Miami-based Marco Financial is launching a revenue-based lending service for Latin American SMEs

Marco Financial, a new Miami-based startup, is looking to take a piece of the roughly $350 billion trade finance market for Latin American exporters with its novel factoring services business. 

Small and medium-sized businesses in Latin America can have trouble getting the financing they need to launch export operations to the U.S. and Marco said it aims to bridge that gap with new risk modeling and management tools that can make better decisions on who should receive loans.

For smaller businesses in Latin America, accessing trade finance to export their goods is a major concern and a top reason why many dont succeed,” said Javier Urrutia, director of Foreign Investments at PROCOLOMBIA, an organization that promotes foreign investment and non-traditional exports in Colombia, in a statement from the company. In Colombia alone, a 1% increase in exporter productivity in our textile industry would result in 500,000 new jobs for the country.

The company is backed by a small seed round from Struck Capital and Antler and over $20 million in a credit facility underwritten by Arcadia Funds.  

As a former owner of a small business in Latin America, I saw firsthand how difficult it is for SMEs in this region to access trade financing that will let them export their goods while retaining enough capital to keep their business running,” said Peter D. Spradling, COO and co-founder of Marco, in a statementAccess to trade finance is one of the greatest hurdles in business operations and the traditional system dominated by banks is simply not working anymore, disproportionately hurting SMEs and further restricting economic mobility and job creation in emerging markets. Equity funding and a material credit facility let us serve this underserved market in Latin America and help build a healthier, more equitable trade ecosystem reflective of an increasingly borderless global economy.

Spradling met his co-founder Jacob Shoihet through the Antler accelerator, a Singapore and New York-based early-stage investment and advisory services program that connects entrepreneurs and tech operators to launch new businesses. 

Shoihet, a classically trained musician who fell in with the startup scene in New York through work at Yelp, was eager to launch his own company and connected with Spradling over shared interests in intermittent fasting and sports.

Small and medium businesses have a hard time receiving loans from traditional lenders thanks to tighter regulations and capital controls dating back to the 2008 financial crisis, according to Marco’s founders. And the long periods that companies have to wait between when goods are shipped and orders are payed can put undue pressure on business operations. Factoring solves the gap by lending to merchants based on their receivables.

Marco said that it can reduce the length of the loan origination process from over two months to one week and provide funding to approved exporters within 24 hours.

The company is initially focused on Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and Peru, and chose those markets because of Spradling’s previous experience as an importer and exporter across the region.

“We look for companies that not only target massive, sleepy industries but also for ones that are led by management teams with fresh perspectives and asymmetric information that position them to upend incumbents,” said Yida Gao, partner at Struck Capital, in a statement. “In short order, Marco has assembled a world-class team to tackle the multi trillion-dollar trade finance market in a post-Covid time when SMEs around the world need, more than ever, reliable capital to fund operations and growth. We are excited to be part of Marco’s journey to support the suppliers that are the backbone of global trade.”

ZenHub’s new automation tools improve developer hand-offs in GitHub

ZenHub, the popular project management solution for GitHub users, today announced the launch of its new features for automating hand-offs between teams. The idea behind Automated Workflows, as it is called, is to remove some of the manual busywork of updating multiple boards across teams when a new patch is ready to go to testing, for example (or when it fails those tests and the development team has to fix it).

As ZenHub founder and CEO Aaron Upright told me, Automated Workflows are only the first step in the company’s journey from not just being the most integrated service on GitHub but also the most automated.

Image Credits: ZenHub

Teams still struggle with the mechanics of agile project management, he noted. “Things like what frameworks to choose. How to organize their projects. You talk to small companies and teams, you talk to large companies — it’s a problem for everyone, where people don’t know if they should be Scrum, or Kanban or how to organize Sprint planning meetings.” What ZenHub wants to do is remove as many of these friction points as possible and automate them for teams.

It’s starting with the hand-off between teams because that’s one of the pain points its customers are struggling with all the time. And since teams tend to have their own projects and workspaces, the ZenHub team had to build a solution that worked across a company’s various boards.

