Leapwork raises $10M for its easy process automation platform, plans US expansion

Most work involving computers is highly repetitive, which is why companies regularly have developers write code to automate repetitive tasks. But that process is not very scalable. Ideally, individuals across an entire business would be able to create automated tasks, not just developers. This problem has created a new category called process automation. Startups in this space are all about making companies more efficient.
Most of the existing tools on the market are code-based and complicated, which tends to make it tough for non-technical people to automate anything. Ideally, you would allow them to train software robots to handle repetitive and mundane tasks.

This is the aim of Leapwork, which today announces a Series A investment of $10m, from Londons’s DN Capital and e.ventures out of Berlin. The company already has many clients, from tier one banks and global healthcare firms, to aerospace and software companies, and now plans to expand in the US. Its customers typically already have a lot of experience with tools such as Tricentis, MicroFocus, UiPath and BluePrism, but employ Leapwork when code-based tools prove limiting.

Founded in 2015 and launched in April 2017, Leapwork has an entirely visual system, backed by a modern tech stack. Instead of using developer time, staff automate tasks themselves, without writing any code, with a simple user interface that is likened to learning Powerpoint or Excel. Leapwork estimates it can save 75% of an employee’s time.

Christian Brink Frederiksen, Leapwork’s CEO and co-founder said: “About half of our business comes from the US and this investment will enable us to serve those customers better as well as reaching new ones.”

Leapwork has found traction in the areas of software testing, data migration, and robotic process automation in finance and healthcare. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Leapwork has offices in London, UK, San Francisco, USA, Minsk, Belarus, and Gurugram, India.

Thomas Rubens, of DN Capital, said: “From the outset we were impressed by Leapwork’s product, which we believe will change the automation landscape. Every company has repetitive tasks that could be automated and few have the developer resource to make it happen.”

The founders began in June 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark, after having worked for almost two decades in enterprise software and business-critical IT. They launched their first pilot in July 2016 and after working with Global2000 pilot customers in the US and Europe, went live with the Leapwork automation platform in March 2017.
Prior to this funding the company was bootstrapped by the founders as both had previous successful exits.

Diving into Google Cloud Next and the future of the cloud ecosystem

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller offered up their analysis on the major announcements that came out of Google’s Cloud Next conference this past week, as well as their opinions on the outlook for the company going forward.

Google Cloud announced a series of products, packages and services that it believes will improve the company’s competitive position and differentiate itself from AWS and other peers. Frederic and Ron discuss all of Google’s most promising announcements, including its product for managing hybrid clouds, its new end-to-end AI platform, as well as the company’s heightened effort to improve customer service, communication, and ease-of-use.

“They have all of these AI and machine learning technologies, they have serverless technologies, they have containerization technologies — they have this whole range of technologies.

But it’s very difficult for the average company to take these technologies and know what to do with them, or to have the staff and the expertise to be able to make good use of them. So, the more they do things like this where they package them into products and make them much more accessible to the enterprise at large, the more successful that’s likely going to be because people can see how they can use these.

…Google does have thousands of engineers, and they have very smart people, but not every company does, and that’s the whole idea of the cloud. The cloud is supposed to take this stuff, put it together in such a way that you don’t have to be Google, or you don’t have to be Facebook, you don’t have to be Amazon, and you can take the same technology and put it to use in your company”

Image via Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Frederic and Ron dive deeper into how the new offerings may impact Google’s market share in the cloud ecosystem and which verticals represent the best opportunity for Google to win. The two also dig into the future of open source in cloud and how they see customer use cases for cloud infrastructure evolving.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

CEO Jennifer Tejada just took PagerDuty public; we talked now about the roadshow, the IPO, and what comes next

PagerDuty debuted on the New York Stock Exchange today, and as we type, shares of the nine-year-old, San Francisco-based incident response software company are trading at nearly $39.

