Looking ahead after 2020’s epic M&A spree

Posted by on 23 December, 2020

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When we examine any year in enterprise M&A, it’s tempting to highlight the biggest, gaudiest deals — and there were plenty of those in 2020. I’ve written about 34 acquisitions so far this year. Of those, 15 were worth $1 billion or more, 12 were small enough to not require that the companies disclose the price and the remainder fell somewhere in between.

Four deals involving chip companies coming together totaled over $100 billion on their own. While nobody does eye-popping M&A quite like the chip industry, other sectors also offered their own eyebrow-raising deals, led by Salesforce buying Slack earlier this month for $27.7 billion.

We are likely to see more industries consolidate the way chips did in 2020, albeit probably not quite as dramatically or expensively.

Yet in spite of the drama of these larger numbers, the most interesting targets to me were the pandemic-driven smaller deals that started popping up in May. Those small acquisitions are the ones that are so insignificant that the company doesn’t have to share the purchase price publicly. They usually involve early-stage companies being absorbed by cash-rich concerns looking for some combination of missing technology or engineering talent in a particular area like security or artificial intelligence.

It was certainly an active year in M&A, and we still might not have seen the last of it. Let’s have a look at why those minor deals were so interesting and how they compared with larger ones, while looking ahead to what 2021 M&A might look like.

Early-stage blues

It’s always hard to know exactly why an early-stage startup would give up its independence by selling to a larger entity, but we can certainly speculate on some of the reasons why this year’s rapid-fire dealing started in May. While we can never know for certain why these companies decided to exit via acquisition, we know that in April, the pandemic hit full force in the United States and the economy began to shut down.

Some startups were particularly vulnerable, especially companies low on cash in the April timeframe. Obviously companies fail when they run out of funding, and we started seeing early-stage startups being scooped up the following month.

We don’t know for sure of course if there is a direct correlation between April’s economic woes and the flurry of deals that started in May, but we can reasonably speculate that there was. For some percentage of them, I’m guessing it was a fire sale or at least a deal made under less than ideal terms. For others, maybe they simply didn’t have the wherewithal to keep going under such adverse economic conditions or the partnerships were just too good to pass up.

It’s worth noting that I didn’t cover any deals in April. But, beginning on May 7, Zoom bought Keybase for its encryption expertise; five days later Atlassian bought Halp for Slack integration; and the day after that VMware bought cloud native security startup Octarine — and we were off and running. Granted the big companies benefited from making these acquisitions, but the timing stood out.

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With a $50B run rate in reach, can anyone stop AWS?

Posted by on 22 December, 2020

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AWS, Amazon’s flourishing cloud arm, has been growing at a rapid clip for more than a decade. An early public cloud infrastructure vendor, it has taken advantage of first-to-market status to become the most successful player in the space. In fact, one could argue that many of today’s startups wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the formation of cloud companies like AWS giving them easy access to infrastructure without having to build it themselves.

In Amazon’s most-recent earnings report, AWS generated revenues of $11.6 billion, good for a run rate of more than $46 billion. That makes the next AWS milestone a run rate of $50 billion, something that could be in reach in less than two quarters if it continues its pace of revenue growth.

The good news for competing companies is that in spite of the market size and relative maturity, there is still plenty of room to grow.

While the cloud division’s growth is slowing in percentage terms as it comes firmly up against the law of large numbers in which AWS has to grow every quarter compared to an ever-larger revenue base. The result of this dynamic is that while AWS’ year-over-year growth rate is slowing over time — from 35% in Q3 2019 to 29% in Q3 2020 — the pace at which it is adding $10 billion chunks of annual revenue run rate is accelerating.

At the AWS re:Invent customer conference this year, AWS CEO Andy Jassy talked about the pace of change over the years, saying that it took the following number of months to grow its run rate by $10 billion increments:

Image Credits: TechCrunch (data from AWS)

Extrapolating from the above trend, it should take AWS fewer than 12 months to scale from a run rate of $40 billion to $50 billion. Stating the obvious, Jassy said “the rate of growth in AWS continues to accelerate.” He also took the time to point out that AWS is now the fifth-largest enterprise IT company in the world, ahead of enterprise stalwarts like SAP and Oracle.

