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vArmour the multi-cloud security startup, raises $58M en route to IPO

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Enterprises have been loading more of their operations into cloud — and, more often than not, multi-cloud — environments over the last year, creating vast networks of services that can be complex to manage. Today, vArmour, a startup that provides ways to manage in real time and ultimately secure how applications (and people) work in those fragmented environments is announcing funding to capitalize on the demand for its services.

The Bay Area startup has picked up funding of $58 million in what it described as an oversubscribed round. Co-led by previous backers AllegisCyber Capital and NightDragon, existing investors Standard Chartered Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Australian carrier Telstra, Redline Capital, and EDBI also participated.

CEO Tim Eades (who co-founded the company with Roger Lian) said this round is likely to be its final fundraising ahead of an IPO for the company.

“We had one hell of a year in 2020 with companies rushing to the cloud,” he said in an interview, with net new annual recurring revenue doubing year over year in the last year. It started out, he noted, with perhaps 10% of business processes in the cloud, and ended at more like 50%. “Now the focus for us is to get to the public markets, maybe in two or 2.5 years from now.”

The company appointed a CFO last October as part of its go-public plan, he noted — Chris Dentiste, who previously had been the CFO of RSA. “His job is to help me find the right window. My job is to make sure we have enough fuel in the tank, and we do,” said Eades.

He added that the company is likely also to look at making some acquisitions in the meantime. A recent launch of an AI lab in Calgary, Canada, points to one area where we might see some activity.

The company is not disclosing its valuation, although Eades confirmed it was a significant up-round. We’re also double checking what the total raised to date is now too (we’ll update when we get that information).

For some context, in the last round of funding that we covered — a $44 million round in 2019 led by the same two investors — we mentioned a PitchBook estimate of $420 million from the previous round — a figure that the company did not dispute with us at the time.

vArmour has been around for several years, with the first three spent in stealth mode, quietly building its technology, raising money and amassing early customers. Those customers, Eades said, fall into categories like telecommunications (strategic backer Telstra being one of them), and financial services.

Those industries speak largely to the challenges that vArmour is addressing in its business.

Legacy businesses in critical verticals often pre-date the modern era of business, and while many of them are going through what enterprise people like to refer to as “digital transformation”, the evolution is not a smooth one.

In many cases, adopting new technologies can be slow, and in almost every case, when you are talking about large enterprises, the changes are very piecemeal, affecting one particular service, or region, or department, or even a subsection of any of those.

All of this means that for malicious actors, there are a number of options to tackle when setting out to look for vulnerabilities in a business or its network, and for those on the inside, it makes for a very complicated and fragmented situation when it comes to monitoring those networks and the services running on them, finding vulnerabilities or suspicious activity, and doing something about that. VArmour’s term that it uses for this is “Application Relationship Management.”

Eades — whose background includes working for the likes of IBM but also leading number of startups acquired by bigger technology giants — has first-hand understanding of how that complexity looks from both sides, from the end user end and from the service provider end. That is in essence what his company has identified and is trying to fix.

Having started out in managing application policies and providing insights to protect on that front, the company is expanding the range of tools that it provides with the recent launch of identity access management on top of that.

But that is likely to be just one of the product steps that it takes to tackle what remains a difficult problem to fix, as its growth is related not just to the growth of activity on a network, but further digital migration of services, and the rise of new technology within an organization’s stack.

(And that is also an area that vArmour is not alone in considering, or even the only approach to tackling it: consider yesterday’s news of Palo Alto Networks acquiring Bridgecrew to extend its own ability to provide automated security monitoring services to DevOps teams.)

“Managing risk and resiliency in the hybrid cloud is one of the most significant security challenges for enterprises,” said Bob Ackerman, Founder and Managing Director at AllegisCyber Capital, in a statement. “vArmour’s platform provides the visibility, controls, and accountability necessary to actively manage these challenges and has done this for hundreds of customers. We are ecstatic to be part of their next stage of growth.”

“As applications become more complex, more distributed, and more targeted by attackers, the importance of full visibility into the relationships between applications becomes increasingly important.” added Dave DeWalt, founder of NightDragon. “vArmour’s approach to application relationship management ensures that enterprises of all sizes can continuously audit, respond, and control identity relationships to best protect their important IP, and mitigate risk to the business.”

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

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Snowflake latest enterprise company to feel Wall Street’s wrath after good quarter

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Snowflake reported earnings this week, and the results look strong with revenue more than doubling year-over-year.

However, while the company’s fourth quarter revenue rose 117% to $190.5 million, it apparently wasn’t good enough for investors, who have sent the company’s stock tumbling since it reported Wednesday after the bell.

It was similar to the reaction that Salesforce received from Wall Street last week after it announced a positive earnings report. Snowflake’s stock closed down around 4% today, a recovery compared to its midday lows when it was off nearly 12%.

Why the declines? Wall Street’s reaction to earnings can lean more on what a company will do next more than its most recent results. But Snowflake’s guidance for its current quarter appeared strong as well, with a predicted $195 million to $200 million in revenue, numbers in line with analysts’ expectations.

Sounds good, right? Apparently being in line with analyst expectations isn’t good enough for investors for certain companies. You see, it didn’t exceed the stated expectations, so the results must be bad. I am not sure how meeting expectations is as good as a miss, but there you are.

