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Monthly Archives: December 2019

Tech’s biggest companies are worth ~$5T as 2019’s epic stock market run wraps



Look, this is the last post I’m writing in 2019 and I’m tired. But I can’t let the year close without taking stock of how well tech stocks did this year. It was bonkers.

So let’s mark the year’s conclusion with some notes for our future selves. Yes, we know that the Nasdaq has been setting new records and SaaS had a good year. But we need to dig in and get the numbers out so that we can look back and remember.

Let’s cap off this year the way it deserves to be remembered, as a kick-ass trip ’round the sun for your local, public technology company.

Keeping score

We’ll start with the indices that we care about:

  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 35% in 2019
  • The SaaS-heavy Bessemer Cloud Index rose 41% this year

Next, the highest-value U.S.-based technology companies:

  • Microsoft was up around 55% in 2019
  • Apple managed an 86% gain in the year
  • Not be left out, Facebook rose 57%
  • Amazon posted its own gain of 23% in 2019
  • Alphabet managed to grow by 29%, as well

Now let’s turn to some companies that we care about, even if they are smaller than the Big Five:

  • Salesforce? Up 19% this year
  • Adobe was up 46% in 2019, which was astounding
  • Intel picked up 28% in the year, making it no slouch
  • Even Oracle managed to gain 17% in 2019

And so on.

The technology industry’s epic run has been so strong that The Wall Street Journal noted this morning that, powered by tech companies, U.S. stocks “are poised for their best annual performance in six years.” The Journal highlighted the performance of Apple and Microsoft in particular for helping drive the boom. I wonder why.

How long will we live in the neighborhood of Nasdaq 9,000? How long can two tech companies be worth more than $1 trillion at the same time? How long can the biggest tech companies be worth a combined $4.93 trillion (I remember when $3 trillion for the Big Five was news, and I recall when the group reach a collective value of $4 trillion).1

But the worst trade in recent years has been the pessimists’ gambit. No matter what, stocks have kept going up, short-term hiccoughs and other missteps aside.

For nearly everyone, that is. While tech stocks in general did very well, some names that we all know did not. Let’s close on those reminders that a rising tide lifts only most boats.

2019 naughty list

Several of the most lackluster public tech companies were 2019 technology IPOs, interestingly enough. Who didn’t do well? Uber earns a spot on the naughty list for not only being underwater from its IPO price, but also from its final private valuations. And as you guessed, Lyft is down from its IPO price as well, which is not good.

Some 2019 IPOs did well in the middle of the year, but fell a little flat as the year came to a close. Pinterest, Beyond Meat and Zoom meet that criteria, for example. And some SaaS companies struggled, even if we think they will reach $1 billion in revenue in time.

But it was mostly a party. The public markets were good, and tech stocks were great. This helped create another 100+ unicorns in the year.

Such was 2019. On to 2020!

  1. In time, those numbers will look small. But sitting here on December 31, 2019, they appear huge and towering and, it must be said, somewhat perilously stacked.

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TechCrunch Include yearly report



Welcome to the third annual TechCrunch Include Progress Report. Our editorial and events teams work hard throughout the year to ensure that we bring you the most dynamic and diverse group of speakers and judges to our event stages. And finally, at the tail end of 2019, we bring you … 2018 data. (You can see 2017 data here.)

In 2018, TechCrunch produced Disrupts in San Francisco and Berlin, as well as regional Battlefield events in Zug, Switzerland; Lagos, Nigeria; São Paulo, Brazil and Berlin, Germany. We also produced a number of Sessions events, including the increasingly popular Robotics edition, as well as Blockchain and AR/VR.

It is important to us that we foster an environment that reflects the increasingly diverse tech industry. We are pleased to report that we saw an overall increase across the board with regard to inclusion, while still acknowledging that we weren’t yet where we needed to be when it comes to women and people of color across our stages. Happily, 2019 has been even better, and we’ll bring you those numbers soon.

Below we have compiled data from our 2018 events about the makeup of people who appeared as panelists, judges and founders of the Battlefield competitors. 

Disrupt

Our flagship conference attracts speakers, judges and Battlefield contestants from all over the world. It serves as a global arena for startups in all stages of development, as well as investors interested in finding their next big investment.

At Disrupt SF in 2018, of the 153 total speakers and judges, 33% were women and 27% were people of color. On the Battlefield stage, of the 22 teams, 36% had female founders. This is up from 29% the year before.