The result is a new tool that is pretty much a drag-and-drop service that automatically creates notifications and moves items between workplaces as they move from QA to production, for example.

“It’s a way to automate work between different workspaces,” explained Upright. “And we’re really excited about this being kind of the first step in our automation journey.”

Over time, Upright expects, the team will be able to use machine learning to understand more about the connections that its users are making between teams. Using that data, its systems may be able to also recommend workflows as well.

The next part of ZenHub’s focus on automation will be a tool for managing the Sprint planning process.

“Already today’s, ZenHub is capturing things like velocity. We’re measuring that on a team by team basis. We understand the priority of issues in our workflow. What we want to be able to do is allow teams to automatically set a Sprint schedule, say, for example, every two weeks. Then, based on the velocity that we know about your team, maybe your team can accomplish 50 story points every two weeks — we want to auto-build that Sprint for you.”

The Shed is a startup out of Virginia trying to revive the rental-for-everything business

Reducing consumption by expanding the notion of the rental economy and giving people access to tools and equipment has been something of a startup holy grail for some time.

It’s a model that’s worked famously well for fashion and accessories (just ask investors in Rent the Runway), but has had not had the same resonance for white label goods.

The Shed, out of Richmond, Va., hopes to change that.

Launched by Karen Rodgers O’Neil, a longtime marketing executive, and Daniel Perrone, a serial entrepreneur and technology executive whose previous company, BroadMap, was acquired by Apple; The Shed hopes to take the rental model that Home Depot has turned into a billion dollar business line and take it to the masses.

Unlike Home Depot, The Shed touts its presence in eight categories. Stanley Black & Decker is a marquee early partner and the company’s executives said that others have come on board.

“We don’t buy product,” said Perrone. “We take delivery of all the products and rent them out in the local marketplaces where we do business.”

The only thing the manufacturer provides is the products and some servicing starter kit so that The Shed and its employees can manage and maintain the product.

The Shed founders Karen Rodgers O’Neil and Daniel Perrone. Image Credit: The Shed

Since its launch in April the company has expanded beyond its Richmond, Va. home base to Denver — and will be looking to expand further into Portland, Austin, and San Jose, according to Perrone.

Among the features that the company intends to roll out as it expands is a dynamic pricing capability that will enable manufacturers to wring the most out of their goods when they’re in high demand.

Rodgers O’Neil came up with the concept back in 2012 when she was working as a marketing executive for General Electric out of Boston.  Perrone met Rodgers O’Neil at a networking event in Boston and became convinced that her notion of offering more rental options to encourage a more circular economy and reduce consumption was something that could resonate with consumers.

To be sure, The Shed isn’t the first company to attempt to bring the rental business to a broader array of consumer products in an effort to cut down on consumption. The Los Angeles-based startup Joymode was attempting to do much the same thing. That company sold to an early stage investment firm out of New York.

Joymode’s chief executive, Joe Fernandez spoke about the difficulty of running the business. “Part of the thesis was that by making things available for rental, people would want to do more stuff,” said Fernandez, but what happened was that consumers needed additional reasons to use the company’s service, and there weren’t enough events to drive demand.

By contrast, The Shed isn’t owning any of the inventory, just acting as a broker and managing inventory between local retailers and manufacturers who want to take advantage of the company’s service.

In addition to Stanley Black & Decker, companies like Primus camping equipment have placed their products on The Shed along with Mobility Plus, which added wheelchairs and mobility scooters; and Replacements, the largest china dealer in the country, which is offering a “Party in a Box” for dinner, cocktail or tea parties.

To date, the company has raised $1.75 million from investors and entrepreneurs from the Richmond, Va. area. Now, with 60 manufacturers on board and another 15 to 18 vendors signing up monthly, the company is looking to expand even further.

“I joined with Karen because I saw that this would be a game changer in the rental space,” said Perrone. There are a number of retailers in specific verticals that still don’t transact online, so The Shed becomes their avenue to reach the market, he said.

Mulberry, the warranty service for direct to consumer brands, approaches $10 million ARR

In the two years since Chinedu Eleanya founded Mulberry to be the warranty service for direct-to-consumer brands, business has boomed. 

