2020’s top 10 enterprise M&A deals totaled a staggering $165B

Posted by on 17 December, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

While 2020 won’t be remembered fondly by many of us for much of anything, it was a blockbuster year for enterprise M&A with the top 10 deals totaling an astounding $165.2 billion.

This is the third straight year I’ve done this compilation. Last year the number was $40 billion. The year prior it was $87 billion. Those numbers pale in comparison to 2020’s result.

Last year’s biggest deal — Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion — would have only been good for fifth place on this year’s list. And last year’s fourth largest deal, where VMware bought Pivotal for $2.7 billion, wouldn’t have even made this year’s list at all.

The 2020 number was lifted by four chip company deals totaling $106 billion alone. Consider that the largest of these deals at $40 billion matched last year’s entire list. But let’s not forget the software company acquisitions, which accounted for the remainder, three of which were via private equity deals.

It’s worth noting that the $165.2 billion figure doesn’t include the Oracle-TikTok debacle, which remains for now in regulatory limbo and may never emerge from it. Nor does it include two purely fintech deals — Morgan Stanley acquiring E-Trade for $13 billion or Intuit snagging Credit Karma for $7.1 billion — but we did include the $5.3 billion Visa-Plaid deal because as it involved an enterprise-y API company we felt like it fit our criteria.

Keep in mind as you go through this year’s list that it appears to be an outlier year in terms of total deal flow. Most years have maybe one or two megadeals, which I would define as over $10 billion. There were six this year. And there were a host of unlisted deals worth between $1 billion and $3.2 billion, several of which would have made it to the list in quieter years.

Without further adieu, here is this year’s Top 10 deals in M&A organized from smallest to largest:

10. Vista snags Pluralsight for $3.5B

This deal happened just this week as we were writing the story, vaulting into 10th place past the $3.2 billion Twilio-Segment deal. Vista has been active as always and it has added Pluralsight, an online education platform for IT pros with plans to take it private again. At a time when more people are online, this deal seems like a wise move.

9. KKR acquires Epicor for $4.7B

This was one of those under-the-radar private equity deals, but one with a bushel of money changing hands. Epicor, hardly a household name, is a mature ERP company dating back to the early 1970s. The company has been on a rocky financial road for much of the 21st century. This could be one of those deals where KKR sees a way to squeeze life from maintenance contracts. Otherwise this one is hard to figure.

8. Insight Partners nabs Veeam for $5B

In yet another private equity deal, Insight acquired Veeam, a cloud data backup and recovery startup based in Switzerland for $5 billion. This one was one of the earliest deals of 2020 and set the tone for the year. The firm had previously invested $500 million into Veeam and apparently liked what it saw and bought the company. Unlike the Epicor deal, Insight probably plans to invest in the company with an end goal of going public or flipping it for a profit at some point.

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Perigee snares $1.5M seed to secure HVAC and other infrastructure

Posted by on 17 December, 2020

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It’s been an eventful fall for Perigee CEO and founder Mollie Breen. The former NSA employee participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in September, and she just closed her first seed round on Thanksgiving, giving her a $1.5 million runway to begin building the company.

Outsiders Fund led the round, with participation from Westport, Contour Venture Partners, BBG Ventures, Innospark Ventures and a couple of individual investors.

Perigee wants to secure areas of the company like HVAC systems or elevators that may interact with the company’s network, but which often fall outside the typical network security monitoring purview. Breen says the company’s value proposition is about bridging the gap between network security and operations security. She said this has been a security blind spot for companies, often caught between these two teams. Perigee provides a set of analytics that gives the security team visibility into this vulnerable area.

As Breen explained when we spoke in September around her Battlefield turn, the solution learns normal behavior from the operations systems as it interacts with the network, collecting data like which systems and individuals normally access it. It can then determine when something seems off and cut off an anomalous act, which may be indicative of hacker activity, before it reaches the network.

She says that as a female founder getting funding, she is acutely aware how rare that is, and part of the reason she wanted to publicize this funding round was to show other women who are thinking about starting a company that it’s possible, even if it remains difficult.