That’s up more than 60 percent above their IPO range of $24 per share, which was itself adjusted from the range of $21 to $23 that had been expected earlier and gives the company a valuation of close to $3 billion. That’s an awful lot for a company whose software helps technical teams at 11,000 companies spot problems with applications and respond to incidents. Though it’s growing quickly — revenue was up 48 percent last year  — it still pulled in just $117.8 million in 2018. Meanwhile, its net loss widened last year to $40.7 million from $38.1 million in 2017.

Certainly, its performance has to make the company’s investors —  who last assigned the company a valuation of $1.3 billion back in September — very happy. Some of the VCs poised to win big if PagerDuty’s shares continue flying high include Andreessen Horowitz, which owned 18.4 percent of PagerDuty’s shares sailing into the IPO; Accel, which owned 12.3 recent; and Bessemer, which owned 12.2 percent. Other winners include Baseline Ventures (6.7 percent) and Harrison Metal (5.3 percent).

It’s also exciting for CEO Jennifer Tejada, a proven operator who was brought in to lead PagerDuty in 2016 and now becomes part of a small — but growing — club of women CEOs to take their tech companies public, including Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix and Julia Hartz of Eventbrite.

We talked with Tejada earlier today about the company’s big day. In addition to crediting company cofounders (and shareholders) Andrew Miklas and Baskar Puvanathasan, both of whom have since left the company, Tejada thanked PagerDuty cofounder Alex Solomon, who remains the company’s CTO. She also told us a little bit about what today has been like and how the IPO changes things — and doesn’t. Our chat has been edited for length.

TC: First and foremost, how are you feeling?

JT: It’s been an incredible day. It’s been an incredible several months. You have to enjoy it when it’s going well.

TC: How does the vision for the company change now that it’s public? Have you been thinking ahead to possible acquisitions?

JT:  The vision doesn’t change. We intend to do exactly what we’ve been doing, which is to provide the best real-time operations platform available to companies as they undergo digital transformation to meet the growing demands of their customers. We think we’re [facing] an early and very large opportunity that will be available to us for a long time. So our job continues to be to build great products, stay close to our customers, expand regionally, and continue doing what has allowed us to be a successful private company.

TC: You and I had talked about the challenges of retaining employees in San Francisco when we sat down together in November. It’s a battle for every local company. How do you keep employees beyond the lock-up period?  How do you ensure they stay focused on performance and not your share price?

JT: I think that mindset of, ‘It’s all over when you go public,’ is kind of a Silicon Valley fable. If you look at the most successful SaaS companies on the planet, they’ve gained 10x, 20x, 30x their value post their IPO. I also think what employees look for ahead of their financial success is career success. Am I being developed and recognized and can I build my career at this company? And we’ve worked really hard to create those career opportunities for our employees who [I think see, as I do] the IPO like a racing boat pushing off the dock, across the starting line, and into the open ocean, where the next adventure awaits.

In the meantime, we’ve already lessened our reliance on [overheated job markets] by opening offices in Toronto and Atlanta and Seattle and London and Sydney, even while we’re still hiring in San Francisco and Seattle.

TC: Obviously, Lyft’s shares have been up and down, owing to short sellers. Have you been monitoring short interest? Are you at all concerned about investors driving the price sky high, then selling it on the way down?

JT: I haven’t even looked at the stock price in the last several hours .  .  . There are a lot of things outside of my control, and the free market is one of them.

TC: PagerDuty is rare in that is doesn’t have a dual-class structure, when can greatly empower leaders over everyone else associated with a company. Presumably, this is a great relief to your investors;  I just wonder whether it was ever a consideration.

JT: I’m a little bit of a traditionalist. I’ve been around long enough to know how checks and balances work, and a single-class structure made sense for PagerDuty. Also, dual-class structures tend to emerge more when you have deeply involved founders, and though Alex is still very much a part of the business, PagerDuty’s other two founders have worked outside of the business for some time.

TC: You have plenty of operating experience, including previously running Keynote Systems, but you’ve never taken a company public. Were there ways in which you found the roadshow experience surprising?

