Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘venture capital

Big Builds, Bigger Dogs

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Yesterday it was AI and agriculture, today it’s AI and construction. Built Robotics is a company looking to make construction equipment autonomous and has raised a $33M Series B round. Recognizing that the industry is facing a labor shortage, Built is building systems that would allow one equipment operator to oversee a fleet of vehicles working autonomously in parallel. 

But there’s plenty more VC money sloshing around where that came from…Wordpress parent Automattic raised $300M in a Series D round from Salesforce Ventures, valuing the company at $3B. Thirty-four percent of the world’s top 10 million websites now run on WordPress. No word yet if that means everyone at the company gets an “automattic” raise! 

There’s also more consolidation on the developer tooling front with GitHub’s acquisition of code analysis tool Semmle. Semmle streamlines security testing and offers developers a query languages to allow researchers to more easily test their code. No price on the deal, but Semmle was born from Oxford just last year and had raised a $21M Series B round led by Accel.

And app performance monitoring firm Datadog raised $648M in its U.S. IPO, valuing the company at $7.83B. Datadog had previously declined a buyout offer from Cisco.

Written by turbotodd

September 19, 2019 at 9:45 am

GitLab’s Infusion

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Big news on the developer tools front today.

Forbes is reporting DevOps player GitLab has raised $268M in a Series E round co-led by Iconiq Capital and Goldman Sachs at a $2.75B valuations. That more than doubles the valuation of its previous funding roundThe company is looking forward to a 2020 IPO, and interestingly has expanded in the direction of a no-office expansion (a sizable number of the company’s employees work remotely).

The company’s value prop is straightforward: GitLab helps companies build and release their own software faster, and in a more coordinated fashion (including bringing together groups as disparate as product, development, security, and operations). It offers two options: A free community edition, and a paid enterprise edition.

In a statement about the funding, GitLab indicated its plans were “to make all of our DevOps platform offerings, including monitoring, security, and planning, best in class so we can enable our enterprise customers to continue to bring products to market faster.”

The company claims that more than 100,000 organizations currently use GitLab, and the company’s annual recurring revenue growth rate is 143%, in a market that is expected to triple by 2023 (from $5.2 to $15B).

Gitty up!

Written by turbotodd

September 17, 2019 at 11:00 am

WeIPO

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WeWork is finally gonna go public. The company filed today to raise $1B, and reported a $904M net loss on around $1.5B in 1H19. You people gotta start showing up to the WeWorks offices so the WeWorkers can WeWin.

The company has raised over $8B in venture capital since its 2010 founding, so it’s payback time!

For you sports fans out there, you might want to take a second look at Twitter. The company is now testing on Android a way for users to follow interests, as opposed to just other users.

This one is so long overdue it makes my head hurt. However, before you go off RTing, know that the topics will be curated by Twitter and the individual curated Tweets identified by the Russians…err, I mean, by the algos versus editors.

And know that during the time you were reading this post, Nvidia was out breaking more AI land speed records. Specifically, it broke the hour mark in training BERT, one of the world’s most advanced AI language models. Nvidia’s AI platform was able to train the model in just 53 minutes using one of its SuperPOD systems, which consists of 92 Nvidia DGX-2H systems running 1,472 V100 GPUs.

Who said talking to machines is a waste of time!?

Written by turbotodd

August 14, 2019 at 10:06 am

On Automattic

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Happy Tuesday. While we let all those Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theories just sit there and soak up the global contemplation, there are actual deals getting done in the world.

WordPress’ owner Automattic is said to be taking Tumblr off Verizon’s hands. Axios reports get deal costs less than $20M, perhaps even less than $10M. Which makes one laugh when one thinks about Yahoo having paid $1.1B for Tumblr in 2013, and then getting sucked into the Verizon vortex. Likely acqui-hire.

Meanwhile, back at the VC ranch, there’s lots of new deals getting done and rounds funded:

Pavilion Data Systems: Data center storage company raises $25M Series C, led by Taiwania Capital and RPS Ventures

Singularity 6: Stealth gaming startup said to be developing an AI-powered “virtual society” raises $16.5M Series A led by none other than Andreessen Horowitz.

Kasten: Offers a platform for policy-based backup, recovery, and migration for Kubernetes apps ($14M Series A led by Insight Partners)

Polarity: Uses AI to analyze text on employee screens to augment it with context overlays, raised $8.1M Series AA following 2017 $3.5M Series A

QFPay: Chinese digital payment firm and global partner of WeChat Pay and Alipay raised $20M (including from investors Sequoia Capital China)

Uniphore Software Systems: Uses AI in call centers for faster and more personalized customer support, $51M from March Capital Partners and Chiratae Ventures

Written by turbotodd

August 13, 2019 at 10:51 am

Posted in 2019, venture capital

Tagged with ,

The GitHub Sanctions

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TechCrunch is reporting that GitHub (owned by Microsoft) has officially confirmed it is blocking developers in Iran, Syria, N. Korea, Cuba, and the Crimea from accessing private repos and paid accounts due to sanctions.

