Monthly Archives: August 2021

Enable bags $45M for B2B rebate management platform

Posted by on 18 August, 2021

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Enable, a startup developing a cloud-based software tool for business-to-business rebate management, announced Wednesday a $45 million Series B funding round.

The round is led by Norwest Venture Partners with participation from existing investors Menlo Ventures and Sierra Ventures, and a group of angel investors. Including the new round, the company has raised a total of $62 million, which includes a $13 million Series A raised in 2020.

The company, which started in the U.K. and moved to San Francisco in 2020, was co-founded by Andrew Butt and Denys Shortt in 2015 but launched fully in 2016. Its technology automates how distributors and manufacturers create, execute and track rebates. These types of trading programs are a common industry practice and are relied on by distributors as a way to turn a profit.

Since raising its Series A last year, Butt, chief executive officer, moved to the Bay Area, grew its North American operations to 60 people, tripled revenue and more than tripled its customer base, he told TechCrunch. The new funding will be used for product innovation and building sales and go-to-market teams.

“The Series A was proving traction in the U.S. and Canada and gave us the ability to hire a U.S. leadership team,” he added. “When we saw that momentum, the market size was large and the opportunity was now getting bigger and bigger, we started scaling up the business.”

As customer needs changed and incentives were growing in terms of revenue and profitability, Enable saw that they were more critical to manage; the incentives needed to be more dynamic and easy to make targeted and personalized. In a sense, incentives have “gone from being blunt instruments to very sharp in size and volume,” Butt said.

Reaching the year over year revenue doubling was a milestone for the company, and his immediate next steps are to get a fully ramped team so Enable can continue on that growth trajectory. The market for incentives is big, but “there is no credible competition,” so the company is also working to build that distribution and sales team now, he added.

It was also over the past year that Butt met Sean Jacobsohn, partner at Norwest Venture Partners, who, as part of the investment, joined Enable’s board of directors.

Jacobsohn had noticed Enable and asked for an introduction to the company when it hired Jerry Brooner as its president of global field operations. Jacobsohn was tracking Brooner’s next moves after leaving Scout, a Workday company, and the hire got his attention.

Enable checks all of the boxes Jacobsohn said he looks for in a company: strong CEO, a good team and good customer feedback — many of them were dissatisfied with the legacy software, he said.

“I also love companies going after a big market where there is no credible competition,” Jacobsohn added. “There is a lot of greenfield space here. What’s great about a player like that is they can come in, create a category and be the new generation cloud player. This isn’t something someone can wake up and start. You need deep domain expertise.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Stacker raises $20M Series A to help business units build software without coding

Posted by on 18 August, 2021

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No code platforms have developed into a hot market, and Stacker, a London-based no-code platform is attempting to bring the concept to a new level. Not only can you create a web application from a spreadsheet, you can pull data from a variety of sources to create a sophisticated business application automatically (although some tweaking may be required).

Today the company announced a $20 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from existing investors Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and Pentech. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $23 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Michael Skelly, CEO and co-founder at Stacker, says that the idea is to take key business data and turn it into a useful app to help someone do their job more efficiently. “[We enable] people in business to create apps to help them in their working life — so things like customer portals, internal tools and things that take the data they’re already using, often to run a process, and turn that into an app,” Skelly explained.

“We really think that in order to actually be useful for business, you need to be hooked into the data that a business cares about. And so we let people bring their spreadsheets, SQL databases, Salesforce data, bring all the data that they use to run their business, and automatically turn it into an app,” he said.

Once the company pulls that data in and creates an app, the user can begin to tweak how things look, but Stacker gives them a big head start toward creating something usable from the get-go, Skelly said.

Jennifer Li,  a partner at lead investor Andreessen Horowitz likes the startup’s approach to no code. “We’ve been watching the no-code space for a while, and Stacker stands apart from the rest because of its thoughtful product approach, allowing business operators to instantly generate a functional app that perfectly fits existing business processes,” she said in a blog post announcing the funding round.