JT: I was surprised by how fun it was! [Laughs.] When you have a great story, and a great partner helping you tell it —  in my case that’s [PagerDuty CFO] Howard Wilson, who I’ve worked with for 10 years- – it’s great. We had a great reception from investors. I loved our IPO team;  our [top bank underwriting teams] were both led by women and whenever I had a question, they [had the answer]. I also had this cocoon of experience surrounding me thanks to our board.  If anyone tells you that [in this position] they are super comfortable, they’re either lying or [clueless] but I was very lucky. I also have a whole bunch of buddies who are CEOs [and other executives] in SaaS and I’ve been shaking them down for advice for months so I felt well-prepared.

TC: What was some of the advice you received from those friends about how your life is about to change?

JT:  Some of it was about the need to keep people focused and not get distracted, to remind everyone that this is a milestone, not the goal. [Some centered on] surrounding yourself with a great team and the importance of great investor relations, a function you don’t have as a private company but that can create huge value and provide support and understanding of the market.

One CEO said to just make sure you keep having fun, to try and stay “you,” to find joy in the same things as before.  There will be stressful moments and tough questions — that’s true of any company that scaling —  but I heard a lot of advice about just taking care of myself, including on the roadshow. In fact, there were a lot of really supportive notes and private tweets that, in a job that can feel lonely, made me feel not alone, and I’m very appreciative of that.

TC: People calls IPOs just another funding event, but that’s kind of baloney, isn’t it?  If you had to list the most meaningful moments in your life on a scale from 1 to 10,  1 being the most important, where might today fall? Would today be up there on that list?

JT: When I think of most meaningful moments, I think of the day my daughter was born, and my wedding. Another day that was very meaningful to me was when I approved our pledge to donate one percent [of PagerDuty’s equity, one percent of its product, and one percent of employees’ time] to social impact.  We did it a lot later in the game than some companies; our equity was already valuable. But we knew that it was going to create meaningful impact over time.

But yes, it is a gratifying day, especially for the cofounders who were pulling the idea together for PagerDuty a couple of years before they even launched it, and for employees who’ve been with the company for nearly as long and who turned down safer and higher-paying jobs along the way. Seeing their joy today — that is a memory that will be in my top 10 for sure.

InVision announces new integrations with Jira

Today InVision announced even deeper integrations with Jira, letting users embed actual InVision prototypes right within a Jira ticket. The company also announced the Jira app for InVision Studio, letting designers in Studio see interactive Jira tickets in real time.

InVision has already had lighter integrations with Atlassian products, including Jira, Confluence and Trello. It’s also worth noting that Atlassian participated in InVision’s $115 million Series F funding round.

The partnership makes sense. Atlassian provides a parallel product to InVision, except instead of serving designers, Atlassian serves engineers.

But it brings up an interesting challenge for InVision, last valued at $1.9 billion. The company went from creating its own market with a paid prototyping and collaboration tool to competing with giants and startups alike as it introduced new products.

InVision Studio, for instance, is meant to compete with the likes of Adobe XD, Sketch, and Figma, among others.

At the same time, InVision’s strategy has always been to become a connective tissue for the broader design landscape. CEO Clark Valberg has said in the past that he sees InVision becoming the Salesforce of the design world, with a broad array of partnerships and integrations across the industry to handle each, nuanced fraction of the process in a single, fluid place.

“Up until now we’ve been a fairly horizontal player,” said VP of Product Mike Davidson. “We created the market for prototyping. There was no paid market for a prototyping tool until InVision came along. Now that you see us provide a more vertical stack of tools, we don’t want to lose the great thing we’ve built with the InVision Prototyping tool. It’s been more popular than we could have ever imagined.”

Davidson added that InVision now serves 100 of the Fortune 100 companies.

And since its launch in 2011, InVision has maintained that original strategic course of staying open, particularly with Atlassian. But InVision isn’t just friendly with Atlassian. The company also introduced an App Store and Asset Store in InVision Studio (partnerships include Slack, Dribbble, and Getty), with plans to launch a developer API so anyone can build apps for InVision Studio. Plus, InVision has made a handful of acquisitions, and launched the Design Forward Fund, which allocates $5 million toward investing in design startups.