At Disrupt Berlin, of the 56 speakers and judges, 39% were women and 18% were people of color. Of the 12 teams that competed on the Battlefield stage, half the founders were women.

Regional Battlefield 

Our Battlefield competition isn’t limited to Disrupt. We take it on the road in order to give as many startups an opportunity to compete. In addition, these events include panels designed around region-specific topics. In 2018, we hosted Battlefield competitions in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and Africa regions.

Battlefield MENA showcased 15 teams; of those, 53% were founded by women. Of the 28 speakers and judges, 35% were women and 75% were people of color.

Fifteen teams competed in Battlefield LatAm, 20% of which were led by women. Out of the 28 speakers and judges, 32% were women and 68% were people of color.

And finally, in Battlefield Africa, a total of 15 teams competed. Of those, 33% were founded by women. Of the 28 speakers and judges, 14% were women and 75% were people of color.

Sessions

Our daylong Sessions events are targeted at specific topics. In 2018, we held events about Blockchain, robotics and AR/VR. TechCrunch Sessions events attract to the stage specialists in their industries speaking to rapt audiences.

Of the 28 speakers who appeared onstage in Berkeley for Sessions: Robotics, 25% were women and 21% were people of color. In Zug, Switzerland for Sessions: Blockchain, of the 29 speakers, 17% were women and 21% were people of color. And in Los Angeles at Sessions: AR/VR, 34% of the 29 speakers were women and 24% were people of color.

Miscellaneous

Tel Aviv

Our event in Tel Aviv leaned heavily toward mobility, and served as a preview of what would become Sessions: Mobility in 2019. Of the 38 speakers in our programming, 21% were women and 63% were people of color.

VivaTech

In 2018, TechCrunch also hosted a hackathon at VivaTech in Paris, as well as presented editorial programming. Of the 20 speakers, 45% were women and 30% were people of color.

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TRACED Act signed into law, putting robocallers on notice



The Pallone-Thrune TRACED Act, a bipartisan bit of legislation that should make life harder for the villains behind robocalls, was signed into law today by the President. It’s still possible to get things done in D.C. after all!

We’ve covered the TRACED Act several times previously, as robocalls are, in addition to being horribly annoying, a uniquely annoying high-tech threat. Using clever targeting and spoofing technology, scammers are placing millions of calls that at best irritate and at worst take advantage of the vulnerable.

The new law won’t end that practice overnight, but it does add some useful tools to regulators’ toolboxes. Here’s how I summarized the bill’s provisions earlier this month:

  • Extends FCC’s statute of limitations on robocall offenses and increases potential fines
  • Requires an FCC rulemaking helping protect consumers from spam calls and texts (this is already underway)
  • Requires annual FCC report on robocall enforcement and allows for it to formally recommend legislation
  • Requires adoption on a reasonable timeline of the STIR/SHAKEN framework for preventing call spoofing
  • Prevents carriers from charging for the above service, and shields them from liability for reasonable mistakes
  • Requires the Attorney General to convene an interagency task force to look at prosecution of offenders
  • Opens the door to Justice Department prosecution of offenders
  • Establishes a handful of specific cutouts and studies to make sure the rules work and interested parties are giving feedback

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was effusive in his praise in a statement:

I applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing.  And I thank the President and Congress for the additional tools and flexibility that this law affords us.  Specifically, I am glad that the agency now has a longer statute of limitations during which we can pursue scammers and I welcome the removal of a previously-required warning we had to give to unlawful robocallers before imposing tough penalties.

And I thank the American people for never letting us forget how fed up they are with scam, spoofed robocalls.  It’s their voices that power our never-ceasing push to fight back against the scourge of robocalls and malicious spoofing.

The FCC is limited in what it can do, and even major fines like this $120 million one have had a negligible effect on the nefarious industry. “Like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at the time.

Here’s hoping the TRACED Act amounts to more than a bigger spoon. We’ll find out as regulators and the mobile industry grow into their new capabilities and begin the long process of actually applying them to the problem. It may take months or more to see any real abatement, but at least we’re taking concrete steps.

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This delightfully catchy song proves 2019 wasn't a total bummer



2019 definitely had its downs, but it’s important to remember that the year had some real ups, too.