The company currently has 19 employees with plans to put the new capital to work to reach 30-40 by the end of the year. Skelly sees building a diverse company as a key goal and is proactive and thoughtful about finding ways to achieve that. In fact, he has identified three ways to approach diversity.

“Firstly is just making sure that we get a diverse pipeline of people. I really think that the ratio of the people you talk to is probably going to be the biggest indicator of the people you hire. Secondly we try to find ways we can hire people who are maybe further down their career profile, but [looking] to grow,” he said.

Thirdly, and I think this is something that is not talked about enough, there are plenty of people who would like to get into programming roles, and who are under represented, and so we have members of our team who are converting from various non-technical roles to DevOps — and I think it’s just like a really great route to add to the overall pool [of diverse candidates],” he said.

The company is remote first with Skelly in London and his co-founder based in Geneva and they intend to stay that way. They founded the company in 2017 and originally created a different product that was much more complex and required a lot of hand holding before eventually concluding that making it simple was the way to go, They released the first version of the current product at the end of 2019.

The company has a big vision to be the software development tool for business units. “We really think that in the future just like everyone’s got email, a chat tool, a spreadsheet and a video conferencing tool nowadays, they will also have a software tool, where they write and run the custom software that they run their business on,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
Apeel bites into another $250M funding round, at a $2B valuation, to accelerate fresh food supply chains

Posted by on 18 August, 2021

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Apeel Sciences, a food system innovation company, is out to prevent food produced globally from ending up in the landfill, especially as pressures from the global pandemic affect the food supply chain.

The company just added $250 million in Series E funding, giving it a valuation of $2 billion, to speed up the availability of its longer-lasting produce in the U.S. (where approximately 40% of food is wasted), the U.K. and Europe.

Existing investor Temasek led the round and was joined by a group of new and existing investors, including Mirae Asset Global Investments, GIC, Viking Global Investors, Disruptive, Andreessen Horowitz, Tenere Capital, Sweetwater Private Equity, Tao Capital Partners, K3 Ventures, David Barber of Almanac Insights, Michael Ovitz of Creative Artists Agency, Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube and Katy Perry.

With the new funding, Apeel has now raised over $635 million since the company was founded in 2012. Prior to this round, the company brought in $250 million in Series D funding in May 2020.

Santa Barbara-based Apeel developed a plant-based layer for the surface of fruits and vegetables that is tasteless and odorless and that keeps moisture in while letting oxygen out. It is those two factors in particular that lead to grocery produce lasting twice as long, James Rogers, CEO of Apeel, told TechCrunch.

Apeel installs its application at the supplier facilities where the produce is packed into boxes. In addition to that technology, the company acquired ImpactVision earlier this year to add another layer of quality by integrating imaging systems on individual pieces as they move through the supply chain to optimize routing so more produce that is grown is eaten.

“One in nine people are going hungry, and if three in nine pieces of produce are being thrown away, we can be better stewards of the food we are throwing away,” Rogers said. “This is a solvable problem, we just have to get the pieces to the right place at the right time.”

The company is not alone in tackling food waste. For example, Shelf Engine, Imperfect Foods, Mori and Phood Solutions are all working to improve the food supply chain and have attracted venture dollars to go after that mission.

Prior to the pandemic, the amount of food people were eating was growing each year, but that trend is reversed, Rogers explained. Consumers are more aware of the food they eat, they are shopping less frequently, buying more per visit and more online. At the same time, grocery stores are trying to sort through all of that.

“We can’t create these supply networks alone, we do it in concert with supply and retail partners,” he said. “Grocery stores are looking at the way shoppers want to buy things, while we look at how to partner to empower the supply chain. What started with longer-lasting fruits and vegetables, is becoming how we provide information to empower them to do it without adding to food waste.”

Since 2019, Apeel has prevented 42 million pieces of fruit from going to waste at retail locations; that includes up to 50% reduction in avocado food waste with corresponding sales growth. Those 42 million pieces of saved fruit also helped conserve nearly 4.7 billion liters of water, Rogers said.

