non-tech companies build AI applications

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

As artificial intelligence continues to weave its way into more enterprise applications, a startup that has built a platform to help businesses, especially non-tech organizations, build more customized AI decision making tools for themselves has picked up some significant growth funding. Peak AI, a startup out of Manchester, England, that has built a “decision intelligence” platform, has raised $75 million, money that it will be using to continue building out its platform as well as to expand into new markets, and hire some 200 new people in the coming quarters.

The Series C is bringing a very big name investor on board. It is being led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with previous backers Oxx, MMC Ventures, Praetura Ventures, and Arete also participating. That group participated in Peak’s Series B of $21 million, which only closed in February of this year. The company has now raised $118 million; it is not disclosing its valuation.

(This latest funding round was rumored last week, although it was not confirmed at the time and the total amount was not accurate.)

Richard Potter, Peak’s CEO, said the rapid follow-on in funding was based on inbound interest, in part because of how the company has been doing.

Peak’s so-called Decision Intelligence platform is used by retailers, brands, manufacturers and others to help monitor stock levels, build personalized customer experiences, as well as other processes that can stand to have some degree of automation to work more efficiently, but also require sophistication to be able to measure different factors against each other to provide more intelligent insights. Its current customer list includes the likes of Nike, Pepsico, KFC, Molson Coors, Marshalls, Asos, and Speedy, and in the last 12 months revenues have more than doubled.

The opportunity that Peak is addressing goes a little like this: AI has become a cornerstone of many of the most advanced IT applications and business processes of our time, but if you are an organization — and specifically one not built around technology — your access to AI and how you might use it will come by way of applications built by others, not necessarily tailored to you, and the costs of building more tailored solutions can often be prohibitively high. Peak claims that those using its tools have seen revenues on average rise 5%; return on ad spend double; supply chain costs reduce by 5%; and inventory holdings (a big cost for companies) reduce by 12%.

Peak’s platform, I should point out, is not exactly a “no-code” approach to solving that problem — not yet at least: it’s aimed at data scientists and engineers at those organizations so that they can easily identify different processes in their operations where they might benefit from AI tools, and to build those out with relatively little heavy lifting.

There have also been different market factors that have also played a role. Covid-19, for example, and the boost that we have seen both in increasing “digital transformation” in businesses, and making e-commerce processes more efficient to cater to rising consumer demand and more strained supply chains, have all led to businesses being more open to and keen to invest in more tools to improve their automation intelligently.

This, combined with Peak AI’s growing revenues, is part of what interested SoftBank. The investor has been long on AI for a while, but it has been building out a section of its investment portfolio to provide strategic services to the kinds of businesses that it invests in. Those include e-commerce and other consumer-facing businesses, which make up one of the main segments of Peak’s customer base. Notably, one of its big, recent investments specifically in that space was made earlier this year also in Manchester, when it took a $730 million stake (with potentially $1.6 billion more down the line) in The Hut Group, which builds software for and runs D2C businesses.

“In Peak we have a partner with a shared vision that the future enterprise will run on a centralized AI software platform capable of optimizing entire value chains,” Max Ohrstrand, senior investor for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement. “To realize this a new breed of platform is needed and we’re hugely impressed with what Richard and the excellent team have built at Peak. We’re delighted to be supporting them on their way to becoming the category-defining, global leader in Decision Intelligence.”

It’s not clear that SoftBank’s two Manchester interests will be working together, but it’s an interesting synergy if they do, and most of all highlights one of the firm’s areas of interest.

Longer term, it will be interesting to see how and if Peak evolves to be extend its platform to a wider set of users at the organizations that are already its customers.

Potter said he believes that “those with technical predispositions” will be the most likely users of its products in the near and medium term. You might assume that would cut out, for example, marketing managers, although the general trend in a lot of software tools has precisely been to build versions of the same tools used by data scientists for these tell technical people to engage in the process of building what it is that they want to use. “I do think it’s important to democratize the ability to stream data pipelines, and to be able to optimize those to work in applications,” he added.

Posted Under: Tech News
Owner.com serves up $10.7M so that independent restaurants can get cooking

Posted by on 31 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Independent restaurants don’t typically have the luxury to create their own online food ordering and delivery capabilities or negotiate for lower rates from legacy ordering platforms like the large restaurant chains do.

