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Hello from the midst of Disrupt 2020: after this short piece for you I am wrapping my prep for a panel with investors from Bessemer, a16z and Canaan about the future of SaaS. Luckily, The Exchange this morning is on a very similar topic.
Today we’re parsing some data that Bessemer and Forbes shared regarding their yearly Cloud 100 list. It’s a grouping of private cloud and SaaS companies, giving us a good look into valuation trends over time and also where the most valuable startups are focusing their efforts.
The data show a changing focus from the biggest and most impressive private SaaS and cloud companies. And the valuation trends show how growing private valuations could limit future returns, given historical results.
Of course, modern cloud valuations make it hard to be bearish on SaaS revenue multiples, but all the same, how much higher can they go? Every startup looks cheap when money is cheap. Let’s get into the numbers.
A changing sector focus
The Cloud 100 cycles companies in and out as time passes. As the list is focused on private companies, cloud and SaaS firms that sell to another company or go public leave the cohort. And new companies join, keeping the total group at precisely 100 companies.
Here are the top five sectors those 100 companies are focused on, in order of popularity:
There are some changes at the helm of Blade, the French startup behind Shadow. Mike Fischer is going to work for the company and become chief executive officer. Jean-Baptiste Kempf is joining the company as chief technology officer.
Shadow is a cloud computing service for gamers. For a monthly subscription fee, you can access a gaming PC in a data center near you. Compared to other cloud gaming services, such as GeForce Now or Google’s Stadia, Shadow provides a full Windows 10 instance. You can install anything you want — Steam, Photoshop or Word.
The company has been growing rapidly over the past few years and raised more than $ 100 million in total. Last year, the company announced ambitious plans, with a wide-ranging partnership with OVHcloud and high-end configurations.
At the same time, co-founder Emmanuel Freund stepped aside as CEO, with Jérôme Arnaud taking over. There have been multiple delays with the new product offering and the company is no longer working with OVHcloud. Freund left the company in April and, as INpact Hardware reported in July, Arnaud has been on the way out for a couple of months.
All of this leads us to today’s announcement. Mike Fischer, the company’s new CEO, has been quite active in the video game industry. In the past, he has worked at Sega, Bandai Namco, Microsoft and Epic Games. He was the president and CEO of Square Enix between 2010 and 2013.
Jean-Baptiste Kempf is a well-known figure in the open-source community. For the past 14 years, he has been the president of VideoLAN, the organization behind popular media player VLC. VideoLAN has also contributed to widely used video encoding technologies. He also founded VideoLabs, a company that works on VLC-related integrations and support.
The company is still working on rolling out the new Ultra and Infinite configurations to European users who pre-ordered. It originally planned to start rolling out new tiers in the U.S. starting this summer but the company now says it expects to launch these new tiers by the end of the year.
For customers in the U.S., there are no pre-orders, there will simply be a button to upgrade in your account when it’s available. LG invested in the company earlier this year and the service will go live in South Korea later this year, as well.
After raising their IPO price ranges, both JFrog and Snowflake priced above their refreshed intervals last night. At their final IPO prices, the two debuts are aggressively valued, showing continued optimism amongst public investors that cloud shares are an attractive bet, even if their growth is financed through a history of steep losses, as in the case of Snowflake .
The JFrog IPO pricing is notable because it shows how much public investors are willing to pay for 50% growth and recent profits from a SaaS company. Snowflake’s pricing is noteworthy for showing the value of huge growth and improving economics.
This morning we’ll explore the two companies’ final values, compare those results to their initial IPO price ranges and calculate their current revenue multiples based on last quarter’s annual run rates. This is going to be fun.
Later today we’ll have updates on how they open to trade. For now, let’s get into the math and valuation nuance you and I both need to understand just where the public market is today as so many unicorns are either en route toward an IPO, or are standing just outside the pool with a single hoof dipped to check the temperature.