Meanwhile, over the past year, Apeel has amassed a presence in eight countries, operating 30 supply networks and  distributing produce to 40 retail partners, which then goes out to tens of thousands of stores around the world.

The new funding will accelerate the rollout of those systems, as well as co-create another 10 supply networks with retail and supply partnerships by the end of the year. Rogers also expects to use the funding to advance Apeel’s data and insights offerings and future acquisitions.

Thomas Park, president and head of alternative investments at Mirae Asset Global Investments, said his firm has been investing in environmental, social and governance-related companies for awhile, targeting companies that “make a huge impact globally and in a way that is easy for us to understand.”

The firm, which is part of Mirae Asset Financial Group, often partners with other investors on venture rounds, and in Apeel’s case with Temasek. It also invested with Temasek in Impossible Foods, leading its Series F round last year.

“When we saw them double-down on their investment, it gave us confidence to invest in Apeel and an opportunity to do so,” Park said. “Food waste is a global problem, and after listening to James, we definitely feel like Apeel is the next wave of how to attack these huge problems in an impactful way.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Salesforce announces first integrations with Slack after closing $28B sale

Posted by on 17 August, 2021

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When Salesforce acquired Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, you had to figure that they had some big plans for the company, and today the CRM giant announced some initial integrations that should prove useful for Salesforce customers.

Rob Seaman, SVP for Slack at Salesforce sees Slack as the communications platform for Salesforce moving forward. “We really want Slack to be the primary engagement surface for our users, their communications, their work, their workflows and the processes and the apps they support,” he said.

“What we’re announcing are these new capabilities to support that Slack vision for sales, service, marketing and analytics. And for each of those areas what we’re doing is a combination of articulating, both in best practices and codifying, how you can and should model your sales, service and marketing organizations in this new world,” he said.

The hope is that by taking advantage of Slack’s ability to integrate external enterprise apps inside the application, working together they can find ways to speed up and automate various Salesforce tasks, making it faster and easier to use without switching context to make it happen.

For starters, the Sales Cloud gets dedicated deal rooms, where all of the parties involved in a complex sale, whether internal departments like finance and product people or external partners, can come together in Slack throughout the sales cycle and stay on top of the ebb and flow of all the sales activity.

“I think the deal room is an expression of an opportunity from Salesforce into Slack in a way that makes it very simple to connect with everybody to effectively get a deal done, including customers and partners,” Seaman explained. “That’s where Slack Connect is extremely powerful [to connect with external partners]. We think we should be able to dramatically reduce sales cycle lengths as a result of this…” he said. Slack Connect is the service introduced last year that enables Slack users to connect with people outside of a company.

In addition, through integrations members of the sales team involved in a more complex deal can get daily updates, which are automatically pulled together in Slack and include personalized daily task lists, meetings and priority deals.

Service teams can meet together in a room Salesforce is calling a swarm, a place for the team to help one another with specific questions or problems they may be having. In a company with a large product catalogue this could be particularly helpful to get an answer quickly. While Einstein recommendations helps with related content, a swarm can come in handy when there is a more specific question involved and a human with that knowledge may be just the ticket. Service team members will also be able to search for experts to invite to the swarm, who may be able to help answer the question or solve the problem more quickly.

Not to be left out, marketing gets intelligent insights delivered with the help of Datorama, the company Salesforce bought in 2018. Marketers also get regular updates inside of Slack when a change is made to a marketing campaign.

Finally there are integrations with Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion — Salesforce is a highly acquisitive company. In a similar way that marketers get updates to campaigns, other users can get Slack updates whenever data they consider important gets updated in Tableau, and they can also get daily digests of key metrics that matter to them right in Slack.

Seaman promised that these announcements were just the start, and we will be hearing about more integrations with Slack at the Dreamforce customer conference next month — and in the coming months. “This is just the beginning, and so you’ll continue to see expansion of the integrations between Salesforce and Slack for the four areas that we’re announcing today around sales, service, marketing and analytics, but also every single cloud and industry solution in [the] Salesforce [family of products] is working on this,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
Tropic picks up $25M to streamline software procurement experiences

Posted by on 16 August, 2021

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The pandemic was a catalyst for showing companies looking to cut costs just how much they were spending on their software tools. New York-based Tropic’s platform not only uncovers those savings, but also brings a click-and-approve approach to buying software. Today, the company announced a $25 million Series A round of funding.

