Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Marketing and sales automation — tools that leverage the advances and data of our digital age to better identify and then interact with customers — is big business, with the whole market expected to generate some $ 6.6 billion in revenues for related companies by 2025.

But “companies” is the operative word here: it’s a very fragmented space, with dozens of hopefuls covering different aspects of marketing and sales, each with its own unique approach. There is an alternative trend, though, and today a customer experience automation company called ActiveCampaign, catering not just to large enterprises but small and medium businesses too, has raised a large round of funding to build out its own one-stop-shop model. It includes the tools to run email and messaging-based marketing campaigns; marketing automation across sites and events; and sales and CRM.

The Chicago-based company is today announcing that it has closed a Series B of $ 100 million, money that it will use to invest in building out new technology and to expand internationally. The funding is being led by Susquehanna Growth Equity, with PE firm Silversmith Capital Partners also participating.

ActiveCampaign is not your typical startup. It has been around since 2003, and this is only the second time that it has raised money — the first time was in 2016, a modest $ 20 million round from Silversmith. Fundraising is not the only thing that sets it apart: it’s also profitable and has been for years (one reason it hasn’t raised money), and it’s actually already quite large, with 90,000 customers in 161 countries.

Yet it’s something of a theme in the world of “startups” — meaning tech companies that are still privately owned and raising from VCs and related backers — particularly those that are B2B focused, that some of the more interesting and successfully bootstrapped of them at some point turn to VC and private equity when it comes to needing an extra boost to move beyond what has become its natural growth rate.

In the case of ActiveCampaign, it had a taste of what a little outside investment could do in the last few years: Jason VandeBoom, founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, said that the company has seen its annual recurring revenues grow 6x since 2016 to $ 90 million, with employees booming from 65 to more than 550.

The company’s core proposition is that it provides a less fragmented approach to businesses interested in building in some digital marketing or sales tools into their outreach and then considering what to do next.

“What we are up against are a number of companies focused on a single slice of customer experience, either CRM or a customer success platform,” VandeBoom said. “We’re still at this point in the industry where the category is taking shape,” which spells a ripe opportunity for ActiveCampaign.

The need for what ActiveCampaign provides is a basic one: whether you are an online retailer or any business that wants to expand its audience or make sure to stay connected to the one you already have, you need tools to reach users, figure out what they want to see from you, and connect in a relevant way.

VandeBoom added while there are no specific plans for acquisitions that can be discussed now, the funding also gives the company “optionality” in terms of what it might do next.

Part of the company’s approach is to build technology in-house, but in the spirit of all-in-one platforms, its value also lies in how many other things its users can plug into using ActiveCampaign.

The company has some 260 technology partners and a “recipe library” with more than 250 automations already built, or users can build and customise themselves from more than 300 possible apps that can be integrated, including Shopify, Square, Facebook, Eventbrite, and Salesforce.

With this round, Martin Angert, Director at Susquehanna, is joining ActiveCampaign’s board of directors. His existing roles on the boards of Workfront, WhiteSource, XebiaLabs, and Allocadia speaks to interesting potential strategic partnerships for ActiveCampaign.

“ActiveCampaign and the CXA category have grown significantly and our investment in the series B reconfirms Silversmith’s commitment to ActiveCampaign’s future,” said Todd Maclean, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Silversmith Capital Partners, in a statement.


TechCrunch

Playbuzz, a startup that helps publishers to add things like polls and galleries to their articles, has rebranded itself as Ex.co.

Co-founder and CEO Tom Pachys told me the name stands for “the experience company,” and he said it reflects the company’s broader content marketing ambitions. Ex.co will continue working with news publishers, but Pachys said there’s a bigger market for what the company has built.

“We’re seeing businesses wanting to become publishers in a way, to interact with their users in a way that’s very similar to what a publisher does,” Pachys said.

Playbuzz/Ex.co is hardly the first publishing startup realize that there may be more money in content marketing, but Pachys argued that this isn’t just a sudden pivot. After all, the company is already working with clients like Visa, Red Bull and Netflix (as well as our corporate siblings at The Huffington Post).

“The previous name does not reflect the values that we stand for today — not even future values,” he said.

Tom Pachys

Tom Pachys

Pachys also suggested that existing content marketing tools are largely focused on operations and workflow — things like hiring the right freelancer — while Ex.co aims at making it easier to actually create the content.

