Openbase founder Lior Grossman started his company the way that many founders do — to solve a problem he was having. In this case, it was finding the right open source components to build his software. He decided to build something to solve the problem, and Openbase was born.
Today, the company announced a $ 3.65 million seed round led by Zeev Ventures with participation from Y Combinator and 20 individual tech industry investors. Openbase was a member of the YC 2020 cohort.
Grossman says that being part of YC helped him meet investors, especially on Demo Day when hundreds of investors listened in. “I would say that being part of YC definitely gave us a higher profile, and exposed us to some investors that I didn’t know before. It definitely opened doors for us,” he said.
As developers build modern software, they often use open source components to help build the application, and Openbase helps them find the best one for their purposes. “Openbase basically helps developers choose from among millions of open source packages,” Grossman told me.
Grossman found that his idea began resonating with developers shortly after he launched in 2019. In fact, he reports that he went from zero to half a million users in the first year without any marketing beyond word of mouth. That’s when he decided to apply to Y Combinator and got into the Summer 2020 class.
The database is free for developers and that has helped build the user base so quickly. Eventually he hopes to monetize by allowing certain companies to promote their packages on the system. He says that these will be clearly marked and that the plan is to have only one promoted package per category. What’s more, they will retain all their user reviews and other associated data, regardless of whether it’s being promoted or not.
Grossman started the company on his own, but has added 5 employees with plans to hire more people this year to keep growing the startup. As an immigrant founder, he is sensitive to diversity and sees building a diverse company as a key goal. “I built this company as an immigrant myself […] and I want to build an inclusive culture with people from different backgrounds because I think that will produce the best environment to foster innovation,” he explained.
So far the company has been fully remote, but the plan is to open an office post-pandemic. He says he sees a highly flexible approach to work though with people spending some days in the office and some at home. “I think for our culture this hybrid approach will work. Whenever we expand further I obviously imagine having more offices and not only our office in San Francisco.”
Many first-time entrepreneurs find themselves unable to bootstrap their startups, and also unable to find early funding at the venture capital level or even with angel investors. Their only recourse is that first tier of investors, fondly called Friends, Family and Fools. These are the only people likely to believe in newbies, with only minimal product evidence or business experience.
Yet surprisingly, according to statistics on the Fundable crowdfunding site, friends and family are the major funding source for entrepreneurs, investing over $ 60 billion in new ventures per year, almost triple the amount coming from venture capital sources. The average amount per startup has been $ 23,000, usually in the form of a convertible loan, rather than an equity investment.
Of course, most startups ultimately need much more than this amount to scale the business, but some prior contribution from friends and family (as well as your own sweat equity) is normally expected as a qualification before professional investors will consider entering the game. Their logic is that if your family won’t invest in you, then why should they?
This is confirmation that the right people are always more important than the right product. Here are some key ways that you can be viewed as the right people, whether seeking an investment from friends and family, fools or even later from professional investors:
- Ask for a specific amount to meet a specific milestone. Shy introverts may be great technologists, but they won’t be entrepreneurs until they learn to nurture relationships with friends and family, practice their elevator pitch and respectfully ask for funding. Waiting for someone to give you a gift with no specific objective is likely to be a long wait.
- Offer a formal agreement as well as a handshake. The vehicle of choice is most often a convertible note, which is really a loan with a specified duration and interest, with an option to convert it to equity when professional investors come in later. Hire an attorney to make sure the terms are fair. This shows respect and professionalism.
- Let people see your own investment and commitment. Friends and family are quick to differentiate between a passionate hobby and a sincere effort to change the world. Show them that you have done your homework with industry experts and potential customers, and convince them you are not asking for charity or a donation.
- Build a prototype first on your own time and money. We all know people who are good at talking, but never seem to risk anything or find time to get started on the implementation. Every good entrepreneur needs to invest skin in the game, to show credibility and leadership to others. Investors want to be followers, not the leaders.
- Don’t ask for more than your friends or family can afford to lose. In other words, don’t be greedy, and remember that you have to live with these people even if your startup fails. Ask for the minimum amount you need to reach a significant milestone, with some buffer for the unknown, rather than the maximum amount you can possibly foresee.
- Communicate the plan and the risks up front. Remember that no investment is a gift, and everyone who buys in deserves to hear what you plan to do with their investment, and expects regular updates from you along the way. Be honest with naïve friends and trusting family members, since more than 70 percent of startups fail in the first five years.
