Portfolio March 4 2021

Xero to buy workforce management platform Planday in largest acquisition yet

Cloud-based accounting software firm Xero is buying Planday, a workforce management platform that simplifies employee scheduling, allowing businesses to forecast and manage their labour costs. The total potential consideration for the deal is 183.5 million euros (S$294.7 million), making it the company's largest acquisition to date. This amount includes an upfront payment of 155.7 million euros, and a subsequent payment of up to 27.8 million euros based on product development and revenue milestones. About 45 per cent of the upfront consideration will be payable in Xero shares, while the remainder will be settled in cash. In addition, up to half of the earnout payment will be paid in shares. Founded in 2004, Planday is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark and has more than 350,000 users across Europe and the UK. The primary markets in which it operates are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the UK, Germany and France. The business, which has been a Xero ecosystem partner since 2019, will continue to offer services to existing customers and partners, including other accounting software providers. In a press statement on Thursday, ASX-listed Xero said the transaction is aligned with its priority to grow the small business platform, helping firms save time, money and deal with increasing compliance requirements. Planday's cloud-based technology offers flexibility and self-service functionality through a mobile app. "Employers and employees can communicate easily, collaborate on scheduling, track time and attendance, manage payroll, vacation, absence, and other labour-related compliance needs," Xero said. Completion of the deal is expected in the first quarter of Xero's financial year ending March 31, 2022, and is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions. The acquisition is also expected to contribute about three percentage points of additional operating revenue growth for Xero in FY22, the company added. Said Xero's chief executive Steve Vamos: "The acquisition of Planday aligns with our purpose to make life better for people in small businesses and their advisers. "Planday's workforce management platform helps small businesses to respond to the rapidly changing nature of work. Planday also addresses the growing need for flexibility and rising compliance demands within the workplace." The latest deal comes after Xero bought cloud-based invoice lending platform Waddle in August last year, and trumps its US$70 million acquisition of Canadian tech company Hubdoc back in 2018.

Portfolio March 2 2021

Varjo deepens collaboration with Unity by becoming the first Extended Reality hardware provider to join its Verified Solution Partner Program

Varjo, the leader in high-performance XR/VR hardware and software, today announced that it is now a Unity Verified Solution Partner – the first official XR/VR hardware provider to join this exclusive program. Unity is the world’s leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content. Creators, ranging from game developers to artists, architects, automotive designers, filmmakers, and more, use Unity to make their imaginations come to life. The partnership between Varjo and Unity will empower even more professionals to build high-quality, photorealistic 3D experiences and drive innovation across industries. As a Unity Verified Solution Partner, all Varjo headsets – including the newly released Varjo XR-3 and VR-3 – now have complete, verified and seamless compatibility with the latest Unity releases. Unity developers can now take full advantage of Varjo’s unique VR and XR capabilities such as industry-leading human-eye resolution visual fidelity (at over 70 pixels per degree), photorealistic video pass-through mixed reality, real-time chroma keying, and more. “Varjo is constantly pushing the bounds of what is possible for high-fidelity immersive experiences,” said Timoni West, Vice President, Augmented & Virtual Reality at Unity. "Unity developers can now be sure their high-resolution, detailed environments and experiences will display beautifully on Varjo devices, and trust that their applications will work seamlessly with these groundbreaking headsets.” With this formalized collaboration between Unity and Varjo, it is now extremely easy for developers to create real-time 3D mixed reality content for Varjo hardware. Thanks to its low-latency video pass-through, the Varjo XR-3 is currently the first and the only device capable of portraying all aspects of extended reality, from virtual reality to photorealistic augmented and mixed reality, and offering combined AR/VR support in Unity. “Together, Unity and Varjo are powering the creation of immersive experiences that appear as real as the world we live in,” says Marcus Olsson, Head of Software Partnerships at Varjo. “We’re confident that our partnership can help drive a paradigm mindset shift from developing real-time 3D content, towards building true extended reality experiences where users can no longer tell the difference between what is real and what is virtual.” In 2018, Varjo and Volvo Cars utilized Unity to develop the world’s first pass-through video viewing, enabling users to see what is going on in the outside world. Combining the capabilities of Varjo’s technology with Volvo’s superior models and Unity’s photorealistic graphics, Volvo developers can now perform design-studies of future vehicle models before they are even built by adding photorealistic virtual elements to the interior of the vehicle. “Through our combined use of Varjo’s mixed reality headsets and the unique power of Unity’s real-time 3D engine, we are pioneering automotive design work,” said Christian Braun, Vice President of Visual Art Design at Volvo. “The immersive experiences we are able to create are so realistic that we can now accurately explore and test new design possibilities for aesthetics and safety that weren’t possible until now. Not only are these advanced technologies enhancing and streamlining our entire design process from start to finish, but Varjo and Unity are also getting us closer to realizing our dream for the future of creativity.”