She plans to grow the company to about six people in the next 12 months, and Breen says that she thinks deeply about how to build a diverse organization. She says that starts with her investors, and includes considering diversity in terms of gender, race and age. She believes that it’s crucial to start with the earliest employees, and she actively recruits diverse candidates.

“I write a lot of cold emails, particularly around hiring and that’s partly because with job listings it’s all inbound and you can’t necessarily guarantee that that is going to be diverse. And so by writing cold emails and really following up with those people and having those conversations, I have found a way of actually making sure that I’m talking to people from different perspectives,” she said.

As she looks ahead to 2021, she’s thinking about the best approach to office versus remote and she says it will probably be mostly remote with some in-person. “I’m really balancing at this point in time, how do we really make the connections, and make them strong and genuine with a lot of trust and do that with balancing some elements of remote, knowing that is where the industry is going and if you’re going to be a company and in a post-2020 world, you probably need to adopt to some element of remote working,” she said.

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Amazon asks judge to set aside Microsoft’s $10B DoD JEDI cloud contract win

Posted by on 16 December, 2020

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It’s been more than two years since the Pentagon announced its $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract, which was supposed to provide a pathway to technological modernization for U.S. armed forces. While Microsoft was awarded the contract in October 2019, Amazon went to court to protest that decision, and it has been in legal limbo ever since.

Yesterday marked another twist in this government procurement saga when Amazon released its latest legal volley, asking a judge to set aside the decision to select Microsoft. Its arguments are similar to ones it has made before, but this time takes aim at the Pentagon’s reevaluation process, which after reviewing the contract and selection process, still found in a decision released this past September that Microsoft had won.

Amazon believes that reevaluation was highly flawed, and subject to undue influence, bias and pressure from the president. Based on this, Amazon has asked the court to set aside the award to Microsoft:

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The JEDI reevaluations and re-award decision have fallen victim to an Administration that suppresses the good-faith analysis and reasoning of career officials for political reasons — ultimately to the detriment of national security and the efficient and lawful use of taxpayer dollars. DoD has demonstrated again that it has not executed this procurement objectively and in good faith. This re-award should be set aside.

As you might imagine, Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president for communications at Microsoft, does not agree, believing his company won on merit and by providing the best price.

“As the losing bidder, Amazon was informed of our pricing and they realized they’d originally bid too high. They then amended aspects of their bid to achieve a lower price. However, when looking at all the criteria together, the career procurement officials at the DoD decided that given the superior technical advantages and overall value, we continued to offer the best solution,” Shaw said in a statement shared with TechCrunch.

As for Amazon, a spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We are simply seeking a fair and objective review by the court, regarding the technical errors, bias and political interference that blatantly impacted this contract award.”

And so it goes.

The Pentagon announced it was putting out a bid for a $10 billion, decade-long contract in 2018, dubbing it JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. The procurement process has been mired in controversy from the start, and the size and scope of the deal has attracted widespread attention, much more than your typical government contract. It brought with it claims of bias, particularly by Oracle, that the bidding process was designed to favor Amazon.

We are more than two years beyond the original announcement. We are more than a year beyond the original award to Microsoft, and it still remains stuck in a court battle with two major tech companies continuing to snipe at one another. With neither likely to give in, it will be up to the court to decide the final outcome, and perhaps end this saga once and for all.

Note: The DoD did not respond to our request for comment. Should that change, we will update the story.

Posted Under: Tech News
Hightouch raises $2.1M to help businesses get more value from their data warehouses

Posted by on 16 December, 2020

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Hightouch, a SaaS service that helps businesses sync their customer data across sales and marketing tools, is coming out of stealth and announcing a $2.1 million seed round. The round was led by Afore Capital and Slack Fund, with a number of angel investors also participating.

At its core, Hightouch, which participated in Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 batch, aims to solve the customer data integration problems that many businesses today face.

