Category Archives: Tech News

Forescout to be acquired by a pair of private equity firms for $1.9B

Posted by on 6 February, 2020

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Forescout, the network security company that has been publicly traded since 2017, announced today it was going private again. Private equity firms Advent International and Crosspoint Capital are acquiring the company in an all-cash purchase of $1.9 billion.

The two private equity firms will pay $33 per share, which represented a premium of 30% over the company’s closing price of $25.45 on October 19, 2019. The stock hit $39.87 on October 4th before starting a precipitous drop later that month, dropping to $24.57 on October 10th.

 

Not coincidentally, that was the day the company reported its earnings and had a bad revenue miss. Projections had revenue in the $98.8 million – $101.8 million range. Actual reported revenue was far less at $91.6 million, according to data from the company.

In the earnings call that followed on November 7th, Forescout president and CEO Michael DeCesare tried to blame the bad results on extended sales, but it didn’t really help as private equity firms swooped in to make the deal. “We experienced extended sales cycles across several of our customers that pushed out deals and which did not become apparent until we entered the final days of the quarter. We do not believe that any of these deals have been lost to competitors,” he told analysts.

In a statement today, DeCesare tried to put a positive spin on the acquisition. “This transaction represents an exciting new phase in the evolution of Forescout. We are excited to be partnering with Advent International and Crosspoint Capital, premier firms with security DNA and track records of success in strengthening companies and supporting them through transitionary times.”

Forescout is not a young company, having launched way back in 2000. It raised almost $290 million, according to PitchBook data. It went public on October 26, 2017.

The deal is not finalized as of yet. The company has a go-shop provision in place until March 8th in which it can try to find a better deal, but that seems unlikely. Should they fail to find a better suitor, the deal is expected to close in the second quarter, at which point the company will cease to be publicly traded.

Netskope hauls in another $340M investment on nearly $3B valuation

Posted by on 6 February, 2020

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Netskope has always focused its particular flavor of security on the cloud, and as more workloads have moved there, it has certainly worked in its favor. Today the company announced a $340 million investment on a valuation of nearly $3 billion.

Sequoia Capital Global Equities led the round, but in a round this large, there were a bunch of others participating firms including new investors Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and PSP Investments, along with existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Accel, Base Partners, ICONIQ Capital, Sapphire Ventures, Geodesic Capital and Social Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $740 million, according to Crunchbase data.

As with so many large rounds recently, CEO Sanjay Beri said the company wasn’t necessarily looking for more capital, but when brand name investors came knocking, they decided to act. “We did not necessarily need this level of capital but having a large balance sheet and a legendary set of investors like Sequoia, Lightspeed and Accel putting all their chips behind Netskope for the long term to dominate the largest market in security is a very strong signal to the industry,” Beri said.

From the start, Netskope has taken aim at cloud and mobile security, eschewing the traditional perimeter security that was still popular when the company launched in 2012. “Legacy products based on traditional notions of perimeter security have gone obsolete and inhibit the needs of digital businesses. Today’s urgent requirement is security that is fast, delivered from the cloud, and provides real-time protection against network and data threats when cloud services, websites, and private apps are being accessed from anywhere, anytime, on any device,” he explained.

When Netskope announced its $168.7 million round at the end of 2018, the company had a valuation over $1 billion at that time. Today, it announced it has almost tripled that number with a valuation close to $3 billion. That’s a big leap in just two years, but it reports 80% year-over-year growth, and claims to be “the fastest-growing company at scale in the fastest-growing areas of cybersecurity: secure access server edge (SASE) and cloud security,” according to Beri.

The next natural step for a company at this stage of maturity would be to look to become a public company, but Beri wasn’t ready to commit to one just yet. “An IPO is definitely a possible milestone in the journey, but it’s certainly not limited to that and we’re not in a rush and have no capital needs, so we’re not commenting on timing.”

Datree announces $8M Series A as it joins Y Combinator

Posted by on 6 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Datree, the early stage startup building a DevOps policy engine on GitHub, announced an $8 million Series A today. It also announced it has joined the Y Combinator Winter 20 cohort.

Blumberg and TLV Partners led the round with participation from Y Combinator . The company has now raised $11 million with the $3 million seed round announced in 2018.

Since that seed round, company co-founder and CEO Shimon Tolts says that the company learned that while scanning code for issues was something DevOps teams found useful, they wanted help defining the rules. So Datree has created a series of rules packages you can run against the code to find any gaps or issues.