VP of Partnerships and Community Mike Davidson believes that balancing this open garden philosophy with the desire to provide the very best products across the entire process (automatically putting InVision in competition with other design startups) is one of the company’s greatest challenges.

“We want to provide a first-cclass experience from beginning to end but we also want to provide a system that’s open enough where you can use your tool of choice for any one of the particular functions,” said Davidson. “It’s a difficult balance. We want to allow for designers and developers to choose which tools they use for whatever job they’re trying to do, but we also want to be the best choice for each one of those functions.”

Fleetsmith lands $30M Series B to grow Apple device management platform

Fleetsmith launched in 2016 with a mission to manage Apple devices in the cloud. It simplified an IT activity that had previously been complex with help from Apple’s Device Enrollment Program. Over the last year, the startup has beefed up its offering considerably, and today it announced a $30 million Series B round led by Menlo Ventures.

Tiger Global Management, Upfront Ventures and Harrison Metal also participated. Under the terms of the deal Naomi Pilosof Ionita, a partner at Menlo will join the company board. Her colleague Matt Murphy will become a board observer. With today’s announcement, the startup has now raised over $40 million, according to data supplied by the company.

Company co-founder and CEO Zack Blum says the original mission was about solving a pain point he and his co-founders were feeling around finding a modern approach to managing Apple devices. “From a customer perspective, they can ship devices directly to their employees. The employee unwraps it, connects to WiFi and the device is enrolled automatically in Fleetsmith,” Blum explained.

He says that this automated approach, combined with the product’s security and intelligence capabilities means that IT doesn’t have to worry about devices being registered and up-to-date, regardless of where an employee happens to be in the world.

It has moved from solving that problem for SMBs to having a broader mission for companies of all sizes, especially those with distributed work forces, who can benefit from enrolling in this automated fashion from anywhere. Once enrolled, companies can push security updates to all of the company’s employees and force updates if desired (or at least send strong reminders to avoid updating in the middle of a client meeting).

Over the last year, the company developed a dashboard for IT to monitor all of the devices under its management, including providing an overall health score with any potential problems it has found. For example, there may be a number of MacBook Pros without disk encryption enabled.

The dashboard ties into the identity management component of Office 365 and G Suite.  IT can import the employee directory into the dashboard from either tool, and employees can sign into Fleetmsith with either set of credentials, providing a quick way to manage all of employees in an organization.

Screenshot: Fleetsmith

Fleetsmith has also set up a partner program with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to expand its reach further. MSPs manage IT for SMBs and building a relationship with these types of companies can help it expand much more quickly.

The approach seems to be working as the company has 30 employees and 1500 customers. With the new cash in pocket, it intends to hire more people and continue building out the product’s capabilities, while expanding beyond the US to markets overseas.

How to handle dark data compliance risk at your company

Slack and other consumer-grade productivity tools have been taking off in workplaces large and small — and data governance hasn’t caught up.

Whether it’s litigation, compliance with regulations like GDPR, or concerns about data breaches, legal teams need to account for new types of employee communication. And that’s hard when work is happening across the latest messaging apps and SaaS products, which make data searchability and accessibility more complex.

Here’s a quick look at the problem, followed by our suggestions for best practices at your company.

Problems

The increasing frequency of reported data breaches and expanding jurisdiction of new privacy laws are prompting conversations about dark data and risks at companies of all sizes, even small startups. Data risk discussions necessarily include the risk of a data breach, as well as preservation of data. Just two weeks ago it was reported that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp for official communications and screenshots of those messages for preservation, which commentators say complies with recordkeeping laws but raises questions about potential admissibility as evidence.

WordPress.com parent company launches work collaboration platform Happy Tools

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce and Jetpack, is launching a new suite of products focused on the future of work — Happy Tools. Automattic is a remote company with over 850 employees working from 68 countries. And the company has built a bunch of products over the years to communicate, collaborate and work.

