Thundra announces $4M Series A to secure and troubleshoot serverless workloads

Thundra, an early stage serverless tooling startup, announced a $4 million Series A today led by Battery Ventures. The company spun out from OpsGenie after it was sold to Atlassian for $295 million in 2018.

York IE, Scale X Ventures and Opsgenie founder Berkay Mollamustafaoglu also participated in the round. Battery’s Neeraj Agarwal is joining the company’s board under the terms of the agreement.

The startup also announced that it had recently hired Ken Cheney as CEO with technical founder Serkan Ozal becoming CTO.

Originally, Thundra helped run the serverless platform at OpsGenie. As a commercial company, it helps monitor, debug and secure serverless workloads on AWS Lambda. These three tasks could easily be separate tools, but Cheney says it makes sense to include them all because they are all related in some way.

“We bring all that together and provide an end-to-end view of what’s happening inside the application, and this is what really makes Thundra unique. We can actually provide a high-level distributed view of that constantly-changing application that shows all of the components of that application, and how they are interrelated and how they’re performing. It can also troubleshoot down to the local service, as well as go down into the runtime code to see where the problems are occurring and let you know very quickly,” Cheney explained.

He says that this enables developers to get this very detailed view of their serverless application that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, helping them concentrate less on the nuts and bolts of the infrastructure, the reason they went serverless in the first place, and more on writing code.

Serverless trace map in Thundra. Screenshot: Thundra

Thundra is able to do all of this in a serverless world, where there isn’t a fixed server and resources are ephemeral, making it difficult to identity and fix problems. It does this by installing an agent at the Lambda (AWS’ serverless offering) level on AWS, or at runtime on the container at the library level,” he said.

Battery’s Neeraj Agarwal says having invested in OpsGenie, he knew the engineering team and was confident in the team’s ability to take it from internal tool to more broadly applicable product.

“I think it has to do with the quality of the engineering team that built OpsGenie. These guys are very microservices oriented, very product oriented, so they’re very quick at iterating and developing products. Even though this was an internal tool I think of it as very much productized, and their ability to now sell it to the broader market is very exciting,” he said.

The company offers a free version, then tiered pricing based on usage, storage and data retention. The current product is a cloud service, but it plans to add an on prem version in the near future.

Sisense nabs $100m at a $1B+ valuation for accessible big data business analytics

Sisense, an enterprise startup that that has built a business analytics business out of the premise of making big data as accessible as possible to users — whether it be through graphics on mobile or desktop apps, or spoken through Alexa — is announcing a big round of funding today and a large jump in valuation to underscore its traction. The company has picked up $100 million in a growth round of funding that catapults Sisense’s valuation to over $1 billion, funding that it plans to use to continue building out its tech, as well as for sales, marketing and development efforts.

For context, this is a huge jump: the company was valued at only around $325 million in 2016 when it raised a Series E, according to PitchBook. (It did not disclose valuation in 2018, when it raised a venture round of $80 million.) It now has some 2,000 customers, including Tinder, Philips, Nasdaq, and the Salvation Army.

This latest round is being led by the high-profile enterprise investor Insight Venture Partners, with Access Industries, Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, DFJ Growth, and others also participating. The Access investment was made via Claltech in Israel and it seems that this led to some details of this getting leaked out as rumors in recent days. Insight is in the news today for another big deal: wearing its private equity hat, the firm acquired Veeam for $5 billion. (And that speaks to a particular kind of trajectory for enterprise companies that the firm backs: Veeam had already been a part of Insight’s venture portfolio.)

Mature enterprise startups proven their business cases are going to be an ongoing theme this year fundraising stories, and Sisense is part of that theme, with annual recurring revenues of over $100 million speaking to its stability and current strength. The company has also made some key acquisitions to boost its business, such as the acquisition of Periscope Data last year (coincidentally also for $100 million, I understand).

Its rise also speaks to a different kind of trend in the market: in the wider world of business intelligence, there is an increasing demand for more digestible data in order to better tap advances in data analytics to use it across organizations. This was also one of the big reasons why Salesforce gobbled up Tableau last year for a slightly higher price: $15.7 billion.

