The Exchange regularly covers companies as they approach and crest the $ 100 million revenue mark. Our goal in tracking startups growing at scale is to scout future IPO candidates and better understand the late-stage financing market.
Today we’re digging into a company that is a little bit bigger than that. Namely Databricks, a data analytics company that was most recently valued at around $ 6.2 billion in its October, 2019 Series F when it raised $ 400 million.
The former startup reached a run rate of around $ 350 million at the end of Q3 2020, up from $ 200 million in revenue in Q3 2019, putting it on a rapid growth pace for a former startup of its size.
To better dig into the company’s performance, I got on the phone with its CEO, Ali Ghodsi, hoping to better understand how Databricks has managed to grow as much as it has in recent years. Ghodsi took over as CEO in 2016 after serving as the company’s VP of engineering. He’s also a co-founder.
Databricks is an obvious IPO candidate, but it’s also a company with broad private-market options, given its revenue expansion and attractive economics. Today, let’s talk about Databricks’ growth history, how it changed its sales process and what’s ahead for the unicorn more than six times over.
What does Databricks do?
What does Databricks actually do? Normally I’d be content to wave my hands at data analytics and call it a day. Chatting with Ghodsi, however, clarified the matter, so let me help.
Let’s say that a company has a lot of data on its machinery and wants to know when different pieces are going to fail. Or, perhaps a company wants to find patterns in some economic data. How do they find that information?
Ghodsi reckons you need three things: First, data engineering, or getting customer data “massaged into the right forms so that you can actually start using it.” Second, data science, which Ghodsi describes as “the machine learning algorithms, the predictive algorithms that you need to have.” And third, on top, companies “more and more” also want data warehousing and some “basic analytics,” he added.
Instacart announced today that it has raised $ 200 million in a new funding round featuring prior investors. D1 Capital and Valiant Peregrine Fund led the investment. Instacart is now worth $ 17.7 billion, post-money, or $ 17.5 billion pre-money. The plan is to use the funding to focus on introducing new features and tools to improve the customer experience, and further support Instacart’s enterprise and ads businesses, according to a blog post.
Previously in 2020, Instacart raised $ 100 million in July, and $ 225 million in June. The June round valued the company at around $ 13.7 billion, meaning that the unicorn’s new funding round — raised just months later — came at a much higher price.
Instacart, like some other tech, and tech-enabled businesses, has seen demand for its service expand during the pandemic. It’s not hard to trace a connection between COVID-19 and its business results, as folks wanting to stay at home have turned to on-demand services to keep themselves safe.
The growth shown by Uber’s food delivery business is another example of this trend.
Instacart’s valuation has more than doubled since its 2018 Series F, when it was worth around $ 7.9 billion. The pace at which Instacart has created paper value is impressive, though its IPO plans appear murky from the outside and how much of the its COVID-bump will be retained when the pandemic ends is not yet clear.
The startup famously turned a profit during a month in Q2, worth around $ 10 million per The Information. The same report indicated that Instacart lost around $ 300 million in 2019. What the company’s full-year profitability profile will look like is not know.
TechCrunch sent a number of questions to the firm, including if it has had any further profitable months in 2020, and how quickly it grew in Q3 2020. The company’s spokespeople did not answer those questions.
“Today’s investment is a testament to the strong conviction our existing investors have in the strength of our teams and the important role Instacart plays for customers, partners, and the entire grocery ecosystem,” Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a press release. “I’m incredibly proud of our team’s work to scale our business this past year and rise to meet the unprecedented consumer demand and growth.”
Instacart is one of the company’s caught up in a regulatory war after California passed AB5, which changed the state’s rules on gig workers. A voter proposition — Prop 22 — that would keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors, is coming up for a vote in California. Instacart is in favor of the proposition, along with Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates (now owned by Uber).
Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash have collectively contributed $ 184,008,361.46 to the Yes on 22 campaign. Those contributions have been monetary, non-monetary and have come in the form of loans. In September, the four companies each committed another $ 17.5 million to Yes on Prop 22 in monetary contributions. Of all the measures on this November’s ballot, Yes on Prop 22 has received the most contributions, according to California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
Beyond Prop 22, Instacart is facing a lawsuit from Washington D.C. District Attorney General Karl A. Racine that alleges the company charged customers millions of dollars in “deceptive service fees” and failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of sales tax. The suit seeks restitution for customers who paid those service fees, as well as back taxes and interest on taxes owed to D.C. Specifically, it alleges Instacart misled customers regarding the 10% service fee to think it was a tip for the delivery person, from September 2016 to April 2018.
Meanwhile, amid the pandemic and wildfires in California, workers have demanded personal protective equipment and better pay, and, most recently, disaster relief.
Sprinklr has been busy the last few years acquiring a dozen companies, then rewriting their code base and incorporating them into the company’s customer experience platform. Today, the late-stage startup went back to the fund raising well for the first time in four years, and it was a doozy, raising $ 200 million on a $ 2.7 billion valuation.
The money came from private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, who also invested $ 300 million in buying back secondary shares. Meanwhile the company also announced $ 150 million in convertible securities from Sixth Street Growth. That’s a lot of action for a company that’s been quiet on the fund raising front for three years.
Company founder and CEO Ragy Thomas says he sought the investment now because after building a customer experience platform, he was ready to accelerate and he needed the money to do it. He expects the company to hit $ 400 million in annual recurring revenue by year’s end and he says that he sees a much bigger opportunity on the horizon.
“We think it’s a $ 100 billion opportunity and our large public competitors have validated that and continue to do so in the customer experience management space,” he said. Those large competitors include Salesforce and Adobe.
