chairman, co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff took a lot of big chances when he 20 years ago. For starters, his was one of the earliest enterprise SaaS companies, but he wasn’t just developing a company on top of a new platform, he was building one from scratch with social responsibility built-in. Fast-forward 20 years and that company is wildly successful. In its most , it announced a $4 billion quarter, putting it on a $16 billion run rate, and making it by far the most successful SaaS company ever. But at the heart of the company’s DNA is a charitable streak, and it’s not something they bolted on after getting successful. Even before the company had a working product, in the earliest planning documents, wanted to be a different kind of company. Early on, it designed that set aside 1% of Salesforce’s equity, and 1% of its product and 1% of its employees’ time to the community. As the company has grown, that model has serious financial teeth now, and other startups over the years have also adopted the same approach using Salesforce as a model. In , the company’s enormous annual customer conference, in 2016, Benioff outlined his personal philosophy around giving back: You are at work, and you have great leadership skills. You can isolate yourselves and say I’m going to put those skills to use in a box at work, or you can say I’m going to have an integrated life. The way I look at the world, I’m going to put those skills to work to make the world a better place. This year Benioff is coming to to discuss with TechCrunch editors how to build a highly successful business, while giving back to the community and the society your business is part of. In fact, he has a book coming out in mid-October called , in which he writes about how businesses can be a positive social force. Benioff has received numerous awards over the years for his entrepreneurial and charitable spirit, including Innovator of the Decade from Forbes, one of the World’s 25 Greatest Leaders from Fortune, one of the 10 Best-Performing CEOs from Harvard Business Review, GLAAD, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative for his work on equality and the Variety Magazine EmPOWerment Award. It’s worth noting that in 2018, a group of 618 Salesforce employees presented Benioff with a petition protesting the . Benioff in public comments stated that the tools were being used in recruitment and management, and not helping to separate families at the border. While Salesforce did not cancel the contract, at the time, co-CEO Keith Block stated that the company would donate $1 million to organizations helping separated families, as well as match any internal employee contributions through its charitable arm, Salesforce.org. Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Did you know Extra Crunch annual members get 20% off all TechCrunch event tickets? Head over to get your annual pass, and then email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your 20% discount. Please note that it can take up to 24 hours to issue the discount code.
In an era of massive data breaches, most recently the fiasco, the risk of a cyberattack and the are the top existential threat to corporations big and small. At TechCrunch’s first-ever enterprise-focused event (), that topic will be front and center throughout the day. That’s why we’re delighted to announce United’s chief information security officer will join in San Francisco on September 5, where we will discuss and learn how one of the world’s largest airlines keeps its networks safe. Joining her to talk enterprise security will be a16z partner and DUO / Cisco’s head of advisory CISOs , among others still to be announced. At United, Heath oversees the airline’s cybersecurity program and its IT regulatory, governance and risk management. The U.S.-based airline has more than 90,000 employees serving 4,500 flights a day to 338 airports, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. A native of Manchester, U.K., Heath served as a former police detective in the U.K. Financial Crimes Unit where she led investigations into international investment fraud, money laundering and large scale cases of identity theft — and ran joint investigations with the FBI, SEC and London’s Serious Fraud Office. Heath and her teams have been the recipients of CSO Magazine’s CSO50 Awards for their work in cybersecurity and risk. At , Heath will join a panel of cybersecurity experts to discuss security on enterprise networks large and small — from preventing data from leaking to keeping bad actors out of their network — where we’ll learn how a modern CSO moves fast without breaking things. Join hundreds of today’s leading enterprise experts for this single-day event when you purchase a ticket to the show. The $249 early-bird sale ends Friday, August 9. Make sure to and save $100 before prices go up.
While you’d be hard pressed to find any startup not brimming with confidence over the disruptive idea they’re chasing, it’s not often you come across a young company as calmly convinced it’s engineering the future as . The team is building a platform for designing human-like voice interactions to automate business processes. Put simply, it’s using AI to make machine voices a whole lot less robotic. “What we definitely know is this will definitely happen,” says CEO and co-founder Vladislav Chernyshov. “Sooner or later the conversational AI/voice AI will replace people everywhere where the technology will allow. And it’s better for us to be the first mover than the last in this field.” “In 2018 in the US alone there were 30 million people doing some kind of repetitive tasks over the phone. We can automate these jobs now or we are going to be able to automate it in two years,” he goes on. “If you multiple it with Europe and the massive call centers in India, Pakistan and the Philippines you will probably have something like close to 120M people worldwide… and they are all subject for disruption, potentially.” The New York based startup has been operating in relative stealth up to now. But it’s breaking cover to talk to TechCrunch — announcing a $2M seed round, led by RTP Ventures and RTP Global: An early stage investor that’s backed the likes of and . RTP’s venture arm, also based in NY, writes on its website that it prefers engineer-founded companies — that “solve big problems with technology”. “We like technology, not gimmicks,” the fund warns with . Dasha’s core tech right now includes what Chernyshov describes as “a human-level, voice-first conversation modelling engine”; a hybrid text-to-speech engine which he says enables it to model speech disfluencies (aka, the ums and ahs, pitch changes etc that characterize human chatter); plus “a fast and accurate” real-time voice activity detection algorithm which detects speech in under 100 milliseconds, meaning the AI can turn-take and handle interruptions in the conversation flow. The platform can also detect a caller’s gender — a feature that can be useful for healthcare use-cases, for example. Another component Chernyshov flags is “an end-to-end pipeline for semi-supervised learning” — so it can retrain the models in real time “and fix mistakes as they go” — until Dasha hits the claimed “human-level” conversational capability for each business process niche. (To be clear, the AI cannot adapt its speech to an interlocutor in real-time — as human speakers naturally shift their accents closer to bridge any dialect gap — but Chernyshov suggests it’s on the roadmap.) “For instance, we can start with 70% correct conversations and then gradually improve the model up to say 95% of correct conversations,” he says of the learning element, though he admits there are a lot of variables that can impact error rates — not least the call environment itself. Even cutting edge AI is going to struggle with a bad line. The platform also has an open API so customers can plug the conversation AI into their existing systems — be it telephony, Salesforce software or a developer environment, such as Microsoft Visual Studio. Currently they’re focused on English, though Chernyshov says the architecture is “basically language agnostic” — but does requires “a big amount of data”. The next step will