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May 26, 2019
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M&A

As Amex scoops up Resy, a look at its history of acquisitions

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American Express (also commonly known as AmEx), a popular credit and banking company, recently announced that it purchased a company called Resy. Resy helps people get seats at restaurants, or as AmEx describes it, provides “a digital restaurant reservation booking and management platform.”

The deal might not be as big a surprise as it feels, given that the two have worked together since at least the start of 2018.

As a private company, five-year-old Resy raised a total of $45 million in its lifetime, according to its Crunchbase profile. Its investors include Lerer HippeauAirbnb and Slow Ventures. Resy was co-founded by Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Eater, which produces food news and dining guides. The startup is primarily focused on the United States, but it also has a presence in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and Australia.

In a press release, AmEx said the goal of the acquisition was to enhance its ability to help cardmembers have access to “new, notable and hard to get into restaurants across the globe, as well as help restaurants’ businesses grow and thrive.” It also noted that it’s the latest buy in a string of recent purchases “in the dining, travel and lifestyle space.”

However, this being Crunchbase News, let’s see what else we can find out about what AmEx is up to.

Swipe for all the startups

AmEx has been on a buying spree as of late. In March, we reported on its purchase of LoungeBuddy, a former partner that helped travelers with reviews of various airport lounge areas. Also this year, AmEx picked up Pocket Concierge, a firm that we wrote “helps book in-demand restaurants and is similar to OpenTable.”

The following chart details American Express’s known acquisitions over the past decade, as reported by Crunchbase:

The chart tell us two things:

  1. AmEx is not a company with a history of buying lots of companies. For a firm of its value ($98.3 billion), buying a few companies a year is more than manageable. And, often, American Express hasn’t even done that. Indeed, in five of the last 11 years, AmEx bought zero known companies.
  2. AmEx has picked up three companies according to Crunchbase data this year. That’s a record, and it’s only May.

So, there could be change in the wind over at the credit card giant. (And if so, I suspect there are a fair few companies that brush up against AmEx that would love to join forces.)

A different checkbook

AmEx also has a venture arm, creatively named American Express Ventures. That means it interfaces with young tech shops both while they are independent and when they are ready to be picked up.

American Express Ventures has made 54 known investments, according to Crunchbase, including 13 led rounds. Unsurprisingly, the firm’s most popular startup categories to invest in are fintech, financial services and e-commerce. AmEx puts money to work where it also plays.

And that’s all for now, but we have our eyes out. If American Express buys something else, we’ll let you know — especially if you are a fintech founder.

VMware acquires Bitnami to deliver packaged applications anywhere

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VMware announced today that it’s acquiring Bitnami, the package application company that was a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2013 class. The companies didn’t share the purchase price.

With Bitnami, the company can now deliver more than 130 popular software packages in a variety of formats such as Docker containers or virtual machine, an approach that should be attractive for VMware as it makes its transformation to be more of a cloud services company.

“Upon close, Bitnami will enable our customers to easily deploy application packages on any cloud — public or hybrid — and in the most optimal format — virtual machine (VM), containers and Kubernetes helm charts. Further, Bitnami will be able to augment our existing efforts to deliver a curated marketplace to VMware customers that offers a rich set of applications and development environments in addition to infrastructure software,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Per usual, Bitnami’s founders see the exit through the prism of being able to build out the platform faster with the help of a much larger company. “Joining forces with VMware means that we will be able to both double-down on the breadth and depth of our current offering and bring Bitnami to even more clouds as well as accelerating our push into the enterprise,” the founders wrote in a blog post on the company website.

The company has raised a modest $1.1 million since its founding in 2011 and says that it has been profitable since early days when it took the funding. In the blog post, the company states that nothing will change for customers from their perspective.

“In a way, nothing is changing. We will continue to develop and maintain our application catalog across all the platforms we support and even expand to additional ones. Additionally, if you are a company using Bitnami in production, a lot of new opportunities just opened up.”

Time will tell whether that is the case, but it is likely that Bitnami will be able to expand its offerings as part of a larger organization like VMware.

VMware is a member of the Dell federation of products and came over as part of the massive $67 billion EMC deal in 2016. The company operates independently, is sold as a separate company on the stock market and makes its own acquisitions.

