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Atlanta’s SalesLoft raises $100M for its digital sales platform, now valued at $1.1B

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The Covid-19 pandemic and specifically need for social distancing to slow the spread of the virus have continued to keep many of us away from the office. Now, increasingly, many organizations and people believe that it could usher in a more permanent shift to remote, distributed and virtual work. Today, a startup that has built a set of tools specifically to help salespeople with that change — by way of digital sales — has raised a substantial growth round to meet that demand.

SalesLoft, a sales platform based out of Atlanta, Georgia that provides AI-baseed tools to help salespeople run their sales process virtually — from finding and following up on leads, through to helping them sell with virtual coaching tools, and then assisting in the post-sales process — has closed $100 million in funding.

The company’s co-founder and CEO Kyle Porter confirmed to TechCrunch that the company is now valued at $1.1 billion post-money, a substantial hike on its previous valuation. In April 2019, well before any global health pandemics, the company had raised a Series D of $70 million at around a $600 million valuation (a figure we confirmed at the time with sources close to the company).

This latest round is being led by Owl Rock Capital, with previous investors Insight Partners, HarbourVest, and Emergence Capital — a VC focused specifically on enterprise startups, which notably was an early backer of Zoom and many others — also participating.

SalesLoft has now raised some $245 million, an impressive sum for any startup, but also worth pointing out for the fact that its not based out of the Valley but Atlanta, Georgia (a state in the news for other reasons at the moment, as the focus of a hotly contested US Senate runoff election).

The company has been on a growth tear for several years now, as one of the big players in the area of so-called sales engagement: tools to help salespeople sell better to clients (or would-be clients), which can include real-time monitoring of interactions to provide coaching to improve the process, suggestions for supplementary content to enhance the pitch, and more basic software simply to manage records and communications.

Even before the pandemic hit, this was a key growth area in enterprise software, with both in-person and online/digital salespeople relying on these kinds of products to help them get more of an edge with their work, but a lot of the focus had really been on inside sales (B2B sales focusing on bigger purchases). Porter described the effect of Covid-19 as a “tailwind” propelling that already strong trend.

“The effects of Covid have been a tailwind due to the effects of digital selling,” he said. “All sellers immediately became remote. But now the genie is out of the bottle and not going back in. It’s meant that inside sales are now all sales. Whether the opportunities are mid-funnel or upgrades or renewals, we are establishing ourselves as the engagement platform of record because it’s all becoming digital and all sellers are finding more success.”

He added that SalesLoft’s own sales cycle has improved by 40% since the pandemic, a reflection, he said, of the “urgency and need” for tools like those that the startup develops.

Another shift has been in terms of the kinds of customers SalesLoft works with. The company originally was focused on the mid-market, but that has changed with more larger enterprises also coming on board. Google, LinkedIn (which backs SalesLoft and is in a strategic partnership with it), Cisco, Dell and IBM are all customers, and Porter said that more “mainstream” businesses like Cargil, 3M and Standard & Poor are also increasingly becoming clients.

That is leading the startup to building out bigger solutions, beyond the basic pitch of “sales engagement” that has been SalesLoft’s mainstay up to now. The company competes against a plethora of others including of ClariChorus.aiGongConversicaAfiniti and Outreach, as well as biggies like Salesforce. Outreach, notably, had a big mid-Covid round of its own, raising at a $1.3 billion valuation in June last year, a mark of that wider market demand. Porter notes that SalesLoft’s big selling point is that it offers an increasingly end-to-end sales solution to customers, meaning less shopping around.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Will this time be any different for Twitter?

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As Twitter seems to buy its way into competing with Clubhouse and Substack, one wonders whether the beleaguered social media company is finally ready to move past its truly awful track record of seizing opportunities.

Twitter’s pace of product ambition has certainly seemed to speed in the past several months, conveniently following shareholder action to oust CEO Jack Dorsey last year. They’ve finally rolled out their Stories product Fleets, they’ve embraced audio both in the traditional feed and with their beta Spaces feature, and they’ve taken some much-publicized steps to reign in disinformation and content moderation woes (though there’s still plenty to be done there).

In the past few weeks, Twitter has also made some particularly interesting acquisitions. Today, it was announced that they were buying Revue, a newsletter management startup. Earlier this month, they bought Breaker, a podcasting service. Last month, they bought Squad, a social screen-sharing app.

It’s an aggressive turn that follows Twitter’s announcement that it will be shutting down Periscope, a live video app that was purchased and long-neglected by Twitter despite the fact that the company’s current product chief was its founder.

TikTok’s wild 2020 success in fully realizing the broader vision for Vine, which Twitter shut down in 2017, seems to be a particularly embarrassing stain on the company’s history; it’s also the most crystallized example of Twitter shooting itself in the foot as a result of not embracing risk. And while Twitter was ahead of that curve and simply didn’t make it happen, Substack and Clubhouse are two prime examples of competitors which Twitter could have prevented from reaching their current stature if it had just been more aggressive in recognizing adjacent social market opportunities and sprung into action.

It’s particularly hard to reckon in the shadow of Facebook’s ever-swelling isolation. Once the eager enemy of any social upstart, Facebook finds itself desperately complicated by global politics and antitrust woes in a way that may never strike it down, but have seemed to slow its maneuverability. A startup like Clubhouse may once seemed like a prime acquisition target, but it’s too complicated of a purchase for Facebook to even attempt in 2021, leaving Twitter a potential competitor that could scale to full size on its own.