Here’s where Owner.com comes in. The Beverly Hills-based company provides a free online ordering, delivery and marketing platform for independent restaurants that puts them on similar playing fields with the big guys. And unlike the legacy food delivery services, Owner.com restaurants own their customer data and can automate marketing campaigns.

Adam Guild is the company’s 21-year-old co-founder and CEO, a high school dropout and a Thiel Fellow, who originally started by assisting his mother’s dog grooming business that was having difficulties attracting customers. After stepping in with some online marketing methods, her business grew, and later expanded into multiple locations. Guild then wanted to work with a bigger group of people and stumbled across restaurants while helping some clients create online landing pages.

With consumer demand shifting to primarily online ordering and delivery over the past 18 months, online ordering revenue is expected to double from $248 billion in 2020 to $449 billion by 2025. Ordering platforms like Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub control 80% of orders and typically charge between 20% and 30% per order to restaurants and additional fees to consumers.

In contrast, Owner.com is free for restaurants and charges customers a flat $4 fee when they order from the website. Guild explained that larger restaurant chains have the buying power to negotiate lower rates, while independent restaurants do not. With the inability to keep up, some 110,000 restaurants in the U.S. closed in 2020.

Guild initially bootstrapped his company, working with large restaurant chains, like P.F. Chang’s, drive online orders. Then the global pandemic hit. He ended up losing all of his revenue and had to let all of his employees go but one. To add to his bad luck, he was then rejected from Y Combinator and other accelerator programs.

“For the first three days, I was depressed,” Guild told TechCrunch. “I had spent two years building a company and now it was dead. In the same way we were disrupted, I began to think there was no better position to be in than a scrappy startup. I didn’t know what the next business would look like, so I started cold-calling restaurant owners, asking how I can be helpful and what type of technology they were looking for. Many of them told me that online ordering sucked, but if they didn’t solve it soon, they would go out of business.”

One pivot and a year later with co-founder Dean Bloembergen, Owner.com closed on $10.7 million in seed funding led by SaaStr Fund, with participation from Redpoint Ventures and Day One Ventures, as well as a group of individual investors including Naval Ravikant, CNBC’s The Profit host Marcus Lemonis, The Kitchen Restaurant Group’s Kimbal Musk, DoNotPay founder Joshua Browder, Figma founder Dylan Field, The Chainsmokers and independent restaurant owners and customers of Owner.com.

Jason Lemkin, founder of SaaStr Fund, said restaurant SaaS was a space in which his firm was interested in investing, but thought it was a bit boring — there were already quite a few vendors in the space, like Toast and Grubhub, and most were just technology solutions. However, when he heard that Owner.com was a break-out company from the monotony, he said he had to take a look.

“The ability to own the customer relationship is that ultimate differentiation,” Lemkin said. “Their ultimate goal is to provide a robust technology platform to increase margins, have people order more and come back often.”

Meanwhile, Guild intends to use the new funding to continue product development and add new features like landing pages, the ability to make reservations and native apps for white-label service.

Since the launch last year, the company has reached a seven-figure run-rate and over 105% monthly revenue retention across over 700 restaurant locations, Guild said. To date, Owner.com has transacted over $18 million and helped its restaurant customers avoid paying $3 million to online order platform fees annually.

“It’s all about empowering the 40% of the restaurant industry that is run by people who started off in entry-level positions, and over the years, worked their way up to own the ‘American Dream,’ ” he added.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Zoom announces first startups receiving funding from $100M investment fund

Posted by on 30 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

For more than year now, Zoom has been on a mission to transform from an application into a platform. To that end it made three announcements last year: Zoom Apps development tools, the Zoom Apps marketplace and a $100 million development fund to invest in some of the more promising startups building tools on top of their platform. Today, at the closing bell, the company announced it has made its first round of investments.

Ross Mayfield, product lead for Zoom Apps and integrations spoke to TechCrunch about the round of investments. “We’re in the process of creating this ecosystem. We felt it important, particularly to focus on the seed stage and A stage of partnering with entrepreneurs to create great things on this platform. And I think what you see in the first batch of more than a dozen investments is representative of something that’s going to be a significant ongoing undertaking,” he explained.