Sisense acquires Periscope Data to build integrated data science and analytics solution

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Sisense announced today that it has acquired Periscope Data to create what it is calling, a complete data science and analytics platform for customers. The companies did not disclose the purchase price.

The two company CEOs met about 18 months ago at a conference, and running similar kinds of companies, hit it off. They began talking and after a time, realized it might make sense to combine the two startups because each one was attacking the data problem from a different angle.

Sisense, which has raised $174 million, tends to serve business intelligence requirements either for internal use or externally with customers. Periscope, which has raised over $34 million, looks at the data science end of the business.

Both company CEOs say that they could have eventually built these capabilities into their respective platforms, but after meeting they decided to bring the two companies together instead, and they made a deal.

Harry Glasser from Periscope Data and Amir Orad of Sisense.

“I realized over the last 18 months [as we spoke] that we’re actually building leadership positions into two unique areas of the market that will slowly become one as industries and technologies evolve,” Sisense CEO Amir Orad told TechCrunch.

Periscope CEO Harry Glasser says that as his company built a company around advanced analytics and predictive modeling, he saw a growing opportunity around operationalizing these insights across an organization, something he could do much more quickly in combination with Sisense.

“[We have been] pulled into this broader business intelligence conversation, and it has put us in a place where as we do this merger, we are able to instantly leapfrog the three years it would have taken us to deliver that to our customers, and deliver operationalized insights on integration day on day one,” Glasser explained.

The two executives say this is part of a larger trend about companies becoming more data-driven, a phrase that seems trite by now, but as a recent Harvard Business School study found, it’s still a big challenge for companies to achieve.

Omad says that you can debate the pace of change, but that overall, companies are going to operate better when they use data to drive decisions. “I think it’s an interesting intellectual debate, but the direction is one direction. People who deploy this technology will provide better care, better service, hire better, promote employees and grow them better, have better marketing, better sales and be more cost effective,” he said..

Omad and Glasser recognize that many acquisitions don’t succeed, but they believe they are bringing together two like-minded companies that will have a combined ARR of $100 million and 700 employees.

“That’s the icing on the cake, knowing that the cultures are so compatible, knowing that they work so well together, but it starts from a conviction that this advanced analytics can be operationalized throughout enterprises and [with] their customers. This is going to drive transformation inside our customers that’s really great for them and turns them into data-driven companies,” Glasser said.

ServiceNow acquihires mobile analytics startup Appsee

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In a carefully framed deal, ServiceNow announced this morning that it has acquired the intellectual property and key personnel of mobile analytics company, Appsee for an undisclosed price. Under the terms of the deal, the co-founders and R&D team will be joining ServiceNow after the deal closes.

It’s worth noting that ServiceNow did not acquire Appsee’s customers, and the company is expected to wind down its existing business over the next 12 months.

Appsee provides more than pure numerical analytics. As the name it implies, it lets developers see what the user is seeing by recording an interaction and seeing what went right or wrong as the person used the program.

GIF courtesy of Appsee.

ServiceNow wants to take that functionality and incorporate it into its Now Platform, which enables customers to create customized service applications for their businesses, or use mobile applications it has created out of the box.

The company sees this as a way to improve the UI and build more usable apps. “We’ll be able to use Appsee for our mobile app and browser analytics. This can be used across all three of our workflows, and with this level of visibility our customers will be able to see how customers or employees are engaging [with the application]. With these analytics, ServiceNow will be able to provide insights on user behavior. In turn, this will help us provide an improved UI for customers,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Just last week at its Knowledge 19 customer conference in Las Vegas, the company announced Now Mobile a new tool for performing tasks like ordering a new laptop or searching for the holiday calendar, and a mobile on-boarding tool for new employees. Both of these will be available in the company’s next release and could benefit from the Appsee functionality to improve the overall design of these products after it releases them to users.

Appsee has always been focused on capturing user activity. Over the years it has layered on more traditional analytics like DAUs (daily active users) and crash rates, the kind of metrics that can give companies insights into their user experience, but they combine that with the visual record to help see more detail about exactly what was happening, along with myriad of other features, all of which will be incorporated into the ServiceNow platform moving forward.

The deal is expected to close by the end of Q2 2019.