Canaan Partners led the round, with participation from Founder Collective and Mo Koyfman’s new fund, Shine. It gives Tropic $27.1 million in total funding since the company emerged from stealth in 2020, CEO David Campbell told TechCrunch.

Prior to founding the company with Justin Etkin, Campbell was in technology and sales roles, selling software contracts of every size, and realized how complex and rigid the contracts were getting as companies grew larger and the lack of price transparency increased. The complexity of some contracts can cause companies to overpay, even locking companies into payments they can’t afford, Campbell said.

On top of that, more buyers are younger now and their experience with purchasing software is pulling out their phone to download an app, while buying a customer relationship management tool will take six months to buy and cost thousands of dollars.

“Looking at the space, we are in a mirror maze of software, including companies using software to build products that they then sell back to the software companies,” Campbell said. “Companies are only buying software once a year, yet the process can be so complex.”

Tropic’s SaaS procurement model gathers the whole process under one platform. Unlike some competitors’ approaches, it takes on the heavy lifting so when companies have to buy or renew a contract, users can access Tropic’s one-click purchasing service to outsource the transaction. After the contracts are signed, its platform manages the technology and ensures financing is in order. This approach saves companies 23%, on average, on the software purchases, which Campbell said “moves the needle” for many companies where software is the No. 1 cost after salary.

In recent years, cloud software has become a fast-growing spend category across most businesses. Campbell said the average company can have more than 100 software contracts, while that jumps to over 500 for enterprise organizations. Meanwhile, global spend on enterprise software is forecasted to reach $599 billion by the end of 2021, a 13.2% increase over the previous year, according to Statista.

In the last 12 months, the company added over 60 customers, counting Qualtrics, Vimeo, Zapier and Intercom, surpassed $250 million in managed spend and processed transactions for over 1,200 vendors. The company is seeing 100% quarter over quarter growth, and in the last quarter, doubled its annual recurring revenue, Campbell said.

Tropic will use the funding for R & D and to deepen integrations with existing procurement tools in the cloud software ecosystem. Over the past year, the company’s headcount has grown to 50 and Campbell has “aggressive hiring plans between now and the rest of the year” focused on the tech side with engineering and product management.

Hootan Rashidifard, principal from Canaan Partners, said his firm was tracking the software procurement sector and learned about Tropic through Founder Collective, which led the company’s seed round.

“We’re seeing software and financial services converge and Tropic sits squarely at the intersection of both in a category with massive tailwinds,” Rashidifard said via email. “Software is accelerating the share of expenses while also penetrating every part of an organization, and software purchasing is becoming more decentralized. Tropic’s platform is in a fragmented market with high payment volume, which is ripe for layering on all kinds of adjacent services.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Cisco beefing up app monitoring portfolio with acquisition of Epsagon for $500M

Posted by on 16 August, 2021

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Cisco announced on Friday that it’s acquiring Israeli applications monitoring startup Epsagon at a price pegged at $500 million. The purchase gives Cisco a more modern microservices-focused component for its growing applications monitoring portfolio.

The Israeli business publication Globes reported it had gotten confirmation from Cisco that the deal was for $500 million, but Cisco would not confirm that price with TechCrunch.

The acquisition comes on top of a couple other high profile app monitoring deals including AppDynamics, which the company bought in 2018 for $3.7 billion and ThousandEyes, which it nabbed last year for $1 billion.

With Epsagon, the company is getting a way to monitor more modern applications built with containers and Kubernetes. Epsagon’s value proposition is a solution built from the ground up to monitor these kinds of workloads, giving users tracing and metrics, something that’s not always easy to do given the ephemeral nature of containers.