With Happy Tools, Automattic plans to turn those internal tools into actual products. The first product is Happy Schedule, a scheduling service that Automattic is using to deliver 24/7 customer support.

“Ideas about releasing our internal tools have been kicking around Automattic for years, but it’s been about finding the right moment and the right product to lead with,” Automattic product lead for Happy Tools Matt Wondra told me. “When we started building Happy Schedule a year ago we realized that designing a tool for our own scheduling needs also filled a clear gap in the [workforce management] landscape.”

“No other product out there gave us the flexibility and visibility we needed to comfortably schedule a globally distributed team. Since it was a greenfield internal project, we could engineer it from the ground up with public release in mind. And it just made sense to launch Happy Tools first into an industry we know so well — customer support.”

Happy Schedule is a modern web app and it should feel more like Google Calendar instead of some SAP product. For instance, you can click and drag your mouse to create an event — no need to input a start time and an end time.

But this is just a start. Automatic plans to launch more products over time so that you can work more efficiently as a remote team. The company is using a software-as-a-service approach and it costs $5 per user per month to access Happy Tools.

It’s interesting to see that Automattic is promising a suite of products from day one. It won’t just be a bunch of different products. When you subscribe to Happy Tools, you should be able to access multiple products that work together, just like a G Suite subscription lets you access Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, etc. This strategy will improve engagement and stickiness over time.

WorkClout brings SaaS to factory floor to increase operational efficiency

Factory software tools are often out of reach of small manufacturers, forcing them to operate with inefficient manual systems. WorkClout, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2019 class, wants to change that by offering a more affordable SaaS alternative to traditional manufacturing software solutions.

Company co-founder and CEO Arjun Patel grew up helping out in his Dad’s factory and he saw first-hand how difficult it is for small factory owners to automate. He says that traditional floor management tools are expensive and challenging to implement.

“What motivated me is that when my Dad was trying to implement a similar system,” Patel said. He said that his father’s system had cost over $240K, taken over a year to get going and wasn’t really doing what he wanted it to do. That’s when he decided to help.

He teamed up with Bryan Trang, who became the CPO and Richard Girges, who became the CTO to build the system that his Dad (and others in a similar situation) needed. Specifically, the company developed a cloud software solution that helps manufacturers increase their operational efficiency. “Two things that we do really well is track every action on the factory floor and use that data to make suggestions on how to increase efficiency. We also determine how much work can be done in a given time period, taking finite resources into consideration,” Patel explained.

He said that one of the main problems that small-to-medium sized manufacturers face is a lack of visibility into their businesses. WorkClout looks at orders, activities, labor and resources to determine the best course of action to a complete an order in the most cost-effective way.

“WorkClout gives our customers a better way to allocate resources and greater visibility of what’s actually happening on the factory floor. The more data that they have, the more accurate picture they have of what’s going on,” Patel said.

Production Schedule view. Screenshot: WorkClout

The company is still working on the pricing model, but today it charges administrative users like plant management, accounting and sales. Machine operators get access to the data for free. The current rate for paid users starts at $99 per user per month. There is an additional one-time charge for implementation and training.

As for the Y Combinator experience, Patel says that it has helped him focus on what’s important. “It really makes you hone in on building the product and getting customers, then making sure those two things are leading to customer happiness,” he said.

While the company does have to help customers get going today, the goal is to make the product more self-serve over time as they begin to understand the different verticals they are developing solutions for. The startup launched in December and already has 13 customers, generating $100,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR), according to Patel.

Which types of startups are most often profitable?

I co-run an agency that teaches a hundred startups per year how to do growth marketing. This gives me a unique vantage point: I know which types of startups most often reach profitability.

That’s an important metric, because startups that don’t reach this milestone typically fail to raise additional funding — then die.