“We offer development best practices, coding standards and security and compliance policies. What happens today is that, as you connect to Datree, we connect to your source code and scan the entire code base, and we recommend development best practices based on your technology stack,” Tolts explained.

He says that they build these rules packages based on the company’s own expertise, as well as getting help from the community, and in some cases partnering with experts. For instance, for its Docker security package, it teamed up with Aqua Security.

The focus remains on applying these rules in GitHub where developers are working. Before committing the code, they can run the appropriate rules packages against it to ensure they are in compliance with best practices.

Datree rules packages. Screenshot: Datree

Tolts says they began looking at Y Combinator after the seed round because they wanted more guidance on building out the business. “We knew that Y Combinator could really help us because our product is relevant to 95% of all YC companies, and the program has helped us go and work on six figure deals with more mature YC companies,” he said.

Datree is working directly with Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel, and he says being part of the Winter 20 cohort has helped him refine his go-to-market motion. He admits he is not a typical YC company having been around since 2017 with an existing product and 12 employees, but he thinks it will help propel the company in the long run.

Google Cloud makes strides but still has a long way to go

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

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In earnings reported this week, Alphabet announced that Google Cloud generated a robust $2.61 billion for the quarter, a number that includes revenue from both Google Cloud Platform and G Suite.

That puts the division on a nice little run rate of $10.44 billion. It feels like a lot until you consider that Microsoft had a combined software and infrastructure cloud revenue run rate of $12.5 billion in its most recent report, while AWS reported almost $10 billion for the quarter. While Google is not even close to these rivals, it’s picking up some much-needed steam.

As Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, points out, crossing the $10 billion run rate mark is a rite of passage. “Ten billion dollars is the new mark for IaaS players, effectively the unicorn rating for them. And revenue/size matter, as the cloud business is an economies of scale business,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

More enterprise, please

When Thomas Kurian came on board last year after more than two decades at Oracle to replace Diane Greene as head of Google Cloud, prevailing wisdom suggested that he was hired to help shift the division’s focus firmly to the enterprise. The move appears to be working.

Where top VCs are investing in open source and dev tools (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

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In part two of a survey that asks top VCs about exciting opportunities in open source and dev tools, we dig into responses from 10 leading open-source-focused investors at firms that span early to growth stage across software-specific firms, corporate venture arms and prominent generalist firms.

In the conclusion to our survey, we’ll hear from:

These responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Where top VCs are investing in open source and dev tools (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

The once-polarizing world of open-source software has recently become one of the hotter destinations for VCs.

As the popularity of open source increases among organizations and developers, startups in the space have reached new heights and monstrous valuations.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen surging open-source companies like Databricks reach unicorn status, as well as VCs who cashed out behind a serious number of exits involving open-source and dev tool companies, deals like IBM’s Red Hat acquisition or Elastic’s late-2018 IPO. Last year, the exit spree continued with transactions like F5 Networks’ acquisition of NGINX and a number of high-profile acquisitions from mainstays like Microsoft and GitHub.

Similarly, venture investment in new startups in the space has continued to swell. More investors are taking shots at finding the next big payout, with annual invested capital in open-source and dev tool startups increasing at a roughly 10% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over the last five years, according to data from Crunchbase. Furthermore, attractive returns in the space seem to be adding more fuel to the fire, as open-source and dev tool startups saw more than $2 billion invested in the space in 2019 alone, per Crunchbase data.

As we close out another strong year for innovation and venture investing in the sector, we asked 18 of the top open-source-focused VCs who work at firms spanning early to growth stages to share what’s exciting them most and where they see opportunities. For purposes of length and clarity, responses have been edited and split (in no particular order) into part one and part two of this survey. In part one of our survey, we hear from:

Calling all cosmic startups – pitch at TechCrunch’s space event in LA

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Founders – it’s time to shoot for the stars. For the first time ever, TechCrunch is hosting a brand new event TC Sessions: Space on June 25th in Los Angeles. But that’s not all, because on June 24th TechCrunch will host a Pitch Night exclusively for early stage space startups.

Yep, that’s right. On top of a packed programming day with fireside chats, breakout sessions and Q&As featuring the top experts and game changers in space, TechCrunch will select 10 startups focused on any aspect of space – whether you’re launching rockets, building the next big satellite constellation, translating space-based data into usable insights or even building a colony on the Moon. If your company is all about the new space startup race, and you are early stage, please apply. 

Step 1: Apply to pitch by May 15th. TechCrunch’s editorial team will review all applications and select 10 companies. Founders will be notified by June 7th.  