What’s amazing is that AWS achieved its scale so fast, not even existing until 2006. That growth rate makes us ask a question: Can anyone hope to stop AWS’ momentum?

The short answer is that it doesn’t appear likely.

Cloud market landscape

A good place to start is surveying the cloud infrastructure competitive landscape to see if there are any cloud companies that could catch the market leader. According to Synergy Research, AWS remains firmly in front, and it doesn’t look like any competitor could catch AWS anytime soon unless some market dynamic caused a drastic change.

Synergy Research Cloud marketshare leaders. Amazon is first, Microsoft is second and Google is third.

Image Credits: Synergy Research

With around a third of the market, AWS is the clear front-runner. Its closest and fiercest rival Microsoft has around 20%. To put that into perspective a bit, last quarter AWS had $11.6 billion in revenue compared to Microsoft’s $5.2 billion Azure result. While Microsoft’s equivalent cloud number is growing faster at 47%, like AWS, that number has begun to drop steadily while it gains market share and higher revenue and it falls victim to that same law of large numbers.

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IAC plans to spin off Vimeo as an independent company

Posted by on 22 December, 2020

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IAC announced today that it plans to turn Vimeo into an independent, publicly-traded company.

Last month, IAC CEO Joey Levin wrote a letter to shareholders in which he said the holding company had “begun contemplating spinning Vimeo off to our shareholders.” It sounds like the company has moved beyond the contemplation phase, with plans that will be submitted for stockholder approval in the first quarter of 2021, and the actual spin off happening in Q2.

“The combination of Vimeo’s remarkable growth, solid leadership position, and enormous market opportunity have made clear its future,” Levin said in a statement today. “It’s time for Vimeo to spread its wings and become a great independent public company.”

While Vimeo once competed with YouTube as a consumer video destination, its strategy has shifted in recent years to providing video tools for businesses. In November, the company said it had 1.5 million paying subscribers and 3,500 enterprise clients — and that its most recent quarter was with positive EBITDA, plus year-over-year revenue growth of 44%.

The announcement notes that this is the eleventh company that IAC has spun off, a process in which it distributes its ownership stake to IAC shareholders. (Match Group completed its separation from IAC over the summer.)

“Today we have a rare opportunity to help every team and organization in the world integrate video throughout their operations, across all the ways they communicate and collaborate,” said Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud in a statement. “Our all-in-one solution radically lowers the barriers of time, cost, and complexity that previously made professional-quality video unattainable. We’re ready for this next chapter and focused on making video far easier and more effective than ever before.”

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IBM snags Nordcloud to add multi-cloud consulting expertise

Posted by on 21 December, 2020

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IBM has been busy since it announced plans to spin out its legacy infrastructure management business in October, placing an all-in bet on the hybrid cloud. Today, it built on that bet by acquiring Helsinki-based multi-cloud consulting firm Nordcloud. The companies did not share the purchase price.

Nordcloud fits neatly into this strategy with 500 consultants certified in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform; giving the company a trained staff of experts to help as they move away from an IBM -centric solution to choosing to work with the customer however they wish to implement their cloud strategy.

This hybrid approach harkens back to the $34 billion Red Hat acquisition in 2018, which is really the lynchpin for this approach, as CEO Arvind Krishna told CNBC’s Jon Fortt in an interview last month. Krishna is in the midst of trying to completely transform his organization, and acquisitions like this are meant to speed up that process.

“The Red Hat acquisition gave us the technology base on which to build a hybrid cloud technology platform based on open-source, and based on giving choice to our clients as they embark on this journey. With the success of that acquisition now giving us the fuel, we can then take the next step, and the larger step, of taking the managed infrastructure services out. So the rest of the company can be absolutely focused on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence.”

John Granger, senior vice president for cloud application innovation and COO for IBM Global Business Services says that IBM’s customers are increasingly looking for help managing resources across multiple vendors, as well as on premises.