Twitter is a much smaller company than Facebook is, though it’s still plenty big. As the company aims to move beyond the 2020 US election that ate up so much of its attention and expand its ambitions, one of its most pertinent challenges will be reinvigorating a product culture to recognize opportunities and take on rising competitors — though another challenge might be getting its competition to take it seriously in the first place.

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Sila Nanotechnologies raises $590M to fund battery materials factory

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Sila Nanotechnologies, a Silicon Valley battery materials company, has spent years developing technology designed to pack more energy into a cell at a lower cost — an end game that has helped it lock in partnerships with Amperex Technology Limited as well as automakers BMW and Daimler.

Now, Sila Nano, flush with a fresh injection of capital that has pushed its valuation to $3.3 billion, is ready to bring its technology to the masses.

The company, which was founded nearly a decade ago, said Tuesday it has raised $590 million in a Series F funding round led by Coatue with significant participation by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Existing investors 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

Sila Nano plans to use the funds to hire another 100 people this year and begin to buildout a factory in North America capable of producing 100 gigawatt-hours of silicon-based anode material, which is used in batteries for the smartphone and automotive industries. While the company hasn’t revealed the location of the factory, it does have a timeline. Sila Nano said it plans to start production at the factory in 2024. Materials produced at the plant will be in electric vehicles by 2025, the company said.

“It took eight years and 35,000 iterations to create a new battery chemistry, but that was just step one,” Sila Nano CEO and co-founder Gene Berdichevsky said in a statement. “For any new technology to make an impact in the real-world, it has to scale, which will cost billions of dollars. We know from our experience building our production lines in Alameda that investing in our next plant today will keep us on track to be powering cars and hundreds of millions of consumer devices by 2025.”

The tech

A lithium-ion battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. Typically, an electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier, moving ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Graphite is commonly used as the anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nano has developed a silicon-based anode that replaces graphite in lithium-ion batteries. The critical detail is that the material was designed to take the place of graphite in without needing to change the battery manufacturing process or equipment.

Sila Nano has been focused on silicon anode because the material can store a lot more lithium ions. Using a material that lets you pack in more lithium ions would theoretically allow you to increase the energy density — or the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per its volume — of the cell. The upshot would be a cheaper battery that contains more energy in the same space.

The opportunity

It’s a compelling product for automakers attempting to bring more electric vehicles to market. Nearly every global automaker has announced plans or is already producing a new batch of all-electric and plug-in electric vehicles, including Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai and Kia. Tesla continues to ramp up production of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles as a string of newcomers like Rivian prepare to bring their own EVs to market.

In short: the demand of batteries is climbing; and automakers are looking for the next-generation tech that will give them a competitive edge.

Battery production sat at about 20 GWh per year in 2010. Sila Nano expects it to jump to 2,000 GWh per year by 2030 and 30,000 GWh per year by 2050.

Sila Nano started building the first production lines for its battery materials in 2018. That first line is capable of producing the material to supply the equivalent of 50 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries.

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Daily Crunch: Calendly valued at $3B

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A popular scheduling startup raises a big funding round, Twitter makes a newsletter acquisition and Beyond Meat teams up with PepsiCo. This is your Daily Crunch for January 26, 2021.

The big story: Calendly valued at $3B

Calendly, which helps users schedule and confirm meeting times, has raised $350 million from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq.

Until now, the Atlanta-based startup had only raised $550K, but the company says it has 10 million monthly users, with $70 million in subscription revenue last year.

“Calendly has a vision increasingly to be a central part of the meeting life cycle,” said OpenView’s Blake Bartlett.

The tech giants

Twitter acquires newsletter platform Revue — Twitter is getting into the newsletter business.

TikTok is being used by vape sellers marketing to teens — Sellers are offering flavored disposable vapes, parent-proof “discreet” packaging and no ID checks.

PepsiCo and Beyond Meat launch poorly named joint venture for new plant-based food and drinks — The name? The PLANeT Partnership.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Fast raises $102M as the online checkout wars continue to attract huge investment — The new funding was led by Stripe.

SetSail nabs $26M Series A to rethink sales compensation — SetSail says salespeople should be paid them throughout the sales cycle.

Mealco raises $7M to launch new delivery-centric restaurants — By launching a restaurant with Mealco, chefs don’t sign a lease or pay any other upfront costs.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Ten VCs say interactivity, regulation and independent creators will reshape digital media in 2021 — We asked about the likelihood of further industry consolidation, whether we’ll see more digital media companies take the SPAC route and, of course, what they’re looking for in their next investment.

The five biggest mistakes I made as a first-time startup founder — Finmark CEO Rami Essaid has some regrets.

Does a $27B or $29B valuation make sense for Databricks? — A look at Databricks’ growth history, economics and scale.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

President Joe Biden commits to replacing entire federal fleet with electric vehicles — His commitment is tied to a broader campaign promise to create 1 million new jobs in the American auto industry and supply chains.

Meet the early-stage founder community at TC Early Stage 2021 — Early Stage part one focuses on operations and fundraising and takes place on April 1-2, while Early Stage part two focusing on marketing, PR and fundraising and runs July 8-9.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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