Sean Parker’s Brigade/Causes acquired by govtech app Countable

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Causes grew to a jaw-dropping 200 million users as one of the first ten Facebook platform apps. Started by Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, it was meant to turn a generation into activists and philanthropists. Causes acquired Votizen to augment shallow clicktivism with a way to remind friends to vote. But after Facebook went mobile and the web platform waned, Parker arranged Causes’ sale to his newer civic tech effort Brigade, for which he’d led a $9.3 million Series A and later fed more money. Brigade’s ballot guide was used by 250,000 people in the 2016 election leading to 5 million Get Out The Vote messages sent, but the startup’s apps for connecting with campaigns or debating political issues never went viral like Causes.

Now both Causes’ and Brigade’s stories are coming to an end. In February, we caught wind of Brigade selling off its high-grade engineering team to Pinterest in an acquihire while it sought a home for its IP. Today, Brigade announces its technology and data have been acquired by politician tracking service Countable. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but it’s unlikely that Brigade’s Series A investors earned a return.

“While we didn’t reach the ultimate mountaintop, I think we moved the entire civic tech space forward” Brigade CEO Matt Mahan tells me. “Countable offers a unique opportunity to bring greater scale to some of our best ideas, and our previous work will in turn accelerate their already impressive progress.”

Brigade’s features

Countable lets people view summaries of upcoming legislation, contact their representatives about their opinion, and then track the officials’ votes. “Brigade was founded with the non-partisan mission to reinvent how Americans participate in politics. When they decided to bring their journey to a close, Matt and Brigade’s leadership team sought out a mission-aligned company to acquire their technology, and a responsible place to point any members of their community who were eager to remain civically active and engaged” says Countable CEO Bart Myers, whose tech has powered 35 million civic actions. “They approached Countable–an obvious fit for our commitment to lowering barriers to civic entry and empowering meaningful action, and we’re excited to provide a home for their technology moving forward.”

Brigade CEO Matt Mahan

Mahan admits that a potentially fatal wrong turn for Brigade was pivoting its product to ‘debates’ in 2016. “We quickly learned that this level of openness resulted in less substantive discussion, more personal attacks, and fewer participants willing to add their voices: the opposite of our goals. By removing too many barriers, debates empowered the loudest and most aggressive voices in the room” he tells me. The startup course-corrected to focus on making real political impact with petitions and tools for contacting representatives.

By 2018, Mahan realized that “after two election cycles Brigade had not achieved the user scale we know is required to fundamentally transform our politics . . . For a company set up to be a civic moonshot, this was simply not good enough.” Parker’s team did not provide TechCrunch a statement or commentary on Brigade decline. The startup’s San Francisco-based engineering team was too pricey for civic tech companies to afford, but those that could pay the steep price didn’t need Brigade’s IP. So after approaching a half-dozen potential acquirers, Mahan split the company, selling the team to Pinterest and the tech to Countable. The cash and stock deal will make Brigade investors shareholders in Countable, and Mahan is taking an advisory role.

To further their contribution to the democracy innovation community, Countable has agreed to open source Brigade’s voter matching software. This allows apps to tie a user to their official voting record to offer personalized features like reminders of upcoming elections, petitions for local issues, and ways to contact their elected officials. Seth Flaxman, the CEO of civic tech software developer Democracy Works that built TurboVote, says “This is extremely difficult technology to build and can help TurboVote determine which of our 6 million users needs more help registering to vote. They are passing the baton, making it possible for nonprofits like ours to build off their progress.”

Countable

But there was one more loose end to tie up. Causes had sucked in a ton of Facebook user data in the early days of the platform before restrictions were put in place (too late to stop Cambridge Analytica). So Mahan tells me “Brigade proactively reached out to Facebook and worked with them and a third-party consultant to conduct a comprehensive review to identify and delete user data that was not essential for providing the existing app experience. In all, we deleted billions of rows of data that ethically we felt should not be transferred.”

As one of the most well-funded civic tech startups, Brigade’s breakup could cast a shadow on the space that includes MoveOn and Change.org. Consumer focused apps for improving democracy are tough to monetize. It may fall to more sustainable democracy-focused startups like grassroots mass texting app Hustle or non-profits like Avaaz to arm the public with the equipment and knowledge necessary to participate in the political process. Given the deep polarization and animosity between nations’ political parties around the world, we need all the tools to amplify truth and civility we can get.

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