Price this, you filthy animal
JFrog priced its IPO at $ 44 per share, above its raised range of $ 39 to $ 41 per share and comically higher than its first price interval of $ 33 to $ 37 per share. Indeed, the company’s final IPO price was 33.3% higher than the low end of its first proposed pricing range.
Though I doubt anyone expected the company to go for so little as $ 33 per share, JFrog’s pricing run shows strong demand even before it began to float.
Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading.
Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.
Is the vaunted cloud acceleration falling flat?
This week we’re taking a look at the bad side of the cloud software market. In case you were avoiding the news over the last week, tech and software stocks are struggling. Not much compared to their 2020 gains, mind, but after months of only going up their recent declines have been notable. (As I write to you, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is headed for its worst week since March.)
The pullback makes some sense. Having watched SaaS and cloud valuations get stretched to historical highs, Slack’s earnings were an endcap on a good, but not-quite-as-good-as-expected set of results from public cloud and SaaS companies.
As we’ve noted, most public software companies are not seeing their revenue growth accelerate. Some public software companies may be seeing their growth deceleration slow, but the number of public software companies actually accelerating in 2020 is tiny. The actually-accelerating group is Zoom, and maybe one or two other companies.
Why is that, given all that we’ve heard about the presumably accelerating digital transformation? Slack earnings are a good explainer. The enterprise communications company’s recent filings explain that its COVID-bump has somewhat dissipated, while a number of COVID-related problems are persisting.
Seeing recently risen valuations slip in the face of a lack of materially accelerated growth and some churn issues is reasonable.
Does this matter for startups? Some. Public software valuations are still elevated compared to historical norms, which helps software startups defend their valuations and raise well. And there are plenty of startup hotspots as we’ve noted, including API-delivered startups enjoying time in the sun, as well as edtech startups that caught a COVID-related tailwind.
I am chatting with investors from a16z, Bessemer, and Canaan next week at Disrupt about the future of SaaS, collecting notes on the private-market side of this particular issue. So, more to come. But for now, I think we’ve seen the top of the peak and are now dealing more with reality than hype. Or, as public investors might say, the COVID trade has run its course and earnings will set the tone moving forward.
Moving on to market notes, a fintech stat, and some other bits of data for your consumption and edification:
- Fintech is staying hot, with M1 Finance doubling its AUM from $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion in about half a year. TechCrunch covered M1 reaching the $ 1 billion AUM threshold because it’s a Chicago company and I could not resist the fintech data point. Then M1 raised $ 33 million at $ 1.45 billion AUM in June. Now it’s at $ 2 billion.
- Our read? The savings and investing boom that helped power Robinhood to new revenue records, along with other players, is continuing.
- More evidence of that? Alpaca, a startup that delivers equity-trading capabilities via an API, is seeing insane growth. (That piece has more notes on API-led startups in case that is your jam.)
- Quickly turning to the public markets, JFrog is about to show the power of profits in today’s markets, and next week should see a number of debuts of JFrog, Sumo Logic and Snowflake. Palantir is the week after. (More notes here if you need them.)
- Oh, and folks are pricing Palantir at a fraction of its final private valuation. Whoops. Maybe that’s why so many insiders are selling now? Big ups to Danny for that story. (Also, yowza this is not at all good.)
A brief interlude: Disrupt is next week, you should come. You can enjoy it from the comfort of your couch.
Various and Sundry
SaaS and cloud earnings continue to trickle in, which means I spent a good portion of my week talking to more execs at public companies. Short notes from Smartsheet, nCino and BigCommerce to follow, along with some final thoughts for your weekend.
- On the valuations front, Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader told TechCrunch that “investors are thinking about how to balance historically high multiples with historically high potential returns in the space that’s still very young.”
- He added that no one doubts that cloud “is going to be the answer” to a lot of stuff, or that “people are [going to] change how they work,” but did note that cloud companies are not impervious to macro headwinds, because “cloud companies serve non-cloud companies,” and not merely companies in sectors that are excelling.