“We’re the ones innovate within the core — not around it, but the core itself,” he said. “And rather than trying to call them competition, we want to integrate with as much players in the ecosystem as possible.”

In addition to announcing the rebrand, Ex.co is also relaunching its platform as a broader content marketing tool, with new features like content templates, real-time analytics and lead generation.

Pachys, by the way, is new to the CEO role, having served as COO until recently, while previous Playbuzz CEO Shaul Olmert has become the company’s president. Pachys said the move wasn’t “directly correlated” with the other changes, and instead allows the two of them to focus on their strengths — Pachys oversees day-to-day operations, while Olmert focuses on investor relations and strategic deals.

“I co-founded the company with Shaul, who’s a very good friend of mine, we’ve known each other 20 years,” Pachys said. “Shaul is very much involved in the company.”


TechCrunch

The right advice at the right time can make all the difference for your company. So this year at Disrupt SF (Oct. 2-4), we’re going to try to help startup founders get an extra level of insight. We’re hosting a set of workshops with experts in fundraising, growth and hiring, where attendees can submit questions and materials ahead of time and potentially talk with them live at the event.

Fundraising: Top seed investors Charles Hudson (Precursor Ventures) and Anu Duggal (Female Founders Fund) will join Russ Heddleston, CEO of DocSend, to do a pitchdeck teardown session. Fill out this form to send them your deck for consideration. More details here.

Growth Marketing: Leading growth marketer Asher King Abramson will be critiquing startup marketing assets with a focus on Facebook and Instagram. More details here.

Hiring:  Immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn will be helping you with the ins and outs of the immigration process, and how to think about it from a founder and investor perspective. More details here.

If they use your pre-submitted deck, assets or questions, we’ll give you a free ticket to any TechCrunch event next year.

These tracks are based on the interest we’ve seen from subscribers to our Extra Crunch membership service for cutting-edge startup knowledge. Abramson and Alcorn are also on our list of Verified Expert service providers, where we showcase the people that startups recommend to us.

But to get this invaluable feedback, you’ll need to have a pass to attend Disrupt SF. Sign up to get your pass to attend today.

Too far away to attend in SF? For folks who are considering attending our Disrupt Berlin conference on 11-12 December, you can look forward to a similar offering. 

 

 


TechCrunch

Reminder: Extra Crunch discount on Sessions: Enterprise tickets

Come and watch TechCrunch interview enterprise titans and rising founders at the premier of TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco on September 5th. Join 1000+ enterprise enthusiasts for a day of talks, demos, startups, and networking.

Book your $ 249 Early Bird tickets today and save an extra 20% as an Extra Crunch annual subscriber. Just contact extracrunch@techcrunch.com to snag your discounted tickets.

Startups at the speed of light: Lidar CEOs put their industry in perspective

Our science and AI correspondent Devin Coldewey has a blockbuster look at the current state of affairs in the lidar industry. What started as those gyrating “spinners” on top of partially autonomous cars has evolved into a variety of mechanisms like metameterials, all the while VCs have dumped hundreds of millions of dollars on to new ventures.

The big challenge today though is to move from curios in the lab to production-ready hardware prepared for the open road. While some startups have netted early partnerships with car manufacturers like BMW, nothing is set in stone yet, even as a consolidation of the industry seems absolutely imminent.

There’s no shortage of lidar alternatives — as long as you don’t need something that’s ready to roll off the production line.

“Almost everything is in R&D, of which 95 percent is in the earlier stages of research, rather than actual development,” explained Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar . “The development stage is a huge undertaking — to actually move it towards real-world adoption and into true series production vehicles. Whoever is able to enable true autonomy in production vehicles first is going to be the game changer for the industry. But that hasn’t happened yet.”

And

“I’ve been approached at least four times in the last two months with an offer to buy a lidar company,” said Innoviz CEO Omer Keilaf. “It doesn’t surprise me to see some convergence. While there are 20 or 30 car makers, only a few are early adopters — companies like BMW, Daimler, Audi — and they’re built in a way to do that. They have dedicated teams for working with companies like us, making sure everything goes right in such a complicated project. And that trend is even stronger when it’s related to functional safety.”

The rise of the new crypto “mafias”

Accomplice’s lead crypto investor Ash Egan offered up his research onto the crypto world, tracking the lineage of almost 200 startups to determine where they all started. His conclusion is that a handful of institutions — among them Stanford, Google, and Goldman Sachs — lead the pack as the best academies for crypto startup founders.


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