Uber joins Linux Foundation, cementing commitment to open-source tools

Uber announced today at the 2018 Uber Open Summit that it was joining the Linux Foundation as a Gold Member, making a firm commitment to using and contributing to open-source tools.

Uber CTO Thuan Pham sees the Linux Foundation as a place for companies like his to nurture and develop open-source projects. “Open source technology is the backbone of many of Uber’s core services and as we continue to mature, these solutions will become ever more important,” he said in a blog post announcing the partnership. What’s surprising is not that they joined, but that it took so long. Uber has been long known for making use of open source in its core tools, working on over 320 open-source projects and repositories from 1,500 contributors involving over 70,000 commits, according to data provided by the company. “Uber has made significant investments in shared software development and community collaboration through open
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Citrix pays $200M to acquire Sapho, which connects legacy software with ‘micro apps’

As large organizations grapple with adopting modern work practices without throwing out all of their legacy software, a company that works with them is making an acquisition that it hopes will help with that process. Citrix today is announcing that it has acquired Sapho, a startup that develops “micro apps” for legacy software so that workers could use then as they would more modern applications: in the cloud, on mobile and more.

We understand that the acquisition was for around $200 million in an all-cash deal. It’s a good return: Sapho had raised just under $28 million since 2014 from investors that included AME Cloud Ventures, Louie Alsop, Felicis Ventures and more. Including co-founders Fouad ElNaggar and Peter Yared, the whole team of 90 employees, based mainly in the Bay Area and a development office in Prague, will be joining Citrix. Citrix, for its part, currently has a market
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Canonical plans to raise its first outside funding as it looks to a future IPO

It’s been 14 years since Mark Shuttleworth first founded and funded Canonical and the Ubuntu project. At the time, it was mostly a Linux distribution. Today, it’s a major enterprise player that offers a variety of products and services. Throughout the years, Shuttleworth self-funded the project and never showed much interest in taking outside money. Now, however, that’s changing.

As Shuttleworth told me, he’s now looking for investors as he looks to get the company on track to an IPO. It’s no secret that the company’s recent re-focusing on the enterprise — and shutting down projects like the Ubuntu phone and the Unity desktop environment — was all about that, after all. Shuttleworth sees raising money as a step in this direction — and as a way of getting the company in shape for going public. “The first step would be private equity,” he told me. “And really, that’s because having
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Propel accelerates with $18M Series B to manage product lifecycle

We hear so much about managing the customer relationship, but companies have to manage the products they sell too. Propel, a Santa Clara startup, is taking a modern cloud approach to the problem, and today it landed an $18 million Series B investment.

The round was led by Norwest Venture Partners. Previous investors Cloud Apps Capital Partners, Salesforce Ventures, and Signalfire also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $28 million. “We are focused on helping companies design and launch products, based on how you go through the life cycle of a product from concept to design to make, model, sell, service where everybody in a company gets involved in product processes at different points in time,” company co-founder and CEO Ray Hein told TechCrunch. Hein says the company has three core products to help customers track products through their life. For starters, there is the product
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Docker inks partnership with Mulesoft as Salesforce takes a strategic stake

Docker and Mulesoft have announced a broad deal to sell products together and integrate their platforms. As part of it, Docker is getting an investment from Salesforce, the CRM giant that acquired Mulesoft for $6.5 billion last spring.

Salesforce is not disclosing the size of the stake it’s taking in Docker, but it is strategic: it will see its new Mulesoft working with Docker to connect containerized applications to multiple data sources across an organization. Putting the two companies together, you can connect these containerized applications to multiple data sources in a modern way, even with legacy applications. The partnership is happening on multiple levels and includes technical integration to help customers use the two toolsets together more easily. It also includes a sales agreement to cross-sell one another’s products and services and to work with systems integrators and ISVs, who help companies put these kind of complex solutions
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Airtable, maker of a coding platform for non-techies, raises $100M at a $1.1B valuation

If data is the new oil, you might think of apps are the cars that need it to move. Now, a startup that has built a platform to let everyone — not just those with technical expertise — make and drive their own “cars” has raised a significant round of funding to grow its business. Airtable — which uses a simple interface built on spreadsheets and other tools familiar to knowledge workers as a frontend to produce apps and other web-based experiences — has raised $100 million in funding to expand its business with more talent and offices outside the US. Along with the funding, the company has now catapulted to a $1.1 billion valuation.

Catapult is the key word here: according to PitchBook the company was only valued at $152 million in its last round — eight months ago. Airtable’s tools are now in use by some
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Government denies Oracle’s protest of $10B Pentagon JEDI cloud RFP

When Oracle filed a protest in August with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI RFP process was unfair, it probably had little chance of succeeding. Today, the GAO turned away the protest.