Sisense, bringing in both sleek end user products but also a strong theme of harnessing the latest developments in areas like machine learning and AI to crunch the data and order it in the first place, represents a smaller and more fleet of foot alternative for its customers. “We found a way to make accessing data extremely simple, mashing it together in a logical way and embedding it in every logical place,” explained CEO Amir Orad to us in 2018.

“We have enjoyed watching the Sisense momentum in the past 12 months, the traction from its customers as well as from industry leading analysts for the company’s cloud native platform and new AI capabilities. That coupled with seeing more traction and success with leading companies in our portfolio and outside, led us to want to continue and grow our relationship with the company and lead this funding round,” said Jeff Horing, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners, in a statement.

To note, Access Industries is an interesting backer who might also potentially shape up to be strategic, given its ownership of Warner Music Group, Alibaba, Facebook, Square, Spotify, Deezer, Snap and Zalando.

“Given our investments in market leading companies across diverse industries, we realize the value in analytics and machine learning and we could not be more excited about Sisense’s trajectory and traction in the market,” added Claltech’s Daniel Shinar in a statement.

Cheq raises another $16M to fight ad fraud

Cheq, a startup focused on preventing ad fraud and ensuring that ads run in brand-safe environments, has raised $16 million in Series B funding.

When the company raised its $5 million Series A last year, CEO Guy Tytunovich contrasted Cheq’s approach with what he called “first generation solutions for ad verification” — rather than identifying fraud and other issues after an ad has already run, he said Cheq is more proactive and can block ads from being served in real time.

I caught up with Tytunovich yesterday, and he told me that this approach remains one of Cheq’s strengths.

At the same time, he also acknowledged that “refunds, rebates and make goods” are allowing advertisers to achieve a kind of retroactive prevention. So he’s increasingly focused on Cheq’s accuracy.

Tytunovich suggested that rather than simply relying on keywords (an approach that might suggest that a relatively innocuous article like “LeBron James killed it last night” isn’t an appropriate place to serve an ad), Cheq is examining 1,200 different factors, “looking for anomalies or looking where the fraudster did some sloppy work.”

He added, “We investigate every single impression in JavaScript. We are extremely deterministic to not cause this damage of false positives and false negatives.”

And Tytunovich said that despite the number of companies tackling the issue, fraud is still growing — he pointed to a recent report from Cheq estimating that fraud will cost advertisers $23 billion this year.

“You need to be smarter every day,” he said. “We’re definitely seeing in ad fraud, not just different types of sophisticated fraud — as the time goes by we see more and more of that organized crime type of ad fraud. Which is fascinating on the one hand, but also it’s kind of frightening if you really think about it.”

The new funding was led by Battery Ventures (which also led the Series A) and MizMaa Ventures. The latter is an Israeli firm that Tytunovich said already “helped tremendously” with things like introductions, even before making an investment.

Cheq is also moving into new areas like connected TV and console gaming.

Ultimately, Tytunovich said he wants the company to become the “immune system of the internet” — which doesn’t just mean detecting ad fraud, but also becoming “a solution to everything that sucks about digital advertising specifically, things like fake news and how advertising relates to that.”

The first hires are the hardest

Welcome to this edition of The Operators, a recurring Extra Crunch column, podcast and YouTube show that brings you insights and information from inside of tech companies. Our guests are execs with operational experience at both fast-rising startups like Brex, Calm, DocSend and Zeus Living, along with more established companies like AirBnB, Facebook, Google and Uber. Here, they share strategies and tactics for building your first company and charting your career in tech.

In this episode, we’re talking about hiring and recruiting:

  1. Why people take the risk of working at early-stage startups
  2. When and how to work with recruiters
  3. How to make your first hires

A company’s first hires are often the hardest; money is usually too tight to pay competitive salaries, there’s no recognizable brand or reputation yet and most people would prefer to work at a company their friends and family have heard of before. There’s also fair presumption of risk and unviability — who wants to take a job that might not be around in a year?