Already riding a shakeup in consumer behavior brought by the emergence of startup brands selling just about everything to just about everyone, Mulberry brought a much-needed new spin on the warranty service that retailers had depended on for years to make consumers comfortable with big ticket purchases. Now the company is on its way to $10 million in ARR for 2020, thanks in no small part to the new shift to online shopping.

That’s why investors were wiling to invest $10 million into the company back in March before the pandemic hit. The round was led by the early stage New York-based investment firm, Pace Capital and included returning investors like Founder Collective.

Then the pandemic did hit. With COVID-19 pushing more shoppers (at least the ones that still have money to shop) out of stores and online, the need for warranty services has just ballooned, according to Eleanya.

A serial entrepreneur who moved from Nigeria to New York City and founded companies including Cognical and Zibby, Eleanya has found success with Mulberry and its online model.

To be sure, the company isn’t the only startup working in the e-commerce warranty space. There’s also, Clyde, which raised $14 million around the same time to offer similar services.

But the market for these kinds of online services is still growing rapidly, and Eleanya thinks there’s space fora few winners. “When you think of point of sale financial innovation, the extended warranty space is the most interesting,” he said.

From a retailer perspective, lending is good, but the bigger story is that the cost of customer acquisition continues to go up, Eleanya said. For him, retailers need to maximize the long term value by retaining customers and the way to do that, he contends, is to offer services programs.

“We’re democratizing access for small and medium sized retailers so they can compete in this really expensive environment,” he said.

Mulberry is already working with some big direct to consumer brands like Mirror, the smart workout mirror, the coffee maker Breville, and Nectar Sleep — a Casper mattress competitor.

So far, Mulberry has about $1 million in annual recurring revenue and is on pace to hit $10 million in ARR this year, Eleanya said.

 

Your first sales hire should be a missionary, not a mercenary

As the first sales hire at Cloudflare, I learned firsthand from both our high growth and my own mistakes how to build a world-class sales team. Early hires are the cultural cornerstones of an organization. As Vinod Khosla described the initial hires at Sun Microsystems, “Initial hiring is way more important than you think because of its multiplicative effect. So, it’s worth taking a little longer when you hire those people.”

The first sales hire will set the best practices, cultural tone and is responsible for making sure each subsequent new sales hire succeeds. For this reason, it is important that startups look to hire missionaries, not mercenaries, when they bring on their first sales team member. If the first sales hire is a “coin-operated” mercenary whose priority is to overachieve quota and is a great solo player, they may be more competitive than collaborative. In contrast, if the first hire is a missionary who cares more about evangelizing the product and is a team player, they will naturally enable the next set of hires to succeed.

Hiring the missionary

There is an overwhelming amount of declarative advice on how to make your first sales hire: They should have experience selling at an early-stage company, tenure in that company to a much larger team (five to 50 employees, or $100,000 to $10 million ARR), they’ve sold at your price point, overachieved quota consistently (beware of this one. Quota overachievement can be a false positive and may be the result of a fruitful territory, a comp plan where quotas were too low or selfish “me-first” behavior.), etc. What you should look for are missionaries, and they exhibit two key qualities: resourceful ingenuity and team-based behavior.

Missionaries are resourceful team players

At early-stage startups, there is more work to do than people to do it. These are resource-constrained environments where roles go beyond job descriptions and are “jack-of-all-trades” positions. This first sales hire is not an ordinary sales gig. It requires a missionary with a deep interest in the technology who wants to evangelize the product. The resourceful missionary must have an enterprising mindset to build their own sales collateral, a clever approach for testing pricing, a passion for the product technology and an ability to navigate the organization so engineering and product teams can hear the voice of the customer.

While resourceful skills are needed to test out different sales motions, the most important quality the missionary must have is a team-first attitude to share those learnings with colleagues. As the missionary, and the subsequent missionary hires, are developing a repeatable process they are engaging in novel intellectual work; this is not routine execution. When someone develops better messaging, or discovers a new use case, the goal is to spread that expertise so overall collective intelligence and team performance increases. If that operational know-how becomes siloed and an individual optimizes for themselves, instead of the team, the organization loses.