He said while they aren’t announcing exact investment amounts, they are writing checks for between $250,000 and $2.5 million. They are teaming with other investment partners, rather than leading the rounds, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working with these startups using internal resources for advice and executive backing, beyond the money.

“Every one of these investments has an executive or senior sponsor within the company. So there’s another person inside that knows the lay of the land, can help them advance and spend more personal time with them,” Mayfield said.

The company is also running several Zoom chat channels for the startups receiving investments to learn from one another and the Zoom Apps team. “We have a shared chat channel between the startup and my team. We have a channel called Announcements and a channel called Help, and another one that the startups created called Community,” he said.

Every week they use these channels to hold a developer office hour, business office hour which Mayfield runs, and then there’s a community hour where the startups can gather and talk amongst themselves about whatever they want.

Among the specific categories receiving funding are collaboration and productivity, community and charity, DE&I and PeopleOps, and gaming and entertainment. In the collaboration and productivity category, Warmly is a sales tool that provides background and information about each person participating in the meeting ahead of time, while allowing the meeting organizer to create customized Zoom backgrounds for each event.

Another is Fathom, which alleviates the need to take notes during a meeting, but it’s more than recording and transcription. “It gives you this really simple interface where you can just tag moments. And then, as a result you have this transcript of the video recording, and you can click on those tagged moments as highlights, and then share a clip of the meeting highlights to Salesforce, Slack and other tools,” Mayfield said.

Pledge enables individuals or organizations to request and collect donations inside a Zoom meeting instantly, and Canvas is a hiring and interview tool that helps companies build diverse teams with data that helps them set and meet DEI goals.

These and the other companies represent the first tranche of investments from this fund, and Mayfield says the company intends to continue looking for startups using the Zoom platform to build their startup or integrate with Zoom.

He says that every company starts as a feature, then becomes a product and then aspires to be a line of products. The trick is getting there.  The goal of the investment program and the entire set of Zoom Apps tools is about helping these companies take the first step.

“The art of being an entrepreneur is working with that risk in the absence of resources and pushing at the frontier of what you know.” Zoom is trying to be a role model, a mentor and an investor on that journey.

Posted Under: Tech News
Everything enterprise software and SaaS at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Posted by on 30 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

When you hear the word, “enterprise” and you immediately think software instead of Star Trek, you’re going to love this post — and the SaaS and Enterprise-focused knowledge waiting for you at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23.

We’ve packed a veritable boatload of Grade A prime programming into three full days of Disrupt. Prepare to hear and learn from an endless parade of tech icons, visionaries, movers, shakers and unicorn makers. We’re talking more than 80 scheduled offerings, folks.

Join your people: Buy your pass today and get ready to hear from the leading voices across the startup spectrum.

Where were we? Ah, yes — we’re here to help save you a bit of time by spotlighting just some of the sessions focused on enterprise software and SaaS. Plus, we’ll have a dedicated Disrupt Desk session where industry experts, like Emergence Capital’s Carlotta (Lotti) Siniscalco, and TechCrunch editors, will break it down with deep-analysis, insight and likely a laugh or two.

Check out the Disrupt agenda for exact days and times, and then plan your daily schedule in advance.

From Bootstrapped to Billions

Dozens have tried to reinvent the calendar, and dozens have failed. Tope Awotona built Calendly not as a way to reinvent the wheel, but to add a layer of simplicity to the chaos of human communication and time management. And boy did it work! The once-bootstrapped company is now worth more than $3 billion, serving individuals and enterprises alike. Hear from the founder and CEO on how he got Calendly off the ground, why he decided to finally take institutional investment and how the company has changed as it grows.

An Unstoppable Force and an Immovable Object

Slack and Salesforce are two of the biggest names in tech. The communication tool (born from one of the odder pivots in tech history) is commonplace across organizations from almost every industry. It’s an unstoppable force. The sales CRM behemoth is used all over the world by sales teams small and large. An immovable object. In December of 2020, the pair announced a $27.7 billion merger. Hear from Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield and Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor about the future of the combined entity, why the deal made sense and what it’s like to write down that many 0’s.