be to open up the dev platform to enterprise customers, beyond the initial 20 beta testers, which include companies in the banking, healthcare and insurance sectors — with a release slated for later this year or Q1 2020. Test use-cases so far include banks using the conversation engine for brand loyalty management to run customer satisfaction surveys that can turnaround negative feedback by fast-tracking a response to a bad rating — by providing (human) customer support agents with an automated categorization of the complaint so they can follow up more quickly. “This usually leads to a wow effect,” says Chernyshov. Ultimately, he believes there will be two or three major AI platforms globally providing businesses with an automated, customizable conversational layer — sweeping away the patchwork of chatbots currently filling in the gap. And of course Dasha intends their ‘Digital Assistant Super Human Alike’ to be one of those few. “There is clearly no platform [yet],” he says. “Five years from now this will sound very weird that all companies now are trying to build something. Because in five years it will be obvious — why do you need all this stuff? Just take Dasha and build what you want.” “This reminds me of the situation in the 1980s when it was obvious that the personal computers are here to stay because they give you an unfair competitive advantage,” he continues. “All large enterprise customers all over the world… were building their own operating systems, they were writing software from scratch, constantly reinventing the wheel just in order to be able to create this spreadsheet for their accountants. “And then Microsoft with MS-DOS came in… and everything else is history.” That’s not all they’re building, either. Dasha’s seed financing will be put towards launching a consumer-facing product atop its b2b platform to automate the screening of recorded message robocalls. So, basically, they’re building a robot assistant that can talk to — and put off — other machines on humans’ behalf. Which does kind of suggest the AI-fuelled future will entail an awful lot of robots talking to each other… Chernyshov says this b2c call screening app will most likely be free. But then if your core tech looks set to massively accelerate a non-human caller phenomenon that many consumers already see as a terrible plague on their time and mind then providing free relief — in the form of a counter AI — seems the very least you should do. Not that Dasha can be accused of causing the robocaller plague, of course. Recorded messages hooked up to call systems have been spamming people with unsolicited calls for far longer than the startup has existed. Dasha’s PR notes Americans were hit with 26.3BN robocalls in 2018 alone — up “a whopping” 46% on 2017. Its conversation engine, meanwhile, has only made some 3M calls to date, clocking its first call with a human in January 2017. But the goal from here on in is to scale fast. “We plan to aggressively grow the company and the technology so we can continue to provide the best voice conversational AI to a market which we estimate to exceed $30BN worldwide,” runs a line from its PR. After the developer platform launch, Chernyshov says the next step will be to open up access to business process owners by letting them automate existing call workflows without needing to be able to code (they’ll just need an analytic grasp of the process, he says). Later — pegged for 2022 on the current roadmap — will be the launch of “the platform with zero learning curve”, as he puts it. “You will teach Dasha new models just like typing in a natural language and teaching it like you can teach any new team member on your team,” he explains. “Adding a new case will actually look like a word editor — when you’re just describing how you want this AI to work.” His prediction is that a majority — circa 60% — of all major cases that business face — “like dispatching, like probably upsales, cross sales, some kind of support etc, all those cases” — will be able to be automated “just like typing in a natural language”. So if Dasha’s AI-fuelled vision of voice-based business process automation come to fruition then humans getting orders of magnitude more calls from machines looks inevitable — as machine learning supercharges artificial speech by making it sound slicker, act smarter and seem, well, almost human. But perhaps a savvier generation of voice AIs will also help manage the ‘robocaller’ plague by offering advanced call screening? And as non-human voice tech marches on from dumb recorded messages to chatbot-style AIs running on scripted rails to — as Dasha pitches it — fully responsive, emoting, even emotion-sensitive conversation engines that can slip right under the human radar maybe the robocaller problem will eat itself? I mean, if you didn’t even realize you were talking to a robot how are you going to get annoyed about it? Dasha claims 96.3% of the people who talk to its AI “think it’s human”, though it’s not clear what sample size the claim is based on. (To my ear there are definite ‘tells’ in the current demos on its . But in a cold-call scenario it’s not hard to imagine the AI passing, if someone’s not paying much attention.) The alternative scenario, in a future infested with unsolicited machine calls, is that all smartphone OSes add kill switches, such as the one in — which lets people silence calls from unknown numbers. And/or more humans simply never pick up phone calls unless they know who’s on the end of the line. So it’s really doubly savvy of Dasha to create an AI capable of managing robot calls — meaning it’s building its own fallback — a piece of softwarewilling to chat to its AI in future, even if actual humans refuse. Dasha’s robocall screener app, which is slated for release in early 2020, will also be spammer-agnostic — in that it’ll be able to handle and divert human salespeople too, as well as robots. After all, a spammer is a spammer. “Probably it is the time for somebody to step in and ‘don’t be evil’,” says Chernyshov, echoing Google’s old motto, albeit perhaps not entirely reassuringly given the phrase’s lapsed history — as we talk about the team’s approach to ecosystem development and how machine-to-machine chat might overtake human voice calls. “At some point in the future we will be talking to various robots much more than we probably talk to each other — because you will have some kind of human-like robots at your house,” he predicts. “Your doctor, gardener, warehouse worker, they all will be robots at some point.” The logic at work here is that if resistance to an AI-powered Cambrian Explosion of machine speech is futile, it’s better to be at the cutting edge, building the most human-like robots — and making the robots at least sound like they care. Dasha’s conversational quirks certainly can’t be called a gimmick. Even if the team’s close attention to mimicking the vocal flourishes of human speech — the disfluencies, the ums and ahs, the pitch and tonal changes for emphasis and emotion — might seem so at first airing. In one of the demos on its you can hear a clip of a very chipper-sounding male voice, who identifies himself as “John from Acme Dental”, taking an appointment call from a female (human), and smoothly dealing with multiple interruptions and time/date changes as she changes her mind. Before, finally, dealing with a flat cancelation. A human receptionist might well have got mad that the caller essentially just wasted their time. Not John, though. Oh no. He ends the call as cheerily as he began, signing off with an emphatic: “Thank you! And have a really nice day. Bye!” If the ultimate goal is Turing Test levels of realism in artificial speech — i.e. a conversation engine so human-like it can pass as human to a human ear — you do have to be able to reproduce, with precision timing, the verbal baggage that’s wrapped around everything humans say to each other. This tonal layer does essential emotional labor in the business of communication, shading and highlighting words in a way that can adapt or even entirely transform their meaning. It’s an integral part of how we communicate. And thus a common stumbling block for robots. So if the mission is to power a revolution in artificial