Alation announces $50M Series C investment as data catalog biz takes off

Posted by on 17 January, 2019

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Alation, a startup that helps crawl a company’s databases in order to build a data search catalogue, announced a $50 million Series C investment today.

The round was led by Sapphire Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Existing investors Costanoa Ventures, DCVC (Data Collective), Harmony Partners and Icon Ventures also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $82 million, according to Crunchbase data.

The participation of Sapphire Ventures, originally launched by SAP, and Salesforce Ventures, the venture arm of Salesforce, is particularly telling. One of the issues these enterprise software companies face when they go inside large enterprises is helping customer access and understand data wherever it lives. It’s one of the reasons that Salesforce bought Mulesoft for $6.5 billion last year.

This is a problem that employees face, as well. It’s simply inefficient to query multiple databases manually, or to even know what databases exist inside a large organization. Alation uses out-of-the-box connectors to connect to common data sources like Oracle, Redshift, Teradata, Spark and Tableau to create a centralized data catalog.

With that catalog in place, employees can search just as they would with any enterprise search engine with the notable difference that this tool is focussed strictly on structured data inside of supported data sources.

The company goes beyond pure matching to find the data an employee is searching for. Company CEO and co-founder Satyen Sangani says they also use a method to analyze usage to display the most likely result. “What differentiates us in particular is that we look at the logs of how people are using that information,” he explained. This is analogous to how Google uses the PageRank algorithm to measure the popularity of a page based on the number of times people link to a page.

Alation catalog page. Screenshot: Alation

It is certainly not alone in the space with competitors like Alteryx and Informatica, but Alation’s approach seems to be resonating. Sangani reports triple-digit growth 4 years running. The company has soared from 89 employees at the end of last year to around 200 today. It boasts 100 large enterprise customers in production including names like BMW, Hilton, American Express and Salesforce (whose investment arm, Salesforce Ventures, notably also helped lead today’s round).

As the company grows rapidly, Sangani says he wants the capital in place to help fuel the increasing interest. The size and scope of his customers means that he will need to hire not just engineers to keep developing the product and building new connectors, but customer support and sales and marketing. In all, he expects add between 100 and 200 employees in the next year.

He also wants to continue building out partnerships. As an example, Teradata is an authorized reseller, and has helped sell the product in global markets where a startup like Alation might lack the resources to enter.

The company, which is based in in Redwood City, California, launched in 2012 and released the first version of the product in 2014. Its most recent round prior to today was a $23 million Series B in 2017.

Posted Under: Tech News
AWS launches Backup, a fully-managed backup service for AWS

Posted by on 16 January, 2019

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Amazon’s AWS cloud computing service today launched Backup, a new tool that makes it easier for developers on the platform to back up their data from various AWS services and their on-premises apps. Out of the box, the service, which is now available to all developers, lets you set up backup policies for services like Amazon EBS volumes, RDS databases, DynamoDB tables, EFS file systems and AWS Storage Gateway volumes. Support for more services is planned, too. To back up on-premises data, businesses can use the AWS Storage Gateway.

The service allows users to define their various backup policies and retention periods, including the ability to move backups to cold storage (for EFS data) or delete them completely after a certain time. By default, the data is stored in Amazon S3 buckets.

Most of the supported services, except for EFS file systems, already feature the ability to create snapshots. Backup essentially automates that process and creates rules around it, so it’s no surprise that the pricing for Backup is the same as for using those snapshot features (with the exception of the file system backup, which will have a per-GB charge). It’s worth noting that you’ll also pay a per-GB fee for restoring data from EFS file systems and DynamoDB backups.

Currently, Backup’s scope is limited to a given AWS region, but the company says that it plans to offer cross-region functionality later this year.

“As the cloud has become the default choice for customers of all sizes, it has attracted two distinct types of builders,” writes Bill Vass, AWS’s VP of Storage, Automation, and Management Services. “Some are tinkerers who want to tweak and fine-tune the full range of AWS services into a desired architecture, and other builders are drawn to the same breadth and depth of functionality in AWS, but are willing to trade some of the service granularity to start at a higher abstraction layer, so they can build even faster. We designed AWS Backup for this second type of builder who has told us that they want one place to go for backups versus having to do it across multiple, individual services.”