During their time at Segment, Hightouch co-founders Tejas Manohar and Josh Curl witnessed the rise of data warehouses like Snowflake, Google’s BigQuery and Amazon Redshift — that’s where a lot of Segment data ends up, after all. As businesses adopt data warehouses, they now have a central repository for all of their customer data. Typically, though, this information is then only used for analytics purposes. Together with former Bessemer Ventures investor Kashish Gupta, the team decided to see how they could innovate on top of this trend and help businesses activate all of this information.

HighTouch co-founders Kashish Gupta, Josh Curl and Tejas Manohar.

“What we found is that, with all the customer data inside of the data warehouse, it doesn’t make sense for it to just be used for analytics purposes — it also makes sense for these operational purposes like serving different business teams with the data they need to run things like marketing campaigns — or in product personalization,” Manohar told me. “That’s the angle that we’ve taken with Hightouch. It stems from us seeing the explosive growth of the data warehouse space, both in terms of technology advancements as well as like accessibility and adoption. […] Our goal is to be seen as the company that makes the warehouse not just for analytics but for these operational use cases.”

It helps that all of the big data warehousing platforms have standardized on SQL as their query language — and because the warehousing services have already solved the problem of ingesting all of this data, Hightouch doesn’t have to worry about this part of the tech stack either. And as Curl added, Snowflake and its competitors never quite went beyond serving the analytics use case either.

Image Credits: Hightouch

As for the product itself, Hightouch lets users create SQL queries and then send that data to different destinations — maybe a CRM system like Salesforce or a marketing platform like Marketo — after transforming it to the format that the destination platform expects.

Expert users can write their own SQL queries for this, but the team also built a graphical interface to help non-developers create their own queries. The core audience, though, is data teams — and they, too, will likely see value in the graphical user interface because it will speed up their workflows as well. “We want to empower the business user to access whatever models and aggregation the data user has done in the warehouse,” Gupta explained.

The company is agnostic to how and where its users want to operationalize their data, but the most common use cases right now focus on B2C companies, where marketing teams often use the data, as well as sales teams at B2B companies.

Image Credits: Hightouch

“It feels like there’s an emerging category here of tooling that’s being built on top of a data warehouse natively, rather than being a standard SaaS tool where it is its own data store and then you manage a secondary data store,” Curl said. “We have a class of things here that connect to a data warehouse and make use of that data for operational purposes. There’s no industry term for that yet, but we really believe that that’s the future of where data engineering is going. It’s about building off this centralized platform like Snowflake, BigQuery and things like that.”

“Warehouse-native,” Manohar suggested as a potential name here. We’ll see if it sticks.

Hightouch originally raised its round after its participation in the Y Combinator demo day but decided not to disclose it until it felt like it had found the right product/market fit. Current customers include the likes of Retool, Proof, Stream and Abacus, in addition to a number of significantly larger companies the team isn’t able to name publicly.

Posted Under: Tech News
BigID keeps rolling with $70M Series D on $1B valuation

Posted by on 16 December, 2020

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BigID has been on the investment fast track, raising $94 million over three rounds that started in January 2018. Today, that investment train kept rolling as the company announced a $70 million Series D on a valuation of $1 billion.

Salesforce Ventures and Tiger Global co-led the round with participation Glynn Capital and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners and Boldstart Ventures. The company has raised almost $165 million in just over two years.

BigID is attracting this kind of investment by building a security and privacy platform. When I first spoke to CEO and co-founder Dimitri Sirota in 2018, he was developing a data discovery product aimed at helping companies coping with GDPR find the most sensitive data, but since then the startup has greatly expanded the vision and the mission.

“We started shifting I think when we spoke back in September from being this kind of best of breed data discovery privacy to being a platform anchored in data intelligence through our kind of unique approach to discovery and insight,” he said.

That includes the ability for BigID and third parties to build applications on top of the platform they have built, something that might have attracted investor Salesforce Ventures. Salesforce was the first cloud company to offer the ability for third parties to build applications on its platform and sell them in a marketplace. Sirota says that so far their marketplace includes just apps built by BigID, but the plan is to expand it to third-party developers in 2021.

