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Cyral, an early stage startup that helps protect data stored in cloud repositories, announced an $ 11 million Series A today. The company also revealed a previous undisclosed $ 4.1 million angel investment, making the total $ 15.1 million.

The Series A was led by Redpoint Ventures. A.Capital Ventures, Costanoa VC, Firebolt, SV Angel and Trifecta Capital also participated in on the round.

Cyral co-founder and CEO Manav Mital says the company’s product acts as a security layer on top of cloud data repositories — whether databases, data lakes, data warehouse or other data repository — helping identify issues like faulty configurations or anomalous activity.

Mital says that unlike most security data products of this ilk, Cyral doesn’t use an agent or watch points to try to detect signals that indicate something is happening to the data. Instead, he says that Cyral is a security layer attached directly to the data.

“The core innovation of Cyral is to put a layer of visibility attached right to the data endpoint, right to the interface where application services and users talk to the data endpoint, and in real time see the communication,” Mital explained.

As an example, he says that Cyral could detect that someone has suddenly started scanning rows of credit card data, or that someone was trying to connect to a database on an unencrypted connection. In each of these cases, Cyral would detect the problem, and depending on the configuration, send an alert to the customer’s security team to deal with the problem, or automatically shut down access to the database before informing the security team.

It’s still early days for Cyral with 15 employees and a handful of early access customers. Mital says for this round he’s working on building a product to market that’s well designed and easy to use.

He says that people get the problem he’s trying to solve. “We could walk into any company and they are all worried about this problem. So for us getting people interested has not been an issue. We just want to make sure we build an amazing product,” he said.


TechCrunch

Lily AI, a startup focused on using deep learning to help brands better convert customers through emotionally tailored recommendations, announced this morning that it has raised a $ 12.5 million Series A led by Canaan Partners. Prior investors NEA, Unshackled and Fernbrook Capital also took part in the funding event.

Prior to its Series A, Lily had raised just a few million, according to Crunchbase data.

The round caught our eye for a few reasons. First, the investor leading the round — Maha Ibrahim — also led The RealReal’s Series C back in 2014. That company, which also sports a focus on the sartorial, went public in 2019. (Ibrahim has also dropped by TechCrunch from time to time, including here.) To see the investor lead an early round in a company operating in a related space was notable.

And the technology that co-founders Purva Gupta (formerly Eko India and UNICEF) Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan (formerly of Box) have built is neat.

TechCrunch first covered Lily back in 2017 when it raised $ 2 million from NEA. At the time it had an iOS application, along with a web app and API designed to help retailers “better understand a woman’s personal preferences around fashion” in their “own catalogs and digital storefronts.”

In a phone call with TechCrunch, Gupta said that she and Narayanan decided that “from a business model perspective” their technology was “better for an enterprise product.” The iOS app was eventually deprioritized (in “less than a year” after launch according to the CEO), with the company making a formal move to focus on enterprise offerings in early 2018.

So what does Lily AI do and what is it selling to large retailers? An e-commerce power-up.

How it works

Lily’s founding hypothesis came from Gupta’s time exploring fashion in New York, asking hundreds of women about what they had bought recently (more on the company’s founding story here). What came out of that exercise was the idea that every customer is “roaming around with [their own] emotional context,” how “they think about their body” and “how they react to different types of details and items.”

The CEO thought that if you could get that context into an online shop, it would probably help consumers find what they want, and help the store sell more at the same time. That’s the hypothesis behind Lily AI, according to Gupta, who wants to know the “individual emotional context” of “each customer” when they shop online.

It’s that idea that helped the company raise $ 12.5 million in its A, more capital by far than it had raised before in total.

The service works in three steps, starting with tech that can pull out myriad more attributes from items in a catalog; the more variables you have the more you can know about any particular product. Gupta told TechCrunch in an email that her company’s “approach captures significantly more detail on each product based on the traits customers look for when buying apparel,” including “style, fit, occasion” and the like.

Then, Lily uses “hashed customer data” that brands already collect, married to its item attribute data to “create a high-confidence prediction of each customer’s affinity to every attribute of every product in the catalog,” she continued. From there it’s a recommendation game.

The result of all this work is that “100 percent” of Lily’s customers have seen a “step gain in metrics,” not “just incremental” improvements, according to Gupta. (The company’s website claims a “10x ROI” on customer spend on its products.)

Lily charges for its service on a volume basis.

And there should be lots of that. According to Canaan’s Ibrahim, e-commerce “will continue to grow between 15-20% annually and will represent ~20% of all retail spending in 2020 […] off of an enormous absolute number base of ~$ 4T of e-commerce spend.” That means Lily has a pretty big market to grow into, which is just what venture investors love to see.