“IBM’s acquisition of Nordcloud adds the kind of deep expertise that will drive our clients’ digital transformations as well as support the further adoption of IBM’s hybrid cloud platform. Nordcloud’s cloud-native tools, methodologies and talent send a strong signal that IBM is committed to deliver our clients’ successful journey to cloud,” Granger said in a statement.

After the deal closes, which is expected in the first quarter next year subject to typical regulatory approvals, Nordcloud will become an IBM company and operate to help continue this strategy.

It’s worth noting that this deal comes on the heels several other small recent deals including acquiring Expertus last week and Truqua and Instana last month. These three companies provide expertise in digital payments, SAP consulting and hybrid cloud applications performance monitoring respectively.

Nordcloud, which is based in Helsinki with offices in Amsterdam, was founded 2011 and raised over $26 million, according to Pitchbook data.

 

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Thoma Bravo to acquire RealPage property management platform for $10.2B

Posted by on 21 December, 2020

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The busy year in M&A continued this weekend when private equity firm Thoma Bravo announced it was acquiring RealPage for $10.2B.

In RealPage, Thoma Bravo is getting a full-service property management platform with services like renter portals, site management, expense management and financial analysis for building and property owners. Orlando Bravo, Founder and a Managing Partner of Thoma Bravo sees a company that they can work with and build on its previous track record.

“RealPage’s industry leading platform is critical to the real estate ecosystem and has tremendous potential going forward,” Bravo said in a statement.

As for RealPage, company CEO Steve Winn, who will remain with the company, sees the deal as a big win for stock holders, while giving them the ability to keep investing in the product. “This will enhance our ability to focus on executing our long-term strategy and delivering even better products and services to our clients and partners,”  Winn said in a statement.

RealPage, which was founded in 1998 and went public in 2010, is a typical kind of mature platform that a private equity firm like Thoma Bravo is attracted to. It has a strong customer base with over 12,000 customers and respectable revenue, growing at a modest pace. In its most recent earnings statement, the company announced $298.1 million in revenue, up 17% year over year. That puts it on a run rate of over $1 billion.

Under the terms of the deal, Thoma Bravo will pay RealPage stockholders $88.75 in cash per share. That is a premium of more 30% over the $67.83 closing price on December 18th. The transaction is subject to standard regulatory review, and the RealPage board will have a 45-day “go shop” window to see if it can find a better price. Given the premium pricing on this deal, that isn’t likely, but it will have the opportunity to try.

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OneTrust nabs $300M Series C on $5.1B valuation to expand privacy platform

Posted by on 21 December, 2020

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OneTrust, the 4-year old privacy platform startup from the folks who brought you AirWatch (which was acquired by VMWare for $1.5B in 2014), announced a $300 million Series C on an impressive $5.1 billion valuation today.

The company has attracted considerable attention from investors in a remarkably short time. It came out of the box with a $200 million Series A on a $1.3 billion valuation in July 2019. Those are not typical A round numbers, but this has never been a typical startup. The Series B was more of the same — $210 million on a $2.7 billion valuation this past February.

That brings us to today’s Series C. Consider that the company has almost doubled its valuation again, and has raised $710 million in a mere 18 months, some of it during a pandemic. TCV led today’s round joining existing investors Insight Partners and Coatue.

So what are they doing to attract all this cash? In a world where privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA are already in play with others are in the works in the U.S. and around the world, companies need to be sure they are compliant with local laws wherever they operate. That’s where OneTrust comes in.

“We help companies ensure that they can be trusted, and that they make sure that they’re compliant to all laws around privacy, trust and risk,” OneTrust Chairman Alan Dabbiere told me.

That involves a suite of products that the company has already built or acquired, moving very quickly to offer a privacy platform to cover all aspects of a customer’s privacy requirements including privacy management, discovery, third-party risk assessment, risk management, ethics and compliance and consent management.

The company has already attracted 7500 customers to the platform — and is adding1000 additional customers per quarter. Dabbiere says that the products are helping them be compliant without adding a lot of friction to the building or buying process. “The goal is that we don’t slow the process down, we speed it up. And there’s a new philosophy called privacy by design,” he said. That means building privacy transparency into products, while making sure they are compliant with all of the legal and regulatory requirements.