Startup founders overcome these odds on a regular basis. To figure out how, we spoke with two experts:

Farah Sharghi-Dolatabadi began her career as a software developer and financial advisor before moving into recruiting. She’s been a recruiter at startups in addition to companies like Google and Lyft. She’s currently a senior technical recruiter at Uber and an active career coach at HireClub.

Kelly Kinnard is Vice President of Talent at Battery Ventures, where she’s worked with startups like Wag, Coupa, Fastly, and Gainsight. She also has experience at top recruiting firms and in executive search at Oracle.

Below is a synthesized summary of our conversation; check out The Operators for the full episode.

Why people take the risk of working at early-stage startups

Most early-stage startups fail. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. Still, however unlikely big outcomes are, the possibility of being a part of the next Facebook or Uber is tempting, and taking a job at a brand new company may even rational on an expected value basis.

Sometimes it’s not just the chance at a big financial outcome. We’ve heard early-stage employees say they made their choice based for more intangible reasons, like having more autonomy in their work, seeking a less structured environment, working with a certain type or set of colleagues, wanting a sense of adventure or purpose and the opportunity for more rapid career progression.

It may not be possible for an early-stage startup to offer market-rate compensation, but they can personalize the opportunity for early employees.

“Be creative and do things like cater to that individual and think about it on a case by case basis,” said Kinnard. “If that candidate really wants to work from home two days a week because they have a dog and you can’t allow dogs in the office, and they want to be able to walk their dog or go pick up their child from school after school, then try to customize things according to each individual.” But don’t forget that compensation still matters, as do market rates. According to Kinnard, “cash is still king, and I think sometimes I see founders and I see CEOs be unrealistic about what they expect to be able to pay people. A part of what I do is provide them with competitive comp data so they can look at the data and [see] here’s what 3000 companies that we’ve surveyed have suggested the compensation ranges.”

Creative problem-solving pays dividends in recruiting, just like in does with most other problems startups need to solve. Experienced recruiters can help companies figure out how to get creative, but how do you know if working a recruiter is right for you?

 

When and how to work with recruiters

At TechCrunch Disrupt, insights into key trends in venture capital

At TechCrunch Disrupt, the original tech startup conference, venture capitalists remain amongst the premier guests.

VCs are responsible for helping startups — the focus of the three-day event — get off the ground and as such, they are often the most familiar with trends in the startup ecosystem, ready to deliver insights, anecdotes and advice to our audience of entrepreneurs, investors, operators, managers and more.

In the first half of 2019, VCs spent $66 billion purchasing equity in promising upstarts, according to the latest data from PitchBook. At that pace, VC spending could surpass $100 billion for the second year in a row. We plan to welcome a slew of investors to TechCrunch Disrupt to discuss this major feat and the investing trends that have paved the way for recording funding.

Mega-funds and the promise of unicorn initial public offerings continue to drive investment. SoftBank, of course, began raising its second Vision Fund this year, a vehicle expected to exceed $100 billion. Meanwhile, more traditional VC outfits revisited limited partners to stay competitive with the Japanese telecom giant. Andreessen Horowitz, for example, collected $2.75 billion for two new funds earlier this year. We’ll have a16z general partners Chris Dixon, Angela Strange and Andrew Chen at Disrupt for insight into the firm’s latest activity.

At the early-stage, the fight for seed deals continued, with larger funds moving downstream to muscle their way into seed and Series A financings. Pre-seed has risen to prominence, with new funds from Afore Capital and Bee Partners helping to legitimize the stage. Bolstering the early-stage further, Y Combinator admitted more than 400 companies across its two most recent batches,

We’ll welcome pre-seed and seed investor Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and Redpoint Ventures general partner Annie Kadavy to give founders tips on how to raise VC. Plus, Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel and Ali Rowghani, the CEO of YC’s Continuity Fund, which invests in and advises growth-stage startups, will join us on the Disrupt Extra Crunch stage ready with tips on how to get accepted to the respected accelerator.

