Braze IPO: Bridging Brand & Consumer
The a-Braze-ing journey continues
Braze is officially a publicly traded company! It was an a-Braze-ing day for everyone involved: for co-founders Mark Germezian, Bill Magnuson, and Jon Hyman; for the world-class Braze employees around the world; and for Ridge, having invested in Braze’s Series A eight years ago and in each of its subsequent rounds.
As the FAANG behemoths monopolize third-party data, Braze continues to focus on first-party data and supporting true interactions between brands and their customers. Marketers must increasingly rely on first-party data to reach the right customer at the right time, and Braze is answering the call with an enterprise-grade stream processing solution that processes data instantaneously and engages with customers in a personalized fashion.
How it started
An awesome, OG pre-seed investor, Alex Lloyd, introduced me to Braze (then called Appboy) and its trio of co-founders in 2013. It was early, and, candidly, took some work to get conviction, but ultimately we saw this was a classic Ridge investment: Braze had a determined team with experience founding companies, coupled with technical excellence; a huge market that we knew well; a great software product pointed at that market; and very (very) early signal from customers.
It helped that in my early days in venture I participated in the first CRM wave, watching General Atlantic’s investment in Scopus, and later investing in Quintus, that eventually went public before getting acquired by Avaya. We also benefited from insights gleaned from Krux, another Ridge portfolio company (ultimately acquired by Salesforce for nearly $1 billion). That experience gave me the necessary confidence to recognize the power of Braze’s segmentation functionality sitting on top of massively scalable streaming architecture — scalability that today handles over 3 billion MAUs.
Louis Pasteur was right: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”
How it’s going
Braze’s revenue at the time of our initial investment was $40K. This jumped to over $150M in fiscal year 2021 — just one indicator of the company’s growth that ballooned as online and mobile usage increased, even before the pandemic. Sure, the financial metrics are easy on the eyes, but Braze’s organizational growth is equally impressive. Bill Magnuson blossomed into a world-class CEO, and Jon Hyman into a world-class CTO (the inside company joke calls out his BA degree from Harvard, which in fact is in Computer Science). Myles Kleeger (a die-hard Blue Devils fan) and Isabelle Winkles (another MIT grad) have been brilliant in their roles as CCO/President and CFO, respectively.
Under their leadership Braze hired upwards of 350 people over the past year (amid a pandemic!) across its six global offices, including its newest digs in Japan and Germany. You can’t have happy customers without happy employees, and Braze’s global team of 900+ customer pleasers is all pearly whites. Multiple honors from Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Best Workplaces, Fortune’s Best Medium Workplaces, and Crain’s 2020 Best Places to Work in NYC tell the whole story.
Speaking of awards, Braze’s fourth consecutive year on the Forbes Cloud 100 isn’t a bad addition to the trophy case, considering it raised less capital than 85 of the other honorees.
Where it’s going
We’ve all heard the “it’s not a race, it’s a marathon” expression a million times, but it certainly applies here. No need for forwarding-looking statements; we are just excited about the market recognizing the huge opportunity in front of this team — and thankful for the lessons learned from Braze (and Krux, Fastly, Discord, Loop, SafeGraph, JumpCloud, Bolt, among others) that led us four years ago to focus Ridge exclusively on super-early, seed, and Series A investments in software.
We are also proud to play a small role in the customer engagement revolution. As a bonus, I’ve forged multidimensional relationships with Braze’s founders along the way, some of whom are investors in multiple Ridge funds. Like Braze, we at Ridge value the concept of focusing on “your customer’s customer.” Just as Braze has helped marketers connect with their customers for 10+ years, Ridge has helped connect Braze and our other portcos with customers via our CMO Network. It’s all about helping the helpers.
On behalf of everyone at Ridge, a huge congrats to Bill, Jon, Mark, Myles, Isabelle, Kevin, Wendy, the rest of the awesome Braze team, and our fellow co-investors — Bruce Taragin, Doug Pepper, Neeraj Agrawal, Matt Jacobson, and Paul Madera. We’re humbled to have Braze in the Ridge Familia and can’t wait for what’s ahead.