The startup hasn’t been shy about using its investments to buy pieces of the platform, having made five acquisitions already in just four years since it was founded. It already has 1500 employees and plans to add around 900 more in 2021.

As they build this workforce, Dabbiere says being based in a highly diverse city like Atlanta has helped in terms of building a diverse group of employees. “By finding the best employees and doing it in an area like Atlanta, we are finding the diversity comes naturally,” he said, adding, “We are thoughtful about it.” CEO Kabir Barday, also launched a diversity, equity and inclusion council internally this past summer in response to the Black Lives Matter movement happening in the Atlanta community and around the country.

OneTrust had relied heavily on trade shows before the pandemic hit. In fact, Dabbiere says that they attended as many as 700 a year. When that avenue closed as the pandemic hit, they initially lowered their revenue guidance, but as they moved to digital channels along with their customers, they found that revenue didn’t drop as they expected.

He says that OneTrust has money in the bank from its prior investments, but they had reasons for taking on more cash now anyway. “The number one reason for doing this was the currency of our stock. We needed to revalue it for employees, for acquisitions, and the next steps of our growth,” he said.

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UiPath files confidential IPO paperwork with SEC

Posted by on 17 December, 2020

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UiPath, the robotic process automation startup that has been growing like gangbusters, filed confidential paperwork with the SEC today ahead of a potential IPO.

UiPath, Inc. today announced that it has submitted a draft registration statement on a confidential basis to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) for a proposed public offering of its Class A common stock. The number of shares of Class A common stock to be sold and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. UiPath intends to commence the public offering following completion of the SEC review process, subject to market and other conditions,” the company said in a statement.

The company has raised more than $1.2 billion from investors like Accel, CapitalG, Sequoia and others. Its biggest raise was $568 million led by Coatue on an impressive $7 billion valuation in April 2019. It raised another $225 million led by Alkeon Capital last July when its valuation soared to $10.2 billion.

At the time of the July raise, CEO and co-founder Daniel Dines did not shy away from the idea of an IPO, telling me:

We’re evaluating the market conditions and I wouldn’t say this to be vague, but we haven’t chosen a day that says on this day we’re going public. We’re really in the mindset that says we should be prepared when the market is ready, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s in the next 12-18 months.

This definitely falls within that window. RPA helps companies take highly repetitive manual tasks and automate them. So for example, it could pull a number from an invoice, fill in a number in a spreadsheet and send an email to accounts payable, all without a human touching it.

It is a technology that has great appeal right now because it enables companies to take advantage of automation without ripping and replacing their legacy systems. While the company has raised a ton of money, and seen its valuation take off, it will be interesting to see if it will get the same positive reception as companies like Airbnb, C3.ai and Snowflake.

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Spryker raises $130M at a $500M+ valuation to provide B2Bs with agile e-commerce tools

Posted by on 17 December, 2020

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Businesses today feel, more than ever, the imperative to have flexible e-commerce strategies in place, able to connect with would-be customers wherever they might be. That market driver has now led to a significant growth round for a startup that is helping the larger of these businesses, including those targeting the B2B market, build out their digital sales operations with more agile, responsive e-commerce solutions.

Spryker, which provides a full suite of e-commerce tools for businesses — starting with a platform to bring a company’s inventory online, through to tools to analyse and measure how that inventory is selling and where, and then adding voice commerce, subscriptions, click & collect, IoT commerce and other new features and channels to improve the mix — has closed a round of $130 million.

It plans to use the funding to expand its own technology tools, as well as grow internationally. The company makes revenues in the mid-eight figures (so, around $50 million annually) and some 10% of its revenues currently come from the U.S. The plan will be to grow that business as part of its wider expansion, tackling a market for e-commerce software that is estimated to be worth some $7 billion annually.

The Series C was led by TCV — the storied investor that has backed giants like Facebook, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify and Splunk, as well as interesting, up-and-coming e-commerce “plumbing” startups like Spryker, Relex and more. Previous backers One Peak and Project A Ventures also participated.