As Cisco’s Liz Centoni wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, Epsagon adds to the company’s concept of a full-stack offering in their applications monitoring portfolio. Instead of having a bunch of different applications monitoring tools for different tasks, the company envisions one that works together.

“Cisco’s approach to full-stack observability gives our customers the ability to move beyond just monitoring to a paradigm that delivers shared context across teams and enables our customers to deliver exceptional digital experiences, optimize for cost, security and performance and maximize digital business revenue,” Centoni wrote.

That experience point is particularly important because when an application isn’t working, it isn’t happening in a vacuum. It has a cascading impact across the company, possibly affecting the core business itself and certainly causing customer distress, which could put pressure on customer service to field complaints, and the site reliability team to fix it. In the worst case, it could result in customer loss and an injured reputation.

If the application monitoring system can act as an early warning system, it could help prevent the site or application from going down in the first place, and when it does go down, help track the root cause to get it up and running more quickly.

The challenge here for Cisco is incorporating Epsagon into the existing components of the application monitoring portfolio and delivering that unified monitoring experience without making it feel like a Frankenstein’s monster of a solution globbed together from the various pieces.

Epsagon launched in 2018 and has raised $30 million. According to a report in the Israeli publication, Calcalist, the company was on the verge of a big Series B round with a valuation in the range of $200 million when it accepted this offer. It certainly seems to have given its early investors a good return. The deal is expected to close later this year.

Posted Under: Tech News
Shopistry bags $2M to provide ‘headless commerce without the headaches’

Posted by on 16 August, 2021

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Canada-based Shopistry wants to turn the concept of headless commerce, well, on its head. On Monday, the e-commerce startup announced $2 million in seed funding to continue developing its toolkit of products, integrations, services and managed infrastructure for brands to scale online.

Jaafer Haidar and Tariq Zabian started Shopistry in 2019. Haidar’s background is as a serial technology founder with exits and ventures in e-commerce and cloud software. He was working as a venture capitalist when he got the idea for Shopistry. Zabian is a former general manager at OLX, an online classified marketplace.

Shopistry enables customers to create personalized commerce experiences accessible to all. Haidar expects headless will become the dominant architecture over the next five years, though he isn’t too keen on calling it “headless.” He much prefers the term “modular.”

“It’s a modular system, we call it ‘headless without the headaches,’ where you grab the framework to manage APIs,” Haidar told TechCrunch. “After a company goes live, they can spend 50% of their budget just to keep the lights on. They use marketplaces like Shopify to do the tech, and we are doing the same thing, but providing way more optionality. We are not a monolithic system.”

Currently, the company offers five products:

  • Shopistry Console: Brands turn on their optimal stack and change anytime without re-platforming. There is support for multiple e-commerce administrative tools like Shopify or Square, payment providers, analytics and marketing capabilities.
  • Shopistry Cloud is a managed infrastructure spearheading performance, data management and orchestration across services.
  • Shopistry Storefront and Mobile to manage web storefronts and mobile apps.
  • Shopistry CMS, a data-driven, headless customer management system to create once and publish across channels.
  • Shopistry Services, an offering to brands that need design and engineering help.

Investors in the seed round include Shoptalk founder Jonathan Weiner, Hatch Labs’ Amar Varma, Garage Capital, Mantella Venture Partners and Raiven Capital.

“At MVP we love companies that can simplify complexity to bring the proven innovations of large, technically sophisticated retailers to the masses of small to midsize retailers trying to compete with them,” said Duncan Hill, co-founder and general partner at Mantella Venture Partners, in a written statement. “Shopistry has the team and tech to be a major player in this next phase of the e-commerce evolution. This was easy to get excited about.”

Shopistry is already working with retailers like Honed and Oura Ring to manage their e-commerce presences without the cost, complexity or need for a big technology team.

Prior to going after the seed funding, Haidar and Zabian spent two years working with high growth brands to build out its infrastructure. Haidar intends to use the new capital to future that development as well as bring on sales and marketing staff.