- Focus on well-connected friends with relevant business experience. A wealthy uncle may seem like an easy mark, but a less wealthy friend who has connections and experience with startups in your domain can likely help you more than any amount of money. Remember that you are looking for success, not just money to spend.
- Tie re-payments to revenue growth in the startup. Rather than set a fixed repayment schedule, tie investment payoffs to a percentage of new product revenue, or a plan to convert the debt to equity. Use the minimum viable product concept to get revenue early, and allow market and product pivots at minimal cost.
In any case, avoid the urge to think of friends and family as a last funding resort, when they should always be your first focus, and maybe the only one you will ever need. If you succeed, there is no joy like sharing the feeling and the money with people close to you.
But make sure you do it right, per the above recommendations, or you may be the biggest fool.
I have a pretty simple toy idea and I want to first talk to someone to see what challenges I will face in the manufacturing process. How plausible is this idea to build? An estimate of manufacturing cost? Then finally outsource the design and creation of a prototype. I have a full time job and a decent savings.
As remote work continues to solidify its place as a critical aspect of how businesses exist these days, a startup that has built a platform to help companies source and bring on one specific category of remote employees — engineers — is taking on some more funding to meet demand.
Turing — which has built an AI-based platform to help evaluate prospective, but far-flung, engineers, bring them together into remote teams, then manage them for the company — has picked up $ 32 million in a Series B round of funding led by WestBridge Capital. Its plan is as ambitious as the world it is addressing is wide: an AI platform to help define the future of how companies source IT talent to grow.
“They have a ton of experience in investing in global IT services, companies like Cognizant and GlobalLogic,” said co-founder and CEO Jonathan Siddharth of its lead investor in an interview the other day. “We see Turing as the next iteration of that model. Once software ate the IT services industry, what would Accenture look like?”
It currently has a database of some 180,000 engineers covering around 100 or so engineering skills, including React, Node, Python, Agular, Swift, Android, Java, Rails, Golang, PHP, Vue, DevOps, machine learning, data engineering and more.
In addition to WestBridge, other investors in this round included Foundation Capital, Altair Capital, Mindset Ventures, Frontier Ventures and Gaingels. There is also a very long list of high-profile angels participating, underscoring the network that the founders themselves have amassed. It includes unnamed executives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, Snap and other companies, as well as Adam D’Angelo (Facebook’s first CTO and CEO at Quora), Gokul Rajaram, Cyan Banister and Scott Banister, and Beerud Sheth (the founder of Upwork), among many others (I’ll run the full list below).
Turing is not disclosing its valuation. But as a measure of its momentum, it was only in August that the company raised a seed round of $ 14 million, led by Foundation. Siddharth said that the growth has been strong enough in the interim that the valuations it was getting and the level of interest compelled the company to skip a Series A altogether and go straight for its Series B.
The company now has signed up to its platform 180,000 developers from across 10,000 cities (compared to 150,000 developers back in August). Some 50,000 of them have gone through automated vetting on the Turing platform, and the task will now be to bring on more companies to tap into that trove of talent.
Or, “We are demand-constrained,” which is how Siddharth describes it. At the same time, it’s been growing revenues and growing its customer base, jumping from revenues of $ 9.5 million in October to $ 12 million in November, increasing 17x since first becoming generally available 14 months ago. Current customers include VillageMD, Plume, Lambda School, Ohi Tech, Proxy and Carta Healthcare.
Remote work = immediate opportunity
A lot of people talk about remote work today in the context of people no longer able to go into their offices as part of the effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. But in reality, another form of it has been in existence for decades.
Offshoring and outsourcing by way of help from third parties — such as Accenture and other systems integrators — are two ways that companies have been scaling and operating, paying sums to those third parties to run certain functions or build out specific areas instead of shouldering the operating costs of employing, upsizing and sometimes downsizing that labor force itself.
Turing is essentially tapping into both concepts. On one hand, it has built a new way to source and run teams of people, specifically engineers, on behalf of others. On the other, it’s using the opportunity that has presented itself in the last year to open up the minds of engineering managers and others to consider the idea of bringing on people they might have previously insisted work in their offices, to now work for them remotely, and still be effective.
Siddarth and co-founder Vijay Krishnan (who is the CTO) know the other side of the coin all too well. They are both from India, and both relocated to the Valley first for school (post-graduate degrees at Stanford) and then work at a time when moving to the Valley was effectively the only option for ambitious people like them to get employed by large, global tech companies, or build startups — effectively what could become large, global tech companies.