speech that humans won’t hate and reject then engineering full spectrum nuance is just as important a piece of work as having an amazing speech recognition engine. A chatbot that can’t do all that is really the gimmick. Chernyshov claims Dasha’s conversation engine is “at least several times better and more complex than [Google] Dialogflow, [Amazon] Lex, [Microsoft] Luis or [IBM] Watson”, dropping a laundry list of rival speech engines into the conversation. He argues none are on a par with what Dasha is being designed to do. The difference is the “voice-first modelling engine”. “All those [rival engines] were built from scratch with a focus on chatbots — on text,” he says, couching modelling voice conversation “on a human level” as much more complex than the more limited chatbot-approach — and hence what makes Dasha special and superior. “Imagination is the limit. What we are trying to build is an ultimate voice conversation AI platform so you can model any kind of voice interaction between two or more human beings.” Google did demo its own stuttering voice AI — — last year, when it also in which it appeared not to have told restaurant staff up front they were going to be talking to a robot. Chernyshov isn’t worried about Duplex, though, saying it’s , not a platform. “Google recently tried to headhunt one of our developers,” he adds, pausing for effect. “But they failed.” He says Dasha’s engineering staff make up more than half (28) its total headcount (48), and include two doctorates of science; three PhDs; five PhD students; and ten masters of science in computer science. It has an R&D office in Russian which Chernyshov says helps makes the funding go further. “More than 16 people, including myself, are finalists or semi finalists,” he adds — likening the competition to “an Olympic game but for programmers”. A recent hire — chief research scientist, Dr Alexander Dyakonov — is both a doctor of science professor and former Kaggle No.1 GrandMaster in machine learning. So with in-house AI talent like that you can see why Google, uh, came calling… But why not have Dasha ID itself as a robot by default? On that Chernyshov says the platform is flexible — which means disclosure can be added. But in markets where it isn’t a legal requirement the door is being left open for ‘John’ to slip cheerily by. Bladerunner here we come. The team’s driving conviction is that emphasis on modelling human-like speech will, down the line, allow their AI to deliver universally fluid and natural machine-human speech interactions which in turn open up all sorts of expansive and powerful possibilities for embeddable next-gen voice interfaces. Ones that are much more interesting than the current crop of gadget talkies. This is where you could raid sci-fi/pop culture for inspiration. Such as Kitt, the dryly witty talking car from the 1980s TV series Knight Rider. Or, to throw in a British TV reference, Holly the self-depreciating yet sardonic human-faced computer in Red Dwarf. (Or indeed Kryten the guilt-ridden android butler.) Chernyshov’s suggestion is to imagine Dasha embedded in a robot. But surely no one wants to hear those crawling nightmares scream… Dasha’s five-year+ roadmap includes the eyebrow-raising ambition to evolve the technology to achieve “a general conversational AI”. “This is a science fiction at this point. It’s a general conversational AI, and only at this point you will be able to pass the whole Turing Test,” he says of that aim. “Because we have a human level speech recognition, we have human level speech synthesis, we have generative non-rule based behavior, and this is all the parts of this general conversational AI. And I think that we can we can — and scientific society — we can achieve this together in like 2024 or something like that. “Then the next step, in 2025, this is like autonomous AI — embeddable in any device or a robot. And hopefully by 2025 these devices will be available on the market.” Of course the team is still dreaming distance away from that AI wonderland/dystopia (depending on your perspective) — even if it’s date-stamped on the roadmap. But if a conversational engine ends up in command of the full range of human speech — quirks, quibbles and all — then designing a voice AI may come to be thought of as akin to designing a TV character or cartoon personality. So very far from what we currently associate with the word ‘robotic’. (And wouldn’t it be funny if the term ‘robotic’ came to mean ‘hyper entertaining’ or even ‘especially empathetic’ thanks to advances in AI.) Let’s not get carried away though. In the meanwhile, there are ‘uncanny valley’ pitfalls of speech disconnect to navigate if the tone being (artificially) struck hits a false note. (And, on that front, if you didn’t know ‘John from Acme Dental’ was a robot you’d be forgiven for misreading his chipper sign off to a total time waster as pure sarcasm. But an AI can’t appreciate irony. Not yet anyway.) Nor can robots appreciate the difference between ethical and unethical verbal communication they’re being instructed to carry out. Sales calls can easily cross the line into spam. And what about even more dystopic uses for a conversation engine that’s so slick it can convince the vast majority of people it’s human — like fraud, identity theft, even election interference… the potential misuses could be terrible and scale endlessly. Although if you straight out ask Dasha whether it’s a robot Chernyshov says it has been programmed to confess to being artificial. So it won’t tell you a barefaced lie. How will the team prevent problematic uses of such a powerful technology? “We have an ethics framework and when we will be releasing the platform we will implement a real-time monitoring system that will monitor potential abuse or scams, and also it will ensure people are not being called too often,” he says. “This is very important. That we understand that this kind of technology can be potentially probably dangerous.” “At the first stage we are not going to release it to all the public. We are going to release it in a closed alpha or beta. And we will be curating the companies that are going in to explore all the possible problems and prevent them from being massive problems,” he adds. “Our machine learning team are developing those algorithms for detecting abuse, spam and other use cases that we would like to prevent.” There’s also the issue of verbal ‘deepfakes’ to consider. Especially as Chernyshov suggests the platform will, in time, support cloning a voiceprint for use in the conversation — opening the door to making fake calls in someone else’s voice. Which sounds like a dream come true for scammers of all stripes. Or a way to really supercharge your top performing salesperson. Safe to say, the counter technologies — and thoughtful regulation — are going to be very important. There’s little doubt that AI will be regulated. In Europe policymakers have tasked themselves with coming up with a framework for ethical AI. And in the coming years policymakers in many countries will be trying to figure out how to put guardrails on a technology class that, in the consumer sphere, has already demonstrated its wrecking-ball potential — with the automated acceleration of spam, misinformation and political disinformation on social media platforms. “We have to understand that at some point this kind of technologies will be definitely regulated by the state all over the world. And we as a platform we must comply with all of these requirements,” agrees Chernyshov, suggesting machine learning will also be able to identify whether a speaker is human or not — and that an official caller status could be baked into a telephony protocol so people aren’t left in the dark on the ‘bot or not’ question. “It should be human-friendly. Don’t be evil, right?” Asked whether he considers what will happen to the people working in call centers whose jobs will be disrupted by AI, Chernyshov is quick with the stock answer — that new technologies create jobs too, saying that’s been true right throughout human history. Though he concedes there may be a lag — while the old world catches up to the new. Time and tide wait for no human, even when the change sounds increasingly like we do.