You’ll pitch your startup at a private event in front of TechCrunch editors, main-stage speakers and industry experts. Our panel of judges will select five finalists to pitch on stage at TC Sessions: Space. 

You will be pitching your startup to the most prestigious, influential and expert industry leaders, and you’ll get video coverage on TechCrunch, too! And the final perk? Each of the 10 startup teams selected for the Pitch Night will be given two free tickets to attend TC Sessions: Space 2020. Shoot your shot – apply here.

Even if you’re not necessarily interested in pitching, grab your ticket for a front-row seat to this event for the early-bird price of $349. If you are interested in bringing a group of five or more from your company, you’ll get an automatic 20% discount. We even have discounts for the government/military, nonprofit/NGOs and students currently attending university. Grab your tickets at these reduced rates before prices increase.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Space 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Aiven raises $40M to democratize access to open source projects through managed cloud services

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

The growing ubiquity of open source software has been a big theme in the evolution of enterprise IT. But behind that facade of popularity lies another kind of truth: companies may be interested in using more open-source technology, but since there is a learning curve with taking on an source project, not all of them have the time, money and expertise to adopt it. Today, a startup out of Finland that has built a platform specifically to target that group of users is announcing a big round of funding, underscoring not just demand for its products but its growth to date.

Aiven — which provides managed, cloud based services designed to make it easier for businesses to build services on top of open source projects — is today announcing that it has raised $40 million in funding, a Series B being led by IVP (itself a major player in enterprise software, backing an illustrious list that includes Slack, Dropbox, Datadog, GitHub and HashiCorp).

Previous investors Earlybird VC, Lifeline Ventures and the family offices of Risto Siilasmaa, chairman of Nokia, and Olivier Pomel, founder of Datadog, also participated. The deal brings the total raised by Aiven to $50 million.

Oskari Saarenmaa, the CEO of Aiven who co-founded the company with Hannu Valtonen, Heikki Nousiainen and Mika Eloranta, said in an interview that the company is not disclosing its valuation at this time, but it comes in the wake of some big growth for the company.

It now has 500 companies as customers, including Atlassian, Comcast, OVO Energy and Toyota, and over the previous two years it doubled headcount and tripled its revenues.

“We are on track to do better than that this year,” Saarenmaa added.

It’s a surprising list, given the size of some of those companies. Indeed, Saarenmaa even said that originally he and the co-founders — who got the idea for the startup by first building such implementations for previous employers, which included Nokia and F-Secure — envisioned much smaller organisations using Aiven.

But in truth, the actual uptake speaks not just to the learning curve of open source projects, but to the fact that even if you do have the talent to work with these, it makes more sense to apply that talent elsewhere and use implementations that have been tried and tested.

The company today provides services on top of eight different open source projects — Apache Kafka, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Elasticsearch, Cassandra, Redis, InfluxDB and Grafana — which cover a variety of basic functions, from data streams to search and the handling of a variety of functions that involve ordering and manage vast quantities of data. It works across big public clouds including Google, Azure, AWS, Digital Ocean and more.

The company is running two other open source technologies in beta — M3 and Flink — which will also soon be added on general release, and the plan will be to add a few more over time, but only a few.

“We may want to have something to help with analytics and data visualisation,” Saarenmaa said, “but we’re not looking to become a collection of different open source databases. We want to provide the most interesting and best to our customers. The idea is that we are future-proofing. If there is an interesting technology that comes up and starts to be adopted, our users can trust it will be available on Aiven.”

He says that today the company does not — and has no plans to — position itself as a system integrator or consultancy around open source technologies. The work that it does do with customers, he said, is free and tends to be part of its pre- and after-sales care.

One primary use of the funding will be to expand its on-the-ground offices in different geographies — Aiven has offices in Helsinki, Berlin and Sydney today — with a specific focus on the US, in order to be closer to customers to continue to do precisely that.

But sometimes the mountain comes to Mohamed, so to speak. Saarenmaa said that he was first introduced to IVP at Slush, an annual tech conference in Helsinki held in November, and the deal came about quickly after that introduction.

“The increasing adoption of open-source infrastructure software and public cloud usage are among the incredibly powerful trends in enterprise technology and Aiven is making it possible for customers of all sizes to benefit from the advantages of open source infrastructure,“ Eric Liaw, a general partner at IVP, said in a statement.

“In addition to their market potential and explosive yet capital-efficient growth, we were most impressed to hear from customer after customer that ‘Aiven just works.’ The overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers is a testament to their hiring practices and the strong engineering team they have built. We’re thrilled to partner with Aiven’s team and help them build their vision of a single open-source data cloud that serves the needs of customers of all sizes.”