Early adopters of AWS Backup are State Street Corporation, Smile Brands and Rackspace, though this is surely a service that will attract its fair share of users as it makes the life of admins quite a bit easier. AWS does have quite a few backup and storage partners, though, who may not be all that excited to see AWS jump into this market, too, though they often offer a wider range of functionality — including cross-region and offsite backups — than AWS’s service.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
We Company CEO in hot water over being both a tenant and a landlord

Posted by on 16 January, 2019

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The company formerly known as WeWork has come under scrutiny for potential conflict of interest issues regarding CEO Adam Neumann’s partial ownership of three properties where WeWork is (or will be) a tenant. TechCrunch has seen excerpts of the company’s prospectus for investors that details upwards of $100 million in total future rents WeWork will pay to properties owned, in part, by Adam Neumann.

In March 2018, The Real Deal reported that Neumann had purchased a 50 percent stake in 88 University Place alongside fashion designer Elie Tahari. That property was then leased by WeWork, which then leased space within the building to IBM.

Today, the WSJ is reporting that 88 University Place isn’t alone. Neumann also personally invested in properties in San Jose that are either currently leased to WeWork as a tenant or are earmarked for such a purpose. Unlike 88 University where Neumann is a 50/50 owner with Tahari, the CEO of the We Company — as WeWork is now known — invested in the two San Jose properties as part of a real estate consortium and owns a smaller stake of an unspecified percentage.

These transactions were all disclosed in the company prospectus documents it filed as part of its $700 million bond sale in April 2018. According to the prospectus, WeWork’s total future rents on these properties (partially owned by Neumann) are $110.8 million, as of December 2017.

That doesn’t include the reported $65 million purchase of a Chelsea property by Neumann and partners, which is said to be earmarked for a new WeLive space built from the ground up. That, too, will be subject to rent payments from the WeCompany to run WeLive out of it.

This raises questions of whether there is a conflict of interest in Neumann being both the landlord and the tenant of properties through WeWork. The WSJ says that investors of the company are concerned that the CEO could personally benefit on rents or other terms with the company in these deals.

According to WeWork, however, the company has not been made aware of any issues by any of its investors about related party transactions or their disclosures. The company also said that the majority of the Board are independent of Adam and all of these transactions were approved.

A WeWork spokesperson also had this to say: “WeWork has a review process in place for related party transactions. Those transactions are reviewed and approved by the board, and they are disclosed to investors.”

As it stands now, The We Company is privately held and in the midst of a transition as it contemplates how to turn a substantial profit on its more than 400 property assets across the world. The company is taking a broad-stroke approach, serving tiny startups and massive corporate clients alike, while also offering co-living WeLive spaces to renters and building out the Powered By We platform to spread its bets.

The company is valued at a hefty $47 billion, even after a scaled back investment from SoftBank (which went from $16 billion to $2 billion). But as the We Company inches toward an IPO, we may start to see a call for tighter corporate governance and more scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest.

Posted Under: Tech News
Nvidia’s T4 GPUs are now available in beta on Google Cloud

Posted by on 16 January, 2019

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Google Cloud today announced that Nvidia’s Turing-based Tesla T4 data center GPUs are now available in beta in its data centers in Brazil, India, Netherlands, Singapore, Tokyo and the United States. Google first announced a private test of these cards in November, but that was a very limited alpha test. All developers can now take these new T4 GPUs for a spin through Google’s Compute Engine service.

The T4, which essentially uses the same processor architecture as Nvidia’s RTX cards for consumers, slots in between the existing Nvidia V100 and P4 GPUs on the Google Cloud Platform . While the V100 is optimized for machine learning, though, the T4 (as its P4 predecessor) is more of a general purpose GPU that also turns out to be great for training models and inferencing.

In terms of machine and deep learning performance, the 16GB T4 is significantly slower than the V100, though if you are mostly running inference on the cards, you may actually see a speed boost. Unsurprisingly, using the T4 is also cheaper than the V100, starting at $0.95 per hour compared to $2.48 per hour for the V100, with another discount for using preemptible VMs and Google’s usual sustained use discounts.

Google says that the card’s 16GB memory should easily handle large machine learning models and the ability to run multiple smaller models at the same time. The standard PCI Express 3.0 card also comes with support for Nvidia’s Tensor Cores to accelerate deep learning and Nvidia’s new RTX ray-tracing cores. Performance tops out at 260 TOPS and developers can connect up to four T4 GPUs to a virtual machine.