The $10 billion, decade-long drama continues. It’s a process that has been dogged by complaints, and . Throughout the months-long selection process, the Pentagon has repeatedly denied accusations that the contract was somehow written to make Amazon a favored vendor, but today President Trump has asked the newly appointed Defense Secretary, Mark T. Esper, to examine the process because of concerns over that very matter. The Defense Department called for bids last year for a $10 billion, decade-long contract. From the beginning, that the process favored Amazon. Even before the RFP process began Oracle executive Safra Catz , but at that time he did not intervene. Later, the company filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office, which . Finally, the company took the case to court, alleging that a person involved in defining the selection process had a conflict of interest, due to being an employee at before joining the DoD. That last month. In April, the DoD as the two finalists, and the winner was finally expected to be named some time this month. It appeared that we were close to the finish line, but now that the president has intervened at the 11th hour, it’s impossible to know what the outcome will be. What we do know is that this is a pivotal project for the DoD, which is aimed at modernizing the U.S. military for the next decade and beyond. The fact is that the two finalists made perfect sense. They are the two market leaders, and each has tools, technologies and experience working with sensitive government contracts. Amazon is the market leader, with 33% market share. is No. 2, with 16%. The No. 3 vendor, before the RFP process began. It is unclear at this point whether the president’s intervention will have any influence on the final decision, but it is an unusual departure from government procurement procedures.
today the preview launch of , a new cloud service that will allow you to run your virtual machines on single-tenant physical services. That means you’re not sharing any resources on that server with anybody else and you’ll get full control over everything that’s running on that machine. Previously, Azure already offered sizes for two very large virtual machine types. Those are still available, but their use cases are comparably limited to these new hosts, which offer far more flexibility. With this move, Microsoft is following in the footsteps of AWS, which also offers with very . Google Cloud, too, offers what it calls “.” will support Windows, Linux and SQL Server virtual machines and pricing is per host, independent of the number of virtual machines you end up running on them. You can currently opt for machines with up to 144 physical cores and prices start at $4.039 per hour. To do this, Microsoft is offering two different processors to power these machines. Type 1 is based on the 2.3 GHz Intel Xeon E5-2673 v4 with up to 3.5 gigahertz of clock speed, while Type 2 features the Intel Xeon® Platinum 8168 with single-core clock speeds of up to 3.7 gigahertz. The available memory ranges from 32GiB to 448GiB. You can find more details . As Microsoft notes, these new dedicated hosts can help companies reach their compliance requirements for physical security, data integrity and monitoring. The dedicated hosts still share the same underlying infrastructure as any other host in the Azure data centers, but users have full control over any maintenance window that could impact their servers. These dedicated hosts can also be grouped into larger host groups in a given Azure region, allowing you to build clusters of your own physical servers inside the Azure data center. Because you’re actually renting a physical machine, any hardware issue on that machine will impact the virtual machines you are running on them, so chances are you’ll want to have multiple dedicated hosts for your failover strategy anyway.
the startup looking to put design tools in the cloud, has today announced new plugins for the platform that will help users clean up their workflows. Figma cofounder and CEO says that plug-ins have been the most requested feature from users since the company’s launch. So, for the last year, the team has been working to build plug-in functionality on the back of Figma’s API (launched in March 2018) with three main priorities: stability, speed, and security. The company has been testing plug-ins in beta for a while now, with 40 plug-ins approved at launch today. Here are some of the standouts from launch today: On the utility side, is a plug-in that allows designers to automatically rename and organize their layers as they work. , on the other hand, gives users the ability to add placeholder text (for things like phone numbers, names, etc.) that they can automatically find and replace later. and are both accessibility plug-ins that help designers make sure their work meets the WCAG 2.0 contrast accessibility guidelines, and actually see their designs through the lens of eight different types of color vision deficiencies, respectively. Other plug-ins allow for adding animation , changing themes , adding a Map to a design , and more. Anyone can create plug-ins for public use on the Figma platform, but folks can also make private plug-ins for enterprise use, as well. For example, a Microsoft employee built a plug-in that automatically changes the theme of the design based on the various Microsoft products, such as Word, Outlook, etc. Field says that the company currently has no plans to monetize plug-ins. Rather, the addition of plug-ins to the platform is a move based on customer happiness and satisfaction. Moreover, Figma’s home on the web allows for the product to evolve more rapidly and in tune with customers. Rather than having to build each individual feature on its own, Figma can now open up the platform to its power users to build what they’d like into the web app. Figma has raised a total of nearly $83 million since launch, according to Crunchbase. As of the company’s latest funding round ($40 million led by Sequoia six months ago), Figma was valued at $440 million post-funding.
has acquired Israeli storage tech startup E8 Storage, as first reported by , and and confirmed by TechCrunch. The acquisition will bring the team and technology from E8 in to Amazon’s existing Amazon Web Services center in Tel Aviv, per reports. E8 Storage’s particular focus was on building storage hardware that employs flash-based memory to deliver faster performance than competing offerings, according to its own claims. How exactly AWS intends to use the company’s talent or assets isn’t yet known, but it clearly lines up with their primary business. AWS acquisitions this year include , a Vancouver-based startup that optimizes data center workload operating efficiency, and Israel-based , which provides data recovery services in the event of a disaster.