Hello, world.

Over the weekend, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman wrote on Twitter that like any other “company that does business in the US,” GitHub is required to comply with the U.S. export law. The confirmation comes months after work collaboration service Slack, too, enforced similar restrictions on its platform.

Public repos will apparently remain available to everyone.

On the funding front…Sales enablement platform MindTickle gets a $40M Series C led by Norwest Venture partners…On demand transport app Grab will invest $2B in Indonesia over the next five years…and the U.K.’s Just Eat is merging with Dutch rival Takeaway.com in a £9B deal that will see the creation of one of the world’s biggest online food delivery companies.

And finally…on the Chimerica front, Chinese social media ByteDance said today that it is developing a smartphone, as part of its deal with device maker Smartisan Technology.

Who needs an Android when ya gotta ByteDance?

Written by turbotodd

July 29, 2019 at 11:27 am

Posted in 2019, china, developers

Tagged with , ,

Don’t Send in the Telegram!

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On the subject of Puerto Rico and the Telegram chat hacks: Am I the only person out there wondering how this happened if Telegram is supposed to be so secure?

I’ve looked on Telegram’s Twitter feed and blog, and it’s a major no comment, bury your head in the sand.

Rumors have abounded today that PR Gov. Rickardo Rossello will be resigning, but I’ve received no telegrams to that effect just yet.

Did nobody everywhere learn anything from Iran Contra??!  If you don’t want it to become a scandal, don’t write it down. ANYWHERE!  The Nation magazine went long on this story a few years ago now.

On to the much bigger story of the day: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine and new privacy checks, reports a lot of outlets, including The Verge.

In the agreement filed today, the FTC alleges that Facebook violated the law by failing to protect data from third parties, serving ads through the use of phone numbers provided for security, and lying to users that its facial recognition software was turned off by default. In order to settle those charges, Facebook will pay $5 billion — the second-largest fine ever levied by the FTC — and agree to a series of new restrictions on its business.

Aside from the multibillion-dollar fine, Facebook will be required to conduct a privacy review of every new product or service that it develops, and these reviews must be submitted to the CEO and a third-party assessor every quarter. As it directly relates to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook will now be required to obtain purpose and use certifications from apps and third-party developers that want to use Facebook user data. However, there are no limits on what data access the company can authorize to those groups once the disclosure is made.

NOTE: I own a few Facebook shares, but I still have four words…fox (still)…guarding…henhouse.

On the streaming wars front: Netflix is launching a $2.80 per month mobile-only subscription plan in India, although it’s restricted to one mobile device at 480p def.

Will Netflix expand this option to the U.S. and other markets to gain more share? Stay tuned!

And on the funding front: Payroll and HR software maker Gusto raised a $200M Series D co-led by Fidelity and Generation Investment Management, and camping listing/booking platform Hipcamp raised a $25M Series B led byy Andreessen Horowitz, bringing its total take to $41.8M. 

Don’t forget to bring the marshmallows!

Written by turbotodd

July 24, 2019 at 3:01 pm

Bixby’s Store

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Happy Monday morning, Happy Independence Day (Short) week here in the U.S.

So there’s more coming out re: Jony Ive’s departure from Apple. 

From a TechMeme headline summarizing a WSJ piece: Jony Ive was dispirited by Tim Cook’s lack of interest in the product development process and frustrated inside a more operations-focused company

If it’s TL;dr for you, the article feels human-centric design got pushed to the margin after Jobs’ moved on, and supply chain- and ops-centric Tim Cook was focused on what he did best, which was NOT human-centric design.

The key question is, what happens next, and it’s probably too soon to tell. But considering that the companys last major innovation on Ive’s watch (and post Jobs) was the Apple Watch, which  introduced on April 24, 2015…well, it may be about time to introduce something new and innovative. 

Can they? Will they? As President Trump likes to see, “We’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, on the Samsung front…that company has launched its Bixby Marketplace, which is a dedicated store where third-party developers can offer their own Bixby-compatible services. The store is now open for both US and South Korean customers.

Think of Bixby as Samsung’s Siri or Alexa equivalent.

More about the new store:

The marketplace is available through the main Bixby page on Samsung phones, though the company eventually intends to include it as part of the main Galaxy app store. Through the marketplace, users can search for services — which Samsung calls “capsules” — that enhance Bixby.