“Talent is universal, but opportunities are not,” Siddarth said to me earlier this year when describing the state of the situation.
A previous startup co-founded by the pair — content discovery app Rover — highlighted to them a gap in the market. They built the startup around a remote and distributed team of engineers, which helped them keep costs down while still recruiting top talent. Meanwhile, rivals were building teams in the Valley. “All our competitors in Palo Alto and the wider area were burning through tons of cash, and it’s only worse now. Salaries have skyrocketed,” he said.
After Rover was acquired by Revcontent, a recommendation platform that competes against the likes of Taboola and Outbrain, they decided to turn their attention to seeing if they could build a startup based on how they had, basically, built their own previous startup.
There are a number of companies that have been tapping into the different aspects of the remote work opportunity, as it pertains to sourcing talent and how to manage it.
They include the likes of Remote (raised $ 35 million in November), Deel ($ 30 million raised in September), Papaya Global ($ 40 million also in September), Lattice ($ 45 million in July) and Factorial ($ 16 million in April), among others.
What’s interesting about Turing is how it’s trying to address and provide services for the different stages you go through when finding new talent. It starts with an AI platform to source and vet candidates. That then moves into matching people with opportunities, and onboarding those engineers. Then, Turing helps manage their work and productivity in a secure fashion, and also provides guidance on the best way to manage that worker in the most compliant way, be it as a contractor or potentially as a full-time remote employee.
The company is not freemium, as such, but gives people two weeks to trial people before committing to a project. So unlike an Accenture, Turing itself tries to build in some elasticity into its own product, not unlike the kind of elasticity that it promises its customers.
It all sounds like a great idea now, but interestingly, it was only after remote work really became the norm around March/April of this year that the idea really started to pick up traction.
“It’s amazing what COVID has done. It’s led to a huge boom for Turing,” said Sumir Chadha, managing director for WestBridge Capital, in an interview. For those who are building out tech teams, he added, there is now “No need for to find engineers and match them with customers. All of that is done in the cloud.”
“Turing has a very interesting business model, which today is especially relevant,” said Igor Ryabenkiy, managing partner at Altair Capital, in a statement. “Access to the best talent worldwide and keeping it well-managed and cost-effective make the offering attractive for many corporations. The energy of the founding team provides fast growth for the company, which will be even more accelerated after the B-round.”
PS. I said I’d list the full, longer list of investors in this round. In these COVID times, this is likely the biggest kind of party you’ll see for a while. In addition to those listed above, it included [deep breath] Founders Fund, Chapter One Ventures (Jeff Morris Jr.), Plug and Play Tech Ventures (Saeed Amidi), UpHonest Capital (Wei Guo, Ellen Ma), Ideas & Capital (Xavier Ponce de León), 500 Startups Vietnam (Binh Tran and Eddie Thai), Canvas Ventures (Gary Little), B Capital (Karen Appleton Page, Kabir Narang), Peak State Ventures (Bryan Ciambella, Seva Zakharov), Stanford StartX Fund, Amino Capital, Spike Ventures, Visary Capital (Faizan Khan), Brainstorm Ventures (Ariel Jaduszliwer), Dmitry Chernyak, Lorenzo Thione, Shariq Rizvi, Siqi Chen, Yi Ding, Sunil Rajaraman, Parakram Khandpur, Kintan Brahmbhatt, Cameron Drummond, Kevin Moore, Sundeep Ahuja, Auren Hoffman, Greg Back, Sean Foote, Kelly Graziadei, Bobby Balachandran, Ajith Samuel, Aakash Dhuna, Adam Canady, Steffen Nauman, Sybille Nauman, Eric Cohen, Vlad V, Marat Kichikov, Piyush Prahladka, Manas Joglekar, Vladimir Khristenko, Tim and Melinda Thompson, Alexandr Katalov, Joseph and Lea Anne Ng, Jed Ng, Eric Bunting, Rafael Carmona, Jorge Carmona, Viacheslav Turpanov, James Borow, Ray Carroll, Suzanne Fletcher, Denis Beloglazov, Tigran Nazaretian, Andrew Kamotskiy, Ilya Poz, Natalia Shkirtil, Ludmila Khrapchenko, Ustavshchikov Sergey, Maxim Matcin and Peggy Ferrell.
Creating a great customer experience requires a lot of data from a variety of sources, and pulling that disparate data together has captured the attention of companies and big and small from Salesforce and Adobe to Segment and Klaviyo. Today, Grouparoo, a new startup from three industry vets is the next company up with an open source framework designed to make it easier for developers to access and make use of customer data.