It’s worth stressing that this is also the first GPU in the Google Cloud lineup that supports Nvidia’s ray-tracing technology. There isn’t a lot of software on the market yet that actually makes use of this technique, which allows you to render more lifelike images in real time, but if you need a virtual workstation with a powerful next-generation graphics card, that’s now an option.

With today’s beta launch of the T4, Google Cloud now offers quite a variety of Nvidia GPUs, including the K80, P4, P100 and V100, all at different price points and with different performance characteristics.

Posted Under: Tech News
Infor lands $1.5 billion investment ahead of possible IPO

Posted by on 16 January, 2019

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Infor, a NYC-based enterprise software company, announced a massive $1.5 billion investment today that could be the precursor to an IPO down the road. One analyst is estimating that the valuation could be at least $60 billion.

The investment is being led by Koch Industries’ investment arm, Koch Equity Development, and Golden Gate Capital. Today’s investment comes on top of a $2 billion+ cash infusion from Koch in 2017, bringing the total raised to at least more than $3.5 billion. That’s a lot of cash.

Infor may be the largest company you never heard of with over 17,000 employees and over 9500 customers in more than 100 countries worldwide. All of those customers generated $3 billion in revenue in 2018. That’s a significant presence.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, told TechCrunch that based on that revenue, he believes the valuation could be in the neighborhood of $60 billion. He based that on $3 billion in revenue, while using Oracle and SAP as similar industry comparisons. These companies have 20X price/earnings ratio. He adds, that would make it the largest tech IPO ever for NYC tech company if that comes to pass. Infor would not confirm this number with a spokesperson telling TechCrunch, “We cannot comment on value at this time.”

What does this company do to achieve this size and scope? It’s not unlike many other large enterprise companies, says Wang. It produces cloud software solutions around typical enterprise needs such CRM, ERP and Supply Chain Asset Management.

Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research says that Infor, has grown rapidly through a series of acquisitions and an unusual approach to enterprise software. “What makes its approach to enterprise software unique is that rather than building software and then attempting to customize it for the unique [customer] needs, Infor takes an industry-based approach that incorporates both subtle and material capabilities to address specific industry needs that more generic ERP tools aren’t capable of out of the box,” Newman told TechCrunch.

He adds that this difference is attractive to many companies seeking ERP and Enterprise Asset Management tools that are built with their business in mind rather than completely customizing a software designed for any business in any industry.

As it turns out, Koch isn’t just an investor, it’s an Infor customer. “Koch was a customer of Infor before we became an investor in the company, and Koch Industries’ companies continue to move their most mission critical applications to Infor CloudSuites,” Jim Hannan, Executive Vice President and CEO for Enterprises at Koch Industries said in a statement.

The company, which was founded way back in 2002, has been shifting to the cloud over the last five years. It reports that over 70 percent of its revenue is now derived from cloud products, fueled in part by an aggressive acquisition strategy.

Note: There is an investor call shortly. We will update the story with any pertinent information after the call.

Posted Under: Tech News
HyperScience, the machine learning startup tackling data entry, raises $30 million Series B

Posted by on 16 January, 2019

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HyperScience, the machine learning company that turns human readable data into machine readable data, has today announced the close of a $30 million Series B funding round led by Stripes Group, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures, as well as new investors Battery Ventures, Global Founders Fund, TD Ameritrade and QBE.

HyperScience launched out of stealth in 2016 with a suite of enterprise products focused on the healthcare, insurance, finance and government industries. The original products were HSForms (which handled data-entry by converting hand-written forms to digital), HSFreeForm (which did a similar function for hand-written emails or other non-form content) and HSEvaluate (which could parse through complex data on a form to help insurance companies approve or deny claims by pulling out all the relevant info).

Now, the company has combined all three of those products into a single product called HyperScience. The product is meant to help companies and organizations reduce their data-entry backlog and better serve their customers, saving money and resources.

The idea is that many of the forms we use in life or in the workplace are in an arbitrary format. My bank statements don’t look the same as your bank statements, and invoices from your company might look different than invoices from my company.

HyperScience is able to take those forms and pipe them into the system quickly and easily, without help from humans.

Instead of charging by seat, HyperScience charges by documents, as the mere use of HyperScience should mean that fewer humans are actually “using” the product.

The latest round brings HyperScience’s total funding to $50 million, and the company plans to use a good deal of that funding to grow the team.