The JEDI contract has been set up as a winner-take-all affair. With $10 billion on the table, there has been much teeth-gnashing and complaining that the deck has been stacked to favor one vendor, Amazon. The Pentagon has firmly denied this, but it hasn’t stopped Oracle and IBM from complaining loudly from the get-go that there were problems with the way the RFP was set up. At least with the Oracle complaint, the GAO put that idea firmly to rest today. For starters, the GAO made it clear that the winner-take-all approach was just fine, stating “…the Defense Department’s decision to pursue a single-award approach to obtain these cloud services is consistent with
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Convercent wants to make it easier for companies to measure ethical behavior

It’s not always easy to do the right thing or to make ethical decisions in a complex business environment. People get lost inside large organizations and group think can overwhelm even normally ethical individuals. Convercent has created a platform to help, and today it announced a new benchmarking dashboard to allow companies to measure just how well they are doing from an ethical perspective.

In recent times, we’ve witnessed the impact it has when companies don’t behave ethically. Convercent CEO Patrick Quinlan says there is real cost for behaving badly both in terms of dollars and reputation. He believes that it’s in a company’s best interest to stay on top of undesirable behavior before it spirals out of control. Quinlan pointed out whether it’s the diesel scandal at Volkswagen or the sexual harassment revealed by Susan Fowler at Uber, it has changed the conversation about ethics. He says it’s no
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ServiceTitan raises $165M for its home services software, now valued at $1.65B

ServiceTitan, a startup out of Glendale, CA that has built a software platform for home services businesses — in areas like air conditioning, plumbing and electrical repairs — to manage their work, has raised $165 million in what it claims is the “largest software raise in Southern California history.”

(That distinction might be specifically for B2B software, since Snap, as one example, raised billions before it went public, when it was still known as the app startup Snapchat.) The company has confirmed that its valuation is now at $1.65 billion — making it the newest unicorn out of the region (and fulfilling a prediction we made earlier this year). This latest round, a Series D, was led by Index Ventures. New backers Dragoneer and T. Rowe Price also participated, along with existing investors Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and ICONIQ Capital. It’s coming just 7 months
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Microsoft to acquire Xoxco as focus on AI and bot developers continues

Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year.

“Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire Xoxco, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities,” Lili Cheng, corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots, has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings. The companies did not reveal the price,
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This startup got $2.3M to identify physical objects using diamond dust

Imagine coating an expensive part with a layer of diamond dust the width of a human hair, capturing its light pattern as a unique identifier, then storing that identifier in a traditional database or on the blockchain. That’s precisely what Dust Identity, a Boston-based startup is trying to do, and today it got $2.3 million in seed money led by Kleiner Perkins with participation from New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures, and Castle Island Ventures.

The science behind Dust Identity was nurtured inside MIT, but the company has been at work for two years trying to build a solution based on that idea after receiving early support from DARPA. What these folks do is manufacture extremely tiny diamonds. They dust an object such as a circuit board with a coating of this and capture the diamonds in a polymer, company CEO and co-founder Ophir Gaathon explained. “Once the diamonds
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Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth says he has no plans to sell anytime soon

After IBM announced its plans to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion, pundits quickly started speculating about when Red Hat competitors like Suse and Canonical would sell, as well. Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, though, doesn’t seem to have any interest in selling — at least for the time being.

“I value my independence,” he told me during a brief chat on the outskirts of the OpenStack Summit in Berlin today. In part, that’s because he simply doesn’t personally need the money but also because he’d like to see through to the end his vision for Canonical and Ubuntu . When he sold Thawte Consulting to Verisign for $575 million in 1999, people asked him if he was about to go on a lifelong vacation. And while he used some of that money to become the second space tourist (and fund his philanthropic foundation), he clearly has no interest in
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Zendesk shifts to platform play with Zendesk Sunshine launch

Zendesk has always been strongly focused on customer service in the cloud. They began to look at this more broadly in September when they purchased Base to move into sales automation and CRM. Today, the company announced Zendesk Sunshine, a new platform for creating customer-focused applications on top of Zendesk’s toolset.

All of this appears to be with an eye toward shifting Zendesk from its core customer service mission to a broader customer management business. Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO at Zendesk, says Sunshine is about moving his company toward a platform play, something that many cloud companies have aspired to. “Sunshine is a platform for building your own apps, and also for managing and storing and connecting all your customer data,” Svane told TechCrunch. For starters, Zendesk is partnering with AWS to act as the infrastructure services backend for the applications built on the Sunshine platform. “You can build
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WeWork picks up ANOTHER $3B from SoftBank

WeWork has picked up another $3 billion in financing from SoftBank Corp, not to be confused with SoftBank Vision Fund. The deal comes in the form of a warrant, allowing SoftBank to pay $3 billion for the opportunity to buy shares before September 2019 at a price of $110 or higher, ultimately valuing WeWork at $42 billion minimum.