Here’s what we’ll learn:

  1. Companies are increasingly living and dying by ads. Because it’s the startup’s approach to customer acquisition — not its business model or market — that most determines its early-stage profitability.
  2. E-commerce companies lend themselves best to ads, and SMB SaaS the worst. Meanwhile, most startup founders in 2019 are starting SaaS companies. They’d benefit from the data we share in this post.
  3. In fact, our agency has found that every other type of business reaches profitability quicker than SMB SaaS, including mobile apps, Chrome extensions and enterprise SaaS.

Our sampling of startups isn’t as biased as startup valuation leaderboards, because we also see those that failed. That’s the key.

You can use our experience to de-risk your startup. That’s what this post explores: How to change your product roadmap to pursue a path more likely to reach profitability.

The startups that frequently reach profitability

Here’s the data my agency is referencing for this post:

  • We train 12+ venture-backed and bootstrapped startups every month. Half are Y Combinator graduates. This is how we study early-stage product-market fit trends.
  • We run ads full-time for between 20 and 30 mature companies per year. On average, each spends $2.5 million annually on paid acquisition. And, on average, each has 30 employees. Our clients include Tovala.com, PerfectKeto.com, SPYSCAPE.com, ImperfectProduce.com, Clearbit.com and Woodpath.com.
  • Our students and clients are roughly evenly distributed across D2C e-commerce, B2B, mobile apps and marketplaces.

When we try to control for founder skill and funds raised, the types of startups that first reach profitability do so in this order:

  1. E-commerce
  2. Chrome extensions
  3. Mobile apps
  4. Enterprise SaaS
  5. Small-to-medium business SaaS

On average, an e-commerce company is more likely to first reach profitability than an SMB SaaS company.

Before I explain why, let me explain how we’re differentiating startups: I use the word “type” instead of “business model” or “markets” because I’ve learned that business model and market are often not the best predictors of success. Instead, it’s your approach to customer acquisition. That’s what typically determines the likelihood of profitability.

Which types of startups are most often profitable?

I co-run an agency that teaches a hundred startups per year how to do growth marketing. This gives me a unique vantage point: I know which types of startups most often reach profitability.

That’s an important metric, because startups that don’t reach this milestone typically fail to raise additional funding — then die.

Here’s what we’ll learn:

  1. Companies are increasingly living and dying by ads. Because it’s the startup’s approach to customer acquisition — not its business model or market — that most determines its early-stage profitability.
  2. E-commerce companies lend themselves best to ads, and SMB SaaS the worst. Meanwhile, most startup founders in 2019 are starting SaaS companies. They’d benefit from the data we share in this post.
  3. In fact, our agency has found that every other type of business reaches profitability quicker than SMB SaaS, including mobile apps, Chrome extensions and enterprise SaaS.

Our sampling of startups isn’t as biased as startup valuation leaderboards, because we also see those that failed. That’s the key.

You can use our experience to de-risk your startup. That’s what this post explores: How to change your product roadmap to pursue a path more likely to reach profitability.

The startups that frequently reach profitability

Here’s the data my agency is referencing for this post:

  • We train 12+ venture-backed and bootstrapped startups every month. Half are Y Combinator graduates. This is how we study early-stage product-market fit trends.
  • We run ads full-time for between 20 and 30 mature companies per year. On average, each spends $2.5 million annually on paid acquisition. And, on average, each has 30 employees. Our clients include Tovala.com, PerfectKeto.com, SPYSCAPE.com, ImperfectProduce.com, Clearbit.com and Woodpath.com.
  • Our students and clients are roughly evenly distributed across D2C e-commerce, B2B, mobile apps and marketplaces.

When we try to control for founder skill and funds raised, the types of startups that first reach profitability do so in this order:

  1. E-commerce
  2. Chrome extensions
  3. Mobile apps
  4. Enterprise SaaS
  5. Small-to-medium business SaaS

On average, an e-commerce company is more likely to first reach profitability than an SMB SaaS company.

Before I explain why, let me explain how we’re differentiating startups: I use the word “type” instead of “business model” or “markets” because I’ve learned that business model and market are often not the best predictors of success. Instead, it’s your approach to customer acquisition. That’s what typically determines the likelihood of profitability.