One final thing. During our call, I asked Gupta about privacy. After all, her company is pairing consumer preferences with other information for the benefit of a brand. In our discussion about how her startup protects customer privacy, she said something interesting that I asked her to expand on. Here’s how she described how her firm is built around understanding the feelings of others, or what’s better known as empathy:

We started Lily AI with the goal of helping customers look and feel their best. And I’m so proud that we use ‘Empathy’ as the guiding principle for everything: building products, hiring, retaining talent and establishing company culture.

Not a bad place to build from.


TechCrunch

The Guild, a nearly four-year-old, Austin, Texas-based startup that turns apartments into comfortable short-term accommodations for business and other travelers, has landed $ 25 million in Series B funding from some of its earlier investors, including Maveron and Convivialite, along with real estate companies like the Nicol Investment Company, which owns some of the buildings in which The Guild has units.

The 171-person company — started by two University of Texas grads who met in 2015 through their overlapping interests (one worked in boutique hotel development and the other is a cofounder of the apartment marketplace Apartment List) —  has plenty of competition. Lyric, Domio, and Sonic are but three of the many other companies now in the business of gussying up apartments and renting them out like hotel rooms is Lyric, Domio, and Sonic

The competition is so stiff, in fact, that all are fast adding other services to their offerings. All promise around-the-clock support, for example, so if the WiFi goes down, there’s someone to scream at, no matter the hour. Lyric also offers its customers “curated in-suite art, music and coffee programs.” The Guild touts its personal approach, like adding a Christmas tree to a room for a family that is temporarily displaced during the holidays. Meanwhile, among its offerings, Sonder offers “pre-stay cleaning.”

The last seems less like a perk than a necessity, but in the race to capture mindshare, no detail is too small to promote, apparently.

As for its part, The Guild is now operating 565 units with another 235 units in the “final stages of development,” the company tells us. It’s also operating in six cities currently — Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Miami and Nashville — but it plans to land in six more in the next 12 to 24 months. (If you’re curious about how long it takes for a unit to become profitable, the company says the investment payback is traditionally within 12 months.)

As for how its breaking through the noise of its competitors, the company has a corporate sales team that works with companies like McKinsey, Google and Whole Foods, as well as partners with travel companies, including Concur, Airbnb, and Expedia.

Certainly, investors see promise in its strategy — and its momentum.

The Guild, which says it generated $ 10 million in revenue in 2018, tells us it generated more than $ 20 million in 2019 and that it expects to maintain 100% growth in 2020, thanks in part to its new round of funding.


TechCrunch

Risk and compliance startup Osano, which earlier this year debuted on the Battlefield stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, has raised $ 5.4 million in its Series A round.

The company told TechCrunch that the round was led by LiveOak Venture Partners and Next Coast Ventures, both of which invested in the company’s seed round. Its Series A fundraise also included participation from several individual investors, putting Osano’s total amount raised to date at $ 8.4 million.

The Austin, Texas-based startup bills itself as a privacy platform that helps businesses understand and address their compliance with state and international privacy laws, like Europe’s GDPR and California’s new statewide privacy law, set to take effect on January 1. One of the company’s flagship features is providing cookie and consent management on customer websites, allowing users to choose their privacy settings in their own language.

To date, the turnkey platform is used by more than 750,000 companies — including some Fortune 500 companies — to secure over 3.5 million websites.

Osano plans to use the new funds to further invest in research and development, marketing, and hiring to meet “growing demand” for its service, the company said.

“We are proud to continue into the next round with our original investors,” said Arlo Gilbert, Osano’s co-founder and chief executive. “Heading into 2020, we are moving quickly to add talent to our growing team and to deepen Osano’s position as a leading data privacy platform.”

“There is a definitive need to bring transparency to the process of how companies deal with privacy, and we are very excited about taking on this challenge to empower both individuals and organizations,” said Gilbert.


TechCrunch

Facebook’s founding got the movie treatment with Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network.” The story of how Snapchat came to be will be a flagship series on the upcoming streaming service, Quibi. Today, Spotify is the latest startup to get its story told on screen — this time, as a new Netflix show.

Netflix says it’s developing a scripted series inspired by the book “Spotify Untold” by business reports at Swedish Dagens Industri, Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud. The story will focus on Spotify’s founding and how it changed the way people listen to music over the past decade.