Get ready to dive into the fiercely competitive waters of enterprise software. Join more than 1,000 attendees for September 5 to navigate this rapidly evolving category with the industry’s brightest minds, biggest names and exciting startups. Our $249 early-bird ticket price remains in play, which saves you $100. But one is the loneliest number, so why not , buy in bulk and bring your whole team? Save an extra 20% when you buy four or more tickets at once. We’ve packed this day-long conference with an outstanding lineup of presentations, interviews, panel discussions, demos, breakout sessions and, of course, networking. , which includes both industry titans and boundary-pushing startups eager to disrupt the status quo. We’ll add more surprises along the way, but these sessions provide a taste of what to expect — and why you’ll need your posse to absorb as much intel as possible. Talking Developer Tools () With tools like Jira, Bitbucket and Confluence, few companies influence how developers work as much as Atlassian. The company’s co-founder and co-CEO Scott Farquhar will join us to talk about growing his company, how it is bringing its tools to enterprises and what the future of software development in and for the enterprise will look like. Keeping the Enterprise Secure(Andreessen Horowitz), (Duo Security), (United Airlines) Enterprises face a litany of threats from both inside and outside the firewall. Now more than ever, companies — especially startups — have to put security first. From preventing data from leaking to keeping bad actors out of your network, enterprises have it tough. How can you secure the enterprise without slowing growth? We’ll discuss the role of a modern CSO and how to move fast — without breaking things. Keeping an Enterprise Behemoth on Course (SAP) With over $166 billion in market cap, Germany-based is one of the most valuable tech companies in the world today. Bill McDermott took the leadership in 2014, becoming the first American to hold this position. Since then, he has quickly grown the company, in part thanks to a number of $1 billion-plus acquisitions. We’ll talk to him about his approach to these acquisitions, his strategy for growing the company in a quickly changing market and the state of enterprise software in general. The Quantum Enterprise (), () and ()4:20 PM – 4:45 PM While we’re still a few years away from having quantum computers that will fulfill the full promise of this technology, many companies are already starting to experiment with what’s available today. We’ll talk about what startups and enterprises should know about quantum computing today to prepare for tomorrow. takes place on September 5. You can’t be everywhere at once, so bring your team, cover more ground and increase your ROI. .
Low code programming is supposed to make things easier on companies, right? Low code means you can count on trained administrators instead of more expensive software engineers to handle most tasks, but like any issue solved by technology, there are always unintended consequences. While running his former company, Steelbrick, which for $360 million, Max Rudman identified a persistent problem with low-code deployments. He decided to fix it with automation and testing, and the idea for his latest venture, , was born. The company announced a $3.5 million seed round today, but more important than the money is the customer momentum. In spite of being a very early-stage startup, the company already has 100 customers using the product, a testament to the fact that other people were probably experiencing that same pain point Rudman was feeling, and there is a clear market for his idea. As Rudman learned with his former company, going live with the data on a platform like Salesforce is just part of the journey. If you are updating configuration and pricing information on a regular basis, that means updating all the tables associated with that information. Sure, it’s been designed to be point and click, but if you have changes across 48 tables, it becomes a very tedious task, indeed. The idea behind Prodly is to automate much of the configuration, provide a testing environment to be sure all of the information is correct, and finally automate deployment. For now, the company is just concentrating on configuration, but with the funding it plans to expand the product to solve the other problems as well. Rudman is careful to point out that his company’s solution is not built strictly for the Salesforce platform. The startup is taking aim at Salesforce admins for its first go-round, but he sees the same problem with other cloud services that make heavy use of trained administrators to make changes. “The plan is to start with Salesforce, but this problem actually exists on most cloud platforms — ServiceNow, Workday — none of them have the tools we have focused on for admins, and making the admins more productive and building the tooling that they need to efficiently manage a complex application,” Rudman told TechCrunch. Customers include Nutanix, Johnson & Johnson, Splunk, Tableau and Verizon (which owns this publication). The $3.5 million round was led by Shasta Ventures with participation from Norwest Venture Partners.
Managing your customers has changed a lot in the past decade. Out are the steak dinners and ballgame tickets to get a sense of a contract’s chance at renewal, and in are churn analysis and a whole bunch of data science to learn whether a customer and their users like or love your product. That customer experience revolution has been critical to the success of SaaS products, but it can remain wickedly hard to centralize all the data needed to drive top performance in a customer success organization. That’s where comes in. The company, founded in New York City in 2017 and launched April last year, wants to centralize all of your disparate data sources on your customers into one easy-to-digest tool to learn how to approach each of them individually to optimize for the best experience. The company’s early success has attracted more top investors. It announced today that it has raised a $15 million Series A led by Vas Natarajan of Accel, who previously backed enterprise companies like , Segment, InVision, and Blameless. The company had previously raised $3 million from and $2.4 million from True Ventures. Both firms participated in this new round. Catalyst CEO Edward Chiu told me that Accel was attractive because of the firm’s recent high-profile success in the enterprise space, including IPOs like Slack, PagerDuty, and CrowdStrike. , the firm had just raised its first seed round and was just the company’s co-founders — brothers Edward and Kevin Chiu — and a smattering of employees. Now, the company has 19 employees and is targeting 40 employees by the end of the year. In that time, the product has continued to evolve as it has worked with its customers. One major feature of Catalyst’s product is a “health score” that determines whether a customer is likely to grow or churn in the coming months based on ingested data around usage. CEO Chiu said that “we’ve gotten our health score to be very very accurate” and “we have the ability to take automated action based on that health score.” Today, the company offers “prefect sync” with Salesforce, Mixpanel, Zendesk, among other services, and will continue to make investments in new integrations. One high priority for the company has been increasing the speed of integration when a new customer signs up for Catalyst. Chiu said that new customers can be onboarded in minutes, and they can use the platform’s formula builder to define the exact nuances of their health score for their specific customers. “We mold to your use case,” he said. One lesson the company has learned is that as success teams increasingly become critical to the lifeblood of companies, other parts of the organization and senior executives are working together to improve their customer’s experiences. Chiu told me that the startup often starts with onboarding a customer success team, only to later find that C-suite and other team leads have also joined and are also interacting together on the platform. An interesting dynamic for the company is that it does its own customer success on its customer success platform. “We are our own best customer,” Chiu said. “We login every day to see the health of our customers… our product managers login to Catalyst every day to read product feedback.” Since the last time we checked in, the company has added a slew of senior execs, including Cliff Kim as head of product, Danny Han as head of engineering, and Jessica Marucci as head of people, with whom the two Chius had worked together at cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean. Moving forward, Chiu expects to invest further in data analysis and engineering. “One of the most unique things about us is that we are collecting so much unique data: usage patterns, [customer] spend fluctuations, [customer] health scores,” Chiu said. “It would be a hugely missed opportunity not to analyze that data and work on churn.”