Moreover, activity in high-growth sectors, particularly enterprise SaaS, has permitted a series of outsized rounds across all stages of financing. Speaking on this trend, we’ll have AppDynamics founder and Unusual Ventures co-founder Jyoti Bansal and Battery Ventures general partner Neeraj Agrawal in conversation with TechCrunch’s enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

We would be remiss not to analyze activity on Wall Street in 2019, too. As top venture funds refueled with new capital, Silicon Valley’s favorite unicorns completed highly-anticipated IPOs, a critical step towards bringing a much needed bout of liquidity to their investors. Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Zoom, PagerDuty, Slack and several others went public this year and other well-financed companies, including Peloton, Postmates and WeWork have completed paperwork for upcoming public listings. To detail this year’s venture activity and IPO extravaganza, David Krane, CEO and managing partner of Uber and Slack investor GV will be on deck, as will Sequoia general partner Jess Lee, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko and Aspect Ventures’ Theresia Gouw.

There’s more where that came from. In addition to the VCs already named, Disrupt attendees can expect to hear from Bessemer Venture Partners’ Tess Hatch, who will provide her expertise on the growing “space economy.” Forerunner Ventures’ Eurie Kim will give the Extra Crunch Stage audience tips on building a subscription product, Mithril Capital’s Ajay Royan will explore opportunities in the medical robotics field, SOSV’s Arvind Gupta will dive deep into the cutting edge world of health tech and more.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 – 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Passes are available here.

Hear how to build a billion-dollar SaaS company at TechCrunch Disrupt

There was a time when brick-and-mortar mom and pops framed their first $1 on the wall, but in the SaaS startup the equivalent milestone is $1 billion revenue run-rate.

Salesforce is the SaaS revenue king reporting $4 billion in revenue for its most recent quarterly report, and there are many other relatively new SaaS companies, such as WorkDay, ServiceNow and Atlassian, that have broken the $1 billion barrier.

This year at TechCrunch Disrupt (tickets here!), we welcome three people to the Extra Crunch stage who know first hand what it takes to join the billion dollar club.

Neeraj Agrawal, a partner at Battery Ventures and seasoned enterprise investor, presented his growth thesis in a widely read article for TechCrunch where he outlined the key milestones for a SaaS company to reach a billion dollars.

Whitney Bouck is COO at HelloSign, a startup that was sold to Dropbox in 2018 for $230 million. Bouck was also an executive at Box, guiding their enterprise business from 2011-2015. Prior to that she was at Documentum, which exited in 2003 to EMC for $1.7 billion.

Jyoti Bansal is currently co-founder & CEO of Harness. Previously, he was founder & CEO of AppDynamics, which Cisco acquired in 2017 for $3.7 billion. Bansal is also an investor as co-founder of venture capital firm Unusual Ventures.

The goal of this panel is to help you understand the tools and strategies that go into ramping to a billion in revenue and beyond. It requires a rare combination of good idea, product-market fit, culture and commitment. It also requires figuring out how to evolve the core idea and recover from inevitable mistakes — all while selling investors on your vision.

We’re amped for this conversation, and we can’t wait to see you there! Buy tickets to Disrupt SF here at an early-bird rate!

Did you know Extra Crunch annual members get 20% off all TechCrunch event tickets? Head over here to get your annual pass, and then email [email protected] to get your 20% discount. Please note that it can take up to 24 hours to issue the discount code.

Clubhouse announces new collaboration tool and free version of its project management platform

Clubhouse — the software project management platform focused on team collaboration, workflow transparency and ease of integration — is taking another big step towards its goal of democratizing efficient software development.

Traditionally, legacy project management programs in software development can often appear like an engineer feeding frenzy around a clunky stack of to-dos. Engineers have limited clarity into the work being done by other members of their team or into project tasks that fall outside of their own silo.