“The founding tale of Spotify is a great example of how a local story can have a global impact,” said Tesha Crawford, Director of International Originals Northern Europe at Netflix. “We are really excited about bringing this success story to life and we look forward to continuing our great collaboration with director Per-Olav Sørensen and the team at Yellow Bird UK.”

Banijay Group company, Yellow Bird UK, is also the production company behind the upcoming Netflix crime series “Young Wallander.” Yellow Bird UK will produce this new and yet-to-be-titled Spotify show and Per-Olav Sørensen will direct. Berna Levin (“Young Wallander,” “Hidden,” and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”) will serve as executive producer.

The series itself will center around Swedish tech entrepreneur, Daniel Ek, and his partner Martin Lorentzon, who created the free and legal music service at a time when music piracy was at its height. Netflix describes the show as one about “how hard convictions, unrelenting will, access, and big dreams can help small players challenge the status quo.”

Netflix says the series will be available in both English and Swedish languages.

“I’m thrilled to be making this timely and entertaining series for Netflix. The story of how a small band of Swedish tech industry insiders transformed music – how we listen to it and how it’s made – is truly a tale for our time. Not only is this a story about the way all our lives have changed in the last decade, it’s about the battle for cultural and financial influence in a globalized, digitized world,” says Berna Levin, Executive Producer, Yellow Bird.

As Netflix’s announcement also notes, telling the story of a tech startup can be difficult because things move and change quickly. Spotify, after all, is still around and growing. It’s likely that by the time the show goes to air, it will have undergone many more transformations.

“I am excited to bring the story of Sweden based Spotify to life on the screen. It is an ongoing fairytale in modern history about how Swedish wiz kids changed the music industry forever. The story is truly exciting and challenging,” added Per-Olav Sørensen. “Challenging because the Spotify story has not ended yet – it is still running with high speed and will probably change while we work on the project.”

Netflix did not share a release date for the series.


TechCrunch

Clumio, a 100-people startup that offers a SaaS-like service for enterprise backup, today announced that it has raised a $ 135 million Series C round, led by existing investor Sutter Hill Ventures and new investor Altimeter Captial. The announcement comes shortly after the company’s disclosure in August that it had quietly raised a total of $ 51 million in Series A and B rounds in 2017 and 2018. The company says it plans to use this new funding to “accelerate its vision to deliver a globally consolidated data protection service in and for the public cloud.”

Given the amount of money invested in the company, chances are Clumio is getting close to a $ 1 billion valuation, but the company is not disclosing its valuation at this point.

The overall mission of Clumio is to build a platform on public clouds that gives enterprises a single data protection service that can handle backups of their data in on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications. When it came out of stealth, the company’s focus was on VMware on premises. Since then, the team has expanded this to include VMware running on public clouds.

“When somebody moves to the cloud, they don’t want to be in the business of managing software or infrastructure and all that, because the whole reason to move to the cloud was essentially to get away from the mundane,” explained Clumio CEO and co-founder Poojan Kumar.

The next step in this process, as the company also announced today, is to make it easier for enterprises to protect the cloud-native applications they are building now. The company today launched this service for AWS and will likely expand it to other clouds like Microsoft Azure, soon.

The market for enterprise backup is only going to expand in the coming years. We’ve now reached a point, after all, where it’s not unheard of to talk about enterprises that run thousands of different applications. For them, Clumio wants to become the one-stop-shop for all things data protection — and its investors are obviously buying into the company’s vision and momentum.

“When there’s a foundational change, like the move to the cloud, which is as foundational a change, at least, as the move from mainframe to open systems in the 80s and 90s,” said Mike Speiser, Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures . “When there’s a change like that, you have to re-envision, you have to refactor and think of the world — the new world — in a new way and start from scratch. If you don’t, what’s gonna end up happening is people make decisions that are short term decisions that seem like they will work but end up being architectural dead ends. And those companies never ever end up winning. They just never end up winning and that’s the opportunity right now on this big transition across many markets, including the backup market for Clumio.”

Speiser also noted that SaaS allows for a dramatically larger market opportunity for companies like Clumio. “What SaaS is doing, is it’s not only allowing us to go after the traditional Silicon Valley, high end, direct selling, expensive markets that were previously buying high-end systems and data centers. But what we’re seeing — and we’re seeing this with Snowflake and […] we will see it with Clumio — is there’s an opportunity to go after a much broader market opportunity.”

Starting next year, Clumio will expand that market by adding support for data protection for a first SaaS app, with more to follow, as well as support for backup in more regions and clouds. Right now, the service’s public cloud tool focuses on AWS — and only in the United States. Next year, it plans to support international regions as well.