It’s worth noting of course that tech stocks have taken a beating so far in 2021. And as my colleague Alex Wilhelm reported this morning, that trend only got worse this week. Consider that the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 11.4% from its 52-week high, so perhaps investors are flogging everyone and Snowflake is merely caught up in the punishment.

Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman pointed out in the earnings call this week that Snowflake is well positioned, something proven by the fact that his company has removed the data limitations of on-prem infrastructure. The beauty of the cloud is limitless resources, and that forces the company to help customers manage consumption instead of usage, an evolution that works in Snowflake’s favor.

“The big change in paradigm is that historically in on-premise data centers, people have to manage capacity. And now they don’t manage capacity anymore, but they need to manage consumption. And that’s a new thing for — not for everybody but for most people — and people that are in the public cloud. I have gotten used to the notion of consumption obviously because it applies equally to the infrastructure clouds,” Slootman said in the earnings call.

Snowflake has to manage expectations, something that translated into a dozen customers paying $5 million or more per month to Snowflake. That’s a nice chunk of change by any measure. It’s also clear that while there is a clear tilt toward the cloud, the amount of data that has been moved there is still a small percentage of overall enterprise workloads, meaning there is lots of growth opportunity for Snowflake.

What’s more, Snowflake executives pointed out that there is a significant ramp up time for customers as they shift data into the Snowflake data lake, but before they push the consumption button. That means that as long as customers continue to move data onto Snowflake’s platform, they will pay more over time, even if it will take time for new clients to get started.

So why is Snowflake’s quarterly percentage growth not expanding? Well, as a company gets to the size of Snowflake, it gets harder to maintain those gaudy percentage growth numbers as the law of large numbers begins to kick in.

I’m not here to tell Wall Street investors how to do their job, anymore than I would expect them to tell me how to do mine. But when you look at the company’s overall financial picture, the amount of untapped cloud potential and the nature of Snowflake’s approach to billing, it’s hard not to be positive about this company’s outlook, regardless of the reaction of investors in the short term.

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A first look at Coursera’s S-1 filing

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After TechCrunch broke the news yesterday that Coursera was planning to file its S-1 today, the edtech company officially dropped the document Friday evening.

Coursera was last valued at $2.4 billion by the private markets, when it most recently raised a Series F round in October 2020 that was worth $130 million.

Coursera’s S-1 filing offers a glimpse into the finances of how an edtech company, accelerated by the pandemic, performed over the past year. It paints a picture of growth, albeit one that came at steep expense.

Revenue

In 2020, Coursera saw $293.5 million in revenue. That’s a roughly 59% increase from the year prior when the company recorded $184.4 million in top line. During that same period, Coursera posted a net loss of nearly $67 million, up 46% from the previous year’s $46.7 million net deficit.

Notably the company had roughly the same noncash, share-based compensation expenses in both years. Even if we allow the company to judge its profitability on an adjusted EBITDA basis, Coursera’s losses still rose from 2019 to 2020, expanding from $26.9 million to $39.8 million.

To understand the difference between net losses and adjusted losses it’s worth unpacking the EBITDA acronym. Standing for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization,” EBITDA strips out some nonoperating costs to give investors a possible better picture of the continuing health of a business, without getting caught up in accounting nuance. Adjusted EBITDA takes the concept one step further, also removing the noncash cost of share-based compensation, and in an even more cheeky move, in this case also deducts “payroll tax expense related to stock-based activities” as well.

For our purposes, even when we grade Coursera’s profitability on a very polite curve it still winds up generating stiff losses. Indeed, the company’s adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of revenue — a way of determining profitability in contrast to revenue — barely improved from a 2019 result of -15% to -14% in 2020.

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The owner of Anki’s assets plans to relaunch Cozmo and Vector this year

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Good robots don’t die — they just have their assets sold off to the highest bidder. Digital Dream Labs was there to sweep up IP in the wake of Anki’s premature implosion, back in 2019. The Pittsburgh-based edtech company had initially planned to relaunch Vector and Cozmo at some point in 2020, launching a Kickstarter campaign in March of last year.

The company eventually raised $1.8 million on the crowdfunding site, and today announced plans to deliver on the overdue relaunch, courtesy of a new distributor.

“There is a tremendous demand for these robots,” CEO Jacob Hanchar said in a release. “This partnership will complement the work our teams are already doing to relaunch these products and will ensure that Cozmo and Vector are on shelves for the holidays.”

I don’t doubt that a lot of folks are looking to get their hands on the robots. Cozmo, in particular, was well-received, and sold reasonably well — but ultimately (and in spite of a lot of funding), the company couldn’t avoid the fate that’s befallen many a robotics startup.

It will be fascinating to see how these machines look when they’re reintroduced. Anki invested tremendous resources into bringing them to life, including the hiring of ex-Pixar and DreamWorks staff to make the robots more lifelike. A lot of thought went into giving the robots a distinct personality, whereas, for instance, Vector’s new owners are making the robot open-source. Cozmo, meanwhile, will have programmable functionality through the company’s app.

It could certainly be an interesting play for the STEM market that companies like Sphero are approaching. It has become a fairly crowded space, but at least Anki’s new owners are building on top of a solid foundation, with the fascinating and emotionally complex toy robots their predecessors created.

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