Clubhouse has long been focused on easing the headaches of software development workflows by providing full visibility into the status of specific tasks, the work being done by all team members across a project, as well as higher-level project plans and goals. Clubhouse also offers easy integration with other development tools as well as its own API to better support the cross-functionality a new user may want.

Today, Clubhouse released a free version of its project management platform, that offers teams of up to 10 people unlimited access to the product’s full suite of features, as well as unlimited app integrations.

The company also announced it will be launching an engineer focused collaboration and documentation tool later this year, that will be fully integrated with the Clubhouse project management product. The new product dubbed “Clubhouse Write” is currently in beta, but will allow development teams to collaborate, organize and comment on project documentation in real-time, enabling further inter-team communication and a more open workflow.

The broader mission behind the Clubhouse Write tool and the core product’s free plan is to support more key functions in the development process for more people, ultimately making it easier for anyone to start dynamic and distributed software teams and ideate on projects.

write screenshot

“Clubhouse Write” Beta Version. Image via Clubhouse

In an interview with TechCrunch, Clubhouse also discussed how the offerings will provide key competitive positioning against larger incumbents in the software project management space. Clubhouse has long competed with Atlassian’s project management tool “Jira”, but now the company is doubling down by launching Clubhouse Write which will compete head-on with Atlassian’s team collaboration product Confluence.

According to recent Atlassian investor presentations, Jira and Confluence make up the lion’s share of the Atlassian’s business and revenues. And with Atlassian’s market capitalization of ~$30 billion, Clubhouse has its sights set on what it views as a significant market share opportunity.

According to Clubhouse, the company believes it’s in pole position to capture a serious chunk of Atlassian’s foothold given it designed its two products to have tighter integration than the legacy platforms, and since Clubhouse is essentially providing free versions of what many are already paying for to date.

And while Atlassian is far from the only competitor in the cluttered project management space, few if any competing platforms are offering a full project tool kit for free, according to the company. Clubhouse is also encouraged by the strong support it has received from the engineering community to date. In a previous interview with TechCrunch’s Danny Crichton, the company told TechCrunch it had reached at least 700 enterprise customers using the platform before hiring any sales reps, and users of the platform already include Nubank, Dataiku, and Atrium amongst thousands of others.

Clubhouse has ambitious plans to further expand its footprint, having raised $16 million to date through its Series A according to Crunchbase, with investments from a long list of Silicon Valley mainstays including Battery Ventures, Resolute Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, RRE Ventures, BoxGroup, and others.

A former CTO himself, Clubhouse cofounder and CEO Kurt Schrader is intimately familiar with the opacity in product development that frustrates engineers and complicates release schedules. Schrader and Clubhouse CMO Mitch Wainer believe Clubhouse can maintain its organic growth by that staying hyperfocused on designing for project managers and creating simple workflows that keep engineers happy. According to Schrader, the company ultimately wants to be the “default [destination] for modern software teams to plan and build software.”

“Clubhouse is the best software project management app in the world,” he said. “We want all teams to have access to a world-class tool from day one whether it’s a 5 or 5,000 person team.”

Self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics begin deliveries in Texas

A year after coming out of stealth mode with $40 million, self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics will begin making its first commercial deliveries in Texas.

Kodiak will open a new facility in North Texas to support it freight operations along with increased testing in the state. The commercial route

There are some caveats to the milestone. Kodiak’s self-driving trucks will have a human safety driver behind the wheel. And it’s unclear how significant this initial launch is; the company didn’t provide details on who its customers are or what it will be hauling.

Kodiak has eight autonomous trucks in its fleet, and according to the company it’s “growing quickly.”

Still, it does mark progress for such a young company, which co-founders Don Burnette and Paz Eshel say is due to its talented and experienced workforce. 

Burnette, who is CEO of Kodiak, was part of the Google self-driving project before leaving and co-founding Otto in early 2016, along with Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay. Uber would acquire Otto (and its co-founders). Burnette left Uber to launch Kodiak in April 2018 with Eshel, a former venture capitalist and now the startup’s COO.