The company announced a $ 3 million seed investment led by Eniac Ventures and Fuel Capital with participation from Hack VC, Liquid2, SCM Advisors and several unnamed angel investors.
Grouparoo CEO and co-founder Brian Leonard says that his company has created this open source customer data framework based on his own experience and difficulty getting customer data into the various tools he has been using since he was technical founder at TaskRabbit in 2008.
“We’re an open source data framework that helps companies easily sync their customer data from their database or warehouse to all of the SaaS tools where they need it. [After you] install it, you teach it about your customers, like what properties are important in each of those profiles. And then it allows you to segment them into the groups that matter,” Leonard explained.
This could be something like high earners in San Francisco along with names and addresses. Grouparoo can grab this data and transfer it to a marketing tool like Marketo or Zendesk and these tools could then learn who your VIP customers are.
For now the company is just the three founders Leonard, CTO Evan Tahler and COO Andy Jih, and while he wasn’t ready to commit to how many people he might hire in the next 12 months, he sees it being less than 10. At this early stage, the three co-founders have already been considering how to build a diverse and inclusive company, something he helped contribute to while he was at TaskRabbit.
“So, coming from [what we built at TaskRabbit] and starting something new, it’s important to all three of us to start [building a diverse company] from the beginning, and especially combined with this notion that we’re building something open source. We’ve been talking a lot about being open about our culture and what’s important to us,” he said.
TaskRabbit also comes into play in their investment where Fuel GP Leah Solivan was also founder of TaskRabbit. “Grouparoo is solving a real and acute issue that companies grapple with as they scale — giving every member of the team access to the data they need to drive revenue, acquire customers and improve real-time decision making. Brian, Andy and Evan have developed an elegant solution to an issue we experienced firsthand at TaskRabbit,” she said.
For now the company is taking an open source approach to build a community around the tool. It is still pre-revenue, but the plan is to find a way to build something commercial on top of the open source tooling. They are considering an open core license where they can add features or support or offer the tool as a service. Leonard says that is something they intend to work out in 2021.
Be it learning a new language or developing web apps, it’s crucial to have a good development environment for every programmer. The web-based IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) are gaining enormous popularity among developers due to convenience, ease of use, and, of course, the advanced collaboration capabilities in real-time.
What is IDE? Integrated Development Environments (IDE) is a software application that provides basic tools required to write and test software into a single GUI (graphical user interface). This platform eliminates various hassles and allows the developers to start working on a project quickly. Right now there is numerous IDE software available online and many are suitable for coding in the cloud.
Raised €2.5M to expand open source community
The open-source solution recently raised $ 3M (approx €2.5M) seed funding, marking its first fundraise after bootstrapping. The €2.5M seed round was led by Speedinvest with participation from Crane Venture Partners and Vertex Ventures US. Alongside this, the company also announced the arrival of native GitLab integration with Gitpod.
Gitpod intends to use the funding to refine the platform for development environment automation, as well as to expand it’s open source community and relevant ecosystem partnerships.
Launch fresh dev environment with single click
Gitpod is an open source GitOps solution that leverages the version control system as the canonical source of truth to automate everything a developer needs to start coding. Instead of wasting time waiting for tools and bunch libraries to get installed, developers can now launch fresh cloud-based dev environments with one click directly from gitlab.com.
Also, it is going to be a part of GitLab 13.5, which will be released on October 22nd. Post the release, developers can connect their GitLab self-managed installation to gitpod.io through a new feature that allows developers to register additional Git providers.
With Gitpod’s integration into GitLab, code reviews, bug fixes, building new features, and exploring new projects becomes frictionless, while increasing development productivity, efficiency, and velocity.
250,000 registered developers, 100,000 organisations and more
Gitpod CEO Sven Effting, says, “We are currently helping the GitLab team to build a fully-automated Gitpod configuration for the GitLab source code. This makes contributing to the GitLab source code itself as easy as clicking a button. Once this configuration is merged, you will be able to just click on the Gitpod button of the GitLab repository, and everything will be set up for your first GitLab contribution.”
The German startup was founded by experienced developer tools experts that worked together for 10+ years creating programming languages and growing open source communities (Xtext, Theia). To date, the DevOps platform has 250,000 registered developers and is used by millions of developers across 100,000 organisations.
Main image credits: Gitpod