- This fits neatly into our notes on Slack above. More on Smartsheet’s earnings here.
- nCino had a good quarter, beating expectations and guiding well during its first public earnings report. However, like many other SaaS and cloud companies, it has lost some valuation altitude in recent weeks. It’s still miles above its IPO price, however.
- I was curious about how the post-IPO period has been for the company’s CEO, Pierre Naudé, and his response was fun. Like all new public company CEOs, he made sure to note how quickly his team got back to work after the debut, but he also told The Exchange that he does now spend time that he used to invest in customers and “innovation” talking to analysts and investors.
- Being a public company, therefore, has time and focus costs that are worth considering, as we see so many tech shops approach the public markets.
- And then there was BigCommerce, which went public quite recently. I got back on the horn with CEO Brent Bellm, wanting to learn a bit more about the current state of the e-commerce market.
- Here’s what the CEO had to say, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:
“I think it’s staying pretty hot. The surprising thing in the post-pandemic weeks was just how rapidly growth accelerated, and consumer and business adoption grew. We all kept saying ‘well at some point stores will reopen, and the growth rates will come back down.’ But the growth rates for actual sales running through stores continued to be very strong. You know, whether you look at our customer set, or [at] credit card data from Bank of America or others […] you can see quite clearly that e-commerce remains very, very hot. It’s a permanent change in behavior. Consumers have found a lot more places where they now like to buy online and reasons to like to buy online, and companies have found new and more effective ways to sell.”
- This is probably a good reminder to turn our attention back to e-commerce when we get a chance post-Disrupt.
- And, finally, read Natasha on why rolling funds are blowing up, something that we talked about on the podcast this week.
That’s all the room we have. Hugs, fist bumps, and good luck.
Slack’s shares are set to fall sharply this morning, down around 16% in pre-market trading. As the company beat analyst expectations last quarter and guided within range, the selloff might feel a little surprising.
Perhaps it shouldn’t.
I spoke with a VC last week about what the new benchmark results are for private SaaS companies, and to my surprise, he said software startups don’t have to grow at 100% to be fundable in today’s market. Given what I’d heard from other venture capitalists about how so much of their portfolios had found a COVID-19 growth bump, the perspectives felt incongruous.
Startups wanted to grow at a pace of more than 100% pre-pandemic, and some have accelerated since. So how could a startup growing less than three figures yearly be attractive? Throw in Zoom’s impressive earnings results and some warning signs from earlier this earnings cycle that cloud growth hasn’t wound up being quite as fast as expected felt diminished.
Slack’s earnings help sort out what’s going on.
Reading the company’s SEC filing related to earnings this morning, it’s hard to miss Slack’s notes about COVID-19. The enterprise communications company describes early benefits from the pandemic, along with lingering pain associated with its economic impacts. In short, the software-related COVID bump could wind up leaving a hangover in the short- to medium-term.
This helps us understand why a software startup could be VC-attractive in 2020 without a 100% growth rate. Perhaps more SaaS and cloud startups than we’ve been led to believe are struggling, which means slower revenue expansion is palatable provided that other indicators are flashing green.
To understand what could be happening to your favorite startup, let’s tease apart Slack’s COVID-19-related business notes, starting with the good news, before turning to what I’ve penciled in as the bad news — and the even badder tidings.
“Varo was founded with a clear vision to deploy a more efficient business model and cutting-edge technology in order to create a new kind of bank – one that is wholly designed around the financial health and wellbeing of the everyday American consumer. From the start, we knew this vision needed to be supported by having a national bank charter and an innovative technology partner like Temenos. After a three and a half year journey, I’m thrilled that Varo has made history as the first US consumer fintech to receive a national bank charter. Varo Bank is now live using our new industry-leading technology stack, developed in partnership with Temenos. Varo now has a historic opportunity to deliver the tech-driven banking products and services that will help millions of Americans make progress in their financial lives.”
Read more here.