While he wasn’t ready to talk about specific revenue growth, he said he expects a material uplift in revenue for this year, and he believes that his investors are looking at the vast market potential here.

He has 235 employees today with plans to boost it to 300 next year. While he stopped hiring for a time in Q2 this year as the pandemic took hold, he says that he never had to resort to layoffs. As he continues hiring in 2021, he is looking at diversity at all levels from the makeup of his board to the executive level to the general staff.

He says that the ability to use the early investments to expand internationally has given them the opportunity to build a more diverse workforce. “We have staff around the world and we did very early […] so we do have diversity within our broader company. But clearly not enough when it came to the board of directors and the executives. So we realized that, and we are trying to change that,” he said.

As for this round, Sirota says like his previous rounds in this cycle he wasn’t necessarily looking for additional money, but with the pandemic economy still precarious, he took it to keep building out the BigID platform. “We actually have not purposely gone out to raise money since our seed. Every round we’ve done has been preemptive. So it’s been fairly easy,” he told me. In fact, he reports that he now has five years of runway and a much more fully developed platform. He is aiming to accelerate sales and marketing in 2021.

The company’s previous rounds included a $14 million Series A in January 2018, a $30 million B in June that year and a $50 million C in September 2019.

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Zoomin raises $21M for a platform to make fragmented product content troves easier to use

Posted by on 16 December, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Technical manuals and other product content may not be the first things that come to mind when you are thinking of software. But if you’ve ever found yourself in a pickle or just need some help getting something to work correctly, you know how vital they can be, and also how frustrating it can be if you cannot find what you are looking for.

Today, a startup called Zoomin, which has built a platform that uses AI to help companies get their technical documentation in order, and natural language to help better understand what answers people are looking for, so that those content troves can be used better and across more environments, is announcing that it has raised $21 million, and picked up a strategic investor, as it comes out of stealth.

“We are focused on product content assets — manuals, guides, and so on — the most boring assets at every company,” Gal Oron, the CEO and co-founder, joked. “To us, it’s all gold because this is actually the information customers are looking for.”

Bessemer Venture Partners, strategic backer Salesforce Ventures and Viola Growth are leading the funding, which actually came in two parts while Zoomin — founded in Israel but now with operations and its CEO also in New York — was still under the radar.

“We have done no PR for the last four years,” said Gal Oron, who co-founded the company with Joe Gelb and Hannan Saltzman. “It’s because we’ve been very busy developing product and signing our first customers. Now, after having dozens of very big customers and nice traction, we felt like this was the time to go.”

The startup now counts Imperva, Dell, Automation Anywhere and McAfee among its customers, with the companies using the Zoomin platform to better organise their content into something that can be used by both customer service agents helping people with issues, and by customers themselves if they opt to try the DIY option, wherever they might be seeing information: be it on a website, in a customer forum, over email or chat, or in a piece of software or an app itself.

The challenge that Zoomin is going after goes a little something like this: technical content is a boring yet necessary component for using software and hardware, especially when a user comes up against any kind of hitch.

The issue is that a lot of it has been written in fits and spurts, and often in a way that might not be easy for the average user to access or understand, with no easy and quick way of drilling into the content to find what you are specifically looking for. And a lot of it exists in disparate places and these days, the entry points for where a user might be looking for that information might also be as fragmented as the places where the content lives.

“Dell has no way of controlling where you might engage with a product,” Oron explained. It might be on Dell’s site, in its software, on a forum, on social media, and so on.

Zoomin aims to provide what Oron describes as a personalised experience for users wherever they may be searching. By that, he means that Zoomin learns what a user is working with, and what that user typically searching for, in order to connect them more quickly with the right answers. In an app, this might take the form of a widget that appears for help. On a forum, it might more likely be by way of an agent who is participating, using Zoomin’s engine to find the right answers to respond to questions.

For Zoomin, this has so far applied primarily to the world of B2B customer service: its product is used to organise and “orchestrate” knowledge for its customers to in turn provide to business/enterprise customers. But Oron notes that it could be just as applicable, and may well see traction over time, with non-business consumers, too, since at the end of the day they are all consumers, he noted.