, the SaaS applications performance management platform, announced a major update to that platform today. Instead of ripping off the band-aid all at once, the company has decided to take a more measured approach to change, giving customers a chance to ease into it. The new platform, called One has been designed to replace the original platform, which was developed over the previous decade. The company says that by moving slowly to the new platform, customers will be able to take advantage of new features that it couldn’t have built on the old platform without having to learn a new a way of working. Jim Gochee, chief product officer at New Relic says that all of the existing tooling and functionality will eventually be ported over or reimagined on top of New Relic One.”What it is under the covers for us is a new technology stack and a new platform for our offering. We are still running our existing technology stack with our existing products. So we’re [essentially] running two platforms in two stacks in parallel, but all of the new stuff is going to be built on New Relic One over time,” he explained. By redesigning the existing platform from scratch, New Relic created a new, modern, more extensible model that will allow it to plug in new functionality more easily over time, and eventually even allow customers to do the same thing. For now, it’s about changing what’s happening under the hood and providing a new user experience in a redesigned user interface. “New Relic One is very pluggable and extensible, which makes it easier for our own teams to build on, and to extend and expand, and also down the road we will eventually get to the point where partners and customers will be able to extend our UI themselves, which is something that we’re very excited about,” he said. Among the new features is support for AWS Lambda, the company’s serverless offering. It also enables users to search across multiple accounts. It’s not unusual for customers to be monitoring multiple accounts and sub-accounts. With New Relic One, customers can now search across these accounts and find if issues have cascaded more easily. In a blog post introducing the new platform, CEO Lew Cirne acknowledged the growing complexity of the monitoring landscape, something the new platform has been specifically designed to address. “Unlike today’s fragmented tools that can deliver a bag of charts and metrics with a bunch of seemingly unrelated numbers, New Relic One is designed to cut through complexity, provide context, and let you see across artificial organizational boundaries so you can quickly find and fix problems,” Cirne wrote. Nancy Gohring, a senior analyst at 451 Research says this flexibility is a key strength of the new approach. “One of the most important updates here is the reworked data model which allows New Relic to offer customers more flexibility in how they can search the operations data they’re collecting and build dashboards. This kind of flexibility is more important in modern app environments that are more complex and dynamic than they used to be. Everyone’s environment is different and digging for the cause of a problem is more complicated than it used to be,” Gohring told TechCrunch. The new ability to search across accounts should help with that. She concedes that having parallel platforms is not ideal, but sees why the company chose to go this route. “Having two UIs is never great. But the approach New Relic is taking lets them get something totally new out all at once, rather than spending time gradually introducing it. It will let customers try out the new stuff at their own pace,” she said. New Relic One goes live tomorrow, and will be available at no additional cost to New Relic subscribers.
, a Seattle-based startup that offers a cloud-agnostic AI automation platform for enterprises, today announced a $25 million Series B funding round led by Norwest Partners. Madrona, Gradient Ventures, Work-Bench, Osage University Partners and Rakuten Ventures also participated in this round. While the company started out as a marketplace for algorithms, it now mostly focuses on machine learning and helping enterprises . “It’s actually really hard to productionize machine learning models,” CEO Diego Oppenheimer told me. “It’s hard to help data scientists to not deal with data infrastructure but really being able to build out their machine learning and AI muscle.” To help them, Algorithmia essentially built out a machine learning DevOps platform that allows data scientists to train their models on the platform and with the framework of their choice, bring it to Algorithmia — a platform that has already been blessed by their IT departments — and take it into production. “Every Fortune 500 has an AI initiative but they are bogged down by the difficulty of managing and deploying ML models,” said Rama Sekhar, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, who has now joined the company’s board. “Algorithmia is the clear leader in building the tools to manage the complete machine learning lifecycle and helping customers unlock value from their R&D investments.” With the new funding, the company will double down on this focus by investing in product development to solve these issues, but also by building out its team, with a plan to double its headcount over the next year. A year from now, Oppenheimer told me, he hopes that Algorithmia will be a household name for data scientists and, maybe more importantly, their platform of choice for putting their models into production. “How does Algorithmia succeed? Algorithmia succeeds when our customers are able to deploy AI and ML applications,” Oppenheimer said. “And although there is a ton of excitement around doing this, the fact is that it’s really difficult for companies to do so.” The company previously raised a $10.5 million Series A round . It’s customers now include the , a number of U.S. intelligence agencies and Fortune 500 companies. In total, over 90,000 engineers and data scientists are now on the platform.
Of the many categories in the tech world, none is more ferociously competitive than enterprise. For decades, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft, IBM and Salesforce, to name a few of the giants, have battled to deliver the tools businesses want to become more productive and competitive. That market is closing in on $500 billion in sales per year, which explains why hundreds of new enterprise startups launch every year and dozens are acquired by the big incumbents trying to maintain their edge. Last year alone, the and included IBM’s acquiring Red Hat for $34 billion, SAP paying $8 billion for Qualtrics, Microsoft landing GitHub for $7.5 billion, Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft for $6.5 billion and Adobe grabbing Marketo for $4.75 billion. No startup category has made more VCs and founders wildly wealthy, and none has seen more mighty companies rise faster or fall harder. That technology and business thrill ride makes enterprise a category TechCrunch has long wanted to tackle head on. (September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center) will take on the big challenges and promise facing enterprise companies today. TechCrunch’s editors, notably Frederic Lardinois, Ron Miller and Connie Loizos, will bring to the stage founders and leaders from established and emerging companies to address rising questions like the promised revolution from machine learning and AI, intelligent marketing automation and the inevitability of the cloud, as well as the outer reaches of technology, like quantum and blockchain. We’ll enlist proven enterprise-focused VCs to reveal where they are directing their early, middle and late-stage investments. And we’ll ask the most proven serial entrepreneurs to tell us what it really took to build that company, and which company they would like to create next. All throughout the show, TechCrunch’s editors will zero in on emerging enterprise technologies to sort the hype from the reality. Whether you are a founder, an investor, enterprise-minded engineer or a corporate CTO / CIO, will provide a valuable day of new insights and great networking. Tickets are now available for . Want to bring a group of people from your company? Get an when you purchase four or more tickets at once. Are you an early-stage startup? We have a limited number of Startup Demo Packages available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to attend the event. Students are invited to apply for a . Additionally, for each ticket purchased for TC Sessions: Enterprise, you will also be registered for a complimentary Expo Only pass to on October 2-4. Interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise? and a member of our sales team will contact you.