In August 2018, the company announced it had raised $40 million in Series A financing led by Battery Ventures . CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures also participated in the round. Itzik Parnafes, a general partner at Battery Ventures, joined Kodiak’s board.

Kodiak is the latest autonomous vehicle company to test its technology in Texas. The state has become a magnet for autonomous vehicle startups, particularly those working on self-driving trucks. That’s largely due to the combination of a friendly regulatory environment and the state’s position as a logistics and transportation hub.

“As a region adding more than 1 million new residents each decade, it is important to develop a comprehensive strategy for the safe and reliable movement of people and goods,” Thomas Bamonte, senior program manager of Automated Vehicles for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said in a statement. “Our policy officials on the Regional Transportation Council have been very forward-thinking in their recognition of technology as part of the answer, which is positioning our region as a leader in the automated vehicle industry.”

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple was awarded a contract this spring to complete five round trips, for a two-week pilot, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the postal service’s Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers. A safety engineer and driver will be on board throughout the pilot.

Other companies developing autonomous vehicle technology for trucks such as Embark and Starsky Robotics have also tested on Texas roads.

Almost sold out! Buy a ticket to the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party

Last call, startuppers! TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley summer soiree — a.k.a. the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party — is nearly sold out. If you want to join the brightest members of the startup community on July 25 and celebrate your intrepid entrepreneurial spirit, you’d best buy a ticket while you can. It’s now o’clock, people!

This annual event is a true startup tradition. It’s a chance to enjoy the company of your peers and make new connections in a beautiful setting. It’s tough to beat an evening at San Francisco’s Park Chalet. Relax and enjoy the ocean views, craft beer, imaginative cocktails and tasty appetizers.

In between the drinks, the food and the fun you might find that startup magic happens at TechCrunch parties. Who knows, you could meet future co-founders, collaborators or investors — it can and does happen.

How often do you have the chance to build connections with top investors over a cold beer? You do at this shindig. Along with our lead VC partner, Merus Capital, August Capital, Battery Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Data Collective, General Catalyst and Uncork Capital will be in the house.

We’ll also have a group of exciting early-stage startups displaying their tech and talent, so be sure to check ’em out.

Here are the essential Summer Party details:

  • When: July 25 from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Park Chalet in San Francisco
  • How much: $95

As always, we’ll mix things up with games and great door prizes. You could win TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

The 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party takes place on July 25. So much fun, so much opportunity, so few tickets left. Don’t end up on the wrong side of “sold out.” Buy one of the last remaining tickets right now.

Final tickets to our 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party

One of Silicon Valley’s most fun and enduring traditions — the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party — takes place on July 25. If you don’t have a ticket yet, know this: We just released the last batch of tickets. Once they’re gone, that’s it. No party for you. Don’t miss out on a night of fun and opportunity — buy your ticket today.

The Park Chalet, San Francisco’s coastal beer garden, provides a picturesque setting (ocean views anyone?) for a casual evening celebrating the early-startup spirit. Hang out and enjoy local craft beer, cocktails, delicious food and great conversation with other fearless tech entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch parties provide a relaxed way to connect and network, and they’re known as a place where startup magic happens. Who knows? You might meet your future co-founder or funder. Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, founders of Box, met one of their first investors at a TechCrunch party.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to chat up an investor since our lead VC partner, Merus Capital, will be in the house, along with August Capital, Battery Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Data Collective, General Catalyst and Uncork Capital.

No TechCrunch event would be complete without exciting startups showcasing their tech and talent.

Here’s the when, where and how:

  • When: July 25 from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Park Chalet in San Francisco
  • How much: $95

As always, you have a chance to win great door prizes, including TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

The 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party takes place on July 25, and this is the last ticket release. Don’t miss out on a convivial evening of food, drink, connection and possibility in the company of your entrepreneurial peers. Buy your ticket right here.


Want a free ticket to Disrupt SF?

Volunteer for the Summer Party and work with the TechCrunch team for a few hours. Sign up to volunteer here.