Liaw is joining the board with this round.

Clear gets $13M Series A to build high-volume transaction system on the blockchain

Posted by on 5 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Clear is an early stage startup with a big ambition. It wants to build a blockchain for high-volume transaction systems like payments between telcos. Today it announced a $13 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Eight Roads with participation from Telefónica Innovation Ventures, Telekom Innovation Pool of Deutsche Telekom, HKT and Singtel Innov8.

That the strategic investors were telcos is not a coincidence. The early use case for Clear’s blockchain transaction network involves moving payments between worldwide telcos, a system that today is highly manual and prone to errors.

Clear co-founder and CEO Gal Hochberg says what his company does is to take commercial contracts and turn them into digital representations, often known in digital ledger terms as a smart contract.

“What that lets us do is create a trusted view of the true status of the relationship within the company’s business partners because they’re now looking at the same pricing and usage. They can find any issues in real time, either in commercial information or in service delivery, and they can even actually resolve those inside our platform,” Hochberg explained.

By putting these high-volume, cross-border transactions onto the blockchain with these smart contracts to act as automated enforcer of the terms, it means that instead of waiting until the end of the month to find errors and begin a resolution process, this can be done in real time, reducing time to payment and speeding up conflict resolution.

“We use blockchain technology to create those interactions in ways that it is auditable, cryptographically secure and ensures that both sides are synced and seeing the same information,” Hochberg said.

For starters, the company is working with worldwide telco companies because the number of transactions, and the way they cross borders make this a good test case, but Hochberg says this only the starting point. They are not in full-blown production yet, but he says they have proven they can process hundreds of millions of billable events.

The money should help the company get into full carrier grade production some time in the first half of this year, and then begin to expand into other verticals beyond telcos with the help of today’s investment.

Layoffs hit another Softbank co as $3.2B Flexport cuts 50

Posted by on 4 February, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Fearing weak fundraising options in the wake of the WeWork implosion, late stage startups are tightening their belts. The latest is another Softbank-funded company, joining Zume Pizza (80% of staff laid off), Wag (80%+),  Fair (40%), Getaround (25%), Rappi (6%), and Oyo (5%) that have all cut staff to slow their burn rate and reduce their funding needs. Freight forwarding startup Flexport that is laying off 3% of its global staff.

“We’re restructuring some parts of our organization to move faster and with greater clarity and purpose. With that came the difficult decision to part ways with around 50 employees” a Flexport spokesperson tells TechCrunch after we asked today if it had seen layoffs like its peers.

Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen

Flexport had raised a $1 billion Series D led by SoftBank at a $3.2 billion valuation a year ago, bringing it to $1.3 billion in funding. The company helps move shipping containers full of goods between manufacturers and retailers using digital tools unlike its old-school competitors.

“We underinvested in areas that help us serve clients efficiently, and we over-invested in scaling our existing process, when we actually needed to be agile and adaptable to best serve our clients, especially in a year of unprecedented volatility in global trade” the spokesperson explained.

Flexport still had a record year, working with 10,000 clients to finance and transport goods. The shipping industry is so huge that it’s still only the seventh largest freight forwarder on its top Trans-Pacific Eastbound leg. The massive headroom for growth plus its use of software to coordinate supply chains and optimize routing is what attracted SoftBank.

Flexport Dashboard

The Flexboard Platform dashboard offers maps, notifications, task lists, and chat for Flexport clients and their factory suppliers.

But many late-stage startups are worried about where they’ll get their next round after taking huge sums of cash from SoftBank at tall valuations. As of November, SoftBank had only managed to raise about $2 billion for its Vision Fund 2 despite plans for a total of $108 billion, Bloomberg reported. LPs were partially spooked by SoftBank’s reckless investment in WeWork. Further layoffs at its portfolio companies could further stoke concerns about entrusting it with more cash.

Unless growth stage startups can cobble together enough institutional investors to build big rounds, or other huge capital sources like sovereign wealth funds materialize for them, they might not be able to raise enough to keep rapidly burning. Those that can’t reach profitability or find an exit may face down-rounds that can come with onerous terms, trigger talent exodus death spirals, or just not provide enough money.

Flexport has managed to escape with just 3% layoffs for now. Being proactive about cuts to reach sustainability may be smarter than gambling that one’s business or the funding climate with suddenly improve. But while other SoftBank startups had to spend tons to edge out direct competitors or make up for weak on-demand service margins, Flexport at least has a tried and true business where incumbents have been asleep at the wheel.

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