We understand that this latest funding values Berlin -based Spryker at more than $500 million.

Spryker today has around 150 customers, global businesses that run the gamut from recognised fashion brands through to companies that, as Boris Lokschin, who co-founded the company with Alexander Graf (the two share the title of co-CEOs) put it, are “hidden champions, leaders and brands you have never heard about doing things like selling silicone isolations for windows.” The roster includes Metro, Aldi Süd, Toyota and many others.

The plan will be to continue to support and grow its wider business building e-commerce tools for all kinds of larger companies, but in particular Spryker plans to use this tranche of funding to double down specifically on the B2B opportunity, building more agile e-commerce storefronts and in some cases also developing marketplaces around that.

One might assume that in the world of e-commerce, consumer-facing companies need to be the most dynamic and responsive, not least because they are facing a mass market and all the whims and competitive forces that might drive users to abandon shopping carts, look for better deals elsewhere or simply get distracted by the latest notification of a TikTok video or direct message.

For consumer-facing businesses, making sure they have the latest adtech, marketing tech and tools to improve discovery and conversion is a must.

It turns out that business-facing businesses are no less immune to their own set of customer distractions and challenges — particularly in the current market, buffeted as it is by the global health pandemic and its economic reverberations. They, too, could benefit from testing out new channels and techniques to attract customers, help them with discovery and more.

“We’ve discovered that the model for success for B2B businesses online is not about different people, and not about money. They just don’t have the tooling,” said Graf. “Those that have proven to be more successful are those that are able to move faster, to test out everything that comes to mind.”

Spryker positions itself as the company to help larger businesses do this, much in the way that smaller merchants have adopted solutions from the likes of Shopify .

In some ways, it almost feels like the case of Walmart versus Amazon playing itself out across multiple verticals, and now in the world of B2B.

“One of our biggest DIY customers [which would have previously served a mainly trade-only clientele] had to build a marketplace because of restrictions in their brick and mortar assortment, and in how it could be accessed,” Lokschin said. “You might ask yourself, who really needs more selection? But there are new providers like Mano Mano and Amazon, both offering millions of products. Older companies then have to become marketplaces themselves to remain competitive.”

It seems that even Spryker itself is not immune from that marketplace trend: Part of the funding will be to develop a technology AppStore, where it can itself offer third-party tools to companies to complement what it provides in terms of e-commerce tools.

“We integrate with hundreds of tech providers, including 30-40 payment providers, all of the essential logistics networks,” Lokschin said.

Spryker is part of that category of e-commerce businesses known as “headless” providers — by which they mean those using the tools do so by way of API-based architecture and other easy-to-integrate modules delivered through a “PaaS” (clould-based Platform as a Service) model.

It is not alone in that category: There have been a number of others playing on the same concept to emerge both in Europe and the U.S. They include Commerce Layer in Italy; another startup out of Germany called Commercetools; and Shogun in the U.S.

Spryker’s argument is that by being a newer company (founded in 2018) it has a more up-to-date stack that puts it ahead of older startups and more incumbent players like SAP and Oracle.

That is part of what attracted TCV and others in this round, which was closed earlier than Spryker had even planned to raise (it was aiming for Q2 of next year) but came on good terms.

“The commerce infrastructure market has been a high priority for TCV over the years. It is a large market that is growing rapidly on the back of e-commerce growth,” said Muz Ashraf, a principal at TCV, to TechCrunch. “We have invested across other areas of the commerce stack, including payments (Mollie, Klarna), underlying infrastructure (Redis Labs) as well as systems of engagement (ExactTarget, Sitecore). Traditional offline vendors are increasingly rethinking their digital commerce strategy, more so given what we are living through, and that further acts as a market accelerant.

“Having tracked Spryker for a while now, we think their solution meets the needs of enterprises who are increasingly looking for modern solutions that allow them to live in a best-of-breed world, future-proofing their commerce offerings and allowing them to provide innovative experiences to their consumers.”

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

Posted by on 17 December, 2020

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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.

Posted Under: Tech News
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