“We like to think of ourselves as consumerizing the experience,” he said. “We want to make it as easy as buying on Amazon or browsing Netflix.”

The wider area of “knowledge base management” or knowledge orchestration is often part of a larger customer service play, an unsurprisingly the companies that have products in a similar area include the likes of Zendesk and Hubspot. Other tech companies building solutions to help organise knowledge bases include companies like ProProfs, Helpjuice and Instrktiv.

Salesforce is an interesting strategic investor in that regard: it hasn’t build something like this itself in its community and service clouds, so Zoomin is a close partner to provide that option. (The startup also integrates with a number of other platforms like Oracle’s service cloud, Zendesk, Jira, SharePoint and more.)

“Salesforce Ventures supports bold ideas put forward by enterprise cloud companies, so we are thrilled to support Zoomin on their journey to improve how product content is experienced. We believe in the innovative team at Zoomin and their vision of increasing content accessibility,” added Alex Kayyal, partner and head of Salesforce Ventures International.

Investors are especially interested in the role that a company like Zoomin might be playing these days in particular: with customer service enquiries higher than ever before as more of us are working remotely, it puts a big strain on systems to triage and answer questions. This presents an opportunity.

“The era of digital transformation has clearly reached product content,” said Amit Karp, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners in a statement. “As technical product content continues to grow exponentially, Zoomin allows enterprises to leverage this content as a strategic asset.”

Zoomin is not disclosing valuation at this stage.

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Vista’s $3.5B purchase of Pluralsight signals a maturing edtech market

Posted by on 15 December, 2020

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On Monday, Pluralsight, a Utah-based startup that sells software development courses to enterprises, announced that it has been acquired by Vista for $3.5 billion.

The deal, yet to close, is one of the largest enterprise buys of the year: Vista is getting an online training company that helps retrain techies with in-demand skills through online courses in the midst of a booming edtech market. Additionally, the sector is losing one of its few publicly traded companies just two years after it debuted on the stock market.

The Pluralsight acquisition is largely a positive signal that shows the strength of edtech’s capital options as the pandemic continues.

Investors and founders told Techcrunch that the Pluralsight acquisition is largely a positive signal that shows the strength of edtech’s capital options as the pandemic continues.

“What’s happening in edtech is that capital markets are liquidating,” said Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Advisors.

Quazzo, a seed investor in Pluralsight, said the ability to move fluidly between privately held and publicly held companies is a characteristic of tech sectors with deep capital markets, which is different from edtech’s “old days, where the options to exit were very narrow.”

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AWS introduces new Chaos Engineering as a Service offering

Posted by on 15 December, 2020

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When large companies like Netflix or Amazon want to test the resilience of their systems, they use chaos engineering tools designed to help them simulate worst-case scenarios and find potential issues before they even happen. Today at AWS re:Invent, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels introduced the company’s Chaos Engineering as a Service offering called AWS Fault Injection Simulator.

The name may lack a certain marketing panache, but Vogels said that the service is designed to help bring this capability to all companies. “We believe that chaos engineering is for everyone, not just shops running at Amazon or Netflix scale. And that’s why today I’m excited to pre-announce a new service built to simplify the process of running chaos experiments in the cloud,” Vogels said.

As he explained, the goal of chaos engineering is to understand how your application responds to issues by injecting failures into your application, usually running these experiments against production systems. AWS Fault Injection Simulator offers a fully managed service to run these experiments on applications running on AWS hardware.

Image Credits: Amazon / Getty Images

“FIS makes it easy to run safe experiments. We built it to follow the typical chaos experimental workflow where you understand your steady state, set a hypothesis and inject faults into your application. When the experiment is over, FIS will tell you if your hypothesis was confirmed, and you can use the data collected by CloudWatch to decide where you need to make improvements,” he explained.

While the company was announcing the service today, Vogels indicated it won’t actually be available until some time next year.