In the words of actor, musician, and comedian Tom McGovern, “it’s easy to dwell on the bad stuff that happened this year.” What’s not easy, however, is taking some of the year’s best good news headlines and turning them into a hilariously catchy tune.

As 2020 approaches, McGovern — who you may recognize as the dude who played both Jim Halpert and Andy Bernard in The Office! A Musical Parody — did just that.

While you attempt to unwind from another ridiculously chaotic year, please enjoy the this refreshing song about some of 2019’s milestone achievements — from same-sex marriage being legalized around the world and a “sweet-ass train” being built in the UK, to a new royal baby, Greta Thunberg’s existence, and more. Read more…

More about Youtube, 2019, Culture, Web Culture, and Music

InsightFinder get $2M seed to automate outage prevention



InsightFinder, a startup from North Carolina based on 15 years of academic research, wants to bring machine learning to system monitoring to automatically identify and fix common issues. Today, the company announced a $2 million seed round.

IDEA Fund Partners, a VC out of Durham, N.C.,​ led the round, with participation from ​Eight Roads Ventures​ and Acadia Woods Partners. The company was founded by North Carolina State University professor Helen Gu, who spent 15 years researching this problem before launching the startup in 2015.

Gu also announced that she had brought on former Distil Networks co-founder and CEO Rami Essaid to be chief operating officer. Essaid, who sold his company earlier this year, says his new company focuses on taking a proactive approach to application and infrastructure monitoring.

“We found that these problems happen to be repeatable, and the signals are there. We use artificial intelligence to predict and get out ahead of these issues,” he said. He adds that it’s about using technology to be proactive, and he says that today the software can prevent about half of the issues before they even become problems.

If you’re thinking that this sounds a lot like what Splunk, New Relic and Datadog are doing, you wouldn’t be wrong, but Essaid says that these products take a siloed look at one part of the company technology stack, whereas InsightFinder can act as a layer on top of these solutions to help companies reduce alert noise, track a problem when there are multiple alerts flashing and completely automate issue resolution when possible.

“It’s the only company that can actually take a lot of signals and use them to predict when something’s going to go bad. It doesn’t just help you reduce the alerts and help you find the problem faster, it actually takes all of that data and can crunch it using artificial intelligence to predict and prevent [problems], which nobody else right now is able to do,” Essaid said.

For now, the software is installed on-prem at its current set of customers, but the startup plans to create a SaaS version of the product in 2020 to make it accessible to more customers.

The company launched in 2015, and has been building out the product using a couple of National Science Foundation grants before this investment. Essaid says the product is in use today in 10 large companies (which he can’t name yet), but it doesn’t have any true go-to-market motion. The startup intends to use this investment to begin to develop that in 2020.

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Counting down Boston’s biggest venture rounds from 2019



Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today, the last day of 2019, we’re taking a second look at Boston. Regular readers of this column will recall that we recently took a peek at Boston’s startup ecosystem, and that we compiled a short countdown of the largest rounds that took place this year in Utah. Today we’re doing the latter with the former.

What follows is a countdown of Boston’s seven largest venture rounds from the year, including details concerning what the company does and who backed it. We’re also taking a shot after each entry at where we think the companies are on the path to going public.

As before, we’re using Crunchbase data for this project (here). And we’re only looking at venture rounds, so no post-IPO action, no grants, no secondaries, no debt, and no private equity-style buyouts.

Ready? Let’s have some fun.

Countdown

Boston has produced a number of big exits in recent years, like Carbon Black’s IPO, DraftKings’ impending kinda-IPO, Cayan’s billion-dollar exit, and SimpliVity’s huge sale to HP. Despite that, however, Boston is often pigeon-holed as a biotech hotbed with little technology that folks from San Francisco can understand. That’s not really fair, it turns out. There’s plenty of SaaS in Boston.

As you read the list, keep tabs on what percent of the companies included you were already familiar with. These are startups that will to take up more and more media attention as they march towards the public markets. It’s better to know them now than later.

Following the pattern set with Utah, we’ll start at the smallest round of our group and then count up to the largest.

7. Motif FoodWorks’ $90 million Series A

We could actually call the Motif FoodWorks‘ Series A a $117.5 million round as it came in two parts. However, the first tranche was $90 million total and landed in 2019 so that’s our selection for the uses of this post. The company is backed by Fonterra Ventures, Louis Dreyfus Corp, and General Atlantic.