These capsules are categorized by type, such as “travel and transportation,” “food and drink,” “sports,” “shopping,” and “productivity,” and many well-known apps are featured at launch, including from Spotify, Uber, Google Maps, Yelp, and YouTube.

And there’s much more.

Recent funding rounds..Industrial AR headset maker RealWear raised an $80M Series B…Israel-Based NeuroBlade AI chip maker raised a $23M Series A with support from Intel Capital…Zero-commission wholesale marketplace Tundra announced a $12M Series A…China-based robotic process automation startup Laiye raised a $35M Series B…and AI-based fraud detection and prevention system provider for banks raised a $10M Series A.

Written by turbotodd

July 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

Tablets and Slackers

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Happy Friday.

Feels like this week blew by pretty quickly

So what’s the close of the week looking like for tech news?

First thing that caught my attention was Computerworld reporting that Google is officially done making its own tablets.

The last model, the Pixel Slate, was introduced into the market last year, and though Google apparently had two smaller-sized tablets under development, it opted to drop work on those devices and refocus its efforts on laptops.

For the record, I’m writing this post on a Google Pixelbook from 2018, a hybrid laptop-tablet that has exceeded my expectations (in terms of performance, etc.)

And Google also has its Pixel line of smartphones, so it probably makes sense to focus on a couple of form factors that represent where the market is leading, and to orient those efforts around Chrome OS.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering which telco provider has the fastest mobile network in the U.S., PC Mag is reporting AT&T overtook Verizon this year for first place with its not-quite-full-5G offering, "5G Evolution."

AT&T has also secretly been helped by improvements in smartphone modems over the past two years. Wireless spectrum forms the lanes on which all smartphone traffic travels, and AT&T has more LTE spectrum than T-Mobile or Verizon, according to Fierce Wireless. But AT&T’s spectrum is typically highly fragmented, coming in many small pieces rather than a few large chunks. New modems are better able to aggregate a lot of small channels into one fast connection, which is working to AT&T’s advantage.

Next time you’re in a Walmart and thinking to yourself, "I think I’ll just walk out of here with this George Foreman Grill hidden under my jacket." Well, think again.

According to a report from The Verge, Walmart has been surveilling its checkout registers with a computer vision technology called "Missed Scan Detection" to identify when items move past the scanner without having been scanned.

The system runs on cameras that watch as items move across the register. If an unusual activity occurs, such as an item moving into a bag without being scanned, a checkout attendant will be notified to take action. Missed Scan Detection was designed to help reduce theft and other losses, a problem that has cost US retailers up to $47 billion in 2017.

And if you were wondering how Slack’s IPO worked out yesterday, it closed the day at $38.62, 48% above its $26 reference price (and valuing Slack at $20B).

Hardly a Slacker of an IPO…Keep an eye out for the floats of Postmates and Peloton soon.

Written by turbotodd

June 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

No Slackers

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Greetings from my South Austin bunker on a hill.

There’s an onslaught of relevant tech news this AM. First, let’s cover off the mo-nay situations.

Slack is expected to go public today, and it’s direct listing reference price has been set at $26. That would value Slack at roughly $15.7B

In case you didn’t know what a direct listing is, The Wall Street Journal explains:

In a

direct listing

, a company simply floats its existing stock onto a public exchange without raising any money or using underwriters. The company doesn’t choose an IPO price or who gets to buy in the night before trading begins, as is the case in a traditional IPO. Spotify Technology SA, which made its trading debut in April 2018, is the only other major company to go public via direct listing.

I think, therefore I Slack. All day, every day.

So, good luck, Slackers everywhere.

You know who’s not Slack? Apple, which, according to a report from Nikkei and as reconnoitered in The Verge, is looking at moving between 15 and 30 percent of its hardware production out of China and has apparently asked key partners like Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron to “evaluate the available options.”

The catalyst for the shift is the ongoing trade war between China and the US, which is expected to intensify at the end of this month with the

introduction of 25 percent tariffs

on devices including phones, laptops, and tablets. However, Apple reportedly wants to shift production regardless of whether the trade dispute gets resolved.

Florida’s Riviera Beach has decided to pay $600K in ransom to hackers that took over its computer system. It was a classic email spearphish attack that led to ransomware situation, and, according to a report from the AP, spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown “said Wednesday that the city of 35,000 residents has been working with outside security consultants, who recommended the ransom be paid.”

I guess that whole “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” thing is an outdated trope when it comes to the cyber realm, because it appears more and more municipalities are paying the ransom, as opposed to just saying “No.” Call me old fashioned, but just saying “Yes” simply invites more such attacks.

And yes, the payment is being made via Bitcoin.

