Enterprise & Deep Tech Weekly
Issue #125: For the week ended December 14, 2021
Good morning from a sunny Tel Aviv. The forecast calls for rain, but it’s not here yet. Instead, the atmosphere right now is one of springtime and renewal. Despite the pleasant weather I’m experiencing, it’s clear that we are all caught up in several storms that are converging all at once: venture, technology, covid, and uncertainty.
Venture. The fundraising climate is as frenzied as ever. In a few weeks, the 2021 fundraising statistics will be out, and they will no doubt show this year to be the record year it was across any dimension you choose: fundraising volume, fundraising speed, VC funds formed, VC funds raised, valuations, unicorn formation — whatever. Those are all just headline numbers, but they reflect reality — and we are living through an unprecedented reality. It is — as Greenspan once said in reference to something else — “irrational exuberance.”
Technology. We are also living through strange, wonderful, and amazing times as it relates to underlying technology. Cloud adoption is increasing at an ever faster rate — driving revenue for SaaS and infrastructure startups through the stratosphere. There is real value being created — and we see it in our portfolio from dev tools to logistics and from data pipelines to SaaS for heavy industry. On the edges, we are seeing incredible interest in new technologies and paradigms: distributed infrastructure, smart contracts, synthetic biology, and quantum computing. The VCs are irrationally exuberant, but the technologists are indeed creating value at a pace never before seen.
Covid. As I write this, the world is shutting down. Israel (where I sit right now) is putting Denmark and the UK (where I just flew in from) on a red list as of Thursday due to Omicron. We don’t know how Omicron will play out, much less how the next variant or two will change things. We go into this holiday season not really knowing into what world we will emerge in 2022. That creates a stress and uncertainty that we all need to acknowledge. The tech world can clearly cope with another set of lockdowns if necessary. I’m less certain that our psyches and societies can cope.
Uncertainty. A wise friend of mine and a student of world financial markets forwarded me an email recently that listed the risks that face global markets in 2022. It included a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, an Israeli strike on Iran, catastrophic weather events, unrest in Europe or the US, new and deadly Covid variants, and that was just the beginning of the list. It is quite possible that none of these things happen. It is quite possible that at least one of them does. We are living — as everyone always has — in uncertain and dangerous times. As of yesterday, half of 2021’s IPO were trading below their issue price. Fun.
There are no guarantees that the smooth sailing we’ve been recently blessed with will continue in 2022. At the same time, it would be foolish not to acknowledge the fundamental drivers of growth in the tech sector that are powering our companies to new heights on a regular basis. Experienced sailors know to respect the sea, to read it carefully, and to be prepared for it to turn on them unexpectedly. As founders (and VCs), we are blessed with some degree of control over our destiny. You do not control the markets or global public health — but you do control your burn rate, your product, and your hiring decisions. That self-determination coupled with the will to exercise it is a strategic asset — especially in times of uncertainty.
See you in 2022. This is our last weekly newsletter for 2021. We’ll send out the next one on January 11 of next year. This has been a huge year for Angular Ventures (new fund, new partner, and outstanding developments in the portfolio) — as it has for many of you as well. We’ll be taking advantage of the next few weeks to recharge our batteries, spend time with family, hug our loved ones, and gear up for next year — whatever it brings. May you and your families be blessed with health, peace, and love. See you in 2022.
(As you know by now, we never really take time off. If you want to raise between now and January 11 — you know where to find us!)
Jan 27 / Fireside Chat with Darius Contractor
Darius Contractor, Chief Product & Engineering Officer, Vendr
FROM THE BLOG
How to Overcome “Customer-Built” Software’s Learning Curve
“Customer-built” companies and the challenge of user activation.
The Long Road to Creating a Category:
Category creation strategy, with a little inspiration from Apple.
Three Methods of Venture Capital:
A guide to navigating a manic market as a venture capitalist (part 1).
Back to Basics — My VC Manifesto:
A guide to navigating a manic market as a venture capitalist (part 2).
EUROPE & ISRAEL FUNDING NEWS
UK/Security. Mimecast has been acquired for $5.8B by Permira for its email security platform.
UK/Drug Discovery AI. BenevolentAI a clinical-stage AI drug discovery platform has decided to SPAC for $1.7B by listing on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange.
Israel/IoT Security. Claroty raised $400M for its security platform for “cyber-physical” systems (CPS) including IoT and industrial IoT.
Denmark/SME Finance. Pleo raised $200M for its expense management tools aimed at SMBs to let them issue company cards and better manage how employees spend money.
UK/Social. Contentcal has been acquired for $100M by Adobe for its social media and content planning platform.
Israel/Security. Torq raised $50M for its no-code automation platform for security teams.
UK/Video ML Tooling. Synthesia raised $50M for its AI video generation platform that allows anyone to turn text or a slide deck presentation into a video, complete with a talking avatar.
France/DevOps. GitGuardian raised $44M for its solution for detecting sensitive data in code by expanding to offer a broader code security platform.