The H-1B visa ban is creating nearshore business partnership opportunities

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending work visas for H-1B holders, which includes skilled workers like software developers.

Considering that 71% of workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs are international, the order poses a number of logistical and business challenges for startups.

While nearshoring was an option before the virus struck, the urgency to nearshore due to the visa ban, combined with the remote revolution taking place, has meant companies are reconsidering it as a solution. As a result, the suspension presents an opportunity for companies to bring on board software development capabilities from abroad.

Nearshoring is a way to hire teams in locations that share similar time zones and are easily accessible. Nearshoring also enables U.S. companies to utilize services from close locations, where the talent, working conditions, and salaries are more favorable. In fact, it can save businesses up to 80% on costs, while providing employees with flexibility, autonomy and better career development pathways.

Not only is nearshoring a pragmatic response to the visa ban, it has the potential to be a long-term hiring alternative for businesses. Here’s how:

Laying the groundwork for remote teams

Amid the pandemic, demand for developers has remained high, no doubt due to companies needing teams to build, maintain and optimize digital platforms as they transition to online services. The visa ban means that businesses in foreign markets can help meet such demand, particularly as tech talent from other countries comes with a fresh, different skill set that empowers companies to solve problems in new ways.

In the past, moving to the U.S. and living the American Dream oriented many foreign businesses’ professional paths. However, the trend has changed. The appeal of the United States was slipping prior to the virus — it ranked 46th out of 66 for “perceived friendliest to expats” — and post-COVID-19 may be even more detrimental.

In a more connected world, businesses and individuals can reap the benefits of U.S. opportunities — top technology stack, access to exciting companies and world-class research — without having to actually live in the country. In this respect, nearshoring means foreign teams have the best of both worlds: the comfort of home and ties to an international powerhouse.

The remote shift is demonstrating that teams can function well at a distance; some studies have even revealed that employee productivity and happiness benefit from remote work. In the global remote shift, nearshoring is being seen as an accepted and advantageous model. Companies that opt to nearshore in response to the visa ban can take advantage of the changing tides and use this time to lay the groundwork for best practices within remote teams. For instance, by devising policies for things like communication, tracking progress, vacation and development plans according to the new conditions and specific mission statements. As a result, businesses can seamlessly build professional partnerships.

Another advantage of nearshoring is that the flexible teams contribute to a ready-to-scale model for startups. By having development partners located in different countries, companies can network on a wider level and grow faster among local markets. Rather than start from scratch when expanding, nearshoring gives companies a presence — no matter how small — across regions, which can later be built upon.

Attracting fresh investment

Similar to having a readiness to scale, the H-1B visa suspension positions nearshoring as a viable way to strategically partner with foreign development studios. In contrast to offshoring, nearshored businesses are often more vested in the projects they work on because they share time zones and are thus able to work more closely and with greater agility. Within startups, such agility is essential to continuously test, iterate and pivot products or services. Outsourced teams often have defined outputs to achieve, while freelancers are split across several projects, so aren’t completely ingrained in companies’ visions.

With nearshoring, startups can target partners that have experience in a particular area of business or with a specific tech feature and accelerate their time to market. Instead of building systems from zero, they can launch into version 2.0 because the wider choice of experts means there’s a higher chance of partnering with teams who already understand how the industry functions. Nearshore partners also have vast knowledge across industrial fields at a level that is impossible for direct hires to have. Companies therefore don’t have to tackle the difficulty of curating a great team, because nearshore partners are an already solid pairing.

When it comes to funding, this synchronicity, agility and preparedness indicates that a startup has momentum. For investors, nearshoring shows that the company has on-the-ground insights about potential markets to disrupt, and that the business model can thrive using remote teams. As the world braces itself to go fully digital, startups that have already adopted remote processes that catalyze growth will no doubt catch the attention of investors.

Promoting greater diversity in teams

Latin America is a clear choice for U.S. businesses looking to nearshore. The region’s proximity, increasing internet penetration, and impressive number of highly skilled developers are all a significant draw.