Closing on a positive note. Fresno-based Bitwise Industries, which offers training for software developers, has raised a $27M Series A round led by Kapor Capital, which will allow the firm to potentially expand its training to other unusual suspect, underserved cities for tech (like El Paso, Texas, and Knoxville in Appalachia).

As James Fallows writes in The Atlantic:

“Some people have had opportunities by accident, and others do not,” she said [Irma Olguin, from venture firm New Voices Fund]. “We need to make those opportunities less a matter of chance and serendipity, and more a matter of deliberately creating opportunities and exposing young people to different possibilities for their lives.”

Written by turbotodd

June 20, 2019 at 10:52 am

Apple’s Supply Chain, RapidAPI’s Boost

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So what happens if this U.S.-China trade war gets outta hand? What, in particular, happens to Apple, whose supply chain purposely extends throughout the Middle Kingdom?

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple has a fallback plan, that its primary manufacturing partner, Foxconn (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd), "has enough capacity to make all iPhones bound for the U.S. outside of China, if necessary."

“Twenty-five percent of our production capacity is outside of China and we can help Apple respond to its needs in the U.S. market,” said [Foxconn semiconductor division chief, Young] Liu, adding that investments are now being made in India for Apple. “We have enough capacity to meet Apple’s demand."

According to the report, Apple has not given Foxconn instructions to move production out of China…yet.

Foxconn is now running quality tests for the iPhone Xr series there and plans to begin mass production at a facility in the suburbs of Chennai. Older models are already assembled at a Wistron plant in Bangalore.

Foxconn had also committed to building a 13,000-worker facility in Wisconsin, but the fate of that plant seems to have been up and down. But Foxconn executives maintain the employment goal remains, and that "construction remains on schedule and that it will hire as many as 2,000 Americans by the end of 2020."

Meanwhile, the tech consolidation buying spree continues.

Intel is acquiring Barefoot Networks, which specializes in programmable networking chips, for $155M. Interesting to note that Barefoot’s fund raises amounted to $155M from a variety of firms, including Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba.

TechCrunch provides a backgrounder:

Based in Santa Clara, Calif., Barefoot Networks was launched from stealth in late 2016 by Dr. Craig Barratt, a former Stanford University professor whose work was critical to the development of the networking architectures that allowed Alphabet, Facebook and others to operate at the massive scale they now have.

As these companies demanded more customized hardware ranging from chipsets to enable their various machine learning algorithms to manage and monitor content (and win Go games), to the servers and routers that they’ve put up in their own internal networks Barratt realized they’d need chipsets that they could modify.

With the acquisition, Intel adds a core knowledge set around p4-programmable high speed data paths, switch silicon development, P4 compilers, drivers oftware, network telemetry and computational networking.

It’s not just speed in the chips that will transform cloud-based AI…it’s speed in the networking infrastructure and at the edge of the network.

H&R Block is acquiring Toronto-based Wave Financial, a financial planning platform for small business owners (surely you’ve seen their TV spots!) for $537 million CAD (Canadian dollars).

The acquisition, which is still subject to regulatory approval and closing conditions, expands H&R Block’s product and client portfolio with Wave’s accounting, invoicing, payroll, and payments software solutions and will also see Wave adding H&R Block tax solutions to its suite of products.

In 2014, Wave reached over 2.5 million customers worldwide, and launched its Invoice feature the following year. Last year, the company surpassed 3.5 million customers, and launched Wave Plus, launching its Receipts and Payments features the following year.

Wave provides its software for free to more than four million customers in 200 countries worldwide. Revenue is generated from Wave’s paid financial services, including Payments and Payroll by Wave. The company’s general software is free, rather than “freemium” model, meaning that its tools can be used without tiers or limitations.

Upon closing, writes BetaKit, the deal "would make one of the largest ever Canadian tech exits."

And if you’re a developer, this one’s for you: RapidAPI, which devs used to search for, pay, and connect to public APIs, has closed a Series B round of $25 million.

The funding comes at a time of decent growth for the startup. The company now counts 10,000 APIs in its marketplace, which it estimates covers 33% of all publicly available APIs globally (leaving lots of room still to grow); with developers using RapidAPI, now standing at 1 million, who now collectively make 500 billion API calls each month from a wide variety of companies big and small, including Microsoft, SendGrid, Nexmo, Telesign, Google, Skyscanner and Crunchbase.

TechCrunch reports that the funding will help bolster development of its tools, including RapidAPI for Teams, "which will help them not only manage their use of public APIs but also organse and use their own internal APIs and microservices.

If you build it (your API), they will come…but they have to find it first!

RapidAPI currently has 1 million developers and counting…I would expect somebody will take them off the board and soon. Microsoft may have first right of refusal, as RapidAPI’s Series B was led by the company’s venture arm, M12.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

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