Kumar stressed that he wants to build Clumio for the long run, with an IPO as part of that roadmap. His investors probably wouldn’t mind that, either.


TechCrunch

Balderton Capital, one of the so-called “big four” early-stage VC firms in London (the others being Accel, Atomico and Index), has raised a new $ 400 million fund to continue backing European tech startups at Series A.

Dealroom recently released a report that pegged Balderton as the most active Series A investor in Europe (between 2014-2018), and in many ways this new fund is a continuation, and business as usual for the firm. It is also roughly the same size as the VC’s last Series A fund, which it closed in 2017 at $ 375 million.

That’s not to be confused with Balderton’s other recently launched “secondary” fund, which is dedicated to buying equity stakes from early shareholders in European-founded “high-growth, scale-up” technology companies. The move essentially formalised the secondary share dealing that already happens — typically as part of a Series C or other later rounds — which often sees founders take some money off the table so they can improve their own financial situation and won’t be tempted to sell their company too soon, but also gives early investors a way out so they can begin the cycle all over again.

Meanwhile, Balderton says the new Series A fund is being launched against a backdrop of “unprecedented momentum” within the European tech ecosystem. The VC notes that the number of Series A rounds in Europe per year has quadrupled since 2012, with the total amount of VC funding going into European startups hitting record highs last year — from €11.5 billion in 2014 to a chunky €24.6 billion in 2018.

That, together with the sheer number of new funds that have launched over the last 12 months — and three I’m covering this week — leads me to wonder out loud if tech, and Europe in particular, has entered a bubble.

“I don’t think we are,” Balderton Partner Suranga Chandratillake tells me during a call, before acknowledging that it is often hard to know if you are in a bubble if you are actually in one. “If you look at the public markets, the valuations around tech companies, while they are high, I would argue that in many cases they are justifiable when you look at the profitability and the growth rate of those businesses, especially things like enterprise software. But I think it’s harder when you get into businesses where they are more one-off… [where] we don’t necessarily know exactly how to value those long term.”

On Europe specifically, Chandratillake points out that some European tech hubs are more heated than others and that sentiment can vary considerably per geography. “As you get to more and more the local level, of course, you can experience what feel like sort of comparative bubbles. So, you know, maybe London was expensive two years ago, and France is expensive right now at Series A or whatever, but I don’t think those things really matter in the long run, because ultimately they iron out as long as the employee valuations are sensible. And as an investor, you’re paying attention to that stuff when you’re going to make an investment.”

One rumour within London VC is there are firms that have felt pressured to do follow-on investments in portfolio companies they otherwise might not have during cooler times, for fear of signalling to the market not just that a company isn’t doing well but that the VC firm itself isn’t as founder-friendly as competing VCs. How does Balderton think about signaling?

“Signaling is a massive deal [in venture capital],” says Chandratillake. “And actually, this is an area where, you know, we think we have a fairly strong position, because for over 10 years now we have focused almost entirely on Series A… and we are very open about that.”

He says that unlike other Series A VCs that invest at Series B or Series C, too, and also quite often dabble in seed, companies backed by Balderton shouldn’t expect the firm to “lead or be a major part of your Series B.”

“Of course, we’ll help, we’re going to do some of our pro-rata or maybe all of our pro-rata to try and protect some of our ownership, all those sorts of rational things we do. But we’re not raising a fund which allows us to be a big investor in your Series B and your C and your D and so on. I think as long as you’re really open with entrepreneurs about that early, they totally get that and they understand why it works economically for us and why it’s a good thing.

“Then if you do that for a long enough period of time, as we have, and stick to that — so you don’t do weird things like, you know, say that, but then on the other hand with the most interesting company, you try to bully your way into more of a Series B or whatever, then the ecosystem overall starts to realise… then the signal problem goes away.”

With regards to future investments, Chandratillake says Balderton will continue to invest all over Europe across any sector where “information technology” is being leveraged and creating value.

In the fund prior to last, for example, fintech was a major focus, backing companies like Revolut and Nutmeg, but more recently the VC has been investing more in health tech, where computer science is helping life science solve problems faster or cheaper.

“I think that there will be more of that,” says Chandratillake. “There’s a lot more to be done in this health tech space, both at the patient level, but also actually a lot of really interesting things behind the scenes that will help health systems operate more efficiently and use technology in interesting ways. It’s a really interesting area for Europe, because we have, you know, within the continent, a plethora of different health systems — from almost fully private systems through to obviously entirely state single payer systems like the NHS. It’s a great place to experiment with different models. It’s also of course, as a continent, home to some of the most important pharmaceutical companies [in the world].”


TechCrunch

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