Denmark/Payroll. Pento raised $35M for its SaaS offering to fully automate the payroll process.
Israel/AI Security. Robust Intelligence raised $30M for its AI Firewall that envelopes the organization’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) model, monitoring and correcting data that causes mistakes and risks in real-time.
UK/Travel SaaS. Easol raised $25M for its all-in-one platform for managing your entire experience business, on your terms. Sell directly on your own website with smart booking, payment, and marketing tools that all work together.
Slovakia/Logistics Systems. Photoneo raised $21M for its fully automated fulfilment solutions.
Germany/Digital Identity. Passbase raised $13.5M for its digital identity platform helping fintechs with rapidly evolving regulatory requirements.
Three Steps to the Future. Ben Evans’ annual presentation, in which he explores the macro and strategic trends in the tech industry, is worth a look. From Ben: “The most exciting themes in technology today are transformative visions for 2025 or 2030: crypto, web3, VR, metaverse… and then everything else. Meanwhile, hundreds of start-ups take ideas from the last decade and deploy them over and over in one industry after another. And trying to keep up, the old economy faces waves of disruption from ideas we first talked about in the 1990s.”
Web 2.0 vs. Web3? Interesting (and contentious) crowd-sourced thread from Alex Liberman of Morning Brew brainstorming problems that could be solved 10x better by Web3 technologies vs. Web 2.0. Lots of ideas, lots of debate. A few examples that sparked conversation: sending or receiving any sum of money, at any time, from anywhere; applications requiring immutability like a replacement for liens, certificates of authenticity, credits scores; or a single login for the entire internet.
Open Source Vulnerabilities. A Log4j vulnerability discovered this past week put millions of applications at risk. Good reminder that open source is powerful, but vulnerabilities can create incredibly broad attack surfaces as well. Great write up (and remediation recommendations) from Snyk here.
HOW TO STARTUP
Don’t Overdose on VC. Interesting piece from Micah Rosenbloom and Joseph Flaherty of Founder Collective on the correlation between the amount of capital a startup raises and their enterprise value upon going public. The conclusion? More capital does not necessarily lead to more valuable companies. And just looking at outliers from the past decade (like Uber or Facebook) creates a distorted view of the range of expected outcomes. The whole piece is worth reading in full (and they’ve provided access to the dataset as well).
Risky Options. Grant Lee, CEO of Gamma, wrote a thread this past week on the risks and challenges inherent with startup option grants. TL;DR Grant took out a non-recourse loan to exercise his options and pay the tax bill. A modest exit meant his loan was underwater, so he forfeited his shares to the lender. And he was left with a big tax bill because in the US the IRS treats loan forgiveness as income. Read the thread for Grant’s hard-won advice to early employees (and founders who want to attract the best talent).
Advice on Building an Ecosystem. Mary D’Onofrio and Janelle Teng from Bessemer Venture Partners published a deep-dive on how to build a cloud ecosystem this past week. Give it a read for tactical advice on how to create the right incentives to attract partners, track partnership success, and hire the right type of leader to accelerate the growth of your platform ecosystem. For the startup founders out there: “When beginning your journey to build out an ecosystem, just remember that perfection is not required… [t]aking baby steps, not giant leaps is the ideal approach, and you can always pour in more resources once the flywheel is sparked!”
HOW TO VENTURE
Corp VC as Ecosystem Strategy. Following in the footsteps of Salesforce and Workday, Databricks and Twilio both announced corporate venture arms in the past week, committing to strategically invest in companies building on top of their platforms. Twilio Ventures is a $50M fund, and plans on investing from $1 to $3M in series A rounds of companies building on top of Twilio. Databrick Ventures has raised over $3B for its fund (not yet capped) and will invest in companies that can serve as key integration partners. In the world of crypto, Alchemy also announced a venture fund this past week. No details on fund size, but Alchemy did reveal their existing portfolio includes fast-growing startups FTX, XMTP, Royal.io and Matter Labs, among others.
Top Seed VCs. Brent Westbrook, founder of VC Benchmarks, published a list of the 25 firms with the highest percentage of seed investments in unicorns. Dig in to the data here. This isn’t the only data point Westbrook tracks. VC Benchmarks also looks at the percentage of a seed VCs’ portfolio that raise follow-on rounds and hit certain valuation benchmarks across specific geographies and industries/sectors. Westbrook hopes this transparency will help LPs make better investments and help founders identify better aligned investors.
CruxOCM has executed a proof of concept with Cenit for a pipeline control center operations initiative.
CruxOCM’s Head of People, Joanna Woo, shared how the 5 love languages can create happy work places.
Datos Health and Sheba launched a remote monitoring program for children with complex heart defects.
Forter announced trusted identities to simplify authentication for eCommerce interactions.
Aquant ensures that even a rookie technician can draw on a veteran’s knowledge, about anything from washing machines to medical equipment.