Portfolio February 26 2021

Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450m, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant

Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021. Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning the practice known as ‘social listening’. Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech. IN a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.” Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.” Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its home-town of Brighton, on the southern coast of England. The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with Angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5m from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and a Series A round from Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Europe. That was followed by a $33M Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015. With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously. Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

Portfolio February 25 2021

Nvidia, Intel back $65m funding round for Israeli startup Pliops

Israeli cloud storage processor startup Pliops announced Wednesday it has closed a $65 million funding round, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT.) Other current investors that participated in the round include State of Mind Ventures (SOMV), Viola Ventures, Intel Capital, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Expon Capital, Western Digital, Xilinx, Sweetwood Capital, and Nvidia, which increased its share in the company. Founded in 2017, Pliops focuses on making data centers run faster and more efficiently through a storage platform that addresses the growth of data storage and the processing that is required afterward. The company’s Pliops’ Storage Processor (PSP) is a storage hardware accelerator that enables cloud and enterprise customers to offload and accelerate data-intensive workloads using just a fraction of the computational load and power. The new round will be used to bring the new levels of scale, speed and cost effectiveness promised by Pliops’ storage processor to more customers in more ways, the company said. “Pliops is effectively reinventing the approach to one of the most critical, data-intensive challenges in a very large, expanding market,” said KDT managing director Eli Groner. “The Pliops technology has broad applicability to not only today’s workloads, but the emerging workloads of tomorrow.” The company plans to scale its technology into new use cases, expand its product line, and double the size of the company by the end of 2021. It has already expanded its executive team globally and is currently “ramping up resources” as it moves into its next stage: to deliver broad availability of its storage processor and to expand value for its existing customers. “Pliops technology accelerates the fastest growing workloads that are driving demand for increased compute and storage performance in data centers,” noted Nimrod Gindi, senior vice president of investments at NVIDIA. “Combining NVIDIA data center GPU and DPU product lines with Pliops’ storage processor for accelerated cloud and machine learning solutions will provide exceptional performance and efficiency for our customers.” “KDT is focused on making big bets on disruptive technology with huge market potential – which aligns perfectly with what we are doing at Pliops,” said Uri Beitler, founder and CEO of Pliops. “With data storage – and the computational requirements for processing that data – growing at an exponential rate, status quo approaches fall short. Our solution takes a new approach that enables unprecedented scalability in data centers. Additionally, to have a partner as important as NVIDIA increase their investment in Pliops is a huge vote of confidence. We are committed to growing our technology to its maximum potential, and look forward to strategic, long-term partnerships with our investors and customers.”