Powering the Small Business Economy with Cloud Technology

Small business is a critical engine of job creation, economic growth and innovation, and a driver in our efforts to recover from a global pandemic. Fifteen years ago, a New Zealand start-up called Xero was founded with the purpose of making life better for small businesses and their advisors. Xero achieved this by shifting accounting practices to the cloud and providing an open set of APIs, which has enabled more than 1,000 application partners to build affordable tech solutions connected to the Xero platform. Xero CEO Steve Vamos will discuss how Xero is revolutionizing the way small businesses do business by using the cloud and its platform to connect real-time data with bespoke business solutions that help small business owners be more successful. Steve will speak to a number of key initiatives that will change the game for startups and entrepreneurs who want to innovate and collaborate on the Xero platform, and he will explain how Xero’s vision extends beyond just technology to galvanizing a global community of support and purpose to help small businesses everywhere. Presented by Xero.

Powering What’s Next: Insights from the Enterprise Software Market

Spurred by digital transformation and the recent shift to remote work, the enterprise software industry has gone from strength-to-strength, and competition for deals and valuations are at all-time highs. While investor appetite for enterprise software may be strong, it doesn’t mean that all tech businesses make worthy investments. In this panel, hear from Michael Fosnaugh and Monti Saroya, co-heads of Vista’s flagship investment strategy, and a selection of Vista CEOs on the hallmarks of best-in-class software companies and trends driving the industry. Presented by Vista Equity Partners.

Achieve Sustainable IT with Prometheus, Grafana and Hardware Sentry

Implementing sustainability initiatives to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the data center is a vital challenge. Join Bertrand Martin, Sentry Software’s co-founder and CEO, as he presents Hardware Sentry Exporter for Prometheus. Measure the power consumption and temperature of more than 250 platforms with this unique pure-software solution. Report CO₂ emissions, electricity usage and costs of applications and services in Grafana. Reduce the carbon footprint of your data center with intelligent optimization of ambient temperature. Presented by Sentry Software.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23. Buy your pass today and learn about the latest trends and developments in SaaS and enterprise software — and so much more.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? We have just a few spots left — so contact our sponsorship sales team asap by filling out this form.

Posted Under: Tech News
How Amazon EC2 grew from a notion into a foundational element of cloud computing

Posted by on 28 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Fifteen years ago this week on August 25, 2006, AWS turned on the very first beta instance of EC2, its cloud-based virtual computers. Today cloud computing, and more specifically infrastructure as a service, is a staple of how businesses use computing, but at that moment it wasn’t a well known or widely understood concept.

The EC in EC2 stands for Elastic Compute, and that name was chosen deliberately. The idea was to provide as much compute power as you needed to do a job, then shut it down when you no longer needed it — making it flexible like an elastic band. The launch of EC2 in beta was preceded by the beta release of S3 storage six months earlier, and both services marked the starting point in AWS’ cloud infrastructure journey.

You really can’t overstate what Amazon was able to accomplish with these moves. It was able to anticipate an entirely different way of computing and create a market and a substantial side business in the process. It took vision to recognize what was coming and the courage to forge ahead and invest the resources necessary to make it happen, something that every business could learn from.

The AWS origin story is complex, but it was about bringing the IT power of the Amazon business to others. Amazon at the time was not the business it is today, but it was still rather substantial and still had to deal with massive fluctuations in traffic such as Black Friday when its website would be flooded with traffic for a short but sustained period of time. While the goal of an e-commerce site, and indeed every business, is attracting as many customers as possible, keeping the site up under such stress takes some doing and Amazon was learning how to do that well.

Those lessons and a desire to bring the company’s internal development processes under control would eventually lead to what we know today as Amazon Web Services, and that side business would help fuel a whole generation of startups. We spoke to Dave Brown, who is VP of EC2 today, and who helped build the first versions of the tech, to find out how this technological shift went down.

Sometimes you get a great notion

The genesis of the idea behind AWS started in the 2000 timeframe when the company began looking at creating a set of services to simplify how they produced software internally. Eventually, they developed a set of foundational services — compute, storage and database — that every developer could tap into.