Motif works in the alternative food space, creating things like fake meat and alt-dairy. Given the meteoric rise of Beyond Meat and Impossible Food’s big year, the space is hot. Lots of folks want to eat less meat for ethical or ecological reasons (often the two intertwine). That demand is powering a number of companies forward. Motif is riding a powerful wave.

The company’s known raised capital is encompassed in a large, early-stage round. That means that we won’t see an S-1 from this company for a long, long time.

6. Klaviyo’s $150 million Series B

An email marketing and analytics company, Klaviyo gets point for having a pricing page that actually makes sense — a rarity in the enterprise software world.

The Boston-based company was founded in 2012 and, according to Crunchbase data, has raised a total of $158.5 million. It raised just $8.5 million in total (across a small Seed round and a modest Series A) before its mega-round. How did it manage to raise such an enormous infusion in one go? As TechCrunch reported when the round was announced in April of this year:

The company is growing in leaps and bounds. It currently has 12,000 customers. To put that into perspective, it had just 1,000 at the end of 2016 and 5,000 at the end of 2017.

That will get the attention of anyone with a checkbook. The Summit Partners and Astral Capital-backed company has huge capital reserves for what we presume is the first time in its life. That means it’s not going public any time soon, even if our back-of-the-napkin math puts it comfortably over the $100 million ARR mark (warning: estimates were used in the creation of that number).

5. ezCater’s $150 million Series D

ezCater is an online catering marketplace. That’s an attractive business, it turns out, as evinced by the Boston company’s funding history. The startup has raised over $300 million to date according to Crunchbase, including capital from Insight Partners, ICONIQ Capital, Wellington Management, GIC, and Lightspeed.

The company’s 2019 $150 million Series D-1 that valued the company at $1.25 billion wasn’t its only nine-figure round; ezCater’s 2018 Series D was also over the mark, weighing in at $100 million.

When might the Northeast unicorn go public? An interview earlier this year put 2021 on the map as a target for the startup. That’s ages away from now, sadly, as I’d love to know how the company’s gross margin have changed since it started raising venture capital in huge gulps.

4. Cybereason’s $200 million Series E

Cybereason competes with CrowdStrike. That’s a good space to play in as CrowStrike went public earlier this year, and it went pretty well. That fact makes the Boston’s endpoint security shop’s $200 million investment pretty easy to understand. Indeed, CrowdStrike went public to great effect in June of 2019; Cybereason announced its huge round two months later in August. Surprise.

As far as backing goes, Cybereason has friends at SoftBank, with the Japanese conglomerate leading its Series C, D, and E rounds. Prior leads include CRV and Spark Capital.

The market is hot for SaaS-y security companies, meaning that there is natural pressure on Cybereason to go public. The firm, worth a flat $1.0 billion post-money after its latest round, is therefore an obvious IPO candidate for 2020. If it has the guts, that is. With SoftBank in your corner, there’s probably always another $100 million lying around you can snap up to avoid filing. (More from CrowdStrike’s CEO coming later this week on the 2019 and 2020 IPO markets, by the way. Stay tuned.)

3. DataRobot’s $206 million Series E

DataRobot does enterprise AI, allowing companies to use computer intelligence to help their flesh-and-blood staffers do more, more quickly. That’s the gist I got from learning what I could this morning, but as with all things AI I cannot tell you what’s real and what’s not.

Given its investor list, though, I’d bet that DataRobot is onto something. New Enterprise Associates led its 2014, 2016, and 2017 Series A, B, and C rounds. Meritech and Sapphire took over at the Series D, with Sapphire heroing DataRobot’s $206 million Series E. That round creatively valued the firm at, you guessed it, $1.0 billion according to Crunchbase.

DataRobot is hiring like mad (343 open positions as of this morning) and buying other companies (three in 2019). Flush with its largest round ever, I don’t see the company in a hurry to go public. That means no 2020 debut unless it’s monetizing faster than expected.

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Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $1 for a 3-month subscription



TL;DR: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is one of the best deals in gaming — get three months of the service for $1.


If you’re a gamer who likes options, there’s no better deal for you than that of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — basically the Netflix of video games with its vast library of titles, it’s a service that always has something new and exciting to offer. 

The most exciting offer, though? You can get three months of the Game Pass Ultimate service for just $1. That’s not a typo — it’s seriously just a dollar. After that, it’ll auto-renew for $14.99 per month (which can be canceled at any time). 

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