, a bootstrapped startup out of Atlanta, Georgia, is known best as a popular tool for organizations to manage their customer-facing email activities — a profitable business that its CEO told TechCrunch has now grown to around 11 million active customers with a total audience of 4 billion (yes, 4 billion), and is on track for $700 million in revenue in 2019. (Note: Slack’s previous quarter was around $133 million, and it’s operating at a loss.) To help hit that number, Mailchimp is taking the wraps off a significant update aimed at catapulting it into the next level of business services. Starting today, Mailchimp will start to offer a full marketing platform aimed at smaller organizations. Going beyond the email services that it has been offering for 20 years — which alone has led to multiple acquisition offers (all rebuffed) as its valuation has crept up reportedly into the billions (depending on what multiple you use) — the new platform will feature a number of new products within it. They include technology to record and track customer leads; the ability to purchase domains and build sites; ad retargeting on Facebook and Instagram; social media management. It will also offer business intelligence that leverages a new move into the artificial intelligence to provide recommendations to users on how and when to market to whom. The latter of these will be particularly interesting considering the data that it has collected and will collect on 4 billion individuals and their responses to emails and other services that Mailchimp now offers. As of Wednesday of this week, Mailchimp also plans a pretty significant shift of its pricing into four tiers of free, $9.99/month, $14.99/month or $299/month (up from the of free, $10/month, $199/month) — with those fees scaling depending on usage and features. (Existing paid customers maintain current pricing structure and features for the time being and can move to the new packages at any time, the company said. New customers will sign up to the new pricing starting May 15.) The expansion is part of a longer-term strategic play to widen Mailchimp’s scope by building more services for the typically-underserved but collectively large small business segment. Even as multinationals like Amazon and other large companies continue to feel like they are eating up the mom-and-pop independent business model, SMBs continue to make up 48 percent of the GDP in the US. And within the SMB sector, the opportunity has totally changed with the rise of the internet. “What’s really key is the role digital apps, digital publishing and social media have played,” said Chestnut. “We can have a 10-employee company with a customer base bigger than 1 million. That’s a combination you couldn’t achieve before the growth of online.” And within that, marketing is one of those areas that small businesses might not have invested in much traditionally but are increasingly turning to as so much transactional activity has moved to digital platforms — be it smartphones, computers, or just the tech that powers the TV you watch or music you listen to. In March, we reported that to start to build more e-commerce tools for its users. And the new marketing platform is the next step in that strategy. “We still see a big need for small businesses to have something like this,” Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp’s co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. Enterprises have a range of options when it comes to marketing tools, he added, “but small businesses don’t.” The mantra for many building tech for the SMB sector has traditionally been “dumbed down and cheap,” in his words. “We agreed that cheap was good, but not dumbed down. We want to empower them.” The new services launch also comes at a time when an increasing number of companies are closing in on the small business opportunity, with e-commerce companies like Square, Shopify and PayPal also widening their portfolio of products. (These days, Square is a Mailchimp partner, ) is something that Mailchimp had already been dabbling with over the last two years — indeed, customer-facing email services is essentially a form of marketing, too. Other launches have included a Postcards service, offering companies very simple landing pages online (about 10 percent of Mailchimp’s customers do not have their own web sites, Chestnut said), and a tool for companies to create Google, Facebook and Instagram ads. Mailchimp itself has a big marketing presence already: it says that daily, more than 1.25 million e-commerce orders are generated through Mailchimp campaigns; over 450 million e-commerce orders were made through Mailchimp campaigns in 2018; and its customers have sold over $250 million in goods through multivariate + A/B campaigns run through Mailchimp. There are clearly a lot of others vying to be the go-to platform for small businesses to do their business — “Google, Facebook, a lot of the big players see the magic and are moving to the space more and more,” Chestnut said — but Mailchimp’s unique selling point — or so it hopes — is that it’s the platform that has no vested interests in other business areas, and will therefore be as focused as the small businesses themselves are. That includes, for example, no upcharging regardless of the platform where you choose to run a campaign. “We are Switzerland,” Chestnut said. Given that Mailchimp took 20 years to grow into marketing from email, it’s not clear what the wait will be for future expansions, and into what areas those might go. Surprisingly, one product that Mailchimp does not want to touch for now is CRM. “No plans for CRM services,” Chestnut said. “We are focused on consumer brands. We think about small organizations, with fewer than 100 employees.”
, an Indian startup that uses AI to help businesses map out their logistics, has raised $22 million in Series B funding to expand its operations in international markets. The financing round for the four-year-old startup was led by and . Existing investors Exfinity Venture Partners and also participated in the round. The startup has raised $29 million to date, Nishith Rastogi, co-founder and CEO of Locus, told in an interview. Locus works with companies that . Some of its clients include Tata Group companies, Myntra, BigBasket, Lenskart, and Bluedart. It helps these clients automate their logistics workload — tasks such as planning, organizing, transporting and tracking of inventories, and finding the best path to reach a destination — that have traditionally required intensive human labor. “Say a Lenskart representative is visiting a house or an office to offer an eye checkup, and suddenly two more people there are interested in getting their eyes checked. The representative could attend these two new potential clients, or wrap things up with the first client and take care of his or her next appointment,” said Rastogi. Locus looks at a client’s past data, identifies patterns, and automates these kind of decisions on a large scale. In an example shared , Rastogi talked about how Locus had built a scanner for ecommerce companies for measuring products. Rastogi said he will use the fresh capital to develop products and expand Locus in Southeast Asian and North American markets. The startup says half of its 110 people workforce is outside of India. Half of the IP it has built and the revenue it generates comes from its team outside of India. He said the startup has spent the recent quarters studying these international markets, and has secured some anchor clients to expand the business. Locus is operationally profitable already and any additional capital goes into expanding its business, he added. The logistics market in India has long been . A growing number of startups, including BlackBuck — which — have emerged in recent years to tackle these problems. The new funding also illustrates Tiger Global Management’s new strategy for the Indian market. The VC fund, which has invested in B2C businesses and Ola in India, has made a number of investments in B2B startups in recent months. Last month, it invested $90 million in agri-tech supply chain startup Ninjacart, and weeks later, it gave cloud-based solutions provider $50 million.
announced today that it was open-sourcing , making it available to anyone who wants to use it under the Apache 2.0 license. is the conversational AI company . The company put the technology to later that year to help bring voice commands to meeting hardware, which was just beginning to emerge at the time. Today, there is a concerted effort to bring voice to enterprise use cases, and is offering the means for developers to do that with the MindMeld tool set. “Today, Cisco is taking a big step towards empowering developers with more comprehensive and practical tools for building conversational applications by open-sourcing the ,” Cisco’s head of machine learning Karthik Raghunathan wrote . The company also wants to make it easier for developers to get going with the platform, so it is releasing , a step-by-step guide book to help developers get started with conversation-driven applications. Cisco says this is about empowering developers, and that’s probably a big part of the reason. But it would also be in Cisco’s best interest to have developers outside of Cisco working with and on this set of tools. By open-sourcing them, the hope is that a community of developers, whether Cisco customers or others, will begin using, testing and improving the tools; helping it to develop the platform faster and more broadly than it could, even inside an organization as large as Cisco. Of course, just because they offer it doesn’t necessarily automatically mean the community of interested developers will emerge, but given the growing popularity of voice-enabled used cases, chances are some will give it a look. It will be up to Cisco to keep them engaged. Cisco is making all of this available on starting today.