He sees customer experience management as having the kind of growth that CRM has had in the past, and this money gives him more options to grow faster, while working with a big private equity firm.
“So what was appealing in this market for us was not just putting some more money in the bank and being a little more aggressive in growth, innovation, go to market and potential M&A, but what was also appealing is the opportunity to bring someone like a Hellman & Friedman to the table,” Thomas said.
The company has 1000 clients, some spending millions of dollars a year. They currently have 1900 employees in 25 offices around the world, and Thomas wants to add another 500 over the next 12 months, — and he believes that $ 1 billion in ARR is a realistic goal for the company.
As he builds the company Thomas, who is a person of color, has codified diversity and inclusion into the company’s charter, what he calls the “Sprinklr Way.” For us, diversity and inclusion is not impossible. It is not something that you do to check a box and market yourself. It’s deep in our DNA,” he said.
Tarim Wasim a partner at investor Hellman & Friedman, sees a company with tremendous potential to lead a growing market. “Sprinklr has a unique opportunity to lead a Customer Experience Management market that’s already massive — and growing — as enterprises continue to realize the urgent need to put CXM at the heart of their digital transformation strategy,” Wasim said in a statement.
Sprinklr was founded in 2009. Before today, it last raised $ 105 million in 2016 led by Temasek Holdings. Past investors include Battery Ventures, ICONIQ Capital and Intel Capital.
When we last reported on Snyk in January, eons ago in COVID time, the company announced $ 150 million investment on a valuation of over $ 1 billion. Today, barely nine months later, it announced another $ 200 million and its valuation has expanded to $ 2.6 billion.
The company is obviously drawing some serious investor attention and even a pandemic is not diminishing that interest. Addition led today’s round, bringing the total raised to $ 450 million with $ 350 million coming this year alone.
Snyk has a unique approach to security, building it into the development process instead of offloading it to a separate security team. If you want to build a secure product, you need to think about it as you’re developing the product and that’s what Snyk’s product set is designed to do — check for security as you’re committing your build to your git repository.
With an open source product at the top of funnel to drive interest in the platform, CEO Peter McKay says the pandemic has only accelerated the appeal of the company. In fact, the startup’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is growing at a remarkable 275% year over year.
McKay says, even with the pandemic, his company has been accelerating adding 100 employees in the last 12 months to take advantage of the increasing revenue. “When others were kind of scaling back we invested and it worked out well because our business never slowed down. In fact, in a lot of the industries it really picked up,” he said.
That’s because as many other founders have pointed out, COVID is speeding up the rate at which many companies are moving to the cloud, and that’s working Snyk’s favor. “We’ve just capitalized on this accelerated shift to the cloud and modern cloud native applications,” he said.
The company currently has 375 employees with plans to add 100 more in the next year. As it grows, McKay says that he is looking to build a diverse and inclusive culture, something he learned about as he moved through his career at VMware and Veeam.
He says one of the keys at Snyk is putting every employee through unconscious bias training to help limit bias in the hiring process, and the executive team has taken a pledge to make the company’s hiring practices more diverse. Still, he recognizes it takes work to achieve these goals, and it’s always easy for an experienced team to go back to the network instead of digging deeper for a more diverse candidate pool.
“I think we’ve put all the pieces in place to get there, but I think like a lot of companies, there’s still a long way to go,” he said. But he recognizes the sooner you embed diversity into the company culture, the better because it’s hard to go back after the fact and do it.
Addition founder Lee Fixel says he sees a company that’s accelerating rapidly and that’s why he was willing to pour in so big an investment. “Snyk’s impressive growth is a signal that the market is ready to embrace a change from traditional security and empower developers to tackle the new security risk that comes with a software-driven digital world,” he said in a statement.
Snyk was founded in 2015. The founders brought McKay on board for some experienced leadership in 2018 to help lead the company through its rapid growth. Prior to the $ 350 million in new money this year, the company raised $ 70 million in 2019.
Gong announced a $ 200 million Series D investment just last month, and loaded with fresh cash, the company wasted no time taking advantage. Today, it announced it was buying early stage Isreali sales technology startup Vayo. The companies did not share terms of the deal, but Gong CEO Amit Bendov said the deal closed a couple of weeks ago.
The two companies match up quite well from a tech standpoint. While Gong searches unstructured data like emails and phone call transcripts and finds nuggets of data, Vaya looks at structured data, which is essentially the output of the Gong search process. What’s more, it handles large amounts of data at scale.
“Vayo helps find customer interactions at a large scale to identify trends like customers likely to churn or usage is going up, or your deals are starting to slow down — and they do this for structured data at scale,” Bendov told TechCrunch.
He said this ability to identify trends was really what attracted him to the company, even though it was still at an early stage of development. “It’s a perfect fit for Gong. We take unstructured data — emails, audio calls video calls — and extract insights. Customers, especially with a large organization, don’t want to see individual interactions but high order insights […] and they’ve developed [a solution] to identify trends on large data volumes for customer interactions,” he said.
Vayo was founded in 2018 and raised $ 1.7 million in seed capital, according to Crunchbase. Joining forces with Gong gives them an opportunity to develop the technology inside a company that’s growing quickly and is extremely well capitalized having raised over $ 300 million in the last 18 months.
Avshi Vital, CEO at Vayo, who has joined Gong with his 4-fellow employees, gave a familiar argument for selling the company. “With Gong we found the perfect partner to realize this mission faster and maximize the impact of the technology we built given the scale of their customer base and growth potential,” he said.
The plan is to fold the Vayo tech into the Gong platform, a process that will take 3-6 months, according to Bendov.