It’s also worth noting that diversity plays a core role in nearshoring. Currently within tech, Hispanic workers are noticeably underrepresented, making up a mere 16.7% of jobs. Despite the physical distance, nearshoring in Latin America can bring people from different social and economic backgrounds into companies, boosting their visibility in industries as a whole, and setting a firm foundation for equality.

Studies also show that diversity influences creativity among teams, as well as increases company revenue.

Moreover, nearshoring accelerates diversity in a manner that isn’t disruptive. Foreign team members don’t have to sacrifice their home, friends and family to further their professional career. Relocating to the U.S. can be daunting for people who haven’t previously worked abroad, especially when factoring the change in living costs and new culture norms. Nearshoring means teams can work from locations they’re familiar with, so need less time to get up to speed on business processes. They additionally have the emotional support of their social circles nearby, which in the current climate is important for employees’ personal and professional wellbeing.

Leveraging the right partnership

Research is key to successfully find a nearshore company, and startups don’t always have the time and resources to conduct an in-depth analysis of locations and their ecosystems. The most practical manner to nearshore the right talent is with a nearshoring partner that is responsible for scouting, vetting and communicating with foreign developers.

To find an appropriate partner, ensure that they have previous experience in your industry and positive testimonials from startups in your location. They should also have a clear presence in the regions they operate in; try checking online for their press releases, events they sponsor and general content that validates they are active and respected.

Once you’ve found an appropriate nearshore partner, rely on them to know what teams in your preferred locations need in terms of culture. Nearshore partners will essentially be your development partner — you can leverage them to be your whole Research and Development department. They can guide you on the tech side of your business, advise you on the right team at the right time, give you direction on stack and methodology, and curate the right environment for the team to be productive. In contrast, hiring freelancers comes with risks because you won’t necessarily know the specific needs of the location they’re in. Be aware — if there’s a cultural disconnect, you risk not finding a partner, but a vendor that’s buying into a superficial version of your startup, as opposed to your real startup vision.

Once you’ve settled on a well-fitting nearshoring partner, ensure you have detailed contracts with all team members, as well as nondisclosure agreements. Nearshoring requires a level of mutual trust, however, at such an early stage of your company’s lifecycle, you need to know that your processes and data will not be revealed to competitors. Check that your nearshore partner’s financial status is secure and sufficient for a long-term model. Correspondingly, service level agreements will set the parameters for job responsibilities and deliverables. After all the formalities are covered, you can focus on curating fruitful, long-term relationships.

Acclimatizing in the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis has made recruitment a remote-dominated sphere. Traditional modes of hiring are being reassessed, and companies are realizing that teams don’t have to be in an office to be productive. In fact, not having to cover visa and administration fees for foreign employees is much more cost-effective for companies.

As time passes and businesses develop habits best-suited to remote work, nearshoring will become increasingly popular. People are prioritizing joining teams where their career development, well-being and ethics are protected, all of which nearshoring can offer with the added benefit of not completely upheaving workers’ lives.

Startups who embrace nearshoring early on could find themselves competing with top tech firms that struggle because of recruiting limitations. With the end of the pandemic unknown, and thus no hard deadline for the visa ban, tech companies have to look at alternative modes of building teams. Startups have the advantage of revising their remote product development approach without disturbing workflows too severely. They are also known for pioneering fairer and more innovative workplaces that are enticing for a broader scope of employees.

Nearshoring is mutually beneficial because developers don’t have to give up their culture for a great employment opportunity, and businesses can reap the benefits of diversification. Ultimately, the H-1B visa suspension could stimulate true globalization in tech, where companies can achieve their best performance using global resources.

LaunchNotes raises a $1.8M seed round to help companies communicate their software updates

LaunchNotes, a startup founded by the team behind Statuspage (which Atlassian later acquired) and the former head of marketing for Jira, today announced that it has raised a $1.8 million seed round co-led by Cowboy Ventures and Bull City Ventures. In addition, Tim Chen (general partner, Essence Ventures), Eric Wittman (chief growth officer, JLL Technologies), Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan (VP Product, LinkedIn), Scot Wingo (co-founder and CEO, Spiffy), Lin-Hua Wu (chief communications officer, Dropbox) and Steve Klein (co-founder, Statuspage) are participating in this round.