But the idea of selling that set of services really began to take shape at an executive offsite at Jeff Bezos’ house in 2003. A 2016 TechCrunch article on the origins AWS described how that started to come together:

As the team worked, Jassy recalled, they realized they had also become quite good at running infrastructure services like compute, storage and database (due to those previously articulated internal requirements). What’s more, they had become highly skilled at running reliable, scalable, cost-effective data centers out of need. As a low-margin business like Amazon, they had to be as lean and efficient as possible.

They realized that those skills and abilities could translate into a side business that would eventually become AWS. It would take a while to put these initial ideas into action, but by December 2004, they had opened an engineering office in South Africa to begin building what would become EC2. As Brown explains it, the company was looking to expand outside of Seattle at the time, and Chris Pinkham, who was director in those days, hailed from South Africa and wanted to return home.

Posted Under: Tech News
Linux 5.14 set to boost future enterprise application security

Posted by on 27 August, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Linux is set for a big release this Sunday August 29, setting the stage for enterprise and cloud applications for months to come. The 5.14 kernel update will include security and performance improvements.

A particular area of interest for both enterprise and cloud users is always security and to that end, Linux 5.14 will help with several new capabilities. Mike McGrath, vice president, Linux Engineering at Red Hat told TechCrunch that the kernel update includes a feature known as core scheduling, which is intended to help mitigate processor-level vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown, which first surfaced in 2018. One of the ways that Linux users have had to mitigate those vulnerabilities is by disabling hyper-threading on CPUs and therefore taking a performance hit. 

“More specifically, the feature helps to split trusted and untrusted tasks so that they don’t share a core, limiting the overall threat surface while keeping cloud-scale performance relatively unchanged,” McGrath explained.

Another area of security innovation in Linux 5.14 is a feature that has been in development for over a year-and-a-half that will help to protect system memory in a better way than before. Attacks against Linux and other operating systems often target memory as a primary attack surface to exploit. With the new kernel, there is a capability known as memfd_secret () that will enable an application running on a Linux system to create a memory range that is inaccessible to anyone else, including the kernel.

“This means cryptographic keys, sensitive data and other secrets can be stored there to limit exposure to other users or system activities,” McGrath said.

At the heart of the open source Linux operating system that powers much of the cloud and enterprise application delivery is what is known as the Linux kernel. The kernel is the component that provides the core functionality for system operations. 

The Linux 5.14 kernel release has gone through seven release candidates over the last two months and benefits from the contributions of 1,650 different developers. Those that contribute to Linux kernel development include individual contributors, as well large vendors like Intel, AMD, IBM, Oracle and Samsung. One of the largest contributors to any given Linux kernel release is IBM’s Red Hat business unit. IBM acquired Red Hat for $34 billion in a deal that closed in 2019.

“As with pretty much every kernel release, we see some very innovative capabilities in 5.14,” McGrath said.

While Linux 5.14 will be out soon, it often takes time until it is adopted inside of enterprise releases. McGrath said that Linux 5.14 will first appear in Red Hat’s Fedora community Linux distribution and will be a part of the future Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9 release. Gerald Pfeifer, CTO for enterprise Linux vendor SUSE, told TechCrunch that his company’s openSUSE Tumbleweed community release will likely include the Linux 5.14 kernel within ‘days’ of the official release. On the enterprise side, he noted that SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 SP4, due next spring, is scheduled to come with Kernel 5.14. 

The new Linux update follows a major milestone for the open source operating system, as it was 30 years ago this past Wednesday that creator Linus Torvalds (pictured above) first publicly announced the effort. Over that time Linux has gone from being a hobbyist effort to powering the infrastructure of the internet.

McGrath commented that Linux is already the backbone for the modern cloud and Red Hat is also excited about how Linux will be the backbone for edge computing – not just within telecommunications, but broadly across all industries, from manufacturing and healthcare to entertainment and service providers, in the years to come.

The longevity and continued importance of Linux for the next 30 years is assured in Pfeifer’s view.  He noted that over the decades Linux and open source have opened up unprecedented potential for innovation, coupled with openness and independence.

“Will Linux, the kernel, still be the leader in 30 years? I don’t know. Will it be relevant? Absolutely,” he said. “Many of the approaches we have created and developed will still be pillars of technological progress 30 years from now. Of that I am certain.”

 

 

Posted Under: Tech News
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