Work Week | Less is More
| Salesforce Buys Slack | Virtual Events: Bizzabo, Hopin | Autonomous: Gatik | Elsewhere: Zoom, Airtable, Less communication is more |
Slightly revised format. Mostly restricting my attention here to markets I am actively researching.
Salesforce Buys Slack
I had predicted that Slack would need to team up with a major player to compete effectively with Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, Google), but I had thought it might be Amazon: see Will Amazon Buy Slack?. Now Salesforce has closed a $27.7 billion deal to acquire the work chat company. In Salesforce and Slack: Countering Microsoft, I wrote
So, a match that benefits both partners: Slack gets the capital and gravity it needs to play a long game against Microsoft and Google, while Salesforce enters into one of the fastest growth sectors in enterprise software. And while work chat is intended to displace email, the reality is that email is here to stay. So, is Saleforce is going to add all the other pieces of the puzzle? Email? The company has a cloud files management tool, and Quip is a document in the cloud solution.
We’ll have to see how the big picture rolls out, but Slack has to be the start of a long game by Salesforce, not a one-and-done.
I am tracking the virtual events market, and plan a report on the topic in the not-too-distant future, so the news that Bizzabo raises $138M for a platform that helps you build and run virtual conferences by Ingrid Lundgren caught my eye today. She reports on the new series E round for Bizzabo at a $2 billion valuation.
Bizzabo, which provides a platform to plan and run both virtual and in-person conferences, from its earliest stages of conception and handling sponsorships, through to managing interactions between attendees, and provisioning the conference itself, has closed a round of $138 million.
CEO Eran Ben-Shushan (who co-founded the company with Alon Alroy and Boaz Katz) said in an interview that it will use the new capital to drive the growth of its business, after seeing its business boom this year.
Running conferences for large businesses and event planners, its customers include companies like Uber, Gainsight, Github, WeWork, Accenture and actually — disclosure –TechCrunch. This year, Bizzabo’s revenue has grown 100%, with the number of events organized through Bizzabo up 65%, he said. Meanwhile, the number of attendees registering for events with Bizzabo up 500% and overall usage is up 150x.
This explosive growth for Bizzabo and its competitors is likely not to level off in the medium and long term, post-covid. Now that we’ve learned it’s possible to hold virtual events, we won’t go back to the old days.
A few weeks ago I read Hopin raises $125M for its online events platform on the back of surging growth in which Alex Wilhelm reports on the company’s series B round, following a series A of $40 million this summer.
Hopin has big plans. After growing its annual recurring revenue (ARR) from $0 to $20 million in nine months, the startup intends to continue hiring rapidly to double-down on investing in its product. Boufarhat told TechCrunch that more than half of its hires will be technical talent, and that his company is currently about 50% developers.
Hopin’s revenue and valuation growth put it in the topmost tiers of startup performance. It’s a company to watch. And Hopin wants to keep scaling: After growing from a single person to 215 in a year or so, the startup expects to reach 800 staffers in 2021.
Boufarhat also said that Hopin is profitable today — the company was nearly profitable when it raised its February round worth $6.5 million — an impressive feat for a startup growing as quickly as it is.
I like the vision of hybrid events post-pandemic:
But what about the future, what happens when a COVID-19 vaccine goes from being good news to being an in-market reality? Boufarhat told TechCrunch that Hopin’s original vision was hybrid events, allowing IRL events to merge with online experiences, we reckon. So, when the world gets a vaccine, Hopin doesn’t see the event as an existential risk to its platform.
On the far edge of my radar I am tracking autonomous vehicles in business, like logistics.
On November 23, Gatik announced a $22.5 million series A round. The company earlier raised $4.5 million. Gatik is developing autonomous short-haul delivery trucks to conquer the costly issues in the ‘middle mile’: moving goods between stores, distribution centers, and offices. As Kyle Wiggers writes:
Gatik’s fleet of Class 1–6 autonomous vehicles moves goods from microfulfilment centers and dark stores to pick-up points like retail stores, distribution centers, and offices — known as the middle mile,” Gatik head of policy and communications Richard Steiner told VentureBeat in a recent interview. “This is critical because the middle mile is the most expensive and challenging part of the supply chain for retailers to contend with. … The key to Gatik’s success involves optimizing fixed, predetermined routes, such as those used along the supply chain’s middle mile, countless times each day. The biggest threat to the autonomous revolution is the unknown, or edge cases, which are substantially reduced on fixed journeys.
In Zoom’s Fatal Flaw, Sameer Singh contrasts Zoom with Slack in this way:
Zoom’s core value proposition is built on enabling frictionless communication with users who are not in its network. This means that the value of Zoom’s product is always the same, irrespective of whether a user is communicating with another user or a nonuser. As a result, Zoom has no network effects.
This is not at all the case with other products, like Slack.
Herbert Lui takes a deep look at how Airtable can compete against the bigs in How Airtable Can Thwart Google, Microsoft, and Amazon:
With over 200,000 companies now using Airtable, investment interest in its latest round could be driven by its revenue growth. According to Forbes, Airtable was on track to make $20 million in revenue in 2018; in 2020, the SaaS company database Latka estimates Airtable’s revenue is around $33.5 million. But these figures are still peanuts compared to the Big Tech competitors — Microsoft’s productivity software, including Office 365 and Excel, made $11.8 billion in revenue in FY Q2 2020. And this year, Microsoft, Google’s Area 120, and Amazon have each launched their own competitors to Airtable: Lists, Tables, and Honeycode, respectively.
In order to succeed, Airtable will need to differentiate itself from these heavyweight competitors by connecting companies with each other through its product. And it will need to do this fast, as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google leverage their current software and integrate each Airtable competitor with its existing suite of software, used by millions of customers. These giants can also push their Airtable alternatives aggressively using their sizable sales teams, and undercut Airtable’s pricing. Microsoft has most recently used these tactics effectively to slow momentum for even a high-growth company like Slack.
In Paradoxes of Engagement: Less Communication Is More, I dig into research that reveals that minimizing hours for synchronous communication makes us more productive.