The general idea behind LaunchNotes is to help businesses communicate their software updates to internal and external customers, something that has become increasingly important as the speed of software developments — and launches — has increased.

In addition to announcing the new funding round, LaunchNotes also today said that it will revamp its free tier to include the ability to communicate updates externally through public embeds as well. Previously, users needed to be on a paid plan to do so. The team also now allows businesses to customize the look and feel of these public streams more and it did away with subscriber limits.

“The reason we’re doing this is largely because [ … ] our long-term goal is to drive this shift in how release communications is done,” LaunchNotes co-founder Jake Brereton told me. “And the easiest way we can do that and get as many teams on board as possible is to lower the barrier to entry. Right now, that barrier to entry is asking users to pay for it.”

As Brereton told me, the company gained about 100 active users since it launched three months ago.

Image Credits: LaunchNotes

“I think, more than anything, our original thesis has been validated much more than I expected,” co-founder and CEO Tyler Davis added. “This problem really does scale with team size and in a very linear way and the interest that we’ve had has largely been on the much larger, enterprise team side. It’s just become very clear that that specific problem — while it is an issue for smaller teams — is much more of a critical problem as you grow and as you scale out into multiple teams and multiple business units.”

It’s maybe no surprise then that many of the next items on the team’s roadmap include features that large companies would want from a tool like this, including integrations with issue trackers, starting with Jira, single sign-on solutions and better team management tools.

“With that initial cohort being on the larger team size and more toward enterprise, issue tracker integration is a natural first step into our integrations platform, because a lot of change status currently lives in all these different tools and all these different processes and LaunchNotes is kind of the layer on top of that,” explained co-founder Tony Ramirez. “There are other integrations with things like feature flagging systems or git tools, where we want LaunchNotes to be the one place where people can go. And for these larger teams, that pain is more acute.”

The fact that LaunchNotes is essentially trying to create a system of record for product teams was also part of what attracted Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee to the company.

Image Credits: LaunchNotes

“One of the things that I thought was kind of exciting is that this is potentially a new system of record for product people to use that kind of lives in different places right now — you might have some of it in Jira and some in Trello, or Asana, and some of that in Sheets and some of it in Airtable or Slack,” she said. She also believes that LaunchNotes will make a useful tool when bringing on new team members or handing off a product to another developer.

She also noted that the founding team, which she believes has the ideal background for building this product, was quite upfront about the fact that it needs to bring more diversity to the company. “They recognized, even in the first meeting, ‘Hey, we understand we’re three guys, and it’s really important to us to actually build out [diversity] on our cap table and in our investing team, but then also in all of our future hires so that we are setting our company up to be able to attract all kinds of people,” she said.

As the pandemic creates supply chain chaos, Craft raises $10M to apply some intelligence

During the COVID-19 pandemic supply chains have suddenly become hot. Who knew that would ever happen? The race to secure PPE, ventilators, minor things like food, was and still is, an enormous issue. But perhaps, predictably, the world of ‘supply chain software’ could use some updating. Most of the platforms are deployed ‘empty’ and require the client to populate them with their own data or ‘bring their own data’. The UIs can be outdated and still have to be juggled with manual and offline workflows. So startups working in this space are now attracting some timely attention.

Thus, Craft, the enterprise intelligence company, today announces that it has closed a $10 million Series A financing to build what it characterizes as a ‘supply chain intelligence platform’. With the new funding, Craft will expand its offices in San Francisco, London, and Minsk, and grow remote teams across engineering, sales, marketing and operations in North America and Europe.

It competes with some large incumbents such as Dun & Bradstreet, Bureau van Dijk, Thomson Reuters . These are traditional data providers focused primarily on providing financial data about public companies, rather than real-time data from data sources such as operating metrics, human capital, and risk metrics.