It’s worth noting that there are other similar services out there by companies, like Gremlin, which are already providing a broad Chaos Engineering Service as a Service offering.

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Twitter taps AWS for its latest foray into the public cloud

Posted by on 15 December, 2020

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Twitter has a lot going on, and it’s not always easy to manage that kind of scale on your own. Today, Amazon announced that Twitter has signed a multi-year agreement with AWS to run its real-time timelines. It’s a major win for Amazon’s cloud arm.

While the companies have worked together in some capacity for over a decade, this marks the first time that Twitter is tapping AWS to help run its core timelines.

“This expansion onto AWS marks the first time that Twitter is leveraging the public cloud to scale their real-time service. Twitter will rely on the breadth and depth of AWS, including capabilities in compute, containers, storage and security, to reliably deliver the real-time service with the lowest latency, while continuing to develop and deploy new features to improve how people use Twitter,” the company explained in the announcement.

Parag Agrawal, chief technology officer at Twitter, sees this as a way to expand and improve the company’s real-time offerings by taking advantage of AWS’s network of data centers to deliver content closer to the user. “The collaboration with AWS will improve performance for people who use Twitter by enabling us to serve Tweets from data centers closer to our customers at the same time as we leverage the Arm-based architecture of AWS Graviton2 instances. In addition to helping us scale our infrastructure, this work with AWS enables us to ship features faster as we apply AWS’s diverse and growing portfolio of services,” Agrawal said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that Twitter also has a relationship with Google Cloud. In 2018, it announced it was moving its Hadoop clusters to GCP.

This announcement could be considered a case of the rich getting richer as AWS is the leader in the cloud infrastructure market by far, with around 33% market share. Microsoft is in second with around 18% and Google is in third with 9%, according to Synergy Research. In its most recent earnings report, Amazon reported $11.6 billion in AWS revenue, putting it on a run rate of over $46 billion.

Posted Under: Tech News
Parsec raises $25M from a16z to power remote work and cloud gaming

Posted by on 15 December, 2020

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Parsec, a startup that’s built streaming technology for both work and play, is announcing that it has raised $25 million in Series B funding.

This brings Parsec’s total funding to $33 million, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with the firm’s general partner Martin Casado joining the board. Previous investors Lerer Hippeau, Makers Fund, NextView Ventures and Notation Capital also participated.

CEO Benjy Boxer told me that since he and CTO Chris Dickson founded the company in 2016, the vision has always been “to make it easier for people to connect to their technology, software and content from anywhere, on any device.”

They started out by helping gamers access their gaming PCs from other devices (the Parsec app is currently available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Raspberry Pi and the web).

“From the beginning, we thought that if we could build something that is great for gaming, it will be great for everything,” Boxer said.

But it was a natural transition to other use cases, since some of the people using Parsec to play games in their free time also turned out to work at TV production companies, video game companies or in other jobs where they need access to high-end workstations. That’s why the company launched Parsec for Teams this year, which offers the same low-latency remote experience, while also adding features like encryption, group permissions and collaboration on the same file.

Image Credits: Parsec

“The performance of Parsec is just way above everything else,” Boxer said. “People forget they’re using Parsec.”

Parsec works with major gaming clients like EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment and Square Enix, and it’s also being used in industries like architecture, engineering and video broadcast/production/post-production.

And as you might imagine, the need for something like this has only increased during the pandemic. Boxer said customers have found that the platform is saving their employees more than an hour a day by eliminating the commute and giving them high-speed access to their workstations — rather than, say, having to wait an hour for a 100 gigabyte file to download.

And most of those clients anticipate that after the pandemic, their employees will continue for work from home for part of the time.

“So in that scenario, people are bringing their computers back to the office, and they can use Parsec to make sure it’s always accessible to them,” Boxer said.

On the consumer side, he said that where usage was previously heaviest during the weekends, during the pandemic “there’s no spike anymore on the weekends, people are playing all the time.”

Boxer added that the company will continue developing the core platform, leading to improvements for both gaming and enterprise users, while there’s a separate team focused on building administrative and collaborative features.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
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