“We have a product that works and a phenomenally good product market fit,” said CEO Peter Brodsky. “What will determine our success is our ability to build and scale the team.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Box hires former SAP exec as chief information security officer

Posted by on 15 January, 2019

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Box announced today that it has hired Lakshmi Hanspal to be the company’s new chief information security officer (CISO). She boasts 20 years of security experience, including holding executive security roles at SAP Ariba and Bank of America. She also spent time in a senior role at PayPal.

In a blog post announcing the hire, the company defined her role this way: “In the role of CISO, Lakshmi will be responsible for Box’s cyber security practice, security operations and data and platform protection.”

Hanspal sees similarities in Box from her time at SAP Ariba, but she recognizes that she will face a different set of challenges. “My role at Box is similar to what I focused on at SAP Ariba with the biggest difference being Box’s geographical footprint. Box is a born in the cloud company and expanding rapidly globally, so my focus will also include securing public cloud operations (future stack) and risk transparency for our customers,” she told TechCrunch.

She said that will involve improving service maturity and sustainability through automation, while continuing to ensure the highest level of security of both Box corporate and product platforms.

Box CEO Aaron Levie indicated that security is central to everything Box does, so finding the right chief information security officer was absolutely critical. “Not only does Lakshmi bring with her an impressive and diverse leadership experience from her time at SAP, PayPal and Bank of America, but she’s an incredible team builder and culture add for Box that will take our security team to the next level,” Levie said.

Hanspal is the third woman on Box’s executive team, joining Stephanie Carullo, who was hired as chief operating officer in 2017 and chief people officer, Christie Lake.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft continues to build government security credentials ahead of JEDI decision

Posted by on 15 January, 2019

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While the DoD is in the process of reviewing the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract RFPs (assuming the work continues during the government shutdown), Microsoft continues to build up its federal government security bona fides, regardless.

Today the company announced it has achieved the highest level of federal government clearance for the Outlook mobile app, allowing US Government Community Cloud (GCC) High and Department of Defense employees to use the mobile app. This is on top of FedRamp compliance, the company achieved last year.

“To meet the high level of government security and compliance requirements, we updated the Outlook mobile architecture so that it establishes a direct connection between the Outlook mobile app and the compliant Exchange Online backend services using a native Microsoft sync technology and removes middle tier services,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the update.

The update will allows these highly security-conscious employees to access some of the more recent updates to Outlook Mobile such as the ability to add a comment when canceling an event.

This is in line with government security updates the company made last year. While none of these changes are specifically designed to help win the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, they certainly help make a case for Microsoft from a technology standpoint

As Microsoft corporate vice president for Azure, Julia White stated in a blog post last year, which we covered, “Moving forward, we are simplifying our approach to regulatory compliance for federal agencies, so that our government customers can gain access to innovation more rapidly,” White wrote at the time. The Outlook Mobile release is clearly in line with that.

Today’s announcement comes after the Pentagon announced just last week that it has awarded Microsoft a separate large contract for $1.7 billion. This involves providing Microsoft Enterprise Services for the Department of Defense (DoD), Coast Guard and the intelligence community, according to a statement from DoD.

All of this comes ahead of decision on the massive $10 billion, winner-take-all cloud contract. Final RFPs were submitted in October and the DoD is expected to make a decision in April. The process has not been without controversy with Oracle and IBM submitting a formal protests even before the RFP deadline — and more recently, Oracle filing a lawsuit alleging the contract terms violate federal procurement laws. Oracle has been particularly concerned that the contract was designed to favor Amazon, a point the DoD has repeatedly denied.

Posted Under: Tech News
Campaign Monitor acquires email enterprise services Sailthru and Liveclicker

Posted by on 15 January, 2019

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CM Group, the organization behind email-centric services like Campaign Monitor and Emma, today announced that it has acquired marketing automation firm Sailthru and the email personalization service Liveclicker. The group did not disclose the acquisition price but noted that the acquisition would bring in about $60 million in additional revenue and 540 new customers, including Bloomberg and Samsung. Both of these acquisitions quietly closed in 2018.

Compared to Sailthru, which had raised a total of about $250 million in venture funding before the acquisition, Liveclicker is a relatively small company that was bootstrapped and never raised any outside funding. Still, Liveclicker managed to attract customers like AT&T, Quicken Loans and TJX Companies by offering them the ability to personalize their email messages and tailor them to their customers.