The idea is to allow companies to monitor and optimize their supply chain and enterprise systems. The financing was led by High Alpha Capital, alongside Greycroft. Craft also has some high-flying Angel investors including Sam Palmisano, chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise and former CEO and chairman of IBM; Jim Moffatt, former CEO of Deloitte Consulting; Frederic Kerrest, executive vice-chairman, COO and co-founder of Okta; and Uncork Capital which previously led Craft’s Seed financing. High Alpha Partner, Kristian Andersen, is joining Craft’s Board of Directors.

The problem Craft is attacking is a lack of visibility into complex global supply chains. For obvious reasons, COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains which tended to reveal a lot of risks, structural weaknesses across industries and a lack of intelligence about how it’s all holding together. Craft’s solution is a proprietary data platform, API, and portal that integrates into existing enterprise workflows.

While many business intelligence products require clients to bring their own data, Craft’s data platform comes pre-deployed with data from thousands of financial and alternative sources, such as 300+ data points that are refreshed using both Machine Learning and human validation. It’s open-to-the-web company profiles appear in 50 million search results, for instance.

Ilya Levtov, co-founder and CEO of Craft said in a statement: “Today, we are focused on providing powerful tracking and visibility to enterprise supply chains, while our ultimate vision is to build the intelligence layer of the enterprise technology stack.”

Kristian Andersen, partner with High Alpha commented: “We have a deep conviction that supply chain management remains an underinvested and under-innovated category in enterprise software.”

In the first half of 2020, Craft claims its revenues have grown nearly threefold, with Fortune 100 companies, government and military agencies, and SMEs among its clients.

Join Twilio’s Jeff Lawson for a live Q&A August 25 at 2:30 pm EDT/11:30 am PDT

As we race toward Disrupt 2020, we’re keeping the Extra Crunch Live train rolling with a big entry next week as Twilio CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson joins us for a chat.

Lawson is well-known in the tech industry for helping institutionalize API -delivered digital services, a business model variant that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Twilio has become a giant in and of itself, worth more than $37 billion today after going public in 2016.

As always, we’ll take some questions from the audience, so bring your best material.

Considering Twilio, it’s position in the mind of API-focused startups everywhere is notable. You tend to hear API-powered startups mention Twilio and Stripe as the two companies that they are mimicking, albeit usually with a different focus: “We’re building the Twilio for X.”

The power of API-driven startups with usage-based pricing and nearly SaaS-like gross margins is something private investors have certainly noticed and are betting on.

But there’s more to Twilio and Lawson than just that one topic, so we’ll also spend time riffing on when is the right time for a private company to go public, how his life has changed since the IPO, and what advice he might have for the super-late-stage startups who can’t seem to get out of the wings and onto the public markets. And, why, odd duck amongst most of the tech-famous, he doesn’t appear to make many angel investments.

Details follow for Extra Crunch members. If you aren’t one yet, sign up today so you can join our conversation.

Details

The ‘right’ way to downsize

A little over a year into launching StrongLoop, an enterprise API startup eventually acquired by IBM, we were out over our skis. It was my doing — having built a vast top of funnel, we expected our product to have a specific sell-through rate and I’d optimistically hired in engineering, customer support, marketing and sales. However, the sales cycles were long, burn rate was too high and we had too many highly skilled people who were a little bored. It was time to orchestrate a reduction in force.

I’d been laid off a few times myself, once from a pivoting startup and again during the downturn of 2001, so I knew what it felt like. I’d also been a manager at a larger company that laid off employees, so I’d seen the corporate playbook. But as the CEO, I had personally sold these people on our vision, cramming into a small substandard office with them for months or years — it felt very personal. Back then, the job market was robust: I didn’t worry about team members finding new jobs. Today is more uncertain.

With many startups under the pressure of a pandemic-fueled economic crisis, I interviewed several CEOs who have had to orchestrate COVID-19-related layoffs to capture (what I believe) are some best practices to downsize correctly and compassionately.

Put people before projects

One company had a pending product launch, yet a few renewals were pushed due to COVID-19-based uncertainty. Meanwhile, the board had decided to extend runway to have more options. The question was: Should the company complete the product launch and let employees know they’re losing their jobs after? Or should they tell employees ahead of time, risking a loss in focus while some members of the team (correctly) start looking for jobs?