Haidar was not able to provide growth metrics just yet. He did say the company was growing its customer base and expects to be able to share that growth next year. He is planning to add more flexibility and integrations to the back end of Shopistry’s platform and add support for other platforms.

“We are focusing next on the go-to-market perspective while we gear up for our big launch coming in the fourth quarter,” he added. “There is also a big component to ‘after the sale,’ and we want to create some amazing experiences and focus on back office operations. We want to be the easiest way to control and manage data while maintaining a storefront.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

Posted by on 13 August, 2021

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When Salesforce announced its new business video streaming service called Salesforce+ this week, everyone had a reaction. While not all of it was positive, some company watchers also wondered if there was more to this announcement than meets the eye.

If you look closely, the new initiative suggests that Salesforce wants to take a bite out of LinkedIn and other SaaS content platforms and publishers. The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The company has, after all, done exactly this sort of thing with its online marketplaces and industry events to great success. Salesforce generated almost $6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report. That mostly comes from selling its sales, marketing and service software, not any kind of content production, but it has lots of experience putting on Dreamforce, its massive annual customer event, as well as smaller events throughout the year around the world.

On its face, Salesforce+ is a giant, ambitious and quite expensive content marketing play. The company reportedly has hired a large professional staff to produce and manage the content, and built a broadcasting and production studio designed to produce quality shows in-house. It believes that by launching with content from Dreamforce, its highly successful customer conference, attended by tens of thousands people every year pre-pandemic, it can prime the viewing pump and build audience momentum that way, perhaps even using celebrities as it often does at its events to drive audience. It is less clear about the long-term business goals.

Posted Under: Tech News
ThirdAI raises $6M to democratize AI to any hardware

Posted by on 13 August, 2021

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Houston-based ThirdAI, a company building tools to speed up deep learning technology without the need for specialized hardware like graphics processing units, brought in $6 million in seed funding.

Neotribe Ventures, Cervin Ventures and Firebolt Ventures co-led the investment, which will be used to hire additional employees and invest in computing resources, Anshumali Shrivastava, Third AI co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

Shrivastava, who has a mathematics background, was always interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially rethinking how AI could be developed in a more efficient manner. It was when he was at Rice University that he looked into how to make that work for deep learning. He started ThirdAI in April with some Rice graduate students.

ThirdAI’s technology is designed to be “a smarter approach to deep learning,” using its algorithm and software innovations to make general-purpose central processing units (CPU) faster than graphics processing units for training large neural networks, Shrivastava said. Companies abandoned CPUs years ago in favor of graphics processing units that could more quickly render high-resolution images and video concurrently. The downside is that there is not much memory in graphics processing units, and users often hit a bottleneck while trying to develop AI, he added.

“When we looked at the landscape of deep learning, we saw that much of the technology was from the 1980s, and a majority of the market, some 80%, were using graphics processing units, but were investing in expensive hardware and expensive engineers and then waiting for the magic of AI to happen,” he said.

He and his team looked at how AI was likely to be developed in the future and wanted to create a cost-saving alternative to graphics processing units. Their algorithm, “sub-linear deep learning engine,” instead uses CPUs that don’t require specialized acceleration hardware.

Swaroop “Kittu” Kolluri, founder and managing partner at Neotribe, said this type of technology is still early. Current methods are laborious, expensive and slow, and for example, if a company is running language models that require more memory, it will run into problems, he added.

“That’s where ThirdAI comes in, where you can have your cake and eat it, too,” Kolluri said. “It is also why we wanted to invest. It is not just the computing, but the memory, and ThirdAI will enable anyone to do it, which is going to be a game changer. As technology around deep learning starts to get more sophisticated, there is no limit to what is possible.”

AI is already at a stage where it has the capability to solve some of the hardest problems, like those in healthcare and seismic processing, but he notes there is also a question about climate implications of running AI models.

“Training deep learning models can be more expensive than having five cars in a lifetime,” Shrivastava said. “As we move on to scale AI, we need to think about those.”