Sailthru’s product portfolio is also quite a bit broader and includes similar email marketing tools, but also services to personalize mobile and web experiences, as well as tools to predict churn and make other retail-focused predictions.

“Sailthru and Liveclicker are extraordinary technologies capable of solving important marketing problems, and we will be making additional investments in the businesses to further accelerate their growth,” writes Wellford Dillard, CEO of CM Group. “Bringing these brands together makes it possible for us to provide marketers with the ideal solution for their needs as they navigate the complex and rapidly changing environments in which they operate.”

With this acquisition, the CM Group now has 500 employees and 300,000 customers.

Posted Under: Tech News
Data management startup Rubrik gets $261M at a $3.1B valuation as it moves into security and compliance

Posted by on 15 January, 2019

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There is a growing demand for stronger security at every point in the IT ecosystem, and today, one of the the more successful enterprise startups to emerge in the last several years is announcing a big round of funding to provide that.

Rubrik, which provides enterprise data management and backup services across on-premise, cloud and hybrid networks, has raised $261 million in funding at a $3.3 billion valuation from Bain Capital Ventures and previous investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and IVP. It intends to use the funding to build (and buy) tech to expand deeper into security and compliance services alongside its existing data management products.

“As we have demonstrated leadership in data recovery, our customers have been demanding new products and services from us,” CEO and co-founder Bipul Sinha said in an interview, “so we’ve raised capital to double down on that.”

This Series E brings the total raised by Rubrik to $553 million, and it is a big leap for the company: its last raise of $180 million, in 2017, valued Rubrik at $1.3 billion.

Rubrik is not disclosing any other specific financial numbers with the news — Sinha’s response to the question was that he thinks the valuation jump speaks for itself. He also confirmed the company is not profitable, but intentionally so.

“Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

That market transformation is to provide services — and up to now, specifically data back-up services — for enterprises that operate their networks across a hybrid environment, with data used and stored on premises, in the cloud, and sometimes in multiple clouds.

There are a number of other companies that compete with it in backup including biggies like Druva, CommVault and EMC, but Rubrik was an early mover in identifying a need to backup and provide data recovery across a mix of locations.

Moving into security and compliance is a natural progression for the company.

There has always been a synergy between Rubrik’s core business and security/compliance. Often the need for backup and recovery arises specifically as a result of security breaches or other glitches that result from people accessing data when they are not supposed to, and that issue gets compounded when you have data stored and used across multiple locations.

“The fragmentation across cloud and on-prem services creates issues around security and data management,” Sinha said. “The more fragmentation you have, the more important Rubrik [or other data management services] get.”

Similarly, moving into security and compliance together goes hand-in-hand because both address similar needs at companies to be handling information responsibly. “Security and compliance are joined at the hip from a regulatory perspective,” Sinha said.

Up to now, Rubrik has mostly built its service from the ground up. One notable exception has been that it made an acquisition — its first — last year when it acquired NoSQL data backup specialist Datos IO, which helped Rubrik further expand from appliance-based management to cloud-based.

In the case of adding on more security and compliance offerings, it’s not clear yet whether that will be built organically or via acquisition (and there are indeed a number of security startups out there that could be candidates if it’s the latter).

“Rubrik is fundamentally an innovation driven company,” Sinha said. “We like coherent and consistent architecture. Having said that, as a responsible and ambitious company, we are always looking at the marketplace, at where there are the teams that we can acquire.”

Notably, the company has started to signal its growing interest in this area in recent months. The latest build of its flagship Andes data management platform placed security features center stage, and now we can expect to see more of that.

Existing customer loyalty has always attracted investors to the company, and that’s been the case here, too.

At a time when many tech observers are wondering if we are gearing up for a “winter” in the startup ecosystem — where, in a buoyant climate, investors have gone all-in with perhaps too much exuberance that will not bear out in terms of startups’ actual performance — the thinking is that Rubrik’s track record will help it continue to win business both on its legacy services, and as it ventures into newer areas.

“Rubrik has won the trust and loyalty of large enterprise customers around the globe by offering a simple and reliable solution that solves the challenge of protecting and managing data in a hybrid cloud world,” said Enrique Salem, former CEO at Symantec and Partner at Bain Capital Ventures, in a statement. “Given my experience leading the largest enterprise data protection company, we are confident that Rubrik is positioned to win and be the market leader in enterprise cloud data management.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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