It has to be a bit depressing to be in the cloud infrastructure business if your name isn’t Amazon. Sure, there’s a huge, growing market, and the companies behind Amazon are growing even faster. Yet it seems no matter how fast they grow, Amazon remains a dot on the horizon. It seems inconceivable that AWS can continue to hold sway over such a large market for so long, but as we’ve pointed out before, it has been able to maintain its position through true first-mover advantage. The other players didn’t even show up until several years after its first service in 2006, and they are paying the price for their failure to see the way computing would change the way Amazon did. They certainly see it now, whether it’s IBM, Microsoft or Google, or Tencent and Alibaba, both of which are growing fast in the China/Asia markets. All of these companies are to help differentiate themselves from AWS and give them some additional market traction. Cloud market growth Interestingly, even though companies have begun to move with increasing urgency to the cloud, the pace of growth slowed a bit in the first quarter to a 42 percent rate, according to , but that doesn’t mean the end of this growth cycle is anywhere close.
is offering businesses a simple way to share their documents — particularly with customers at large enterprises that may block services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Founder and CEO Rurik Bradbury said he encountered this issue while serving as the head of conversational strategy at LivePerson (he’s also been an executive and/or co-founder at Trustev and Unison Technologies, and he operates ). Many of the largest companies that LivePerson was working with just wouldn’t accept file-sharing links, so “we had to print out things and FedEx things” — and in at least one case, ship Android tablets pre-loaded with documents. Apparently this is a broader issue, with research suggesting that services like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive remain among the apps by enterprise IT departments. In particular, Bradbury said companies are worried about “full, two-way file sharing,” so he found a way around it by “building these microsites for each company,” where someone could download documents. From the IT perspective, they are just regular websites, with no capabilities for employees to share documents back, so they stayed off the blacklists. The problem with microsites, however, is that they’re “not scalable.” So with Docpack, Bradbury aims to make it quick and easy to create them for a wide range of clients. He compared his approach to website builders like Wix and Squarespace, “Where you can make a website even if you’re not technical.” Similarly, it should only take Docpack users a few clicks to create a new microsite, add customized branding and upload documents. These documents can be protected with security that limits access to users with a specific company email domain, and the publisher can also track which documents are actually getting downloaded. Docpack has raised less than $500,000 in funding from Asian accelerator Zeroth, Trustev founder Pat Phelan and other individuals. The startup’s standard plan costs $10 per seat. Bradbury suggested that the service could be useful across sales, business development and marketing: “There’s a huge amount of business transacted via document-sharing.” He also suggested that PR professionals and journalists could use it to share documents, and he’s offering . As for competition from the big file-sharing services, Bradbury suggested that as they try to accommodate enterprise needs, they’re creating “a product that’s stretched out, that was not really designed at all for cross-company sharing.” “This is a big enough space … that it deserves its own thing,” he added.
the ubiquitous workplace messaging tool, will make its on Monday at an invite-only event in New York City, the company confirmed in a on Wednesday. Slack stock is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange as soon as next month. Slack, which is pursuing a direct listing, will live stream Monday’s Investor Day on its website. An alternative to an initial public offering, direct listings allow businesses to forgo issuing new shares and instead sell directly to the market existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors. Slack, like has been able to bypass the traditional roadshow process expected of an IPO-ready business, as well as some of the exorbitant Wall Street fees. Spotify, if you remember, similarly live streamed an event that is typically for investors eyes only. If Slack’s event is anything like the music streaming giant’s, Slack co-founder and chief executive officer will speak to the company’s greater mission alongside several other executives. Slack two weeks ago. In its SEC filing, the company disclosed a net loss of $138.9 million and revenue of $400.6 million in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million for the year before. Additionally, the company said it reached 10 million daily active users earlier this year across more than 600,000 organizations. Slack has previously raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding from investors, including Social Capital, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.
TechCrunch has learned that CEO Steve Singh will be stepping down after two years at the helm, and former will be taking over. An email announcement, went out this morning to Docker employees. People close to the company confirmed that Singh will be leaving the CEO position, staying on the job for several months to help Bearden with the transition. He will then remain with the organization in his role as Chairman of the Board. They indicated that Bearden has been working closely with Singh over the last several months as a candidate to join the board and as a consultant to the executive team. Singh clicked with him and viewed him as a possible successor, especially given his background with leadership positions at several open source companies, including public Singh apparently saw someone who could take the company to the next level as he moved on. As one person put it, he was tired of working 75 hours a week, but he wanted to leave the company in the hands of capable steward. Last week in an interview at DockerCon, the company’s annual customer conference in San Francisco, Singh appeared tired, but a leader who was confident in his position and who saw a bright future for his company. He spoke openly about his leadership philosophy and his efforts to lift the company from the doldrums it was in when he took over two years prior, helping transform it from a mostly free open source offering into a revenue-generating company with 750 paying enterprise customers. In fact, he told me that under his leadership the company was on track to become free cash flow positive by the end of this fiscal year, a step he said would mean that Docker would no longer need to seek outside capital. He even talked of the company eventually going public. Apparently, he felt it was time to pass the torch before the company took those steps, saw a suitable successor in Bearden and offered him the position. While it might have made more sense to announce this at DockerCon with the spotlight focused on the company, it was not a done deal yet by the time the conference was underway in San Francisco, people close to the company explained. Docker , which some saw as a sign of continuing struggles for company, but Singh said he took the money to continue to invest in building revenue-generating enterprise products, last week. He indicated that the company would likely not require any additional investment moving forward. As for Bearden, he is an experienced executive with a history of successful exits. In addition to his experience at Hortonworks, he was COO at SpringSource, a developer tool suite that (and is now part of Pivotal). He was also COO at JBoss, an open source middleware company acquired by Red Hat in 2006. Whether he will do the same with Docker remains to be seen, but as the new CEO, it will be up to him to guide the company moving forward to the next steps in its evolution, whether that eventually results in a sale or the IPO that Singh alluded to. Email to staff from Steve Singh: Note: Docker has now confirmed this story.