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Box reports earnings early to give shareholders time to review financials ahead of board vote

Posted by on 12 August, 2021

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Box has been in an ongoing dispute with activist investors Starboard Value over control of the board, an argument that is expected to come to a head on September 9th at the annual shareholder meeting. In an effort to show shareholders that the numbers are continuing to improve under the current leadership, Box took the unusual move of releasing its earning report this morning, two weeks ahead of the expected August 25th report date.

Companies don’t normally report ahead of schedule, but perhaps Box sees the opportunity to do some lobbying, or conversely, to counter any negative lobbying that Starboard may be doing with its fellow investors ahead of the vote.

It’s also worth noting that in spite of the meeting being on September 9th, like a lot of voting these days, people will be sending in votes throughout this month ahead of that day. Box wants to get its latest financial information out there sooner rather than later, to catch those early voters before they cast their ballots.

Fortunately for Box and CEO Aaron Levie, the numbers look decent.

Earnings

It’s not hard to see why Box released its earnings early, as the numbers provide an argument for keeping the company’s current leadership in place.

In the three month period ending July 31, 2021 — the second quarter of Box’s fiscal 2022 — the company generated $214 million in revenue, up 11% on a year-over-year basis. And, as Box is quick to point out, its second consecutive quarter of “accelerating revenue growth.” The company bested its own guidance of $211 to $212 million in revenue for the period.

It matters that Box is showing an ability to accelerate its revenue growth for several reasons. First, because doing so puts wind in the sales of its stock; quickly growing companies are worth more per dollar of revenue than more slowly growing concerns, and accelerating revenue growth over time is investor catnip.

The accelerating pace of growth over the last half year also provides footing for Box’s leadership to argue that their product choices have been sound, directly supporting their positions that they should remain in charge of the company. If they made good product decisions quarters ago, and those choices are leading to accelerating revenue growth, why swap out the CEO?

Box had more quarterly good news apart from its revenue numbers to disclose. It also reported improved GAAP and non-GAAP operating margins — a key measure of profitability — better billings results than it had previously anticipated for the period. Box’s net retention rate also expanded to 106% from 103% in the sequentially-preceding period.

And the company boosted its guidance for its fiscal year from “$845 million to $853 million” to “$856 million to $860 million.”

The counter arguments are somewhat easy to generate, however. Yes, Box’s revenue growth is accelerating, but from an admittedly reduced base; it’s not as hard to accelerate revenue expansion from low numbers as it is from higher base levels. And the company’s net retention is lower than what any business-focused SaaS company would want to report.

Will the good news be enough? Shares of Box are up around 1.5% in today’s regular trading, despite a somewhat mixed overall market. Investors now have to vote with more than just their dollars.

Boardroom context

Starboard bought approximately 7.5% of the company in 2019, and actually stayed fairly quiet for the first year, but at the end of 2020 it started making itself heard with rumors of pressure to sell the company. In what appeared to be a defensive move, Box took a $500 million investment from private equity firm KKR and gave the investor a board seat in April.

The activist investor did not take kindly to that move, writing in a letter to investors in early May, “The only viable explanation for this financing is a shameless and utterly transparent attempt to “buy the vote” and shows complete disregard for proper corporate governance and fiscal discipline.” In that same letter, Starboard made it official that it wanted to take over several board seats outlining a litany of complaints it had about the way the company was being run. It also made clear that it wanted co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie gone or the company sold.

 

Box pushed back that the letter and another on May 10th did not accurately reflect the progress that the company had made. In July, Box took the battle public in an SEC filing detailing the back and forth dance that had been going between Box and Starboard since it bought its stake in the company

So far, the cloud content management company has staved off all attempts to force its hand and sell the company or fire Levie, but this is all going to culminate with the shareholder’s vote. It’s truly a battle for the soul of the company.

If Starboard convinces shareholders to give it several seats on the Box board, it would probably be able to push out Levie, take control of the company and likely sell it to the highest bidder. The early financial report released today, while not exactly stellar, shows a pattern of increasingly good quarters, and that’s what Box is hoping voters will focus on when they fill out their ballots.

Posted Under: Tech News
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