Portfolio February 24 2021

Indeni releases new cloud security analysis tool Cloudrail

Indeni, a leading security infrastructure automation company, today announced the release of a new cloud security analysis tool. Cloudrail analyzes Terraform files to help security engineers identify issues, predict exposures before deployment, and provide developers with guardrails. Security professionals can use it to enforce the requirements that matter most to their organization. This improves collaboration between development, security and operations, reducing the likelihood of data breaches without slowing down delivery times. Research by IBM and the Ponemon Institute found the average cost of a cloud-related data breach in 2020 was $4.4 million, and cloud misconfigurations were the most common culprit. Security issues are also among the top three reasons for deployment delays, according to a recent survey by the Advanced Technology Research Center (ATARC). A “shift left” approach that involves security earlier in the development process helps companies avoid making more costly fixes later or delaying deployment. However, manual security reviews are time-consuming and difficult to manage as companies grow. Cloudrail eliminates this so security professionals can focus on strategic priorities while deploying cloud environments with confidence. Cloudrail is a container that integrates easily into CI/CD pipelines. It takes a snapshot of your Terraform plan and your cloud environment to understand the relationships between resources and identify only the issues that can be exploited by a bad actor. This results in three times fewer alerts than comparable cloud security posture management tools and IaC solutions. “Existing solutions catch issues too late in development and with too many false positives, resulting in many unnecessary alerts and frustration for developers,” Indeni CEO & Founder Yoni Leitersdorf said. “Cloudrail flags the issues your developers are actually likely to fix, rather than giving them a long list of items.” As organizations adopt new digital transformation initiatives, a growing number of them will need both network security and cloud security solutions. Indeni's deep knowledge and partnerships uniquely position it to provide enhanced security from all angles. Indeni’s partnership with Check Point Software Technologies is one such example. “As a cloud security leader, Check Point Software Technologies delivers the highest level of security for any cloud environment with offerings that span both Cloud practitioners and Cloud DevOps. In order to modernize security programs, organizations should use both “shift left” and “shift right” security approaches,” said Dr. Dorit Dor, Vice President of Products at Check Point Software. “Shift left moves security testing early in the development cycle while shift right provides better visibility and defense capabilities in production. Together, Check Point’s CloudGuard Posture Management and Indeni’s Cloudrail can improve your organization’s cloud security posture by supporting both –left and –right motions." Indeni is now offering 200 free evaluations per month through April 2021. After that, users can continue to perform 30 evaluations per month for free. To learn more about how it works and get started today, visit indeni.com/cloudrail.

Portfolio February 24 2021

Australian virtual bank 86 400 partners with BioCatch to enhance security

Australia’s smartbank, 86 400, has integrated a new solution from BioCatch, a behavioural biometrics company, to provide its customers with enhanced security and protection from fraud. Using machine learning and advanced behavioural biometrics to monitor elements such as device orientation, typing speed and swipe patterns, BioCatch can distinguish suspicious and potentially fraudulent activity from genuine user movements, without adding any friction to the experience. This technology is said to work silently behind-the-scenes to help prevent account fraud when onboarding new customers. It provides protection against potential account takeovers and phishing scams. 86 400 CRO Guy Harding enunciated, “Our customers love how easy it is to bank with 86 400, including our incredibly fast onboarding experience. Partnering with a fellow tech innovator like BioCatch gives us best-in-class protection from impersonation fraud, without compromising our market-leading experience – particularly our two minute onboarding for new customers.” BioCatch has been designed with customer experience at its core and the 86 400 team was able to integrate this technology in 4 weeks. BioCatch CEO Howard Edelstein elucidated, “In today’s increasingly digital world, detecting and preventing fraud is more important than ever. Our unique approach and behavioural insights are helping innovators like 86 400 to prevent fraud without getting in the way of the customer experience. We are excited about the future of this partnership and the potential to expand BioCatch’s protection throughout the entire customer experience.” 86 400 is a virtual bank, also called a neobank, that uses the latest technology, free from legacy systems, with advanced in-built protection and detection mechanisms. Digital banks such as 86 400 help customers conduct banking transactions where the requirement of visiting a physical bank branch is eliminated. Tel Aviv-based BioCatch is a digital identity company that delivers behavioural biometrics, analysing human-device interactions to protect users and precious data.