In August, SoftBank Corp invested $1 billion in WeWork in the form of a convertible note. According to the Financial Times, SoftBank will pay WeWork $1.5 billion on January 15, 2019 and another $1.5 billion on April 15. SoftBank is far and away WeWork’s biggest investor, with SoftBank Vision Fund having poured $4.4 billion into the company just last year. The real estate play out of WeWork is just one facet of the company’s strategy. More than physical land, WeWork wants to be the central connective tissue for
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Cognigo raises $8.5M for its AI-driven data protection platform

Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures.

The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting these kinds of systems up and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months. To do this, the company tells me, it’s using pre-trained language models for data classification. That model has been trained to detect
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“Rent tech” focused RET closes first fund; pours $5M into management platform SmartRent

Today, Real Estate Technology Ventures (RET) Ventures announced the final close of $108 million for its first fund.  RET focuses on early-stage investments in companies that are primarily looking to disrupt the North American multifamily rental industry, with the firm boasting a roster of LPs made up of some of the largest property owners and operators in the multifamily space.

RET is one of the latest in a rising number of venture firms focused on the real-estate sector, which by many accounts, has yet to experience significant innovation or technological disruption. 

The firm was founded in 2017 by managing director, John Helm, who possesses an extensive background as an operator and investor in both real estate and real estate technology.  Helm’s real-estate journey began with a position right out of college and eventually led him to the commercial brokerage giant Marcus Millichap, where he worked as CFO

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Analysts weighing in on $8B SAP-Qualtrics deal don’t see a game changer

SAP CEO Bill McDermott was jacked up today about his company’s $8 billion  Qualtrics acquisition over the weekend. You would expect no less for such a big deal. McDermott believes that the data that Qualtrics provides could bridge the gap between his company’s operational data and customer data wherever that resides.

The idea behind Qualtrics is to understand customer sentiment as it happens. McDermott sees this as a key piece to the company’s customer management puzzle, one that could propel it into being not only a big player in customer experience, but also drive the company’s underlying cloud business. That’s because it provides a means of constant feedback from the customer, one that is hard to ascertain otherwise. In that context, he saw the deal as transformative. “By combining this experience data with operations, we can combine this through Qualtrics and SAP in a way that the world has never
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Enterprise shopping season starts early with almost $50B in recent deals

Black Friday may still be 10 days away, but shopping season started early in the enterprise this year. We have seen acquisitions totaling almost $50 billion in the last couple of months alone, topped by the mega $34 billion IBM-Red Hat deal two weeks ago. What exactly is going on here?

While not every deal has been for that kind of money, we are seeing an unusually large number of mega deals this year, something that some folks were predicting would happen when the big tech companies were allowed to repatriate their money as part of last year’s tax deal. Let’s look at some of the multi-billion deals we have seen so far this year:

Kofax to buy Nuance’s imaging division for $400M in cash

Some consolidation and subsequent divestment are in play in the worlds of imaging and voice recognition. Today, Kofax and Nuance announced that Kofax would be acquiring Nuance’s imaging division, for $400 million in cash. The deal, which had been rumoured in recent days, is expected to close in Q1 2019.

The acquisition is a notable move for Kofax — itself acquired by Thoma Bravo last year in a $1.5 billion deal — as it continues to build up its business in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the area of enterprise IT services that uses machine learning, computer vision and other AI-based tools to bring automation to repetitive or mundane back-office tasks that would have in the past been done by humans. (The idea is that this frees up the humans to make more sophisticated assessments in specific cases, or focus on entirely different tasks.)

On the side of

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SAP agrees to buy Qualtrics for $8B in cash, just before the survey software company’s IPO

Ryan Smith of Qualtrics speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015

Enterprise software giant SAP announced today that it has agreed to acquire Qualtrics for $8 billion in cash, just before the survey and research software company was set to go public. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019. Qualtrics last round of venture capital funding in 2016 raised $180 million at a $2.5 billion valuation.

This is the second-largest ever acquisition of a SaaS company, after Oracle’s purchase of Netsuite for $9.3 billion in 2016. In a conference call, SAP CEO Bill McDermott said Qualtrics’ IPO was already oversubscribed and that the two companies began discussions a few months ago. SAP claims its software touches 77 percent of the world’s transaction revenue, while Qualtrics’ products include survey software that enables its 9,000 enterprise users to gauge things like customer sentiment and
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